Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dum de dummmmm

Ready and waiting.

And waiting.

Still waiting.

Is he here yet?

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Note from Kuwait

hey mom. your probably wondering where your son is. i am in kuwait. its 7/30, and my flight to the states should leave on 7/31, in the PM. dont go taking off for chicago yet. i dont know when ill arrive. love you, and talk to you soon. brian
It is just this minute, 12:42 p.m., that I know where my dang kid is. People, I have spent the last 3 days cleaning carpets and mowing the yard and dusting in places you will never even bother to look anyway, when you come over to see me and The Kid, in the next 18 days.

I even bought a beverage refrigerator. I need a beverage refrigerator like I need another hole in my head, I know. I shouldn't have. But I had to, I just had to. I had to have a beverage cooler in my home before Brian and his friends, and all of the masses came to my house. Or I'd die.

I'm not the only Military Mom Gone Mad. One new friend I've made through TFT, Jeremy, is a soldier stationed in Turkey. When I expressed concern to him about my irrational desire for a beverage cooler, he told me that HIS mother, after a lifetime of minimal Christmas decorating, put up THREE fully decorated Christmas trees in their home last time he came home.

And he loved it.

Did you hear me? He loved that his Mother had gone Mad.

Clearly, I had to buy that beverage frig.

Anyhoot, I had the entire house cleaned up yesterday morning. Everything except the garage. 4 bags of yard waste in the garage. Boxes of beanies everywhere. Full garbage bags, tape, yard supplies, old shoes and rugs kicked around, and leaves all over the place.

And the local TV News team called me.

They would, they said, like to talk to me about TFT again, and about my waiting for Brian to come home.

They'd like to film the beanies some more.

The beanies that were in the garage.

The garage that was a big ol' giant mess.

So The Boy I Told You About Earlier (heh-heh, Pobble) and I dashed about like crazies, sweeping stuff under the rug and hanging a beanie banner on the wall. Like I really hang beanie banners around my house. Hey. It's PR.

So, Jenny Gastwirth from WCIA came over, and I was much more at ease this time around, in front of the camera. I learned from my first awkward interview: Don't look into the camara. I'm getting used to the questions, and have answers for them. Jenny was warm and comfortable, and I just talked to her. Oh, and a 1/2-piece of hard candy tucked into your cheek helps alleviate cotton mouth from nerves.

We were on at 5:30, 10:00, and I hear today, on the noon news. We're listed on Illinois Home Page as one of todays "Top Stories."

Emails are rolling in, and we all wait.

Hey, if you get thirsty while you're waiting...c'mon over.

I have a beverage refrigerator, y'know.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On Public Speaking

I had my first public speaking appearance, for Toys for Troops, this week. There were 15,000 people in attendance.

I've discovered that, when there are 15,000 people before me:
  • I get emotional and cry when I "practice." I have a very hard time saying "My son is a soldier in the U.S. Army," without crying.
  • But I can say it okay, in front of 15,000 people. I didn't cry. Yay for me.
  • I get cotton mouth. My tongue is like a nice warm terry cloth towel, and I have to fight back an urge to make gagging-up-hairball sounds.
  • My voice wavers, and I insert words in places they should not be, and I laugh nervously, like this: "heh heh."
  • I develop a Palsy. My hands shake like leaves.
  • I cannot, with the palsy, hold my own microphone with one hand. When the microphone begins spinning like a baton, I have to grab my right hand with my left, to keep it steady.
  • I cannot judge if I'm talking into the microphone, or not. When my voice gets loud, I jump.
  • When my audience of 15,000 gasps at the idea of 7000 beanies, I like it.
  • When my audience of 15,000 applauds, which I totally do not expect, I nearly drop the microphone, and I get all breathless and forget what I was going to say.
Oh, and one more thing:
  • I lose any ability to make an accurate head-count of my audience: Photographic evidence later reveals that 15,000 stern, scrutinizing adults were really about 50 happy little kids in a vacation bible school.

I have no idea what I said to them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nothin But The Blues

I went this weekend, with A Boy, to Bloomington, IL, to:

Soulard, from St. Louis was great. These guys could rock, with some fancy footwork and a lot of showmanship too boot. I'm looking them up next time I head to St. Louie.

Also from St. Louis, 12-year old Darrien Saffron, from the Soul Sensations, wow'd all of us.

Here's a shaky clip of Darrien:

Big Ray (above) and Chico Banks (below) from Chicago's Most Wanted, got the most audience participation. They had us laughing, dancing, and singing throughout their show.
Chico was amazing, and though I'd never heard of him, overheard people gasping "my God, Chico Banks is playing with Big Ray!!" After listening to him play, I won't forget his name.

And, (Mother of God!), Tab Benoit was there! Hot Cajun Blues from a Louisiana boy, talking easily between songs, and asking, "Why'm I talk to ya'll like you're just a few people sittin in my living room?" His jokes were good, but his music even better. Seriously, check him out.

Steve "The Harp" from The Gumbo Element handed out harmonicas and gave lessons to the little ones:

Dancing ensued throughout the day:

And there was Health food in abundance: Hick'ry Sticks served up french fries covered with cheese, topped with a scoop of pulled hickory-smoked pork, and covered in BBQ sauce. It was disgusting delicious.

FYI, Keen's make decent cup holders:

You have to come with us next year!

Hot Sun, Cold Beer, and Blues to knock your socks off.

It don't get no better than that.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Dualing Blogs

Donna, Urbana post office

Hey there, all of my readers. Both of you! How you doin?

I've been BIZ-zeeeeeeeeeee, and trying to get back here to blog up with ya.

A slight problem, I'm trying to keep up the Toys for Troops Blog also.

Another slight problem: Very few peoples are checking in over there, so sometimes if you think I'm not blogging, I really am. I don't mind your missing out on Grasshopper recipes, but this TFT stuff is important, and if you don't get over there and read it, I'll have to call each of you personally and make you listen to the whole story. And there ain't no skimmin' the story when I'm telling it, so you might as well go look.

At any rate, when I blog there, from now on, I'm going to make a note of it here.

A quick update:

Beanies are still rolling in AND shipping out. Care packages are still going out. This project is continuing to grow and grow.

  • I'm speaking this evening, opening a vacation bible school.
  • A local Girl Scout camp this weekend dedicated their time to TFT; each girl brought a beanie, and made and wrote letters to soldiers. I will definitely be putting their photos up as soon as I get them.
  • I'm working with teachers, right now, who are planning to incorporate public service, and the TFT projects into their Fall curriculum. I'll be visiting classrooms in September, and throughout the next year.
  • We currently have over 7000 beanies in our garages, and I leave now, to pick up 300 more, on my lunch break. I will pick up 2 more boxes this evening, after the "speaking engagement." You kind people are leaving them on my porch for me, and meeting me after work, every single day.
  • We are working with local businesses to help sponsor shipping costs for our beanies, and hoping to utilize the funds that are rolling in directly to us, through PayPal and cash donations, for soccer balls and other care package items.

And most importantly:

Brian is scheduled to be home next Sunday night. He'll be bringing photos and movies of his interactions with the kids there, and the beanies you've shipped off.

I hope you're as excited as I am. I'm working on that spaghetti dinner.

Now, go read the Beanie Blog.

Either that, or hand over your phone number.

It's up to you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

She really does think they're all hers...

(She has about 7000 to choose from right now.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

My new "I love you" cheese tray

I stopped by a garage sale, on the way home from the Farmer's Market, Saturday morning. It was a random stop, at a large, regal home. An elegant older couple sat outside, with very few wares, but each seemed an absolute treasure.

A woman in front of me purchased a cut-glass bowl. $20. A huge purchase at a garage sale, but she knew she'd found something. She coughed up her money, and then interrogated the gentleman selling it. "It was my grandmother's," he told her. "I'm not sure who made it, but it has to date back to 1915."

"But," she said, "there is no STAMP on this piece. I wonder if it's a Fenton. I guess, if it were a Fenton, there would be a stamp. It's probably not a Fenton."

"My grandmother would have purchased it in Philadelphia, in 1915," he reiterated. And still, on the customer went, about the lack of a Fenton stamp.

I don't know jack about Fenton. I only know that by some miracle of God, I repressed my inclination to tackle her to the ground, screaming "It was his Grandmother's! It is almost 100 years old, and you got it for the price of McDonalds-for- three. This has to be somehow painful for him! SHUT UP, just shut UP, don't you see?!!"

Yes. I sometimes have violent inclinations. I never rarely act on them. I held my tongue, and waited for my turn. I asked the couple, then, "Is this a garlic roaster, or a cheese tray?"

They smiled then. "We always used it as a cheese tray when we entertained," they said, in unison. I could almost see the parties they envisioned as they spoke.

"I'd like to buy it," I told them, "but it's mismarked."

Five cents.

How much do they want for it, really?

"Five cents," she told me. "See? There's a chip, on this side."

The chip?!! What chip? THAT?! "That chip is what makes it charming!!" I told her.

And this beautiful older woman, in a long, summer linen dress, said...

...she said to me...

"I love you."

She smiled and said "I love imperfections, also."

For one nickel, on Saturday morning, I purchased a cheese tray with one small chip on the edge. And forever more, when I use it, I will think of this beautiful, elegant couple, and imagine summer barbecues and christmas parties, in which they set out this small pottery tray, and I will hear glasses clinking, and music and laughter.

And I will, forever more, remember an "I love you" from a complete stranger.

That, in my eyes, is worth way more than a Fenton.

Friday, July 13, 2007

One More on Eating Bugs...

Mel sent this to me today. It kinds of fits the "series," so I'm posting it for your viewing pleasure.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers

Ok, so it's way past my bedtime, and I decided I might respond to a few of the comments on my last blog. Momo suggested she might try a chocolate covered grasshopper with me. Maybe they'll induce labor!!

Before I got around to commenting on comments, ADHD kicked in, and I decided that maybe I could really find some of those suckers on the internet, and send them to everyone I know.

Hey, I DID find them, and I could buy them! $40 or so would get me that box above. Bugs and Grubs, and...something...are included.

Shrewd consumer that I am, however, I did further research. Robert J. Lew, on Amazon.com, had this to say about the product pictured above:

I didn't find the quality of the chocolate covered insects to be any more agreeable than the ones that I make at home for a fraction of the cost. 3 giant Hersheys bars cost less than 4 bucks. Handfull of random insects (I recommend Daddy-long-legs) are free.

WHAT? You can make these at home? What in the heckity-heck must a chocolate covered Daddy-long-legs look like? Hey, are you supposed to kill them first, or dip them alive? Do they scream, like lobsters?

More research is in order.

Recipes! Holy crap, Lisa, are you reading this? There's a recipe for Fried Green Tomato Hornworms!!

NPARL: Just for Kids, has recipes for Garlic-Butter Fried Grasshoppers, Slug Fritters, and Insect Crunch.

Look at this one:



Spread fresh, frozen and cleaned insects on paper towels on a cookie sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for
1-2 hours until desired state of dryness is reached. Check state of dryness by attempting to crush
insect with spoon.

What? First I have to catch them...do I kill them before I freeze them or do I just toss them in the freezer and run? And then I have to clean them? How in the hell do I clean a grasshopper? I don't have to de-bone it, do I?

HALP! I need more instructions! What in the heck is my desired state of a grasshopper?! I'm not sure, but I imagine that "over-easy" isn't going to be done enough for me.

I have to confess, I was half-bluffing with the closing statement of my last entry. Embellishing. But only because I didn't have a bag o' grasshoppers on hand.


Who's with me?!! It IS grasshopper season after all.

Next Friday, people.

My House.


Photo credit goes to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Conquering Fears, and another round of "Tell Me"

I had AN OPPORTUNITY, this weekend, to do something that I really, really, wanted to do...but that I was scared shitless of.

Actually, I have a long list of things that qualify. Skydiving, for instance. I want to, but the idea of it makes me want to vomit.

The idea of never trying it, however, makes me want to vomit more. (Blurp)

Seriously, who on their death bed, thinks, "I sure wish I'd never tried anything, my entire life." I mean, unless their deathbed arrives shortly after their parachute failed to open.

I'm moved to do a lot of crazy things with that one thought: Would I rather be someone who DOES, or someone who DOES NOT?!

I have a tattoo because of it.

I intend to get a motorcyle license because of it.

I just went 4-wheeling because of it.

Yeah. I did.

I actually intended not to. I thought about the circumstances of my life: Mom needs a lil extra help these days, Sisser's still barely up and around, her family's energy needs to be with her...seriously...it's not a good time for me to risk, say, dying. The timing is bad.

So, when I was asked, Saturday, "are you going to try it?," my mind said "NO! Hell NO, I'm not going to try it!!" While all graymatter was clearly justifying the causes why I would not go, my big fat mouth calmly blurted, "Well"—sip of bottled water, pinkies up—"of course."

A helmet was smacked on my noggin, a 2-minute lesson (front brake, back brake, accelerator) ensued, everyone raised their hands and swore on The Bible not to laugh, and I was off, on a Baby Trail, around a soybean field. That's not even the Beginner Trail. It was like that antique car ride at Six Flags, where, when you're a kid, you're tricked into thinking you're actually driving, but if you take your hands off the wheel...you still get back safely.

Round and round the baby trail I went. I learned a lot. I learned that if you chicken out and decided you'd rather follow than lead, you end up coming back looking like this:

You can't tell, from this photo, how much actual dirt was in my teeth. 4 hours and several bottles of water later, and I still had dirt in my teeth.

Later, when I was asked if I'd like to take another spin, I asked if I might be ready for the Beginner's Trail.

Everyone in my group went off into an actual football huddle to decide if I really was ready, and which was the beginny-est beginner's route. Then they re-helmeted me, and led me back out.

Beginner, my butt. There was water, and some ups and some downs, and a hairpin turn or two that had to be taken quickly enough to make the next hill, but slowly enough not to tip over and tumble down a hill into the lake. I nearly gave myself whiplash by accelerating too quickly and I screamed twice, thinking I was going to run into trees or leave the trail.

When we emerged back on to my trusty Baby Trail, I was hyperventilating, and had decided that my role as camp photographer for the afternoon was secure.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

It's good, sometimes, to shake the dust out of our lives (and into our teeth), and conquer something that rattles us.

It doesn't have to be as big as sky-diving.

It can be a road-trip, a dinner, or a movie, alone.

A trip to a foreign grocer, in which we might have to ask for help.

Big city traffic.


Making that first invitation to someone you think just might end up a friend.

Tell ME:

What's on your list of yet-unconquered fears and/or dreams, big or small?

While you're talking, I'm going to go taste a chocolate-covered grasshopper. I hear they're a delicacy in some countries, and I don't want to look back and think "I never tried one of those."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back in the Studio...

A lot of you don't know what I do for a living, exactly. I'll tell you: I lay out college textbooks. I take the text from the author, and the photos from the photographer, and the figures from the artist, and I put them all prettily on a page, so that it is most readable for the college student.

I've been doing this since before computers did it for us; I started out as a paste-up artist. I have a passion for it. I love that an "m" is twice the width of an "n." I'm amused when I catch you following typing instructions of yore, and putting two spaces after every period. I know that small caps are 75% the size of Uppercase letters.

Snore away. I love it.

And after 26 years learning the in's and out's of type...

I love that my boss sends me to the studio, to paint, when I'm out of work. Don't tell him I said this, but seriously, I'm never happier than "down season." Oh, I love the en's and em's, but honey...did I say 26 years?

A few weeks ago, his wife asked me if I could paint a mural on the fence in her courtyard. Lizards and insects, to dress up a drab, gray, wooden surrounding. I readily agreed, and then the 3 of us put our heads together. Which paint? What would work best? Would the paint soak into the wood?

An experiment was in order. What if we drew up a lizard, cut it out of some scrap tin, then painted the thing? We could just nail it straight to the fence.

Draw, draw, cut cut....

And Friday afternoon: Paint, paint paint. Here's the results of Lizard #1:

How cute is it!!! A few holes punched in, and someone's going to have one kick-ass fence! There are about 9 more in the works...

Lizard #2. And I'm thinking up dragonflies. And ladybugs, and grasshoppers.

Not for them! For me! I mean, to SELL.

By the way....how much would you pay for a hand-crafted, hand-painted creature to secure upon YOUR garden fence?

Uh. Just wondering.....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Beanie Central I

Got another phone call from Brian tonight (yay!). Beanies are beginning to roll in, and the guys there couldn't be happier about it. The soldier list continues to grow.

He was recently interviewed by one of the military papers, also, but couldn't remember the name of the paper, doh! He's going to get back to us on that.

Here's one corner of my garage, right now:

My car has more packed in it, and Jeff and Michelle have more at their house than I have at mine. I continue to make pick-up trips every day after work, and have met a lot of nice people.

I packed some boxes tonight, tossing in, of course, an invitation to each one of them to come over for spaghetti.

We're still going strong. I'm trying to update the TFT blog, over there on the right, with some stories of a few we've met, in person, and online. Hope you'll tune in!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Read this for a warm fuzzy feeling...

I've always maintained that most people are nice, but lately, as you know, I've been bowled over by the generosity of friends and strangers alike.

I'm not the only one. Steakbellie posted an amazing story, yesterday, highlighting the kindness of others in his life recently. It's a must-read.

Click here to check it out. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Travels with Mama

Mom and I went back to St. Louis yesterday, to see the sis in the hospital. Always a fun travel partner, a few conversations on the trip:

At McDonalds, in the morning:

Me: What do you want, Mom?

Mom: I can't remember.

Me: How about a cinnamon melt?

Mom: Oooo! Yeahhhh!

We pay, stand to the side and wait for our number to be called.

Mom: What IS a cinnamon melt, anyway?

Me, laughing: Why did you want it if you don't know what it is?

Mom: Because it sounds good.

She's right. It does, kind of.


She's not so good at sitting in the car for 3 hours, these days. "My butt hurts," she keeps telling me. Upon seeing a sign that read "Champaign", she cheered:

Mom: Champaign! Yay!

Me: We're not close to Champaign yet Mom; we have 80 more miles to go.

Mom, indignant: Then why did they put up that sign?!!

Me: It's to tell me I need to take this road to get to Champaign.

Mom, after a long pause: I'm glad you're driving.

Yeah, you and me too, Mama-baby.