Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Am I Crazy or Is It Me?

Sometimes I'll be doing something random--cleaning, cooking, driving, whatever--and clear as a bell, I think I hear my Mom saying my name. She's in Ohio. I'm in Colorado. Clearly, I'm hearing things.

And there's a place on one of my workout DVDs that when I get to it, every time without fail, I think I hear one of the boys crying. It's never them, but I almost always pause and listen. Just in case.

I don't really think I'm a nutter when I hear my Mom--because really, how many years did I spend at home and she WAS actually calling my name? And hearing the boys cry? It still happens practically on a daily basis so it's not too far-fetched.

On occasion, I think I hear a Looney Tunes character say a swear word. Maybe that's not too outer limits. I bet Mel Blanc would have gotten a kick out of slipping subliminal profanity into the cartoons.

But Veggie Tales? When I think I hear Bob and Larry dropping the F-bomb, I know I probably need to take a little time to myself to regroup.

It's also very likely I just need to clean my ears.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I'm totally not kidding. This is June 6, 2008--Yellowstone National Park.

We were gone seven days. It snowed for four.

I'm going to post another slideshow because I was totally obsessed with taking pictures of wildlife. So if you want to check out the flora and fauna of Yellowstone, CLICK HERE. But be prepared for 1.2 million pictures of beavers and bison. I was totally enamoured with the beavers. They were so close I could hear them chewing.

At any rate, this was a family reunion of sorts. We, along with my sisters and their families, all headed for Yellowstone with my Dad to celebrate his 70th birthday. Personally, if I make it to 70, I plan to go somewhere warm and tropical that does not involve camping or having to cook my dinner over a grill in the snow, but to each his own. I do love Yellowstone. I just love Yellowstone when it's slightly warmer. At any rate, it's a good story to tell after the fact. When I'm 110 I'll be teltell my great great grandkids for the bazillionth time about how I went on vacation in June of '08 and it snowed so much they had to close the roads and people were stranded and sleeping in the lobbies of the Yellowstone hotels and lodges.

We headed out right after the last day of school on June 4th. We decided to do the drive in two days because even though Wyoming is RIGHT THERE--just right above us--it was an 11 hour drive. How can it take that long to drive there where it's RIGHT THERE? When you don't live in civilization you can't just jump on the interstate and get there. No, with the exception of a short stretch of I-80, it was two-lane road the entire way. Good thing I'm the type of gal who likes driving vacations because it was a loooooong drive. I'm also so grateful for our portable DVD player.

It was warm when we left home. It was cooler when we stopped for dinner in Craig, Colorado. It was brisk when we stopped for the night in Rawlins, Wyoming. And by the time we were driving over the pass into Yellowstone we were noticing that the spring thaw hadn't really made much of a dent yet. Still lots and lots of snow at the higher elevations. When I was packing on the day we left, I happened to think I should check weather.com one last time. Good thing. I had selected mostly shorts and one pair of pants for everyone. However, highs in the 40s and snow were predicted for our entire trip. A packing redo was imperative. I ran upstairs and started yanking clothes back out of the suitcases in big handfuls. And in the end, even with my frantic repacking, we still could have used more pairs of pants. Especially because I split the seam in my favorite pair of cargo pants on the first day. I had noticed a hole when I was packing them, but took them anyway. Bad decision. I had to wear Eamonn's pants for several days. I carried those pants around for the rest of the trip and brought them home with hopes of fixing them. No such luck. They were just too far gone. The end of an era.

So torn pants and crazy weather aside, we had a great time. The first two nights we stayed in cabins at Old Faithful. We assumed these cabins were like KOAs--with grills and fire pits outside. Wrong. No grills. No fire pits. And they told us we couldn't even set up the camp stoves and cook. It posed a small problem for cooking dinner. The first night we ate in the Old Faithful cafeteria. I can't offer rave reviews. The second night Dad and the husbands found a grill at the picnic grounds across the parking lot, set up the camp stove and cooked in the snow. The rest of us waited in the cafeteria and they brought the food in to us. Thank you Old Faithful lodge staff for taking pity on us and letting us eat our own food in there instead of making us eat in the snow.

For nights three and four, we drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs. Again, we were in cabins, but we were allowed to grill/cook at these cabins. So we were whipping out the camp stoves and electric skillets for our gourmet meals.

We spent two days exploring up in the northern end of the park and I have to say it's my favorite area. I love that Yellowstone was our nation's first national park. I'm sort of a history geek and I love the period architecture that still exists from that era. We bought several books about the park and also about the fire that ravaged Yellowstone in 1988. When I was there in 1989, I thought, "It's ruined. It will never be beautiful again." But I was wrong. It's different, but still beautiful. It's amazing to see how much has regrown in the 20 years since the fires.

You know how in high school you take those aptitude tests that tell you what you should be when you grow up? When I took the test, it said I should be a forest ranger. Eamonn feels I missed my calling by becoming a writer and that someone as anti-social as I am should have definitely been a forest ranger. He's probably right.

Before we left I found copies of the old Disney movies--Yellowstone Bear Cubs and Charlie the Lonesome Cougar--and showed them to the boys. Does anyone else ever remember watching those on the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights? I know they were made in the 1950s, but I swear I saw them as reruns.

Spotting wildlife was the highlight of the trip. We saw: Bison, elk, a bald eagle, marmots, moose, a black bear, several coyotes (including a mother and her pups), beavers, two grizzlies (at a great distance), mule deer. Tara, Craig, Garvin and my Dad actually saw a grizzly and her two cubs--amazing! Our highlight was seeing a a gray wolf. He/she was actually black so we didn't know what we were seeing until we showed the pictures to a ranger.

The boys completed the junior ranger program and got badges for the efforts. I'm supposed to sew the badges on their sun hats. I'm worried about ruining the sun hats. I looked long and hard for those hats, darn it. But the boys seemed to learn a lot about geology and nature. It was hilarious to see all of the cousins act out how a geyser erupts.

After four days in snowy Yellowstone, we headed south to the Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and hopefully warmer weather. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Harrison Ford. Doesn't he live around there? We'd have a lot to talk about, I'm sure. But alas, no such luck. And the weather was even colder. I will say that Eamonn toughed it out and wore shorts every day. Good thing because I needed his pants.

When we got home, I took an unenvironmentally friendly hot shower that lasted at least 30 minutes. I think I used all the hot water in town. And I didn't feel the least bit bad about it.

Tomorrow we are off to Denver for Finn's monthly bloodwork. We are also meeting with Make-A-Wish so Finn can tell them about his wish!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Relay for Life

We're back from vacation, but our misadventures in the Wild West will have to wait a few days. Tonight I need to share about our local Relay for Life event (American Cancer Society) because--holy cow--what a night it was.

I'd heard of the Relay for Life before. My Aunt Shirley Eileen, who is a Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor, participates in the Relay for Life in Columbus every year. I always contributed, but I only vaguely knew what it was. Until tonight.

Earlier this spring, our dentist's office told us there were forming a Relay for Life team and would we mind of they walked in honor of Finn? Of course not! Every opportunity to support the cancer cause is A-OK with us. But still, I didn't really get what the event was all about until we got there tonight.

Finn was asked to lead the survivor's lap, and the organizers also wanted him to get up on the stage and say something before the event started. We spent the last few days trying to prep Finn for this, but in case he wouldn't talk when we got up there, I was supposed to say a few words about Finn's cancer journey. No problem. I've done it before.

We arrived about 20 minutes prior to the start and there were tents all over the place--literally Tent City. Each team had a tent that was decorated according to a the theme: Children's stories. Our dentist's team was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There was also Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, Thomas the Tank Engine, Cat in the Hat, Wizard of Oz, and more which my feeble brain have forgotten.

We walked around the track looking for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tent. The track was lined with luminaria bags--each was in honor or in memory of someone. Finn had decorated his bag and Declan found it right away. As we walked along, I started reading the names and the messages. . .and there I was, walking around the track crying. People had written the most poignant things: "You'll always live on through your children. . .I miss you more than ever. . .Forever in our hearts. . ." It was gutwrenching. And suddenly, I realized that if I was crying just walking around reading these messages, what was going to happen when I got up on stage with Finn? Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone?

Finn got his survivor shirt and he was introduced. We went up on stage. I turned and looked at the crowd. And I could not speak. At all. I've never been in front of a crowd and become so totally emotional. I turned to Finn to see if he would say his little spiel, which was supposed to be: "Thank you for raising money to cure cancer because having cancer is hard." But he was hit with a wave of stage fright. And there I was totally verklempt. UGH. I couldn't choke anything out for the longest time. You know how you see people get emotional sometimes in front of a crowd and they're just standing there by themselves and you're thinking AWKWARD!? Someone please help that poor sod. Yeah, that would be me. I didn't know what to do. Every time I tried to talk, I sobbed and croaked out a few incoherent words. UGH. I'm cringing just thinking about it. But finally I squeaked out something like (and of course, this wasn't at all what I had meticulously planned to say): "I'm so overwhelmed. Seeing all of you here. . .seeing all of these bags and all of the names. . .(insert a couple of sobs and gasps here). . .four years ago this day didn't seem possible (meaning that Finn would be a survivor, but I was too incoherent to add that and clarify what I actually wanted to say!). . ." And then I turned to Finn and tried to get him to say his part. As I knelt down to him and he was hiding behind me, Declan put his arm around both me and Finn and said incredulously, "Are you CRYING??? WHY are you CRYING???? " That made me laugh a little bit and then Finn was able to say thank you and part of his little speech. And that was it. I was still a sobbing wreck and had to say that I couldn't say anything more.

If I was thinking to myself that I can "get over" Finn's cancer, well, I might have to rethink that.

So after my on-stage blubbering, people graciously came up and hugged me, which helped me feel like less of a dope. And then I really started looking around and realizing how many people we knew there. A teacher from Declan's school--survivor. A PTA parent--survivor. Neighbors on our street--walking in honor of a family member. Lady who works at the post office--volunteering. And just a whole host of survivors, all with their own stories, and a whole host of friends and family members there to honor and remember.

While the boys enjoyed the bouncy castles, I walked around the track reading the bags. I suddenly stopped to photograph one. I'm not sure why I chose that particular one, maybe because it had a photo on it, maybe because the words spoke to me. But as I was taking a picture, a woman came up to me and said, "That's my Dad." And she started crying. We started walking around the track and she told me about her Dad--diagnosed with lung cancer last October, he had come to live with her and her daughters. Chemotherapy didn't work on his aggressive cancer and he died in December. They buried him on Christmas Eve. She holds onto the memory that he got to see his granddaughter dance in the Nutcracker just before he died. And for every bag on that track, there was a story like that. And I think that was what kept making me cry tonight. All of the people, all of the stories, all of the lives. Finn. . .Aunt June. . .Aunt Kathy. . .Aunt Shirley Eileen. . .Aunt Shirley Ann. . .Uncle John. . .Uncle Phil. . .Grandpa Moffitt. . .Craig. . .

So, here's a little slideshow of the Relay for Life tonight.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Oh, Indy!

Tonight I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Eamonn took Declan to see it last weekend. Declan is a huge Indiana Jones fan (as is evidenced by the myriad Indiana Jones Lego sets adorning his bedroom and the family room) and wants to be an archeologist (on the days he's not going to be an NHL player) when he grows up. Anyway, I felt like seeing Indy on the big screen was important, so I went tonight after dinner.

First, let me say that I love it that I can walk to the movie theater in about 5 minutes and that it's so safe here I can walk home by myself in the dark afterwards and not feel nervous at all.

At any rate, I'm not sure how I feel about the new Indy movie. I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'm lukewarm about Temple of Doom. But I loved The Last Crusade--I mean, Sean Connery AND Harrison Ford together? What's not to love (OK, maybe that comment Sean made in an interview with Barbara Walters about women needing to be slapped around sometimes wasn't something to love. I'm hoping that was an anomaly.).

Eamonn had said there were some things in this movie that made him think, "Hmmm, that's pretty unrealistic." I asked him didn't he think there were unrealistic things in the other movies? Like when Indy jumped out of an airplane in Temple of Doom and landed unscathed in the life raft? Or how about in Last Crusade when Indy breaks throught the floor of the library in Venice, finds the Knight Templar's tomb (I think that's who he found), and survived a blast of fire? No, no one probably goes to see these movies for the realism.

But to me, Harrison Ford was a hottie in the first three movies. And. . .as much as it pains me to say it. . .I'm not sure I still feel that way. That makes me sad and nostalgic for the good old days when I was in middle school and Anne Robinson and I went to see Raiders at Flickers when Worthington Square was still called Worthington Square, not Worthington Mall, and it wasn't even a enclosed mall. Anyone remember that far back?

I'm wondering if I just should have skipped this movie and remembered Indy as he was. I did enjoy the new movie, but I sort of feel like I was watching my Dad on screen. Not that my Dad is a whip wielding, gun toting, fist swinging kind of guy or anything, but I'm just struggling with how much Indy has aged since the last movie. I felt like at any second Indy was going to turn and ask me if I was putting enough money away in my IRA or the kids' college funds. I just couldn't get past the whole age thing. Because time has stood still for me, you know.