Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sweltering Market Report

We have had a "Severe Weather Alert" in this berg for the last few days, which is to last a few more. The heat index reached 108 yesterday, so if you were smart, you went to the market early. I was not. Here's the 10 a.m. scene down one usually-packed aisle:

It was eerily quiet by then too, due mostly, I think, to the musicians packing it in early. It was much too hot to sing and dance on that hot black asphalt.

On the other hand, I think the heat enhanced the market's aroma. The scent of basil and cilantro bowled you over. Even the smell of a box full of sun-warmed green peppers was enticing. They were 3/$1 yesterday, and I was sure to bring some home.

Potatoes are starting to pop up. My favorites are baby red potatoes. They were either sold out or not quite ready for harvest, but these fingerling potatoes were plentiful.

Garlic and shallots are thriving now too.

Most stands are selling the tomatoes for $2.50/lb, which I find a little pricey. There are others around town going for $1.75 or so, and ever frugal, I shop there instead. Still, one stand had a reduced price on their seconds.

These aren't quite as ripe or beautiful as the more expensive ones, but a few days in a sunny window, and they'll be ready to go.

When I took the pic of these gourds, the woman selling them snapped at me, "you'll take a picture, but you won't buy one!" Tsk, tsk, be never know when you're biting the head off a blogger. I would have said something nice about her stupid gourds, but now I won't. What would I do with a gourd anyway?

Well, this couple could teach me a thing or two about that. These are the creations of Chuck and Karenlee Spencer, in Charleston, Illinois.

It was just crazy-hot yesterday, that's all there is to it! I am reminded of a former coworker's true childhood story, of a pet parrot whose cage was placed by the back door. After a few weeks of particularly brutal heat, the parrot began reciting "It's f***'in hot!!!" and their father had to reprimand them all. And then move the cage to another section of the house.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


Brian and his dad took off for Fort Benning, GA yesterday morning. A few friends showed up to see him off. Or rather, they were STILL here, after schlepping in sometime around 4:00 in the morning to help Brian finish up laundry. They were all a *bit* on hungover when the alarm went off at 7:30.

Brian's time at home was good. We had a big cookout with tons of food, friends, and family. He spent most of his time in friend's apartments, but made time for pizza on Saturday night, and some more grill time on another evening. Everyone wanted a piece of him. No one got to see enough of him.

And Thursday morning, when I was sniffling and walking back in the house with his friends, I teased them "ohhh, why didn't you talk him out of the army?" They both answered me seriously. "Because he needed this. He wasn't doing anything," Chris said. And John, "If I had thought it was a bad thing, I would have stopped him."

Of course. They are right, and once I again, I am comforted by these "kids." Because they also reinforced to my then-wandering son what he did not want to hear from me. And they validate that I wasn't a Bitch-Mom Gone Batshit. Not all the time, anyway.

As a parent, I like to think that I never put my kid on auto-pilot, even when he'd have preferred it. I tried to tune in and communicate, and when necessary, fight.

And I second-guess myself, looking back. There are things I wish I had done differently. When he was 14, he spent the night with friends, took a stroll around the block at midnight and got arrested for curfew violation. ARRESTED! Courtrooms and sentencing! He had to wash squad cars every Saturday for 8 weeks, and return to the judge with an essay in hand: "The Trouble You Can Get Into Late At Night."

Lord, it sounds hilarious now. You know his Dad's a cop. I didn't want to call him at 1 a.m. to tell him our son had been delivered to my home in a squad car. Unfortunately, he got the news in briefing the next morning, before I could get to him. Boy, did that make him grumpy.


Still I worry: God, we were so upset! Were we too harsh, then, or at any of the scrapes he got into? Did I ever judge him and scold him and make him feel worthless for stupid minor offenses? God. I hope not, because I never thought he was.

My kid was a bit lost before he took left for the army. His dad declared tough love. I coddled and encouraged him. We came up with a deal we could live with, then. A deal with a deadline. It's been a fun ride, kiddo, but adolescence has left this building. Get a job or get to school. Do what you gotta do, but get to doing something.

He was never a disrespectful kid. He has a sympathetic soul. He aches for the underdog, and bothers to try to help. He is a fun and funny guy. He was, as youth often are, merely paralyzed with indecision. He'd wanted to join the army a few years before, but I discouraged it, as did others.

He has long term goals that require miliatary experience, and he's on his way to try to get there. He has cleared the first hurdle, a damned tough one. The army takes pictures now, of our men going through basic training. I have pictures and videos of him and his, face down in mud. Running from the gas chamber. Throwing grenades. Climbing trees. Building bridges. Sitting in a classroom.

I don't sensationalize his accomplishments. I know he's signed up for serious, potentially dangerous stuff. I worry. Rather, I try NOT to worry. And you all know, I'm proud, proud, proud. It has been several years since I felt this much at peace. With him. With myself. With the world. Having your kid get back on track. Man, it just lifts a world of weight off your shoulders.

There is a definite strength to my son's posture now. He is proud, and strong, and reliable. He forgot to take out the garbage, one day, as promised, and he came back home to do it! He is laughing and talkative and appreciative. He teases me about my blog ("Don't listen to her John, you'll be there for an hour") and taking his pictures (rolling his eyes, and purposefully donning a plastic smile) and he tolerates my touching his fuzzy head.

And today he's in Fort Benning, Georgia.

AND it is time, darlings, for me to let go of what I might have done right or wrong. My lessons have been taught, my examples have been set. My messages were consistent. I think I did more right than wrong. He has always been, and always will be, my friend.

So, I'll let go. A little bit. And I'll move on, and wait with bated breath for news from him.

In the meantime, I'll continue to Mother him. I'll make sure he's drinking enough water, and send him cookies and write mooshy blogs about him.

It's just what I do.

And YOU. Fellow bloggers. Readers. Friends. Family. Acquaintances. Your letters, cards, e-mails, phone numbers, and messages on the street have been buckling. Thanks for coming along for this ride. You will never know how much I love you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Free to a good home...

One green and purple armchair...

With one extremely fast little tarantula—faster than a screaming woman and one U.S. soldier combined. Can jump from ottoman to armchair in a single bound.

References not necessary. Yours for the taking.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7!

7 Sheep.

Have you noticed, over there in my profile, that I list myself as an insomniac?

I don't sleep well. Never have, according to my mother. I don't fall asleep easily, and if I do, it's usually a sign that I'm falling ill. Nap? Never. Sleep through the night? Rarely. I'm awake every hour or so.

I deal with it, for the most part it doesn't bother me that much. There have been a few times, though, that I began to feel a bit batty from so many days with little sleep. I cannot differentiate a real doorbell from a dream doorbell. I have awakened to find myself racing through the house to answer the door. I don't care for that.

I've followed all the recommedations for us non-sleepers: comfortable temperature, consistent bedtime, warm bath, warm milk, visualization, relaxation techniques.

I've been recommended "head games." Marcee once told me that she lies down and thinks, "go to sleep toe. Toe, go to sleep." Then her ankle, her calf, and so on. She says she's always asleep before she gets to her waist. When I play that game, I go toe-to-scalp and back again, with no luck.

I've created my own head games: I pick a time or a place in my past—my first grade classroom—and try to recall details. Or I visualize walking home from school, step by step. I figure I might bore myself to sleep.

I've focused my eyes on the inside of my eyelids. I've tried holding my eyes open in the dark. That exhausts me, but doesn't make me sleep.

I broke down a few weeks ago, and mentioned to my doctor that I don't sleep well. She gave me samples of a non-addictive sleep aid, called Rozerem. I hesitantly tried one. And I woke up every hour, to check to see if I was sleeping! I tried another pill, when I was still awake in the wee hours of the morning. I figured if I fell asleep quickly, I'd get the most hours of sleep possible. Of course, I was still under the influence of the sleeping pill when it was time to rise and shower for work, and i had a wretched day, feeling dizzy and even more tired. There is one pill left, and I don't intend to touch it.

What works?

Water. When I'm near rolling waves, I can't keep my eyes open. They lull me to sleep. I was born in San Diego, and I sometimes wonder if my mother didn't push my stroller around the beach to comfort me.

Disinterest in the cause. The more energy I put into it, the more difficult it is to sleep.

Perspective. When I'm going gonzo, I try to see this problem as a luxury. Yes, a LUXURY. I once contemplated the photo of a woman in wartorn Boznia, and I imagined myself telling her, "you think YOU have problems, baby, I can't SLEEP! Can you believe it? I have purchased books for it, and researched it. I've bitched and complained, and I have MONEY enough that I may pay a doctor to figure out how to rest my weary soul."

And I realize, when I do this, that most of my problems are luxuries, really. Luxuries that I can invest in, converse about, gain attention from, and spend money on.

I know something's going on, that I could get help for. And I probably will, eventually. But sometimes you just have to buckle up. And go to sleep. And it doesn't have to be more than that.

I am honestly falling-down exhausted right now, so I leave you for another attempt. Wish me luck. And luxury.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Over the River... Grandma's House we go. MY Grandma. Brian heads to Georgia in 2 days, and we made a point of driving to Kankakee to visit Great-Grandma before he leaves.

Some things never change. Brian was asleep 15 minutes into the ride.

Hugs, hugs, aren't you tired of my photographing hugs?! Brian sure is. He'll thank me some day, I just know it.

We got down to chicken dinner, and afterward Brian helped Grandma with the toothpick container. It's one of those shaped like a bird that leans over. Grandma struggled with it, telling him "that bird is supposed to give it to you, but he doesn't."

My grandmother is a pistol. She's 88 years old, and until 2 years ago, worked full time in the housekeeping department of a hospital in Kankakee. She's became ill after a routine medical test went awry, and has been trying to recover ever since. She's physically frail, but mentally sharp as a tack.

She complained about her baggy pants, and then teased Brian about his, "we both have the same pants!"

After dinner we went out into the garden to take a few pix.

When the photo shoot was over, Grandma asked Brian for a hand out of the glider swing. He started to pull her up, but couldn't just yank her up by her arms. My Aunt Carol coached him: "pull on the back of her pants." "What?" he said, "Really?" Yep, that's what she said.

A bit hesisitant to give his Great Grandmother a giant wedgie, he gently lifted her out of the chair, leaving them both laughing when she was back on her feet.

I love, love, love this picture. My Grandma is a bit grouchy about this growing-old stuff; she thinks it's for the birds, thank you very much. I was unsure if she'd let me take a photo her hand with Brian's, but she was happy to oblige: Brian's hands were warmer than hers, she said.

I'm so happy we got this trip in. We had a great time, and hit the road for home just at 7:00—1/2 hour past Grandma's bedtime. She's a wild one.


Blogger down, Blogger down!

Hey ya'll, one of ours is feeling kind of sickly! Dogbait, our friendly Australian Meter Reader, got a little wheezy during a run on Saturday, and had an angiogram today. He's going to be ok (or else!) but any comments or messages we can send will be delivered to him tomorrow.

G'won over and and say hello. You'll be rewarded with a cute picture of Holly saving his life. If that doesn't cheer him up, remind him that he'll be back in bananas in September!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I came across these little girls a few months ago, waiting for their turn on stage at The Virginia Theater. I've nothing else to say, really; I just wanted to move off of the blister post.

Your welcome.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Army Boot Pedicure


Can I have just a few more minutes? I will move forward, I promise, but I am only now able to speak or write of the graduation without crumbling.

The family day, on Thursday, was extremely emotional. You all know I was pretty darned excited at the prospect of laying hands on him. There was a presentation before we got to see our soldiers, and then we were dismissed out of the theater door, to wait for our company to come marching in, singing cadence from down the road. I videotaped their marching in.

Funny, the initial video I have is one of their marching and singing, before I had yet spotted mine. Brian's step-sister was standing behind me, and in the clip, you can hear her telling me where he is. You can also tell exactly when I spotted him, as my hands started shaking uncontrollably, and the video gives you motion sickness from there.

I had worried that I would cry when I saw him. I had friends, speaking from experience, warn me that it would be an emotional day. I was determined not to be the cry-baby Mom, and fall all apart. When the troops were dismissed and began to disperse, I made my way through the crowds and all worries about crying completely dissipated. I worried not, as I collapsed into his arms, sobbing. Embarrassed? Not bloody likely, everyone in the family followed suit, and every family around us disappeared. I assume that other Mothers were following my lead, but I was so engrossed at looking at my beautiful son, I really have no idea.

The next day I was in better shape. The opening ceremony for the graduation was amazing, and I only teared up during the National Anthem. After a slide show, a drill sargeant took the stage in the dark, and a spotlight appeared on him, creating an enormous, intimidating shadow behind him. "Companyyyyyyyyyyyy, Halt!" he screamed.

Oh, boy! Our boys were going to come in through that side door we'd exited to see them the day before! We just knew it!

As we turned to wait, 180 men stomped their feet behind the curtain on that wooden stage, BOOMmmmmm! And 180 voices responded to their drill sargeant. It was a soul-invading thunder, as they marched out from either side of the curtain, singing cadence and marching to their seats within the audience. It was one of the most chilling presentations I have ever, and probably will ever, witness.

We were invited to step forward as our sons and daughters, one by one, took the stage and yelled out, "Private Brian Jolley, Illinois" and then stepped forward to have their engineering medallions pinned on their collars.

And on this day, I didn't cry, but burst with pride a bit more. Slide shows had given me an indication of what my son had been through, as he all the while sent me cheery letters and spoke to me of "nothing new" on the telephone. Even with visuals, that parents of yesteryear didn't have, I cannot imagine the turmoil, hardwork, and verbal abuse he overcame.

There are simply no more words, I can only wear out the word "proud."

In this short video (not the shaky one!) he is in the center of the viewfinder, 2nd row back.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

July 15 Market Report

My trip to the market was a whirlwind one yesterday. My son is home for 10 days or so, leaving me all crazy giddy, and I left the house without a plan of action. It was very hot and crowded, so I just bought sweetcorn and decided to regroup. I still managed to snap a few before I took off.

It's eggplant season. I don't dislike eggplants as much as I do beets, but they've never really appealed to me; I find them flavorless and spongy.

I'm still fascinated to see how many varieties there are, and wonder if I shouldn't try something new. How can these not be good? There's Thai Eggplant:

Orient Charm:


And these pretty white ones.

I'm also suprised to see these peppers. Where have I been that I didn't know peppers came in purple and white? These are not peppers like Grandma used to make!

It's also Gladiolus Season. Did you know there's an entire festival with a parade and everything for these things in Momence, Illinois? When we were kids I marched with cousins in this parade.
I can't for the life of me remember why. Maybe our mom's just signed us up to get us out of their hair for a few hours.

The REAL market report of the day. Have I mentioned my son is home? He awoke yesterday to find our frig stocked with a carton of plain yogurt and the 2 beets from last week's market that I couldn't bring myself to eat. Luckily, I was on my way home with a couple weeks of chow that will tide him and the accompanying hoards over for the next two weeks. A $240 trip to the grocery store, now there's a market report.

We are having a few of his friends and their parents over tonight. I'll put that corn on the grill, whip up a few sides. I'll have a little ceremony, present the boys with some burgers and a spatula, then sit back and sip on something cool while I wait for my dinner. All is right with the world!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What a Wonderful World

Gettin' Our Kicks

I hit the road this afternoon, with Brian's friend Beth riding shotgun, to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Yes. I get to see my son tomorrow. The 5 hour drive went quickly. We're staying in Rolla, Missouri, and we became giddier the closer we came to our destination. We sang, "Rolla Rolla, we get to see Brian Jolla."

This is the route we took, which put yet another tune in my head for the entire trip:

It stormed for the first 3 hours of the trip, the worst rain I've ever driven in. The car was hydroplaning all over the place, but I didn't dare pull over: we were also in the middle of fierce lightning. I usually find lightning beautiful, but it was low and close this afternoon, and bouncing all around us. I kept driving to get out of it.

We checked into our hotel, then rolled into Fort Leonard Wood around 8 p.m. We had to check in with registration, proof of insurance, and IDs. My car was inspected; we had to open all the doors, the trunk, and the hood. We were asked, then, to stand back, while security ran mirrors under the car. We were given a stamp of approval, and permission to roam the base, get our bearings for tomorrow.

Oh, and we stopped to take these photos.

And we got stopped by a cop for it. Apparently it's a no-no to take a photo of this sign. We apologized. And I took his photo as he drove away. Shhhhh.

After we got our bearings on base, we headed back to Rolla, to find some dinner. Or vittles, as they say in these parts. Here were a few of our choices:

I couldn't remember the name on this sign, and so we dubbed it Jim and Carrot's Tater Patch. I still think our name's better.

We saw billboards for "Cookin' from Scratch" along the highway, and decided to check it out. We arrived just as it was closing, but we were still thrilled for this photo op. As we left, someone kindly informed us that the leftovers from the "Cookin from Scratch" restaurant could be purchased at the gas station next door.

We tried another restaurant called The Feed Lot. We were seated, noticed that a hamburger steak ran about $13.00. I don't even know what the heck a hamburger steak is; the photo looked like a hamburger on a plate. We quickly determined that $30 hamburger-sans-bun meals were not our cup of tea, and snuck out, mumbling tales of leaving our money in the room. We ended up at Shoney's. Not high falutin, but a decent salad bar and salmon fillet for $7.

For the last photo of the day, I present to you the marquee on the front of our hotel.

I've never been much of a sports fan, but I might just try out for this one.

I'm so excited to see my son tomorrow. And I have to admit, rattly. Brian left home on March 29, and his life, his home, his environment have all been in my imagination. My impressions have been based on what he tells me, what I've seen on TV, and a few random google images (turning up that illegal sign).

Beth, on our way out of the base, said, "we got quiet."

Yes we did. Driving around the base today made it all so real. I'm ON AN ARMY BASE! My car is being inspected by PEOPLE WITH GUNS. There are trucks and tanks, and THIS is my son's life! Maybe I don't know him anymore!

There are signs by the side of the road that say "Speed Limit 10 mph when troops are present." He's gone and done something without me, something that will never be mine. He has worked his ass off, and beat his drill sargeants in target shooting. He has done hundreds of push-ups, and 15K walks, and lived in the woods for days.

All by himself.

And I am so proud that I can barely breath.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Market Report & A Stroll Through Urbana

I put on a pretty little straw hat and hit the market at a leisurely pace yesterday, sauntering through a couple times. The people-watching is just as good as the vegetables. The pets are fun too, though I admit I cringe to see some folks dragging their little doogies through huge crowds on hot asphalt. These two seemed to be enjoying themselves on the border though, happy to watch from the edges.

I spend most of my dough at this booth each weekend. Fresh mixed greens, basil, and onions. Yum! The Salad booth!

It was a day of firsts for me. My first patty-pan squash. Actually I bought them a few weeks ago, but inadvertently left them in the back of my car for a week. Do Over! I sauteed a few of these in olive oil and garlic, and served them on the side of grilled salmon last night. Yum!

Another first: Beets have always been the one food that trigger my gag reflex. They were served up on my plate when I was a kid, pickled and bleeding all over the rest of my food. Even the smell of them makes me nauseous. Give me raw fish, but a beet makes me shiver.

However, I keep hearing how lovely they are, fresh, or grilled, or steamed with butter. Holly loves them. Marcee* and Dana and Diane gush over them. I'm open to the possibility that I might just be missing out, and decided to give the fresh beet a shot at making me love him.

Really, I got chills just touching these things; I'd rather hold a hissing cockroach. I tried one for lunch, sliced and steamed (a beet, not a roach). It wasn't terrible, but there was no love connection. I'm pretty sure I can prepare a better beet, and will try again.

Barrels of garlic! NOW we're talking! Marcy* thinks these look like bones. I think they look like lots of good cookin'. I want to pour all of these into my purse and run.

These are donut peaches. You can see how they got their name. They're sweet and juicy, and the proprietor at this particular booth was kind enough to give Marcee* a few of them for free. He just gave them to her! She didn't even have to date him or anything! Her husband approves.

And our one-man band had accompaniment this morning. For your viewing pleasure:

After the market, I drove home through "Historic Urbana," a quiet, shady neighborhood filled with quaint older houses, lots of flowerbeds, and young families pushing strollers and riding bikes with baskets. I couldn't resist, I just had to park and stroll these cool brick sidewalks for awhile. It's just a delightful neighborhood, I swear I could find something to photograph at every address.

Like this turkey, for instance. In the news around here for the last 6 months or so, is the fact that a band of wild turkeys has infiltrated Southeast Urbana. They're a nervy lot, unintimidated by human presence, hanging out in people's yards, and have been known to chase you off your own property.

This guy—or is she a girl?—cared little about my paparazzi status, just kept moseyin' on, willing to share the sidewalk with me.

That was awfully nice of him, wasn't it? It's a very nice sidewalk, and several of the streets in the neighborhood are still brick.

If you find yourself with a little downtime, go ahead and take a stroll through Historic Urbana, around streets California, Nevada, Oregon, Birch, and Cedar. The shade's good, the brick is cool, the air is fragrant, and the scenery worth a gander.

Take time to smell the turkeys.

*Marcee and Marcy: Both fantastic friends of mine, but difficult to keep them straight, yes?