Monday, December 31, 2007


What a year. There has never been another year in my life in which so many life-changing events were packed into such a short time. I compare the upcoming January to that of one year ago, and I can barely recognize my life, as it was.

While it's true I'm the same person, it's also true that my life has been affected in so many ways this year, that I will never be the same. So many have reached out and touched my life, cheering and supporting through personal hurdles.

Saying goodbye and sending my son off to Iraq is the hardest thing I have ever done. Before that day, I would have said that picking out my father's casket was the hardest thing I had ever done. A morbid measure, I know, but still, the thought that often goes through my mind is "even THAT was easier than THIS."

And so many more just came running when I put out the call for beanies, last May. I'd wager there are thousands of you that have contacted me, to bring beanies, to send beanies, to send care packages, to send money. So many have stepped up and said "I can't do much, but..."


But you DO.



Last May, I asked of you this: Don't Do Nothing.

What you did this year to change my life forever was to respond with a resounding "We Won't!"

Elizabeth Gilbert closed her book Eat, Pray, Love, with this sentence:
In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.
Perhaps she's right.

Thank you.

I mean it.

Thank you.


Oh yeah. And one more thing:

And Happy New Year, that too!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My 3rd Vicks Posting

I'll reiterate: I've been home 1 night out of the last 10. I AM taking notes, and I AM going to catch up, and you WILL hear about Homefront Hero day, among loads of other things. I am going to work all day tomorrow, and here's what I am looking forward to doing tomorrow night, New Year's Eve 2007:


Ok, I might take a quick spin at the witching hour, in order to kiss One I Love when the ball drops, but baby, I will be long in pajama's by then. If I had my druthers, I'd stay in them until mid-February. Or so.

In the mean time, I am comforted, in my holiday chaos, by THIS new product:

Tissues infused with Vicks Vaporub. They are STRONG, too. They clear your head, and warm your body, and comfort you. They comfort you, that is, if you were slathered head to toe in Vicks, as a kid.

I've written, here, before, that I was even forced to EAT Vicks, as a kid. Read about it here, if you haven't. Imagine my surprise at one holiday party this year, when the Vicks Puffs were on the table, my off-handedly mentioning that my parents made me gobble the stuff down, and ANOTHER at the party exclaimed that he, also, was forced to eat Vicks!

No sh**!!! His parents *also* had the giant jar of Vicks Vaporub that they'd dip 2 fingers dip into, and scrape right down our throats. Said parents claiming we'd recover overnight, and...miraculously, we always did.

"GAH!," we bonded, it was disgusting! It was terrible! We were traumatized for life, and due more for the suffering we endured!

And yet, hmmmmm...we both had Vick's kleenex in our homes, and breathed deeply of them....Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

We have died and gone to heaven, Vick's kleenex.

They should have thought of this years ago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Brian Update...and then some

Brian called the day after Christmas. Yay! Apparently the phones were down on the 25th, that sucks for lots of soldier's families.

Christmas conversation was good; he enjoyed his gifties from home, which included a hot pot for instant hot water, instant food goodies (cocoa, garlic mashed potatoes, etc), chocolate covered coffee beans, and yes, the outrageous deodorant.

Army Christmas at his camp consisted of a morning football game that he'd rather have skipped due to freezing weather, and turkey and roast beef for dinner, choices they don't normally have.

Apparently I wasn't the only Mom to send "Listerine" in Listerine bottles for Christmas; he told me that several of the guys in his company received Christmas "spirits" and that they managed to come together and have a bit of a party. "There was a lot of laughter," he told me. That made me smile, it makes me smile as I write this.

In other news, it's cold there now, and they're asking for space heaters. They can see their breath in the tent they sleep in at night. We've sent 2 off, along with those instant hand and foot warmers that you slip into gloves and socks, that last 12 hours or so. Gloves and socks and stocking caps are on their way.

And people, Our Boys are working too hard over there.

When I say "too hard," I mean 20 hours on, 4 hours of sleep, followed by 20 hours on again, for days. He talked about being so exhausted that they had to pull over and sleep on the road to make it home, one day last week.

Image borrowed from

When they returned, they were told they couldn't go to bed; instead, they had to stand in formation and wait for a visit from General George Casey, Army Chief of Staff.

45 minutes, they had to stand, and then they had to stand through his 2-hour speech, and through a Q&A after.

I'd like to don army boots, grab a rolling pin, and head over there to klunk some heads together.

Dear General Casey,

Hey, Just One Mom here. My Sons had slept 16 hours of the last 96, the day that you came to visit them. Have you ever heard of a little thing called "sleep deprivation?!!" Here are just a few symptoms, listed on Wikipedia:
  • blurred vision
  • clinical depression
  • decreased mental activity and concentration
  • depersonalization/derealization
  • weakened immune system
Don't you poo-poo me, either, George. I know they're big, brawny soldiers, trained to endure a lot of conditions that we mere civilians can't imagine. But these guys are loopy from exhaustion, and if you don't mind, George, I'd like them to be perky and alert, from now on, as they scour dirt roads in front of them, trying to avoid running over one of these:

Yeah, 2 teensy little copper wires. If they run over that archaic, but still effective scotched-taped section...well, as you probably know, the roadside bomb goes off.

I'd hate to think that there injuries, or worse, that could have been prevented by a freakin' nap.

And, since, these are the guys that ride in front of your convoy, General, to make sure that you don't get hit, you should take good, good care of them.

So. The next time you head over to visit my boys, I want you to get out of your stupid humvee or your helicopter, or whatever it is, with little sleepy mats and cartons of milk. You go and figure out which of those guys haven't slept since the day before yesterday, and you send those that want to back to bed, promising them transcripts of the speech you're getting ready to give.

Mama's Boys?

That's right. They are all this Mama's boy.*

Don't you roll your eyes at me, either, or you won't get any spaghetti.



Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Whew! It's been a whirlwind holiday.

At Thanksgiving I wrote that my Grandmother was very ill. She was unresponsive, and the doctors warned us that she wouldn't get better.

Those doctor's, they don't know my Grandmother so well. She's in a nursing home now, getting physical therapy, and we all hope she'll be home soon. Mom and I went to see her on Saturday. God. Aren't they cute?!!

Sunday afternoon Clint and I went to a cookout (ribs, baby, in December, nonetheless) at friends house. In addition to ribs, there was a bottomless glass of wine. Hence, I have little recollection of taking this photo, let alone offering up an explanation for it. (FYI, Clint was driving.)

Sunday evening we ended up at friend Di's house for awhile, catching up before we split for the holidays.

Monday: Momo and Woof and Matilda are home for the holidays!!! Whoo Hoo!! We hit the road, to meet them at a coffee shop in Mattoon, before moving on to Mike's brother's house.

Clint, bonding with Matilda:

She looooooooooooooves her Auntie Lori:

It was fantastic to catch up with them, despite a bit of a stressful holiday for them: While putting up the tree the day before, Momo's Mama fell and broke her leg, so their Christmas vacation suddenly consisted of ambulances, emergency rooms, casts, and vicodin...rinsed down with wine, of course. 'Tis still the season.

Imaginary mistletoe:
I have no pictures of Christmas eve. I lit 37,000 candles, Clint grilled up steaks and cajun shrimp. We stuffed ourselves to the gills, then sat around talking until midnight, at which point our first Christmas gifts to each other were exchanged.

Clint had to work today, and it was his turn to make an appearance on the news. Fireboots and Santa Hat, he wished the world a very merry. He is much more poised than I am, in front of a camera.

Christmas Day:

So many firsts on this Christmas Day. Today is the first Christmas day in our lives that Teri and I have not spent in our parent's home. We Stewart Girls, we have a bit going on in our lives right now, and adding preparing Mother's home to our list of "things to do" was not an option.

Teri decided Christmas would be in her home, and she was quite excited about it. We maintained most traditions: A roaring fire in the fireplace, she made the chili, I brought the clam chowder.

We had a beautiful day. Teri, wore plum out after lunch, fell asleep in front of 24 hours of "A Christmas story."

Heh. Wait. So did I. Mom watched TV while her daughters snoozed on either side of her. We were probably both children the last time that happened.

Here we is:

And yes, there was one, missing today. Brian was going to try to get to the phones, but babies, he's in line behind 3,000 others that want to talk to their wives and kids and parents and friends. It was unlikely.

I know he saved his wrapped gifts for today. I wondered what he'd think of some of them. For years now, I've purchased a ridiculously expensive deodorant for him, the scent of his favorite cologne. I hedged: Does a soldier want cologne-scented deodorant?

Hell-to-the-Yeah. The cutest little Macy's bag filled with red tissue paper and a $16 Armani Mania deodorant stick was in my soldier son's Christmas package from Mom, along with instant mashed potatoes and chocolate covered coffee beans. Oh. And a Listerine bottle that maybe was not filled with Listerine. Technically. I mean, maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't.

Two of his best friends called me today, to tell me they loved me, and see if I was ok.

This ornament came in the mail for me a few weeks ago, from Bryan Ingerman, from Louisiana. The weekend I launched Toys for Troops, he bought 19 beanie babies for 1 penny, and e-mailed me to ask where to send them. I've never met Mr. Bryan Ingerman (yet), but still I came home to find this in my mailbox:

His friend Nan (sassynan) hand-paints Christmas ornaments and sells them on ebay. She has a grandson on his way to Iraq.

At one point I was undecided about whether I could bear to pull out my Christmas ornaments: Baby's first Christmas. A lamb with couscous wool. Gingerbread stars slathered in glitter. Others, that Brian made, as a child.

This one decoration: It made putting up my tree easier. It contributed acknowledgement to my holiday: We miss ours this holiday, but he is still with us. He was with every single one of us today, as we hoped for a phone call, and kept tabs on AOL Instant Messenger, and noted how glad we'd be when that boy came home.

Yes. I still feel that "punch in the stomach" when it hits me that my kid is in Iraq. He's been there 7 months, and sometimes the realization of it still bowls me over: "Holy Shit! My SON is on the other side of the WORLD! At war. Fighting in a freaking war! Where am I?!

But it's also so clear, isn't it—look, look back at these few photos—that I have family, and friends, and friends-to-be, and Brian's friends (My Other Sons), standing right next to me with their hands on my elbows, making sure that I remain on my feet.

And how did I get here from there, on this entry?


When you have a loved one serving in a war, pretty much everything brings you here, from there.

What I meant to say was: It was the nicest Christmas I could have ever had, at this time in my life.

That's what I meant.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Army Mom Misses Son's Phone Call

Alternate Title: Getting a Grip

I just missed a phone call from Brian.

I was window shopping on my lunch break. My phone was in my coat pocket—set to vibrate, so as not to bother my coworkers. I forgot to switch it back to ring. I missed him by 2 minutes.

I HATE that, hate it, hate it, hate it! I was in public, so I threw an internal temper tantrum. Missing a call from him gives me severe Tourette's; my initial reaction is: "#$%#@# @$^%#@$ %@#$%@ %%^!!!," followed by imagining kicking over some garbage cans, and another string of "#@%@#@ ##@$%@# %$%$^*^*"

I envision throwing my phone to the sidewalk, and smashing it into a million pieces. I'd panic, immediately, of course, pick up all the bits and reassemble the phone, in case he tried to call back in a few minutes.

I settle down a bit. I pass on browsing, and shuffle back to the car, a black cloud over my head. I open and close the phone as I walk, willing it to ring again. Ring, dammit! I swear, I'll answer it! I drive back to work, with the phone in my hand.

I console myself: There, there. He's ok. If he's calling, he's ok. He'll try again tomorrow, or next time he gets a chance.

It makes me feel a little better, so I graduate to pouting, for the next hour or two.

I'm not the only one, I know. Jeff has also missed Brian's call before, and as we keep each other posted, I've heard his frustration on the other end of the phone. The same tantrum ensues. He recently left his phone in his office for 5 minutes, and missed Brian's call. Gah! #$%#$% And I just feel awful for him, as if I'd missed my call too.

It's so important to both of us that we've taken to communicating to one another, if we know anything. Brian will sometimes send me an e-mail, mentioning that he'll try to call in a few hours. I immediately get on the phone, call Jeff, and tip him off: Do NOT leave sight of your cell phone today! Likewise, Jeff has called me before, with a message that Brian will call me in 20 minutes.

It is so frustrating, missing a call from your soldierbaby. You can't return the call. It could be days before he can call again.

I've said it before, but for all of my weeping and gnashing of teeth before Brian left, I feel like I walk around coping pretty well. When I hear his voice though, I am filled with both an immediate sense of relief and an acute awareness of how worried I really am.

After a bit of pouting, the cloud lifts.

He probably thought of something I could send him.

He's ok.

And that, I know, is what matters, right now, more than than sound of his voice.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Frenzy


12:00 a.m.

I swearz! Are any of you as frenzied as I am?!! Shopping, shopping, I have to finish up the shopping, and I want to take Mom to see Grandma on Saturday, and there's a party on Sunday, and Monday is Christmas eve. Clint works on Christmas, so we'll have to celebrate Monday. Tuesday? My family hasn't even decided, yet, where we'll be; will Teri feel ok? Do I need to tidy up? Clint's family Christmas is on Wednesday. I need to take time off; will the boss kill me?

I'm still writing thank you notes from the Toys for Troops Care package event.


What would it be like to be caught up?

Is anyone, ever?

What's YOUR position right now? Are you shopped, wrapped, and sipping your cosmopolitan? Or are you with me, constantly trying to breathe, accept that you''ll leave the house at 7 a.m., and not return until 9 p.m., and all you can do is relax your shoulder muscles?


Sunday, December 16, 2007


I know, I know you're waiting to hear about Homefront Hero Day. I will, I'll tell you about it, but honestly, I have better things to talk about than myself, right now. Something's pressing.

In my last post, I noted that I was mucking out to clear the snow off of Mother's driveway.

Lo, when I pulled up, what did I find, but one Tim Sands, halfway done with the job.

Tim Sands.

A Hero in our family.

He began delivering my mother's newspaper 1 year after my father died. He was 11 years old in 2002, dropping off The News Gazette, and throwing out a few kind words to a bit-lost widow whose life had rotated around raising children.

My mother didn't just run a daycare in her home. Every single kid that came into her life was her son or daughter. Young parents finding better jobs and moving on was a source of grief in our household, a loved one moving on, and out of, our lives. Babies that I bounced on my hip as a kid now have babies....and they still keep in touch with my mother.

Anyway, in 2002, Mom was retired. She did then, as she does now, miss kids in her household. One, 11 years old, stopped by every day, with a kind word.

And eventually, an offer to help her. Mow the yard. Rake the leaves. The kid was handy. As he turned 12, 13, he'd return to talk, and to visit. One panel of the fence in the back yard had been busted through by neighbor kids. He could fix that. He could hang a new light in the kitchen.

I have a vague recollection of his running a saw in the driveway, while my mother ran her mouth, and his gentle teasing suggesting she go back in the house for awhile, lest he chop off a thumb.

I have a strong recollection of my first sighting of him, riding his bike to the back door of Mom's house, and handing her the newspaper. "I love you," she told him, and he yelled out "I love you too," as he rode away.

Tim does not deliver my mother's newspaper anymore. He has a bigger and better job, at a local grocery store.

And yet I joined him, this morning, in my mother's driveway. "When it snows like this, I always head to Eleanor's first!" he told me.

We worked together and talked easily as we finished up the driveway. He graduates in '09. My son Brian, in Iraq. How is Teri, he wants to know, and what do I do for a living. We invent, in our minds, a giant hairdryer that could just melt this snow off the driveway, and he knows the kind of power and coils it would take to do just that: It would definitely zap out the power in the house. He wants to be an Electrical Engineer, and will start his education at our community college. It's a competitive field; he hopes he can hold it together. Isn't this good exercise?!!

I invited him to lunch when he was done. Ah, he can't, he had to work at 1:00. "What are you doing?" he yells suddenly. He turned back around to explain: his little brother and sister were in the van parked in front of Mom's house. He figured he'd set them up with Gameboys, while he got a little work done. I hadn't noticed them, through smoked glass windows.

When we'd finished up the driveway, his section being, of course, tres cleaner than mine, I ran for my camera. Before he knew I had it, I took this picture, of him leaving a message for my Mom:

This kid, he takes my breath away. I don't say this lightly: He's an angel walking the earth.

When you meet an Angel, Walking the should...just....write about him or something.

Tim Sands.

Remember that name, folks.

I have faith that you'll hear it again, in bigger and better forums than my lil' ol' blog.

And won't we say we knew him when.

Mark my words.

FYI: Not dead

Yet. I'm heading out to shovel snow in Mom's driveway.

If you don't hear from me in the next couple of days...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


That's a germ, if you believe everything you read. It is stuck in my sinus cavity. And in my eyes. And my eyelids, they are 100 billion degrees. Oh, and he has an intestinal relative, that I don't want to bring up. Is it possible to feel your pulse in your eardrum? Someone pull the shades. Look at my throat: Bleah-ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Kids. The press conferences story is going to have to wait. I am now going to attempt to crawl from my sofa to my bed, I have no idea why; why bother?!

Discuss amongst yourselves if you don't hear from me in the next couple of days. Hey, I wonder how long it would take for someone to find me if...

...never mind. My fevered imagination runs amok.

Later, gators.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Quick Note on Press Conferences I May Have Attended Today...

I've had a long, busy day, and at 11:30 pm, have little time to tell you about it, although I know you were cheering for me today. I'll give you the full update, and more photos, tomorrow. I hope. Maybe Thursday.

Here's one TV station's report on the day.
There is Radio (WIXY, 7:15 in the morning, someone please bring me coffee at 7:00), and newspaper to come.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Santa Rampage: Mini Wrap-Up

My GOD, we had fun. I don't have time to blog it all, but HERE are photos of the event. I don't know most of these people, but we had fun with them anyway! I danced on a bar! And that up there is Mr. & Mrs. Dean Schwenk, who were lucky enough to be following up their wedding reception at Mike & Molly's when we came in, and if getting your picture taken with dozens of Santas isn't "Best Wishes for Luck and Life" I don't know what is.

(Not plugging myself and any organizations I might be Presidents of, but the Dean Schwenk family is that of Dean's Blueprints, who print all of Toys for Troops banners and photos and posters and labels and anything else we could ever ask for, for absolutely free. That we ran into them tonight was completely good dumb luck!)

It really was a magical, fun evening.

We WILL be there next year. With bells on.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Toys for Troops: An Announcement

Instead of telling each and every one of you separately, I'm just going to let you read the letter I got last week. Here it is:

Ms. Stewart,

Our office has recently learned about your efforts to support our troops overseas. Toys for Troops is well recognized across the state and has grown beanie baby after beanie baby.

To recognize your efforts in supporting our troops, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn would like to recognize you as a Homefront Hero. The Homefront Hero Award goes to everyday people (civilians) who are making the extra effort to help out our soldiers, military families and Veterans.

To celebrate, we will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, December 11th at the State Capitol in Springfield. The press conference will be at 1pm and last approximately an hour.

Get out! I'm going to the state capitol on Tuesday, isn't that wild? A press conference! I'm already trying to compose myself, and Hollywood's Fightin Mad Mary has sent me a ton of TV tips, as she promised she would if I ever had to face a camera again.

The letter stated that I'll be asked to say a few words about the organization. It's difficult to summarize it, when I feel that so many deserve so much credit.

So many point out to me, when I say that, "YOU did, this Lori. This is YOUR doing."

I know, I know I've done my part. I have e-mailed and blogged and written letters and shaken hands and hugged friends and strangers, and sacrificed a bit of space in my garage.

But others. Jeff and Michelle have driven all over the state helping out. Jeff picks up my graphics and runs to have them made into signs and posters. He made our t-shirts, and has represented us at public affairs that I have been unable to attend, and applied for charity grants to help us pay for shipping. It is their friends that stepped up, and voluntarily maintain our website, and print our banners and posters.

Clint gives up at least a couple evenings a week, if not all of them, on a regular basis, to this organization. He helps me fold cards and stuff envelopes. He's offered up the use of his covered trailer, picks up tables and coffee pots and food on his days off, and on more than one occasion The Boy has shoo'd me out of the kitchen so that I can get back to printing labels and letters, while he whips out dinner to die for.

Local Marine Mom and friend Chris Lyke rallies for us constantly, collecting soldier's names for our mailing list, and making homemade cookies for "our sons. Friends! Melissa's trunk is consistently refilled with beanies as coworkers leave them at her desk. John Otto! Our attorney! My God, where would we be without him, how tired he must be of my e-mails asking questions such as "Is the EIN the same thing as our tax number?" Another friend for a quarter-century, Steve printed 2-part receipts and delivered them to my house IN FREEZING RAIN last week, so that I'd have them for the packing event.

Man, I'm telling you...I'm just standing over here with a big old stick, pointing out what needs to be done, compared to the rest of you.

I did not do this alone. I never could have, not in a million years.

In 7 months, the joint efforts of parents, siblings, and spouses of soldiers, and real, live actual soldiers have done this. Teachers and attorneys and restauranteurs have done this. Television reporters and newspaper reporters and deejays have done this, side by side with veterans, girl scouts, boy scouts, police officer and firefighters. Friends and family and seamstresses and bakers and businessmen have stepped up.

Bloggers! Lord, let's not forget the bloggers! You've mailed beanies, and boxes and money and you've put the word out there for me. As Sammy Sosa said, "Blogging been very very good to me." (It was him that said that, right? I get my politicians all mixed up.)

Lordy, I get in a tizzy just thinking about it! I can't say all of THIS on Tuesday, we'll only have an hour, you know, and there are 9 other recipients that have to take a turn, and I suppose the Lt. Gov. will want to say a few words.

I'll keep working on that. And I'll wear blue, and no flashy jewelry, and I won't look into the camera..

....and if any of you can give me a tip on how to speak in public about something that is so, so dear to you, without turning into a blubbering...well, MOM, then I'd sure like to hear them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Santa Rampage: A Reminder and a Helpful Hint from Lori-ouise

This message from the guy that *claims* he isn't the drive behind the Santa Rampage force, but he *totally* is (Jeremy):


The Santa-debauchery is going to start around 3:30
at Western Bowl (917 Francis Dr in Champaign)

Then we’re headed to a Mexican restaurant Ol' Saint Nick can't get good Mexican food up north. <-- Guess you gotta bowl to find out where to eat!! Come on out, if only to convince all those Santa's to skip the refried beans Saturday night. C'mon. I mean, really...

Then after dinner (About 6:30) we’re headed to the bars in downtown Champaign-starting at Guido’s them making our way across the downtown district-maybe into campus town.

Got that?

I'm not sure when I'll show up in the midst of that; I don't think I can pass up a "Santa Bowling Photo Op, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able drink right into campus town. Dinner and tagging up to the Esquire might be this "old" person's contribution to the evening, but bitches, we are




1. Cut the foot off your stocking:

2. Shove the leftover...legging thingy into your boot, so that the fur folds over the top of your boot.

3. Do the other foot, then join us on Saturday night, duh.

See you then.

I mean,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What's a Girl Gotta Do To Get Some Jewelry Around Here?

Well, you'll increase your odds if you play along with OMSH (Oh My Stinkin' Heck)'s Funny Face contest.

Rules are you post a funny face photo of yourself on your blog, then run over there and tell her, in the comments on THIS POST. She'll check up on you, and throw your name in the hat, and you might win a $40 gift certificate for handmade jewelry.

You won't believe this, but I happened to have a Face Photo right on my very camera! Georgie & Melissa took this at a recent Girls Night Out, insisting that I was very photogenic, and that I look good in every photo that is taken of me. That's the sort of thing we do, after one or two beverages: tell one another how they are clearly the most beautiful girl at the table. You should sit with us sometime, because you'll hear how stunning you are too.

Anyway, Georgie told me to smile pretty to prove her point, and this is what she captured:

Eh. I've taken worse photos. Maybe I'll use this one for my Christmas card this year.

Please to send me my earrings gift certificate now, OMSH?

Deadline is Thursday at midnight, peoples. And let ME Know if you play too, I wanna see.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Post Office II

Clint and Michelle and I mucked into the post office again today. We unloaded and unloaded, then took our place in line, which was consistently long. Most people faced with a long line are going to roll their eyes and sighhhhhhhhhhh. People were visibly irritated with us again today. We tried smiling: "It's for the troops." heh.

Some couldn't care less. One older man morphed into Rumpelstiltskin, grumbling, and stomping until his wife pointed out that there were other windows open, and that they'd be up soon.

But most, irritated initially, relaxed, after reading our labels. Oh! It's for the troops. Is it all toys? Not this time. It is Christmas gifts, and cookies, and necessities.

One man told me about his being overseas 40 years ago. Oh! The mistake he made his first tour out!! He opened his gifts the day he received them on the ship. Christmas morning rolled around, and there was nothing for him, then. On his 2nd tour, he knew better: He stashed the gifts away. He joined his comrades on Christmas morning, for a nice holiday breakfast, and then he retired to his [room] to open gifts and read letters from loved ones. He learned the hard way, he told me.

Another older man waited his turn in line, and started talking to us. The boxes. The soldiers. The gifts.

Meanwhile, an anxious customer behind began pointing out "Next window! The next window is open!!" Still, the man kept talking until I had to politely point that the next window was open, and he realized that he was holding up the line.

He busted up the room by explaining loudly, "Well, I WAS VISITING!!!"

We laughed. The clerks laughed. I just happened to be facing the irritated customers in line...and I watched them laugh.

It was A moment. The expressions of 10 customers going from complete exasperation and irritation to unmitigated laughter in a split second was priceless.

And I wonder, about people, and personalities, and intentions. I wonder about one man that can smile to a room full of anxious, busy people, and on a dime, make them all laugh.

And I loved that most could laugh at themselves. That they can recognize: "It's nice to visit." And 3 more minutes isn't going to be the end of the world for them. Most of them, irritated initially, skirted off to their own windows, telling us "that's nice. That's nice what you're doing."

I wish that every man and woman serving out there understands that the very mention of their service, even in a midwestern post office, will bring most to a halt on a Tuesday morning, and "OH! Tell them Thank you, please, tell them thank you for us, can you?"

I'm working on it, babies. I'm passing it on and networking, and making sure every single one hears what you just asked me to tell them.

I'll be right back, I have more to do.

The rest of you guys?


You visit!

It's sure to put a smile on someone's face.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Toys for Troops: Christmas Event

We packed. DVDs & CDs. T-shirts, socks and gloves. Footballs and Flashlights.

Stockings. Candy Canes. Cards & letters.

Community Encouragement. Hugs. Love.

Lifelong friends from high school came. Family came. New friends came. I laughed a lot. I teared up, with a few.

In 2.5 hours, we had gifts and necessities for every soldier on our list, and enough money to send our boxes. We had cookies and cocoa, and then we cleaned up, packed up, and were on our way.

Click HERE to see the photos from today's event.

Tomorrow: Post Office, Round 2! Yee-haw!

Thanks, thanks, forever thanks!

P. S. There's still time to participate! If you're interested in sending a gift to a soldier, hit me up, we'll make it happen!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hot Mamas Know: Do As I Say, Not as I Do.

This month's "Hot Mama's Know" is the "Special Holiday Edition." Participating Hot Mama's are to blog their "Party Glam" tips on the 1st of the month, so that you'll have time to incorporate them into your holiday beautification routines.


I used to have this reminder taped to my bathroom mirror:

Women who primp at night look better in the morning than those that don't.

Morning after morning.

It was a reminder to me to take an extra few minutes to wash the make-up off of my face, remove the mascara, and slather on a bit of moisturizer.

No matter how little you participate in holiday festivities, it's difficult to avoid excesses that December brings.
  • Extra responsibilities.
  • Extra obligations.
  • Extra invitations.
  • Extra food.
  • Extra Alcohol.
  • Extra Sleep Deprivation.
  • Extra cold weather.
These things aren't exactly a recipe for Extra-Glam at the Company Party, are they?

My Holiday Beauty Tips for you, then:

  • Take a breath this month, every chance you get. Unclench your fists and loosen up those shoulders at every stoplight, if that's the only still time you can find. Use it wisely.
  • Drink lots of water. Have you ever watered a wilting plant and returned to it 2o minutes later to find it reaching for the sky again? Water's going to do the same thing for you. Plus it's going to keep your skin and lips moisturized.
  • Everything looks better and lasts longer when it's clean and well-maintained. Your car. Your house. Your margarita blender. You. Wash that makeup off. Put on a little moisturizer. Lotion up that hide when you get out of the shower. Floss.
  • Lower your standards. Leave the dishes. Scratch a few things off your list. When I say scratch them, I mean don't do them. Your cookies are fine with "only" colored sugar on them. Seriously. You don't have to bundle up and go back out and get the silver nonpareils. Go get some sleep.

And, when that Party of the Year rolls around, you're going to be hydrated and rested, and you'll look stunning, dahlink, when you go just a little bit out of your way, and dust yourself down with
BeneFit's Kitten Shimmering Powder in a Puff. $26 at Sephora. No garish glitter here, just a subtle "I bothered for this festive occasion" statement. In addition, poofing down with a powder puff makes you feel fun and feminine and sexy. It's oh-so-very-french, or something.

We all know that no powder or makeup or little black dress will ever out-glam a happy, peaceful, loving, laughing heart at the company party.

But there's nothing wrong with a little glitter, either, that says "look at me."

Go for it, chicas, and don't forget to drink your water.

Friday, November 30, 2007

2 Days Before the Event

Excuse me if I don't invite you in...ah heck, c'mon in, but excuse the mess.

Care for a cup of coffee?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tip Your Waitresses, Folks, They'll Be Here All....

NaBloPoMo #29

Clint and I grabbed a pizza and a beverage at the Esquire tonight, watching and waiting for a booth. We ended up taking over a table in which 3 quarters were stacked. I made a flippant remark: "I hope they left more than that!"

I have strong opinions about tipping waiters and waitresses. I've never waited tables in my life, but I still remember what it was like unloading trucks and busting my hump for a fast food franchise when I was a teenager. I've never worked as hard.

Do you know that Women are the worst tippers? And do you know that therefore, they (we) often get worse service, as the waitstaff might assume it's not worth their while to break their necks for us?

I care not. I tip my waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and baristas. I leave at least $1 for every beverage, no matter a cup of coffee, import beer, or dirty martini.

Food not up to par? Slow service? Lipstick on my coffee mug? My waitress still gets 20 percent, minimum. The waiter at our mexican restaurant brings me unlimited refills on chips, salsa, and drinks, meal on one main platter, beans on another, and foil-wrapped tortillas on another. He clears and replaces plates throughout lunch, which costs $6.00. The "high-end" recommended tip for my meal is $1.20.

$1.20, bringing his wages up to a grand $5.80/hr. And that's "over"tipping! There's still the guy that left the standard 15%, and the guy that left a quarter on the table.

I don't think so. There's no way I'm leaving less than 50% for that service and that much food.

If I'm well off enough to pay $3.90 for a cup of chai, then I'm well off enough to toss an extra buck to the starving college kid that filled the tea bag, poured the honey, frothed the milk, and handed it to me with a smile.

On the days that I can afford $15 for the $3 of spaghetti, I'm going to compensate the heck out of the young mother that's going to go home and tuck in her kids when this gig is done.

If you're a grumpy, stingy tipper, I urge you to read "Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress" by Kathy Ginsberg. I can almost promise you that you're going to see yourself in some of the complaints this waitress has: Need a few more minutes to make your decision...and then just a few more? Don't need a refill now, but, oh, pshaw, you'll have one more when she brings your date's drink back?

If you can afford to eat out, I say, Knock Yourself Out on the tip. Best you can.

What's YOUR view on tipping? Have you worked in food service? Best Experience? Worst?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

#28: Cheater Blogging

It's getting down to the wire for our Christmas Packages to Soldiers event, this Sunday; our schedules for the next few days are filling up fast: pick up cards and letters, pick up tables, get boxes, get tape, fill out customs forms, get gift wrap, get cookies and cider and cocoa...

So that you're not bored while I typeset NFP receipts to send to the printer tomorrow, why don't you go over here and read one of the funniest, albeit disgusting, true-story blogs I've ever read. The photos alone are enough to keep you tuned in.

Click here to check out: Oh My Stinkin' Heck.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NaBlo Lame-O


I'm working on a book at work that contains over 300 pages of numerical tables. Some have more than 20 columns. Align on decimals. Clear for fractions. Cells within cells. Don't forget continued lines.

I leave work in a complete stupor, a fog in my head that lifts in about an hour. My eyes looked like this at 4:30 this afternoon:
That fog never did lift this evening. No creativity, no can think of anything to write.

Hopefully this will constitute my lame-o-est NaBloPoMo entry. I'm allowed one or two, if I'm writing every day, yes?

Monday, November 26, 2007

#26: Bag Lady, Revisited

NaBloPoMo #26

I put out a call, a few weeks ago, asking everyone to find a functional bag to fit my current lifestyle.

Is it any surprise that it was a soldier that got me on-track? Sean suggested a few of his favorite rugged, outdoors-y brand names: Mountainsmith, Kelty, Keen's.

I didn't feel like I had time for internet shopping, but Sean set my wheels to turning, and I hit the outdoor stores in this berg. I fell in love with the first bag I found, at Champaign Surplus. Still, I moved on to comparison shop. Wild Country. Dick's.

I ended up returning to the first one I liked, figuring I could return the thing if I hated it, right?

Hey Mikey! She LOVES it! It's Eagle Creek brand, a messenger bag of sorts. It's larger than I'm used to, but I knew I was going to have to "upsize" my bag. It has about 1 million pockets, organized oh-so-efficiently. Here's an outside view of mine:

Under that flap, look: Pen, camera, card reader, blue tooth, water bottle...

A place in the back for me to throw mail, TFT flyers:

And the main compartment, with another inner pocket, a key chain hook, room for a wallet, checkbooks, and a book:

To top it off, the bag, though larger than a purse, isn't ENORMOUS. It's just...."a messenger bag" which doesn't constitute a second look in this University town.

And, ladies, don't overlook this:

The Number #1 Redeeming Factor of My New EagleCreek Bag:

It's Unisex! Clint looked just fiiiiiiiiine carrying that puppy around while we were in Vegas, loaded down with dual waterbottles, maps, tickets, and souvenirs. It's more backpack than handbag.

The Boy may be secure in his masculinity, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have done as much time with the cutesie lime-green handbag I'd been carrying around before.

Thanks Sean!

P.S. Sean's on his way to another tour in Afghanistan, folks. Go and give him some lurrrrve before he takes off.