Saturday, September 27, 2008

Can I bring someone to your dinner party?

PETA Threatens Ice Cream Production in the state of Vermont

So in case you missed it in my profile, I'm confessing it now. I am an Aries.

Now, I don't dabble much in the occult anymore since having kids, so my Aries-ocity basically means scanning my Thursday thru Sunday horoscope (saving on newspapers due to my continuing efforts to do my share, I'll pony up for a half subscription) and receiving a message along the lines of these recent samplings:

March 21-April 19
You need to refrain from expressing any opinions today.

March 21-April 19
You need to stop yourself from adding fuel to the fires around you.

March 21-April 19
You need to stop offending everyone around you with your snarky observations.

March 21-April 19
Have you tried counting to 10 before you speak?

March 21-April 19
You need to just apply duct tape over your mouth today and play it safe.

So as a life long Aries by birth, I've learned that sometimes opening my mouth in public will cause some embarrassment along the way so I've learned to seek out other people who may open their mouths and say something stupid and/or offensive and try to sit next to them at parties to minimize my own astrological shortcomings.

So I have but one small request for the hosts of the next dinner party I'm coming to and I guess that would be my good friends The Krug: Please invite the spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to my Brookfield following) 'cause I want to sit next to her.

Now you might be asking yourselves, who wouldn't want to sit next to the PETA chick 'cause that probably means more meat and dairy for me? No, the latest press release from this person has landed her into the offensive comment Hall of Fame with this little tidbit as seen in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Friday September 26:

"Moove over, Holsteins, PETA wants world-famous Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream to tap nursing moms, rather than cows, for the milk used in its ice cream."

Once I stopped laughing, I could read that the article went on to say:

"If Ben & Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers--and cows--would reap the benefits," wrote Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of the animal-rights advocacy group.

Ok Tracy, maybe you possess a potentially gender neutral name so you don't exclude either sex, but I'm going to assume you are a woman and that you never have lactated because most of what people read on the Internet is based on assumptions.

Based on your proposal, it is cruel and unusual to milk a cow for the purposes of producing ice cream, but nursing mommies are fair game for the pump--through which they'd have to produce 1.5 gallons of milk to make a gallon of ice cream (not sure the physics involved in liquid to solid transformations, but I double checked this in the article and that's what it said). Now, Ben and Jerry won't say how much they'd need to tap to stay competitive in the ice cream market that has taken a hit as our country becomes increasingly dependent of foreign cows, but 1.5 gallons of milk is, well, a gi-normous sum to take out of one or even two, breasts and that would yield only one gallon of Chunky Monkey!!

For my friends who bottle fed, let me share a memory from the moment my own homemade milk came in after the birth of my son. I was producing what seemed like an extraordinary amount of the liquid gold from both sides, crying profusely while I did it and even my tears were made of milk, pumping both breasts and crying the proverbial river, I expressed the amazing sum of 8 fluid ounces of milk. A gallon and a half would be a heck of a lot more. Even for the over achievers in the nursing hall of fame like my sister Anja, who nursed multiple children simultaneously and even in public long before it was en vogue to do so.

The article goes on to say "Ashley Byrne, a campaign co-coordinator for PETA (alert: bullsh** title if I ever saw one--what does PETA ever run for?) acknowledged the implausibility of substituting breast milk for cow's milk, but said it was no stranger than humans consuming the milk of another species."

Really Ashley-Never-Lactated-Either-Byrne? No stranger than packing a Milk Chug in Junior's lunch? Hooking up weeping post-partum mommies to pumps for hours so that tourists in Vermont could partake in Cherry Garcia with less guilt? Not strange, cruel or unusual at all, but here is a sampling of "man on the street" responses, my favorite part of any news story:

"It's kind of creepy," said Jeff Waugh, 42 of Dayton, Ohio.

"I think its a little nutty," said Rev. Roger Wooton, 83 of Malden Massachusettes.

"How would they get all that milk?" said his wife, Jane Wooton, 77.

"Breast pumps just weren't that much fun. You really do feel like a cow," said Jen Wahlbrink, 34, of Phoenix Arizona.

Fortunately, the crack PR team at Ben & Jerry's took the high road when declining this marketing ploy:

"We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child," spokesman Sean Greenwood said.

While Greenwood's response certainly won't get him an invite to the Krug dinner party, we applaud his common sense approach. Even the spokeswoman for La Leche League International, Jane Crouse, couldn't back this with a straight face (Though I personally feel she held back a bit): "Cow's milk and mother's milk aren't interchangeable." She went on to say that breast milk is different with each woman and might have difficulty being processed into ice cream.

My conspiracy theory roots tell me this was just a jealous plot move by PETA. Now that the economic Armegeddon is getting some attention, no one seems to care that Pam Anderson's silicone breasts are PETA's poster girl anymore. Economic Bailout: front page, PETA Breast Milk to Ice Cream: Page 2. This is a desperate attempt to get breasts back on the front page and continue to distract society from the fact that the sky, is indeed, falling all around. Had our nation not been so all consumed by supercilious celebrity (show of hands, how many of you knew who PETA's poster girl is? ), someone might have noticed the Bush regime tanking the economy in a desperate move to get media coverage and societal pressure directed his way. Kudos to the Bush regime for waiting until Brett Favre, was quietly and sheepishly wearing a Jet's jersey to unveil the disaster that is your legacy. No one in Wisconsin would have noticed that they had been hit by a meteorite back in July much less that the emperor had no clothes. Sometimes it pays to wait it out until you can have the spotlight.

To the Krug, I'm bringing W to your next one--I'm planning to come off like a diplomatic genius.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Birds and Bees of Planning Your High School Reunion

How an Awkward Question Becomes a Committee

The Committee:

Many of you probably wake up every day with the thought "I wonder what moronic, thankless, and time consuming project Juj has gotten herself entangled with today?" I know you do that because someone on my Facebook page, and I haven't figured out who, keeps asking me that question relentlessly: What are you doing right now, what are you doing right now? I think it might be my clever nephew who thinks I'm boring, but I'm not really sure. I answer him as often as I can, but he never is satisfied. What are you doing right now? I think I have to get one of those teddy bears that has been violated with a tiny camera to follow me around all day and shut him up.

The answer to that question would be the 20th High School Reunion Planning Committee for my alma matter, and Ivy League feeder school, West Allis Nathan Hale aka to the locals, Nathan Jail. I only regret that I have but one solid year of my offsprings' childhoods to give to my high school that never even bothered to tell me about taking AP courses for college credit your senior year instead of Senior Gym Badmitton and 4 study halls that became a kick ass nap/Cribbage enrichment time. Nor did they tell me you can schedule your study halls in consecutive blocks so you have a chance of getting to the good stuff in your dog-eared copy of The Thorn Birds rather than the abrupt stopping and starting according to bells spaced 20 minutes apart much like pill time in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Previous answers to that question would be: Furminating my dog, scrapbooking, self-taught quilting, making all the family Christmas stockings by hand when I can't sew and only have lefty scissors in my house, childbirth, Pumpkin carving with a dull serrated knife, supervising groups of au pairs (yeah, I'm supposed to comparison shop for snow globes at Winkies later and ship the best one to Croatia after I convert drachmas to dollars and use a 20% off coupon and let the head of the Russian mob "dip his beak" in the transaction; what are you doing this afternoon? just picking up groceries and attending a soccer game?) selling AmWay [they call it something else now, but don't be fooled, no one can use or divide amongst your friends one solid metric ton of generic brand Cheerios and 90 cartons of worse-than-the-store-brand generic diapers which I now use as drink coasters (that leak) 'cause my peeps don't throw stuff out see first blog, "Grandma Gukich." As for the generic AmWay Cheerios, even the local food pantry said "no thanks, we just can't move these" so I am working on hot glue gunning them to my basement walls to save on drywall--I am quite sure they are non-porous], coupon clipping, making loads of cards riddled with little rubber stamps, you get the picture. I have some spare time, but I'm tied to the house by the human ankle bracelet monitoring system we affectionately dub "kids."

Now, some of you have had a confused look on your face when you heard I committee'd up, but kept your questions to yourselves. But my rude friends, and you know who you are Tony, have said "how were you stupid enough to run for Student Council and get that life sentence?" By "Stupid" enough, I know you also meant "Popular" enough and if you have downloaded the standard application for the high school student council race it looks like this:


  • Are you Stupid Enough?

  • Are you Popular Enough?

To get on the ballot of the Student Council race, you must have a name, and answer "yes" to both questions and get at least 25 signatures of people that can swear in front of a judge that yes, they know your name and you are stupid and popular enough to organize chips and dips for 285 people you had four years to say hi to and you never did, for the rest of your natural born life.

In high school, I didn't even know 25 people so I can assure you, this was not my mistake. My mistake was innocently attending a holiday get-together at the home of a grade school pal when someone asked if we should start talking about putting together the reunion. I said the same thing I said to the Croatian snow globe fanatic when I really mean "no" which is "sure."

Disclaimer here: The 20 year Reunion Committee includes only one original member of the Student Council which I must acknowledge here is my good friend from grade school, Jill, who is the genetic mutation in the bunch for many reasons including the facts that she is most definitely not stupid but she is popular and was also voted "Best Driver" which is a life-long good skill to have as we become a society increasingly dependent on our bikes (see first blog about not speeding thru a school zone).

So a group of old school gal pals who have picked up a fondness for self torture since their high school days because they do things now that they never would have then like brow waxing, giving birth, wearing Spanx, dragged out the yearbooks, the class lists, the overflowing coffers of the generous donations to the class of '88 which totaled the amazing sum of thirty seven cents but a lot of charities were hit after 9/11, and pledged to put together the Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve of High School Reunions.

First things First--Getting Buzzed:

First, we need to get a good "buzz" going about our wonder years and get people interested. I don't know where you went to school, but at my school, it seemed like a lot of people enjoyed being buzzed all the time so it seemed like a good place to start, the buzz.

At this point, let me introduce one of my co-committee members, Kim. Kim started cold calling people randomly depending on what page the yearbook was open to. On speaker phone. With no script. This friend has many fine points, talents, brain synapses I'm sure because she was one of only 5 kids in my German 5 class at Nathan Hale, but she is not much of a public or even private speaker in her native tongue. The first person she called we quickly realized, was high on something (judging by how she was dressed in her senior pic) and we interrupted her Cheetos and Wonder bread sandwich. Didn't remember Kim, didn't care, no nuthin' to work with here. I couldn't stop myself from heckling and guffawing and Kim, the speaker, couldn't hold herself together and she hung up.

Note to future reunion planners classes circa 1976-1998: Prank calling, while a wholesome and joyous activity in high school back in our day, has gone the way of the Beta Max and Sheena Easton in the days of caller ID. Also, it is not considered a good way to spread buzz. You can also scratch your plan of spreading buzz by toilet papering the homes of classmates who remained in the vicinity. Not only can that be taken the wrong way, but is wasteful and not very green, and insensitive to all the people who are only allotted 4 squares of TP for even their Big Jobs (see first blog for detail). Finally, we advise you not to bring your old beer bongs to the party either because although that is the fastest and classiest way to spread buzz, its one thing to fill them with Milwaukee's Best or Pabst, but at 20 years, we've upgraded to imports: Belgian Whites or Beck's dark and didn't want to direct all of our thirty seven cents for the good stuff and see it get spilled or upchucked onto the floor later. Budgeting limitations sadly forced us to cut this popular stock party activity, as essential as the pinata in West Allis, much the same way innocent school districts are forced to halt the use of beer bongs and toilet papering in these tough economic times.

After the prank call debacle, we decided to call people based on if they dressed up, or at least showered, for their senior picture. Also we took Kim off speaker. Handed the phone to Divina, who was voted Friendliest and Most Unforgettable. Had it been a category, she would have also won Most Likely to Out-Filibuster Strom Thurmond. A veritable Goldmine of talent, the Perfect Storm of Skills was our planning committee this was going to be one Titanic of a reunion.

Note to class of '88 for next time: Don't pick up the phone from Divina if you are in a hurry or if you have to go potty. That's why God invented caller ID.

Note to all: I was voted {brace yourselves} Class Clown which has been a completely irrelevant and useless label I have spent much of my adult life trying to shed. Kids can be cruel. Then be voted Class Clown. It is not a line on your resume, it won't get you a job unless you are applying at the circus then they expect you to wear the shoes and red foam nose. It sucks people!

Committee also includes our meeting hostess, Anna, said grade school friend who tricked me into being there for a question you can only answer "sure" to. On thing I love about Anna is invariably, her conversation will allude to the fact that although she is Sicilian, her family is Lutheran, not Catholic, because her people don't wanna confess. Also, although we are obviously the same age, her talk is peppered with phrases that were in the common vernacular during a brief period before the Second World War like: Hey Tiger, what's up? or instead of offering a drink, she'll say What's your poison, Cowboy? or even better: I feel like havin' a highball, Champ. But she is an excellent idea person chock full of common sense and frugality as ethnic people usually are: See previous blog about sharing toilet paper squares.

Also, a common thread for me, Anna, and yet another committee member, Candace, is that when we were in high school, no one told any one of us about eye brow waxing. Some of us ethnic folk have chosen to explain away our youthful unibrow as a byproduct of a frugal ethnic, low-falutin' folk who would have said "Why have two eyebrows when you only need one, that is wasteful." And they were right. But they also chose to give future generations the advantages that they didn't have for themselves by emigrating to America means that some of your beliefs and customs will be lost. We have uniformly agreed that choosing to wax, while distances us from our ethnic roots, is a spoiled and self-indulgent American custom that we will not ever sacrifice. Hey, none of us are wearing wicker shoes that curl at the toe any more either.

Rounding out the committee is Gabriel (that's pronounced "Gab" rhymes with lob, and don't call her Gabby), who turned out to be a satellite advisor from Madison, Wisconsin, where she could monitor our activities via Teddy Bears with Wazoo Cameras and nix activities that were not green and environmentally friendly and inclusive to all breeds of human race regardless of tree nut allergies. Yeah, Madison makes Shorewood look like a bunch of wannabees.

Ahhh, looking back on these early innocent meetings involved a lot of fond anecdotes about who used to be a prick and who was a slut yadda, yadda, yadda, a committee was born.

Note to : D. J. A. C. K. G. Your initials, plus my J, make us "GD-J-JACK!!"which only took me 11 months to figure out. I know, observations like that really made some of those meetings drag on!

Watch for my next Installment: Recruitment/ Inviting Yassar Arafat

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homoeroticism in Children's Toys and Halloween Costumes

Subtitled: The Parker Brothers weren't really Brothers (wink, wink)

Dedicated to the late Jerry Falwell and the late Tinky Winky, Linked together for eternity

Sub-heading, Not so easy being the Red One Either

When she was 3, my eldest chose to be a Teletubbie for Halloween. This happened to be the fall that the leader of the extreme religious right chose to launch an all out war on Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies for being secretly homosexual and trying to covert his impressionable viewership to same-sex orientation by serving them tainted Tubbie Tustard (That's tubbie Custard for my friends who did not reproduce between 1996 and 2005--one of the many disgusting concoctions that kids love to eat because its a gross texture and unnatural color, like yogurt in a squeeze tube and silly putty).

Roughly 2 hours after the sex scandal broke but days before we read a paper or watched a newscast, we purchased a red Teletubbie costume from Target. Fortunately our costume was Po, not Tinky Winky, flaming purple, the code color for the dark side. We can probably thank the crack retail team of Target employees (who suspiciously have adopted RED as their trademark color) who pulled the offending Tubbie from the shelves until the media could tell us to make up our own minds about whether it would be safe to dress our child like an (allegedly) but (obviously) gay puppet.

Anyway, being red, we figured we were in the clear, controversy-wise. We brought my then only child to her grandparents house for Trick or Treat where my sweet mother in law was excited that she was one of the "Tele-tubeez" and my father in law, always faithful to Larry King live, asked "She's not the gay one is she?"

Trying to avoid being put on the spot, I told him that Po was a pretend character, or a puppet, I think, like Ernie and Bert?? and therefore really neither gay nor straight thinking this would end it right here. His response was "yeah, but one of them is gay."

So I said that it wasn't Po, the red one, that was being targeted and that I can almost assure you that Po's puppet yearnings were directed to the right kind of TeleTUBBIE, not Tubey.

Then, my child was allowed to Trick and Treat as she wished.

Flash forward eight years, two more kids. Jerry Falwell, no longer with us, disgraced by his own puppet yearnings. Tinky Winky, canceled due to low viewership, not just referring to the height of his target market, but the fact that no one was watching him ala the Ellen show after its star announced her puppet yearnings to Oprah, who smartly chose to stay closeted and now controls the Universe. (film credit The Color Purple anyone???) The red Po costume still hangs in my closet, unworn, always in the shadow of his flashier friend Tinky Winky. My other two kids never wanted to even try it on. My son was only into the Power Rangers and the smart people at Power Rangers were quick to pull the plug on the Purple One after the Tinky Winky scandal, launched the Green One instead, then they created global warming. Kudos to that crack marketing team. My other daughter wants to be "dat polka dot dog again" so we just appreciate not having to purchase a costume for her three years running.

Whatever my own beliefs were on the Tubby Scandal of '00, and I can't remember what Larry King told me what those beliefs were, I credit Jerry Falwell with opening my eyes to the blatant Gay-gang symbols that have been flashing all over childhood until he blew the whistle. Also, thanks to CNN and their continuous screen crawlers that alerted the world to Falwell's discovery. Thanks to all for helping me stay true to my paranoia-infused roots and hyper vigilant for coded Gay Gang symbols.

For today, I'm going to just dissect Candy Land because Curious George is pretty self explanatory and don't even get me started on Professor Plum. For my friends who have kids, you can skip the next two paragraphs. (I know, straight breeders do get all the perks!!)

For my childless friends, Candy Land is probably the first game most kids can play. The box recommends the game for children ages 3-6, No Reading necessary to play. Don't you wish my blog had the same consideration?

The object is to make it to the Candy Castle first by advancing your plastic little dude, (family vernacular for playing piece) based on the color square of the game card you draw. It should be noted here that the playing board is bursting with purple squares, but no purple dudes so it doesn't matter what color dude you are. There are also "special cards" and "special short cuts" that allow you to take some short cuts to the Candy Castle, but wait, "special cards" can also bounce you back when you are one card from Kid Nirvana at the Candy Castle.

Note to conspiracy theory friends: Gay people often think they are "special" and can cut in front of you at a bar just because they know Queen Frostine and Princess Lolly, hands down, the two best cards in the deck.

Friends with children jump back in and back me up on this next part: What the box doesn't tell you is that if the cards are stacked against you, the duration of this game can last until your 3 year old graduates from 8th grade if you don't take serious steps to stack the deck. I strongly recommending placing Mr. Mint and Jolly the Gumdrop at the beginning of the deck, don't care who draws it.

Note to my bookmaking friends, scratch that, relatives: It is unethical to both stack the Candy Land deck and offer Vegas odds on the outcome of that game. You can either offer a point spread and take wagers or stack the deck, you may not do both.

Note to parents worried about self esteem and cheating at games:
A. you must be a first time parent with one child who probably needs his bubble wrap swaddle loosened
2. We're just trying to control the game duration here, not give ourselves a winning edge, but it is still best to refrain from offering your child the option "a friendly wager." See Note to the family bookies.

Another thing you Falwell followers want to watch out for is the best move occurs only 5 squares into the game and it is called the Rainbow Trail. Taking the this path provides that you will lop 25% off of your journey to the Castle provided you are not a dummy and forgot to stack the deck letting Mr. Mint kick your little dude back to start.

Note to conspiracy theory friends: Most gay people are not dummies and probably never forget to stack the deck because they usually don't have children who have eaten away at every last brain cell they own.

There is another "short cut" for straight people called the "Gumdrop Pass" that is not as good as it only takes about 12 squares off your jihad to the Castle. Also the square marking the entrance is ambiguous but probably purple, because most gay people think that deep down, everyone is like them anyway. Think of the "Gumdrop Pass" as the Olive Garden of Candy Land. Yes, there is a parking lot, there is food, you can get a drink, but no matter the perks, you're still stuck in Brookfield when all the fun people are in Walker's Point.

Note to Paranoid friends and family re: Rainbow Trail vs. Gumdrop Pass: It is a well known fact that the first rule of real estate is always "follow the gays" because they always get all the best locations. Go to the most fun part of any metropolitan area and you will see so many gay people that they are stacked up like cord wood while straight people are forced to cluster in the suburbs like Brookfield where maybe the schools are better but there is no ethnic food and the juke box sucks and there is no one here that knows how to shake an appletini.

Another special card is Princess Lolly. Now, some of you might think she is just "cute" and would be fun to talk to, but she is so obviously a drag queen that you know she's out there tricking unsuspecting simple folk from Brookfield left and right.

One character on the board doesn't have a corresponding card. His name is Lord Licorice and if he isn't a dead ringer for Oscar Wilde, I don't know who is. Oscar Wilde, a prominent gay writer and Bologna inventor, was known for showing up at gay bars, high on absinthe and nitrates (ingredients in Licorice and lunch meats), and without his proper ID.

Now, turn your focus to the actual playing tokens, for my purposes, little dudes. None of them are purple and they wear bow ties, not ascots, so far, so good. However, if your little dude has to "share a square" (ugly flashback to toilet paper rules here, see previous blog) the little dudes appear to be holding hands.

Now, what most kids would say is "look, they holding hands!"

Note to childless friends: Helping verbs like "are" don't figure prominently into 3 year old conversation, nor do possessive pronouns leading to a lot of "wake up, it's you turn, Mommy."

In Little Kid Land, holding hands often leads to "let's make them kiss!" Which, as a parent, puts you at the Crossroads where blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to Jerry Falwell, immortalized in the movie starring Ralph Macchio. Your choices are:

1. Let the little dudes kiss, for gosh sakes they can't even put their arms down what's the worst that can happen?
2. Say "no honey, little dudes never kiss or touch each other in any way unless they are lit at a sporting event when they openly partake in butt slapping and high fiving."
C. Say "why don't we just have the little dudes high five each other and slap each other's butt?"
4. Say hey look how hot Queen Frostine is?

Whatever path you choose, I'm sure the media can tell you if you were right. We usually just let the little dudes kiss and get married in the Candy Castle, but we also associated our child with a puppet show of suspicious intent and we often forget to stack the deck in our favor leading many of our Candy Land tournaments to go longer than my blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And a little frog shall lead them...

Prologue: It Ain't Easy Bein' Green

As if he had the Shine, Kermit the Frog uttered this simple phrase back in the 70's probably never knowing that in a few decades, we'd all be striving for a deeper shade of green.

So I figured my first blog had to be a green blog as that is what all the cool bloggers are doing today. And I'm nothin' if not a trend follower. Spoiler alert: This is not a site you should visit if you want to share in the joys of being so called "green." No tips, no advice, no back patting, acknowledgement of good deeds. No trading of recipies or playlists. No sassy teenagers telling my my blogspot is "devoid of original content" like my nephew did on Facebook. No poking anyone, no best friend status. Just read it damnit.

I'm not going to learn anything, teach anything, retain anything. Neither will you if you read my blog. No feeling good or positive reinforcement of any kind. No personal growth. Remember, I come from a long line of dark people just biding their time waiting for Armegeddon. But rather, just for today, brothers and sisters, let us co-miserate on some of the adjustments we all have probably made to show we care, or at least want to appear to care, about our environment. And really, what is more important than appearances?

I've never been the most eco-friendly person in the crowd, unless that crowd was the Enron Christmas party. I would rock and rule that Xmas party!!! (especially if they had karaoke)!! if I didn't have to decline the invitation because they are like so politically incorrect and probably pretty dull at a party(see societal pressure/media hype). As my son expressed after a week of Vacation Bible School, "I like Jesus, I just don't want to talk about Him all the time." I feel the same way about the Earth. She's nice and everything, but I haven't gotten as close to Her as I probably could be on a conscious, spiritual plane.

But, my people boast not only a family tree that forks, but many environmentally friendly members both that share my DNA and some who have won the lottery by marrying in. Knowing that my sisters weren't using paper towels, plastic bags, tampons, gave me license to use up to 2, even 3 times as much of those products as I may have needed and know that I wasn't being irresponsible, but only taking up the expected carbon footprint for a person (or 3) with size 9 feet, extra Wide for a shot of non-fat carbon on the Side.

No, I'd place myself mid range on the scale of green: Zero being like the Exxon Valdez, and 10 being like, a Druid, or my sister, Anja, who is not a Druid, but better than a Druid when it comes to the environment. Yeah, my sister kicks butt on your Druid any time, any place. I'm maybe a 5, ok, a 4, but working towards the neighborhood of the 5's. Or at least getting close enough to throw a rock thru a window of a home owned by a person in the neighborhood of 5. But not an endangered rock because that would be wrong.

Any green roots I had I came by naturally in my DNA from that forkin' family tree. The rest of my greenability has been thrust upon me by societal pressure and media hype. (So I've admitted I've been not so vigilant about the Earth, but turning over a new leaf already. In my own defense, let's not forget that societal pressure and media hype have led to the trend-following of a lot of stupid things too, like stirrup pants, Crocs, lite beer, the Macarena, PopRocks (No, Mikey from the Life Cereal Commercial did not expire from a lethal combination of Pop-Rocks and Mountain Dew) but I will promise you to never stray too far from the promised topic, there is no GPS for my train of thought, just get on and hold on, no refunds).

Part One: Forkin' Family Tree:

My Grandmother was most likely the source of the dominant DNA in the family's "green gene" (I think it is chromosome number 13, or maybe red dye number 5, Chanel number 19? but I get confused with numbers since bearing children). Though her style came more from being the oldest child of Serbian immigrants in an extremely large family (estimates range from 12 to 17 siblings, but my Balkan people are known for their tendencies to exaggerate, so let's just say, more than capacity for a 7 passenger vehicle, fewer than, say, Warren Jeffs').

Thrift and conservation were ingrained in her as a way to survive--something that would be compounded by living through the Great Depression and both World Wars. Any given year between 1924 and say 1989, my grandmother could tell you what the price of butter per pound was, but her eyeglasses were known to turn up in the cookie jar. She proudly said she and my Grandpa survived the Great Depression eating "just two wieners a week," but always finding her silver lining, she would add "but we were so skinny and good lookin' back then, weren't we Daddy?"

I have distinct memories of every summer of my childhood spent filling 5 gallon buckets full of berries--black, rasp, straw, whatever. We'd slave in the hot sun for hours, fighting off gnats, bees, one time a bear, or maybe just a really ugly dog, lug the buckets home, wash, freeze, start jam. When I was about 14, my grandmother surveyed about 20 5-gallon buckets brimming with summer's finest and uttered "God, I hate berries." I was shocked and appalled that our berry-bonding labor was not one of the most joyous events in her life as it had been in mine, but rather an exercise of necessity. God provided it, you better use it or lose it, sister. Even today if I get a chance to pick strawberries with my kids, the experience has the dark memory those words ringing in my ears like the many gnats that drive you to seizure in the fields "God, I hate berries."

My grandparents had a cabin on a lake that was the center for most of my happiest childhood memories. A combination of thriftiness and "country plumbing" inspired the toilet paper rule, which back in the day was "Two squares for number one, Four squares for number two."

Now, when you are a child and you get only one vacation a year and it is in a place as awe-inspiring as Iron River, Wisconsin, when adults start gabbin' about "toilet paper rules," all you hear is "yadda yadda yadda," got my fishin' reel, got my home-made life jacket filled with Indian Corn, whatever!! on your rules ladies, I'm outta here. Until you have single-handedly demolished a bucket of (fill in the blank)berries and the elder women in the family are shouting them to you as you race to the bathroom.

Ok, I don't know about you, but even as a child, or especially as a child, four squares was not going to cut it for number two, the "Big Job" as it is known in my house today--especially after scarfing down all those fiber rich berries by the wheelbarrow-ful. Come on we are decades from hand sanitizer--dark days of bar soap here people!! (Oooohhh, Just pinpointed the roots of my germ phobia, but that will be my next blog).

I'm not sure there is anyone on the planet, Slavic or not, who could perform in those limited parameters, but I'm sure if we float the question enough, we'll see it on the roster as an event in the next Summer Olympics.

And so I ignored the guidelines of both number one, and number two toilet paper usage, went for half a roll, 3/4 roll--with ease--but did it quickly, furtively, guiltily as if they were watching me (and who knows? there was no door on the john in the cabin 'til about '82) and this was the 70's still Cold-War era when spy movies were big, but before anyone ever heard of wedging a tiny camera up a teddy bear's wazoo, so this must be the roots of my deep-seeded paranoia.

I'm sure I clogged the toilet, single-handedly flooded the quaint village of Iron River and promptly blamed my little brother for the whole thing. But the point is, my peeps were conserving while yours were still flushing Quilted Bounty down the drains by the truckload.

And it wasn't just water and paper my beloved Grandmother cherished, when she passed, the family unearthed a rather large box full to the brim, much like those berry buckets of my youth, of thousands of ballpoint pens carefully bound by rubber bands and neatly labeled "these don't work." She had half of a basement dedicated to the careful storage of jugs of water that she had emptied from her dehumidifer. Why? Well if she were here today, she would give you her stock answer: "You never know."

My grandfather would take his bald car tires and craft them into planters for container gardening. (It needs to be noted here that Martha Stewart's people were Polish immigrants--those bald-tire planters were the envy of all the neighbors and I bet Martha saw the same thing in her grandma's backyard, 30 years later, some Rustoleum, some glitter glue, slaps it on the cover of her magazine clears 500 dabloons easy!) These people really threw nothing away, found a use for everything. Reduce reuse recycle long before it was "en vogue."

Part II Societal Pressure/Media Hype

Now, flash forward to 2008 and I am living in Shorewood, the epicenter of all things green, liberal and good in the world. No really, people here have rainbows shootin' out of their gutchies, I kid you not. Don't think my eccentric and Old World Grandparents would be so pleased to be en vogue, as they constantly categorized us a "not fancy," or, not "high falutin'," no, our clan was and remains, as low-falutin' as you can be and still walk upright and boast a forkin' family tree; we have remained "not too big for our gutchies," or britches for you readers of Western European descent. But, we are doing our part, in small ways.

Part III: Doin' our Part

I proudly told all my friends that we are "like, biking, just about everywhere!!!" Then, a few weeks later, we dusted the bike off about the time my daughter started preschool.

Insert hidden benefits to biking here, but remember, no learning, no preaching, no growing:

There is the fresh air, the quiet, the chance to oberseve the beautifully colored petals of your neighborhood opening slowly like the dawn of a new day.

There is the time with my child, still small and sweet, strapped and helmeted on the back of my bike, kicking me in the rear like I'm her personal pack mule, (What are those steel-toed sandals??) listening to her angelic voice sing away (sometimes Itsy Bitsy Spiiiider, sometimes Nickleback's Rockstar, hey, third child, she's seen and heard some things and she's no dummy) as she spits Goldfish cracker remants into my curls.

Now for the downside:

A: Idiots!!! Stinkin' idiots. Not observing road rules as they chat on their idiot cellphones while they email their stupid friends and snap digital pictures without signaling as they adjust the radio and insert their contact lenses while catching up on last season's Flava of Love on the in-car DVD player while driving through a school zone at 50 mph. My defense to getting plowed down is a small metal bell with a pony on it that my daughter game me for Christmas one year.

Secondly, there is also the acute shortness of breath as I grunt my way over a small hill, a slope really. Note to self: stuff a defibrillator in the Blues Clues backpack if I'm going to keep this up.

And C: I almost lost my spleen in pothole on Murray Ave that was only a tiny bit smaller than my backyard. Things you gloss over in your safe, shock absorbent van, but on the bike, well, let's just say my reproductive years are now behind me.

But I begrudgingly have to admit, despite the obvious threats to my lifespan, I prefer the bike to the car. Also, interestingly enough it takes the same amount of time to bike as drive as there are no parking spots in the urban, walkable community by the lake at school drop off and pick up time 'cause even on a good day, most people are still driving their lazy selves everywhere anyway.

Then one day, I cursed my bike and the wicked eco-friendly world when my passenger pooped her underpants (that's gutchies for my readers of Eastern European descent) at a soccer game. Try riding that home on a bike! How I yearned for my allotted four squares of rough 70's style toilet paper and bar soap that day!! However on the scorecard of green-ality, and it really is all about keeping score, check off "Has experience cleaning up a brown site, and boy, was it a Big Job," which never fails to impress.

In the 70's, my father, being observant of his generation's energy crisis, started carpooling to work with a man whose name escapes me, but whose bumper sticker is crystal clear and it went something like this:

my wife? yes
my dog? maybe
My Gun??? NEVER!!"

I spent a fair percentage of my girlhood flummoxed over this redneck haiku. What the hell did it mean? Now as I troll the avenues of my adopted hometown on my bike, holding fast to my spleen as I text message my friends, crank up my Ipod, apply mascara, and swat at my child, I think my bike's bumper sticker would go something like this:

my dignity? long gone
my spleen? maybe next
my child's landfill-clogging PullUps? NEVER!!

And you know, somehow, somewhere, Grandma Gukich is reading this, my very first blog featuring lots of talk of berries and bowel movements, and hopefully, approving this message.