Monday, June 28, 2004

Puppet On A String


The last thing that tobacco companies need is any more bad publicity. The government requires them to place health warnings on all cigarette packages.  They're limited as to where they can advertise and the sale of their products is strictly regulated and monitored. Every year more areas become smoke-free and the number of designated smoking areas decrease in number.
Public pressure aside, manufacturers don't want smoking to become even more inconvenient than it already is.  Public awareness would banish the carefree days when smokers could light up and smoke, then simply flick the butt, walk away and forget about it.  A formerly enjoyable past time would now include a personal obligation.  Education would force smokers to obtain and carry a personal ashtray at all times, and police would be expected to enforce anti-littering laws.  Some organizations like PRWatchDog have suggested that tobacco companies may have found a way to hide these facts from the public for as long as possible.  How?
They contribute large sums of money to environmental organizations like 'Keep America Beautiful' who are then obligated to give back a little in return for that financial support.  Such as not printing articles divulging how much money it costs every year to clean up cigarette butts.  Keeping quiet about butts poisoning the environment and killing animals, fish and birds.  Omit photos of butts floating in lakes and washing up on beaches.  Tobacco companies want to leave the smokers in blissful ignorance, and not bring attention to cigarette litter.  Other products like soda and beer have messages printed on their bottles and cans to remind the consumer to dispose of them in trash containers.  They ask us to recycle and not to litter.  Cigarettes carry no such messages or advice.  In fact, cigarette papers are not made from any recycled materials at all, and the packages and cellophane that they are wrapped in will NEVER disintegrate.  Phillip Morris has recently agreed to put a public service message on a few "selected" brands, but only for a limited time.

Let's recap what we already know...
Cigarette manufacturers produce a product where they PROFIT at the expense of the health and the very lives of their consumers.
They make it even more addicting by adding other chemicals to help make sure that the consumer will not be able to stop using the product in the future.
They blatantly refuse to manufacture the product using recycled goods, and continue to package the product in materials that are known to harm the environment.
Then they do everything in their power to keep those facts from the consumer so that he or she cannot make an informed decision.
And even worse, those same companies become major financial contributors to any and all organizations designed to decrease or at least curtail the pollution caused by their products, in an effort to undermine any degree of success that might interfere with their profits.

How arrogant is THAT?

(I'm not  finished yet...)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Dirty Little Secrets

In case you were aimlessly wandering around the Internet and suddenly found yourself lost in my Journal, let me bring you up to speed.  First let me assure you that you're safe.  Other people have been here before you, and most of them are still alive and well.  Some have even left comments to prove it.
Now... where was I?  Oh yes...  I recently noticed that although I'm almost 50 years old, I really haven't done anything so far to make the world a better place.  I decided to correct that, and have been spending lots of time searching for just the right cause.  Being a notorious slacker, I knew it had better be something that would excite me; otherwise I'd give it up in a minute for a good movie and a bowl of ice cream.
I've always been impressed with the
'Keep America Beautiful Campaign' but I haven't heard much about them in recent years.  I found their web site, looked at the old TV commercials, and was once again... inspired.
Searching even deeper, I discovered that cigarette butts are the number one littered item WORLD WIDE.  Being an ex-smoker, I knew immediately that this was…
MY CAUSE.  I spent over 30 years poisoning the environment with my own cigarette butts.  Maybe now I have a chance to make up for that by helping to educate other smokers on the hazards of cigarette litter.  I don't think smokers would continue to litter if they knew the butts took years to disintigrate and that they leaked the toxins that had accumulated in the filters into the enviornment as they slowly biodegraded.  I'm going to do what I can to bring that information to them.
Except for a few other commitments (3 grown kids, an adorable grandchild, my beloved Ray, my job, a few friends, a
Web Site, this Journal, a partially written Best Seller book, and renovating a house that would challange both Bob Villa and Martha Stewart), I am totally free to commit myself to this worthwhile endeavor.
Researching the information was fascinating at times.  I love uncovering a mystery.  If it's also shocking and scandalous… even better.  In this day and age, why are smokers so uninformed about cigarette butt litter?  I found one Site that pointed out that one of the MAIN CONTRIBUTORS to the Keep America Beautiful Campaign was none other than the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company
.  Were they trying to make up for some of the evil they caused... like me?
That's doubtful...
(stay tuned for more)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Picture from Hometown    

                                    Another Father's Day.
                             I wish my Dad were still here.
  So I could send him a funny card.  Give him another shirt.
     Or take him out to dinner at a really great restaurant.
           I know he would spend most of the day golfing.
                   It's odd that my Dad loved that game.
                    He just wasn't the country club sort.
He went to a public course with a beat up set of used clubs,
            a pair of sneakers, and sporting a tweed derby.
                   I know he never, ever played under par,
                     but he loved the game
just the same.
             He was much older than all of my friends' Dads.
           I never realized that until I was in the eighth grade.
         A classmate asked me if "that old guy" was my father,
                    and when I looked at all the other Dads,
                                    I realized he WAS… old.
                                  He was 47 when I was born,
                      but there were 5 more to come after me.
      My youngest sister was born when he was 60 years old
                                    and my Mom was 40. 
             When I was a little girl we didn't have much money.
           There were many Father's Days when my sister and I
                            had no way of getting my Dad a gift.
               We'd look through his bureau for a pair of socks
              that had no holes,
then carefully wash and dry them.
      Then we would iron them so they'd be flat and have a crease,
                   and finally spray them with hairspray and cologne
                               so they'd be 'crisp' and smell 'new'.
  He would always act so surprised when he opened gifts like that,
                                       and he'd smile and rave
                  about how wonderful he thought the present was.
                               He never let on that he knew
    it was just a pair of socks
we had taken out of his drawer.
He made us feel special on the day that was supposed to be his.

                          It's been 16 years now since he died,
                 but he's still as vivid in my memories and my heart
                                              as he always was.
                                       Hardly a day passes by
             when I don't remember
something he said or did.
         I never make a cup of coffee or pass by Dunkin' Donuts
                                      without thinking of him.
                                        He loved jelly donuts.
                   I can see him trimming the Christmas tree,
                                shoveling coal into the heater, 
walking the floor with one of my teething or colicky babies.
I don't think he ever told me that he loved me… but he didn't have to.
                                    He showed me every day.
                                         I miss him so much.

                                     Happy Father's Day, Dad.
                                                    I love you.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

My Sin

I wanted to make a difference in the world.  To leave it better than when I found my way into it.
I think that everyone should have a 'cause'.  Believe in something and stand up for it.  Get passionate and even fight for it if you have to.

The No Butts About It Litter Campaign captured my attention, ignited a flame inside of me, and started my creative juices flowing.
It was there I learned that cigarette butts are the number one littered item… WORLD WIDE.  Contrary to popular belief, butts can take up to TEN YEARS or even more to biodegrade.  When I was a smoker I never hesitated before flicking my butt.
“What’s one tiny filter that will disintegrate in a few days?” I thought.  Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one who shared that misconception.  There are over 176,000,000 pounds of discarded butts in the United States each year.
I shudder to think how many of them were mine.  And it’s not just American smokers that are contaminating the environment.
An article in 
'Cigarette Litter' says “It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. That's billions of cigarettes flicked, one at a time, on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places every single day.  In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world.  Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade.  Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but also the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal. CigaretteLitter.Org is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to running educational campaigns aimed at significantly reducing the amount of cigarette litter.  Most people who litter their cigarettes either don't fully understand the consequences of their actions or they have rationalized the behavior.  This web site and our other educational efforts are designed to get the facts out about cigarette litter to both smokers and non-smokers.  Once people know the truth, they will be much more hesitant to unthinkingly flick their cigarette butts on the ground.” 
The cigarette filters are designed to trap chemicals and carcinogens that would otherwise be inhaled into the lungs of the smoker.
But when these filters are discarded in the street, they ultimately find their way into the sewer systems, where these same chemicals will leak into the lakes, streams, rivers and oceans. 
reports "cigarette butts can leak chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into our marine environment within an HOUR of contact with water.”  Beyond pollution, ‘PRWatch.Org’ has learned that many fish, birds, whales and other marine life mistake the filters for food and ingest them.
Not only poisonous, the cigarettes butts can cause deadly blockages in the intestinal tracts of these creatures.
Filters have even been found in the stomachs of dogs, cats and squirrels!  Deer actually like the taste of filters and pose a threat to drivers when they wander onto the highway grazing for discarded butts.
Many smoking parents don’t realize that if their toddlers eat more than three butts from an ashtray it can be fatal. 
Littered cigarettes are also a leading cause of house and forest fires every year, costing many lives and billions of dollars.

Cigarette butts are POISONOUS.
We can't flick  them out into the world any longer without considering the serious consequences.  We can't be selfish and look away.

Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.

Picture from Hometown

But what can I do...?

(stay tuned to find out)

Thursday, June 17, 2004

In Search Of...

Deciding to make the world a better place was the easy part.  Finding a WAY to do it was another story.
If you just walk outside and take a look around, you can see that there are plenty of things that need to be fixed, stopped or changed.  But where do you start?
I figured since I already live in New Jersey, I might as well start here.  Maybe I could even find a project that would allow me to make up for some of my past indiscretions.  But being a notorious slacker, I knew that I better choose a project I could get excited about, or I'd lose interest in no time and quit. 
It struck me on the way to work one day.  I noticed that there seemed to be more and more litter accumulating every year.  When I was a little girl it was pretty common to see bottles and trash all over the highways.  Then they started showing the 'Keep America Beautiful' TV commercials.  I loved those ads.  The ‘Crying Indian’ made us both proud and ashamed to be Americans at the same time.  Little ‘Suzy Spotless’ showed us that even children could make a difference.  There were signs, posters, catchy songs and phrases.  I knew one thing… I didn’t want to be a Litter Bug.  Their strategy worked.  America cleaned itself up.  The 'Keep America Beautiful Council' reported that by the end of their campaign, over 38 states had reduced litter by 88%, and environmental issues were brought to the attention of the American people for the first time.  I’m proud to say that as a result, my generation would never even THINK about throwing a bottle or can out of the car window to this very day.
But at some point in time, I’m not sure when, they stopped showing those commercials.  And America is once again being buried in its own trash.  I wondered if the
Keep America Beautiful’ Campaign still existed.  It does. They have an impressive web site, where you can even watch those old TV commercials.  Apparently you don’t need flashy ads and special effects to send a poignant message after all.  There were many links to other great pollution sites as well.

While browsing through one… I suddenly found… MY CAUSE...

(stay tuned to see what it is)

Friday, June 4, 2004

Clearing My Calendar

Before we went away on vacation I promised myself that once we got home, I would turn over a new leaf since I recently discovered that I was all grown up.  Exactly when this life altering event took place is unclear, but the fact remains, I should have stepped up to the plate a long time ago.  With more than half of my life over, I have to make up for all of my prior slacking while I can.  Now that I’m fully recovered from my fun filled vacation in Punta Cana, I’m ready to put my nose to the grindstone and start making a difference.  I would have started right away, but I had to tie up a few loose ends.  It's kind of hard to change the world when you don't have any clean undies.  And as I said in an earlier entry, I had to get right back to work (2 hours after getting off of the plane), celebrate Ray's birthday (3 days later), Mother's Day (just one week later), and both mine and my middle daughter’s birthday less than a month later.  I accidentally scheduled myself to work on Ray’s birthday so he went out with some friends for dinner and drinks.  They had a wonderful time despite my absence.

Ray and his brother take their Mother to The Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia for brunch in The Fountain Room every year on Mother’s Day.  It’s sort of a tradition.  Bernard always takes his wife Mary, their daughter Lisa and her husband Joe, their two little girls, and Ray… he took me the past two years.  Who he has taken on previous occasions is a combination of speculation, folklore and distorted memories.  This five star restaurant caters to anyone with enough money to be included  on the list of beautiful people.  Elegant surroundings, white glove service, live classical music, and a buffet of scrumptious seafood, caviar, sushi, breads, cheeses, and salads (all crisp, chilled, colorful and huge) are what you’ll find there.  The EntrĂ©es are all prepared from world famous recipes, with hard to pronounce names, made with spices not found on the shelves of your local super market, all drenched in sauces and gravies so rich it would take a team of Mayo Clinic cardiologists years to undo the damage done to your heart.  I'm surprised that partaking of the decadent desserts they offer don't come with a mandatory prison sentence, death or a contract signing over your soul to Satan himself.  I think I read somewhere that the fresh fruits had been handpicked by the virgin daughters of Roman Gods now retired on secluded tropical islands somewhere between South Africa, France and Thailand.  The only way this brunch could be any more spectacular would be if Sean Connery himself had been our Maitre d'.  Or maybe Brad Pitt.  Considering what Ray’s Mother put up with raising him to adulthood, re-mortgaging his home is the least he can do for Mother’s Day.  The tip alone was over $300.  Just from our table.  In retrospect, although I probably gained a few pounds just from eating that one meal, I think it would be an insult to Ray's family to try and lose it now.  My larger size will be a living testament to their generosity, and I will carry it proudly.
I also got to spend some quality time with my kids and my grandbaby, Brandon, designed new business cards for Ray, got my nurses license renewed, went to the dentist, and even squeezed in a trip to the shore, a visit to the Philadelphia Art Museum, and watched ‘Casablanca’, a classic film I had never gotten a chance to see.  And… we found a way to get tickets to the upcoming Jimmy Buffett concert here in Jersey at the end of this month. 

I’ll bet some people thought I was just lying around doing nothing.  Tomorrow, right after I get my hair cut and visit a close friend in the hospital, I will be ready to get started.  In some small, but hopefully memorable way, I am going to change the world.  I’m not going to rest until I make it a better place for all of us.  I have absolutely no idea where to even start, but I won’t let that stop me.  Maybe it’s better that way.  I can let my imagination run wild.  Having no formal plan, I’ll be free to explore any opportunity that presents itself, and savor every moment.  With the wind blowing through my hair, the warm glow of the sun on my cheeks, I will go wherever fate leads me.


Just as long as I’m back home in time to watch the season finale of ‘The Sopranos’ on TV Sunday night, feed the cats and attend the Nursing Supervisor’s meeting at 8:30 on Monday morning…

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Still Laughing

I recently wrote what I thought was a lighthearted and humorous piece on the trials and tribulations of womanhood as compared to manhood.  I could see by the responses, that some people took me seriously, even taking the time to write and offer me some… ‘help’.  I guess I should have included a warning stating "for entertainment purposes only."  But fair is fair and I think the men should get equal billing.  So here is another very funny piece (Warning: not to be taken seriously) that was sent to me by Ray, who got it from one of his E-mail pals.  For the record, I laughed almost as hard reading this one as I did reading the 'letter to Tide' that I featured last week.  I must prepare you though.  The following letter is very male chauvinistic, and somewhat demeaning to women in general (especially middle-aged housewives), but the Tide letter wasn't exactly what you’d call 'man friendly' either.  Again, I have no idea who the author is, or I would gladly give him credit.
A very wealthy man and his wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when an absolutely stunning young woman came over to their table, bent down and gave the husband a big, long kiss.  She smiled and told him that she would see him later and walked away.
The wife glared at her husband.  "Who the hell was THAT?” she snarled.  "Oh", replied the husband,"that was my mistress."
"That's the last straw!”, the wife shouted. "I’m going to call a lawyer!  I want a divorce!"
"I can understand that", the husband replied, "but remember… if you divorce me, there will be no more shopping trips to Paris, no more wintering in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, no BMW in the garage and no membership at the yacht club. But the decision is yours."
Just then a mutual friend entered the restaurant with a gorgeous woman on his arm.
"Who's that woman with Marcus?" asked the wife.
"That's HIS mistress" answered her husband.

"Ours is prettier" she replied.

Now… before anyone even attempts to psychoanalyze me… let’s get a few things straight.  I am your average middle-aged, middle-class, middle-weight, divorced, menopausal American woman living in New Jersey.  Does that make me… cynical?  You betcha.  Sarcastic?  Absolutely.  Crazy?  No doubt.  Tired?  Deservedly so.  Psychotic?  No.  But just in case I offended anyone, let me take a stab at political correctness:
1) I do not think the subject of infidelity is a laughing matter (I didn’t think it was funny when it happened to me.  I don’t now, and I doubt very much that I ever will).
2) I don't have anything against rich people or their lavish life styles  (Both Ray and I have every hope that we too, will be wealthy someday).
3) I don’t think it’s easy being the ‘other woman’ OR the wife.  Or the husband, the kid or the cat for that matter. (Although I prefer cats I have nothing against dogs or their owners.  Actually, I’ve always admired the fact that they have to walk them in all kinds of weather.  Not to insinuate of course, that cat owners get off easy.  Hairballs and kitty litter are awful).
4) I’m not bitter and I don’t think that men cheat on women more often than women cheat on them (just that women usually have better reasons (excuses) than men come up with.  Not that men couldn't do just as well if they applied themselves.  Not that there is EVER a good reason (excuse) for anyone to cheat in the first place).
5) I don't hate men, and I do enjoy being a woman.  I still feel sexy, and hopefully, I always will.
6) While it is true I don't like getting older, I'm not depressed about it (please note that I have nothing against BEING depressed.  I have nothing against older people.  I’m in training to be one myself).
7) I’m not insecure and I have never insisted, expected or need any man to tell me that I’m beautiful, nor does he feel obligated to do so (which isn’t meant to indicate that I look down on people who ARE insecure).
8) I always, ALWAYS look for the humor in everything (but I have nothing against people who don’t).
9) I can be serious when I need to be (but I don’t criticize people who can’t).

There.  I think I’ve covered just about everything.   If I were any more politically correct I'd be running for President and I don't think this country is ready for THAT...