Friday, February 29, 2008

Smart Kitty and Her Very Own Cat Dancer

I ran into Leisure Time Pet & hobby store last night, to purchase algae wafers for the aquarium. And, anytime I'm in a pet store, I can't pass up one of these:

A toy, for Minx. Have you seen these things? It's a couple of pieces of cardboard, wadded up and stuck on the end of a piece of piano wire.

Seems like I'd be able to make my own, but I've never been able to replicate the real thing.

Cats go kuh-RAZY over these things. Minx goes so nuts that I usually have to stop playing with her, for fear she'll have a heart attack.

But she's one smart kitty, and has figured out that if she picks up the "handle" end in her mouth, and slinks forward just a bit, the "business" end of this toy will begin to flip around. She knows that if she keeps her mouth shut, she's in for as much fun as she can stand. Here's how she spent her time last night, in between bouts of catching her breath:

My cat is a genius.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gifts from Home

I got this pic from Brian a few weeks ago, modeling the t-shirt I sent him for Christmas. He told me that when I posted this pic, I was also to note that when he gets back, if any ladies out there wants to remedy that situation, he's looking for someone between the ages of 18 and 45. (It's nice to know he's set some boundaries.)

He's been able to call home almost daily, for the last week or so. You can imagine I don't mind this routine one bit.

I can't help noticing transition in our conversations, since he was deployed almost a year ago. There has been an odd progression: We speak easier now, and of less consequential things.

Less consequential, you say?


The daily phone calls haven't been par for the course. When the calls were coming in every 3-4 weeks, and time was limited, I felt like I had to pick and choose what I spoke of. I should not waste my time on "small stuff," but rather, fill him in on the important news.

Having figured that out, the next step was to determine what constituted "important." Hm. What do I have? "Grandma's doing good." That's important. Now what?

I began to find that after covering one or 2 points, I didn't have too many important tidbits. Hence, dead air. Hemming and hawing, until we finally wrapped it up: "Welp, that's about all I know for today. Love you."

Seriously, I found it difficult to just yammer to Brian. I worried that he would find, at times, my issues mundane, in light of what he's doing over there. After all, in a side-by-side comparison, wouldn't all issues be mundane?!

Complaining was out! "Bad day at work," he'd think, "I'll show you a bad day at work, woman!"
Freakin cold weather? Yeah, I'll bitch about the weather, and won't he feel sorry for me, as he walks back to fall asleep in a tent so cold he can see his own breath.

Rejoicing was even more difficult: "Oh, we had such a great time last night, eating and drinking and merry-making til the cows came home." Oh, really? Last night he detonated 11 bombs.

These hang-ups, of course, were my own. Brian would never respond to any of those things in the manners I imagined.

I'm over it. "Forget it," I decided, "from now on, I'm just saying whatever's going on in my chaotic little head." Housework, I'm busy with it. The weather: It seems like almost everyone I know is a bit out of sorts from so many months of gray skies. Gossip: I've taken to filling him in on the absurd people we know that continue to do absurd things.

I've discovered that easy conversation begets easy conversation. When I don't censor myself, when I talk, we talk. We talk about cars and money and spiders and friends and family, and beanie babies and omelets and promotions and lifting weights, and comedy shows, and what's for dinner tonight.

After a year, I've finally figured it out: Brian welcomes the mundane, the unimportant, the tidbits of news and mental images of the house and the furniture, and the tossing out of a street name, and a laugh at the idiot driver I encountered there.

These things, they are not mundane. They are notes from home. They are gifts.

And so, while my son and his comrades clear roadside bombs for a living,*

I will continue to summon all of my courage, and fill him in on what a bitch it is to clip the cat's toenails.

It may not be a classy t-shirt, but I'll keep in mind that it's still a gift.

*Brian filmed this from his truck; an average day at work.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cat Tales

Wow, thanks for all of the perfume recommendations. I've written every single one down, and am fired up to go do some sniffin'! There are more than 25 on the list, so it will take some time, but I'll let you know when I find what I love!

Moving on, then...

I've had my kitty Minx, for almost a year now, after she had set down roots in my Mom's driveway. She's a cuddly one, affectionate with everyone, rolling up at the feet and in the laps of every guest that graces our home.

She also has a green thumb. Or, rather, a green tongue: she has a taste for the houseplants. And I have an unusual attachment to my houseplants: Most were sent to me after my father died. I consider them "Dad's plants," and tend to panic if one appears peaked.

Or eaten.

After much research, and trial and error, I discovered the one thing that keeps her out of Dad's plants:

Lemongrass oil. I kept reading that cats hate citrus, and after trying every orange product I could find, gave lemon a shot. She HATES it. I now just place a few drops of lemongrass oil into small soy-sauce dipping bowls and put them inside the plant. She wants nothing to do with them.

However, my sister got her one of THESE for Christmas:
A chia pet cat-grass kit. Wow, they are FUN. The seeds sit around in the soil and do nothing for about 6 days, and then they suddenly pop up at 2 inches a day, or more. Once was the grass was well-established, I set the bowl on the hearth, and Minx had a heyday. She LOVED it, and ate it all down in about 10 days time.

When it was time to replant (I bought more seeds at Prairie Gardens), I found I had to get all new soil also, as what was left was just a big root-ball in that flower pot. So, I figured if I'm going to pot up more cat grass in little containers, I might just as well put up a BIG container too! Minx can have her own private lawn, for her dining pleasure.

The new seeds took quickly, and in less than a week, I had that Bowl O' Lawn ready to put out for Minx. I transferred it to the hearth one morning this week, and went on my way to work.

Life is a learning experience, yes?

I learned, this week, that apparently, that confined rooting system doesn't work so much with bigger, open flower pots.

That Bowl O' Lawn doesn't latch on to big dirt, in only a weeks time. It just kind of hovers around, clutching to, say, the top 1/4 inch of soil, or so.

And that Minx, once Breakfast O' Lawn was over, would much rather play with a Bowl O' Soil than Cat Grass any old day...

Once again, I curse whoever it was that put white carpets in this house.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Scents and Scentsability

Calvin Klein, "Truth." When I wear perfume, that's my scent. I have a tendency to stick to one scent for years, and then tire of it. Liz Claiborne "Realities" was what I wore before I switched to this one, about 8 years ago.

I've lately decided that it's time for a change, again. Knowing this, for Christmas, Clint gave me a home-made coupon for a bottle of perfume, the scent of my choice.

The problem is, nothing's grabbing me. I have to love the scent I'm wearing, or honestly, I'll never put it on. I make pit-stops in the Macy's perfume section, choose one that might be tolerable, spritz on the tester, and wear it for an evening. That which I think I like, I do not, after 20 minutes.

I tear the perfume samples out of tawdry Glamour magazines, and try them on. I thought I'd found one: Tommy Hilfiger's "Dreaming." It smelled pretty nice, I thought, after I'd rubbed the page on my wrists. But this evening I spritzed on the sampler, and disliked it immediately. It smacked of "White Shoulders." I like White Shoulders, but if I wanted to wear White Shoulders, I'd buy White Shoulders. So, Dreaming's out.

I also like Ralph Lauren's "Romance," but that's Diane's signature scent. I'd just walk around thinking "man, I smell good; I smell just like Diane." Anyway, you can't steal your friend's signature scents.

Maybe you can help me out: I like spicy, almost masculine scents. Clean, but not too soapy. Something reminiscent of sandalwood, perhaps. I don't want anything fruity: no coconut perfume for me! And nothing too floral, I generally find them too strong. I took a whiff of something called "Picaso" today and nearly keeled over. I've no interest in smelling like a little old lady's compact face powder, circa 1917.

Any suggestions? What do you wear?

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Letter from One Soldier's Wife

From New Mexico, today:
Hello. I thought you might want a picture of MSgt. Anthony Uebel so you can know what he looks like...

Droppin beanies from Hueys...
This is, you see, how friendships are born.

I continue to grin. From ear to ear.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Letter from One Soldier

I received a handwritten letter in the mail yesterday, from a soldier in Camp Taji, Iraq.

He wanted to thank me, and to let me know the toys we've sent have been handed out to the kids of Taji, Iraq. It read, in part,
"Our mission here is to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force. Our contact with the children is limited to waving at them as we fly over in our helicopters. Today we gathered the toys and dropped them from our low flying Huey. The kids loved it! It isn't an operation we can do often, but it makes an impact. Not only did it make the kids happy, it showed the locals that their Air Force is beginning to fly once again. People are now understanding we are here to help out, not to run their country."
I was feeling pretty nice about that letter, and today tried to map back through my emails to figure out how this young man came to be on our mailing list.

It turns out that a lady from Michigan read about us from Paradise Driver, a blogger in Hawaii, and send me a name of a soldier from New Mexico, who is now working in Camp Taji, Iraq.

This just makes me smile. There is something kinda crazy-magical going on every day, isn't there?

I'll be sending out a Toys for Troops Newsletter in the next few days. We've tried to give folks a breather, after the holidays, but I've still been mailing about 500 beanies a week, and 3 large valentines care packages went out to 3 different companies. It will cost us over $20K to send the inventory in our garages right now, so it seems I'll be packing and addressing a lot of boxes, shaking a lot of hands, and relying on the good folks in this community and uh...maybe a few of those between Michigan, Hawaii, New Mexico....and others, to ship or sponsor a box.

If you want to catch that newsletter, sign up on the sidebar on the right, or email me at

I'll be in touch!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

$10,000 Pyramid


Cepacol lozenges (12)
Hot tea with honey (1000 cups)
Dayquil (2 shots)
Nyquil (2 shots)
Carryout Sizzling Rice soup—mostly broth (2)
Hot water, with lemon, brown sugar, and a shot of brandy (1 or 2, in the evening)
Salt water (gargle) (unlimited)
Cepacol spray
Advil Liquigels
Alka Seltzer Cold Plus

Answer: Things that Gnightgirl's ingested since the sore-throat flu from hell hit her hard, on Thursday.*

Yayyyyyyyy! Good job. You win! Your check's in the mail.

*Judges will also accept "bacon and egg breakfast that Clint fixed for GNG's breakfast today, after she woke 1:00 p.m."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I can't believe I'm doing a follow-up on the missing camera blog, so soon! Clint arrived at my house yesterday before I got home, and began, once again, to search for the camera. Everywhere, he looked. Finally, he asked me, "Did you ever take the couch cushion off, entirely?"

Yes, I did. And he had also, I reminded him. We had also, together, flipped the couch over, and I'd peeled back a bit of the fabric along the bottom of the couch to see if the camera hadn't fallen all the way through to the lining below.

AND, home alone one evening, I'd flipped the couch over for another search (nearly killing the cat in the process of getting it back right side up; I had no idea she was under there).

AND, he flipped the couch himself, yesterday, for one more look around underneath the thing. Still nothing.

Well, he decided, he was going to pull that cushion one more time, for peace of mind.

There it was! Sitting right THERE, near the front of the couch, not in the least bit hidden, once the cushion had been removed. We stood staring stupidly at each other, with incredulous looks on our faces. The camera's been gone for almost 4 weeks, and it's suddenly in plain sight?!!! I accused him of asked him if he'd actually found it and "planted" it there to surprise me, but he denied it.

We decided that the camera must have been jarred loose from the bowels of the sofa with that last flip.

Rejoice, rejoice, we put it on the charger, and it's ready to go...

...except the memory card is on the desk... Clint's house.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Absentminded? Overextended? Aging? Or Sheer Dementia?

Here's an aspect of my personality that drives me nuts: I'm often absent-minded. I have arrived to work with my dress on backwards and my sweaters inside out more than I can count. I once dropped my keys in the pantry while putting groceries away, and didn't find them for weeks.

Clint will ask me where something is, and while I set my attention to seeking it out, I will lose whatever it is that was in my hand when he asked. The knife I was cutting onions with. My cup of hot tea. The mail. I recently misplaced the remote control to the television in my bedroom, after throwing it into my gym bag, along with other items that were to go there.

So, 3 weeks ago I sat flipping through my (compact) camera, and giggling at pictures of a Girls' Night. I removed the memory card and put it next to the computer, along with card reader.
All gone.

I have not seen the camera since. I have turned my house upside down, looking for the freakin' camera, and it is not to be found. I've looked on every surface that it could merely be "upon." I've looked in drawers, and in cushions of every chair, and in Brian's room and in bathrooms. I have gone absolutely, batshit CRAZY, looking for the camera. I swear to God, it's made me so crazy that I even know this, for a fact: It's not in the freezer.

I've gone so crazy looking for the thing that I'm ready to purchase another camera. This will, we all know, ensure a miraculous reappearance of my beloved pocket Sony.

Anybody out there have any love to share? Have you ever gotten busy and distracted and absent-minded, and lost something for ages?

And more importantly....where did it turn up? I've got nothing to lose; if you have any idea where my camera is, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Knock on Wood: Do You Dare?

I listened, a few Sundays ago, to an NPR interview with the head of the Associated Press' obituary department, discussing the untimely death of Heath Ledger. Taken completely off-guard, media across the world were unprepared, and scrambling to summarize the events of his life.

They went on to discuss the fact that many obituaries of famous people are already written. Most are elderly. Dick Van Dyke, and Andy Griffith, for instance. They are both over 80 years old. When The Good Lord decides that it's their time, obituary editors 'round the world will have nothing more to do than fill in the time of death and print that suckah.

What intrigued me most, in the interview, were the obituaries of young celebrities that are obviously on a dangerous downward spiral. Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse were at the top of that list. To be young and so personally out of control that your obituary is already written, because it seems as likely that you'll die as it will that you will live...well, Hello, McFly! Personally, I imagine I'd make a gesture or three, if I were on the AP's "watched" list. Join that stress-reducing yoga class, or decrease my speed in the rain, or maybe bow out of that last martini.

In the meantime, I've decided to ease the workload of the AP Obituary Department, and WRITE MY OWN obit. They can just pull up my blog, cut and paste, and voila! Their work will be done. And accurate. Lord knows I don't want any factual errors following me to my grave!

I invite, you, if you dare, to join me, and writing your own obit. Leave it, or a link to it, in the comments.

I'll go first.

Knock, knock, knock
[Month, Day, 2075]

GNightGirl died yesterday, in her sleep, at the age of 112, after celebrating her first solo skydive with three dirty martini's. She was best known for fixing spaghetti for thousands of soldiers that just dropped in to see her after the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was a painter, a photographer, and an author, beginning her career as an artist after the age of 50. Her only regret in life was yelling a little too loudly at her then-5-year-old son when he cut little diamond-shaped holes into her new bath towels.

She died penniless, spending every last cent on shipping 40 million-billion beanie babies around the world. She did, however, leave behind a $200,000 life insurance policy, meant to fund a street party in downtown Champaign, in lieu of a funeral.

The party will be on Saturday night, featuring Candy Foster and Shades of Blue (yes! they're still alive!). Beer tents, will be located at either end of the blocked off street. Cost of attendance: 1 flower. Rose, carnation, daisy, or dandelion—set one in a windowsill, or on the sidewalk, then dance.

Your turn. Double Dog Dare Ya.

P.S. Click here: "Tombstone Generator" to get yours.

(I really hope I don't wake up dead.)

Dared to Play:



Most Important Meal of The Day...

No time for a lengthy blog, but vote day is over and I want to move on.

Do you eat breakfast?

What'd you have for breakfast today? What's your average breakfast consist of? When do you normally eat breakfast? Before you leave work, or as a midmorning snack?

Me, today: 1 piece german dark toast with smoked salmon.

We will hopefully resume more exciting blog fare soon. In the meantime, Tell Me!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Pinch Me

Part I: Precursor

I haven't had time to tell you about a cousin that I haven't seen since I was 13 years old: Richard. He joined the army when he was 17 years old, in 1976. In 1978, while stationed in Germany, he met and married his wife Ann, and stayed in Germany after retiring from Army life. He has continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves for the last 17 years.

Richard has been called up. New Year's Eve was his "going away party" in Germany, afterwards leaving his wife and 2 kids, to report to Fort Benning, Georgia for further training. Fort Benning: where Brian would be, if he weren't in Iraq.

Part II: Noah's Birthday

Today was the day! NOAH'S BIRTHDAY!

Noah, the young man that turned 9, and asked for soccer balls for the troops, instead of birthday presents. Who is this kid, and who are his parents? I have marveled while I waited to find out.

You know from a previous post, that, since I wasn't to bring a gift, that I still wanted to do something for him, and so worked on arranging a phone call from a certain soldier that I know that is my son.

In the interim, I decided, wouldn't it be cool to drag a real, live soldier to this party?! I didn't really know where to turn, or who to ask, so tossed up my hands on that one. Drat.

Part III: A Very Interesting E-Mail Rolls In

E-Mail, Friday, from Michael, Richard's Brother [paraphrasing]: Hey! Richard will be in town tonight! Any chance we can get together this weekend?!

Me: Hmmm. Will Richard be in uniform?

Part IV: The Party

Noah's Birthday party had an "OOooey Goooey" theme; a package deal offered by the Park District, at the Phillips Recreational Center. It was gooey! The boys painted with spaghetti, and shaving cream. White t-shirts mysteriously turned to green in an hour's time.

And I watched and laughed, and waited with anticipation, when at 2:45, a phone call, with the prefix 1-999- came through.

Brian! He did it! He got through! Noah's mother "stopped the presses" and I surprised him, "You have a phone call from Iraq."

(The Birthday Boy, with his once-white t-shirt)

It was pin-drop time. His friends stood silently, with his parents smiling in the background, and we listened to his shy, short answers to Brian's telling him Happy Birthday, and asking him what he was doing ("making slime").

Did I say I wouldn't get squooshy?!! I lied. I teared up and shook as I took photos of Noah and Brian talking. We really pulled this off! Oh, for a hug and a spin with my kid! He did it!

After Noah's mother, Joy, talked to Brian, the phone was handed back to me, where I stepped into the hallway and thanked him. My boy, he is back on the 20-hour shifts. The telephones are 1/2-mile away from his tent. He set an alarm to make this call, today. He continues to make me proud, from the other side of the world.

And at 3:00 in the afternoon, my cousins Michael and Richard informed me they were at the door. And Richard, who I've not seen in 32 years, waltzed in, in uniform, sat down at the kiddie table, and asked "what's your name?"

He then stood up and told those kids his story. He laughed with them. "I'm not rich! I'm Richard!"

My head is spinning. It is 8 minutes since I greeted and hugged them in the parking lot, and a crazy "Hey, great to see you! We hardly know you anymore, but you're a celebrity today, you know, a big giant hero; hope you don't mind saying a few words to people that neither you or I have ever met before. Wow, thanks for coming. Batter's up!"

Next, Clint & Co. rolled up in a firetruck, having been out on errands, and got to say "HI!" and shake some hands, before heading back to the station. Snow piled high and limited parking kept him from inviting boys to a little "Firetruck Monkey Bars," but his quick presence was a nice bonus for all of us.

It was my turn next. Still queasy at "public speaking," I chose to sit and speak to these boys. I thanked Noah, and told them of all of the changes they had made with their contribution. Noah told me, honestly "I just want to hang out and have fun with my friends!"

I'm not even sure if I can get this across: This is not put-upon, this kid. He is so unconcerned with birthday gifts that he can hardly wrap his head around any reason that I'd thank him.

After chatting with the boys, I gave them each a packet with 4 photos that Brian took, and an "Army" bandana that I picked up at Champaign Surplus. I'm surprised now that I just expected them to schlep home with their bandanas, when what they really wanted:

Duh. To wear them.

We had every boy wrapped in a bandana, and on their way to the next Oooooey Gooooey craft, when we took our leave.

Here's the gift table, full of soccer balls:

Here's a token shot of me and the cousins: Michael, Me, Richard:

And at the end of this day, I sit, torn between speechlessness and gushing-gushing-gushing.

Noah. His parents. His friends. Brian. Michael. Richard. Clint. And my friend Diane, in the wings, cheering me on and convincing me to do "something special" with the packets I gave the boys:

Every single person I encountered on this day went quietly about making monumental gestures for people that they don't know.

If I am dreaming, please don't wake me up.

For more photos of the day, click here.