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How One Man Never Let Bad Health Slow Him Down

Updated on October 6, 2017

Mitchell Lee Turner

My father has been the biggest inspiration in my life, mainly because he always remained consistent in everything he ever did. Throughout my life, he guided me and educated me on making the right decisions. While I may have made some stumbles along the way, I have realized that everything he ever told me was the correct way to go about doing things. It wasn't until the end of my father's life that I realized he knew what was best for me, because he had already lived in my shoes. We were so much alike and I regret not realizing that earlier in life. I am going to share with you the remarkable story of my father, Mitchell Lee Turner, and how he overcame impossible obstacles that I have never heard of anyone else doing.



One of his first vases while in college
One of his first vases while in college

Early Life of Mitchell Turner

My father attended college so that he would have at least some form of higher education. He decided he wanted to go into art. My dad grew up reading comic books and I think that is what inspired his love or arts and crafts. His favorite comic book series was the Amazing Spider-man, created by Stan Lee, who single-handedly revived Marvel Comics Inc.. I secretly believe my father aspired to be a comic book artist because I would always see him sketching comic book super heroes and funny cartoons in his spare time. He would even draw up new characters and give them names and story lines. I think the main thing that dissuaded him from pursuing that dream was the lack of comic artist demand and potential relocation. He was a hometown guy and was satisfied staying right in the county limits for the remainder of his life. He had no desire to move to a big city to be an artist. His curiosity led him to participate in ceramic classes. Before you know it, he was making beautiful sculptures and creative face mugs and jugs, as he called them. The college hosted a sophomore art sell each year and with the money that he made at the art sell he bought his first pottery kick wheel.

The soon to be Married couple
The soon to be Married couple

After College

After graduating college, he married his college sweetheart, my mother, Rose Harmon Turner. The two started off married life, as many do, with little money. While my mother settled for a job at a local bank, he went to work at a furniture factory overnights. Soon after that he went to work for my grandfather at a pulp wood yard until the economy went south and the wood yard had to close down. Soon after that he was able to work at a local pulp wood yard closer to where they lived at the time, but as work demand slowed he had to go into job search mode. The economy in this small town was still in a recession at that point. He moved on to work yet another factory job that he despised and soon quit. He practiced making pottery in his off time during this period to hone his skills.

This is the Cabin Structure that he built
This is the Cabin Structure that he built
And as you can see here, I'm putting in a little of my time to help the construction along
And as you can see here, I'm putting in a little of my time to help the construction along
The final product that is now known as the Little Cabin on the side of the road
The final product that is now known as the Little Cabin on the side of the road

Setting up shop

Without enough money to buy a kiln to fire his pottery, my father could not yet make a living off of the pottery that he was making so he had to find another job. A family friend kept approaching my mother at the bank where she worked, asking if he would like a job in the jewelry repair business. Persistently, the man finally called my father and offered him a job and my father accepted. The man taught him everything he knew about making and repairing jewelry and my father picked up from there. He became an expert jeweler and was soon able to make beautiful rings and necklaces as well as specially ordered custom pieces. After working as a jewelry repairman a few years, I can remember people asking is he could fix their jewelry for them. I even had teachers at school asking me to take things home for him to repair. I can't recall if I ever did. Most likely I forgot their request before school let out, as jewelry repair wasn't a key topic on my mind at that age for some reason. Soon after starting to work at the jewelry store, he was able to purchase his first kiln for firing his pottery, but he needed a place to make his pottery.

I don't know if any of you know how hot kilns get or the chemical fumes they emit, but they aren't really something you want in your household.

My grandfather had several logs from an old log cabin that my great grandfather had lived in when my dad was growing up. One day my dad approached my grandmother about the logs. She said if you will do something with them, I will pay for the roof and foundation for it. So he embarked on making a log cabin right in our own front yard. He also acquired part of an old log cabin from a friend and hired a guy to help him tow those logs to our house. The two cabins, however, had different notch patterns so he had to re-notch every single log. With just the help of my mother, he formed a log cabin that has become the landmark of where our house sits today. Everyone that has ever been in it falls in love with its' uniqueness.

Soon he was able to make and sell his pottery at arts and crafts festivals across Mississippi. He took this skill and made a living off of it in a small town in the state of Mississippi. People have traveled from hours away just to pick through pottery that he made. This, however, wasn't his only source of income.

These are some of his many face jugs and mugs
These are some of his many face jugs and mugs
These are some of his first miniature pieces
These are some of his first miniature pieces

Helping Hands

While working at the jewelry store, my father was also working as a janitor at a local high school while simultaneously attending arts and crafts festivals during festival season. At one point in his career, he was actually selling pottery faster than he could make it. That's when he recruited us kids into helping making it. I was around 9 or 10 years old at the time so I was doing the rather easy tasks such as cutting out ornaments with his custom molds, mixing glazes and cutting pottery off of the slabs to prepare for the kiln. Gradually, he taught me everything he knew about making pottery, a skill set I still hold to this day.

Here are some more of his various pieces
Here are some more of his various pieces

Recreational Time & Fading Health

He spent most of his Saturdays and Sundays with my mother and their friends, going to each others' houses every other Sunday and having what some people may call, jam sessions.

The preacher that baptized my father taught him how to play the guitar and banjo. I can remember sitting in during these sessions when I was a little boy and nodding my head and tapping my feet to the music. To some of you these skills may not seem like anything extraordinary, but I haven't quite told you the whole story.

When he was only 20 years old my father fell ill with a severe case of strep throat, which is what doctors claimed may have been the origin of his many eventual health conditions. Soon after recovering from his illness he noticed that his legs had began to swell. He went to a doctor to see what might be causing this and was diagnosed with kidney disease. He was prescribed cortisone at that point to help with the leg pain he was suffering. After deciding that the doctor didn't know what he was talking about, my father continued to live life as if nothing was wrong, believing his kidneys had recovered. 8 years later, 1 month after I was born, his kidneys failed and he had to begin dialysis treatments. During this period he became too weak to perform the work he had been doing, so he stayed home to care for a 1 year old and 3 year old. Luckily, he was chosen early to receive a kidney transplant no more than 5 months after his kidneys had failed, which is extremely rare, as nowadays one may go years without receiving a transplant of any kind.

Unfortunately, the transplanted kidney failed within a couple years and he was forced to continue dialysis treatments, which he stayed on for the remainder of his life. About 8 years after getting the transplant he started having trouble standing up on his own. He called my mother home from work one day because he sensed something wasn't right. Later that night he calmly said to my mother, "Call them." He was going into shock. He was admitted to the hospital soon after. It was discovered that the reason for these troubles was fluid build up around his heart and lungs. It was so compressed that his left lung collapsed completely. The doctor's drained over 3 liters of fluid from around his heart. This episode affected him the worse out of all his illnesses over his lifetime because it put him in a wheelchair. The doctors told him that due to damage in the nerves in his legs that he would never be able to walk again. Can you imagine being 37 years old and told that you will never walk again?

I can honestly say if this were me in that situation, I probably would've just given up and took my disability check, but not my father. My dad started to work on standing up again. He would take his wheel chair behind the couch and pull himself up with his arms until he was standing. He did this every day. Apparently he did it several times a day while I was at school. He added taking steps while holding onto the back of the couch. After that we decided we have to get him a walker. "This stubborn man is gonna walk again." We got him a walker, and he used it for about 2 or 3 months. I want everyone to know that we medically and scientifically was never supposed to be able to walk again because of the nerve damage suffered in his legs. After using the walker a few months he bought a cheap $5 cane from a value store. He started using it to walk with and before you know it he was able to walk hills and stairs. He still had balance troubles but managed very well. He had a routine check up at the facility where he had dialysis every week and ran into a doctor while there. The doctor was one of the doctors that said he would never walk again. After seeing how well he was getting around, he was amazed. They decided to do an article in the newspaper, proclaiming that it was a medical miracle. For a man who wasn't supposed to ever walk again, he was pictured standing on one leg holding both arms out for balance.

After regaining his ability to walk again, my dad hopped right back into his old routine as if nothing ever happened. The man never seemed to stop running. 3 years later my mother awoke to a loud noise to find my father lying on the floor. He seemed to be having a heart attack. It was about 2 am when everything went down. My mother was on the phone with 911, holding a rag on my dad's forehead and aiming a fan towards him. I can remember being woken to hop into my rain boots and shorts and go to the entrance of the drive in the rain to hold a flashlight so the ambulance could locate our house.The ambulance took him to the hospital and he was admitted. After reviving, the doctor's couldn't figure out what may have caused this. So they came up with a brilliant idea. Let's let him have one of these spells again before we do anything or let him go. WHAT? REALLY? Their idea worked though. Soon enough my father had another episode just like the previously stated one. Only this time he died. Clear.... nothing. Clear.... nothing. Clear..... Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep. After 3 hits with the defibrillators my father's life was restored. He had heart arrhythmia. They did open heart surgery on him and placed an artificial valve into his heart and also a mini defibrillator in his upper chest, should he have another spell. He was 41 at the time.

Our family all knew that we had been blessed to have him as long as we did. I can remember asking him how long would he be satisfied living, knowing that he had already beaten the odds on several occasions. His answer to my question was, "I would like to see my kids graduate and become adults."  While going for a routine blood check one day, the nurses obviously saw something irregular. They would not reveal what was so important, but said that he had to go to the emergency room immediately. It was later revealed that the irregularity was staph in his blood stream. My father was hospitalized on March 8th, 2006. My soon to be wife and I went to visit him on my 21rst birthday, March 11th, 2006. We played cards, talked about our upcoming marriage and about when he thought he was going to be able come home. We said goodbye for the night and I started to walk towards the door. I felt a terrible feeling, leaving him so I turned around, walked back up to my father, hugged him and said, "I love you dad." On March 12th 2006 I received a call from my mother, who was by his side at the hospital this whole time, saying I needed to get to the hospital because my father has went into shock. I can remember going as fast as my truck would literally go, risking my life as well as others with reckless speed driving, but for some reason one doesn't acknowledge that when faced with a loved one's possible death. About 30 minutes after the first call from my mother, I received a second. "He's gone." To all the doctors in the world, "I do not want your job." I can't imagine how hard it must be to tell a room full of loved ones that their father, son, brother, husband has died.

So that's the story of my father, a man who definitely kept going when nobody would have blamed him for giving up.

"What have you done with your life so far?"

Things that made it hard

There is so much that I didn't share throughout the story, because it would have drawn attention away from main points. But there is so much more to his ailments than the ones listed above.

Can you imagine coming off of the football field because your father had fallen down? Always being on guard so you could try to catch him if you were in a shopping center? These things are hard to live with, because I never wanted my father to fall in public. He was a proud man. Once a mighty man, silenced by the force of nature. Also seeing your father hurt every minute of the day isn't easy. When you are around someone that is hurting all the time, it is almost impossible for you to show pain. When you do, you feel ignorant, because the man next to you is in 3 times as much pain, constantly. There's so much more.

This was the last photo taken of him just a few months before he passed away. At the funeral I saw virtually everyone that I had ever known. I can't imagine what it would make a person feel like if they were showed that much care by so many people while they were alive. I saw relatives there that I had not seen for years and people that lived a ways off. I can't think of one person that knew him that did not come to his visitation. Throughout my life, I have never heard anybody say a bad thing about my father. I hope so much to be loved as much as he was by our small community.

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    • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jesse James 

      4 weeks ago from Crooked Letter State

      When his nerves got bad I could do things more efficiently than he could, but he always had a better artistic imagination. If his health had not declined there is no telling what things he would have came up with. As far as the angels having the looped wings; yes, they broke easily. The new style was also a little faster and easier because it was done with a slab roller and cookie-cutter. I'm sure you saw some of his "home-made tools". He didn't believe in buying anything expensive to work with. It was always cookie cutters or stencils he made out of posterboard. I added you on FB if you'd like to talk directly.

    • profile image

      Wayne Edwards 

      4 weeks ago

      He used to say that you were a better potter than he was in some ways. in the past 10 years, I have collected face jugs from other potters, mainly Marvin Bailey, Mike Williams, and a few from some others but no one makes them like Mitchell did. His faces were unique and he named them. His use of the handle style loops I think is what really makes them standout. I also have a full blown skull jug that he did for me that I put out at Halloween along with the small jack-o-lanterns. I'll send you a pic of it. As some of my family downsizes, they have been giving me back some of the pieces that I gave them 25 years ago. A distant cousin recently gave me the angel with the loop wings that I had given her. I told all of them that they better not be selling that stuff in a yard sale! He didn't make many of those because of the breakage (?). I'll also send some pics of the other pieces I have found over the years.

    • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jesse James 

      4 weeks ago from Crooked Letter State

      So nice to hear from you Wayne. I remember you fondly. I'm actually still in this same old town. I actually ran across a couple pieces of his early pottery in a flea market-type store in Pontotoc. That has been several years ago though. I still have some of his work, packaged away in a storage shed. Don't tell mom, but I'd rather it be appreciated by others rather than keep it hidden away for myself. Then again, I have never been one for sentimental, material things. I have many memories that cannot even be compared to anything material. I did love his unique touch on the face jugs and mugs though. As I grew up, I helped with different things in the pottery shop. One of the things he liked most about making pottery was creating those weird and wacky faces. I can remember seeing him manipulate his face and look in a mirror to get an idea of what he wanted the face on the jug or mug to look like. So, if you see any faces that resemble his, that is probably why.

    • profile image

      Wayne Edwards 

      4 weeks ago

      Very nice tribute to your Dad. This is the first time I have seen this, (as I was scouring the internet looking for any of his pieces for sale!). Even though we were from the same town and I graduated with his younger brother, I got to know Mitchell and Rose by buying the miniatures (in the featured pic) from them when they would sell in the mall at Oxford. Afterwards, I would pull up at that cabin at some point before Christmas to load up on family Christmas presents, year after year. He knew I wouldn't have much money and would make me a deal. I would of course ask a thousand questions about the process and we would have good discussions. After a while, I began buying the face mugs and face jugs (in the pics) for myself. They are amongst my most prized possessions, mainly because of getting to know him through that buying process. When I am out and about, I stop by junk stores and vendor malls, scouring the shelves for his pieces. I have now expanded my collection of utilitarian items - pitchers, bowls, candleholders, etc. and every time I find one, I feel like he is sending me a Hello. To me, he was a great example of how to treat people, how to persevere, and how to be a good person.

    • spsingh profile image

      spsingh 

      7 years ago from iwebeffects.com

      i LEARNED A LOT THANKS FOR SHARING VOTED UP!!!

    • lifewellspoken profile image

      lifewellspoken 

      7 years ago from Vancouver BC

      What a nice write up.

    • ladyjojo profile image

      ladyjojo 

      7 years ago

      Nice hub, it's good to talk great things of your parents. Yes many times parents are right and we are wrong ,we thing they are old and stupid, forgetting they walked the road before and know all the potholes. I love the cabin very much also your dad made great stuff

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      7 years ago

      I wish I'd known him.

    • lyjo profile image

      lyjo 

      7 years ago

      What a beautiful, inspiring family you have, I'm sure your father is very proud of you....as I'm sure he still watches over you! Take great care!

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I can feel the love of your father from here... Thanks for sharing.

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Thank you for sharing this touching story of your father. I can't imagine, as a parent, wanting anything more than my child to see me the way you do your dad.

      I have a child who went through dialysis at 8 years old, and was lucky enough to get a new kidney at 9. There is truly a lot you did not say. Dialysis is unpleasant at best, and horrifyingly scary and painful at worst. Your dad was an amazing man. It takes a special person to go through the pain, nausea, and weakness that I know in my heart he dealt with on a daily basis, and not only continue on, but strive for normalcy.

      What an awesome gift, to have had such an incredible dad.

      I have to go blow my nose now.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      A wonderful tribute to your dad. He worked hard, and he must have had a wonderful life of devotion from you and family members near him. Your story is nice. His ability to build a beautiful log cabin that is pleasing to the eyes. How Blessed you are to have a great father always in your heart, because he will always be among those he loved. God Bless You. My father was great too. My dad was a World War 2 Veteran. He fought for our country in the front lines overseas. My father died too. Mine is with me in my heart too.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

      A brillantly told and so touching story of a wonderful man.

      He has left you with the most precious gift of all: A heartfull of beautiful memories and they will be with you forevermore.

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us all.

      Take care and God Bless.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a Beautiful story. Thanks so much for writing and posting this.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      I love the title and I love the hub. The story of your Father is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing it. Never give up! :D

    • libby101a profile image

      libby101a 

      7 years ago from KY

      Your father was an amazing person and it seems he has raised an amazing son! He is at peace now. Thanks for sharing his story with us!!!

    • profile image

      Jane Keith 

      7 years ago

      What a wonderful tribute to Mitchell. I only knew him for a few years, but he was a great man and bible teacher. It still seems like he should be sitting on the back pew at church. You and your family were truly blessed to have him in your lives.

    • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jesse James 

      7 years ago from Crooked Letter State

      I wanted to say thank you to all who have commented on this story. Writing it was difficult, as I had to unleash suppressed memories, but it is a story that others should see, bc it shows anything can be overcame.

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 

      7 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Welcome to hub pages Fenixfan. Your dad was one remarkable man! It just goes to show what perseverance can do. Very well written, glad I came by.

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 

      7 years ago from Malaysia

      This is a beautiful story about your dad. It's amazing how he had lived his life to the fullest despite all the Great challenge. He is nevertheless a super hero at least in your heart.

      God bless.

    • profile image

      Sput 

      7 years ago

      I knew your dad like a brother. Everything you said was true from the time you can remember. I can tell you that I was a friend of his since we first met in 1971. Your dad was funny, kind, friendly, faithful, generous,and very very talented. He was also a great teammate in football. We all had skills and we all lacked skills but we all had each other. Everytime I hear Kenny Chesney's "Boys of Fall" I think about Mitchell. I know he was a great dad, because he was a great man and friend. Carolyn and I dated at NWJC at the same time your dad and mom did. We were all monetarialy challenged but we had love and friends. I think about him every meal at our house. He made us a set of dishes back in 19something and we still have them all. Not a one has failed.

      Jessie and Ronnie, you both know how great your dad was and how much he loved both of you. Remember the good times.

    • profile image

      debra van gorder 

      7 years ago

      jessie you and ronnie are so lucky to have such a wonderful daddy. you both have grown up to be such good hearted people and he would be so proud of you both. i have a coffee cup that he made that ronnie gave me and i love it and will treasure it forever. live your dads words jessie.

    • profile image

      Veronica Turner 

      7 years ago

      I cant believe you wrote this bout daddy. It makes me sad reading it cuz i thinkof him all the time and miss him. But we both know he is better of where he is now. I love you little brother

      your sis

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Your father seemed to have one talent you failed to mention. He raises fine young sons. He was truly multi-talented. This was a tribute that I am sure would make him very proud.

      I enjoyed this hub, but would just suggest a little more proofreading and organizing to help the flow. Forgive my OCD.

      I look forward to reading more of your work.

      Welcome.

      CP

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      7 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I'm glad that you had such a wonderful dad and that he had a child who appreciated him and recognized his worth. A touching story. Thank you.

    • tnderhrt23 profile image

      tnderhrt23 

      7 years ago

      Wow! This is an awesome tribute, and an amazing story of an amazing man! You were blessed to have him, just as he was blessed to have you. Thanks so much for sharing this and I pray that your love and wonderful memories are a comfort and inspiration to you.

    • lcbenefield profile image

      lcbenefield 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. I can tell how much you loved him and what an impression he made on your life. My sympathies on your loss.

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