Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dachau revisited

I’ve been to Dachau twice now—the first time was in the early 80s during my first marriage, and of course yesterday’s trip.

The first trip was strange not only because of where we were (let’s face it, Dachau is somber and thought-provoking), but also because it was about a week after my older son had fallen from a window, landed on the sidewalk below and fractured his skull, plus I’d found out the day after Jordan fell that I was pregnant with Ben and to top it all off, my then mother-in-law had just arrived to visit us for three weeks. Whew, that was a lot going on. I recall that the weather was incredibly hot for Germany, in the mid to upper 80s, possibly even 90. There were no guided tours then and the gate was in a different spot than today. The museum had what I guess was a visiting exhibition of shoes because it wasn't there yesterday—an impossibly huge pile of shoes from victims (I think they were specific to Dachau but maybe not). The shoes got me, seeing all those shoes humanized the genocide there in a way that is sometimes missed by blurry, black and white photos.

This second trip was no less moving. This time we did have a tour guide and she really filled in all the blanks. The weather was not great—temps were in the mid-60s and it rained pretty hard, hard enough to soak my not very water resistant coat so that in the end I donated some money to get a plastic rain poncho. But it was appropriate to have not great weather there. At the end of the day, I’d be getting on a bus, then a train and heading to the HofbrÀuhaus for some beer and a late lunch with just wet clothing to bother me.

If you have a chance to go to one of the concentration camps, or to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., go. We should never forget what happened.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Snippets from Munich

As I remembered from living in Germany in the early 1980s, there’s just no trash here. None. I didn’t ride the subway then (our town had buses and trains, too small for a subway) but there’s no trash in there either and no graffiti.

Trains still run absolutely on time.

We saw several groups with leaflets but instead of shoving them into people’s hands, they stood politely holding them in their own hands, extended so you could take one if you wanted to.

We were on a walking tour about food yesterday afternoon, standing quietly in a small group with our guide when an older lady—in her 60s? perhaps 70s?—began lecturing him. My German is quite rusty any more but I had no problem understanding her diatribe. She never yelled but boy was she vicious. She had a lot to say about Americans, Obama and African-Americans.

Today we’ll go to Dachau. We hope to see a couple of museums this afternoon but it’s also supposed to storm here. We’re hoping it’s not heavy rain.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My turn

I’m a little surprised it took this long but I did get nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge by my brother-in-law, Curt. To be honest, I was honored because that’s just another sign that we’re family. Love you, Curt!

As you’ll see in my video, I challenged three others and I offered an out. You see, I’ve noticed that some of my friends are refusing to participate because they are afraid that ALS research might use embryonic stem cells. So if that’s the case for you reading this blog post, I challenge you to consider donating to the hospice organizations that support those who need end of life care from ALS. It’s truly a horrible disease and this is a way you can help ease another human being’s suffering.

Also—to quiet any claims of water wastage—the water for my challenge fell on the patio (where it came to a more normal/reasonable temperature before going into the lawn. No wasting here.

So on to the challenges:
  • Amy Dzur—my sister who happens to be a critical care nurse so she’s very familiar with horrible medical issues plus she’s super tough. An ice water bath will be nothing to her.
  • Judith Dzur—my mother who is a retired nurse who did a lot of good work in hospice and is also quite tough.
  • Kerry DeBauge—my best friend and one of the strongest women I know.
Ladies, you have 24 hours. Go!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Take a chill pill

Unless you are 100% unplugged from all forms of social media or news (and in which case, why are you wasting time reading my blog??), you’ve heard about or seen the ice bucket challenge. A fund raising campaign for ALS Association, this started July 29 with a simple premise of either donating money to the association or or dumping a bucket of ice water on your head (and possibly also donating money).

I’ve been a little surprised at the Grumpy Gus responses of some people on Facebook; I’ve read  comments that it’s just an attention-grabbing behavior by whomever does the challenge, it’s a huge waste of water, people are just sick of it for no particular reason and so on. I call BS on all that for a couple of reasons.

First, this disease is awful. I never got to meet my father-in-law because he died from it before I ever met my husband and by all accounts it was a horrible, horrible way to go.

Second, this campaign has been highly effective in both raising the awareness of the disease and in raising money. Last year, the association had raised under half a million dollars compared to nearly $15 million to date.

Third, I don’t care if you dump a tea cup or a trash barrel full of ice water – it’s the idea that counts to me.

The disease is horrible and this viral video phenomenon has raised over $15 $41 million (I wrote this post yesterday and the numbers jumped between then and now). That’s a lot of money that can do a lot of good.

Kent was challenged to do this and you can see how he did it on Facebook (in a hotel with an ice bucket and yes, he's donating cash as well).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A pain in the butt

My own that is, at least on the left side. I think it’s from upping my weight workout and sadly, the discomfort isn’t isolated to just the booty area. I find it funny (not haha either) that pain refers itself elsewhere, as if to spread the joy. So in addition to the pain in my own rear, I feel it at the top of the outside of my left calf up by my knee. And it hurts to sit and walk, but oddly I have no pain going up and down stairs, nor do I have any back pain at all. And my knees are fine too.

I suspect it’s my piriformis muscle, which can get all clenched up and then squeeze the sciatic nerve. It’s painful enough that I couldn’t run Friday—I tried, but it was just too painful. Then Saturday night, returning to bed from a bathroom trip, I smacked the everloving crap out of my upper thigh, same leg of course, on the post of the bed’s footboard. Yeowch that HURT plus the force of the blow made my left hip feel really weird and not in a good way.

Anyway, one way to help relax the piriformis muscle, aside from getting stronger and stretching more (all of which I’m working on), is to roll that part of the bum on a tennis or lacrosse ball. It’s not a pleasant feeling to roll on a ball because basically you’re rolling super tight muscles on a hard object. But I’m willing to spend a few dollars on some tennis balls if it will help. And I doubt it can hurt, or at least not any more than I’m hurting right now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

They take turns

Mostly they take turns nicely. Sometimes there will be hissing and crying. Today was a hissing/crying kind of day.

P.S. Wally was there first.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chloe has a spot

I have a cat bed on my desk. The boy kitties take turns sleeping in it, or to be honest sometimes they fight over it. Then there's a cushion on the short file cabinet between mine and Kent's desk. That's where you'll find Chloe until the boy kitty who lost out on the cat bed comes and crowds her out.

We have a built in book case in our office and this weekend it occurred to me that if we moved a shelf up just a bit, we could fit in a cushion and maybe, just maybe a kitty would claim that spot as their own.

And she did. In fact, she's the only one who's gotten in there. Pretty sweet, eh?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The ethics of mouse extermination

We have mice. It’s not really a shock since the back yard has lush vegetation from the previous owners – the planting beds make for great hiding places for bunnies, mice and chipmunks. So far, though, only mice have ventured inside.

How can I miss you
if you don't go away?
We think they are mostly in the basement and garage. We’ve seen just one in the house (which I wrote about here), and we haven’t seen mouse droppings or any nibbles on human or cat food inside. We’d put steel wool pads in some holes at the bottom of the garage door that leads outside, and I noticed that a couple have been shoved aside. I’m sure the mice did that. I’ve also seen droppings in the garage, and I’ve spotted several mice in the basement. It’s no coincident that I moved my workout equipment back upstairs – I’m looking for my heart to race from workouts, not mice sightings.

Kent set out a couple of traps in the basement and finally caught two after about two weeks. What I didn’t know was that they are glue traps. He said the exterminators who treated the house for ants and who found the first mouse used glue traps.

So here’s my dilemma. I want the mice gone, completely and totally gone. Catching and releasing isn’t an option because they will come back in. We tried the steel wool in the holes (which we know need to be plugged) but the mice basically laughed. So that means we must use some sort of trap that kills. And that’s where I get queasy.

Years ago, my parents were friends with Paul and Marty. Paul was not really a vegetarian but if he thought about where his meat came from or people talked about butchering and so on, he’d get nauseous. I am much the same way. I know that’s ignoring reality but there it is. And it’s the same sort of thing for me with the mice. I want them gone and logically I know that means they are going to die.

That leaves us with three options: poison, glue traps and spring traps. Poison is flat out: I think that’s a dreadful way to die plus I really don’t want a poisoned mouse to climb up into our walls and then die. That would be both horrible and stinky. I think the glue traps are really awful too. The mouse is stuck, it can’t move so basically it dies of thirst and starvation. And spring traps are no joke either, although one would hope that it would at least be a quick death.

We have very reluctantly opted to use the spring traps. Kent has been tremendous and taken on this awful chore, for which I am grateful. I just wish we didn’t have mice at all.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The grey kitties

Chloe and Eddie both nap on our bed during the day. Chloe usually curls up on the pink blanket a friend made for us as a housewarming gift, but not always. Sometimes she curls up on one of the two folded beach towels at the foot of the bed. Yes, we have two folded beach towels on our bed . . . doesn't everyone? No really, we have them there to help keep the cat fur off the duvet cover. Of course that just means the fur is on the towels, and they have to be washed but somehow it seems like a good idea.


The day I took this picture, Eddie had managed to get very close to Chloe for his own nap. She wasn't completely unaware and what you can't see here is how her tail was whipping back and forth. Eddie finally just put his heavy paw on her tail and made her stop.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A couple of random photos

These are also from my weekend in Virginia. On Sunday, the boys wore the shirts Kent and I made them for Easter. The shirts are getting to be a bit small, which is both good news and to be expected, but don't they look cute wearing their shirts?

And I love this picture. Eli is really into Legos now and spent most of his time building elaborate, always symmetrical ships and space ships and planes.

And the first morning I was there, I got this not so great selfie but I love it anyway because of Colin's expression.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Setting the record straight

The scene: my kitchen in Columbus, OH
The players: me, Jordan (about 5) and Ben (about 3)

I opened the fridge to get some butter, and realized the butter wasn’t quite wrapped. When I unwrapped it all the way, I saw the very distinctive bite marks from my younger son. He had gotten into the fridge, unwrapped a fresh stick of butter and taken a big bite out of it. For years, I just figured he was a butter slicker like me. 

Flash forward nearly 30 years later.

I was at Ben's house this past weekend and somehow that story came up – I think because at least one of his children has his exact same overbite (which came directly from me, sometimes genetics stink eh?). I was teasing him a bit, as family often does, about his apparent love of butter when he said well no, he did it because his brother Jordan told him to.

Wait, what?

Since we live in the digital age, I texted Jordan and asked him, fully expecting him to say no, no, no, Ben did that on his own. Instead Jordan confirmed the story, that indeed he had told his little brother to go bite the butter.

All these years, I’ve thought that Ben just did it on his own and I’ve told others, more than a few others to be honest, about that story. It’s pretty funny to learn otherwise. Now I wonder what else Jordan told him to do . . .

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mission accomplished

We finished the dress yesterday shortly before dinner. Alison did really well and hung in there til nearly the end before she got a little bored. She started asking if the dress was done and got disappointed when it wasn’t (we still had to put in a casing for the elastic at the waist and then hem the dress). To be honest, I get bored at the very end of a sewing project too! But it’s not exaggerating to say that she was involved in a good 90% of the sewing.

Once the dress was nearly done, she got really amped up – although all three of the kids tend to get amped up about 30 minutes before dinnertime. My own kids used to do that;  I called it the witching hour. But her excitement was overwhelming and it was hard to get her to hold still for a photo shoot.

She was so proud to show her daddy.
The entire time I’ve been here, she’s played with and brushed my hair. She’s been determined to get my hair up in an elaborate style and here’s the result of some extreme concentration and effort on her part.

Jen was taking pictures of Alison and me and Colin decided he wanted to get into the action – but as a photographer, not a model!

At first, Eli wanted nothing to do with pictures, but then he came around. Aren’t his eyes just amazing? I love his sweetness, too. Last night, for example, he came three times into Alison’s room where I was reading her a story before bed to ask me to check on him before I went downstairs. He’s a huge snuggler and if you ever get asked to check on Eli, get ready to give that boy some hugs.

And here's a final photo, a selfie of Alison and me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I have been busy

I am in Virginia this weekend to give Alison sewing lessons. She’s been fascinated with sewing and her fascination was reinforced by a birthday party where all the attendees hand stitched little bags. That was about the same time as Easter, when Kent and I sewed her and her brothers’ Easter outfits. It’s been a perfect storm, so to speak, in terms of piquing her interest.

Alison and her mother did some shopping before I got here Friday and picked up a pattern and fabric for her first machine sewing project. We’re not done yet but will have no problems completing the dress before she goes to bed tonight.

Unlike her Nana, Alison is using a thimble
 -- a good best practice!

Eli has been fascinated with the process
(never mind his "creepy" face)

She cut out a good 90% of the dress