Friday, June 30, 2006


Last weekend the Nerdpod made a quick trip to my hometown - Grand Forks, North Dakota. Each trip is not complete without a trip to the original Widman's candy store. This link it to the spin off store in Fargo that only sells a fraction of the fantastic and out-of-this world candy combinations online -- but you can still get the world-famous Chippers. Chocolate-covered potato chips. Incredible stuff.

We came home with a stock of Widman's chocolates. A few ounces each of chocolate-covered orange sticks, peanut butter melts and cranberries, a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans and a 2-lb. box of Chippers. My mother thoughtfully packed them in a small styrofoam cooler to survive the car ride back to the cities.

Our poodle, Buddy the Nerd-hound, had a better nose than I gave him credit for.

Yesterday, I discovered the lid to the box askew and every chocolate that had been in an unsealed paper sack (orange sticks, peanut butter melts and cranberries) was missing. The Nerd-hound had enjoyed a chocolate feast.

Not only can chocolate in certain quantities be toxic to dogs. Not only had the pooch been on a diet ANYWAY. But my Widman's chocolates, which were supposed to last us for months of occasional one-chocolate treats, were GONE! OH, THE HUMANITY!

I called the Nerd-hound over to me and he knew at once he'd done wrong. But I wasn't as mad as I was worried. I quickly called our vet's after-hours number and got in touch with the emergency vets service. I learned a number of things... all of them good:

1. Milk chocolate, while still toxic, is far less toxic to dogs than dark chocolate.
2. Everything he ate was something coated in chocolate... not solid chocolate... so the concern was more about the extra sweets upsetting his tummy than poisoning.
3. His extra-poundage actually helped him out in this case. The heavier the dog, the more he'd have to ingest to be dangerous.
4. He didn't get into the coffee beans. It's the caffeine in the chocolate that's the real danger. If he'd torn into those, he might have been a goner.

The bad:

1. He can have vomiting and diarreah for up to 24 hours after his choco-feast.
2. He was up several times during the night with doggy tummy-ache and we were treated to unbelievable dog farts, but at least he didn't hork up anything on the carpet.

Normally, I don't think he would have paid the chocolates any attention. In all the time we've had him he has rarely tried to grab food off our plates, the table, the garbage -- but I think his diet has turned him back into the natural scavenger he is as a canine. I can't blame the pooch. I didn't punish him. I think the tummy ache was punishment enough. And I've learned that poodles can smell through a 2-inch thick styrofoam cooler.

All in all, Nerd-hound seems to have taken it in stride. This morning he was a little extra cuddly, but back to eating and drinking and having his morning coffee (that's what we call his outside time on the leash) like normal. It was a good reminder that sometimes, having a dog in the house is like having a toddler -- that pees outside.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer Stressing

Ideally, summer is that time of year that we all get to relax. Kids are out of school. The weather is beautiful. Life is good.

For someone like me that works from home, summer comes with mixed blessings.

First, when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, it makes concentrating on work much harder. You might think its the same for everyone that works. Not quite. I don't have a manager breathing down my neck or a finite number of vacation days, true. On the other hand, I have to maintain the discipline to stay at my desk instead of, say, planting flowers or jetting out for a bike ride.

Second, the kids are home. I love them being home, but it also means frequent interruptions. Just as much as I need to concentrate on work, I also want them to enjoy their summer. Some days it's incredibly easy. I get up early and get a lot of work done before they wake up. Then they are off and running with one friend or another. Then there are the days of, "No, I don't have time to take you to a friend's house." or "I said, no computers." or "What are you doing inside? Go out in the yard!"

Days like today stress me out. Up early, prepared for a conference call. Did the hour-long conference call. Had one hour to work before the kids got up. My son had made plans the night before to see Superman Returns with friends. My daughter got a call from a friend who wanted to come over and play (but would need ME to do the driving since her dad was working - hey! me too!). On the work side, I have a month's-worth of articles to finish for my big client by Friday, potential clients to call, current clients to follow up with, plus a huge business networking event to prepare for to be at by 5pm.

Still with me?

Since my son wouldn't be home from the movie until 6pm, I had to have him nix those plans due to the business event. He handled the news very well, but I could tell he was disappointed. Since I have my work to do, I can't run around picking up playmates for my daughter. I'm having to tell her no today - so she's feeling a little put out. (No matter how you explain it, a 9-year-old just doesn't fully comprehend why Mom can't take time away from the computer sometimes.) Now I'm trying to prioritize the rest of my to-do's.

Did I mention that my daughter is also supposed to have soccer practice tonight?

This is one of the tough days.

When I reach the point where I think I'm just about to explode into a million little super balls - I sit back, do some lamaze breathing (it really works wonders - and not just in the delivery room), and try to remember the good things:

1. Even with the constant need for self-discipline, I am thankful for every day that I remain on my own in business. I get to make my own hours, make my own dress code and be my own boss. That's worth its weight in gold.

2. I get more time with my kids now than I ever did when I did the corporate 8-5. There was some days I saw my kids a total of 2 hours. That's shameful. Even at its worst, I still cherish every moment with them.

3. I have a fantastic husband that supports everything I do. And if I just remember to ask him to help instead of trying to carry the weight on my own shoulders all the time, he'll do anything for me in a heartbeat.

4. Cut out everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Sure, the laundry needs to be done, we need lightbulbs and milk, I'd love to get a quick manicure for the big event, etc. But can it wait? Can I get by without doing those things? Yeah. I can. The list of "would like to-do" is often far, FAR longer than "absolutely need to-do".

*breathe in* *breathe out* *breathe in* *breathe out*

Yeah. I'll make it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Spellchecker is Only a Tool

I'm a professional writer and editor by trade. In the past, I underestimated the value of my knowledge of the English language. I thought that everyone knew how to write. How did I have anything special to offer?

Then I see something like this in my hometown newspaper:
"Man fleas cops on 5-horsepower cycle"

Please. Tell me I didn't just read that. Tell me this headline didn't make it past the proofers and the editors and the printers.

At my front door today, a local company that replaces driveways and sidewalks left a flyer with this dandy quote at the bottom:

"Call now to schedule an appointment for a FREE consolation."

Excuse me? A free WHAT? I didn't know people usually charged for that these days. What do they do? Put an arm around your shoulder and say, "Gee, I'm sorry your driveway looks so crappy. We can help fix it. No charge for the consolation." Perhaps I should call and offer a consultation on their advertising in trade for a new driveway?

And so it begins...

It took me forever to come up with a name for my Blog.

You see, I have a tendency to overthink things to the point of not actually getting anything done. I wanted a name that really meant something, or was terribly clever, or symbolic, or... or... just really, really, cool. I turned to the best friends a writer can have, and

According to The American Hertiage Dictionary of the English Language, rhapsody is:
  1. Exalted or excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling in speech or writing.
  2. A literary work written in an impassioned or exalted style.
  3. A state of elated bliss; ecstasy.
  4. Music. A usually instrumental composition of irregular form that often incorporates improvisation.
  5. An ancient Greek epic poem or a portion of one suitable for uninterrupted recitation.
That's what I hope my blog will be. Don't expect an exalted style or ecstasy, but I can certainly get behind enthusiastic expression, improvisation and uninterrupted recitation... at least until the comments start flowing in. I also can't promise daily postings or incredibly clever insights. Just me.

Let's see where this takes us, shall we?