Please Pick Up the Poop, People

Abandoned Dog House

It happened again today. My spitfire puppy, Rosie, and I were off for a pre-rain walk when my foot suddenly slid as I took a step into something squishy. Instantly I knew.  The pooper-scooper had not found its way to this part of the block – an all-too-frequent occurrence in this, our quiet suburban neighborhood.  What’s worse, there are multiple pooping culprits based on the variations in size and color of the many poops scattered about. Let’s face it, most dogs poop when they’re on the beloved leash for a walk, and there are those owners who religiously clean up after them. I am one of those owners. However, there are those owners who simply don’t. Are they lazy? Careless? Believe in the ultimate “let nature be nature” approach?

Ugh, I for one am sick of hopping home and having to turn on the spigot outside to remove the by then malodourous crap (literally) from my shoe. What’s a step-in-poop soul supposed to do?

One answer is to be hyper-vigilant about every footfall I take on my walk. This is not ideal for me because I miss much of the enjoyment I get from walking my precious pups. On the other hand, looking down might help control my other walking issue which is the frequent trips of one who is not graceful.

Another idea is to call the local animal control folks and complain. Scratch that thought.

Educate by example? Unfortunately, it is a rare occurrence that one of my dogs’ poops within close proximity of one of the offenders, so scratch that one, too.

The one I think about often is this: I know two of the worst offenders who get this, have two dogs they take on mile-long treks twice each day. Their pups’ poops have decorated the entire town. I will have to stage this, but I am thinking of catching up with them one day with one of my dogs, a blue poop bag in hand, and asking them what brand of poop-scoop bag they use for their dogs!  And of course, I’ll go on to tsk-tsk about all the unpicked-up poops scattered about and what a terrible nuisance, not to mention health hazard, they are. <grin>

Result? Will I succeed in shaming these two into picking up the poop or piss them off so they make sure their dogs always poop on my lawn. Oops – never thought of this.

Guess it’s back to the pooper drawing board.


Semesters, Cell Phones and Ghosts



It’s grading time, and I mean HEAVY-DUTY, all-day, into the wee-hours grading. It’s the most frustrating, anger-provoking thing I do as a teacher.  It is all these things because the more papers I read, the more I think I have been a phantom standing unseen in front of my classes, and that the volumes of resource materials I have posted must mysteriously disappear from student view somewhere in the course of the course.

Yes, I know. I am generalizing. I do have those consistently stellar students who make it all worthwhile. I also have those surprise students who manage to emerge from the back of the pack and surge forth to finish in the top percent. These students also make it all worthwhile.

But the discouraging part arises from an increasingly disengaged age group who wants to coast along the surface while expecting everything to be handed to them. Give them a book and most say, “What’s this?” Give them a cell phone and they are off and running in the opposite direction from the finish line. It’s called. “what is social media doing to our educational systems, our students, and ultimately, our culture?”

Consider: the average teen sends and receives a median of 50 texts per day, while 3 out of 10 deal with 100 every day.  Also, according to William Tatum, a research neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, the intensity and frequency of texting actually alters brain waves, partly because of the high degree of concentration texting requires.

My students admit to feeling terrible anxiety if they don’t have their cell phone next to them on their desks during class, and though I catch them looking at the phones periodically throughout class, most are never outright rude and actually start texting.

Do I have consequences for cell-phone usage? Yes. Actually, I include a category called “Professionalism” in my grading rubric which includes all those immeasurable things such as respect, teamwork, and earnestness, and that is precisely where cell phone use and abuse fits in.  For those abusers, I have a cozy little chat during the semester and tell them just how much their choice of using their phone in class will lower their grade, a message they don’t like to hear.

I don’t (necessarily) blame texting and social media for this new breed of college student, but it sure makes sense that their immersion in a cyber-cell world thwarts attention paid to class, coursework, and assignments and makes one professor consider coming to class covered in a white sheet.

Are Children Suffering From Their Parents’ Use of Cell Phones?

General Icons-15Last week I had a chat with one of my students who is also the assistant manager of a day care center. We had just completed a unit on digital media and she described to me an ubiquitous activity that occurs every day among a majority of her parents when dropping off or picking up their kids. You guessed it – talking on their cell phones.  They talk on their phones to the exclusion of finding out about their child’s day or otherwise communicating with the child’s teacher. This really handicaps the staff at the daycare responsible for taking care of the kids. Did something happen at daycare that the parents need to know? Is the parent forgetting to tell the teacher that their child can’t have milk because of a medication she’s taking? You get the picture. Communication regarding their children takes short shrift.  Sad and scary.This affected me so that I decided to root around and see what I could find about how extensive a problem this cell phone use among parents indeed is. A multinational study last year of kids ages 8 to 13 found that “32 percent of kids felt unimportant when their moms and dads were distracted by their phones.” In addition, over half of these kids believed their parents spend far too much time on their phones. On the positive side, 52 percent of the parents agreed with the kids’ responses. The question is, were the parents who agreed the same ones attached to their phones or the ones who put communication to and about their kids first?

The day after I had this discussion with my student, I was in the Target parking lot walking toward my car when a young mother with a baby in a shopping cart was unloading her purchases. Guess what, she was on her call phone while the baby sat quietly. I then heard a kerfuffle and turned to see the cart rolling away from the car and a young man running to intercept it. A case of “distraction by device.”  and truly a potential disaster.

I would have expected this mother to be embarrassed and horrified by her irresponsible behavior but she was all smiles and acted as if the entire incident was no big deal. Had it happened before and this was simply a rerun?

I feel like I am scraping the proverbial surface of a problem that appears to be reaching epic proportions. Are we sculpting a society where children are relegated to non-importance when the cell phone rings, or is dialed?  And what then does this mean for our future?

Quacking Rites of Spring


They’re back! And when they arrive, it’s with a big splash!

Who is “They”?

One of the true and delightful rites of early spring in my life is the arrival of the male and female ducks who unfailingly land and plop down in the water-filled cover of our neighbor’s above-ground pool. It’s going on 10 years that I’ve “experienced” them. Sadly, the average lifespan of a duck is less than 10 years, so is our time together nearing an end? Or might one of the many offspring who have sprung here pick up where his or her parents left off.

Stop! These lovely creatures have just arrived and already I am focusing on their departure when there is another wonderful beginning right in front of me.

Their Story

Every year the ducks arrive soon after the last snow and thus the spring saga begins. They spend some time swimming in the pool cover, and disappear at times, usually evenings, when together they locate the best spot for Mama to lay her eggs and keep them warm. Unlike some other avian species, only the mother is allowed to sit on the eggs while Papa guards the nest and forages for food.

It’s interesting how she forms her nest. It begins as a 1-to-6-inch bowl-like depression in soft ground into which she plops, and once plopped, that’s where she stays. Instead of bringing materials to the nest, she reaches for brush and vegetation from her perch to both cushion the nest and hide it from view.  Once she lays her eggs, she plucks the soft, downy feathers from her breast to cover and insulate them. Discretion and safety is the watch word for this entire process and believe it or not, in the 10 years I’ve been observing this springtime ritual, only once have I seen Mama with her ducklings waddling behind her.

As I wrote this little piece and did some additional research on one of my favorite wildlife species, I learned some interesting facts about ducks.

  • Although they are “monogamous,” males are known to have “dalliances” with other female ducks.
  • When their wings flap like crazy, be aware they can actually propel their owners up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Quacking? Only females quack; makes merely make a grunting, guttural sound.
  • When breeding season is over, ducks shed their feathers and are unable to fly for 3—4 weeks, a highly helpless time for them.
  • Ducks have a varied diet. They don’t dive in water, but will eat bugs and plants along the surface. They otherwise forage for seeds, worms, snails, etc.

Like all nature’s creatures, ducks have their own special stories to tell, and when they do, they put a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Happy Spring!


All About Birds: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Hobby Farms: What is the Average Life Span of a Duck?


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