Monday, April 28, 2008

Video of Fort Bragg

I saw this video on Paradise Driver--Wil's blog. Interesting, my friend Wil usually throws in his two cents, but on this one, he realized that the video said enough.

One Story is Here, on

The video is created by a soldier's father, Edward Frawley, who took photos of the living conditions his son came home to after 15 months in Afghanistan. The barracks in Fort Bragg are nothing short of deplorable. I yelped more than once when I watched it.

If you don't have time to catch the 10-minute video, make note of just this image, taken by Frawley's own son, one week after he arrived home from Afghanistan:

I did a little bit more research before I decided to pass this on. I looked up Ed Frawley himself. A dog trainer in Wisconsin, he seems to be a controversial fellow, both adored and reviled in different circles. OK. If you're one to speak up, you're bound to create a few enemies. Frawley speaks loud and clear on this video, much, I'm sure, to the chagrin of a few Fort Bragg uppity- ups.

I then chatted, this morning, with Sean, a soldier and blogger that is currently stationed in Afghanistan. Of his own stay in Fort Bragg, he told me:
When I lived there for about 2 months I had about an inch of water on the floor of my room, a water pipe had burst and they were moving us to new barracks but they weren't ready yet oddly enough, they still wanted to do room inspections and expected me to be spic'n'span.
In defense of Fort Bragg, he also told me
There's been a lot of money dumped into Fort Bragg over the years though.
There are still some bad living situations, but they're constantly building new barracks and are trying to make the situation better. I hate to say it, but there's a decline in standards in the military reflective of society as a whole, and guys don't take care of stuff like they should.
The bottom line here is that none of us would willingly leave our kids or loved ones in these living conditions. Can you imagine dropping your new high-school graduate off at a sewage-soaked dormitory? Or moving you college grad to a new job in a new city, and leaving him in an apartment filled with 2 inches of water? We wouldn't let our kids or spouses stay in a place like this for a weekend, let alone set up their homes there!

Frawley states simply, at the end of the video "They gave you 15 months of their life; you can give 15 minutes of your time."

Ed Frawley is One Soldier's Father.

He made one video.

We can write one letter.

Find your State Representative here

Find your Senator here

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Artists Against Aids: The Party

Ok, here are a few highlights from the party aspect of the evening. We've gathered together for years, always looking forward to seeing the same beloved friends, meeting new ones (and *ahem* missing a few that may have moved North Carolina...) Here we all are, then:

Melissa, Diane, and Moi

Zia, Kaye, and Kristy
(The 6 women in the 2 pictures above constitute our Girls Dinner Night group)

Some spotted legs I spotted. I love good tights!

Melissa and Clint, Pinkies Up with the white wine. Clint's more of a Miller Lite guy, actually. In fact, we think this was the first glass of wine he ever had. I am going to catch holy hell from his work buds, who like to tease me that I've had so much influence on him that they don't know him anymore. He, or I, will never live down this photo. Even Melissa kept commenting to him, "it's just not working; it just seems wrong."

This is me, with my first glass of white wine. And Clint's. And Diane's.

Mel knows how to load up a party plate!

Clint, Me, Diane

Can there be an AAA without Atef Ayadi? I don't think so.

SNAKE! Ok, I did have enough liquid courage to ask a girl, at the end of the night, if I could try on her snake. I didn't really think that request through too thoroughly, and this really was my initial reaction. Gah! I managed to pose for one more shot before I had to get that thing off of me.

Di loved the exit sign over this door, so we tagged it on our way out.

For more photos of the evening, Check out The Artists Against Aids Gallery on my Smugmug account.

Artists Against Aids: The Purchases

Is this my new blogging format? Series-es? Well, probably not. I just want to highlight our purchases separately, so they don't get lost in the party blog. After 3 hours of free wine, plates of brie, socializing, and free wine, here's what we brought home last night.

Clint bought me this necklace and earrings. I didn't initially know who the artist was that made this, but I went back on Sunday afternoon to find out. As luck would have it, she was volunteering at the event, and I got to meet her. Peg Purkhosrow is the artist, and although we'd not been introduced before, definitely recognized one another from frequenting the same downtown coffee shop (Yay, Kopi!).

I got to learn a little more about her as we talked; she received her MFA in Metalsmithing at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and is working more with metals now. There's a website in the works; I'll keep checking in, and when it's up, link back to her.

It's a unique necklace, I love it! It's kind of a choker, with some windy-around things that hang down...well, here's what it looks like on:

Cute, ain't he? Oh, and the necklace is nice, too.


This 4" x 6" painting grabbed me the second it was in my sight. Hellbent on not making impromptu purchases, I walked away from it. There's so much to see and love at the show, that I fall in love with several pieces at first sight. I like to walk through and then go back to the pieces that moved me. If I don't remember them...well, then they didn't move me that much, did they?

The Race, by Alyce Cheska

But this one...I got 10 feet away, and I went back. I picked it up and carried it around, and set it back down; I still had half the show to look at. I took it up front to verify the price, and put it back again. Then I shopped with anxiety, worrying that someone else would buy MY painting.

Neurotic, huh? Most easily solved by buying it, which is just what I did.

My painting was painted by Alyce Cheska. When I paid for it, the staff informed me that Alyce is 86 years old, and that she was at the event earlier in the evening. Ohh, I missed her, I missed meeting my artist! I LOVE knowing the creators of the few arts I hang in my house!

I've since e-mailed her, and hope to find out a bit more about the artwork she does. She's already an inspiration to me, on several counts. Cross your fingers with me, and hope she responds!

One more day for you to get out there and find a piece of art that grabs YOU.

Artists Against Aids

Just a quick reminder that Artists Against Aids is this weekend, folks. We met up with friends for opening night last night, and, once again, the evening, and the artwork was spectacular. I'll blog all of the photos of friends, food, and of course, our purchases later.

It'll be up and running at the Orpheum Children's Theater all weekend. I'll probably head back out later tonight to get a better view the artwork; days 2 & 3 are usually a bit quieter than the opening gala.

Hope to see you there, supporting a fantastic cause!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Teri Pittman Benefit: The Balloon Release

I've decided to blog each photo and an accompanying blurb about the benefit in a series of separate entries. They're all here now, in this entry and 4 or 5 following.

After Teri and family arrived in a stretch limo, compliments of Larry's Limousine Service in St. Joseph, Illinois, her second surprise of the day was presented. 20 balloons with prayers tied to them, written by her friends and family. Everyone was handed one, and on the count of 3, they were released to the skies. There's a movie on the website.

If you're not familiar with Tolono, you can see from this photo that the event was held in a small town. Radmakers is just over the track next to the stoplight. Yes, THE stoplight in Tolono. I think that it makes the success of the event an even more spectacular story. We had big-city turnout in this very small town, last Sunday afternoon.

Teri Pittman Benefit: The Food

Martin Fuentes & Family, owners of The El Toro and El Torero restaurants in and around town supplied all of the food for the event. After dining in his restaurants for 10 years or more, we've established a friendship with the Fuentes family...and there are a LOT of those Fuentes's! Our family eats there every Sunday afternoon.

Teri's friend Angie thought to approach Martin first: Could he, perhaps, give us chips and salsa at a discounted rate, for the event?

Chips and salsa?! No way!

No way just chips and salsa! Martin had his staff up bright and early on Sunday, and he supplied a Mexican fiesta to beat the band. Chip, salsa, taco shells, beef, chicken, beans, rice, lettuce, and cheese for 400 people was ready for us by 12:00 sharp.

And discount? Discount, yes. 100% discount. The food was totally free.

Mucho cheeps!

We didn't run out of food, but we had strict orders to keep his kitchen informed: say the word, and the next round for 200 more would be on its way.

Teri Pittman Benefit: The Silent Auction

I volunteered to run the Silent Auction. "I can typeset," I told the committee, "the forms for the auction."

Typesetting I know. Easy Peasey. Silent Auctions: Never met one before in my life.

Since the event was on Sunday, I sat down Saturday night around 8:00 to do a little online research. (I do my best work under pressure.)I learned valuable things like "Cross reference your auction item to the bid sheet." I never would have thought of that, but it did make sure people went home with the right baskets. Thank God for the Internet.

I'm so excited to tell you that Pauline Trent's "Character in a Novel" was the highest earning item in the auction! Her character earned more than the motorcycle jacket and the helmet. Second runner up at the auction was a quilt made by friend and local military Mom, Kathy Wallig. My blog buddies and readers came through! Whoo hoo!

Joe Hubert coughs it up. He did, actually, buy the helmet and the jacket, and a bike helmet also.

Joe Hubert does not even own a motorcycle. He did tell his young son that he intends to wear the bike helmet when he takes walks around town. Joe Hubert apparently loves to torture his kids by embarrassing the hell out of them. He's good people.

We brought in over $1500 with silent auction items on Sunday afternoon; each was donated, and cost us nothing.

Thanks to everyone that participated!

Teri Pittman Benefit: Auctions & Raffles

In addition to the silent auction, there were several items auctioned off on stage last Sunday afternoon, in a more traditional style.

Illini Football player Jerry Brown showed up to Radmakers and presented a Rose Bowl football signed by the Illini players for the cause. It ended up being the highest selling auction item, being announced SOLD at $260.00.

There were dozens of other items raffled off also. Tickets for the raffle items were sold at the door, $1 each or 6 for $5. There were enough items donated to run raffles every hour. My own Mama won a birdfeeder and bird seed, something right up her alley.

Teri Pittman Benefit: The Warrior

Mica Witt, not pictured here, was the primary force behind Teri's benefit; it was her baby from the get-go, and she worked her backside off, putting this thing together in 5 week's time. Once she got the ball rolling, there were plenty of others that joined forces with her to help out.

Halfway during the benefit, Mica took the stage, and announced that she herself had been diagnosed with Leukemia 6 months before Teri was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her daughter Ashley, a poet working on her first book, wrote a poem for her then, and she and Ashley dedicated the poem to Teri on Saturday afternoon. Ashely took the stage, and as far as I know there wasn't a dry eye in the place when she read this poem to Teri:

Some people fight for the moment
Warriors fight for a lifetime
To rage against the temptress
To know no defeat
To have the strength to fight
When it feels that all hope is gone
with the guardian there to help you
When you might fall
Never succumb to the beast
to fight for your life
with the love of an angel to guide you
riding the chariot into battle
concurring over the temptress
coming out a champion
cause only some people fight for the moment
You, the warrior fight for a lifetime.

Teri Pittman Benefit: X-Krush

The entertainment for the day was not to be overlooked: X-Krush played for 2 hours last Sunday afternoon, and they were fantastic. Lots of golden oldies, and several songs for the kiddies too; it took me 4 days to get the "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street" song out of my head. Their presence there was a definite asset to the party atmosphere last week.

Teri Pittman Benefit: The Last Dance

This is Mica, mentioned in the previous post, and her husband Steve, dancing to the last song of the day, played and dedicated to them, and to Teri and Tim. Teri was wheelchair-bound for the day, so she and Tim sat in the back and held hands. Table dancing, I believe it's called.

The song: Through the Years, by Kenny Rogers. Very apropo.

Through the Years

I can't remember when you weren't there
When I didn't care for anyone but you
I swear we've been through everything there is
Cant imagine anything we've missed
Cant imagine anything the two of us can't do

Through the year, you've never let me down
You turned my life around, the sweetest days I've found
I've found with you ... through the years
I've never been afraid, I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I've stayed, right here with you
Through the years

I can't remember what I used to do
Who I trusted whom, I listened to before
I swear you've taught me everything I know
Can't imagine needing someone so
But through the years it seems to me
I need you more and more

Through the years, through all the good and bad
I knew how much we had, I've always been so glad
To be with you ... through the years
It's better everyday, you've kissed my tears away
As long as its okay, I'll stay with you
Through the years

Through the years, when everything went wrong
Together we were strong, I know that I belonged
Right here with you ... through the years
I never had a doubt, wed always work things out
I've learned what loves about, by loving you
Through the years

Through the years, you've never let me down
You've turned my life around, the sweetest days I've found
I've found with you ... through the years
It's better everyday, you've kissed my tears away
As long as its okay, I'll stay with you
Through the years!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Teri Pittman Benefit: It's a Wrap

The benefit for my sister was yesterday. There is so much to tell, that I'm going to have to tell it over a couple of different posts. Because I have to tell it right.

If I were freewriting about the day, I'd throw in words like friends, family, laughter, bands, support, Illini football, bands, dedication, hugs, bittersweet, generosity, Dinosores, dancing, food, giving, auctions, poems, songs, balloons, prayers, tickets, raffles, limousines, kindness, love. Oh, the love.

The photo above is Teri and family arriving in Surprise #1 of the day: A limo in Teri's driveway.

While I process photos, get my facts straight, and buck up to tell you the rest of the story, I'll leave you with this:

The Benefit was an overwhelming success: "The Forces Behind" were hoping to raise a mere 1/5 of what rolled in on Sunday afternoon.

There's something to said about having roots in a community. Our friends, family, coworkers, contacts, friends of friends, and everyone else that we can count on saying "hello" to when we step outside of our house...

...they delivered, on Sunday afternoon. 600 0r more stopped in on Sunday. No matter a buck or a hug, every single soul made an impression on our hearts.

I'll post photos and more commentary over the next few days.

In the meantime, big big hugs, comin' at ya.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Six Word Memoir

I've been tagged by Steakbellie. The assignment: Write Your Own 6-word Memoir

The rules:

1) Write your own six word memoir
2) Post it on your blog; include a visual illustration if you’d like
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links
5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

My Six Word Memoir

Always So Happy
To See You

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fundraiser Tidbits

I just want to remind you all that the fundraiser for my sister is Sunday afternoon, from 1 to 5.

Teri Pittman Benefit

I have to let others take a bow on this one; Teri's friends have gone above and beyond, while we deal with other issues and responsibilities at home. Teri's not feeling so hot. Mom is a little more stressed, and thus more anxious and confused; daily visits and phone calls, and a bit of extra time maintaining order in her home has been necessary.

I've shown up to a few planning meetings, but I have to admit: As much as everyone does for Teri right now, I've let them "carry me" on this one too. Looking for auction items and raffle prizes--honestly--I can't fathom when I'd have had time to do that, over the last few weeks. I feel a little schmucky for that, but I'm letting go of that too; there are rare times in life when one just has to say, "Yes. Thank you. I'll take your help."

So, now there's a list a mile long of prizes and auction items. Motorcycle jackets and pies, gym memberships and hair care baskets will all be up for grabs.

There is a cool item on the Silent Auction Block that I'd like to bring to your attention: Friend, fellow blogger, and author Pauline Trent has offered up a character in her next book! Details:



YOU can be a character in Pauline Trent's upcoming novel, Heart of Lambert Falls!

The second in the series, YOUR name, career, and physical description will be worked into her second novel. "You" will appear in at least 2 scenes, and interact with at least one of the five main characters in the book.

YOU will be mentioned in the book's acknowledgements

YOU will receive a personally inscribed and autographed copy of the novel upon publication

Legal MumboJumbo:

The character you buy will, of course, be fictional, and not you, really. The character will based on you in regards to name and likeness only. Still, the author promises to make you a pretty likeable guy or gal.

If you win this auction, you may reappear in subsequent novels in the Lambert Falls series, without any subsequent compensation.

You will be asked to sign a statement saying that the above 2 requirements are all-righty with you. Buy it, sign it, and be famous!


How fun is that?!!

If you're interested in appearing in a novel, come on out Sunday and place your bid! Martin Fuentes, owner of the El Toro and El Torero restaurants is supplying all of the food, so tacos, beans, and rice will fill you up while you buy your raffle tickets, dance a dance or two, and cough it up for a good cause!

If you can't make it (or cough it), be sure to stop by the message center and send a "hey" to Teri; she's feeling a little garbage-y as of today, and all of your well-wishes lift her spirits like crazies!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Well, there's another picture of my kid. It's there because this post will have some tidbits about his coming home, and because he's just so darned cute, isn't he? Man, I would have made such a great Mommy Blogger. 20 years too late. I suppose tales of every adorable thing he said when he was little would be kind of icky at this point, and he'd probably kill me. Fine. I won't get into it. Except his first word was not "Mommy," but "Grover."

I wonder which word he'll be thinking when he reads that.

Anyway, as you know, I'm still new to this Military Mom thing. The boy is coming home soon, and I just thought I'd fill you non-military families in on a few things, so you can learn along with me.

You, as a military parent, are NOT informed of arrival dates, until the very very last minute. I'm assuming it's the same for military spouses.

See, Brian has an idea when he'll be flying back to the U.S., and where he'll be flying to, and where he will officially touch U.S. soil again. I'd kind of like to be hanging around there, waving a hankie in one hand and a little flag in the other, when he steps off that plane.

He's indicated to me that that's possible. Yes. I can be there.

When?! Aren't you dying to know when?!

He told me yesterday, "well, we're not really allowed give out that information."


The Army will be calling me to let me know, he said.


First off, I'm glad to know ahead of time that I'll be receiving a phone call from the Army. I'd probably otherwise faint dead away when an unknown person on the other end announces "I'm calling from the Army about your son..." What, do these people want to give me a heart attack?

Of course, it comes down to security; you don't want to let the entire world know when and where an entire company full of soldiers might be in the air, and where they'll land, and re-board the next plane. And you never know when one of them might have a mouthy blogger for a Mom.

The dilemma then: I need to go far far away from my house on an unknown date to welcome my son home. I don't know if I get 1 week notice or 24 hours notice. I sure as heck won't be able to save any dough on booking a plane ticket in advance, so driving will be my only option, if the Army gives me enough notice.

Another thing that you may or may not know is that when your kid gets deployed, you are assigned a counselor. She gives a call, gives you her number and a crash course on being a Military Mom. Addresses, coaching on when and what you can mail, how often you can mail etc., until you start to receive communication from your loved one. You can also call her with any questions.

I've never called her. But you can bet I kept her phone number, and I will call, to see if she can give me a heads up.

I'll keep you posted on that conversation. In the meantime, any Army Parents/Spouses out there that can shed some light on what I should expect, I'd be happy to hear from you. I've already taken a few days off of work for this.

Whatever days those are.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

A busy weekend planned, helping friends build a deck...unless we get rained or snowed out. This date's been secured for weeks--weeks!--and it stands to be the last day of the season in which we might actually get snow! Anyway, while I'm documenting the day for a future blog, here's an amusing video that I just happened upon.

This duo billed themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo."

Flight of the Conchords, they call themselves. Hilaaaaaarious, I thought. Who are they? I did a little research...and found out they're pretty darned famous, have their own series on HBO, and are Grammy Award winners.

Where have I been? Seriously, I am so out of the loop.

I have to start watching more TV.

Anyway, I laughed outloud several times during this skit, so there might be something here that makes you smile.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Find a penny...leave it there

I touched on, in the last entry that I will no longer honor silly superstitions about my son's coming home from Iraq.

I, perhaps, kind of wasn't maybe telling the entire truth in its entirety.

There is one miniscule thing that I cannot do, until Brian comes home. Something terrible will happen, if I do it. It will be done, eventually, but I have to leave it, for now.

Here. Here it is:

Right there, in the middle. See it?

This penny. I hugged my kid goodbye last August, and he drove off. And this. This penny, I spotted in the driveway. I went to tidy up the "estate" and pick up the penny.

I couldn't.

I still cannot.

That it's not rational bothers me not. I park my car on it. I peek under when I unload my groceries. Check to make sure it's still there, when I head off for a walk.

It was temporarily transferred this winter, when snow was shoveled out of the driveway. When the snow melted, I spotted it off to the side in the yard, and gave it a kick with my toe: Back to the driveway, where it belonged.

I've kept my eye on that penny for eight months. I've counted down Brian's time in Iraq with that penny, Brian's penny. 5 months, before he gets home to pick that thing up. 4 months, 3 months...

When he gets home, Brian will pick it up himself, and I will put that penny in a box along with his coins and badges and the rest of his military memorabilia.

I've questioned a few other military moms and spouses.
  • Becky, a reader from California, commented yesterday that she also has not been announcing her son's return to the states to friends, until the time grows nearer.
  • "Another Military Mom" will not touch her son's room until he comes back from Iraq.
  • One here, ritually signs every single letter with LYAMYGAG. It stands for "Love You And Miss You Gobs and Gobs."
  • Jessica and Cliff, pictured left, hang a new cross around one another's neck each time he's deployed. They will not be removed until he's home, and each will remove the other's. (He is currently deployed, and will return home in July, for the necklace exchange.)

It's not just military families. I once read an article about a woman that had to be scrubbing and cleaning, or at least doing something generally unpleasant, when any one of her kids was flying. That makes sense to me: She didn't want to take any chances that she'd be having a whole bunch of fun while her son or daughter's plane crashed.

How about you? Outside of prayer, do you have, or have you ever had a perhaps irrational, concrete ritual that comforts you, and in your mind, ensures the safety of a loved one?

Tell me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wait with Me...

See that? See those trunks? Those black trunks right there? They were delivered to me at my workplace this morning. Yoram called me up front, and we were both kind of stupid and giggly at the sight of them.

They have, you know, my son's handwriting on them...

These trunks hold all of Brian's worldly belongings. The luxury items that he took to Iraq with him, and those he acquired when he was there: His laptop. Books. Magazines. CDs.

They are here now...

...because he is coming home!

::dance, dance:: That's right, Brian and company will be back in the U.S. in one month. His first tour is almost over. I can't wipe a stupid smile off of my face when I write that.

I've known these dates for some time now, but am just now beginning to mention them. Along with crazy glee, the fast-approaching date also, for some reason, fills me with apprehension. There's a weird "don't jinx it!" mindset at play here that both makes my heart race and embarrasses me at the same time. If I tell you, too soon...well...there's still a month left.

Here, after all, are photos that Brian sent me 2 weeks ago. This was the truck behind his, on a recent mission:

It took about a millisecond for this mother's mind to process: If that truck was behind you, then you yourself must have just rolled right over that bomb, or missed it by a...

No one was hurt.

And my boys are coming home. Brian, and his gunner, Stephen Moore, will be stateside in May, and in my home in June. Look at 'em. My little boys; aren't they just precious?

I like to believe those guns are made out of Legos.

I've decided to stop fretting, and get over superstition and jinxing, and to let you join me: Wait with me, won't you? Make your paper chains, shave your legs, start dusting and stocking the refrigerator.

Brian writes, on his Myspace page, that he is
"ready to get back to the states, drink rum, laugh, and dance myself back to normality with friends and family."
Get out your dance card, kids; when he gets here, you're all invited over.

I'll provide the music and a beverage.

And of course...

...the spaghetti.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Blogger Down: Batlight

I've put out the Blogger Batlight twice, before, I think.

One of my favorite reads, Real Live Lesbian, from Nashville, is experiencing tragedy and heartache right now; a friend lost in an airplane accident.

If you've experienced tragedy, you'll know what a kind word will mean. Give her some love, if you've got it.

If you've never experienced tragedy, Give her some love still; you'll understand when you're on deck.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Husband of The Year

Clint and Co., were dispatched to a medical call recently: An older* woman had ***KLUNK!*** fallen right off of her barstool, and hurt her back and neck. [I use the term "older" loosely; she was not that much older than I; I mean only to clarify that this is not a sorority girl story, of which there are plenty in this town.]

When asked if she'd been drinking, she admitted: Yes. Beer. Number of beers, approximately? "12 or 20" was her answer. Poor little lamb; we all know it's hard to keep track after #3.

A collar was placed on the woman's neck, and a backboard slid under her, when Clint was stopped by another woman in the bar:

"Can you guys call her husband when you get to the hospital?" she asked him, "to let him know how she's doing?"

"Where," Clint asked, "is her husband?"

The woman told him, "He's right there, at the end of the bar."


And I just don't know what else to say about that, that wouldn't be stating the obvious. I'll let you take it from here. Comments, anyone?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Something for Everyone

For the Boyzes (although I loved this one my ownself)

A Drag Race You're Gonna Love

For the Ladiezes (no more Snee-Pee'in!)

Do The Kegel!

You're so very welcome.