Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Awwwww, my baby went trick-or-treating tonight on an Army base, far, far away.

That's him, on the right.

I think.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That's a Wrap!

The taping of the Lincoln readings was yesterday morning. It was a great experience. Everyone in the studio was relaxed, and I walked in with advice from friends in the biz.

I also had my trusty technical assistant, Clint, with me. We'd worked out a few signals beforehand: "Posture! Stand up straight! Smile! Fix your collar!" If I had issues, he's be ready for them! With his help, I'd get through this. I'd be poised. Nixon should have had such a plan, yes? We were brilliant!

And then the lights went on:

That's what I could see, from where I'm sitting in that picture above. So much for signals, I was on my own in the sitting-up-straight department.

I didn't do too bad. I asked for a glass of water, and I read as instructed. My speech was shortened, and I could read a comfortable rate.

There was, however, one snafu. This line:

I finished on reading, and everyone said "That was great. Except you said `wars' instead of `fairs.' "

Seriously? Ok. I'll read it over.

Wait. I screwed that one up, I'll start again now.

There! I did it! Flawless!

'Yes. But you said `wars' again."


I read it again, and got through "fairs" with flying colors. Yes! Celebrating my victory, I screwed up a word in the next sentence.

Ok. I'm getting it right this time. Read, read, perfect. No tripping up on any words.

"You said 'wars' again."

You have got to be kidding me. The producer told me not to worry: if we can't get this, he'll dub in the right word.

If I can't do this? I CAN do this.

At this point, I didn't feel nervous mentally, but I was definitely showing physical signs of it. Dry mouth. It's ok. I had asked for water, like Fightin Mad Mary told me. My hands began shaking. It's ok. I pressed my palms together like Boston Pobble taught me.

And I did it. I zoned in on the teleprompter, and focused on pronouncing every word. I "punched it up" in the proper places like I was asked to, and I said "fairs" like I was supposed to, and I got through that reading. YEAH!

I did the 1 minute version, the 30-second version, then read the Gettysburg address straight through, and I was done. Dismissed!

Clint escorted me out, and I was surprised to realize how dazed I felt. My head hurt. My shoulders hurt. I really wanted to sleep. He opened the car door, and for a split second, I felt on the verge of fainting.

I feel silly to be so melodramatic, and to admit how stressful one half-hour was for me.

At the same time, I'm proud. I don't know how it will turn out, or if it will be better or worse when it's side by side with the other readers. I'm proud that I practiced, and proud that I finally got it right.

Most of all, I'm proud that I agreed to do something that rattles me.

It's empowering to do something hard, something that you really think you cannot.

I wonder what else, now, I think I cannot do.

I think I'll go do it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Harvest & House Update

I am frequently asked how the remodeling is coming along. The short answers is "slow but sure."

What I haven't gotten around to tell you yet is that Clint helps farmers harvest in the autumn. Those of you that live in the midwest know what that entails. Those of you that don't live in corn & bean country: You're scrambling to beat winter, and you work until 8. 9. 10 p.m.

I've always loved harvest season, watching daily progressions of shifting horizons. Living in the midwest all of my life, I thought I had a general idea of how this corn and beans stuff goes. After riding along with Clint now and again, I'm amazed to learn so much, after thinking I knew so much.

Here a few pictures I took last year, intending to write about.

The elevators are full. The corn sits on the ground.

If you're from around here, you don't blink an eye at sky-high piles of corn. Still I wonder how amazing it must seem if you're not. If I were to come across, say, a pile of bananas that tall, I'd certainly find it blogworthy, while others might simply shrug: eh. So. Here's to you, my Malaysian buddies (and yes. I DO have Malaysian buddies. [Hi, Edina!])

Unloading the truck. All of the corn falls into that grate below, and is whisked off (Somehow. I forgot what I learned about this=.) to the elevators. There's 2 lanes for beans, and 2 for corn.

This is Anderson's elevator, from afar. You see the elevators, yes? Note the golden pile of corn that couldn't fit into them. That's the same one in the first picture, above.

This one was taken this year. There's Clint, at a much smaller elevator in Thomasboro, IL. Same procedure, on a different scale. Each of these elevators pays a different price for a bushel of corn or beans. Hey, I'm just a ride-along; we go where the farmer tells us to go.

A girl gets bored: Me, hanging out of a truck, AND closer that I might appear.

So, generally, our schedule goes like this: I get off work at 4:00, and take a sandwich to Clint, who has been in the field for hours, with no real food. I take one spin to a given elevator with him, then return, kiss him goodbye, and take off.

[Ladies: If you're interested in taking a semi-truck driving tour through cornfields and elevators, I can set you up. This is not a luxury ride, is all I'm saying. Wear a Sport Bra, is all I'm saying. Bind thyself. That is all I'm saying.]

Did you think this was a house update? It IS!

Jack, you just try harvesting and remodeling at the same time! We ARE! Holy Mother of God, you know all that other stuff I've been writing about? That is the IN-BETWEEN stuff of our lives. After the harvesting section of the day, we often meet back at The Country Casa, and put in a few more hours there.

We're almost done with the exterior.

And I can't reiterate enough, when I say "we," I mean "Clint." The day will come when painting and decorating is in order, and "we" will mean "me." But for now, "we" means "Clint."

Clint is almost done with the exterior. The garage is built, and there are entire walls with siding!

Look! 2 doors...that you can't see!

And a few weekends ago, Clint's buddies cornered me, and informed me that 9 of his friends were surprising him on Saturday, to finish the exterior. Cahoots! I'm officially in cahoots! Game on!

Clint showed up at the house, Saturday morning, thinking to meet the plumber, and ended up tail over teakettle, directing a construction crew:

Two here...

But 10 in attendance, shown here bellying up to Italian beef lunch, provided by Yours Truly.

While several worked on siding, the front porch was torn off:

At the end of the day, most of the siding was done. The front porch still needed to be stripped of 2 layers of siding, the first added on 100 years ago. As workmen left, Clint and I committed ourselves to The Front Porch. I actually did get to dive in with a crowbar, on this project.

See that door, next to the ladder? It was formerly a wall. Inside and out. The former remodelers just boarded right over it!

Only, when we UNboarded the EXterior, the INterior fell right through:

10:30 PM. Saturday night. Clint has to be AT WORK at 7 a. m. next morning, and THERE IS A HOLE IN OUR FREAKIN LIVING ROOM WALL.

And WE (remember, WE = CLINT) can not go home until it is fixed.

So, while "WE" fixed the wall, I set about self-presevation. I found a large, flannel, wo0l-lined coat...

There's me...second from the right. Only, with a stocking cap on. Yes. I AM one of the Darryls, and I couldn't care less. I can see my breath in the living room. Shut it.

I proceeded to do nothing, while "WE" fixed the wall up, and TYPAR'D the front of the house, and proceeded to head home to collapse into bed.

"WE" got up, then, at 5:45, to begin our 24-hour shift at our "real job," while I (ok, we're back to "ME" now) slept like the dead until 10:00+.

So that's the update. It's the craziest time of my life, ever. Everything you've read here goes on, while construction and harvesting is as big as, or larger than, all of that.

I haven't even scratched the surface.

That is the update: I have yet begun to tell you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Roll 'em! You Have 1 Minute!

A month or so ago, I was asked by our local public TV and radio station, WILL, if I would read an excerpt of Abraham Lincoln's writing, for the bicentennial celebration of his birth.

I was touched to be considered. Actually, you can't believe how touched I was;, it was as if Abe himself had personally extended the invitation. I am reading, on Thursday morning, a piece he wrote about women that helped the troops during the Civil War.

I agreed to do it immediately. You know, because you know how comfortable I am in front of a camera. How articulate. How cool.

How nauseous.

I've had time, this time, to take Fightin Mad Mary's advice into consideration. I have practiced and practiced reading my piece, working on proper fluctuation, and pauses and pronunciation.

Thursday, I will be reading from a teleprompter, something I've only seen on TV shows. I don't have a teleprompter, so I developed, here, what I call my "Poor Man's teleprompter":

I have been given a 30-second reading to do, and a 1-minute reading. Here's my one-minute reading, with all of my super-secret notes to myself:

Fightin Mad Mary stressed, a year ago, that I get in front of a camera and practice, and play back the video and watch myself. At the time, it just wasn't something I had time to pull off, and when the time came, I sorely wished I'd have taken her advice.

This time, I did it. Clint filmed me with his camera. I see that I sway back and forth. Also front to back. I tilt my head when I accentuate a word. I don't smile.

So, I've practiced and practiced, and I'm getting a bit better, except for one thing.

That one-minute speech, when I read it at a comfortable rate, takes 1:35 to read. My technical assistant, Clint, can run the camera and a stopwatch at the same time, so we know it was 1:35.

I tried to read it faster, and shaved my time to 1:24. Faster again, and hit 1:16.

Just for kicks, then, I read the thing as fast as I possibly could. It's dark, but here's the video of my 1-minute attempt. I slur a few words, skip a few words, and changed a few words altogether, but kept going.

I spit it out, but honestly, did you hear a word I said? I have already e-mailed WILL and they have cut the text so that I can comfortably read it in my allotted 60-seconds.

I have one more evening to practice. And Thursday morning, I'll walk into a studio, wearing anything but green, as I've been instructed, and a little extra makeup, as suggested. My technical assistant Clint will be with me, reminding me to stand up straight, and to smile. I'm taking a bottle of water with me. I will NOT chew on tic-tacs. And I will press the palms of my hands together to calm my speech, like Boston Pobble taught me.

And I will try not to think about the sentence in the preliminary e-mail today that my appearance should be comfortable, and that I should wear "something that you will not mind being captured on TV for years to come."

Captured on TV for years to come?!!

Ok. My technical assistant has been upgraded. He is now also in charge of checking for spinach in my teeth, making sure my bra straps aren't showing, and signaling me if my mascara is flaking or running.

Wish me luck, I'll let you know how it goes!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anti-Crack Crusade

I was running a few errands last Saturday, and took one of my favorite traffic-avoiding detours through north Champaign. Every time I drive this route, I think of Brian, when he was younger, asking me "where are we, Mom? This is the scariest neighborhood I've ever been in." Well. Yes. It's a lower-income neighborhood, and the crime rate is higher in the surrounding blocks.

I hate the term, "bad neighborhood." It summarizes every person and every home in it. Lord knows that every "good neighborhood" isn't filled entirely with very good people. I live in a "good neighborhood." Upon moving in, a married neighbor stopped in to tell me how his wife doesn't understand him, and to suggest that we should get together sometime. (I kicked him out.) The cops come regularly to deal with domestic violence with another couple on the street, and letters are circulated in our mailboxes about attempted break-ins. There's even a rumor of an unsolved murder that occurred at the end of the street, a few years before I moved in.

I don't deny that people in these higher-crime neighborhoods don't have more to deal with. The many, many good people in the neighborhood I zoom through have to contend with badder bad-asses than philandering husbands and couples throwing coffee mugs at one another's heads. I ache for good people putting in long hours to make an honest living, and then, at the end of the day, having to double-lock doors with bars on them.

And yet, I smile when I drive through: neighbors pull up chairs on one another's porches. BBQs smoke in every driveway, and people are out. Socializing and laughing, and watching their babies. And on the particular Saturday I speak of, I slowed when I noticed these signs:

I had to drive around the park then, to see what was going on here:

As I circled the park, folks on the playground waved me over.

How could I resist? I parked and walked in, and asked "whatcha doin?" I talked mostly to one woman who in turn, introduced me to Mr. Wayne Jackson:

Mr. Jackson overcame a crack addiction 18 months ago, and has devoted his time to helping people in the community that have their own issues with the drugor any drug, for that matter. He works with the Restoration Ministries, and the New Horizon Church, and has, on his own, started the Anti-Crack Crusade.

Seriously, overcoming a crack addiction! I don't pretend to have any idea of what that must be like; and I admitted as much as I spoke to people there: I am often teased for being so far removed from the drug world. Kids, I've never even smoked a cigarette. Advil and dirty martini's are about it for this drug-naive girl.

But I get that it makes you feel great, that it's powerful stuff, very addictive, and that it's very, very hard to overcome the stuff once you're addicted to it. I can't imagine trying to get off of something with addictive properties—hell, I can't overcome an addiction to cheese!

That said, I have profound respect for Mr. Jackson. I read that there's no medicine to help you along with this, to help ease the cravings. You're on your own, baby, which means that ultimately, it's you, you, you that has to do it all. And Wayne Jackson has not only done that, but he's getting out and trying to support others that might consider doing the same.

He didn't have to bother, you know. He could have merely tidied up his life, and gotten about it, without worrying about anyone but himself. That would have been fine; he would still be commendable.

But he didn't. He knows it's hard. And that it's easier to get through a tough day with a little support. Guidance. Conversation. Encouragement. Prayer.

And it's sometimes hard to ask for help. So he puts himself out there. He tells his story. He marches through neighborhoods, and he announces on a loudspeaker that if anyone out there just needs to talk, they should come on over. He isn't out there asking for anything. He is offering.

He, and his friends at the ACC are standing by, to throw you a rope if you need it—and they aren't going to let go.

I missed the march, but got to enjoy music and lunch with several nice people.

Here is ACC Prayer Warrior Towanda Baker, singing a song she wrote. Keeping in mind I'm recording this with a cheap camera, and that she's singing on a small playground, I'm still floored when I listen to this clip, by her fantastic voice, and this great song:

Life is so interesting. One minute I'm tooling along thinking about shopping for boots, and instead I end up meeting so many nice people trying to make a difference in the world. Amazing people.

This is one detour I'm glad I took.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Toys for Troops: Thanksgiving Care Packages to Soldiers

Ah-HEM! Now that I have the attention of the entire United States, it is time to announce that we are, yes we ARE, sending Thanksgiving and Christmas care packages to the soldiers on the Toys for Troops Mailing list...Every soldier.

You know that I've got a *bit* on my plate. I didn't possibly see how I could pull off 2 back-to-back holiday events in 4 weeks, so I did something I'm learning that is OK to do. I screamed:


Lincoln Trail Elementary School, in Mahomet, IL, responded.

The students at LTES are taking on our Thanksgiving Care Packages as their Veteran's day project. They are trying to collect care package items and homemade cookies enough to make sure that each of 65 soldiers get an entire box of Thanksgiving love from home. They will provide 600 letters, and are trying to collect enough money to send these boxes. That's about $711.

Yes. Of course you can help! Thank you for asking. We're not going to make a bunch of little kids do ALL of the work!! Come, help us help them help us!

  • If you'd like to donate care package items for this project, contact me at A list of care package ideas can be viewed here:
  • If you'd like to sponsor the cost of shipping one box ($10.95), click on the PayPal button in the sidebar.
  • Bakers, bring me a dozen cookies on November 10. 2 dozen, if you're feeling industrious.
  • Send me a note, and I'll send you a printable flyer to post in your office, church, VFW, post office...wherever you'd like to post it.
  • Forward a link to this blog entry to anyone that you think might like to participate.

We will mail our boxes on November 12, the day after Veteran's Day, so that they can be in soldier's hands by Thanksgiving morning.

OUT OF TOWNERS, DON'T FORGET: YOU CAN PLAY TOO! I'm e-mailing soldiers' names and addresses to folks right now, from San Diego to Philadelphia, that want to send a care package to a soldier.

Can I make a bold statement? Shopping for, and sending a box to a soldier is going to make you feel very, very good.


I am still shopping around for a venue for our Christmas event. We like to send more "luxurious" gifts for Christmas: CDs, DVDs, gourmet foods, socks, shirts, knives, games...anything you'd like to find under your own tree. We'll wrap each gift and send each soldier a box full of presents.

If you can't participate with the Thanksgiving boxes, you're welcome to throw a little something into the Christmas boxes.

If you have any ideas where I can throw this event together in this berg, put it in the comments!

I'll be hitting the streets to figure it out myself!

See you soon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And on the local news!

(Link to me on the news is below; skip to it if you don't feel like reading all this yammerization.)


If ever you need motivation to clean the heck out of your house, I'd recommend setting up something with a photographer of a nationwide newspaper. By midnight on Monday, this place was as neat as a pin—at least, any part of it that a photographer might wander through. Do NOT, for the love of God, open the door to Brian's room.

ChezBez laughed at me when he saw the photo in the paper: After reading all of my Tweets about housecleaning, the Times used an outdoor photo. Sure, rub it in. All was not lost, though. WCIA News asked to interview me yesterday, about similar issues in this community.

As much as I've been on the news for the last 2 years, I still cannot overcome my nerves in front of a camera. Give me a kitchen table, workplace, bar, coffee shop, heck, even an elevator, and I can regale you with any tale. Put a camera in my face, and I turn into a doe in the headlights.

Since I always get cotton mouth when I speak publicly, today I grabbed a tic-tac, to tuck in my cheek and keep me from getting thirsty. Somewhere along the line, I tripped up on a question, and began chewing on that tic-tac. Yes. With a microphone clipped to my collar. Seriously. Imagine someone chomping away on hard candy while you are talking to them on the cell phone.

The reporter smiled at me, and said "Crunch, crunch, crunch." I was so embarrassed! I cracked up and apologized. What in the heck was I thinking?

Prone to long pauses in my speech, I committed that error also, and recovered by saying, "you guys are going to cut that, right?"

I've become increasingly more comfortable with the idea of speaking to reporters; everyone is so polite, and comforting, and...forgiving. So, I say "Ok, I'll do it," all the while wondering how it is I'm not on a local television blacklist.

Ok. I yammer on. I just watched the video online. Erin Maloney did a pretty good job of editing out my long pauses, and killing the crunching Tic-tac after all.

They also did a good job of editing out the only thing that was out of place in my house: I kid you not, I'd tossed my bra onto the sofa the night before, and there it remained through the entire interview.


We made it!

Here's the link to the online version. On the printed version, the story starts on the front page, and the photo appears on p. A-18.

Thanks so much for all of your support, and cheering us on while we make tough decisions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Extra! Extra! Read All About It...

Pictured below is New York Times photographer Sally Ryan, standing in MY house, taking pictures of MY mother's Razadyne. When she was done with that, she took pictures of me and Mom together, and some of us with Clint. Oh, and Mom's doggie, Buddy was star for a day too.

Word of this blog entry spread through the blogging world and was brought to the attention of NY Times reporter Stephanie Saul, who was working on a piece about the elderly and the economy (I don't want to give it away!). She telephoned me last week for a brief interview. I didn't know if our story made the cut or not, until yesterday when we were contacted for a photo shoot.

As of this minute, we are slated for FRONT PAGE, TOMORROW. WEDNESDAY. The 22nd. Us! On the front page of the New York Times! Did I mention? Tomorrow?

Well. It will either be us, or those pills she's photographing. We'll find out tomorrow which is more photogenic.

Thanks to Wendy, who "introduced" me to her sister-in-law Liz, who recommended me to someone named Alex, who gave Stephanie Saul a head's up, who sent Sally to my home today.

Life is just so darned interesting sometimes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

For the record...

I do manage to get out and have fun every now and again, despite the serious subject matter of the last few entries.

Here's proof: Clint and I went out for a pizza and a beverage Wednesday evening, to an establishment that serves up free bowls of peanuts. Yes, yes, we KNOW it's a ploy to make us thirstier, and to drink Another Beverage. It works, actually. Those rascally rascals.

Anyway, I busied myself while Clint excused himself to the little boys room, and left this gift for the next occupants of our booth:

See? I DO have a life.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tough Decisions

I wrote, back in August, about my Mother's Alzheimer's, and a glimmer of hope that she had something else altogether. Since then, I've taken her for MRIs and blood tests. It has been 2 weeks since we met with the Neurologist for a follow-up: Alzheimer's it is, or as close as they can diagnose. "Severe atrophy of the brain," he told me. The last MRI we had indicated "advanced" atrophy. We've graduated to severe. Rats.

We discussed medication. There's nothing out there, really, that will help this. I asked him, then, about the medication she's on, Razadyne. It costs $182 a month for this one prescription. 1 pill a day, $6 a pill.

Razadyne. $2200 a year.

Have I mentioned that my Mom lives on Social Security? She has health insurance. She has Medicaid. And still this 1 prescription alone takes up roughly 1/5 of her annual income. (Oh, and she has 5 other prescriptions, but let's don't get me started.)

Razyadyne, then, Doc: Is it doing any good?

Probably not, he told me. The effects are most likely minimal, and not changing the quality of her life in any way. She scored 8 out of 30 on the test he gave her that day. He said she may score a 7, without the Razadyne. In essence, she may or may not be able to name the season, or the day of the week.

"It's up to you," he told me, about continuing onthe Razadyne. Each family feels differently. Personally, he said, "Skip the Razadyne and put the money towards good food or something she enjoys. Cable TV, books, movies."

This has been a torturous decision for me. Man, when you only have 8 points left in that little head of yours, it kind of seems like every one is kind of precious. If I take her off the meds, it may not affect her, but what would it be like, at this point, to have even slightly more deterioration?

But is coming up with the word "Autumn" worth $182 a month? Isn't Meals on Wheels, or a few field trips with Adult DayCare organizations money better spent?

I just paid for the next month's installment of Razadyne.

I am strongly considering skipping it, next time around, and watching her closely.

I can always put her back on it, yes?

Ow, my head.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mom Represents: Bear Hugs from Brian

I've been meaning, lately, to catch you up on Brian's life, post Iraq. So much to tell (and so many Worried-Motherly opinions). I only have time now to tell you that he's doing fine in Fort Benning, and that we talk often. Sometimes it is only for a few minutes, and sometimes, for an hour or so, with the phone being handed around so that I can check up on Steebmo, and other buddies in the barracks. Check up, hug, lecture, mother, scold, love, invite for spaghetti.

I've written here several times about Brian's friend, Chris, and have featured photos of both Chris and his sister Courtney. They've been in our lives since they were lil kids, and I love 'em like the're mine.

Reminiscent photos, from Jr. High & High School:

Brian phoned me Thursday night: Chris & Courtney's Grandmother had passed away. "Mom, you HAVE to go to the visitation for me, you HAVE to go," he told me. Of course I'd be there. Of course. "Hug them, Mom. Hug them from me." Of course.

He called me again the next day and reminded "Hug them, okay?" Yes, Brian, I'll hug them. "BEAR HUGS, Mom." I'll BEAR HUG them Brian— "you don't think I'd just shake their hands, do you?"

Ah, poor kid. On Saturday, I called to reassure him, "I ordered your flowers, and I'll be there to shake their hands. Don't worry."

And Sunday afternoon, I went to the visitation. Chris in a tie, and Courtney in heels, stood with their family. I immediately choked up. Chiding myself while I stood in line, "I didn't even know their Grandmother," and getting tearier as I approached the receiving line.

Sigh. The bottom line is: When your babies are in pain, you are in pain.

Chris crossed over early to give me a big hug. I met up with Courtney later, and she hugged me lightly.


Well. That would never do. I stopped and told her I was sorry, but that I had explicit orders.

I hugged her again. I hugged the stuffing out of her. I gave her a little shake. I cracked a few ribs, for good measure.


"That's from Brian."

Both of the kids laughed. And I left them, then, to greet dozens of people, standing behind me.

I stepped outside, and called Brian.

"Ok, hon," I told him, "you were there, I made sure you were there."

Ok. Okay, he said.

Tough day for all of them today; they remain in my thoughts.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crash...and Count

I got caught in a traffic jam yesterday, and contemplated: "I have never actually seen an accident occur." I've heard them off in the distance, and driven by them after the fact, but have never witnessed a smash 'em up. Thank God, because I don't know what I'd do. I'm not good with blood, you know.

She contemplated too soon, she did. I had Mom over for dinner this evening, and then loaded her and her doggie up at 8 pm to take them home.

Approaching the second stoplight from my house, I yelped "Ohmigod, that car just ran the red..." KAPOWWWWWWwwwwwwwww. I watched as the offending car hit another that didn't see it, as I had. Both cars were spinning, and the air looked like someone had sneezed glass and debris. I remember it now in some weird slow motion as I moved through the intersection: in front of me, then out of the driver's window, then in my rearview mirror. That car missed my car by seconds. My cell phone was in the cupholder, and I was dialing 911 before I hit the brakes.

In 4 lanes of traffic, I had to wait before I could turn the car back, and told the dispatcher as much: "I don't know if anyone's hurt, I'm trying to get back there." He told me help was on the way, and to call back if there were injuries.

I did a U-turn and ran through the traffic and the gawkers to find a dazed older couple. The gentleman was out of the car, his wife still seated in the passenger seat. A younger person stood at her side. Everyone said they were ok, and I began to run off, "where's the other driver?" The young person told me "I'm the other driver," and assured me they were ok. We were left facing the passenger, then, who kept saying she was ok, but was holding her chest, crying, unable to breath, and unable to get out of the car. A woman across the street held 9-1-1 on her phone, yelling to us, "do we need an ambulance?"

God. I don't know. Yes! Yes, just send an ambulance.

Looking back, it seems like I actually kept my wits about me, huh? I called for help, and raced to the victims.

But the event was then laced with bizarre insecurities: Before the rescue squads arrived, I called Clint, and morphed into Vicki Lawrence in Carol Burnett's rendition of Gone with the Wind. Squawking that we were waiting for the police, oh here they come, I'll call you back!! Click.

Squad cars, firetrucks, ambulances arrived. I decided that I should move my car. As I get back in, I realized that at this particular intersection there are no driveways, no parking lots, just concrete curbs for 1/4 mile almost every direction.

So I called Clint again. I'm driving around! can't find a place to park! Will the police really want to talk to me? Is it necessary for me to go back?

He calmly told me to park on the south side of the intersection, and yes, the police will want to talk to me.

Oh! The south side! Yes. There's no curb there. I can pull over. Yes. I'll call you back. Click.

Seriously, how the heck he could just picture the intersection and tell me exactly where to park is beyond me.

For the record, the driver of the car that ran the red light did not seem inebriated or impaired in any way. Distracted, maybe. In a hurry, obviously. The police officer that took the report indicated the driver claimed to have faulty brakes. Usually diplomatic during conversations in which I might be accusing someone, I popped off, "well, they must have been shot altogether then, because that car FLEW through the intersection."

Seriously, have you ever had the brake fluid go out of your car, and have the brake pedal sink to the floor? You can usually pump it and stop the car eventually, but it is unsettling. What you do then is, if you're SURE that the car will still stop, you baby that car all the way to The Brake Shop, and do not pass Go, and do not collect $200. If you're not sure, you do NOT drive it, and you do NOT fly down a busy road at 15 mph over the speed limit, hoping to catch all of the green lights and coast in to your final destination. Just my opinion.

The officer seemingly nodded agreement with me; the impact of the accident was severe, the driver would be ticketed for running a red light, and would still have to get a report proving the faulty brakes.

It turned out that I was the only witness to the accident, so it was good I turned around.

I called Clint again: "Ok, we're done, I gave the report. You see this stuff every day, but it's never happened to me, and wow, wow, wow, that was crazy, and blah blah blah. I'll call you after I drop Mom off, ok? Click.

I heard rumors that it was about this time that some of the other guys Clint work with began teasing him my frequent phone calls. I'm so red-faced. No matter how much he reassures me, I'm self-conscious about calling him at work for fear of being perceived as a clingy girlfriend.

So I called him again.

AND I went by the station to see him, and tell him the entire story, all over again. In the midst of that, I told him "I have to go, this gave me an upset stomach." Click.

In the end, there didn't appear to be any serious injuries, but I'd wager that everyone in that collision is going to need an Advil regimen for the next few days.

And now I review: How DID I do in face of emergency? Well, on some ways, pretty good, and in others, eh.

Calling for help immediately: A+

I forgot to tell you that as I approached the car to ask if the people were ok, someone approached me and said "Hi, Lori." I bluntly replied, "Hi. I don't know who you are."

Social Graces: D-

Making sure everyone was ok: A+

Having any idea if they were really ok or not? D

Relaying the accident to the police: B-.

I would have given myself an A, but after all of that spinning, and cars ending up on roads they were not originally traveling, I have to admit that if I'd have to point out WHICH car ran the red light, I could never have done it. My report went as such "whoever was driving North ran the light." I was clear on that.

So. I think that averages out to "Average." I'm relatively happy with myself for just racing up and getting into the middle of something that I'd normally find scary. Seriously, if you cut your finger, do not come to me for help, I will faint dead away. I'll even get woozy if you describe it to me later.

But that's all I got. How'd I'd react to blood or bones, I don't know, and I never want to find out.

I'm extremely thoughtful about where we were in proximity to that car racing the red light tonight. I stopped, just before we left the house tonight, to tape my sister's birthday present to her card. I'd say that we missed that accident by the time it takes to tear off a piece of tape from the dispenser.

It would have been the passenger side, where my mother was seated.

Indeed, another Count Your Blessings Day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Signs of the Times

I like to snap pix of amusing signs, and have been adding them to my "Graffiti and Signs" Smugmug gallery. Here are 3 I took recently:

This at an old engine display at the Apple & Pork Festival in Clinton, IL, a few weeks ago.

Stating the obvious, at Mill Creek Park, in Marshall, IL.

I imagine Jesus, robes and all, on a skateboard, or wearing rollerblades.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Aquarium Aliens

If it's not one thing, it's another.

A few weeks ago, my algae-eating plecostomus (that's a fish, for you non-aquarium folk) died. He was always hiding in dark spaces, so I didn't realize he'd kicked the fish-bucket until a film of algae began to cover the walls of the aquarium. I found him: a clean white pleco skeleton, skull and all still intact. Apparently, my other fish are cannibals.

The tank gunked up, and I gave it a good cleaning, and the filter gunked up, and...well, I'm not really sure what's happened, but one-by-one my fish have all been going to fish-heaven.

I came home today to note an alien life-form sitting on the rock in my aquarium. I gave it a poke with the net, and the slimy thing completely exploded, spilling its nasty guts all over the aquarium. Bad enough that the neighbors can hear me talking to my fish through the open window, but what must they have been thinking when they overheard "Hi babies, is everyone still alive in here toda...Eeeeeeeee! WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT?!!"


On top of that, everyone was NOT still alive in there today; I'd lost two more fish. But they weren't belly-up like respectable dead fish: They were completely encapsulated by weird alien slim. Look at my poor long-lost guppy:

See? This is the stuff Steven King novels are made of!

I don't know what to do! I've sent off photos to all (1) of my knowledgable aquarium buddies, and we sit in the living room, wearing HazMat suits, waiting for a reply.

If you have any idea what in the heck has contaminated my aquarium, and what I should do about it...well, even though in the last post I blabbed about not wanting advice, I've changed my mind. Tell me what to do!



Clint just texted me to inform that the new Pleco is "DRT".

That's fireman talk for "Dead Right There."

I fear my aquarium is doomed.

Venting...and Breathing

Life has, in some ways, been a bit crazy around here, in the last several weeks. There have been a few days in which I've felt like I simply cannot keep my head above water.

For instance, on a recent lunch break, which is 30 minutes long, I dropped a few things off to a friend, and ran through a drive-through to grab lunch. While I waited to place my order, my mother called me. She could not remember how to turn on the dryer. Frustrated with the effects of Alzheimer's, she began sobbing, "I hate that I'm so stupid." A perfect time for the voice on the fast-food intercom to scream out "Can I take your order?"

I calmed my mother, and assured her that she is not stupid. But what could I say? Is any semblance of "it's a disease; you are NOT stupid," any consolation? It seemed to be, along with poo-pooing the importance of turning on the dryer, when I could be there right after work to turn it on myself, and then we'd go out to dinner, ok?

I got off the phone and called my sister. Maybe she could call Mom also, say "hey," lift her spirits. She answered, and to my "whatcha doing?" she informed me that she was in the hospital getting a blood transfusion. Chemo is kicking her ass, she can't stop vomiting, and she's lost 19 pounds in 12 days. She was bored, though, and wants to know why I called, in the middle of the day.

Hm. Do I, at this point, follow up with "Can you give Mom a call and cheer her up?" After hemming and hawing, I did, and hung up thinking, "well, that was insane," and I went back to work crying a little myself.

That was just 30 minutes of one day. Most of the other minutes for several days around that packed an equal punch—busy or stressful or both.

Well-meaning friends give me advice about taking time out, doing something for myself, putting a vacation on a credit card. I'm perplexed. I want to ask them if, that if people they love—say, their kids, their spouses—does it matter who?—if people they love were really sick or distressed, if they'd really feel better if they hopped on a plane for a week in the Keys.

All of this "for my own good" advice only adds to the stress of my day; I have to make excuses, and smile graciously, saying no, and upsetting the very people that lecture me "you're going to have to learn to say no."

Here's something: SPARE me the advice and OFFER to drop off a gallon of milk or a casserole to my mom. Guess what? I HAVE taken a few weekends off, and I PAID someone to stop in on her, say hello, take out the garbage, and call me with a report, so that I could hightail it back home if things were awry.

In the meantime, don't tell me what to do. I'm doing what I have to do right now: I'm riding out a few tough days. When I'm 90, I'll look back, and say "whew. Those sure were a few tough days."

But still I reiterate: the positive aspects of my life outweigh the negative. I love my family. I love a good man, and I love his family. We're building a house, and dreaming about the future. I have good friends, a roof over my head, an automobile that runs, and have so far made all the bills in a tough economy. I'd still die for my own kid in a heartbeat. That I work to help his comrades, their families, and vets that served before him is one thing that keeps me sane, no matter that I put the vacuuming on the back burner to do it.


So there.

What I meant to write when I sat down here, is that there are beautiful days. Beautiful evenings. Beautiful weekends. My mother has good days. We've arranged our schedules so that I drop off groceries, and then we can play instead of shop. We walk on country roads in autumn air, and we feed apples to horses. My sister feels a little bit better now, and went to a family reunion today. I have a bit of extra time to catch up on chores...or not.

Maybe I'd rather go on a walkabout with my camera, and maybe I do just that.

It is most amazing to feel so grateful for these days. To feel weight off my shoulders, to not have to worry for one evening, and to rejoice without guilt.

These are Count Your Blessings days.

And you can bet your bippy that I do.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Honor System Dried Tomatoes

I was busy yesterday morning, sending off care packages all 'round the world, and ended up missing the Farmer's Market. Lo! I was heading across town after hitting the post office, and spotted this sign, and a table full of tomatoes.

I turned the car around, and went back to find the kind of prices I've been waiting for all summer:

And sweeter yet, this sign:

"Honor system" produce wagons placed here and there around Central Illinois always make my heart feel a little bit lighter. I'd wager that these folks probably end up, in the long run, with a bit of extra cash in their box; I know it made me feel good to "round up" on the total, just because they trusted me.

I've lately been slow-roasting and freezing tomatoes, putting them away for winter. It's soooo easy:
1. Cut them in half.
2. Toss them with a little olive oil, basil, oregano, and sea salt.
3. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet
4. Roast for 9 hours at 200 degrees.

When they look like this, pull them out. Eat them now, or freeze them, and use them later in sauces, on pizzas, in pasta.

I decided to take it a little further, and dry the batch I made yesterday. For the last 3 hours of cooking, I pulled them to a drying rack, and placed them back in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

When the tomatoes were leathery, I threw a clove of garlic into a sterilized jar, layered the tomatoes with a bit of rosemary, and topped off the jar with olive oil.

These turned out so great that I ran back out this morning to pick up more tomatoes, AND I broke down and bought a dehydrator. I've got 5 racks drying right now, and Clint and I are dreaming of next year's garden.

And perhaps, some day, our own Honor System wagon, at the edge of the driveway.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Market Report: Autumn is Here

Autumn has always been my favorite season. The colors, the cool air, and the brilliant trees, as leaves turn from green to gold and red.

Trees aren't the only thing changing hues. Market fare that was mostly green (beans, peas, lettuce, etc.) becomes more colorful with the changing season. Peppers have been on the vine long enough to redden; and pumpkins take over where corn was once sold, and squash and mums brighten the stands.

We roasted pepper over the campfire last time we went. A roasted pepper is delicious; a smoked roasted pepper is to die for!

Start thinking up your punk-o-lantern faces! We're going to our first Halloween party of the season this Friday.

I never really know what to do with any of this stuff. Any tips?

Tomatoes, I can find a use for. These are good...well, just by the handful.

This is usually about how much garlic I have lying around my house, and I have to admit that I've never seen a single vampire.

I was considering planting mums at the farmhouse this season, but the instructions on care and mulching overwhelmed me. "Mulching with leaves is the kiss of death!" I overheard. Maybe next year. Or maybe I'll give it a shot after all. Anyone out there have any Mum advice? (Not motherly advice, Mum advice!)

And lastly, while I was standing around talking to Angie Heaton, who was selling great leather bracelets that she'd made from vintage belts (in a fit of shyness, I didn't get a photo), musician Mike Powers interrupted his concert to a few children to take a phone call. Seriously, the music stopped, and "HELLO?" he said, and began talking. Surprised that he'd take a call in the middle of what he was doing, Angie and I both stopped find this:

Children waited patiently while he finished up his call, and got back to the music at hand.

It must have been important.