Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tell Me

Time for Tell Me!

But first I'll tell you...

10:00 pm, on my 10th or so country evening. Clint is working, the telly is O-F-F, and there's a summer rain in this countryside.

I stepped out on the porch, to hear a din of insects and amphibians. Crickets, locusts, and tree frogs harmonize with rain on leaves, from the forest across the street. Thunder rumbles in the background, and we have a new neighbor, a screech owl that sends chills up your spine as it flies to and fro.

We are surrounded on 3 other sides by a soybean field, and the moisture has kept fireflies up past their usual hour.

What I am witnessing here is a concert and a light show.

For this one minute, I want you to feel this. I wish you were me.

I want to know: What are YOUR "You should be me" moments? Spectacular views, thrilling rides, rewards for hard work?

Tell me: When would you have wished us in your shoes?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photo Dump Day

Big Weekend ahead, time to clean off the camera. Lucky you.

Pizza party at Mark's house last Friday night, a perfect ending to a long hard day of cleaning at Mom's house: Good friends, good beer, good pizza. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard for so many hours. I needed that.

Landscape architects bring the most interesting ingredients to a pizza party. My olives and mozzarella were trumped by Shirley's nasturtiums:

This was beautiful and delicious, I loved this pizza.


A few weeks ago, after lamenting on a tough day that watermelon made me feel good, Danni, from On The Way to Critter Farm, asked me if she could at least send me some watermelon gum to make me feel better. Yuk! No thanks, I told her.

She sent it anyway. It came special delivery, from Frugal Mom, who had just been visiting Danni in Oregon. She and her daughter K waltzed in one evening and handed me a very bulky envelope. There was a pack of Watermelon Bubblicious inside, along with a note that read "I know you don't like this, but every time you smell it, I'm sending you good thoughts."

I felt compelled to at least get one photo blowing some bubbles. Oh, the fun we had trying to get a decent photo. Starting the gum was a *chore,* and I needed 2 pieces for a decent bubble, so I had K warm up a second piece for me. Here's the hand off after she had it nice and soft:

The delay on Frugal Mom's camera made it very difficult to get a shot. She'd snap when I had a big beautiful bubble, and end up with a photo of gum all over my face. Time after time. This is the best we can do, my best bull-frog imitation.

Look how mean I look; that is real concentration, folks. That gum tasted awful and gave me watermelon syrup saliva. Thanks Danni, darling. The rest of the pack sits on the mantle, freshening the air around it.


Oh, and not be outdone by bubblegum, Frugal Mom brought along her own pick-me-up gift:

A bouquet from her own yard. This was taken weeks ago, and still those flowers sit on my mantle. They don't like quite that nice, but they're there.


2 weeks ago Clint and I met friends and family in St. Louis for a blast-from-the-past concert: 38 Special, Styx, and REO Speedwagon. Read: A bunch of old farts in the audience. We were reminded of our own ages when we spotted this guy sitting 2 rows in front of us, waiting for the concert to start:

Why didn't we think of that?


This is currently what we're calling our "deck." It will be a bonafide deck someday, but for now, it's 2 planks of wood and a Smokey Joe.

We love it.


Here's someone's bike, locked up, downtown. I don't imagine the owner of this one was a happy camper when he discovered this.


My Biker Baby at Bed Bath & Beyond:

I love me a man that will not only spend 3 hours picking out THE perfect shower curtain with me, but will escort me from store to store on a Harley Davidson while he does it. We've decided that if it took 3 hours to pick out just the shower curtain, it really will be years before our home is finalized.


And last but not least, here's before and after pictures of just ONE room that I tackled at Mom's house last week. This was the bedroom I grew up in, and the room that ceiling recently fell through, after heavy rains. On top of that junk sat the ceiling, the insulation, and bleah, more mold than I want to think about. I really am amazed I didn't get sick from it. What's the statute of limitation on a mold spore anyway?

I still have to arrange to get the ceiling fixed, that's next on my agenda. Anyway, here's the room as it was last Friday morning:

And as it was Friday afternoon:

I'm closing in on transforming every room in the house in this manner, and then: The garage, aurghhhhhhh, the black hole that is the garage. Still, I feel infinitely relieved to have the house back in order, or on it's way. It won't return to the chaotic state that it was originally in, as all of that stuff has been tossed, donated, or set aside for a garage sale.

And anyone that gives my Mom a box full of books, sweaters, or yarn will have to answer to me!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shout Out to My Sister...

I just wanted to give you all a quick update on my sister, and let you know that my niece has set up a website in which you can pop over and send her a message. (Click here.)

Teri has good days and bad. She's barfing up her guts one day, then feeling great and high-spirited the next. Eating is difficult for her, and she's in a Catch-22 situation in which she only feels good if she doesn't eat. Some solution, huh? She finally gets so hungry she can't stand it, eats some dinner, then vomits all day the next day.

She has a tube coming out of her stomach to try to avert the constant vomiting, but it doesn't work as well as you'd think....it's a little difficult to put barfing on hold while you get that thing set up. She hates it.

I phoned her last night at 6:30, to discover I'd just woke her up from the night before. Docs had given her a sleeping pill that they said would give her a good nights' sleep, but leave her coherent and functional the next day. Apparently not so, she slept almost 24 hours, asking me, when I called, "what time is it?" Gah! Perhaps the pill mixed with morphine had a knock-out effect on her. Hope she's at least rested today, as a result...and not exhausted because she couldn't sleep after so much sleep.

So, there are rough days. But she calls me also, and tells me to be sure and get butterfly bushes when we start setting up the country garden, because it draws the hummingbirds I am hoping for.

We talk about cooking and solutions on how to fix some of the foods she misses in a manner that will be digestible for her. She's craving sushi...but can't digest nori. We can skip the nori, and form sticky rice into a cup, can't we? And add crab and avocado? Sort of a sushi tart? We're going to try it!

I sent her periodic photos of bizarre findings while cleaning out Mom's house. "Check this out; a jar of hair from Duchess (Mom's former poodle)." She TXT'd me back "you can have that." We are amicable: we agreed to put it in the safe deposit box, and let our kids split it someday down the road.

Anyway, Click here to go to her Caring Bridge Website. www.caringbridge.com/visit/teripittman

Go on over and tell her hi; a girl gets bored at home all day long, and she'd love to hear from you.

You don't have to KNOW her to send her a smile, just g'head and do it, kay? You can tell her I sent you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tick, tock...You are getting sleeeeeepy....

Though we can't speak, Brian's been sending me photos while he's in desert training, and I've been forwarding them to my facebook account. The sentiments that his photos "make it real" to a lot of people inspire me to post them here also. Anything we can do to heighten awareness that thousands of families are facing what we do not hear enough about in the news, these days, I think, is worthwhile.

Ours are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. They still train for year-long tours.

I speculate that they're doing sleep deprivation training. This one came with the message "Me, sleepy."

And the message on this one: "Our little baby 2nd lieutenant, sleeping."

I don't think I've ever been this tired.

Have you ever been tired enough to sleep sitting or standing up? Tell us, these guys will enjoy your answers.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cleaning House and Taking Names

Sunday evening, 10 pm. I am so exhausted.

Sunday evening 10 pm. I am so relieved.

Last Thursday I had a 20-yard dumpster delivered to my mother's house. I have spent the last 3 days cleaning holy hell out of her home.

I have been sorting through 50 years of her life: 40 years of her marriage to our father, my own and my sister's childhood, and 30 years of a daycare business—and 10 years of dementia—all packed into a small, 3-BR ranch.

It was my job to decide what must go and what must stay, with a primary goal of restoring order and safety to her home.

It was not a job for the meek. My mother, always sentimental, developed a hoarding disorder in her later years. Her home was was littered with blatant signs of her oncoming dementia. As she always catered to 2-year olds, it was sometimes difficult to sort out what, in her home, might have had a legitimate purpose (a small tin with cherry pits, for children to plant), and what, in my mind, absolutely no sense:

Socks & diaper pins.

No matter; I have been a tornado in my mothers home for the last 3 days. I have emptied rooms that were stacked to the ceiling. I have sorted, tossed, and saved.

I have mopped floors, washed walls, scrubbed furniture, stripped beds, dusted cobwebs, moved furniture, and laundered countless bedclothes.

All of this with one thing foremost, in my mind:

I did not want to undo my mother with the changes I made in her home. I needed to pitch acres of stuff with minimal upset; her home should have, essentially, the same look and feel as it did Thursday afternoon, before I began.

The most unsettling aspect of the cleanup was tearing out white carpets that left the original dark brown tiles underneath. Clint helped me with the carpet removal, and with shopping for bright rugs to splash about, to absorb some of the shock.

Most furniture is returned to its original spot. Shelves, cleaned out, are still filled with her belongings, which leaves room to put comfort items out where she can see them: Stuffed animals on her headboard. She loves them.

I think I did a damned good job this weekend. I feel infinitely relieved that things are in order. Or, falling into order. I have some more rooms to work on, and Clint's son and friends are tackling the jungle that used to be the back yard.

Now that we're working on it, I realize what a tremendous amount of guilt I've felt that her home and yard have gotten to their current state.

But I also know that she has resisted all of our attempts to set these things straight in years past; she was unwilling to let us step in and move or toss Dad's stuff, Dad's space. Anything set right was restored to its chaotic state, broken lamps brought in from the garbage, and placed back into the corner from which we had carried them.

I sucked at tough love with my kid, and I suck at it with my Mom.

I was waiting for her permission, and she finally gave it to me.

We both feel better.

At least, I do.

I really hope she does.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

House Update

It's official. Kind of. Well, we think so...we're back. We're here. We aren't done; we aren't anywhere close to done, but we spent our first night in the country casa last night. We stayed on the property a few weeks ago, for Clint's birthday, but the only available bedroom was still a bit overcome with construction equipment, so we slept in the camper that night, so we don't count that.

We've puttered and organized, and we've decided that it's time: We have a stove and a refrigerator. We have living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. We are here.

We still have lots of dust, bare lightbulbs, boxes everywhere, cardboard over the floor to protect the tile, and doors and windows with no trim. But even on night 2 we've figured out fast that it is MUCH easier to work here until 7 0r 8, and be HOME when we are done.

We celebrated last night with a simple, but fantastic dinner, tossed together from what few ingredients we have in the kitchen. A steak on the grill, a simple salad, and a last minute bouquet of wildflowers in a fancy vase. (Pronounce that vahs, will you?)

On Day 2, we made it really official:

We brought the cat home. She acclimated for a few hours, and when it was finally time for me to put my feet up, decided to earn her keep: She caught the mystery mouse that's been leaving evidence of it's existence around the house.

And she brought the writhing thing right to my feet. Clint was in the shower at the time, but he had no doubt that something exciting was going on in the living room. I was standing on the couch within nanoseconds (yes, I was), making this face, and the accompanying sounds that you imagine here:

Lucky for me, the mouse got away, which may make for an interesting Night #3 at the country casa. I'm keeping my shoes on.

We look forward to keeping you posted.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That's All I Got: #1

I've been thinking: How does one, overextended, maintain a blog? Solution du jour: Mini-Posts. ta-DUHhhhhh: A photo, a line, leave a brief message at the beep.


I took this one Friday night, in St. Louis. We were a party of 7 at Jennifer and Bill's house this weekend, and on Friday night sat out under a romantic gazebo on the most gorgeous deck, just decorated, as a their wedding gift, by what must have been a master gardener. This deck is paradise, and family, friends, good beer, tree frogs, and locusts didn't hurt the atmosphere one bit.

Until that locust tried to fly into our hair.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Christmas in July

For sale, in an Antique Mall in St. Louis, MO:

Is this not the creepiest thing you've ever seen?


$700, and he's all yours.

Sweet Dreams.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I list myself, in my profile, as an insomniac. Not so much these days, I need to update that profile.

On those rare occasions that I can't sleep, anymore, I just imagine complaining to these guys:

Then I shut myself the hell up and go to sleep.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Someplace, Somewhere, U.S.A.

Clint and I were traveling down a country highway recently, when we zoomed by this place at 55 mph. Click to enlarge the photo, and see why I made him turn around so that we could check it!

A lot of character here, not to mention a photo op in every corner. The walk up to the front door was paved with with roofing shingles.

A closer look at the front door:

We walked up to that door to find that the establishment was closed. Oh, nooooo! We can't go into this great junky little place? We peeked into the windows for a few minutes, and were heading back down the shingle-walk when the proprietor of the store came screeching into the gravel.

I figure that I can tell you where we were, or I can tell you what happened next, but I just wouldn't feel right telling you both. It would be a matter of national junk store security.

Here's the nice lady that owned the nice store that hurried up to meet us, out of breath and explaining that she had just driven down to the corner, to her house, to grab the newspaper.

She got to the door, turned around and gave me and Clint the once over. After scrutinizing us for a few seconds, she said "Ok, since it's just you two..." she proceeded to reach into a junkpile, grab this bricklayer's trowel, and after one more glance our way...

...break into her own store, saying "Come on in, let me know if there's anything I can help you with!"

That's kind of the whole story. After that, she parked herself behind the counter with her newspaper, happy to let us have a heyday poking around, trying on hats, and taking as many photos as we wanted to. We were there for well over an hour, bid our goodbyes, and hit the road with dozens of photos. Here are just a few highlights.

The end.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

4th of July through One Soldier's Mother's Eyes

Happy 4th of July everyone.

This one a poignant one for me, as Brian & Co. left in the middle of the night Thursday, to Fort Irwin, CA, for desert training. They are gearing up for their next deployment, in October.

The first time he was deployed, as any long-time readers will know, I tried to prepare myself. I spent some hours analyzing and trying to factor out my own irrational fears, and coming to grips, basically, with The Serenity Prayer.

I don't know that any of it did any good. I fell apart periodically. And I kept it together most of the time, but sure as hell not on my own—THAT took my own army of supporters willing to pick me up and hold me up, on tougher days. The birth of Toys for Troops and all it brought into my life was a lovely distraction that made me feel as if I really could do more than nothing.

I didn't do this alone before, and I won't do it alone this time. Still, I remain, a bit, in denial. I KNOW my son is heading to Iraq, but instead of preparing myself, this time I try not to think about it.

This first photo, then, that he sent me on Wednesday hit me like a ton of bricks. This is real, mama, better start getting that through your silly little head.

We can communicate little right now, so I assumed these were photos of his company, waiting to take off for Fort Irwin.

I managed to compose myself, as he and his buddies sent me more, at my request.

There they go.

Hours later, settled in. There's Steven Moore (Steebmo) poking his head around the pole. Steebmo and Brian credit one another for making it home alive last time. Steven was the gunner on my son's bradley, and their stories are hair-raising. For saving my son's life, I will always love him. I don't even care that he partied too hard upon his homecoming and threw up in one of my pillowcases. That's how much I love him—there are very few people that could get away with that, you know.

Standish and Jolley. This one spent Thanksgiving in my house also. He has a distinct, joyous laugh that I can always recognize in the background when I talk to Brian. He laughs, and I say "Tell Standish hey."

And we're caught up, to this morning. I sent Brian a text, asking for one more pic, before I posted this entry. This one came in, with his caption:

"The view out the back of my brad."

He sent me another note, saying that 5 guys were watching a movie in that bradley, on a 7-inch screen. Being Mumsy, I asked him for a photo of that too:

And, ummm...since I'm the boss of Standish, I told HIM to take a picture of Brian for me. Brian sent me this one, then, with the caption:

"My cracker."

It's Independence Day. I'm embarrassed to admit that this was a day that once used to be, to me, more about picnics and fireworks, and a day off from work, and less about why were celebrating, and who we had to thank for it.

Brian and his comrades continue to make me strive to be a better person.

This is just one more aspect of how my son has changed my life.