Monday, June 29, 2009

Sweet Talkin' at 14

I've mentioned here, before, that Clint and I have a bit of history that predates our current relationship—back to kindergarten or thereabouts. In 1977, we were 14 years old, and buddies, stopping to chat when we rode by one another's houses on our bikes, or hanging out in my dad's garage. I'll admit to having had a bit of a crush on him. I'll also admit to being terribly shy. Crush or no crush, I turned down his invitation to a movie once because I didn't have money, and wasn't sure he intended to treat. God forbid I should just ask him!

He had a pet name for me (ok, it was more of a nickname than a pet name, but this is my story): "Goggles Pizano." Adoring Making fun of my glasses, he chose the name based on a Fred Flintstone cartoon.

Me, circa 1977.

And, Goggles, circa 1977:

It is 30 years later. We were busy Saturday, cleaning up the the country casa, and in the midst of our tidying, I found his 1977 yearbook.

I, being the girl that I am, knew what he wrote in my '77 yearbook. So romantic, he, at 14:

He called me Goggles! Tee hee.

I had no idea what I might have written in his. Jackpot on Saturday when I happened across it!

OMGawwwwwwd. I was UBER-excited to flip through this book, and find out what precious thing I most certainly must have written to him, thirty two (32!!) years ago. We will carry it in our hearts, embroider it on our pillowcases, engrave it on our tombstones, this most-certain sacred sentiment.

I'm not kidding, that's where I was, mentally, on Saturday afternoon, when I flipped through his copy of our '77 year book, and read this:




keep scrolling, it will be worth it...






I'm absolutely sure that was meant to be flirtatious! I blame Clint for not realizing that what I meant by "you're an idiot" was "take me to the dollar movie, big boy."

Men just don't know how to communicate.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In the Meantime: Toys for Troops Marches On

I wanted to break in here to let you know that although you haven't heard a lot about Toys for Troops, we are still forging ahead.

We slowed down in the last few months as most of the troops on our list came home. I happily remove names of those that are safe in their family's arms, and start sniffing out names and addresses of guys and gals that have replaced them, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, we are laundering beanies. Our initial call for beanie babies left me so inundated with donations that a kind neighbor of the country casa let us store thousands of them in his farm shed until we got caught up on those in my garage.

We hauled them back out a month ago, and though they're in good shape, they're musty and dusty, and we're laundering all of them before we ship.

Super-secret TFT code: "W" means "these are Washed!"

So, little by little, we are gearing up for our 3rd year of operations at Toys for Troops. There is no shortage of things to do, or soldiers to support. Last week I received a letter from a central Illinois soldier, "Major M.," who is currently serving in Iraq. It read, in part,
We conduct operations in nearby towns and small villages about every 2 to 4 days and in the short time I have been here, I have noticed a common trend amongst the children[...] They very rarely have any kind of toys or stuffed animals. [...] As a father of two small children under 5 and one more on the way in August, it saddens me that most of these children don't have any toys or stuffed animals...I am asking for any help you could give to help these children here.

I had a box in the mail the next day, and sent 2 more the day after that.
I also received another letter this week from a military mom, asking me to add the son of a family friend to our mailing list. He is
"stationed in Afghanistan with about 15 other guys, they're training Afghani soldiers, and eating Afghan fod...which is apparently why he asked his dad for "anything in a can, pop tarts, food!"
In addition, we shipped 4 boxes of beanies to soldiers aboard the USS Halyburton, for them to toss to children on the pier at their future homecoming (date of which can not be revealed).

We keep busy, but that isn't all I wanted to share with you.

What is most important about this update, and what continues to amaze me is this: I received the names of 27 soldiers this week that wanted beanies or could use a care package or a letter from home. I put out a shout out with that fact on Facebook, and enough people stepped forward that there was a care package heading out to each of those 2 hours' time. Cookies and letters were mailed that same day!

I have always told the soldiers on our mailing list that people here want to do something to help out, and that all we need is a little direction: A name, an address will usually do it. I will be proud to be able to send them yet another letter telling them about the great 2-hour accomplishment, and that "we mean it, now! Give us your name and tell us what you need!"

There are soldiers out there busting their asses in desert heat, missing their families, and checking empty mailboxes.

We can't have that.

I have names. I have addresses. I have suggestions.

Hit me up. I'll help you help.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Levity, Provided By Mama

I took Mom out shopping yesterday afternoon, intent on finding some cool summer clothes for her. She had me in stitches from the start, when we walked into Sears, and she broke into hysterical giggles. Having no idea what set her off, she took me back to a headless mannequin, modeling a men's suit. "Poor thing," she said, and started giggling all over.

After picking out a few cool house dresses for her, I asked her if she'd like some slippers to wear with them. The look on her face was priceless when she exclaimed, "FLIPPERS?!! It was then my turn for hysterical giggling; the idea of Mom slapping around the house in a duster and a pair of blue flippers still undoes me.

The best line of the afternoon was yet to come, when we were trying on some cheapie slip-on shoes for her to wear around the house. She often mixes any two black shoes she can find. I thought maybe if we go for bright red, she'd be less likely to end up wearing two different shoes.

I slipped these on her, and asked her what she thought:

She gave 'em a walk around, sat down and hemmed and hawed, and finally replied,

"I remember something. I'm out of peppermints."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Clarification, Reassurance, Gratitude

I've been meaning to tell you all that I'm in a better state of mind, than I was when the last post was written. My little brain rebooted itself after a day or two, and I have direction, on a few issues.

On Mom's House: Insurance check has been cut. Assistance in cleaning Mom's house—all of it—out has been hired, by someone I can trust to lurk through her belongings with me. Garbage will be pitched, the good loot will be sold at a garage sale, and the sentimental and necessary stuff will find an organized space.

On Mom's Condition: I do need to share with you that my mother isn't walking around the house bonking into walls. Although her condition does deteriorate, she can carry on a conversation, express desire to go shopping, see her sister, get out of the house. She still reads the newspaper every day, and loves giving me the weather report. She giggles when I call her the Weather Lady, and ask her if it's going to rain. Though working a few extra hours a day with her wears me out sometime, she's a great lady, and she deserves those hours.

On Alzheimer's: I am pursuing Alzheimer's support group, and assistance from local senior services.

On Teri: I talk to her every day, and she says she's "feeling pretty good." Pain patches have left her feeling better, and surgery a few weeks ago prevents her constant vomiting. She's eating better, albeit has to skip the steak dinner. She has friends and family galore in her house every day. I take Mom to see her a couple times a week.

And, because so many of you are worried about me: I AM taking care of myself, although I sometimes wonder what you want me to do, when you tell me to do that. For the record, here's what I do, for myself:
  • Sleep early. Though I claim insomnia, my kneejerk response to stress is sleep. One Advil PM keeps me sleeping so soundly that I do not wake during the night, and am rested in the morning.
  • I have a glass of wine. Or I do not dare, and stick to water and club soda. On those toughity-tough days, I don't go near alcohol.
  • I roll with my emotions, and when I have a minute, I do whatever the hell I want. Last week, housework was NOT it. Having my house undone usually grates on me, but I decided it was worth the tradeoff.
  • I get pedicures. I'm fascinated at how little pink toenails lift my spirits. I think "that's pretty darned shallow" and then I think "who the hell cares?"
  • I accept invititations. I appreciate that lunch or dinner out, or the offer to meet for coffee or a beer. Mostly, I appreciate your willingness to listen to me talk...and talk and talk. I'm surprised at what all I can blurp out in a long lunch.
  • I turn down invitations. If I'm busy, can't make it or, just don't feel like it, I won't be there, and I don't feel bad, and I'm not apologizing. I appreciate your trusting me on this, understanding that things are hectic, and not taking my rejection personally or lecturing me about it.
  • I silence my mind. I strive to simplify, and yet to be more decisive, so that I can make fewer decisions. If I cannot decide what to cook for dinner, I decide just not to cook at all. Problem solved.
  • If I want to, I cry.
  • If I want to, I laugh.
  • I buy myself flowers, call my sister whenever I want to, drop in on friends, call Clint at work as much as I feel like it.
Those are a few of the things I'm doing. I'll keep them up or toss them out as I feel that they work or they do not. In the meantime, I appreciate your cards, your flowers, your messages.

Some of you have expressed that you feel that you make such small gestures. My response to this is that there is no gesture that you can make that will make all of this crap right. In times this tough, for me, for my sister, for anyone rattling down a rocky road, there can only be small gestures.

I appreciate yours immensely.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not Blogging Today

Today's blog will be postponed, because I don't know where to start. I've been soul searching and trying to get my head straight, and my plan was to tell you all about that this evening, after picking up Mom's meds and working at her house for a little while.

My sweet mother's condition deteriorates. I stress myself out sometimes by wondering if I don't enable some of that deterioration. Is that even possible? Remember when I talked her into Meals on Wheels? They bring her such a large lunch that she eats it for both lunch and dinner. She no longer heats up an evening meal in the microwave; we removed this simple daily chore from her repetoire and it is gone. It is gone, and it isn't coming back. Did I do that?

I usually arrive to find her in two different shoes, both on the wrong feet, undies on askew (leg hole around her waist), and in general, I look around for some other surprise. Oh surprise me, Mom, surprise me!

In addition to Alzheimer's, she has a hoarding disorder. I will spend hours cleaning up her bedroom, only to find it once again covered in...stuff. Clothes and blankets and books are piled high, and she crawls in and sleeps amongst it.

On top of this, she hasn't been letting her doggie out often enough, and I am now in the midst of packing up more stuff so that we can tear out the carpets. I spend a couple hours a day cleaning, packing, and tossing Sucrets tins full of rubber bands, thousands of return address labels, fast-food salt packets, and empty boxes.

I was over this evening, puttering and talking to Brian on the phone when I wandered down the hallway to analyze the stuff I'd have to deal with in the spare bedroom. I opened the door to find this:


That hangy-down stuff is insulation, and there on the floor is the ceiling. What Brian heard, while we spoke on the phone was "blah de blah, blah blah blOHMIGOD OHMIGOD OHMIGOD!"

I don't know what happened here, I have no idea even when it happened. Clint's at work, Mom's puttering around wearing one tennis shoe and one slipper, my sister's family is taking care of my sister, and I was quite simply, numb.

I closed the door, picked up my keys, told Mom that I loved her and that I'd be back tomorrow. I've been staring at the walls for most of the evening. Oh, I try to think, every now and then, but my mind seems to just scream "don't want!" and shuts itself back off.

Anyway, all that happened, and I can't think, so I won't be blogging today, because I'm going to sleep now, k?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Frenzy, Fleas, and Fancy Gap

Schedule, most days:

7:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m.: Work for a living

3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.: Work at Mom's house

5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Work at country casa

7:00 p.m. - 7 :00 a.m.: Grocery shop, cook dinner, do dishes, clean kitchen, clean bathrooms, vacuum house, do laundry, mow yard, pay bills, do Mom's laundry, pay Mom's bills, catch a little TV, write a little bit, catch up with friends and family. Oh, and sleep.

Last week, toss in Mom's stupid dog getting stupid fleas, and about 15 stupid hours of stupid shopping for stupid flea killing stuff for dog, mom, mom's house, and executing all of that stupid flea stuff. What stupid timing for stupid fleas to stupid invade the stupid dog.

Aw, he's a cute stupid dog.

Anyway, I don't have time to write. Maybe Wednesday.

In the meantime, here's a couple photos we grabbed on our trip, while driving through Fancy Gap, North Carolina.

We were quite amused with the name "Fancy Gap" and I made it clear to Clint that if I spotted "Fancy Gap Gynecology" there were no circumstances in which he could not hit the brakes and turn around for the photo op. Alas, no FG/OB/GYN, but I spotted this place on the way, and told Clint that we had to pull over for photos on the way back.

There are more photos here: Leonard's Market Gallery.

It was kind of a scary place. One sign said they'd be back at noon, but who knew if it was a legitimate sign or just a sign. Meanwhile, hard rock blasted from a radio inside, and no one seemed to notice our sneaking about with the camera.

That is all. I'll try to catch you Wednesday, k? Oh, and sorry about the raunchy gap jokes, but hey, Clint and I invariably morph into Beavis and Butthead after being on the road for 12 hours. And, it's just funny.

Friday, June 12, 2009

You're right...

...talking makes me feel better. Time constraints prevent me from elaborating for now, but thank you. Thank you for your emails, phone calls, facebook messages, and phone numbers.

And for those of you that were downtown tonight, those of you that scooted your chairs out and crossed rooms, sidewalks, and streets to catch me for a hug...thank you for bothering.

Catch ya later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Off kilter

I'm not sure what to say, next.

This is the first minute I've had alone since Teri got her news last week. As I said, we were on the road, heading to a family gathering, when she told me that her doctors had just left the room.

I had a great time in North Carolina with Clint's family and their friends. We meandered on the trip there and back, did some photography, met some people. I returned to work to train a coworker in InDesign, which involves talking and instructing for 8 hours a day. I'm sure she is sick of the sound of my voice. After work, I do chores at Mom's house, take her to see Teri, give her a bath, give her dog a bath.

Repeat Wednesday.

Repeat Thursday.

I move through everything that must be done. These things, they are not entirely unenjoyable. Friends and family are fun. Coworkers are pleasant. Teri's in good spirits. Clint is...Clint (constant and wonderful).

And yet, when asked how I am, this week, I answer "I am not ok." I have never been so "not ok" in my life, and I've never felt so unapologetic for it. I cry in-between acts: on my lunch break, and when I'm driving down the road. I talk to Clint and cry at the dinner table.

Tuesday afternoon I had to get out of my workplace, after repeating the word "hospice" too many times upon my return. I drove to Di's house with the intention of having a good cry and a cold diet coke. I approached her driveway to have inform me, over the phone, that she was in Michigan.

I sat on her porch, and went about the cry anyway. I looked up to find a neighbor crossing the yard, asking "Honey, are you ok?" I told her "No. I am not ok. I came over here to have a diet coke with Diane, and she's not here."

"AND," I threw in as an afterthought, "my sister has cancer."

"Awwwwwww, did you just find out?" she asked me. It was a question that sent me back into uncontrollable sobbing, all the while observing that I had the handkerchief that I had bought for Clint to carry at Jennifer's wedding in my hand. How did this happen? I don't know, but it's nice, a handkerchief, for crying.

I returned to work, wiped out. Exhausted, I was, that afternoon, when an un-named for now television producer phoned me, asked if he could have a sample of my writing, and inquired about my possible interest in script writing for a future show.

It was a phone call that might normally make me say something stupid, but I was, simply, spent. I was tired, and in turn, calm and smooth. I told him about breaking up with someone in high school after getting a high-maintenance, Farah-esque haircut, and opting to do my hair through lunch period, thus letting a boy think I no longer liked him. Yep. That's what I talked about. I'm sure glad I didn't say anything stupid.


Up-down, up-down. How do I sound like I'm doing? I've lost 7 lbs in 7 days. The mere thought of a certain diner breakfast we had on the way home makes me want to toss my cookies; the only thing I want to eat is watermelon. Watermelon is so watery and clean and not-greasy.

I feel bouncy and unsure, but I've decided not to worry about what I should or should not be writing here. I've decided not to apologize. I'll be back when I'm ready...30 minutes or 8 weeks from now. I'll be fine, or I'll be a mess. I'll be what I am at that point.

Hold my hand. Bring me watermelon. Pray for us.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Not doin' so hot.

Clint and I hit the road for North Carolina last week, and a day into our trip got the news that all options to treat my sister's cancer have been exhausted: Her care has been turned over, primarily, to Hospice.

I wrote, this afternoon. Wrote, and wrote about the last 5 days.

And then I deleted it all.

How many words does it take to say, after all,

"I am buckled."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Flesor's Candy Kitchen

Saturday afternoon, Lisa, of Champaign Taste, and I set out to roam the countryside, make a few stops, for country lunch, country groceries, and old-timey soda fountain beverages. Our last stop of the day was Flesor's Candy Kitchen, in Tuscola, IL, a restaurant/ice cream parlor/candy store that's been handed down from generation to generation since 1901.

We were on a mission to try their homemade ginger ale. While we watched and chatted with the girl making our drinks, the owner, Devon, stepped over and told us exactly how she makes her ginger syrup. I always appreciate when people aren't suspiciously protective of their craft. Devon could probably tell that we'd get in the car and drive 30 miles to have a fresh ginger ale prepared for us before we'd ever bother to steal her recipe.

They don't skimp on the ginger syrup:

Add ice & soda water:

Mix it good, and it's best with a lemon slice, we were told.

Delicious! Sweet and gingery, and very refreshing.

As we sipped our homemade ales, we watched the creation of ice cream sodas for a couple sitting next to us. These sodas are the real deal; unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the mountain of whipped cream that topped this one off.

The website menu reads:
Made with homemade, hand-dipped vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Ours is the soda all grandmothers and grandfathers remember. Banana, Butterscotch, Caramel, Chocolate, Maple Walnut, Pineapple, Strawberry, Vanilla, Cherry, Lemon, Lime, Marshmallow. Black Cows, too!

While we sat snapping our photos, Devon offered, "if you want to have some fun taking photos, come on back into the candy kitchen!" Really? We can come into the candy kitchen? Yeah! We were like a couple of...bloggers in a candy shop!!

Fudge, fudge fudge!

And coconut peanut brittle:

All of which, along with a lot of other tasties, can be purchased at the candy counter:

While Lisa and I returned to our beverages and continued to take photos, Devon snuck back and handed us a bag of coconut brittle. We snacked on it while we made our other choices.

I've written here that I'm not much of a chocolate lover, but I did buy some dark chocolate coconut clusters that were amazing, and I don't exaggerate when I say that I will never pass through Tuscola again without stopping at Flessor's.

If you get an afternoon to yourself sometime, and you'd like to do a little time-traveling, jaunt on over to Flesor's for an authentic soda shop experience. Your kids will enjoy the history lesson, and your parents the nostalgia. Not to mention the ice cream.