Thursday, May 31, 2007

Happy Hour, Friday


I've had a long couple of weeks people, and I'm winding down tomorrow night after work, with a few buddies: Momo, Mike, Mel, Georgie, Mark, and Tina (Mark and Tina don't know they're coming yet, but they are). If you're not doing anything, come out and join us!

We'll be at the Silvercreek bar, from 5 to 7 or so. Yes, Silvercreek! There's HALF PRICE APPETIZERS on Friday nights, until 7 p.m., and over 100 beers and ales to choose from, had you any idea?!

I happen to know that Silvercreek has a cute new chef that kicks ass, so you'll definitely want to check out the goodies. Come on out, have a snack and a drink with us, and I'll take your picture and put it in the Great American Photo Campaign box to Brian.

'Appy Hour Goodies

And hey, there's really no dress code over there, contrary to popular belief. Come in your pajamas if you want.

I will if you will.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Every Little Thing's Gonna Be Alright

For friends and family waiting, Teri made it through her surgery fine. 6 hours, 7 units of blood, lots of fingernail tapping and biting on our end, and she's done, in ICU, and going to be fine. If you were on the call list, and I didn't call, I sorry; I tired. I going to sleep now. Tomorrow's a new day.

Update on My Soldier Baby (and a Call for Photos)

Enough dwelling on mean 'ol people, when there are so many nice ones in this world. Thank you all for your comments and emails with well-wishes and prayers for my sister. I'll definitely keep you posted.

While we wait, this afternoon, for her surgery to begin, and news of its success, I'll share with you some nicey-nice stories, and catch you up with Brian.

A weeks ago, I posted a little shout-out for beanie babies, to send to Brian, so they could toss them to the kiddies in Iraq.

The response has been astounding. Within 2 days, Lindsey, pictured below, met me in the Sam's parking lot with 20 of them. She's readying to move out of her parents' home, go to school, and is giving away her toys. She gave me the beanie babies, and the larger stuffed animals were going to the crisis nursery.

Our connection was made through Chera, who read my blog, and on the same day, read Lindsay's notice on Chambana Live Journal, and put us together. Seriously, what are the odds?



So, I squooshed Lindsey's 20 beanie babies in a box, and shipped them off to Brian. A week later, our friend Tina asked for Brian's address. 60 more—SIXTY, people!!—were boxed up and shipped off.

Brian gave a hearty laugh when I told him that 80 beanie babies were en route. He said "are you serious?" I assured him I was, and told him that if if he wanted me to call off the beanie baby drive, he'd better do it now, because they're still rolling in. He said "there are a ton of little kids over here, go ahead and send 'em!"

Game on, kid.

A few days later, Wendy sent me this photo of a donation box she'd set up in her sons school, and another of the beanie's she's collected so far:


Including this Army Bear!



Saturday morning, I got this in the mail:



It was filled with these:


And it had come from these 3 little girls, in Memphis, TN. That's Kelsey on the left, Rebekah in the middle, and Morgan on the right. They are 8, 5, and 18 months old.


Their mother wrote,
"they can relate to your son being gone because their dad has been gone for 16 months ~ and they love doing things for other people!"
Couldn't you just burst?! They got to see their Daddy this weekend, and he gets to come home for good in July, yayyyy!

Many more of you have let me know you're getting care packages together, for Brian, and for Any Soldier; I'm sorry if I haven't named you here, yet, or if I've overlooked something. But I appreciate your gestures more than you will ever know. I am daily blown away, with your actions, and your kind words.

Update from Brian, then:
  • Brian has been able to call more often lately. Last I talked to him, he'd just received the first box of beanie babies. I'll let you know when I know what the children's response are. He promised to take pictures, so we can look forward to those also.
  • He's wanting very little right now, asked me to send trail mix instead of candy, and wet wipes, powdered drink mix, and AA batteries are still hot commodities.
  • Seems that the GPS system and thermal scopes are rather loosely wired, have a tendency to uh...fall apart...and require battery backup, until they can rewire things. I don't know a thermal scope from my elbow, but it seems like something I want my kid and his buddies to have functioning in tip-top shape.! They're tossing around batteries like crazy to keep these things up and running.
  • My last package to him included a few printouts of blogs, as he requested. I printed out all of your comments also, and wrote in the margins notes about each of you: who you are, what you do, where you're from, and how I know you. He'll be happy to meet you, I am sure.
  • He has very little time on the computer; there are only 6 computers for 3,000 men (what?!! you read that right!) on Butler Range. There is 1/2 hour limit for each user, the lines are long, and the men try to get in and get out so that everyone can use them.
  • It's hot there, and getting hotter. They put a giant camo net over their tent, and it cooled things off considerably.
  • He was given more badges and ribbons for his uniform. My notes say "combat action badge" ribbon: "war on terror" "Iraq campaign"
  • He got a package from a little boy named Jacob, through AnySoldier.com

And what can I send him next? I asked him. He can think of nothing he needs...but how about photos? Friend and family, please.

So, while I work on gathering those up, please send me YOUR photo, at ljstewart@gmail.com., or pop one in the mail for me (email me for mailing address). I will get a print made at Walgreens, write your name on the back, tell him how great you are, and relay any messages to him.

Come out, come out wherever you are, I am waiting for your photos. If you're too shy to send on of yourself, send one of your dog. It's the Great American Photo campaign, that I just made up. I'll be over here waiting.

I'm waiting....

...tick...tock...tick...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Outrage, Clarity, Appreciation, Celebration

I mentioned, in an earlier post, that we recently discovered that my sister's cancer has returned. She has two large tumors, one rascally one that has wrapped itself 'round some major arteries and blood vessels.

She and her family are headed to St. Louis, MO, to Barnes Hospital, on Monday, and she will go into surgery on Tuesday, around noon.

Though we know she is going to be fine; it is a very serious surgery, and so, extremely nervewracking to all of us. The doctors there, of course, have the legal obligation of giving us every single scary possibility. It's a complicated surgery, will entail a lot of blood loss, and blood transfusions. They expect to keep her in ICU for two weeks.

You can understand: We are edgy. She will be fine, but there is no denying that we all dread the next few days. Surgery. Yuck. Worry. Stress. Headaches. But she will be fine.

This is the second time she's done this, and I don't think she'll mind if I tell you: She's not as chipper this time around, as she was the first. Sometimes, this time around, she just doesn't feel like being so damned strong. "So don't!" I tell her. My big sisterly advice, heh: Go ahead and gnash your teeth.

But she is strong. She buckles up and rallies, and she is damned strong. She's so freakin selfless, it blows me away. The day she found out, she called me crying, yes, but her first words to me, "I can't do this to everyone again." That, 10 minutes out of the doctor's office, kiddies.

And I'm not writing here, to convince you of her strength. If I keep going, she's going to read this and get all choked up and start crying again, and we've had enough of that.

I'm writing today, to VENT. I am, this evening, outraged. Angry. Livid.

My sister lives in a small town. Word tends to spread, in a small town, and networking can be a bit tighter, for good or bad. The first time my sister had cancer, a woman in this small town gave her a call. Her son goes to school with my nephew.

The woman offered to raise my nephew, in the event that Teri didn't make it.

Stop the presses! What? This woman, my sister does not even know, called to take her son away, in the event of her death. It's a nonissue, I know, but uh....there is her husband Tim, her daughter, Brandi. Me. Our Mother. Tim's family.

So the woman is certifiable. No use getting upset over a nutjob such as this. She has come to mind recently. I thought "Jesus, I hope Crackpot Woman doesn't call Teri again." Why on EARTH, did I not bring it up to Teri? Teri's had so many other things on her mind that she FORGOT about crackpot woman.

Teri called me this evening. She didn't get much sleep last night, and she asked me, "How can it be that 5,000 people can hold you up, and 1 comment from one idiot can completely undo you?"

Crackpot Woman DID call her last night, offering her prayers, and her "moral support" to my sister. After offering all of this "moral support", she said to my sister,

"Honestly hon, I don't think you're going to make it."











I know.

I heard you.

The Gasp Heard 'round the World. I heard it.



Teri and I both know she's the "sweet" one in the family. She's much more tender-hearted than I am, doesn't like confrontation. She's like Mom.

But I'm like Dad.

Teri politely "begged to differ" with the woman, and got off the phone, depressed as hell and didn't sleep a wink.

I, upon hearing the news, had a complete hissy fit. Hissy fit. Make no mistakes: I prettied that up.

I pointed my finger at my little sister. She wasn't even here! She was calling from her own home, and still I waved my arm around and pointed my finger, and I told her
If that bitch EVER calls you again, you call me. She will know, in no uncertain terms, that she is never EVER to contact you again, as long as she lives.
Turns out my niece had already delivered the same speech, and had picked up the phone to tell her that herself, but Teri kept her from it.

****

Why am I writing this? I have no idea. I really do walk around in general wonder at the kindness and generosity of the people in this world. I'm blown away every day, by the gestures made to my sister in her battle, and by those made in my own life, right now. You'll hear more about this.

And we know, logically, that this woman that says these hurtful things to my sister...she is...crazy, or unhappy, or evil. We know, ultimately, that we have to let it go, that there is nothing constructive about dwelling on her intent, her audacity, her idiocy, her ignorance, or, mostly likely, her insanity.

We know.

This is not about us.

It is still unbelievably difficult to let it lie. To not give her the power to manipulate us into anger, hatred, and outrage, in a time when we desperately need peace, faith, and love.

...

And that sentence just came spilling out of me, and it was the answer I was looking for. It's what I was after.

Wow. Thanks for talking to me, I feel a lot better now, you were so helpful.

And send a holla out to your God, or wish upon a star, or cross your fingers, sing a song, or dance a jig, or raise your glass for my sister, and our family, now, and next week.

We'll take all the positive energy we can get.

As soon as we get through this, then, you're all invited over. We'll celebrate.

We will.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tough Guy, or Teddy Bear? You decide.

After I posted the last entry about my brother in law, I received a message on my answering machine; apparently papers are being drawn up at the law firm of Smith, Pittman, & Pittman, and I'll be in the poorhouse in no time.

The voice was muffled and suspicious though, so I've turned the message over to my niece, a future forensic scientist. She'll run the message through a schmancy DNA voice recognition transmogrofier silver powder combustion centrifuge cylinder machine, and, I suspect, point her finger at her own father in a matter of minutes. Won't his face be red?

Mr. Tough Guy.

Yeah, right. Here's a note my sister found this morning:

A romantic gesture with a power washer.

Anyone that pulls a stunt like this won't have the heart to drag me into court.




(I do wonder, though, what might be washed into MY sidewalk, if I keep this up.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Fairy Tale about My Brother-in-Law

Once upon a time, there was my Brother-in-Law, Tim. Tim had terrible, terrible allergies. No amount of Alovert would deter the itching, and the more he rubbed his eyes, the worse it got.

Saturday morning, my fair-maiden sister, Teri, up and took him to the vet in St. Joseph, because she read my blog about the vet there being cheaper than all of the other vets in the community.

Teri tricked Tim into getting into his pet carrier by telling him they were going to Pagliai's, in Charleston. He jumped right into his carrier, and Teri drove 100 yards down the very street they live on, to the vet.

"Are we here already?" Tim said, excited for his pizza. "Yes, dear," she said," we are here," and Tim was soooo happy.

Doh! Imagine his surprise when he found out she tricked him, and he was only there go get some allergy shots.

But wait! It's not so much the allergies, they were informed, but that he's just not disciplined enough to stop scratching and rubbing his eyes. The nice vet decided there was no use in over-medicating poor Tim, and decided, instead, to just put one of these puppy collars on him.



Alas, the last funnel collar had just gone out the door. Poor Tim Dud was suffering so much that the vet couldn't bear to send him home empty-handed. She suddenly had a grand idea, grabbed two styrofoam cups from the kitchen, and cut the bottoms off of them.

She returned to the exam room, where Tim sat, shivering in his backless hospital gown, on the the cold metal table. "Here we go!" she said, merrily, and proceeded to screw the styrofoam cups right into his eye sockets. Teri only had to pay 12-cents to the vet, for her heroic efforts.

They're

a


little


funny


looking


but


the


price


was


right


and


he


only


has


to


wear


them


until


the


pollen


count


drops.




Andtheylivedhappilyeverafter.


****

*This is not a true story. I made it up, right out of my own little head, with nary a drop of alcohol.

The real story is that Tim told me, on Sunday night, that I'd better not put this photo on my blog.

And just when there was peace in the family. Back in 1983, I tricked him into eating calamari by telling him it was an onion ring. He only just forgave me for that like, 2 months ago.

And I have to go and pull a stunt like this.

I am so screwed.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kids Don't Change

I've written about the kids in my mother's neighborhood before. They are out, every Sunday, playing jumprope or kickball in the streets. You have to hold up a few minutes, sometimes, while they run their bases, but they get out of the way sooner or later. There are some in the neighborhood that saunter down the middle of the street, daring you to hit them, or making you go around.

While this infuriates some, it makes me smile.

Years ago, when I was barely into adulthood, and hadn't yet had a child, I sat talking with Aunties around a kitchen table. My Aunt Joyce said something that struck me then, and has stayed with me since:

"Kids never change," she stated, adamantly. "Cars change, technology changes, circumstances change, but kids don't change."

She would know; she had 8 of them. The oldest of them were coming of age in the late 60s; the youngest in the mid 80s. Yes, she raised teenagers in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Were her tactics any different for the youngest, than they were the oldest?

I'd wager not. Her household rules did not change. Her moral guidelines never waivered; and her love for each of her kids was steadfast.

It hit me then, that when I had my own child, that I probably couldn't go wrong by following her lead, and of course, that of all of my Aunts and Uncles, and of my own parents. Ultimately, there really is nothing to fear. Love them. Guide them. Pay attention to them.

***

I smile, then, when I have to stop my car for these kids in the street. We were once those kids, halting kickball games when someone yelled "CAR!!!!" I can tell you the names of the boys that would insolently, in 1975, take their sweet time getting out of the street, sometimes even smacking your trunk when you drove by. I can tell you who the "bad" girls were. We were grits and nerds and bookworms and beauty queens, playing jumprope and throwing rocks at each other (see this scar on my lip?)

I walked down my Mother's street, a few weeks ago, and asked these little girls if I could practice my photography. They squealed with delight, watched the camera instead of the ropes, and tripped up repeatedly. "Am I making you nervous?" I asked, and laughed as they sang in no uncertain terms, "Yes!" I told them I'd leave then, and got a chorus of "No! no, stay!"





Their mothers sat outside with the younger children, and the girls accompanied me to their front step. Those Moms gave me suspicious, questionable looks until I told them that I was trying out the sports lens on my camera, and I'd bring back prints of their kids in a week, if it was ok with them. I told them, "I don't want you to think I'm some kind of weirdo."

They fell about laughing, admitting that were wondering if I was some kind of weirdo, and were readying to get over and ask me what I was doing. Good for them.

***

I recently happened across another blog that had an open letter to 15-year-old skateboarders. It was a condescending and hateful commentary about their hair, their clothes, their parents, and their homes. It upset me so much that I deleted it from my subscriptions immediately, and I don't remember the name of the blog. If I did, I'd return to the post, and comment:

"HEY, Dumbhead," I'd say, "Try this! Try saying `Hey, kid! Cool skateboard. How long did it take you to learn that?!' or `Love the green hair; wish I had the courage to try that!' "

That's what I'd tell 'em, I would, and I'd tell them "I'll give you one whole dollar if you don't make a friend."

Because I still believe what my Aunt Joyce told me.


Kids don't change.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I can has cheezburger?

I can't take it. This site, I Can Has Cheezburger?, makes me belly-laugh several times a day.

I'm worried sick that you've never heard of it, and are missing out. Here are a few samples to convince you to go look.




Now go Look!

Your welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Post-Dentist Whining

I admit: I'm a hater.

A dentist hater.

It's beyond my control. My dentist is a nice enough guy. He's handsome and pleasant, his prices are reasonable, and he does a great job. I like him just fine, while the hygienist straps on that bib, and I like him just fine when he cheerfully asks me how my day was, and did I get to speak to my son on Mother's day.

But the second he hits that foot pedal to start tipping that chair back, I begin developing an extreme disdain for him and everyone in his profession. My heart starts racing, and I want to jump out of my chair, and run down the street screaming and flailing my arms.

I had to have 2 fillings this evening, both on the right side of my face. As I had my teeth cleaned a month ago, this was the first procedure on the agenda:


The needle went straight through the back of my jaw and into my inner ear. I'm sure of it. Twice. Once for top, once for bottom. After a few minutes, we began Phase II:


Part of an old filling had to be removed to fix a cavity around it. I do not care to see or feel metal shavings and dental debris flying out of my mouth. I don't like it, Sam I Am.

The filling on the bottom just happened to be located between two teeth. So the dentist had to apply one of these in there somewhere:

I don't know if it was attached to the tooth that was being worked on, or the tooth next to it, but it was ratcheted down pretty good. The sight of it hanging in front of my face triggered my gag reflex. I forced myself to relax, as we hurried on to step 4:

Fill, fill, fill, and then tamp tamp tamp with one of these:


More sanding and grinding, and biting ensued, and then WHOOOP! The dentist hit a button on the chair...


And I was back on my feet and out the door, running into walls while the blood runs back out of my head.

"I'm disoriented," was the last thing I said to him. He responded "heh heh hehhhhh" and something about hot and cold food.

My dentist's office is on the same street I live on: Here's a shot of me, walking home:



It's 90 minutes later. I keep biting the inside of my right cheek. My right eye and my right ear are both completely numb. Stick your finger in my ear.

See? Didn't feel a thing.

Big Catch-22 on this anesthesia wearing off, too. I'll be able to feel my lips again, this is true. It's the holes where that giant syringe went through my head that I'm not looking forward to recognizing.

I guess I'll count my blessings, and look forward to a healthy smile, and bright, shiny teeth.

Still. That's the last time I'm getting my teeth fixed at Farm 'N Fleet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Catch Up Time!

Ohmygoodness, life is passing by faster than I can blog it. In bullets, then:
  • Dentist tomorrow, I'm pre-whining. There will be shots, and more whining.
  • Haircut Thursday, still growing out the craptastic Carol Brady Do.
  • My sister and I picked out the same card for Mom on Mother's Day:


[Insert Twilight Zone music].

  • Brian's friend Chris dropped off a Mother's Day card for me again this year. The sweety. He showed up last year also, while Brian was in bootcamp, and I cried. This time I smiled.


  • The cable internet people came to my house for a 3rd time in as many months, and "fixed" my cable. I was so happy, until I walked 'round back to find about 40,000 feet of orange cable spread across my lawn, through a gate I don't use, and across the neighbor's lawn to a cable box. Try mowing around this:


  • I went to a party a few weeks ago, in which a fortune teller was hired for entertainment. This one has been voted best psychic in the CU area, and I have to admit: she summed up the last couple years of my life eerily accurately, with no prompting on my part.

    Ha, she told me I haven't dated much since my divorce, and that have a tendency to cut men off at the knees. She said that! I have no idea what she's talking about. But I'm going to meet a nice guy pretty soon, she said. A good guy, she said. Aren't you just dying? Want me to keep you posted?


  • When I meet him, I'll play He Loves Me, He Love Me Not, with this giant daisy at the Urbana post office.

OK. That's a wrap. There are bigger and better tales to come, I promise.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

More Tales of a Female Home Owner

I hunkered down last Friday night, hell bent on restoring order to my house. First on the agenda: clean out the refrigerator.

A bowl full of rice! I'll just throw it in the garbage. No, wait, all that food in the garbage, yuck; I'll put it down the garbage disposal instead. Grind, grind, tra-la-la, grind...

Hm! Why isn't this rice going anywhere?!

Ah, crap, I've stopped up the sink. "Try plunging it" Diane tells me, when I call her for advice. I don't own a plunger, so head out to buy one. The price of a fancy-pants plunger is about $2.42. The price of the American flag, and flagpole, toenail polish, moisturizer, lightbulbs, and all of the other crap I accidentally picked up between the door and the plunger: an additional $43.00.

My stopped-up sink laughed heartily at my plunging efforts.

So, 7:00 Friday night, when the entire house was to have been cleaned, I was $45 down and had a stopped-up sink. Oh, and my dishwasher was filled with nasty rice water; what did get by the garbage disposal bypassed into the bottom of it. There was nothing to do then, but cancel all housekeeping efforts altogether, pour a glass of wine, and put my feet up.

The next day, while I was helping with friend's garage sale, I was yakking away to Judy about my garbage disposal dilemma, when a garage sale customer, a feisty older woman that didn't pull any punches, overheard and interrupted:

"You did NOT!" she said, "You did NOT put rice in your garbage disposal. I FIRED someone for that once!"

I gave her my best dumb (boxed) blonde stare, and she went on, "think about it! Put your fist into a bowl of rice, and what happens to it?" She pantomimed the procedure, as I held my blank stare. "IT TURNS INTO CONCRETE, THAT'S WHAT!!!" she snapped. She gave me a look that clearly read "you are the stupidest woman I have ever met."

I liked her. She was funny.

So, I bartered with my ex-husband (the second one; there are only two, thank you very much): Home-cooked meal in exchange for fixing the garbage disposal. He bit. He'd come Tuesday.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, several million people verified what the garage sale lady told me: Never never never put rice in your garbage disposal, unless you throw it in one grain at a time, and run 100 gallons of water with it. It's starchy. It turns to glue.

I Googled "rice in the garbage disposal" and sure enough, got 570,000 (not making that up) links telling me to never never never put rice in the garbage disposal.

44 years old, having used a garbage disposal for my entire adult life, and THIS is the first time I'm hearing this?! Good Lord, I am an accident waiting to happen! I shudder to wonder what else I do not know.

So, while I set steaks to marinade and snapped fresh green beans, The Rick came over and took a look under the sink. The problem was apparent in a matter of minutes:


Bleah! I sure got the better end of this deal, that's all I'm sayin. Rick pulled all of the plumbing apart, hosed it out, put it back together, and then cleaned out all the gutters on my house for me. Totally worth the price of a few ribeye steaks!

And I am a smarter and wiser homeowner now. The garbage disposal is working properly, and the dishwasher all clean 'n shiny.

Still, I think I should clean those pipes out, for good measure.

A little bleach and ammonia should do the trick.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Phone Call from Brian

I was walking out the door this morning when I got a 999 phone call. "Hmph!" I thought, "tele-sales on my cel phone?" I picked up. "Hello?"

"Hi, Mom."

Me, then:


Yes, it was Brian, and we had time to talk. It's the first I've talked to him since his training in Iraq, and I was ready with my questions: What are you doing?

He's working in a town about 30 miles from his base. (I can't remember exactly the name, but will fill you in when I verify it). The soldiers are well-received and he's making friends. They bought mattresses, in town, for their cots today.

He appreciates the wet wipes; dirt and dust are part of life there. The dust, he says, is the consistency of powdered sugar. It's silky, and it's sometimes 6 inches deep where he's walking, producing clouds of it with every step.

It's hot. 117 degrees in his tent some nights, but they finally got an air conditioner. When the temperature drops to 95, the men all bask in the "cool air," saying "ahhhh, this is great."

We discussed items to send, the list is much the same: AA batteries, wet wipes, and powdered drinks. They give their powdered drinks to the kids, which reminds him:

Can we send soccer balls? The children, though they can't speak English, are miming that they want soccer balls, by holding out an imaginary ball, and then pretending to kick it.

Looks like the next care package is going to be full of toys.

As soon as I got off the phone, I called Jeff, his father, as per our agreement. We network about what we spoke about, each wanting to hear what the other heard; we manage to glean bits of unknown information off of each other. He didn't get the soccer ball information, and I did not get that Brian put in for leave in July.

Funny, at 8:00 a.m., we're mindlessly going about our days, and by 8:30, we are crazed to acquire soccer balls, and discussing flattening them, and sending hand pumps and needles to fill them up. We are on a mission; I can hardly wait for my workday to end.

Beanie Babies are hot-ticket items also, so I'm sending a shout-out to all of you readers:

If any of you have a box of Beanie Babies lying around, outgrown, that you're just going to throw in a garage sale one of these days, there are guaranteed good homes for them on the other side of the world. I'd love to take them off of your hands, or give you a mailing address.

Got Beanie Babies?

I'll otherwise be watching garage sales and auctions for them, and throwing them in my care packages from here on out.

That's all that Brian requested today, except for one more thing: "Print out your blogs and send them to me." Awwwwwwwwwwwww, sniff. That one really did floor me; I sent a few of the more amusing ones to him when he was in bootcamp, and he didn't say much; I figured he was rolling his eyes, and telling his buddies, "my Mom is nuts." It's probably the case, and now he'll have a printout to prove it.

Peace Out, everyone, and love from me and my kid.

P.S. He's getting care packages from people we do not know. He's trying to find time to write you back, if you've come there from here. And he thanks you profusely. As do I.

Note: I did not know this before Brian left, but mailing packages to any soldier is simple and inexpensive. The post-office has "Flat Rate" boxes, they are free to you. You can shove as much stuff as possible in that box, and ship it for the price of $8.10. You have to use a customs form, which is also easy to fill out: your address, your soldier's address, and a list of the contents of the box. It's that easy; no weighing or excessive expenses. The only restriction is that you cannot send pork products: No Slim-Jims, or bacon bits, please. :-)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Must See: Local Photographer

Over the last 5 months or so, I've spotted a guy with a camera and a tripod, taking pictures of the downtown area. I've seen him in snow, and rain, and sun. Oddly enough, I never made note of him, so much as what he was shooting. More than once I've thought to myself, "Wow, I'd love to see how that turns out."

As luck would have it, Matt wrote a post the other day, promoting a photographer in the area. Ha! I can't believe it, I DO get to see that guy's photos, after all. Big smile when I found the ones I'd seen him take, and more amazement when I went further through his archives.

Said photographer is one Dan O'Brien, from Champaign, and he has kindly given me permission to post a few of his photos here. This one, of the Assembly Hall, knocked my socks off. I think this is an amazingly difficult building to capture. It's a cool structure surrounded by parking lots and usually, lots of people and traffic, and it's just hard to take a good photo of it! Dan did a phenomenal job, though:

Everytime I walked downtown a month or so ago, I found the trees on Neil street to be just breathtaking. I was happy to see that Dan found them photoworthy.


Not all of Dan's photos are local, but most are, and you won't be sorry if you go take a look. In addition to scenery, there are plenty of local events represented there also. We all-too-often move through our community without realizing all it has to offer, and you'll find a good many reminders here.

Dan's website is updated daily. Oh, and though I haven't met him yet, I've threatened to say hello next time I spot him out and about. I encourage you to do the same.

www.gct13.com


Thumbnail Archives: http://gct13.com/archive/t

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Authentic Artificiality

I helped friends with a garage sale today. A hefty table of fine costume jewelry was left in my charge, and I was amused to note these faux pearls, in a pretty little box, sitting on the table:

Upon reading the Guarantee, I had to imagine the fellow that wrote that copy to be one smooth talker. Check out the first line:

(Click to enlarge)

It's true: These really are real fake pearls. No one bought them today, but I have connections. They had a five-dollar price tag on them; I can pull some strings and get them for you for ten.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Don't Do Nothing

Whatdya know, I made the paper again:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/opinions/letters/2007/05/02/keep_champaign__soldier_in_prayers

As it turns out, I've been struggling with a post about being a soldier's Mother for the last 6 days.

For you newcomers, my son, Brian, was deployed to Kuwait on March 9. This military stuff is new to me, and it seems like an eternity. Our last phone call was 3 weeks ago. It lasted 1 minute, 53 seconds, in which time he told me there would be no more e-mail or telephone contact, for quite some time.

For the rest of you, I'm happy to report that we finally got an e-mail from him, on Sunday afternoon:
I'm very busy and havent been able to put a letter together yet. I'm doing well. Its getting pretty warm here. Makes it hard to stay clean. I got your package. Thank you much. I'll write you when i get a chance. Love you, Brian
I was at the coffee shop when I read that, and Momo and Mike can attest to my great excitement. I hooped and hollered, and got right on the phone to call his father. "Check your e-mail, check it now!"

I'm not sure where he was at the time, but it wasn't long before I got a call back from him; he got one too! Yay! He got e-mail too, ohmigod, we are both so relieved.

It's been a rough couple of weeks. 3 weeks since we've heard from Brian, and we had no idea how long it would be before we got word from him. Will it be days, weeks, or months? Did he get our mail? Is he writing us? Is he ok?

Having so few answers so far, news of 9 soldiers lost in one battle shook me to the core. And then again, of one of our own, Lucas Starcevich, from Tolono...I cannot imagine his family's pain, and yet, I do, even in my sleep.

It is the following entry, that I have been struggling with, and finally decided I could not write. Everyone reading here knows me; what could I say to you that wasn't stating the obvious? But there are a few more in the mix now, and I feel somehow obligated to talk to them.

So, new readers. Thanks for dropping in.

*********

Our community has lost a soldier.

Pfc. Lucas Starcevich, from Tolono, was killed on his second tour of duty in Iraq, on April 16. Though we did not know him personally, his loss rocked our burg. Champaign, Urbana, Tolono, and all of the surrounding small towns mourn for him and his family.

I did not know him. I did not know his family. As the days have gone by, connections have been made; there are few degrees of separation in a community our size. Brian's brother, Dustin, is on the track team with Lucas' little sister.

I had been out of town, and discovered by accident on Friday morning that the funeral procession was going right by my workplace. I ran out for an errand, and noted this scene on the overpass:


I parked at the end of the street, and walked up, to meet these guys.


They were very kind as I approached, and listened as I told them that my son was in Iraq, and asked them about their lives. Lawhorn is on the left. He's been in for 7 years, and has a wife and a baby. He has done one tour in Iraq, and is considering returning for another. His wife doesn't care for the idea.

Jessup is on the right; he's served 9 years. I (somewhat) jokingly asked him "Does your Mother still cry?"

She does.

I called my boss and told him I'd be back when this was over. And I joined these guys. Everyone was so nice. One of the firefighters, whom my research tells me was Lt. Dan Brown, from Champaign, approached me and invited me to sit in the truck to get out of the wind, and stay warm.

When the procession was in sight, all of the men climbed up on the trucks, with flags, and stood at attention. They invited me to join them, and I did. I'm nervous with heights, and was fidgety and choked up, and climbed back down after only a few minutes. But I was honored by their invitation, more than they'll ever know.



As the procession advanced toward us, escorted by police officers, firetrucks, patriot guards, I stood also, in front of these men.

Just one more mother.

And my tears fell like rain.

This is my son also. He's your son, your brother, your friend. His family your family.

I'm proud to be from a community that showed their support to the Starcevich family on Friday morning. We lined the streets. A principal of one school rescheduled standardized testing for the day, so the students could stand at attention along the procession route. I have neighbors that took the day off to stand on the route. Momo's husband Mike rode, with what seemed like hundreds of others, with the Patriot Guards that day.

After the procession, Jessup and Lawhorn climbed down from that truck, and with absolutely no reservations, I gave each of them a hug. "This is from your mother," I told them.

And I went back to work.

*****

That's about as far as I got, without totally tripping up.

I don't know what I hope to accomplish by writing about Lucas Starcevich. I don't want to sensationalize this tragedy. I know everyone wants this war to end.

Honestly, I want to rant and rail. I want to grab you by the lapels, and look you in the eyes, and say: "This really is happening. There is a community somewhere, everyday, lining its streets, and sending servicemen and firefighters to wave giant flags over highway overpasses!! Don't you see? Doesn't everyone see?"

But this I also know: Everyone does see. I don't know anyone that isn't sickened by this war, and the daily tragedies and grief and pain that result from it.

I feel helpless. I can't just stand here! What am I going to do?

Well. I'm going to continue to read and educate myself on political issues, vote for the candidates I think will make a difference, and sign the petitions I believe in.

I'm making contributions to Anysoldier.com. If you don't personally know a soldier, help out an anonymous one. There's a family out there that has adopted MY son, and I love them for it. The more people that love your kid, the better, I always said.

I'm looking into http://www.gi-bracelet.org/.

I'm sending sensible and whimsical stuff to my son, in hopes that what he can't use, he has a buddy that will: I know Lathrop likes to draw; maybe a few art supplies for him?

I'm supporting the USO, anyone that can make my soldier babies laugh for a day gets my spare change.

I am doing, kids, anything that makes me feel like I did anything.

It is what I can do.

Because I can't do nothing.

I simply cannot.

I hope you'll join me in not doing nothing.

And thanks for stopping by. I hope to hear from you.

Really.




http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2007/04/28/we_are_forever_grateful_to_this_hero

Memorials to the Starcevich family can be made to the memorial fund at Busey Bank for an educational fund in his name, American Legion or VFW of the donor's choice or the Champaign County Humane Society.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007