Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Amish

An Amish man visited our house on Sunday and we all had a laugh because he is my brother. Matthew, in his Goodwill and costume shop (for hat and real hair beard) getup, also well acted the part and could easily pass as one of these people.

We had a birthday party for the boys. The oldest turned 11 in September and the other two, who will be 8 and 10, share birthdays that are two days apart in November.
November, in the past, has been a month when illness plagues our home so we decided to have a Halloween-themed party in October, which the Amish man attended.

The Amish support their large families by selling all kinds of goods from jams and jellies to quilts and furniture. They live in big farmhouses (one of my fantasies), ride in black buggies along the roadways, and generally attract attention with their simple living and plain dress.

My fascination with the Amish stems possibly from 1985 and the film “Witness” starring my early adult look-a-like, Kelly McGillis who paired with Harrison Ford to bring us an outstanding portrayal of a torn woman, who just happens to be Amish.
McGillis’ next film, “Top Gun” in 1986, landed her acclaim and it remains popular to this day. Three years after McGillis and Tom Cruise steamed up the silver screen at Top Gun Naval Flying School, I was sporting a longer hairstyle and was informed by the managing editor who hired me that I resembled Ms. McGillis.

Early in my career I had the opportunity to visit an Amish schoolhouse in Noble County where I took notes and also took photographs (of Amish children’s hats hanging on peg rails in the mudroom at the entrance to the school, which was heated by a potbelly stove). I did not photograph the Amish as they do not like to be photographed. It was one of my most memorable feature stories, not award-winning, but interesting.

Through the years I have followed the Amish stories, near and far. I have read about the Amish man, from the burb of nearby Birmingham, who was tried and convicted of crimes that I will not disclose here. I have watched the story unfold on national television of a man who carried out an even more horrendous crime involving the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

In August I again visited Amish County, located in Holmes County just over an hour north of here, and purchased their goods and ate their food and remained intrigued by their ways, despite their tragedies.

A co-worker - who is equally allured by the culture as I - liked the photos I took of two Amish boys, eating watermelon and selling baskets. We were not surprised that the one boy, who finally became aware of my camera – pointing at him - covered his face with his hat. Another co-worker, who is easily annoyed by our Amish commentary, suggested we might just as well visit our own Guernsey County - more specifically his Quaker City - to see the Amish doing Amish things.

Ironically, a new situation has developed in my family which involves the Amish. The Old Man has recently taken a job as a timber buyer and his competitors are the Amish. He says Amish have “raped” the landscape, especially in Noble County, gathering precious oak and cherry trees for their hand-crafted furniture.

It is a small world in which we live … with the Amish.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Relapse

Since I blogged about my smoking cessation, I’ve got to tell about The Relapse.
Yes, I’ve started smoking again … temporarily.
Everyone is disappointed. More people are finding out each day.
I’m really stupid.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I know that.
I want to blame someone but there’s no one to blame but me.
It’s a sad situation.
This Old Lady with emphysema/COPD is smoking again.
This Old Lady who just received a clean bill of health from her doc is again smoking.
It’s ridiculous.
Last week’s obituary for one of my favorite newspaper columnists, Mike Harden, lists the cause of death – cancer.

Then tonight these words found.

Words written by Harden and published June 30, 2010, in The (Columbus) Dispatch – within days of this most-talented man learning his C-word diagnosis.
“Before you think I'm deserving of either sympathy or compassion, you ought to know that I consumed a steady diet of cigarettes from my draft-card days through my first Social Security check. I quit for seven years after the casket lid was closed on my 54-year-old father, leaving him without so much as a single Pall Mall to sate his three-pack-a-day habit.

“Seven years I was clean. But in the midst of a divorce, I picked it up again.”

This is what I needed to see.

So what do I do now?
I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve been preoccupied with that question because it’s not like I can lay down the pack without planning.
Yeah, I have to have a strategy.
I learned a couple of things during my nearly year-long relationship with Shana, a professional health coach, who weekly picked my brain trying to find ways to help keep me smoke-free.
The first thing I have to do is set a quit date.
My quit date is Oct. 28 - one month to the day from when I took that first drag that nearly sent me dry heaving.
The second thing I need to do is remember the urge will pass – if I let it - during times of high anxiety.
Smoking doesn’t take away the stress – ever.
I’m smoking and I still have it.
So what lead to this decision to even light up following eight months of being clean?
The Slip followed an evening of inconsolable crying because I needed to talk with my late aunt - the same aunt whom I talk about in my Overcoming my addiction blog in April.

The Relapse occurred when I continued to smoke.
This is an awful addiction. If I didn’t know any better I’d think it worse than any drug my aunt ever took.
Go into any store and the clerk will sell you a pack of cigarettes and a lighter too. She may know you’ve quit smoking but she’s still gonna sell you that pack of smokes.
It’s too easy.

The most important thing I need to do now is to do something for me.
For me that is losing weight.
And the replacement for smoking will be exercising.
I need to get my body moving.
Since quitting smoking in February I have packed on nearly 25 pounds. Add that to the 10 or so pounds I gained from last November to February following two rounds of steroids due to respiratory illnesses.
I weigh more now than during each of my three pregnancies.
I don’t want to gain any more weight and quite honestly, smoking these past few weeks has allowed me to lose several pounds – without exercising.
I have no appetite.
I’m feeling better about my body but I know smoking should not be used to lose weight.

This summer I started walking.
That has ceased.
This summer I bought a couple pieces of exercise equipment at yard sales – a Tony Little gazelle and a cardio glide.
So in the next week I plan to get my butt in gear and learn how to use the equipment, set up the unpackaged Wii Fit Plus, purchased in June, in our new TV room in the basement (see the Where we’ve been blog posted last week).
I don’t think it would be wise to continue to smoke to lose weight and I really want to lose weight.
So that’s my plan.
I’ll let you know what happens.
Thanks for listening.

Mike Harden died from throat and chest cancer at age 64.

UPDATE: Tomorrow is Oct. 28 and I've pushed my quit date back a couple of days.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where we’ve been

I haven’t blogged in forever, and I miss it. I have a lot that I want to write about but today I will focus on my family.
So where have we been?
The first weekend of June, two days before the children’s last day of the 2009-10 school year, our basement flooded. Rather, six inches of sewer (and water) backed up due to a clogged line along our street following a torrential rainstorm.
It was absolutely horrible. And gross. And not the first time this has happened.
It took days to get that basement clean. Because we do not have attic access, the basement is used as a storage area and there’s also a bedroom and a bathroom down there.
After we got all the crap – literally – out of the basement a professional cleaning crew came and did some demolition of drywall and carpet and then sanitized and left six industrial fans for nearly a week. They also took away tools to be refurbished and bag after bag of contaminated clothing that was cleaned and returned.
It’s been stressful for me, getting this vital part of our home back in order.
Most of the boys’ clothes are second-hand. We have 30 some Rubbermaid totes full of clothing in nearly every size for each boy. The younger ones wear hand-me-downs so those also are stored in the plastic containers. When the basement flooded those totes had to be moved to our enclosed front porch, foyer and bedrooms. There are totes all over the house. Among other basement projects, I’m working on getting them back down there since the Old Man is done with all of the new drywall.
We are just now getting our basement back. We’ve redone both the bathroom (new shower and toilet too) and the bedroom, which is now a play/game/TV room for the boys. We have an exercise area and we’re working on putting an office area in the basement for the Old Man who is now buying timber.
The week before the flood we had purchased a new front-loading washing machine. Thank God it was not damaged.
After this last incident, a backflow preventer was installed on the sewer main so I’m praying this never happens again.

In mid-June we saw "Toy Story 3," which I already blogged about – and not too nicely. Interestingly enough the boys haven’t asked when the movie comes out on DVD.

In early July we attended my mother’s wedding – Ha. That sounds funny. Well she married her beau of a decade, but he’s not my biological father. LOL. My mom and dad were married for nearly 30 years (they married when I was 5 years old), but sometimes people change. I am happy for my mother and my stepfather. I also enjoyed their party.

Later in July we took a trip to Columbus to visit COSI, which the boys liked. And stay overnight in a ritzy hotel, which the boys loved. They got to go swimming and use the gym in the over-priced abode. I got to go to some Goodwill stores in the city, which was the highlight of my trip. LOL

In August, Superhero son entered two drawings in the longtime Salt Fork Arts & Craft Festival.
He is a talented artist. A pencil and crayon piece called SpongeBob & Friends captured third place and he came home with a $10 check.

School let out very late last spring because of all the snow we had last February and March. And, it started early too – Aug. 18 because Ohio schools will only receive three calamity days this school year. The boys are into routines now. A couple days a week we’re taking advantage of free breakfast at school. Everyone is doing OK academically. The first grading period wraps up tomorrow.
Last year the now 11 year old (he celebrated a birthday on 9/11) was on the principal’s list. He is working hard but not to his potential this year. He has some organizational problems, like missing papers, books, etc. The 9 year old has finally found a series of books he likes – Magic Tree House – and has started reading for pleasure. Yes!
Today he read 40 some pages.
Superhero son has started receiving peer tutoring in reading before school three days a week. One of the 9 year old’s classmates – who is a teacher’s son - is Superhero son’s tutor. I think that’s great. A lot of days Superhero son brings home work that he did not get done in class. I don’t care that he brings work home but the boy is frustrated. I have met with his teacher to come up with a plan to help him stay on task and succeed in second grade.

This week everyone got their flu vaccine except for the Old Man who doesn’t believe he needs one.

This is where we’ve been.