Friday, August 31, 2007

Wanted: Men in Uniform

This is PFC Hanks. He's from Washington. His family owns apple orchards, and he loves off-road trucks. He is on our mailing list, to receive beanies babies and care packages.

One of the things on our agenda is to increase the number of soldiers on our mailing list. We have a lot of stuff to send, a lot of stuff coming in. We have the means to take care of more.

Can you give me a hand?

I'll be over here, collecting beanies, running to the post office, meeting sponsors and attorneys, writing thank you notes and responding to e-mails. I'll be right here, if you need anything. But I need your help.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: FIND US A SOLDIER

Look, here's what I do:
  • Search MySpace.
  • Search Blogs.
  • Search Facebook.
  • Register with
  • Register with
  • Ask around.
  • Ask families that have soldiers if they know anyone that would like to be on our mailing list.
  • Ask soldiers if they know soldiers.
  • Ask churches.
  • Ask the National Guard.
  • Ask your local recruiting company.
  • Ask anyone in any military uniform.
  • E-mail everyone on your contact list.
  • Blog it.

I'll bet you know someone that knows someone. I'll just bet.

I know you can find a least one, just ONE soldier, ANYWHERE that would like a few beanies, a soccer ball, OR a care package and a letter.

When you do, write down their address. Tell me a few things about them, if you can. Send us a photo, if you can. Or ask them to check out, and e-mail us for more information.

Game On, People. For doing this you will receive: My undying adoration, and more important, my promise that somewhere down the road, someone's day will be a little bit nicer because you helped.

I guarantee it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toys for Troops at Virginia Theater

Lots still happening in Beanie World. While we are busy mailing beanies, and YOU are busy mailing beanies, we are sneaking around and planning events behind your back. There will be cookouts and Thanksgiving packages, and Christmas gifts. We'll be at festivals, in schools, and...hey, we'll show up wherever you want us to be.

Next up on the calendar:

September 7 & 8, Virginia Theater

The News-Gazette
is hosting a collection/drive to benefit Toys for Troops during The News-Gazette Film Series at the next movie, M*A*S*H next Friday and Saturday at the Virginia Theater.

Stop by and see us, and bring your beanies, soccer balls, and care-package items. The movie plays at 7:00 Friday night, and at 1:00 and 7:00 Saturday, and we'll be there before and after.

With the holidays fast approaching, we hope to expand our focus to care packages for the soldiers at Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to beanies, we're going to send each soldier on our list a box filled with some basic necessities, and a few gifts and luxuries. If you'd like to donate towards care packages, feel free to bring any of the following items:
  • wet wipes, beef jerky, energy bars, sunflower seeds, trail mix, Powdered Gatorade, and powdered drink mixes
  • koozies to keep bottles and cans cool
  • long socks (boot length, black, green, or white), brown or tan t-shirts
  • AA batteries
  • magazines & books
  • zip-lock bags
  • books
  • eye drops, aspirin, foot creams
  • toiletries, such as deodorant, foot creams, eye drops, lip balm, q-tips
  • sunscreen
  • writing materials
  • CDs, playing cards, dice
...or any other item that you think would make a soldier's day a little bit nicer.

At any rate, come and see the movie, and stop and say hello, will ya?

Monday, August 27, 2007

FMM Comes to Chicago!

Yesterday was a big, big day: I met a blogger friend, in Chicago. Wait till you hear!

Well, first, I drove behind this guy on I-57, for as little time as possible, as a mattress through my windshield would have held me up bigtime. I zoomed around it, amused at the unconcerned driver, merrily munching on french fries, unaware that he was close to being airborn.

Oh, God, that's all boring, I can't take it anymore: I got to meet Fightin' Mad Mary yesterday!

Whoo Hoo! Mary's in Chicago on business for the next 3 weeks, and she was nice enough to fly in a day early just so we could get together for dinner.

For those of you that don't know, Mary's a Hollywood girl, and her blog is chock full of consumer reports, stories of crazy neighbors, celebrity sightings in Runyan Canyon, restaurant reviews...oh, there's something for everyone there!

Mary also, if you remember, rubs elbows with a few TV & entertainment folks, and she managed to finagle glossies of Playboy Models for me to send to Brian, thus locking in my Mother of the Year award with soldiers, worldwide.

She recently ran a post called Comment for A Cause, sending $2 for every comment she received to our Toys for Troops Fundraiser. She received 64 comments.

Oh, just go read for yourself! Without further adieu, I give you Fightin' Mad Mary:

Yayyyyy! We started out the day at Uno's, for her first deep-dish pizza. Can you believe it? Her summary of the pizza was that it was a lot like a casserole, in a crust. She was so totally on the money there; I will never see deep-dish pizza in the same light again.

After lunch, we hit up Sephora. I'm telling you, Mary is THE person you need to take to Sephora with you. I watch her blog for makeup tips anyway, and baby, she knows her way around the cosmetics aisle.

She showed me how to make my eyes pop with eye-bright pencil stick.

She made me put blue glitter on my eyelids.

Ok, that was a lie; she told me not to put the blue glitter on my eyelids, but I insisted that I'd look like Cher if I did. Poor Mary had to spend the rest of the afternoon blinded by the reflection from my disco-esque eyelids.

We walked to Millenium Park, and took pictures of the bean (aka Anish Kapoor's sculpture, Cloud Gate).

Can you see us in this shot? Don't feel bad, we both flailed our arms over our heads from here and couldn't find our own reflections.

We checked out the Crown Fountain. I'd been here before, but did not remember seeing the faces on the wall, at all. I wonder if the faces were broken last I was here. Anyway, Mary knew more about them than I did. In fact, I answered a lot of her Chicago questions with "I have no idea."

We watched kids cool off, for awhile:

And took one another's pictures in front of this sculpture:

And we had coffee, and watched street artists, and went grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, before our time was up and I had to return home.

I left feeling like I'd spent 4 hours with an old friend. There was never a lull in the conversation, as we filled each other in on the gaps we leave in our blogs, and talked about our families, our lives, our plans for the future.

And I'm blown away, as I often am, these days, that I manage to continually encounter people that bother. Mary's done things for my kid. She's rallied for our cause. We live 2000 miles apart, and she's done all that, without ever meeting us, or exchanging even a phone call. I can only shake my head in wonder.

I have a list of "Friends I Haven't Met Yet," people I've tagged up to through this blog.

I'm so happy to scratch Mary off that list.

(And p.s.: Next time she's wearing the blue glitter.)


Busy, busy, I've been busy. Until I have time to tell you what I've been doing outside of work, I'll update you on the lawn-ornament studio. I actually had to take a break for awhile, to do "real" work, associated with the nature of my "real" job. Sucks, huh?

But I'm back in a lull, and back to the studio, singing and painting and playing. (If the boss asks, though, I'm slaving. Slaving and working with cramped hands over tin lizards, butterflies, and dragonflies. Yes. Woe is me. If the boss asks.)

I've got two tables going for big lizards and one for smaller ones, which I refer to as yittle yizards

Plenty on deck, hanging in the background. There's another table-full out of sight.

A few more of the finished product:

And when I'm waiting for paint to dry, puttering around with an old rock I found out back.

That's it for now. Lunch break is over. Time to get back to the fun. I mean work.

If the boss asks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One More for the Road...

After tearful goodbyes at 2 a.m. Monday, Brian's plane was canceled, due to heavy rain and flash flood warnings in Chicago. He returned home. We took him back last night. Just as we walked him to his gate, his plane was canceled, and rescheduled for this afternoon. We brought him home again. Another goodbye this morning, and he's on his way, to try for a 3rd time.

OK with me; I got a few more hours with him, and, as usual, a few more laughs. On the way home from O'Hare last night, he found a clown nose in the car (don't ask) and put it on. "Oh! Let me take your picture!"

He did it! Oh, boy, he's playing along, I'm going to take it and run with it! "Now, show me your sad clown face!"

"Do Horny Clown."

"I can't do horny clown with just my face, Mom."

"Uh. Yeah. Well, I meant sexy clown. Show me sexy clown."

"Very convincing. Do mad clown."

Yay! Last one, and I promise I'll stop.

I present to you the piece de resistance: Drunk Clown.

I laughed all the way home.

Man, I'm glad that flight was canceled.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Yes, so we said our goodbyes, last night. It will be a year before he returns home, this time. Tough, it was tough.

But it was oh-so-good to have Brian home for 20 days, and see that he's ok. He is really ok.

Funny to have him home for some time, after adjusting, for the last year or so, to a life alone, a new empty-nesting normal. I'm comfortable in my home, have plenty of friends and family, and, as you know, plenty of extracurricular activities filling out my life. I'm doing ok. Everything is generally in place.

Until my kid comes home.

And the bathroom smells like aftershave again,

And I'm stopping at the grocery store every night after work

And I'm cooking dinner for 6 most evenings

And his friends, my other sons, come over and walk right into the house without knocking, and crash on my living room floor

And bacon is a staple in my house again

And I squawk at them to pick their cigarette butts up off my driveway, and throw their Gatorade bottles away

And Brian, vowing to give me a heart attack before he leaves, offhandedly mentions things such as "Well, Mom, you're going to be a Grandma." (He was kidding.) (I think.)

And my toiletries mysteriously end up in the second bathroom

And there is WAY more farting going on in this house. And in the car.

And the kid pokes me in the ribs making me jump 3 feet in the air, to the amusement of his friends

And sometimes we bicker, and get on one another's nerves

And I have to move t-shirts, boxer shorts, and socks out of the dryer before I can dry my own clothes

And I can actually hit the 2-button on my cell phone, and a phone will ring, and Brian can pick up!

And impromptu dinners can be arranged

And he can grab a bag of ice for me, on the way home

And I still lecture that kid, and his friends, if they need it

And I have laughed my butt off for 20 days.

And my current, empty-nesting life seems foreign and empty to me, once again. This, this is what I'm comfortable with. I feel normal again, doing the Mom-thang for 1 + more. I'm back in my own skin.

Alas, I know that having a houseful of crazy kids on a near-daily basis isn't my life anymore. They are now 21, 22 years old. I know I'd kick their skinny butts out of my house and tell them "Hey! Go buy your own bacon!"

But God, I love them. And I already miss them all like crazies.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oh God.

I hate this part.

Honor System

Clint and I wandered over to a small town near here yesterday, and on one corner on the edge of town, spotted this flatbed wagon, full of produce:

There was no vendor looking over the wagon. Instead, there were 2 cans nailed to the edge of the wagon, over the price list.

The Honor System! Remember that?!! Seriously, walk up, pick out what you want, total your goods, and throw your money in the can. Please to put the lid back on the can when you're done. Oh, and there are grocery sacks if you need them.

No hidden camera's or anything! I watched from a distance as people shopped here, on their way out of town. Not a dishonest one in the bunch.

We stopped also, picking up an onion, a couple of red peppers, and to even out our grand total to $2, a tomato. Money in the can, and we were on our way, dreaming about roasted red pepper and tomato pizza.

I loved this little wagon. I loved watching people walk up to it, and shop there, so respectful of the order there, turning produce over and putting things back where they belonged after choosing their purchases. I loved watching them dig into their pockets, count out their change, lift the lid and toss in their money.

Most of all, I was warm & fuzzied by the pure trust that one Amish vendor had, in the integrity and good-heartedness of the general public.

People continue to make me smile.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Lobster Races Really Aren't Very Exciting"

That's the sort of thing you'll hear around my house, these days. That's Percy, Paul, Yo Jimbo, and Trogdor (and John and Tim in the back). The boys could hardly wait to fire that starting gun for the lobster race they'd anticipated, before dinner, but it turns out lobster races are somewhat anticlimactic; it was more fun watching Minx pat them all on their heads, and seeing if they can hold a wine glass in their claws (they can).

Only a few days left, and we're doing all the partying and dining out and dining in and laughing and visiting that we can before Brian heads back to Iraq. We're shrugging off dreading our farewells, and making the most of the time we have left. The clock is ticking though, so this entry's a short one: I have to get about having some more fun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Dilemma

I came home from work today, to find 2 bags of gifts in my dining room.

Not beanies.

They're handmade gifts.

For soldiers.

For care packages.

There's an oddity about these gifts. But they're handmade, and there are hundreds of them. Maybe a thousand.

I questioned Brian, and he told me a lady dropped them off, and left it at that. At dinner though, I pushed him: where did these things come from?

Houston, we have a problem. A woman did drop off hundreds of her handmade gifts for soldiers. She proceeded then, to spew prejudice and hatred for other races to my kid, bashing pretty much everyone.

She boycotts the St. Joseph Dairy Queen, she said, because it's run by an Arab family (her words). She spoke of "The" Blacks and "The" Mexicans, and when my new neighbors of Indian descent drove into their driveway, she hissed "Foreigners!!!" She doesn't like "The Foreigners."

Brian and John were reeling when she left, and I was dead on the floor after they relayed the story to me.

I didn't even see this woman, and yet I imagine her, toiling over these projects. She imagines herself donating time and supplies, for the troops. She is doing a patriotic thing, dropping them off, at my home.

Her gift.

Is her good intent enough?

Does good intent wrought with hatred and prejudice even count as good intent?

I walk around those two bags, tonight, like they're filed with vipers. They reek of evil and lack of acceptance. They contaminate every fiber of what our project is about, part of which is ignoring cultural and social barriers and accepting our differences.

I will not put them in my care package to my soldier-babies. Bad Juju.
Madam: If you read this blog, I respectfully apologize: Your packages have been returned to my porch. I return them to you. You may pick them up, and mail them yourself.

They do not represent me.

I simply cannot.

Oh, and don't bother ringing the doorbell.

I'll be at Dairy Queen. In St. Joseph.

Spaghetti Dinner Photos are Up

I'm slogging through the aftermath, getting stuff done as fast as I can, while at the same time enjoying every minute I can grab with Brian before he heads back. At least I have a few photos ready for your checking out-ing.

Here's Chris and Brian. Chris's son Billy will be home from Iraq any day now, and we are so excited! Until he gets here, I loaned her my son for kid-hugs.

For more photos from the Sunday night gala, click here.

If you were at the event, and have any photos to share, I'd like to add them to our set. Please send them my way!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Mindset, Day After

My head spins, today.

So many wonderful memories from last night, dancing through my head. I arrived at work 10 minutes late, after 4 hours of sleep. By 3:30, I was facing 45 more minutes of textbook concentration, literally dizzy with exhaustion. I was home, and sound asleep by 4:20, quite a feat for an insomniac.

I awoke in a complete panic: I have to get to work! No! I have the day off! Wait! I don't work today! Why would I have the day off?! What IS today? Is it Sunday morning?! What's going on?!

My panic subsided, by Seventeen Fifteen. That's Military Talk for 5:15. Or should that be Seventeen-Quarter, or Seventeen 1/4? Is it even Seventeen? What's 12 + 5? I have no idea; why do I try to talk about things in which I have no idea?

My car is full of beanies.

I have doorprizes to drop off.

Crap, I forgot to take Mom's meds' to her.

Why did I buy new flip-flops for the big day, I have a blister on my foot.

I need to resize the photos, and post them on the website.

Who was that guy that threw us a $100 bill and got grouchy (but sweet-grouchy; he didn't fool me) when I thanked him?

I'm out of cat food.

Did I actually listen to a proclamation by a councilman while wearing a "FREE HUG" sign across my waist?

That Jesse was sure wonderful, she worked her butt off, while I did nothing.

I have to run to Walgreens.

Dona showed up! She worked her butt off too. I did nothing.

I can hardly wait for Billy to get back, I am so going to his party.

Glock 21 looks like my third husband-to-be, John Cusack.

Mrs. Cake made all of those pies, she rocks.

I finally met Jeff Facer, the guy that designed It's about time.

Yay, cousin Michael showed up.

Isabella, the little girl that put up the Mouse sign was there. Gah, she left before I got to talk to her.

Oreo's with Easy Cheese: Uh. Delicious. Yeah. That's the ticket.

JEREMY showed up, I can't believe it. He flew all the way here from Turkey, and his Mother, who put up THREE, count 'em, THREE Christmas trees, suprised the holy heck out of me on Sunday night. I love them. I'm not being flippant. I love them.

My blister hurts.

Rafael: Necesito mas cerveza pare estudiar mi espanol!

We gave Margaret $2.

I am up, once again, entirely too late.

Comprehensive thoughts to follow after proper sleep-ation.

We did it.

It's late. I'm tired, and I have had the most wonderful evening.

We did it. In 6 days, we really did it. I want to tell you every single story tonight, but I simply must sleep. I met and hugged so many of you, and I came away thinking that if we'd made only $1, it would have been a successful evening.

We ate spaghetti:

And there was an announcement, early in the evening, by City Councilman Tom Bruno,

That Mayor himself did show up, later in the evening.

As did local sugar artist Buffy Vance. She waltzed in with this cake, handed it over, gave me a hug, and disappeared, like a Fairy Cake Godmother. I'm going to write more about her later, but hey, I ran around the bar and made every single person look at this cake. I'm not kidding, I interrupted conversations of people who were not even at the party (why weren't they at the party?!" and I said "Look at this! It's a CAKE!"


We didn't make only $1.

We made, tonight, and over the last 6 days, a little over $3000.00

We have enough.

We have enough to send what we have.

We have enough to buy soccer balls.

We have enough to fill care packages.

I will never forget this evening.

We have big things ahead of us.

And one soldier, in one week, will return to Iraq.

And your message, friends, will be delivered to Ours.

Thank you.

With all of my heart,

...thank you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

'Sketti Update & RSVP por favor

Good Lord, are you sick of Beanie-Blather and Spaghetti-Speak yet?! Seriously, I don't know how you can stand me anymore. I do have other things to tell you, believe it or not.

For instance,
  • Wailing "I'm just so distracted because my son just got back from Iraq!!" will get you out of a speeding ticket.
  • Have any of you ever played Nogla?
  • Momo and Woof had a baby girl (Matilda Grace, 6 lb, 9 oz) 12 days ago, but they're not blogging it, which is just driving me crazy!
  • My elbow hurts, but I don't want to go to the doctor.
There is a lot going on, I tell you. But later, all that.

The Spaghetti Dinner's on.

I'm not fixing it all myself, this time around; I couldn't figure out how to bring 90 crockpots of spaghetti sauce into the Esquire, all by myself. I wanted to. I really wanted to. At any rate, there will be spaghetti, with meat sauce, and without.

Door Prizes: Goodness, everyone has been so nice, donating doorprizes. We have oil changes, and candles, and Mary Kaye baskets, and car washes, and gift certificates, and other stuff I don't even know yet.

50/50 Drawing. Well, I bought the tickets for that, and I'm recruiting sunny pushy personalities to sell them on Sunday night.

I'm already amazed and excited about the community response to the idea. Financial donations are already rolling in from around the state, to help out with the dinner, and the cause.

If you volunteered to help out and you haven't heard from me, please e-mail me, and I'll catch you up further.

(French, for Respond So Very Promptly,
according to Laverne, on
Laverne & Shirley)

I know it will be a vague headcount, but if you're coming for sure, can you comment here, or send me a quick note, at It's difficult to know how much spaghetti to bring, will there be 40 or 400 at the party? Oooo, I hope it's 400, I want to meet each and every one of you!

Ok. Off to work. See you Sunday!

First Radio Interview!

Hey, I broadened my horizons a bit more yesterday, by showing up for my first radio interview. I met Steve & Melissa at WIXY at 7:45 in the a.m. I was nervous, of course, but they were very warm, and we talked for a few minutes before we went on the the air, so that I was relatively comfortable by the time the interview started.

The plans for the Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser at the Esquire are coming along very nicely; Houston, I'll be posting an update later in the day, I promise! If you've offered to help, I'll be with you, personally. If you know you're showing up, send me an email or a comment.

See you soon!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Want Some Spaghetti?


I can't believe I'm doing this folks, but I






Next Sunday night, August 12, at the Esquire.

You show up, and I'm going to feed you spaghetti.

I have, actually, no idea how I'm going to make this happen, BUT, the fine folks at The Esquire have given me the space and are ready to make this party happen.

There will be door prizes, and a 50/50. Brian and his friends will be there, and I will be there, and the family and friends you know will be there.

If you don't know us...well, then get thyself out and introduce. If the free spaghetti's not draw enough, how about a free hug?!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we could use a dollar, I admit it. Last week I touted the number of beanies we had at 7,000. More have poured in since then, and Jeff and Michelle picked up 1500 more from a Viet Nam vet in Decatur, this morning.

We need to ship these beanies. We want to buy soccer balls. We want to prepare care packages to those soldiers.

We will take your dollar, and cross our fingers that you win a pizza or two.

But, eh...I'm really more excited about feeding my kid, feeding you, and shaking your hand, than I am about the dollars. The dollars, they will come.


HALP!!! Help, help, help, how'm I ever going to put this together in the next 8 days?!!

  • I'm going to hit up a few local businesses on the spaghetti; if they can't help, then I have to do it. If you want to help, then e-mail me. RIGHT NOW.
  • If you have anything to offer in the way of a door prize, hit me up about that too. If you know someone that might donate...yeah...that's
  • If you have any other ideas or
  • If you want to ship your own box o' beanies, we'll hand you one, along with a custom's form. Post office awaits you on Monday morning.
  • If you just want to share some know what to do.
If you just want me to shut up about Spaghetti Dinners at the Esquire on August 12, and just look at a few photos of my kid from the last few days...then stop reading, and start looking!

It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that there are others that want your child home as much or more than you do. Brian's friends commented on this blog that they could hardly wait for him to get home, and they networked on the telephone with me while we waited, and after I'd picked him up from O'Hare.

Courtney seemed almost as overjoyed as I was that Brian was home. Even more, maybe?

Brian was happy to see her also:

We were having so much fun, the first day he arrived, that I'd almost forgotten the conditions my son has been living in since he left. A cot in a tent, in 117-degree heat. He jumped into his bed at home, and began moving his arms and legs back and forth. It was only when he said "I'm making bed angels," that I realized what a soft mattress in an air-conditioned house must feel like to him now. I'm sure I still don't quite get it.

I've spent time with friends that have been somewhat absent since Brian left. Chad, my "have you heard from Brian lately?" buddy, was home to keep me in stitches:

Nothing like having your kid crashed out on the living room floor. Here he is with Minx, and a spare beanie:

And cooking for him again, oh the cooking. When he couldn't wait for the burgers this afternoon, I threw a bag of chips and a small bowl of salsa at him and John, to tide them over:

Just a small bowl.

And when he gets sick of the camera, and tries to make stupid faces,

He doesn't know who he's messing with...I can wait it out until he can't keep a straight face.

That's it for now. See ya Sunday, a'ight?!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

USO, Atlanta, GA

HEY! Guess what the USO gave Brian, when he arrived in Atlanta yesterday?!!

A screwdriver?



Of course not.



Pen & Pencil Set?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

He's home.

Little time to write, but the pix say a lot. I'll be back in touch. You know it.

The moment I've been waiting for:

Yeah. I'm crying, he's laughing at me.

And a few pictures we've all been dying to see:

And a movie. Brian is filming, laughing in the background.

As I write, Brian's at the mall, picking up some shorts and shoes. His buddies will finish up their softball games, and in an hour, we'll be laughing over cold beer and hot steaks.

All, for now, is right with the world.