The Daisy

Tonight I was inspired.  I was inspired by a beautiful woman’s strength and courage.  I was inspired by her pain and experiences – and touched by them as well.  I admire her for living honestly and loving fearlessly – something I am just beginning to embrace.  I don’t know her very well – we just met – but she certainly left an impression.  I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about her…


The Daisy

To which my being is so akin

Like mine it’s heart is yellow

A hue symbolic of cowardice

Ever driven by apprehension

It’s spirit a sum of white rays

Pure and unmasked, honest and free

Unrestrained as it reaches for the sun

Its fragile strength and beautiful imperfect edges

Are what my soul longs to be





We Are Moving Out And We Are Taking Our Home With Us

house-vs-homeMoving.  Relocating.  It can be an exciting adventure or a dreadful and frightening shift from familiar contentedness toward the mysteries of the unknown.  Circumstances dictate the reason behind a move; a new opportunity or a forced hand.  Character and attitude dictate one’s response to unexpected changes – a bend in your life’s path.  None of us can really anticipate all of the curves and slopes that we may suddenly encounter on our journey through life.  But I have to believe that one’s approach and response to the detours and the peaks and valleys will be the greatest, most influential determining factor when considering your ultimate destination.

I stumbled upon a very unexpected bend in my life’s path.  With that comes a move.  I have lived in the house that I’m in for almost fifteen years.  My oldest daughter was not quite three months old when we moved here and my younger daughter and son were born while we lived here.  My children know no other home.  I know no other home as a mother.  Telling my children that we were going to have to move was not easy for many reasons.  Friends.  Schools.  Routines.  Teams.   Here there is comfort and security.  But we must move.  There is no option for us to stay.

I wasn’t sure how to handle this as a parent.  It is uncharted territory for me.  Moving with my children and the circumstances that brought us to this point were unexpected and unfortunate to put it mildly.  Divorce.  That is what forced my hand.

I will not delve into the circumstances of my impending divorce.  That is not the purpose here.  The purpose is simply for me to organize my thoughts and sift through my emotions as they pertain to our move.  I have been mulling things over in my mind since the end of September.  I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to land on my feet when all is said and done.   I’ve been focused on how I will take care of the kids – where we will live, how I will support them financially, how I will work out the logistics being on my own.  I also have been focused on how I will get through my radiography/MRI program.  Yep, I am back in school.  A necessary career change that began last June – when I believed all was well.  What I did not focus on was moving.  For me it was a given, a necessary evil.  But the kids… moving was what they latched on to, it is what was most upsetting to them.  I was surprised at that.  But when I thought about the psyche of a child, of course that is what they focused on.  It is tangible.  It is something that they can understand.  They don’t’ understand the separation.  They don’t understand the financial concerns.  They don’t understand logistics.  What they understand is that they will no longer have their bedrooms, their neighborhood, their schools, their friends and their routine.  I’ve been trying really hard to soften this blow as the reality of the divorce itself will surely deliver another blow when it becomes tangible itself.

I’ve been up front with the kids all along.  It’s my best guess as to the best way to handle this.  I promised them that I would try to keep them in their schools.  But of course the ability to do that hinges on what I can afford, what is available and where.  I suggested to them that they be open minded about moving outside of our community; closer to my mother and my best friend.  Being near family would not only be a wonderful perk, but it would be practical as well.  Both my mom and my best friend have encouraged the move and have been trying to persuade me with assurances of assistance should I encounter any unforeseen circumstances along the way – a sick kid, a car that won’t start, transportation conflicts, a shoulder….  My son and my younger daughter didn’t need any convincing.  My son is flexible and my younger daughter is an old soul who possesses a wisdom beyond her years and sees that the need trumps the want.  But my oldest daughter is struggling with it.  They all are actually, it’s just that my oldest daughter is more resistant at this point.  She lives two doors down from her best friend; a friend she’s had since she was a baby.

All three of my kids love this house.  It’s not the house per se, but the home.  They are sentimental, as am I.  They talk about the memories that we’ve made here and the traditions that we’ve established here.  They talk about them as if those things will also be left behind.  Realizing that they were clinging to that notion, that feeling that the intangible was one and the same with the tangible, prompted me to peel away the layers.  I sat them down and we talked and talked and talked.

I encouraged them to look at things from a different perspective.  The structure of the house is not a home.  The structure is comprised of concrete, vinyl, wood, etc.  Those are the tangible things.  The home, however, is not tangible.  Instead it is something that we feel in our hearts.  It is a history full of experiences that we archive in the form of memories. It is the warmth that wraps around you like a blanket.  It is the love that embraces you.  It is the laughter that echoes throughout the halls.  It is the smell of a home-cooked meal – an old family recipe perhaps.  It is the tears that dampened our pillows.  Simply put, it is the spirit within the house and that spirit is NOT anchored to the structure.  Instead we carry it around in our hearts and in our minds.  I assured my kids that the home IS something that we can take with us.  We can bring all of that to a new house and make that new house our home.  I think it was cathartic for them to lay this all out.  As they began to embrace this idea, I began to think about the house and our home from their point of view.  I took those thoughts to bed with me and this morning they still haunted me.  I began to see things through their tender, uncomplicated eyes.

I made some coffee and sat outside in the hot tub for a bit.   I looked around the yard and out into the prairie and I began to feel a bit melancholy about leaving this house.  I too am going to miss so much when we move.  I was surprised at myself.  I hadn’t considered the house as I contemplated how I will navigate through this major change in my life.  I was more pragmatic in my deliberations; I was trying to be logical.  In doing so I fell out of touch with sentiment and nostalgia, which is unlike me as I am typically quite sentimental and emotionally driven.  I suppose I was in survival mode and perhaps keeping my sensibilities in check was a defense mechanism that helped me press on and move forward.  Whatever the reason, I too am feeling the apprehension and the sorrow that the kids are feeling with regard to moving.  That talk that gave them a fresh perspective, gave me one too.

As I looked around the yard I was reminded of so many things that are near and dear to my heart.  My grandmother loved lilacs and the color blue.  She passed away the year that we moved into this house.  So I set out to find a variety of lilac that was as close to blue as they come.  I found it and I planted that bush for her in our back yard that year.  It blooms every spring and its brilliant color and wonderful fragrance brings her back to me time and again.

Come June we begin to see the blooms of our Rose of Sharon.  They grow so well that they are nearly unmanageable.  They came from opa.  They multiply abundantly and all summer long I must pull the many, many sprouts that threaten to take over our lawn.  They also shed their blooms in droves, leaving piles and piles of petals that need to be brushed aside or picked up.  Though I have occasionally cursed these prolific bushes for their unruliness, keeping up with them has always triggered memories of opa.

Our deck reminds me of my dad.  My dad and my soon to be ex-husband built our deck.  I helped too.  When I’m out there I can almost see my dad working on it.  I can see him in his ball cap, wearing his leather tool belt and rummaging through his very organized tool boxes.  I can hear him talking me through the tasks he assigned me – putting up the balusters and affixing the wood planks on the apron.  He worked and worked on that deck.  In fact he worked on that deck for an entire summer.  I think I saw more of him that summer than my mother did.  He passed away in 2011.  Obviously I will never live in a house that shows off his very meticulous handiwork again.  That will be a first for me.

The hot tub that warms me to my core on the coldest of nights will certainly be missed.  I call it my think tank.  My kids call it the hot pool.  It belonged to my parents and after my dad passed away, my mother gave it to us.  I spent many late nights and early mornings in that hot tub.  It was always a good place to sort through my thoughts or simply lose myself in the stars.  Any time there was a meteor shower, the hot tub was the best seat in the house.  I can still see my parents sitting in it at their house, each with a glass of wine in hand.

My yard has been my hobby for fifteen years.  It has only recently gotten to the point where I feel it is complete; where it no longer needs planning – only maintenance.  I have a beautiful maple tree that I requested for mother’s day two years ago and a flowering pear that I requested for mother’s day last year.  I was excited to watch them grow and eventually shade our deck.  Now, I just hope the new residents will appreciate them.

I will desperately miss the prairie.  I know it like the back of my hand.  I’ve walked miles and miles and miles out there over the years.  It is where I think, where I pray, where I find peace when chaos strikes.  It has provided me with a beautiful backdrop for my photographs.  It has been an alternative classroom for my children.  I’ve made pies from its berries and have decorated my house with its foliage and blooms.  It gave Sam a place to roam unleashed.  Sam… it reminds me of Sam.

I am very sad to leave our neighbors.  We live in a neighborhood full of wonderful people.  People I trust.  People who are always willing to help out.  People who are simply good and kind.  I will miss being the critter lady.  Often times my neighbors would call on me when wildlife invaded their space.  I encouraged them to call on me.  I love the critters and any encounter I have with them.  I have no reservations about relocating them or transporting the sick and injured to the wildlife sanctuary.   I am a resource many of my neighbors seem to appreciate.

I will miss the wear and tear that you can see throughout our house.  It is evidence that our house was thoroughly lived in.  Many of the dings, scrapes, repairs and scuffs have a story behind them.  My memory is long and detailed and I can look at quite of few of these blemishes and have a sudden flashback of rough housing, a runaway toy, a spill, a fall….  They are tangible prompts that elicit visions of days gone by.  It’s as if they pressed the “play” button and I suddenly find myself watching old home movies.

These things I cannot take with me.  It will hurt to leave them behind.  I will miss the sudden spark they send through me that triggers certain memories.  Now it is I who needs to consider my own words as I delivered them to my kids – I must embrace the spirit of our house, carry it with me and set it free wherever we may land.

Coyotes a Problem? Maybe it’s Just Us?

coyote-156I have always been a lover of nature and the great outdoors.  From mud puddles to wildflowers, from arachnids to butterflies, from opossums to bobcats – it all imbues me with wonder and it all commands a great deal of respect from me.  Nature is fraught with beauty.  Sadly some of its more intricate, minuscule features go unnoticed by most people.  But I think that most of us can appreciate the more obvious characteristics in nature: the colors of a prairie landscape in July, the grace of a white-tailed deer as it bounds across the horizon, the majesty of a bald eagle perched high atop an oak, the agility of a butterfly as it flutters from one blossom to another.  Such things, when noticed, are appreciated, or they are at least not feared.  Sadly however, there are some attributes of nature that instill a great deal of unjustifiable apprehension and even anxiety and dread in many people.  I suspect that in our urban and suburban locales, this is more often the case than not.

I live in a suburb of Chicago.  Many people here are not comfortable around most wildlife.  I’ve known people who have diced up snakes with shovels because they happened across them while tending to their lawn.  It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat.  What people fail to realize is that we only have 4 poisonous snake species here and their numbers are very few.  What’s more, if you bother to take a quick look at any wildlife resource, you would find that those snakes are pretty easy to identify.  I’ve known people who have called the police because a wild turkey meandered into their yard from the adjoining forest preserve – that’s right, I said the ADJOINING forest preserve where wildlife resides.   I’m sure they had to pay a premium for a lot that backs up to a forest preserve.  What did they expect?  That the critters would observe the implied boundary and heed the warning of the “no trespassing” sign?  I once had to help an elderly woman remove a “weird looking dog” from her patio.  It was an opossum!  People are simply naive and their naivete leads to unreasonable fears.  Unfortunately for the wildlife, their unreasonable fears can be dangerous, even deadly.

Many people in our area believe that we have a “coyote problem”.  These vicious canids allegedly roam our neighborhoods and brazenly snatch little dogs out of the arms of their owners.  They lurk in the shadows and wait for an opportunity to ambush small children.   These insolent beasts invade our neighborhoods in packs of 30-50 and ransack our garbage bins.  They carry rabies and spread disease.  They are huge, ferocious beasts that are taking over our communities!  Hooey!  This is all myth stemming from ignorance and irrational fear.  It is unjustified.  To reference FDR, there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.  Coyote’s are not vicious.  They are curious, playful, wild animals.  The operative word being wild.  And as with any wild animal, you must exercise common sense, be cautious and be informed.

Now let’s debunk these myths.  Will coyotes prey upon your little dog?  They might.  But when they do so it is simply in the context of hunting for sustenance.  Coyotes are opportunistic generalists, which means that they eat everything from plants to bugs to small animals.  If they see a small dog or cat alone, they cannot make the distinction between a domestic pet and a wild animal.  It is prey to them.  Common sense should dictate that you don’t leave your little pets unattended, especially at night.  And they can jump fences, so don’t fall into a false sense of security simply because you have a fenced in yard.

Will coyote’s attack small children?  Again, they might.  But coyote attacks on children, or on humans in general, are the exception, not the rule.  They seldom happen.  And almost all of those that have been reported resulted in only minor injuries.  The number of attacks from domestic dogs are far more prevalent and the injuries far more serious, not to mention the fatalities that result from domestic dog attacks.  The mere presence of coyotes near my home would not prompt me to keep my kids confined indoors and I certainly wouldn’t put out a call to action to have these relatively docile animals eradicated.  As a parent I would certainly err on the side of caution if we were to encounter a coyote and I am constantly educating and reminding my kids about wildlife and how to react and respond to close encounters.   But to be honest, I am more leery of domestic dogs that I don’t know and things like bees.  I don’t want to find out that my child suddenly developed an allergy to bees after he or she has been stung.  These things are far more likely and far more dangerous than a chance encounter with a coyote.  And one more thing to consider, any wild animal may attack a human.  Whether it is out of fear, or aggression stemming from a protective instinct for its young, or defending its meal, or simply reacting to harassment, wild animals may attack.  I’m talking about deer, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, etc.  My dad was attacked by a squirrel when he was a kid.  He had a nice scar on his hand to prove it.  There is data out there, but it is not as easy to find as the data for animal attacks from the more “ominous”  species.

Do coyotes travel in large  packs?  No.  They are social animals, but a pack of coyotes usually consists of a male and female (who mate for life by the way), their juvenile pups maxresdefaultfrom the previous year and their new pups.  Once in a while a family pack will accept a lone coyote if resources prove sufficient for another member.  What’s more, coyote’s are very vocal animals.  They howl, yip, bark and almost sing at times.  They are loud.  The thing with coyotes is that one coyote sounds like two, two coyotes sound like six, three coyotes sound like fourteen, etc.  So when you hear what sounds like a very large pack of coyotes, rest assured that there are fewer of them than you think.

Do coyotes carry rabies?   Duh, any mammal can contract rabies.  Rabies (Lyssavirus) is an infectious disease that affects the central nervous system. It’s transmitted through the saliva a few days before death when the animal “sheds” the virus.  Rabies is not transmitted through the blood, urine, or feces of an infected animal, nor is it spread airborne through the open environment. Because it affects the nervous system, most rabid animals behave abnormally.  Rabies is more common in certain animals than in others.  You will most commonly see it in bats, skunks and raccoons.

Are coyotes huge, ferocious beasts?  Are they taking over our communities.  No and no.  Coyotes are actually pretty small.  They can weigh anywhere between 35 and 45 pounds.  That is the size of a medium sized dog.  And, unless cornered, they are not typically aggressive toward humans or domestic dogs of their own size or larger.  Their prevalence in our communities is not a result of them taking over.  Instead it is a result of humans taking over their stomping grounds.  We push them away as we settle in.  They move out and then we catch up to them and push them further away.  We do this until there is nowhere left for them to go.  So they learn to coexist, as should we.

What prompted me to write on this topic was an article I recently read in our local paper about a resident whose Chihuahua was taken by a coyote.  Instead of taking common sense precautions and educating herself, she waged a war against coyotes.  She appealed to the village board to “fix the coyote problem.”  We had a similar call to action not long ago at the county level and leg traps were discussed.  Fortunately that measure was denied.  In this case our police chief rebuked this resident’s efforts to “take care of the coyote problem” with common sense.  He advised the resident that coyotes are a part of our landscape here and the best solution would be to learn about them and take proper precautions when necessary.  Kudos to the chief.

So when we fear something, we must learn to respect it, not necessarily destroy it.  Inform yourself and take precautions.  Use common sense.  These tactics will prove more useful and more effective than knee-jerk responses.  I’ll be honest.  I fear some humans more than I fear any wild animal.  If you want to look at statistics… we are destroying ourselves and everything around us.  Have respect for all living things.  They are all creations from God.

*Coyote Facts & Fiction



Environmental Stewardship – Marrying Faith and Science

religion-vs-science-1Who needs to heed the warnings of an overwhelming majority of scientists when they can lean on misinterpreted, out of context and loosely applied scripture to support their stance on, well, just about anything?    The manipulation of the bible has been used as a tactic to support countless arguments about any number of issues: climate change being one of them.  Senator Inhofe is a rabid climate change denier who shamelessly denounces it, stating that “manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” and he asserts that it is a “conspiracy” forged by environmental liberals.  In fact he wrote a book titled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future” and in promoting that book he stated “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”  On February 26th of this year Senator Inhofe’s own arrogance prompted him to bring in a visual aid as he rebuked climate change on the senate floor.  The visual aid was simply a snowball and he used it as a means to disprove global warming.   When I watched the video I was flabbergasted (if you haven’t seen the video, check out the youtube link at the end of this article).  It was both humorous and unsettling and I honestly felt embarrassed for the man.    Even more astonishing is the fact that he was the first elected Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works back in 2003.  He held that position until 2008 and this year he reclaimed it.  In my eyes he can only be a detriment in that position.  It is counterintuitive. It would make as much sense to put TransCanada in charge of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee?

Senator Inhofe claims to be a religious man.  He is Presbyterian; a christian.  His religion is the platform from which he launches and justifies many of his arguments on a number of hot button issues.  Those holier-than-thous who tout their religion to justify their condemnation, judgement and hate of people, even fellow Christians who are not like minded, is absolutely unethical, immoral and down right abhorrent –  which goes against the grain of true Christian values and Christian virtues.  Often times these holier-than-thous contradict themselves and inadvertently showcase their hypocrisy as they rante171a6d4e9813c3e1d21856516d17828 about their convictions.  In my experience, I see this most often on the far right, but that is a topic for another day.  With regard to Senator Inhofe, he is anti-abortion but pro-death penalty, anti-gay and pro-guns as if it were a God given right.  He takes a hard lined stance on these issues to the point of being hateful and discriminatory.  His religion apparently grants him the right to judge and condemn those unlike him.  When it comes to the climate, he is equally ignorant, self-righteous and boorish.

Senator Inhofe refers to Genesis 8:22 to support his argument that humans could not possibly influence climate change.  The language of Genesis 8:22 varies slightly depending on which version of the bible it is taken from.  Taken from the New International Version Genesis 8:22 states “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”   The relevance of Genesis 8:22 as it applies to the global warming debate is tenuous at best.  Any text taken out of context can become pretext for something else entirely and therefore it serves as a very poor and weak foundation for any argument.   Putting it back into context, Genesis 8:22 must be reestablished as a part of the whole.  Though its content is theological, the book of Genesis is chronological in its framework. There are 50 chapters and 1533 verses.  Genesis 8:22 – chapter 8, verse 22 – is about Noah and the great flood.  Simply put, God was pleased with Noah and He said to him in Genesis 8:21 “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.”  Genesis 8:21 is obviously followed by Genesis 8:22 and in that context God is stating that He will not take part in destroying creation again.  It is not a statement that gives us license to inflict injurious, destructive domination over creation.  It is not a promise that assures the Earth will endure our negligence and abuse.

10517246_10154370397800422_164358103378123105_oThere are a number of verses that can be pulled from the bible that support the care and love for all of creation – context included.  I’ve included links to several sites that list them.  But allow me to cite a few of my favorites.  Genesis 1:1-31 states that God created Heaven and Earth and all things found within.  Verse 31 states “God saw everything that He made, and indeed it was very good.”  God values his creation as should we.  Genesis 2:15 states “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”  To tend and keep means to care for, protect and cultivate.  Rather than giving us domination over nature and creation, God gives us the responsibility to care for it in accordance to God’s will.  Psalm 24:1 states, “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  It is not ours to exploit and treat recklessly and negligently.  We must show our respect to the creator by our stewardship toward creation.  Leviticus 25:23-24 states “…the land is Mine; for you are strangers and tenants.  And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.”  Again, the message is clear that God expects us to be his stewards with nature.  “The Lord is good to all: He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9)  And so shall we.  And in psalm 145:16-17 the psalmist states “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.”  Need I reiterate that we must follow His example?

The message I get from the bible is that God loves and cherishes all of His creation.  The world is a gift from God and it is disrespectful to lay waste to it.  We must harness its life-giving resources as well as protect them.  Our actions have inadvertently, and deliberately, altered seedtime and harvest and we have been gradually, but measurably, interfering with summer and winter.  The call to care for creation is all too urgent now.  The Earth is supporting nearly 7 billion people and the consumption habits of so many of those billions threatens the gift God has given us to sustain us.  The pursuit of self interest threatens the natural environment that we were intended to care for.  As for Senator Inhofe, it is his self aggrandizement and his greed that truly motivate him, not is faith.  His opposition to climate action is based on his concerns about the regulation of big business as it relates to his wealth.  Senator Inhofe, need I remind you of the golden calf?

Genesis 8:22 does not substantiate that the excessive human consumption and abuse of the earth’s resources will be inconsequential.  To the contrary, it challenges us to respond in an ethical, respectful manner to the call for environmental sterwardship.  It is a promissory vision from God that we must work toward, not against. It is NOT a free pass to act irresponsibly.  The phrase “As long as the earth edures…” tells me that as long as we care for creation, God will provide. The outcome otherwise will be dire. Genesis 8:22 is a challenge for us to meet God’s expectations.  We have failed to do so time and again.  So Senator Inhofe, it seems to me that instead of working with and for God, your self-interests have driven you to work against Him.  Making arbitrary use of the earth is to betray creation and the earth will rebel in the form of hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes, drought, etc.  Perhaps that is by design.  Perhaps that is what He intended.  Senator Inhofe may I quote a bit of scripture for you?  “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.Isaiah 24: 4-6

The Delightful Butterfly

DSC_0571It’s been one of those couple of months.  Just cold.  Really cold.  Last year we experienced extremely cold temperatures as well.  I was inspired then to write a poem to Old Man Winter.  It was a bit satirical and very sarcastic.  I gave him “what for.”  Don’t get me wrong, I like the seasons – all of them.  But extreme cold sucks.  I prefer a snowy winter with temps in the 20’s.  Heck, I could even handle the teens at this point.  But single digits and below zero can kiss my ice cold ass.  I am anxious for spring and warmer weather.  I am longing for a landscape with some color instead of the drab grays and browns.   I long for the warmth of the sun instead of the blanket of dreary clouds or the blinding glare of a taunting sun that is incapable of warming anything.  I long for the caress of a breeze instead of the slap and the sting of the bitter cold wind.    I want to wake up to the birds singing and not the plow tearing up our street.   I want my kids to play outside for longer periods of time than it took for them to get ready.  I want to see my neighbors for crying out loud.  I was lost in a daydream today.  I recently wrote an article on monarch butterflies and I have been toying with the idea of raising DSC_0426butterflies with my students.  So butterflies have been on my mind.  It stands to reason, then, that my daydream was a scene that has played out time and again for me.  It was about butterflies in the summertime.  Something that always grabs my attention and always gives me pause.  So I jotted, well typed, this poem…

The delightful butterfly so inspiring
Seems such a merry playful thing
Fluttering about impetuously
Showing off the colors in its glorious wings

Darting about hither and yon
In jagged bursts to lead you on
As if uncoordinated and impaired
Then stalls and glides effortless and silent through the air

Enchanting for the child whose spirit thrives
Giving chase with limbs flailing and eyes wide
Winded and weary the child gives up the pursuit
As the butterfly spurts and sputters out of view

It hangs in the air and then gracefully descends
To settle upon a bloom at meadow’s hem
There it finds its repose and takes its share
Of nourishing nectar abundantly spared

Thistle and phlox and succulent milkweed
The prairie a wide banquet from which to feed
Once sated the butterfly meanders in its unfettered style
And becomes the wonder of the next curious child


The Butterfly Effect

DSC_10802 (8)I’m sure most of you have seen a Monarch butterfly.  It is one of the larger species of butterfly with brilliant orange, black and white wings.  Surely they have crossed your path at some point, or perhaps you have crossed theirs.  Whenever I come across one, it gives me pause and lifts my spirits – and it always puts a smile on my face.  If you have never paid attention, I urge you to do so the next time you see one.  Watch for a moment as it flutters about.  Allow yourself to be mesmerized.  Their flight can be so graceful, like a feather drifting down from the heavens.   It can also be more animated; swift and jagged like a colorful piece of confetti being tossed about in the wind.   They are beautiful, they are meaningful and sadly they have become vulnerable.

DSC_2516When I was a kid, my brother and I would embark on a mission as soon as the weather warmed.  That mission was to find monarch caterpillars.  We would head out into the fields and scour the milkweed plants for the little, black and white and yellow banded larva.  Sometimes we timed it just right and the caterpillars would be no bigger than 3 to 4mm long.  That was particularly exciting for us because it meant that we would bear witness to more stages of its growth.  It also meant responsibility and commitment because caring for them required constant monitoring and feeding.  Believe me, they are voracious.  We took pride in successfully raising our caterpillars.  And it gave us great joy to watch them go through their fascinating metamorphosis.  When the butterflies eventually emerged, we felt triumphant!

DSC_0434My brother and I carried on this summer tradition with our own kids.  I’ve taken my kids out into the prairie every year in search of the monarch caterpillars.  My first outing with my girls was back in 2006.  We were lucky to find about 7 or 8 caterpillars that year.  This was no where near the numbers my brother and I used to find.  I just figured it was rotten luck.  We raised them and watched them go through their transformation.  My girls particularly admired the pupa stage.  The chrysalis is like a jewel.  It is a soft seafoam green with gold flecks.  It is quite beautiful.  And when the butterflies hatched it took them some time to acclimate which gave us time to interact with them.    In the following years we found fewer and fewer caterpillars and saw even fewer butterflies.  I had heard reports about a severe decline in the Monarch populations.  I had also received some petitions drafted for the preservation of theDSC_10802 (7) species.  I began to understand why we have been seeing less and less of these beautiful little creatures.  Last year, despite our persistent search, we did not find any caterpillars at all.  That was a huge disappointment and a great concern as it validated the information that I had been receiving through the wires.

By some estimates the monarch butterfly population has declined by nearly 90% over the last 20 years.  What is causing this rapid, extensive decline in the Monarch population?  Well there are a couple of things to consider.  Climate change is one.  Another is habitat loss, primarily the loss of milkweed plants – the monarch caterpillars primary source of food.

Monarchs are known for their incredible migrations.  They winter in Mexico.  In the spring they begin to fly north and they lay their eggs along the way.  They travel as far north as Canada.  Monarchs are diurnal and therefore only travel during.  They also travel alone.  However, at dusk they come together and form clusters or roosts for a night or two.  Years ago, while on a camping trip, my best friend and I were lucky enough to stumble upon a monarch roost that festooned an aged maple.  There had to be 200-300 butterflies congregating on this tree near our campsite.  At the time we didn’t realize how special that was.  Instead we walked amongst the butterflies and enjoyed the surreal moment as they fluttered around us.  I realize now what a gift that was.  The chances of encountering such a phenomenon these days is even rarer.  The monarch’s migration is becoming more and more difficult.

Extreme weather is affecting both their wintering grounds and their summer breeding grounds.  An example of such extreme weather occurred in January, 2002.  A severe winter storm that produced freezing rain and snow decimated the overwintering population of butterflies in Mexico.  The casualties were catastrophic – up to 500 million butterflies perished in that storm.  What’s more is that abnormal patterns of drought and excessive rainfall in parts of the United States and Canada have had a negative impact on the monarch’s survival rates during their migrations.  Unpredictable and unusual weather events result in fewer butterflies migrating to and fro.

chrysalis-122-242x300Loss of habitat also plays a role in the plight of the monarch.  Illegal logging and deforestation have had a negative impact on their overwintering grounds.  But the loss of milkweed habitat has had the most profound effect on the monarch population.  By and large the decline in milkweed is linked to the rise in GMO crops that are resistant to herbicides, particularly Monsanto’s Round Up.  With corn and soybeans resistant to herbicides, herbicides are applied with impunity.  Milkweed that once grew in abundance within and around these agricultural areas has been eradicated from this landscape.  Other contributing factors for milkweed decline are mowing and spraying of fields and along roadways, urban sprawl and industrial expansion.

The debate now is whether or not the monarch butterfly should be listed on the endangered species list.  This year the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will review numerous studies and data to determine if the monarch warrants protection and, if so, what form that protection will take.  Why is this important?  It is crucial because monarchs are an important pollinator.  Without our native pollinators, production agriculture is at great risk.  What’s more, monarchs are not the only pollinators with a sudden collapse in numbers.  Bumble bees and honey bees are experiencing similar declines.  If we lose all of our pollinators, where will we be?  It seems to me that corporate agriculture is shooting itself in the foot on this one.

Portrait of a Climate Change Denier: Part II – The General Population

cc-cartoon_smallOften, when I touch on the topic of climate change, I encounter exaggerated eye rolling, dismissive comments, condescending smirks, counter arguments that are fueled by mainstream propaganda and lack common sense, subtle (and not so subtle at times) subject changes and shoulder shrugs that could be interpreted in a number of different ways.  As I sit at home on a Wednesday morning with my kids still curled up in bed, refusing to meet this very cold day, it seems quite apropos to start on the second installment of Portrait of a Climate Change Denier.  You see, the reason I am home this Wednesday is because, once again, we are experiencing some extreme weather and our schools are closed.  And before you roll your eyes and tell me that “Schools closed when I was a kid too.”, keep in mind that climate change is NOT a recent phenomenon.  It is something that has been occurring for centuries, and has been picking up momentum as time passes.  It is both cumulative at this point and a result of increased production and output of greenhouse gases in more recent decades.  If you look at the data, it is quite clear that the problem of climate change, and the extreme weather that is attributed to it, is becoming more and more concerning and prevalent respectively.

So as I monitored the school district’s Facebook pages yesterday, the weather forecast prompted many to become anxious and angry.  Anxious about their children being exposed to such cold air and angry that the district didn’t cancel school immediately upon hearing the weather report.  It was getting to the point that hostility and threats of boycotting school were beginning to emerge.  Don’t get me wrong, I get it.  I see both sides actually.  The forecast called for a temperature of 1 and wind chills potentially hitting -35.  Yeah, that’s cold.  What struck me, however, was the level of uneasiness due to an extreme weather event in an area that has, thus far, been spared of any significant weather catastrophe or natural disaster.  I live in a suburb of Chicago.  We don’t have a coastline and therefore are not subject to tsunamis, hurricanes or typhoons; we don’t have any active faults to speak of and therefore we don’t experience many earthquakes; our droughts don’t result is forest fires and our floods are pretty localized; we don’t have mountains or hills that produce landslides and sink holes don’t seem to be much of a problem either.  We have experienced  extreme temps on both ends of the spectrum, drought that has marred our landscaping, “ozone action days”, and increased instances in allergies and asthma (people don’t realize that climate change is a determining factor with regard to plant production of pollen, not to mention the growth of fungi such as mold and the release of spores.) So all of the admonishment and grumbling about sending kids to school on a very cold day made me wonder what the heck we will do when this extreme weather becomes the new normal as current trends indicate.  How will we adapt if we can’t coolly respond to one cold snap?

Well, my suspicion is that most people are not thinking of this cold snap in terms of climate change.  In fact, most people with whom I am acquainted don’t acknowledge that the extreme weather 897that is occurring globally and with increased frequency has anything to do with the “theory” of climate change.  Most will dismiss climate change and replace it with the assertion that we are experiencing cyclical weather patterns and the underlying insinuation is that it will eventually self-correct.   I don’t understand this.  By and large these are responsible, educated, intelligent people who are parents to young children ( I mention children because, for me, the health of our environment is more concerning for them and my future grandchildren and I want them to be able to live and breath easily).  According to a recent Gallup poll, only 40% of Americans are “concerned believers” in climate change.  Why people can’t stop and think for just a moment about this in a logical manner and at least consider that it might be a threat to our future baffles me and is incredibly frustrating for this climate change sympathizer.

I was at a party recently.  We were watching a sporting event on TV and at the end of the game the BBC came on and the newscast centered on extreme weather events around the world that either happened, were in progress, or predicted.  I couldn’t help but to make a comment and what I said was pretty generic.  I simply indicated to no one in particular that I believe that climate change had a lot to do with such extreme weather events.  Almost everyone ignored my comment except for one person.  He countered that these weather events were just “weather.”  I asked him if he really believed that and he told me that he did, and that he didn’t have time to worry about it even if he didn’t.  He also wondered why I was so worried about it.  I asked him whether or not he has read anything on climate change or paid much attention to the news about severe and record setting weather events worldwide and he simply replied to me with a wry smile on his face “You need to stop watching the news.”  I am pretty sure that my jaw hit the floor.  How could anyone be so careless, negligent and nonchalant about something so important?  Is it a collective perception that, climatechange11given the overwhelming enormity of global warming and climate change, small efforts and small voices and individual pursuits to combat it are seemingly ineffectual and futile?  Does a unified apathy develop as a result of this perception and/or the inconvenience of worry and action (or inaction as the case may be – it takes effort to not utilize certain conveniences)?    I have always believed that if everyone contributes just a little, it adds up to a lot.  No effort, no matter how small, is futile nor ineffective.  The impact may not be immediately tangible or noticeable.  But it is the sum of all parts, the aggregate, the cumulative result that matters.  Believe me, as much as I ride my high horse on this topic, I am not perfectly green.  Nobody can be in modern society at this point.  But if we could all  be mindful of our actions, respectful of our planet, open our minds to the science that warns us about climate change as well as the research and data that supports that science, pay attention to the news (and not just mainstream, network news) and be informed then we could make progress.  Does it really matter whether or not our impact stands alone or if it is part of a larger body of influence?

Now let’s move on to simply being informed.   I run into this all of the time.  I teach at a high school and so many of the students there are completely unfamiliar with the whole concept of climate change.  So many people in the general public don’t understand it, let alone know what it really means.  I recently encountered a woman who really didn’t seem to get it.  You see, I don’t use plastic when I can avoid it.  And let’s face it, you can’t always avoid it.  But I do what I can.  I don’t use plastic produce or shopping bags at the store.  I either don’t bag my items, bring in my reusables or ask for a box.  It is a small effort, but it is something.  Everything I do to be green and reduce my carbon footprint is small-scale.  I don’t want to come off as being holier than thou.  I am just doing what I can and I am holding out hope that most people will do the same.  Anyway, I feel I have to explain myself to the cashier almost every time I refuse a bag or ask for a box.  Most recently I made a purchase at CVS.  I purchased a few small items and told the cashier that I didn’t need a bag.  She asked me four times if I was sure I didn’t want a bag.  Finally she gave in and said “Okay.” in such a manner that the ‘o’ was low and drawn out and the ‘kay’ abrupt and high pitched.  That prompted me to explain myself by simply telling her that I was trying to be green.  Surprisingly I piqued her curiosity and she began to ask me questions about the use of plastic which lead to the general topic of climate change.  The minute the words “climate change” came out of my mouth, she asked “Do you really believe there is such a thing?”  At that point I wanted to pull up a chair, settle in and deliver my pitch.  But I had to be resigned to providing her with my abbreviated response “Yes I do.  Look it up.  The science is compelling.”  You see, a line was forming behind me, and as much as I would love to have an audience of 3 or 4, I knew my spiel would be ill timed and not received well.

What this exchange told me was that many people are simply not informed.  The public has a limited understanding of climate change for a number of reasons.  Politics, attitudes and education all play a role.  There is just too much to say on the topic of political influence so I will sidestep that topic.  Attitudes are what they are and hopefully can be swayed with evidence and education.  So that brings me to education.  The development and delivery of a curriculum in our nation’s public schools has been slow and difficult.  In April 2013 the final draft of the Next Generation of Science Standards was released.  A consortium of 26 states developed the standards with the cooperation of several academic and scientific organizations.  The goal of these standards is to combat the ignorance of science.  The inclusion of anthropogenic climate change to improve climate literacy has raised heated debate, however.  Since climate change is such a politicized topic, the new standards have been met with a lot of red tape and a lot of roadblocks.  I find it odd that 26 states worked on developing these standards, but only 11 states have adopted them.  2012-03-19-to-the-bitter-endHmm, could politics be involved?  Forty states expressed interest when the final draft was released but only 11 managed to push these standards through?  Yes, politics are involved;  news reports suggest that there is resistance from right wing conservatives because the new standards include anthropogenic climate change.  Are we encroaching on some personal or political agendas by exposing our youth to the concept of climate change?  And not wholly unrelated to politics in finance.  Unlike Common Core, there is no financial incentive to adopt such standards.  Hmm, could there be political influence there as well?     Look, the information is available.  Don’t wait around for the powers that be to jump on board and disseminate information with their endorsement.  Be informed!  Knowledge is power.

Attitudes toward climate change also fuel climate skepticism.  These deniers may come off as arrogant, contrary, cavalier, close minded, stubborn or simply ignorant.  I am holding out hope that evidence, scientific consensus, a shift in the political climate on the subject or simply a change of heart will sway them.  They are not an easy fix as their skepticism stems from the well of “no good reason.”  They will argue with you forever, but never prove a point, never state a fact and never present data.  A good example of a more prominent, “no good reason” skeptic would be Cardinal George Pell from Syndney, Australia.  He claims that global warming has ceased.  What????  He also stated that if the CO2 levels in the atmosphere doubled, then plants would love it.  Um, seriously?   If that is the only impact of doubling the CO2 levels then I guess the pharmaceutical companies might like that.  Sales of Claritin, Allegra and the like would be going through the roof – theoretically speaking of course.

Let me wrap this up with a quick analogy of what global warming really is for those of you who don’t fully understand it.  Looking at it this way makes the common sense of climate change just pop.  Imagine laying in bed with a sheet over you.  Your body produces energy (heat) and this energy will pass through the sheet at a certain rate. If the rate of escape is slower than the rate of production, then  the area around your body and your body will warm.  Imagine putting another blanket over you and your energy production remains constant.  More heat will be trapped under the covers and the temperature will rise.  Add another blanket, and another, and another and suddenly you are overheating.  Your body reacts by sweating, but at some point your body’s natural response won’t be enough to cool you off.  You see, the blankets are greenhouse gases and your body is the Earth.  Something I did not factor in is the increased energy output that the world is experiencing.  So add a few more bodies to the mix….

Please educate yourself, spread the word, open your mind and make even small efforts to be green.  If you do not subscribe to climate change, then just do it for the sake of aesthetics.  A cleaner Earth is a much more beautiful Earth.  It certainly won’t hurt now, will it?

Portrait of a Climate Change Denier: Part 1 – Politics and Industry

Happy New Year.  Some time has passed since I’ve posted.  I went through another career change – or more realistically, a career add-on.  For the last 9 years I was a Domestic Engineer.  In September I became a member of the faculty at a local high school (though I have not given up my duties as a domestic engineer;).  Essentially I have two full-time jobs, one of which requires me to clock in a lot of overtime hours.  So I have been busy.  But with a little time off after the holidays, I decided to rant about a topic that is near and dear to my heart and conscience – climate change.  As many of you know, I am a bit wordy, so what was supposed to be one article has now become two.  This, obviously, is the first installment.  It’s good to be back!

hoaxThe topic of climate change is a hot one.  It is an issue that raises heated debate about whether or not it is a real and imminent threat to our global environment.   On a large scale, it is politics and economics that motivate industries and individuals to be dismissive.  On a smaller scale, it is the sheer magnitude of the problem that causes so many to be indifferent, ignore the problem or react passively to opportunities to reduce their proverbial carbon footprint.

On one side of the denial spectrum, economics and politics drive industries and individuals to downplay, dismiss and/or flatly deny that climate change is actually occurring or that it is anthropogenic (by and large caused by humans).  Politics and economics are also the driving force behind these industries and individuals when they object and oppose the assertions made by 97% of climate scientists: assertions that plainly state that global warming is occurring and that, by and large, it is caused by mankind.  Why?  Well, the answer is somewhat obvious to me.  Perhaps I am a bit too cynical of big business and politics: both of which seem incredibly self-serving, but in my eyes it all boils down to personal agendas and finances, which have a very distinct direct relationship with one another.

www.usnews.comFor certain industries such as large agribusiness firms and the seemingly impervious fossil fuel companies, it would be detrimental to their “bottom lines” if they were to concede that global warming is a large and looming threat to us all and that their industry practices are, in fact, contributing factors.   Such acknowledgement would require drastic shifts in what they produced, how they produced it and how they might bring it to market.  With such changes comes inevitable cost, both monetary and with respect to time, when considering research, development and implementation.  The infrastructure within these industries is immense and I understand that restructuring power grids and integrating the fossil fuel system with renewable energy is a huge endeavor.  Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels in any measure will be difficult.  I don’t think anybody advocating for our environment will deny that.  The transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives like wind, solar, and nuclear power will require speedy technological advancements, a great deal of capital investment and the political—and personal—will of ordinary people as well as collective industries and governments.  That is a tall order, no doubt.  But with such challenges comes so much promise.  And simply put, it is vital to our well-being and our future.  62924_cartoon_mainI suspect that if as much time, effort and money- and enthusiasm – was put toward “going green” on an industrial and political level as was put toward the industrial revolution or, more currently, as is put toward communication technology (the race is always on for the next advancement and consumers can’t wait to overspend their hard earned money on the next iphone even when their current iphone is just a year old and working just fine, which, by the way, is not a very green habit in and of itself as everything is seemingly disposable), then we would be making great strides in shifting from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy.  (Phew, let’s take a breath.  That was a long sentence.)

120421noregretsBut alas, the dynamics of of our governments and of our industries lack ethics and moral responsibility and therefore their practices are self-serving, short sighted, uncompromising and close minded.  Profits and power bolster their agnosticism regarding climate change and the science that surrounds it.  Whether it is a practical response or one that is a deeply held conviction, this stance is the impetus for the plunder and abuse of nature and our planet.  But such casualties are of little concern to those whose ambitions are rooted in business, profits and material wealth rather than common sense, moral responsibility and self-preservation.  Let’s face it, what good is a cash cow when the pastures are uninhabitable due to catastrophic natural disasters?  Blinded by greed and a thirst for power, politics and industry deny that there is a problem simply to protect their current investments.  Hello?  Environmental catastrophe will beget economic collapse, political conflict, societal unrest, population demise due to disease and famine, extinctions, et cetera, et cetera.  What purpose will your bloated business and financial portfolio serve then?

61a3f52df1735619c153e3f50bc0c61bAs an individual without political clout nor measurable wealth, I find it incredibly frustrating to fight for any cause that I believe is “the right thing.”  I will admit that I sometimes feel insignificant in such endeavors.  But I remind myself that any step forward is measurable, and when many small voices sing together the song will be amplified and eventually reach a point when it can no longer be ignored.  So let’s wrap it up with a few positive notes.  On the bright side, there have been some things happening that are very encouraging: things that refuel the movement and increase its momentum.  Pope Francis’ edict on climate change, UN climate change conferences, the relatively recent financial lure of investing in renewable energy (so what if the motivating factor isn’t a noble one as long as it pushes us in the right direction), market boycotts or divesting in companies that jeopardize the rise of renewable energy, protests, the recent U.S. and China agreement to reduce carbon output and increase the use of cleaner energy options and, most importantly, our precious youth who is rallying for the cause by educating, empowering and mobilizing their counterparts through vast networks worldwide in an effort to inspire an entire generation to take action.  These are things to hold on to – these things and the hope that there will be more good things to  come.

Stay tuned for Portrait of a Climate Change Denier: Part 2 – The General Population

Here are a few links to some interesting reading in my opinion…

Back to School, Packing Lunches – Let’s Nix the Plastic Baggies for Dear Mother Earth

Back to school means packing lunches, or at least snacks. The first thing that comes to my mind is the environment.  I have long ago stopped using Ziplocs or similar products on a daily basis.  For me they have very specific and limited uses in my home.  Why?  Because I believe that climate change is anthropogenic and progressing quickly.  Why?  Because I am trying to do my part.  Every little bit helps.

baggieThe plastic baggie is one of those things that is so indoctrinated into our routines that many of us likely don’t give it much thought.  But if you think about it just a little, it falls into one of those unnecessary things that are disposable.  Too much in our society is disposable.  That is one factor that contributes to pollution and climate change.  Let’s face it, we are wasteful.  But it is also one factor with which we, us average Joes and Janes, can alter our use easily enough to contribute to being green which in turn gives Mother Earth a leg up on slowing the global warming process and all that goes with it.

I don’t want to debate climate change here.  If you are uninformed or a denier, so be it.  But these are things that we can all do that certainly won’t hurt.  When I pack my kids’ lunches, EVERYTHING goes into a reusable container.  I have purchased some, but what I primarily use are those containers that deli meat comes in.  Now before you criticize me for buying deli meat in plastic… I don’t claim to be the perfect Green Machine.  I do what I can.  I usually buy deli items from the deli in butcher paper only – no styrofoam, no plastic paper liner, etc.  On very few occasions I will buy stuff in those containers for whatever reason.  But I reuse those containers.  Over the last 2-3 years I’ve accumulated about 15 of those containers and we use and reuse them until they fall apart.  And they last quite a while even when washed in the dishwasher.  We have also reused containers that take-out food has come in.  I can’t remember the last time I purchased plastic containers for the purpose of storing and transporting food items.

Now let’s discuss recycling.  If you must use plastic baggies, then recycle them.  It is not the optimal solution because a great deal of plastic that we “recycle” ends up in landfills anyway.  But it is better than sending them to the landfill directly.  Give it a chance to be recycled and reused.  One example of how plastic is reused is in composite lumber which is manufactured from sawdust and plastic that is often derived from bags.   The fact of the matter is that baggies are tossed out either at school or at home.    So if you must use baggies, then at least recycle them properly.  Ask your children to bring them home instead of tossing them at school because schools often times don’t recycle at all or they don’t do it properly.  And keep in mind that many manufacturers are coming up with “greener” alternatives.  Whether it is marketing, ziploctrending or the bottom line that motivates these pushes for green alternatives within these corporations, take advantage of them.


Something else to consider is that single use items or disposable items contribute to climate change before they ever reach the consumer.  Manufacturing them and shipping them takes a lot of energy, uses natural resources, and creates a lot of pollution.   And, after only one use; they become more garbage – and don’t get me going on the hazards it produces for wildlife and the toxins it releases into our environment.  If we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.


You can hear it
You can see it
You can feel it

It is inherent and organic
But also human induced
It is omnipresent
And inescapable

It is:

The beating of our hearts
The pulse of our blood
The heave of our chests as we breathe
The intonation of our speech
The gait of our walk
Chewing, laughing, crying
Hiccups, blinking, flying
Gusts of wind, the crackle of fire
A cricket’s song and a cicada’s whine
A train on rails
With its intermittent clank
Waves lapping at the shore
Reaching and grabbing at the sand
The tick of a clock
The toll of a bell
Rain on your windowsill
The song of a bird
The bark of a dog

There is rhythm in it all
A cadence that soothes
Or perhaps one that rattles the nerves
It may or may not be steady
At times it may falter
But within it there is rhythm
To which we can add a melody
And that becomes a song
A song that moves you

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