Friday, July 31, 2009

Overwhelming Consumerism

I hate to sound like some country bumpkin, but I'm finding suburbia overwhelming. On two occasions this week, I've driven up near where we used to live here in Ohio and about freaked out. Did it look like this when we lived here? My Dad says yes. My Mom says yes--sort of.

I can't believe how many restaurants and shops have opened since we moved. And, I also can't believe how many people are at these shops and restaurants. I thought we were in a recession. And I also thought that Ohio was one of the states on the worst end of the recession. I've nearly snapped my neck a million times already looking around at all of the "stuff."

I don't know what to make of all of it.

On another note, today I took the boys to one of our favorite parks near my Mom's house--Selby Park. This is a park I have loved since "I was a girl," and then took the boys to when we lived here. Lots of big shade trees, huge play area on one of those spongy surfaces, and it's located in the neighborhood where my Mom used to teach school so I feel very at home there. We spent several hours there while the boys played Hide 'n Seek with some random kids. I played with them for awhile, but then when my quadriceps were screaming because I chose to crouch behind some low object, I felt it was time to bow out gracefully before I maimed myself at my favorite park, thus ruining whatever good memories I have of it.

So I sat and read my latest juvenile fiction for the summer: Anne of Green Gables. (Cinda, I'm about a third of the way through it in case you're wondering.)

And finally, a story which no one but my Dad, Erin and I will find amusing, but I feel like recounting it here.

Near Worthington is a little bookshop called the Village Bookstore. It's housed in an old church and carries a combination of new and used books. It's a crazy jumble. They have no catalog of their inventory and they carry lots of stuff on consignment. If you buy a consignment book, you'll open it to find there's just a piece of paper clipped inside saying who should get payment for this book. It's really quite hilarious in its disorganization, but it's also a great place to spend an afternoon browsing around.

So last night I stopped in there with my Dad who wanted to find a used copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Of course, the man working hadn't the faintest idea whether or not this book was in the store, but he told us in which room we might find the book. Room. A huge room with thousands of books. And my Dad couldn't remember who wrote the book (it's John Berendt for those of you aching to know). We trekked upstairs to the appropriate room and Dad started looking book by book.

In a very loyal fashion, I got sidetracked by the Nancy Drew books. Dad wanted to buy my niece some Nancy Drews, so I called Erin to see which books Ellie has. During the course of the phone call, I realized it was probably rude to stand talking on my phone in a bookstore (even though I didn't see anyone else, there are a zillion little rooms, like honeycomb, and I didn't know if someone was going to pop out and make angry eyes at me for chatting). So I stepped into one of the many used books rooms and talked to Erin about Nancy. During the course of our conversation, I got lazy and leaned up against the bookshelves, resting my hand on a bunch of books. A few seconds later, I glanced at the books on which I was leaning (Erin must have been saying something boring and my mind wandered).

I did a double take.

And then a triple take.

And then I screamed.

I had put my hand down on the very book my Dad was looking for. And I wasn't even in the room where the man had told us to look. It totally freaked me out.

Freaky stuff like that makes my whole day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I'm in Ohio. Eating my way around town. And marvelling at all that comes with city life--like shopping malls, strip malls and restaurants. And traffic. I feel nervous driving in it now. I probably shouldn't write that given that my Mom is loaning me her car tomorrow morning to go to breakfast with a friend.

More later about what we're doing. And eating.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anatomy of an Article

So I'm in a little bit of a frenzy. Remember how I talked about how Finn would be at a day camp for three days this week, thus giving me three days to get my massive workload finished? Well, it didn't happen. Finn's former preschool teacher was running the camp and she suddenly had to go out of town to help her father, who is ill.

It was all, of course, understandable and totally unavoidable, BUT it did leave me in a bit of a pickle and back to where I was in the days before Finn went to preschool--working at night.

Apparently I've become spoiled with the boys in school and being able to work during the day because I'm finding it quite hard to stay focused into the wee hours anymore and I'm clearly out of practice. I thought I'd give you a little rundown of a few hours over the course of an evening, trying to get motivated to write and produce something.

Note, this schedule is slightly later than it would have been "back in the old days" when Finn wasn't in school because the boys would have gone to bed earlier. These long days--they'll be the end of me.

I'm finally sitting down to write. The topic? Accounting for government stimulus money. I know. I nearly fell asleep just writing that. Try writing the whole article, people.

For some reason, I have to quickly surf through as many blogs, CaringBridge pages and celebrity gossip sites before I can settle down to start writing. And now I'm writing this blog as a draft before I forget it. Anyway, I don't know why I have to visit all of these sites before I can write. I have to have the most up-to-date information on what everyone did today. I mean, how can I be expected to work when I don't know the latest about Jon & Kate Gosselin or Tony and Jessica's breakup?

The TV is on. I almost always have the TV on until I get to really heavy duty writing. Many times it's on a very low volume, or even mute, but there's just something about having it on. Most of the time I just ignore it and look up occasionally to "rest my eyes." Tonight Top Gun is on in the background. I write a few lines. I rest my eyes. How old is Val Kilmer anyway? I have to know. IMDB.com is my best friend. I love the trivia and goof information. Val Kilmer is 50 this year, by the way. Is he older than Tom Cruise? I'll need to check that. Why yes he is, by two years. Is Tom Skerrit dead? I feel like I read he died. Oops, no. Still alive. Sorry, Tom. I'd better close IMDB. Done.

After several aborted attempts I realize that the government stimulus article is going nowhere fast. The information I got from the interview just isn't compelling enough to develop an article. I e-mail the client and suggest we delay the article until the end of the summer/early fall when the state government contacts said they would have more information. I feel relieved. And with that unofficially checked of my To Do list, I take a "break" and read some vital information about a new diet plan someone told me about. I realize it involves injecting yourself with something and I dismiss that as "crazy" and "scary" and "something I am too afraid to do" and eat some chocolate. I need to keep my energy up for sitting here. My job is what you might call "sedentary."

Dang. It's getting late and I haven't produced anything billable. I turn my attention to an interview with the new head of the International Federation of Accountants--only the second American in history to lead the organization. Kelly McGillis doesn't really seem like she fits in during that scene in the restaurant where Goose is playing the piano and they're all singing "Great Balls of Fire."

Oh dear. This is the scene where Goose dies. I hate this part. I love Goose. Ugh. Why am I watching this when I'm premenstrual? Was I in high school when this movie came out? Egad that's an old movie. Ohhh, here's the terrible scene where Maverick goes to see Goose's wife, who, incidentally, is Meg Ryan, who, incidentally, got her start as Betsy on As the World Turns, which, incidentally, I watched for my entire life until right after Declan was born. She's wearing one of those loose-fitting jumpers with a t-shirt underneath it that we all thought were so attractive in the 80s. Did you also know that Tim Robbins is in this movie and that in real life he can't even fit into the cockpit of an F-14? In fact, Tom Cruise was the only actor who actually met the height requirement of a nav-al av-ia-tor. True story. Or so says IMDB.

The neighbors are grilling hot dogs. My husband is at the neighbor's. It's the Wednesday Night Ride where all of the husbands go out on their bikes and then go back to the bike shop (or to someone's house whose wife is not home), drink beer, eat junk food, and, if it's July, watch the Tour de France. I didn't get to see the stage today. Perhaps I should be watching that instead of watching Top Gun. Val Kilmer is trying to make Tom Cruise feel better.

I have plagiarized several paragraphs off of this organization's Web site. Even after interviewing this guy, I have no idea what he was saying. This is one of the hazards when you write for a profession after you earned a C in the course during graduate school.

Charlie: "I'll have what he's having. Hemlock?"

Mav: "Water."

I can't decide the format of this article. I want to do a Q&A. It sounds easier.

It's a miracle. The introduction is written. Maverick is receiving orders at graduation from Top Gun. He'll get his reel when he gets to the ship.

I would like to buy a new video camera for when I go to Ohio next week. I'd like to record my grandpa telling some of his infamous stories. I should research this, but I'll refrain from doing it right this second. It's hard to refrain. If anyone has any camera suggestions, let me know. I want one of those where you record right to a hard drive. I'm sick of tapes and I don't want to go to the DVD stage (Don, please advise), just straight to the hard drive.

Valerie Bertinelli looks really good.

Why are they always so sweaty on ships? Is it really that hot? Or are they really nervous. Everyone is beaded with sweat. Actually, I'm beaded with sweat over the stress of this article.

I'm on a roll. I've edited the first question.

The remaining MiGs are buggin' out.

You can be my wing man anytime.

I got hooked on the Righteous Brothers after this movie.

I can't take it anymore. I'm going to bed. I think I can bill an hour.


On June 22, 2004, I was sitting in Columbus Children's infusion room, holding Finn while we waited to hear if his counts were high enough to get chemo that day. In the end, they weren't but while we were waiting, Ben Brewer, was also there, getting his own chemo. . .and celebrating his 3rd birthday. That night I posted on Finn's CaringBridge site about how sad it was to see kids celebrating their BIRTHDAYS at the oncology clinic. What kind of world do we live in that children even have cancer at all, but that they must celebrate their birthdays in a chemo infusion room?

Ben had neuroblastoma, one of the most hideous childhood cancers. But after a transplant, he was cancer free. A neuroblastoma success story. The Brewers moved to Colorado shortly before we did. And Ben has remained cancer free.

Until now.

Please pray for the Brewers. His mom, Sarah, has her own blog: Stronger Than I Look, which is aptly titled because there is no one who needs to be stronger than a cancer parent.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Report: Caddie Woodlawn

I finally finished a book in my Summer of Reading Juvenile Literature. Good grief. I thought I'd be whipping through a book every three days or so and instead it has taken me 3 1/2 weeks to get through Caddie Freaking Woodlawn. This doesn't bode well for my list of at least 100 books this summer. I might have to extend the Summer of Reading Juvenile Literature to become the Decade of Reading Juvenile Literature at this rate.

Basically, I found that I'd hop into bed each night, get myself all propped up on my pillows, water cup at the ready, settled in comfortably in my jammies. . .and then I'd read about three sentences before falling asleep with the book usually falling forward and whacking me on the bridge of my nose. I don't know how people sit down and read giant books in one sitting. A) I'd never stay awake, or B) The small residents of this house wouldn't allow giant chunks of time whereby a Long Reading could actually take place.

But I'm finished with a book, and that's the important thing.

And here is my best attempt at a book report as I recall writing them in elementary school.

Title: Caddie Woodlawn
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
Illustrated by: Trina Schart Hyman
Awards: John Newberry medal in 1936

Set in the 1860s, Caddie Woodlawn is the story of an 11-year-old girl (who is quite a tomboy)--Caroline "Caddie" Woodlawn. Caddie lives with her family in Wisconsin. The book talks about her rural life with her family, including interactions with the local Indian tribe. It's a sweet book and I really enjoyed it. I really like all of that pioneer stuff. The author was Caddie's granddaughter who wrote down the stories as her grandmother recited them to her growing up.

Of course, I couldn't help comparing this book with the Little House series. They were written about the same time, although the Little House books begin a decade or so after Caddie's story.

Brink's writing style is very different from Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing style. Brink uses more dialogue where Wilder's is more of a narrative (at least that's what I remember. I might be pulling that out of my. . .hair. Heck, I don't even know what a narrative style is. I just made that up. And supposedly I'm a writer. I'm just trying to say Laura Ingalls Wilder writes without a lot of dialogue. Doesn't she? Maybe I'm hallucinating.)

Bottom line: I liked Caddie Woodlawn. Wikipedia says there's a sequel, but I think I'll wait to read it until the Second Summer of Reading Juvenile Literature. I estimate that will take place when I'm 83 at this rate.

Next book: Nancy Drew--The Secret of the Old Clock. And Cinda, you'll be happy to know that after Nancy Drew, I have Anne of Green Gables all ready to go.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Got Nothin'

I cannot think of a single thing to blog about. This happens from time to time.

I haven't downloaded pictures from Karen & Neil's visit, so I can't write about that, which is too bad because we saw some really scenic things.

It is so hot. I could blog about that except then you'd all write in the guestbook about how long it took for summer to get here and what am I whining about? I am glad summer is here--I just hate these few really hot weather weeks we get. I'm really more of a 70 degree person. I'm not sure where the temps are 70 degrees in the summer all the time. Northern Canada? Norway? Finland?

Mostly I've been doing housework in anticipation of the frenzy this coming week will be. I will have five hours to myself on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during which I must produce an entire magazine for one client while keeping up with standard weekly work for another client.

Have I ever written that I can't work when I know the house is dirty? It's a strange affliction, and yet, there it is. I also have to clean the house before we can ever leave for a trip. One time I stayed up cleaning until 2am before a trip to England. Madness. I also can't leave the house to go anywhere in the mornings without doing the dishes and making beds. I have made myself late for meetings because I refused to leave a dish in the sink.

That sounds a little OCD.

Anyway, since I know I have to concentrate so thoroughly on those three days next week and I can't risk any random moments stopping to clean the toilets, it has to be done now. Same goes for laundry, the kitchen sink, and vacuuming. But not dusting. I can work amidst the dust for some reason. I don't have OCD afterall. Whew.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm Moving to Finland

OK, not really. But I think I'd like to.

Marci sent me an e-mail with all of these Top 10 lists and did you know that Finland is apparently the cleanest country in the world? Cleanliness is obviously a high priority in Scandinavian countries overall because the list of the cleanest countries in the world looks like this:

1. Finland--my new country
2. Norway (I'd have to learn to cross country ski and then shoot a rifle first all while wearing a heavy sweater.)
3. Canada (Hmmm, not so far away, but probably slightly less quaint than Finland)
4. Sweden (Architecture there is a little too modern for me. I figured this out by watching Wallander on Masterpiece Theater)
5. Switzerland (Excellent hot chocolate--it could be a contender)
6. New Zealand (Lots of sheep)
7. Australia (Appears hot and dusty in the Outback--not for me)
8. Austria (Stechelberg, anyone?)
9. Iceland (Perhaps a tad too remote)
10. Denmark (They give you 6 months of maternity leave there. That would be important if I could mentally handle another child. Which I can't. But I'd like to skate around Denmark a la Hans Brinker one day. Wait. That was Holland. The Little Mermaid. That's Danish.)

Clearly, I'm part Scandinavian. You know, the part of me that's not 100% Irish or Scottish.

Until I had children, I was obsessively neat. Like OCD neat. My Grandma Moffitt, who had no room to talk, referred to me as "fastidious." When Tara and Erin would come to my apartment when I was in graduate school, they delighted in putting all sorts of things out of order just to mess with me. Pictures upside down, hiding things in the flour jar, moving things from their proper place to somewhere random (think books in the microwave and cereal boxes on the bathroom shelves).

It totally stressed me out.

I bet they never do that in Finland.

I may not have time to dust anymore, but my Swiffer is never far from my thoughts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

You Catch More Flies. . .

. . .with honey than vinegar. Is that how the saying goes?

If it's true, I'll have to settle for being flyless.

On Saturday evening, our internet connection went down. It didn't come back up until this morning.

I was annoyed.

I repeatedly called the phone company to complain in what I'm sure was an annoying and impatient fashion. But they were rude and unsympathetic, so I felt justified.

Have I explained that in this small town, there is one phone company? One phone company supplying internet access? We were an entire town without internet access for 36 hours.

I was annoyed.

I'm going to call for a credit since I couldn't work for 36 hours. I feel that is an unreasonable length of time in this high tech era. My theory is that since the outage happened on a weekend, no one wanted to come in and fix it.

Apparently all of the self-employed people in my town felt annoyed as well because before anyone realized it was a town-wide outage, everyone was scurrying around to Starbucks and the library to use their Wi-Fi. Guess what? No luck.

Every time I called, a snippy customer service rep told me, "That problem has been resolved." Hmmm. Really? Because I have several hundred people in my neighborhood who are willing to call you and say otherwise.

I'm still bitter. And annoyed. Not much honey has come out of my mouth during the last 36 hours.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If I Had My Life to Live Over Again. . .

Tonight I had planned to post pictures and write about how we're having a great time with Eamonn's sister and her family who are currently here visiting us from England. So I sat down with my camera and got ready to download some pictures.

But first I did a quick surf through of all of the blogs and CaringBridge pages I try to get to every few days. We've been doing some traveling with Karen, Neil and the kids, so I had some catching up to do.

There are so many cancer families that I follow now, almost more than I did when Finn was in treatment, that I hardly remember how I originally found many of them. I know many of you followed Finn's story on CaringBridge, so you know how it is: You read a site, see a link, follow it, find a link, follow it, etc., until you're 10 times removed from where you started, but you read a story, it touches your heart, and a bond is formed. You go back over and over again because you identify for whatever reason. And their stories become a part of your life.

Some of the stories are hard to read.

Yes, it sucked out loud that Finn had cancer. It sucks that I will worry about it for the rest of my life. Let's put it this way though--I HOPE I worry about it until the day I die. That will mean Finn outlived me, which I hope he does in grand style.

Anyway, tonight as I was zooming through various blogs and CB sites, I got that "punch in the stomach feel" that comes when I get to a site and realize that another friend has lost their battle. This one particularly sucks though because not only did Missy pass away yesterday, but her son, Ryan, is in the final stages of his battle with neuroblastoma. Their family is planning two memorial services simultaneously.

The number of people dying from various forms of this hideous disease is mindnumbing. And it's getting worse. When are we--and I'm including me in that we, just so you don't think I'm getting all high and mighty and pious on you and wanting you to think that I'm some model citizen who thinks she'll never get cancer because I lead such a clean life--going to wake up and realize that we need to radically change how we live. . .so that we can keep living?

Are we purposely giving ourselves cancer? No, of course not (unless you're a smoker and then, sorry, I've got very little empathy for you if you continue to smoke). There are tons of toxins in our environment that we have no control over. I get that. I'm frustrated by that. In fact, it enrages me.

But there are so many things we can control. I realize that at 41 years old, it may be too late for me to reverse any damage done, but it's not too late for my kids. And it's not too late for your kids. We all just need to get a grip, reprioritize our lives and DO SOMETHING.

People tell me they can't afford organic food. Really? How was that trip to Mexico? I love your new car. How many channels do you get on your cable?

I sound like a lobbyist for the organic food industry. I'm not. I'm just mad that every day, people like you and me have to make choices. Not easy choices like: will I wear the blue shirt or the yellow shirt today? But stuff that seems inocuous, but isn't, if you do a little bit of research at all: Will I spend the money this week to have food, personal care items, household cleaners, and things like laundry detergent without chemicals so that my family's health isn't affected? We seriously have to ask ourselves that? Why should that be something I have to choose between? Why are there chemicals in things that we rub on our bodies or put into them? Manufacturers are allowed to make and sell things that are dangerous and we have to decide whether or not we can afford to avoid them?

Unfortunately, it comes down to choices. Eamonn and I have been talking a lot about choices lately. We've always talked about where our money is best spent and in these financially trying times, it is so, so tempting to stroll into WalMart and cut our grocery bill in half by buying non-organic produce, shampoo and lotions with chemicals that are wreaking havoc on our bodies. But we pretty much have an agreement that this is one area that we will continue to not compromise. After witnessesing so much tragedy from cancer (and the other havoc these chemicals can cause), we are compromising our budget in other areas to make chemical-avoidance a priority.

I know the FDA tells us these chemicals are safe. For adults. In small quantities. But if I'm getting a little bit from my shampoo, a little bit from my lotion, makeup, hair gel, hairspray, face cleaner, soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets, dish washing powder, from clothing, from that tomato, that lettuce, that pepper, that meat, that milk, that cereal, that toilet bowl cleaner. . .the list is endless and overwhelming. . .how far did the FDA go with their research? Did they test two of these chemicals' effects together? Five? The several hundred that the average women comes in contact each day? What is the effect on kids? Oops, they only did research on adults.

I know I used to say things like, "Make small changes--try to move towards an organic lifestyle slowly."

Screw that.

Read Jillian Michaels' book "Master Your Metabolism." If you can read that and not make major changes in your life, more power to you--you're a braver man than I am (and if you can still drink diet soda with a happy heart, I'll be amazed).

I know I sound like a crazy fringe hippy. I might be. Really though, I'm just sick of us as a population being surprised at our bad health and having to go on all sorts of prescription medicines when so much of it is flat out what is going in our mouths and what we're surrouding ourselves with every day.

With all of that said, I believe in enjoying life. I believe in living for today because we're not guaranteed tomorrow--I. Get. That. Do I want to go through life eating only mung bean sprouts and tofu? But maybe that's not a good example because I actually love mung bean sprouts and I'd never eat tofu because it's a totally processed food. But that's another story. Plus, I love Fritos. That makes it hard.

My point here is that people like to say things to me like, "It's part of childhood for kids to enjoy soda and Doritos!" Or, "I only drink diet soda so I won't have all the extra calories!" (Nevermind the research that shows our bodies freak out and go into a tailspin because we're giving it a "calorieless" food). Or, "The organic food industry is a big scam." Or even, "Food would go bad without all of the preservatives in it!" Personally, I love, "My lawn would have weeds in it if I didn't put pesticides on it!"

It's hard for me to keep quiet when people say things like that. Plus, I'm a Sagittarius and a middle child which makes me prone to speaking my mind.

And I guess in my less radical moods I might agree. Yes, we should all go ahead and drink that drink with artificial sweetners, gorge on that processed food (or even eat it in moderation), roll around in that lotion that has all sorts chemicals that mimic estrogen and disrupt our endocrine systems, smoke.

We should do it because we only live once. We're not guaranteed tomorrow. We're on vacation. We deserve a treat. It's our kids' rights. We shouldn't deprive ourselves. Take your pick.

When we're all hooked up to chemo poles in an infusion room somewhere in our 40s or 50s (or in many cases, watching our children be hooked up), I wonder if we'll think, "But that was so worth it."

Personally, I'll probably wonder (obsess) what I could have done differently. In fact, I think it every day already when I look at Finn. It's a shitty way to go through life. I don't advise it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Family Ate Pie for Breakfast Yesterday

But it was the Fourth of July, after all. And as a result, two of them were crowned the local pie eating champions. One is easy to guess. You can probably even guess what kind of pie he ate.

Action shot:

That's Charlie practically doing push ups while eating his pie. I think he expended too much energy doing the push ups instead of eating. And then there was Dr. Ed--what a good sport, but I don't think his heart was in it. There was a guy to my right as I was taking pictures. His little girl kept coming in to wipe his face with a diaper wipe. He might have beat Eamonn if not for the wiping.

When Declan's age group ate, I think he was a little overwhelmed by the size of his pie. He had peach. Lots of chewing there.

Finn lucked out. The little kids got mini pies. And they were cream pies--no chewing involved. They could also pick them up with their hands. They just couldn't eat with their hands.

And the result. . .

Two pie-eating champions in one house. I don't know how we'll handle the fame and glory. Apparently it pays to rush out of the house at 8am for the Fourth of July festivities and not eat breakfast.

Charlie said he ate a banana beforehand. It was his undoing.

In my defense, I thought we were going for the bike parade and coming straight home. I didn't realize what all was happening.

Bike parade:

Cool old fire engine leading bike parade:

Sack races:

Of course, the pie eating.

And then the fire truck hosed down all the kids. And a few of the adults who were still a little sticky from the pie eating.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lazy Parenting

I'm sitting on the couch alternating between dozing off, mis-typing things, and Facebooking.

Declan is playing Wii.

Finn is lying on the floor running Lego characters over my feet.

It looks like it's going to rain.

Thank goodness for the Wii and Legos.

I should be doing something other than I'm currently doing.

But I have no plans to do so.

I wonder what's for dinner?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . .