Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#IBC (Hurricane of Humanity)

Hoooo boy, get comfy. Once again, the problem is where to begin? My thoughts have been swirling around for days and I swear they're still not any more organized for all the thought that's going into this post.

Three words. Ice Bucket Challenge.

Those of you on Facebook are already getting up and leaving the computer, because you're afraid of getting wet again. Or are hoping against hope your friends will all somehow overlook you and you won't be nominated for a lapful of ice water. Or don't want to hear any bashing of any kind about the ALS challenge.

I get it. Believe me, I am right there with you.

But there is simply so much to talk about with it. Let's start with the obvious: it is raising a TON of money for ALS research, and we can all agree that that is a wonderful thing. Yay!

Wait, maybe I need to back up. I don't watch the news. And some of you are not on Facebook, so you're not seeing video clip after clip of people dumping ice water on themselves because a friend has called them out after they themselves have been self-doused. Apparently the rules are simple. Either you donate $10 to ALS research and dump a bucket of ice water on yourself, or you donate $100 and stay dry.


Here's another sticky part of it. My perceptive hubby stated, "sometimes peer pressure masquerades as a good cause." I am seeing an awful lot of kids either helping dump the water or getting water on themselves and challenging other friends and family members to do the same. Where is the line about, "well, I'm doing this because it raises money and awareness for a good cause" and "well, I'm doing this because so and so nominated me and I can't back out because then I'll have to pay money and ..." You see what I mean? How do we teach our kids to avoid peer pressure and stand up for themselves if grown adults are plastering social media with an adult version of peer pressure?

What's next? Is there going to be a live goldfish swallowing contest to raise money for Alzheimer's? Is everyone going to start shaving their heads for cancer research? Is Joe Schmo going to have a contest to raise money for him so that he can stay dry but still give HIS $100 to ALS?

I got to thinking about hurricanes. I don't know anything about them, having never experienced one, but I know that the edges bring rain. I was wondering if some of those outermost clouds peel off and end up doing their own thing. Some of my friends have decided to do that. They've deactivated their Facebook accounts so that, in theory, nobody can nominate them, and so that they don't have to see a news feed of a million ice bucket video clips. Is the peer pressure like the eye of a hurricane, leaving destruction in its wake as it sucks everything into itself? Those who leave Facebook, are they suddenly outcasts because they won't go along with the crowd? I know some of them are going to experience ribbing for not just sucking it up and doing it. Is it going to bother them? Are they going to be guilted into paying the $100?

And what if, and I'm cringing here, because I have already heard nastiness about criticism for the challenge, ALS doesn't affect you or your loved ones, but something else has grabbed ahold of your family tree and is trying to throttle it? Strings of cancers, alcohol abuse, etc. can also ruin lives. What if you'd rather have your money help stop those? Who is keeping track of all this anyway? And is it really even anyone's business who you give $10, $100, whatever to?

I can just hear my mother's answer to that one.

How do you go along with the spirit of the thing, yet stay true to yourself and your beliefs? How do you use enough grace to stand alone to say, "this is what I believe and this is what I'm doing what I'm doing"?

Another tentacle of this whole thing is the water itself. Not that long ago our area went without being able to use water from our taps. Is it responsible of us to be dumping it over our heads, essentially wasting it all? I have a friend in California who said, "I'll donate for it, but I'm not doing the water part." I thought it was the perfect solution.

I'd mentioned before that we just bought a house. Who knows what the $100 would go towards if I stay dry: closing costs, inspections, new furniture, etc.  It makes me wonder who will go without something they themselves need because they feel guilty about not playing by the rules. Or like my husband remarks, "you worry too much. Nobody's going to pay who doesn't want to pay." But my heart hopes for that honor code, that people WOULD stick to what they say they'll do.

Just when I thought everyone and their mother had done the challenge, and I'd escaped, I was nominated. Today is the day I need to decide what to do. And I am still waffling.

I love how the whole thing started. I love that friends took up a banner for Pete Frates and did this thing out of love. That's how life SHOULD work. We should love extravagantly and largely and crazily. It enriches the lives of those around us and our own. It fights selfishness. It keeps our hearts open and free.

I have  three four favorite ice bucket video clips. The first is my brother's. He took the time to tie in the fact that ALS robs your body of its ability to do simple tasks, like lifting a bucket of ice water. He promoted this link Live Like Lou in his video so people could get more information. I liked my friend Joe's clip, who did the challenge willingly and then, when asked who he'd like to nominate, said, "nobody. The friend on friend violence ends with me." I thought Benedict Cumberbatch did a hilarious job with his, and you can see it here for a good giggle. And to my friend who nominated me, when it was time to douse herself she doused her sister instead. Too funny. She did do another take and ended up cold and wet. All in fun.

Okay, back to the water crisis. I saw a photo today of a bunch of people doing the challenge together captioned "America" with a photo below it displaying a small black child sipping water from a lid of a water bottle that claimed "Africa" and it broke my heart. I know we are often wasteful as a nation, but to see it like that in a simple picture was awful. Are we really wasting such a precious resource? Shameful.

And yet it's for a good cause. What is one bucket of water? How many companies were caught gouging prices for bottled water during our water crisis? We'd have paid a lot more than the usual few dollars a case. What must it be like all the time in arid areas? My friends will think I'm no fun and that I can't be relied on to accept a challenge. Should that even matter? Who cares? This isn't junior high anymore. Was peer pressure okay then? It sure isn't now in junior high.

Can you hear the small angel and the small devil arguing on both sides of my head like in the cartoons? Where do I really belong in the hurricane of humanity, at least on this issue? Will I be an outlying cloud? Will I be pulled into the eye? Will I go with the flow whether I want to or not?

I wonder what clouds think.

What would you do?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kahlua is a breakfast drink, right?

Mornings around here are... what do the British say? A wee bit of Pandelerium, something I'm pretty sure Jeff Foxworthy coined. I may have mentioned it before. Envision a three ring circus featuring Care Bear in one ring, Liam in the other, and Damon in the third while I, whipless, try to maintain order and magically keep all school supplies and requirements straight for each child. Some moms probably can do this effortlessly as they have organized selves and organized children, or at least one or the other.

We've got nothin'.

Care Bear has a tendency to, shall we say, "spread" in that her things literally will be scattered between Hither and Yon. Her binder will be on the kitchen table, her laptop and earbuds will be on the big chair, the bag she's supposed to be presenting from will be not full of the required items and will be found hanging on the back of the kitchen chair. Her lunch will be spread across the kitchen counter. Her water bottle might be in the freezer, might be in the fridge, might be on the counter, might still be in her backpack from yesterday. Her backpack will actually be hanging on the doorknob where it belongs, or closeby on the floor. Someone really should yell, "ROUNDUP" and see how long it takes her to get everything she needs. That would be an interesting experiment, actually...

"I want to kiss you on your butt." I'll come back to that.

And then there's Liam. Third grade parents had homework due today. "In a million words or less, tell me about your third grader." If I posted what I wrote, I'd certainly have to change names to protect the guilty, but suffice it to say that there were vivid descriptions of a certain third grader brandishing a peanut buttery knife through the kitchen when he was supposed to be making his lunch. Kind of like what is happening right now. He is lamenting his torn hot dog bun in a voice that sounds exactly like Woody from Toy Story when he thinks all hope is gone. And now half of the hot dog bun is on the floor. And he hasn't brushed his teeth yet.

Guess what time his alarm is set for? Seven. Guess what time he was up today? 6:35. Before his sister has left for the junior high bus. There is no way I am going to be able to get these guys all ready and out the door with my sanity intact if they all get up together. I am a very firm believer in divide and conquer.

Oh yes, butt kissing. Not that kind. The earlier quote was from the Damonater, to Dada, who was trying to get out the door to work unmolested. Epic fail. Carrie was already gone, but Liam had a hold of his retractable ID (his "zippy", as it's known around here) and Damon was clinging to the other side of him. Dada is standing in one spot, boys on the front and back of him, holding a smoothie in one hand up high, his work backpack dangling off one shoulder. "I've got your zippy, HA ha!" "I want to kiss you in the butt!" "Bye Dada!" "Bye Dada!" "Bye Dada!" "Bye Dada!" "I've got your zippy!" "I want to kiss you!"

He escaped.

I'm still here.

Liam's on take two of his sandwich. He just now had me open the jelly.

I've had 1/3 of my cup of coffee, that I made at about 6:30. It's now 7:59. Liam's getting excess peanut butter off of the knife. Fortunately, he's already dressed. So is Damon, as we've all been walking to the elementary school bus stop together.

Which means I should go. First, I'll splash some lots of Kahlua into my coffee cup. There's room for it now.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vacation roundup

Eggs Eggs Eggs Eggs Eggs Eggs Eggs Eggs

Okieeeeedokieeeee, where was I?  One of my Creative Writing professors in college suggested we write. Every day. Even if it was only what we'd eaten for breakfast. We were to keep a tiny notebook in our bag/purse/back pocket/somewhere on our person so that we could write every single day about something. She was firmly convinced that if we wrote every day, "something will break through the eggs. So do your eggs eggs eggseggseggs." I think of her often when I sit down to attempt to blog.

Right now, the problem isn't lack of material. The problem is that I don't have any idea where to start because we've been to the beach and back, school has begun, and we've bought a house.


I know, right? Eep. You see my dilemma.

Okay, beach it is, I guess. We packed up our beach stuff (and may I just toot my own horn here and say we packed MUCH less than in previous years, yay us) and began our multiple hour trip to the ocean. We left on a Thursday evening and dropped off Triskal (no beach for you) at the farm. She's still there with Grandma Barb and Pap. Anyway, we continued on into Pittsburgh to stay the night with Aunt Jana, Neva and Noah. We headed out in the morning the same time they took off for a trip to Kennywood. It was fun to give some love to everyone and earn small smiles from little Noah. He's almost two already! *sigh*

We sat in traffic for what felt like half of our natural lives once we were south of DC. Yes, it was a Friday. The interesting thing was that we noticed on the way home (also on a Friday) that they were sittingsittingsitting in the exact same place a week later. Horrors, to think that some people sit there every single Friday! Eek.

Once past that mess, we made it down to the OBX (Outer Banks, NC, for those of you scratching your heads) relatively smoothly. I had to endure comments from the back seat like, "what would happen if the ocean started leaking into here" as we tunneled under the water on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Those of you who know me very well know that I'm not a big fan of depths, and I really don't like the idea of being under water with idiot human drivers with a huge possibility of error to cause a disastrous accident. It gives me the shivers. Since I can suck it up with the best of them, that's what I did, gritting my teeth and taking big breaths once we got out of the tunnel.

Once at the OBX, we took over my aunt and uncle's house and got everyone settled. The kids were thrilled to see Dutch, their Elkhound, and Annie, their German Shepherd. Dutchie is pretty old and we weren't sure he'd still be there to greet us. His left hip is in pretty bad shape, and while we were there Annie really favored her left hip and leg, so that really put a crimp in her ball playing that she so loves. Poor Annie. She'd bring us her football with so much hope in her sweet face, but it just hurt our hearts to see her gimping after a few tosses. She'd play until her legs all fell off if you'd keep throwing that football. Such sweet dogs.

We spent most of our time at the ocean. We didn't go to the Sound this year, as there had been a 12 foot alligator killed in that general area soon before we arrived. Apparently he'd been run over, doing axle damage- naturally, by someone who hadn't known he'd been around for 50-80 years and was often seen in the area. Poor old thing. Just the same, aunt Lainie was not big on the idea of letting us loose over there just yet. The ocean was very cooperative, as the weather was, and it was only stormy one morning before we went. We did a good job this year of just taking it easy, waking when we woke, not really planning anything, just doings things as they came. Carrie got brave on a boogie board, even Liam and Damon tried them out with Dada, nobody got burnt, and Muggin and I collected seashells and sunbeams to our hearts' content. It was a blissful week of sun and sand and smiles.

David, my cousin, joined us for mini golf one evening, and the kids just loved that. We had a great time laughing at each other and cheering or crying out in dismay over the putts. We even ate our fair share of Booty Treats, which featured shaved ice and mini melts (think Dippin' Dots) and ice cream. The kids can never get enough.

On the way back home, we spent a night at Uncle Rob's new house in Maryland. Now that he's an official Navy Sea Chanter, they'll all be relocating. I believe we may have been his very first house guests. It was great to check out their new place and go to breakfast at a fun diner close by. I'm glad we could keep him company while his family was still in Pittsburgh, even if it was only for a night and a breakfast.

We made it home and have worked our way through the sandy laundry, the new swimsuits from the Swimsuit Magpie Aunt Lainie, and the stay quiet in the car toys, but haven't sorted out our seashells yet.

School started yesterday and both big kids had terrific days. So far they like their teachers and seeing their friends. Carrie spent a few times running around through her schedule at the junior high and practicing opening her locker before schools started, so she was pretty confident on the first day. She even made a new friend who'd dropped his colored pencils all over the stairwell, much to his mortification. I love that girl's helpful heart.

Liam will be home any minute from Day 2, so I'll have to leave house news for another post. Perhaps tomorrow. Damon is missing the big kids while they're gone. I'm trying to keep him busy. He just about talked my ears off today. Tonight is karate and shoe shopping since Liam's outgrown his tennies. Have a great night!

Sunday, August 03, 2014


We are on our second day of "do not use the water" advice. I do find it completely ironic that the kids and I spent the entire day on Friday at Maumee Bay, having the time of our lives with several other moms and all their kids. We had joked about the kids glowing, but had no idea that first thing the next morning all the stores in the area would be bought out of bottled water. Crazy times. Whoever coined the "#emptyglasscity" slogan should have copyrighted it fast.

There have been a lot of jokes about not showering, and how we can all stink together, and stories of people checking on neighbors and volunteering to distribute water and neighbors letting other neighbors know when a shipment of water arrives at a nearby store. Sadly, there have also been stories of people hogging resources and scuffling over what we all take for granted every day.

They are claiming that it is okay to shower in, as long as you keep your mouth closed. A doctor friend of mine advised against washing laundry right now, saying that we'll get rashes. We're not to boil the water; apparently that increases the potency of the toxins they've found in the water. The powers that be seem to hold off on telling us results of tests they've sent away for. They announce that we'll be told at a certain time, the certain time rolls around, and then we're told we'll be informed later.

I mentioned to Dada that perhaps they have the problem solved already and they're just using this set of circumstances to further plan and adapt in case of a situation where there really IS no water. We're blessed that we have power. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be without both, though thankfully it isn't anywhere near as hot as it could be. Dealing with this right at 80 degrees is one thing, but if it hit 92 or something, it would be unbearable.

We are coping fine. We picked up water yesterday. Nobody has showered since Friday night. I've always wanted to try dreadlocks- now might be a good time!

The dishes have piled up alarmingly, but they will wait. We have paper supplies from the Christmas in July party that happened last weekend instead of this weekend, thank goodness.

It is humbling to think about places in our world where this is a regular aspect of real life. Where simple things like showers are luxuries. Where running to a faucet and having clean water come out is a remote possiblity, not a privilege we assume is a right.

My mother, for years, has fretted over the Southwest and their water situation. It strikes me as odd that we are on top of a Great Lake and have no water when there are entire desert communities who manage to find what they need every day. Life is strange. I'm not to first to recite, "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

Knocking wood, so far so good. We're healthy and the inconvenience has given us a chance to reflect and be thankful that this is not our life usually. I guess the hashtag should really be #blessedbeyondmeasure and we should all take some steps to be more responsible stewards. It's easy to throw the farming communities under the bus by saying it's all runoff from them and their practices, but while they are part of the problem the blame is not solely theirs. We need to have a much broader perspective. City council people need to plan for the well-being of their great grandchildren and not just settle for the cheapest bid to accomplish x,y, or z. Nobody is too small to help. Recycle. Plant trees. Pick up your own mess, and perhaps someone else's. Reuse. Don't be suckered; use your brain and ask yourself if you really need to buy every new thing that comes along. This experience should be a wake up call, not a pity party. Be part of the solutions, whether you're here in the #emptyGlassCity or in your own slice of heaven on earth.