Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Clint and I are off to St. Louis, for the Eve. We'll be back, in the next couple of days, with photos of Iron Barley Restaurant, as seen on one of our favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and, I imagine a few other sundry photos of whatever fun we will no doubt encounter.
Happy New Year, everyone. Be safe!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One person wanted to sell me some vitamin juice that will cure all that ails us.
A second person has offered to give me "$$$$$" for topless photos. He repeats that he will pay "$$$$$$$" (7 dollar sign's worth!) , and signed off, "I am very serious."
There was one, though that I responded to; I figured this might come up, and it didn't take long. I got a note that read, in part:
I too saw your story and googled for your blog today. You and the others in the article bring light to a difficult situation facing many today.
I am disheartened by some of your posts, though. It seems people are more excited about your TV appearance than what you are facing.
Also, I question what people are willing to sacrifice over medications. Will cable TV be sacrificed? That Starbucks coffee? How about internet access?I wrote what I thought was this gracious response:
Most of the people here, if you read back, have been with us through heartache and tough, tough, decision making. They rejoice because we're gaining a voice. I hadn't thought about "newcomer's" response to this glib entry. It's been a running joke; we've been postponed on NBC 3 times already. We finally made it.But I've had some time to think about it, and I've decided that I bristle. I do that sometimes, stew on a thing, and then bristle.
I'll address the "sacrifices" first.
If you're to the point that you're skipping your own life-saving medications so that you can put food on the table for your children, Starbucks coffee isn't an issue. When you're freakin' broke, a $5 cup of coffee is pretty much on the same plane with owning your own yacht: Unaffordable. It's not a sacrifice; It is out of the question. You don't get it until you've been there.*
As far as being excited about being on National TV?
Let me explain something to you.
I had a "day to myself" last Sunday. Yay! I used that time doing my mother's laundry, changing her sheets, cleaning her closets, mopping her floors, cleaning her sink and toilet. When that was all done, I got a nice hot shower going...and gave her a bath and washed her hair.
I would have given her dog a bath while I was at it, but a big-ass pine tree fell on her house during last week's ice storm, and I spent 90 minutes watching a couple of guys (Thanks, Craig & Cecil!) clean that mess off. We then searched for something to patch the hole in the roof until the insurance adjusters can get to us.
A TV spot, national or not, is a mere surreal novelty in my life. I watch the show, and then get back to the laundry and the hole in the roof, and the trying to figure out what's wrong when Mom says she's sick but doesn't know the word for whatever it is that hurts.
We took a minute yesterday to hoot and holler and high five, and you are disheartened with us for that?
*I reiterate here, as I have to every radio station, newspaper reporter, and television reporter, that we do not fall into this category. My Mother is by no means destitute, and I've never meant to portray her as such. She is incredibly fortunate, compared to so many others portrayed in these stories. We remain frugal and thankful.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
So much to tell, you get Holiday Highlights. And not in chronological order.
Brian and I dance The Nutcracker. Rather, we were posing for a Mother-Son photo, and the only way I could keep him from popping me in the ribs to make me jump was to keep each hand far from the other. This is the "portrait" that ensued.
When we realized Thanksgiving was a bust, Clint and I decided to just have a romantic dinner for 2, instead. Steak, shrimp, candlelight, Ooo la la.
Flu-la-la is what it turned out to be, and in the end, Clint threw the steaks in the freezer for another day. This is what I found written on them, when I pulled them for Christmas eve:
Preparing for dinner at Clint's parent's house. I'm not sure we ever got an accurate headcount for place settings, before dinner. It was somewhere between 15 and 18.
The Grace Chain. It was originally meant to be a large circle, but ended up in a cute Figure 8 around 2 tables. Someone interrupted grace and held up dinner by taking this photo.
Now that dinner's over, we can move on. Clint's niece, Mary and I bonded, 0ver dinner, at our abilities to diagnose our own illnesses, with the help of "teh internets." She had AIDS for one week, while I myself have miraculously recovered from brain tumors here and there over the years. She has recently diagnosed her own tonsil stones. She let me have a look-see. I was expecting a small white spot, like you get when you have strep. They're not like strep, they're more like barnacles. I think she's diagnosed them quite nicely. Ugh. I was so grossed out that she let me take a picture for my own future reference.
There's my red stripey tights, and my Christmas Eve outfit, which is the same as my Santa Rampage outfit, only without the Santa Hat.
Jennifer and Grandpa (Dad) wore their Santa Headgear, though.
My Mom and Grandma, the Sunday before Christmas. Grandma has been doing inventory on a stocking full of candy. "Look at this little 3 Musketeers bar!," she said, "it's teenie weenie." Ha ha, my Grandma said weenie.
Here's my mom on Christmas day, with her new 3-lb dumbbells. She's been going to physical therapy for her shoulder, and has a series of exercises to do every day. She demonstrates here, one of those exercises. She is very proud of her hard work, and she should be: It's kept her from a painful surgery that would require months of recovery. Go, Mama!
A candid shot of Brian and Chad. Yes. This is just how they stand around the house.
Check out the bow on my Christmas gift from Clint! Not having one at the Country Casa, he made it from electrical stripping stuff, and a wad of foam insulation, and some curley-que electrical wires. If you look at the picture above, you'll see that I turned it into my new Christmas tree topper.
That's me with a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Doesn't everyone have a Christmas photo of themselves and a Cockroach named Bella? SSssssssssssssss!!!
Christmas morning, with Brian's lifelong friend, Anthony, and Brian. Oh, they thought it so funny when they barged in to my room to wake me up and say hello, 2 a.m. the night before. Oh, so funny, until I declared war on them 6 hours later, and sicked my friend Diane on them for revenge. She did a cannonball right into the middle of their sleeping bags with a very merry Christmas War Whoop. Payback are hell, boys.
That accomplished, we got about our "Girl's Breakfast": thick slab bacon, coffee with Bailey's Irish Creme, and homemade cinnamon rolls. Yes, I used yeast, the day before, and I kneaded the dough by hand for 5 minutes, and it was soooooo worth it. I'm not sure why this photo comes in with a vertical orientation; turn your monitor on its side for a better look.
Ok. I'll let you go now. There's more, but it's late, and a girl has to get back to work on Monday morning, isn't that sad?
Hope your Christmas was fantastic!
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
My name is Paria Sadighi and my fiance (SPC. A. Brown) is in Iraq
serving his first tour of duty. He called me today and said he received a
box from Toys for Troops and the pure excitement in his voice sent chills
through my body.
I think it's important that you know the story of this incredible young
man. Last year his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and he decided
that he owed her and his family a better life. He is the only boy in a
family of four women. With his back against the wall and a sick mom he
signed up with the Army. He is now serving in his first tour in Iraq and
his mother's cancer has spread to her bones, spinal chord, liver and
brain. I am the only person who sends him packages. The other
members of his family are busy taking care of their ailing mother.
I just graduated college, started a new job and am taking care of my
parents as they both lost their jobs. That being said, I'm unable to send
packages as often as I like to. My soldier is out there dealing with the
anxieties of war and the grief of the possibility of losing the only parent he's
ever known to cancer—without an appropriate good-bye.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because so often in life we feel we are completely on our own to burden every pain on shoulders that have been used beyond capacity. The gratitude in my heart cannot be justified by mere words. If I could record the cadence of joy in my soldier's voice, I would and I'd share it with the world, because I believe it is one that would make your kind of kindness even more contagious.
THANK YOU! ON BEHALF OF MYSELF, MY SOLDIER, HIS FAMILY, THANK YOU! For a brief moment he was able to move past his own private pain and know that someone (other than his fiance) is thinking of him, recognizing his sacrifice and taking the time to make him feel important.
I am home alone, with my son as I write this. I fixed him a ridiculous breakfast, we opened gifts, and we lounge around the house, now.
It is not unlike most other Christmas days we've spent, but I am acutely aware that I have never felt more thankful on any Christmas day in my life. I feel, oddly, both peace and heartache.
My thoughts and prayers are with SPC. Brown this morning. I think of his mother and sisters, and I know how they miss him. My heart is with Paria, also, missing her man, and, I know, most likely waiting for that phone call. I know firsthand what it's like to what for "that" phone call. And how it feels when it doesn't come in, because of the 3000 soldiers in the phone line in front of "your" soldier.
Another new friend has had her soldier son at home for the last 2 weeks...and had to put him on a plane back to Iraq yesterday, on Christmas Eve. (What is the army thinking?!!)
My heart is with spouses, parents, siblings, childrens, partners, and friends that hope to God that they're in my shoes next year at this time.
I am incredibly grateful.
Chili simmers in the crockpot, Brian's napping on the sofa, and I have about 4 hours of quiet time before the family arrives.
I will use and hour or so of it to write a letter to Pvt. Brown.
If you find yourself, today or later, with a few minutes, and would like to send him a letter also, hit me up. I'll be glad to send his address to you. I think he'll be glad to hear from you.
In the meantime, the best I can hope for all of you is that your Christmas is as merry as mine is, today.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
After 15 months of gnashing my teeth, and sharing my angst on this blog, some of you have noticed that I've quieted down about my son, since he got back from Iraq. Part of the reason for that is I am sitting back and watching him unfold, postWar. He and his friends have been stateside for 7 months. I talk to him often, sometimes for hours a week, and sometimes for seconds. I keep in touch with some of his friends, also.
He has given me permission to write openly about my observations, and I will. Eventually.
For the most part, I see these boys, these men, these soldiers, on a rollercoaster. They are in a different place every other week, drinking and scrapping one moment, then towing the line, studying, and trying to get it together the next. Not altogether unlike my "civilian sons" that grace my home when Brian visits. For now, I take notes, and give him space, and privacy.
And also, for now I bask in the fact that my son is home, this Christmas. That I am nowhere near where I was last year, on this date. And that an hour after he arrived home on Sunday, he approached me again, for a second, out-of-the-blue hug, and whispered, out of earshot of his friends, "I missed you."
That moment's coming was all I wanted for Christmas last year, and all I need for this one.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It ain't a party unless the kitchen's a disasater. That's Clint back there, readying to bake a pizza, while Di stands ready to roll out the next crust. Diane was the official crust roller outer for the evening.
Mark & Shirley, Landscape Architects To-Be, finished their last final of the semester Friday afternoon. Mark, stuck in traffic before the party, called ahead to say "I'm bringing 5 gallons of wine, and I'm not sharing it with anyone."
But he shared it with Shirley. Oh, how they laughed at whatever was so funny.
This photo of Matilda is particularly funny if you have a little background on her mother.
Marcy-Momo is virtually incapable of maintaining a blank, stoic expression on her face if she finds herself mortified, horrified, disgusted, irritated, or angered.
For instance, her mother once received a butt-ugly sweater for Christmas. While she politely thanked the gift-giver, Marcy sat next to her wearing some semblance of this expression:
At the end of the day, her mother chided her, "You really need to learn to control your face!"
The hilarious thing is that she never realizes that she's expressing herself so openly. So, we try to help her. For example, say someone were to join our table at the coffee shop, and say that person were oblivious, to say, a very runny nose (this is purely hypothetical), this would be Marcy:
We, then, her trusted and loyal friends will whisper "Face, Marcy." She will immediately transform her expression thusly:
Look how she understands now, that people's noses run. There's a box of tissue right behind her. Care for one? And some hand sanitizer, perhaps?
Anyway, Matilda apparently takes after her mother, with her expressive expressions. If you're up to something she doesn't approve of, you'll know it pretty much immediately!
She also does a mean Cookie Monster imitation:
Too many photos, here's a slide show of some more:
So, Night #1 of the Holiday Festivities was very fun. Mark shared his wine with me also, and I woke up with a *bit* of a headache on Saturday morning. I managed to get breakfast on the table by asking Clint to help me cook, and then leaving it to him completely while I found coffee and Advil.
After nomming on some eggs and bacon with Matilda, I felt MUCH better, and we were off then, for some Christmas shopping.
We shopped, and said our goodbyes to Momo & Matilda.
My card reader broke yesterday (horrors!) so the rest of the weekend's photos aren't currently available. The missing highlights are 1) Brian made it home from Fort Benning at 7:37 this morning (but who was keeping track, really), and 2) I took my Mother to visit my Grandmother today.
We're in full swing, I'll be tuning in with more photos ASAP. Spirit: I has it! Yay!
Friday, December 19, 2008
I drive 7 miles to The Country Casa, though, to find that there's still 3 inches of snow between me and the front door, and I'm for a sock full of it. 2 socks full, actually.
Boots! I'm going to have to find myself a good pair of warm, functional, countrified boots! I started searching early. I went into a respectable shoe store, and told the clerk my story. What I need: Warm boots. Yes. For the country.
She showed me something similar to these:
Well. That's not quite what I had in mind. Something I can work in, maybe? A little more functional? So, she brought out something more like this one:
The clerk actually said to me (very dryly, I might add), "You don't ask for much, do you?"
It may not surprise you to learn that I left empty handed. I came home to continue my boot search on the internet. Sexy boots, I'll search for sexy boots.
Yeah. These aren't going to work. I wouldn't make it down the stairs in these things before my calves cramped up. Let's try for warm boots, and see what turns up.
Here's a pair, called "Drizone Down" boots. I immediately renamed them "Fall Down" boots, because I'm absolutely sure that's what I'd do if I tried these on. Why don't I just tie a couple of pillows to my feet and shuffle around? These look like quilted drywall stilts. I'm out.
Let's turn to functional boots.
Hey, these aren't too bad:
I actually kind of liked these until I found out that Stella McCartney designed them. Insensitive of me to say, I know, but once I found out that Stella designed them, I just couldn't get over thinking that they sort of look like prosthetic legs. (I'm sorry, Stella.) But do I really need zippers, laces, and velcro to keep my boots on?
*It has been pointed out to me in the comments that Paul McCartney's ex's name is Heather, not Stella. My bad. Well, too late, the boot still reminds me of a prosthetic leg now. It's done.
I'm starting to figure out that I'm going to have to settle. To give in. Sacrifice. Compromise.
I hate that.
These aren't too bad. I can live with them. My jeans will cover most of them up, after all.
Not terrible, my jeans would be covering most of these up too. Only the covered part is the best looking part.
These do look warm, maybe I should just go for warmth.
Look. What. I. Found.
This is The Keen Winthrop.
The skies have opened up, and Angels are singing. These boots are black. Sleek. Waterproof. Warm. They are sexy from every angle. I love these boots! I love my Keen's sandals, and I'm sure that I'll love these boots too. These, after months and months of search, are The Boot. The warm, functional, sexy country boot.
Have I mentioned I have $3K worth of dental work in my future?
...these are kind of growing on me.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I asked her if she had any photos that she was willing to share. She very kindly emailed back a few of them this morning, shots that I had never seen.
I fell in love with this one, immediately:
This photo captures perfectly what any day with my mother is like. I have always laughed with her, and even through some frustrating times now, and some occasional tears, we still laugh, like this, almost every single day.
I am most grateful to Sally Ryan for sending me these photos. This one, I will cherish forever, I am sure.
(Sally's website is under construction; I will most certainly link up to it when it is up & running.)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It turns out that Rod Blagojovich trumps Lori Stewart—hard to imagine, I know—and a camera crew did not come to my house after all.
We improvised: Clint was, once again, my camera crew. I was in charge of hair and makeup, and together, we managed to record a few sound bites for the story. We sent those, along with a few sundry photos. It will be interesting to see what "the big boys" will do with our amateur donations.
I'm still not altogether convinced that I won't park myself in front of the television set, only to have my son jump out of the closet and yell "April Fool!" If so, I'll just post a blog title that says "never mind" and you can go on about your business.
Monday, December 15, 2008
We hit up Tumble Inn, Brass Rail, Seven Saints, Esquire, and The Blind Pig before our Grand Finale at Memphis on Main, where there was a band at the ready, and cover charge waived for all Santas.
Here's a slide show with a few highlights. There are a lot of photos with captions that read "Lori and _____." I'm sorry you have to put up with that, but I had no choice: Clint's son, Craig, Double-Dog-Dared me to go get photos of myself with everyone in the Esquire.
No self-respectin' Santa turns down a Double Dog Dare.
40 or so Santas walking into an establishment all at once really does stop traffic. We were an easy-going, fun-loving bunch, spreading cheer everywhere we went. Ho, ho, ho, it was a blast to be a part of it.
See you next year. (There are tons more photos, if you'd like to view them, click HERE.)
Note to Sven: Santa Rampage Down Under, 2009?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
1. Outside of updating you with the TFT stuff, I've been off and running...to the dentist. You all know how much I love the dentist. I was NOT looking forward to having a tooth extracted Monday afternoon. I imagined it would be terrible. It would sound awful, and they'd jerk my head around, and have to break my tooth apart, and the wouldn't put me to sleep.
I was right. It was all of that and more. It was disgusting, I won't give you the gory details. My tooth literally exploded in my mouth. I'm sorry, I feel so sorry for myself, I just had to give ONE gory detail. There was bits of tooth everywhere. I'm sorry again; I just can't help myself. It feels good to talk about it, though. Thanks for listening.
And NOW I have a dry socket. If you're still reading after that gory detail, a dry socket means that if I put a mirror in my mouth, and face that mirror on the bathroom wall, and shine the flashlight on THAT...I can see bone. Actual bone. My actual skull is shining through my gums. Or whatever bone that is, mandible or maxillofacial or headbone, or whatever it is. Suffice it to say I'm on antibiotics, and I don't like to be able to see any of my own bones. Even if I do go to great pains to look at it, I still don't like it.
2. Since I'm on antibiotics, I have been designated the designated driver for Santa Rampage tonight. Our santa costumes are at the ready, I have the cutest red & white striped tights to wear...because white horizontal rings around your thighs and calves are slimming, right? Right?!! Jen & Bill (Clint's daughter and son-in-law to be) are joining us, all the way from St. Louis. If they can come that far, you can don a santa hat and find us, downtown.
3. I'm not sure if it's a secret or not, but a television crew from a national news program is coming to my house this week. I've been interviewed via phone 3 times so far, and they are to call me soon to tell me if they'll be here, either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. I won't give the story away, but I'll give you a hint, and tell you that they found me in the New York Times. Another hint:
Yeah. Big time. I'm a little nervous as I'm no expert on the subject they hope to interview me on. I'm trying to get my thoughts together so that I can at least articulate our own story without looking like a complete goober.
And if any of you would like to come over between now and then, I am setting conditions: You won't be let in to my home unless you're carrying a can of Lemon Pledge and a soft towel, or any other cleaning fluid or implement. Get over it; we can talk while you work. Don't worry, I'll be sweeping down cobwebs right alongside: "So, have you finished your Christmas shop—oh, you missed a spot."
BYOCleaning Supplies. This girl knows how to throw a party.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I was informed late in the afternoon that songwriter/comedian Jim Kates was on his way over. Jim, who entertains under the name Campfire Jim, had heard of our event late Saturday night, while performing at Memphis on Main,* in downtown Champaign.
He has written a special song called "An Untitled Song for an Unknown Soldier," inspired by his uncle, who served in Viet Nam. Jim and his wife Candy spent Sunday frenziedly burning CDs of this song and putting them in cases with labels, and raced over with a huge stack of them to put in our boxes. He also had his guitar in tow, and offered to sing for us.
We were so honored to have Jim and his family show up, and to have him perform this song for us. It was a perfect way to wrap up the day, and a touching reminder of why we'd been working so hard all afternoon, and will continue to forge ahead with our projects.
Bravo. While we sat wiping our eyes after listening to his song, someone teased him "Ok, how a bit of comedy for levity?" He joked about searching his brain for a piece that was family-appropriate, but came up with this one:
That's Campfire Jim: www.campfirejim.com. Check out his schedule, if you're from around here, and go watch him perform.
Jim will send a copy of Untitled Song for an Unknown Soldier to any soldier that requests a copy. All of the CDs he donated to us were distributed—I even opened sealed boxes to make sure they were all sent out.
Thanks Jim, for the touching closing to our day!
*The contributions of Memphis on Main, downtown Champaign, are not to be overlooked. They have supported every single one of our endeavors, posting our flyers, and taking up collections. The manager, Angela, showed up on Sunday with bags full of goodies, and envelope full of cash, and promises to help us with any future endeavours. Special Thanks to the owner, Kelly, and all of the crew at Memphis!
We had so many more boxes than we expected that I ran out of customs forms, and Clint and I had to finish those up in the post office. I set out the brownies, and the sign. We gave our postmaster, Andy, all of the boxes that we completely ready to go, and we got to work creating a second set of customs forms for the second set of boxes; one for every soldier.
I was thinking, while we worked, that the atmosphere was a bit less jovial, this time around, as we were too busy to socialize. There was a moment, though, in which one woman left her window, and asked me:
"Can I mail one of these boxes?"
Her question had a domino effect. A woman at another window said "I'd like one too, please!" and 2 more in line told us "we'd like one too!" One person pressed $20 bill into my hands. And one lady, upon hearing Clint and I search for a soldier by the name of "Schmidt" asked us how his name was spelled. We told her, and she said, "Well, my name is Schmitt, but it's close enough! I'd like to pay for Schmidt's box!" There was a few minutes of laughing, and cheering, and handing boxes over for people to pay for. When it was time to get back to our forms, I literally had to take a minute, to absorb that scene.
I had walked in tired and zombie-esque, and once again found myself in the middle of a display of amazing good will from complete strangers. Am I dreaming, for heaven's sake?! People are just taking our boxes and paying for them, and then bringing me the receipts? Does this stuff really happen?
It does happen, and it did happen, yesterday, at the Mattis Avenue Post Office, in Champaign.
I'm still shaking my head. And smiling.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I have so much to tell you about so many wonderful people that helped make this event a success. There are several post-worthy tales, and instead of lumping them all into one post, I've decided to "reveal" them a post at time.
Now, I'm revealing a little secret.
While we collected and wraps gifts yesterday, Fightin Mad Mary & Q, our favorite Hollywood Bloggers, had a fundraiser for Toys for Troops last night, at their home in Studio City, California.
and GloZell (right), whom I feel like I know.
It look like she pulled her event off without a hitch. Barefoot Wines donated all of the wine, and sent a representative to serve, for the party. Catering and furniture were donated, and guests brought their checkbooks.
Get out! I know!
Mary called me last night, with her post-party wrap up. She was as exhausted as I was, but we both laughed on the phone, comparing notes and telling stories about our perspective days. There's something special about meeting, and talking to Mary: When you walk away (or hang up the phone), you're amazed to suddenly realize that you haven't been friends with her since grade school. She just makes you feel like you've been friends your entire life!
Q and A Celebrity: Any Scrubs fans recognize this guest?
You know, when someone does something little for me, I get all smiley and want to do cartwheels: "I remembered you like raspberry, so I picked this up at the bakery." You did that for me? Yayyyy! A cookie! Thank you! I can't believe you did that!
When someone--someone 2000 miles away!--gives up their home, finds beverages, and caterers and furniture, and invites 150 people to give money to help send packages to soldiers on my mailing list? And those people show up? And write checks? And they send money to PayPal, and e-mail me with encouraging messages?
[15 minutes of staring at this screen, trying to figure out what to write next]...
There just needs to be a word or phrase in the English language for "Thank You" that is larger in magnitude than a cookie thank you. A thank you that expresses that when I think about what you've done for us, I experience a small catch in my breath. A swelling in my heart. A shaking of my head, and a widening of my eyes.
Mary and Q: When I come up with that word, I'm sending it to you.