Wednesday, June 30, 2010


A word of warning before anyone begins reading this:  it's nothing but rambling, because I simply can't wrap my head around the level of grief some people have to endure.

A man that works in our office died over the weekend.  He was a boisterous Irishman.  When he walked into a room, everyone knew it.  He exasperated the people that worked for him, but they will miss him all the same.  His customers loved him.  He could tell a story like no other.  He was fun.  He had a huge personality.  I'm sure he crammed more living into 53 years than most centenarians.  After having one drink with him, he was your buddy and he had your back - unless you crossed him.

His youngest child is a senior in high school, and the words "not fair" always come to mind in these situations.  

I got a genuine kick out of him.  I have only worked in the same room with him for a year and a half, and I will miss him.  There is a huge void there now that will fade over a very long time, but it will always be remembered.  His brother works at our office too.  They sat back to back at their desks every day.  In a rare moment sometime over the last year and a half, the brother shared with me just how close he was with his sibling.  So he not only has to grieve the loss of a very close brother relationship, he can't even come to work and busy himself to take his mind off of the tragedy.

I have to go to the visitation tonight, and pay respects to a family I have never met.

My role in this is pretty limited.  I'll say a lot of prayers for them and probably take them some food, because there is nothing else to do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top 15(and beyond)

For whatever reason, John urged Jim and I to come up with our top 15 musical groups - period.  It's easier to come up with the top musical "influences" - meaning that they were loved in the past, but maybe not so much anymore.  You know what I mean.

In my case, I grew up on what my siblings listened to - and I am very grateful for that. Talk about the treasure trove of music - Johnny Cash from John, the Beatles from Joyce and CCR from Dennis - can't get any better than that.

Here is what we come up with - NOT IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER!  (John wanted me to put punctuation on that.) And there may be more than 15, or less.  Just saying.

Dire Straits
Cheap Trick
Smashing Pumpkins
Pearl Jam
Sister Hazel
Counting Crows
Green Day
Bruce (no need for last name)
Pink Floyd
Allman Bros
Elvis Costello
Indigo Girls
ZZ Top
Jack Johnson
Steely Dan

Me: (again, in no particular order, and I know I'm leaving a lot out...)
Foo Fighters (they were one of the best concerts EVER)
The Bodeans
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Sister Hazel
Marshall Tucker
Green Day
Ray LaMontagne
Charlie Daniels
Eric Clapton
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sheryl Crow
The Pretenders
Johnny Cash
Elton John - circa 1970's
(maybe a little Jayhawks, Wilco, Woods Bros.  and other stuff that I can't commit to)

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Foo Fighters
Modest Mouse
Green Day
Pearl Jam
Radiohead (except for "Creep")
Ben Folds
Mars Volta
Streetlight Manifesto

For what it's worth.

Hannah?  Are you listening?  Your top 15?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

3 amigos

My friend Joni took this photo of Kyle, her son, Brian, and my Jim. I stole it from Joni's facebook page because I just love it. (Hope that is OK with you, Joni!) Jim and Brian have been best buds literally since the moment we came to town. We moved here when the kids had 2 weeks left of school - Hannah was in kindergarten and Jim was in second grade. We were going to wait until the kids were done with school, but I'm so glad we didn't. Jim and Brian became friends and have been now for over 12 years, despite the fact that they went to the same school for only a year or two. Kyle and Jim became friends in high school, and if you are friends with Jim, you are friends with Brian. That's just the way things have been.

Same for Hannah. She met Marina and Chelsea right away. Marina's parents (our very good friends Dave and Marian) invited us over for pie one night and the rest is pretty much history. Their relationships have ebbed and flowed, but when Hannah could choose any friends for her "friends photo shoot" with the photographer that did her senior photos, she chose them.

Now that both of the kids are out of high school and moving on to other things, I'm even more thankful for the wonderful friends in their lives. The influence parents have is significant, but the people kids hang out with is a major deal. John and I telling the kids to "Make good choices!!" upon leaving the house has always been more or less a joke, because with the people they were with, we knew they would.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I do not want Nebraska in the Big Ten!
I'm still getting used to Penn St !

Monday, June 14, 2010

So this was my Sunday…

I took Hannah to camp. She is a camp counselor and was supposed to be there at 10:00am. We pulled in right on time. The first issue was that the Apostolic Boy’s camp was still going on, so she griped about the fact that she had no place to store her gear. (Apparently she is THE only counselor that doesn’t drive to camp. Sorry Sweetie, but since the van died, your brother needs to get around too.) She finally found another counselor that had an empty cabin and we unloaded the car there. Then she discovered that she had forgotten her make up. Who the heck needs make up at camp??!! But I figured, what the heck. I would want my makeup too. I agreed to go into Monticello, the town right by camp and get her a few things. Her bug spray had broken en route too, so I figured that justified my shopping trip even more.

I found out the hard way that Monticello has only one drug store and it is closed on Sunday, and the Country Market doesn’t sell one bit of make up. I wasted close to an hour driving around Monticello, because there HAD to be a place to buy these few things SOMEWHERE. I finally gave up and at a Casey’s, was told that Decatur was only a short trip away, so off I went. (Mind you, John offered his GPS, but I was only going to camp and back, so I didn’t need it.) I got on Rte. 72 and about had a wreck when I saw the sign declaring Decatur was 26 miles away. My living-in-the-country days long behind me, I forgot that a “short trip” to someone living in Monticello, Illinois is no longer matches MY idea of the term. But I drove like a bat out of hell and was sure that I would be able to hit the first drug store I saw and back track to the camp.

The whole time I was in Monticello AND Decatur, I did not see ONE drug store. I probably saw 20 McDonalds and even more Casey’s, but not one Walgreens or CVS. NOT ONE!!! Are there a lot of sick people that live in Bloomington/Normal, because I pass 2 Walgreens in a 12 minute trip to work! After wandering around Decatur for much too long, I finally stopped at yet another Casey’s and asked where I could buy make up and bug spray. She gave me directions to a Wal-Mart (“Just right down this road here” – and it WASN’T – it was 15 minutes away).

I loathe Wal-Mart. I stopped shopping there after working for 2 of their suppliers. They beat up their vendors, pass themselves off as all-American and patriotic when they alone have caused the US-Chinese trade market chaos, and they low-ball local stores, force them out of business and then jack up their prices. I saw that first hand while working for a company that supplies and maintains their music departments. The most expensive place in central Illinois to by a CD was Lincoln, because Wal-Mart was the only place left in town.

So I entered the belly of The Beast. I found her bug spray and make up in a matter of about 5 minutes and then stood in the check out line for another 15. Yet another thing I hate about that place.

Then I got lost getting back to camp.

I really have no idea how I got back to Monticello. I just got on a road and pointed the car to what felt northeast. By the time I got to camp, the boys had left and the new campers were starting to arrive, so I got caught up in all that traffic. 3 hours after I was supposed to bid Hannah farewell and be on my way, I finally was.

The camp is down the same woodsy road as Allerton Park, so I decided that after the traumatic events of the day, I would treat myself and wander around for a while. Allerton is a wild place. It was the home and gardens of Robert Allerton at the turn of the century and donated to University of Illinois years later. The mansion is huge and beautiful, and the formal gardens are made up of sculpted bushes, trained vines, gorgeous flowers and statues of every kind. I wandered around and took some photos. It was so hot, you could hardly breath, but it was much better than driving past corn field after corn field on the back roads of central Illinois. The thunderstorm I drove through on the way home was just icing on the camp cake.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I am well aware that I am married to a sports fan. Over the course of 20-almost 6 - years, I've been sucked into the Chicago sports fan vortex.*

There were the glory years of the Bulls and I have to admit, they were great years and they spoiled us rotten. Michael was a god and it was a pleasure to watch. The Bears had that one completely awesome year and we won't talk about the most resent Superbowl loss. And now the Blackhawks are playing for the Stanley Cup.

We have never been hockey fans. Ever. I love basketball and football, and how you can see the plays being executed. Hockey is a bunch of guys slamming into each other, fighting for a little black piece of rubber that at professional speeds could kill a person. And they used to play this game without helmets??!! Anyway, since the Blackhawks are in it for the Cup, we're watching and I have to say, I sort of like it. I can hop on a bandwagon with the best of them.

But what will forever drive me over the edge - Chicago sports and beyond - are the during the game interviews.

It drove me nuts when they started doing it years ago and I still think it's one of the dumbest things sports broadcasters have ever come up with. Everything else is great! Watch any game taped from 10 years ago and you'll be thankful for the graphics and clarity. But I cringe every time some "sportscaster" (and I use the term loosely) asks a coach or player some inane question during a short break in play. I have never heard them say anything noteworthy in one of those interviews. Ever. From what I can tell the only thing it does is give fast talking, good looking people something to do for under 1 minute. Joel Quenneville constantly looks like he wants to punch someone anyway, and I'm thinking that person assigned to ask him questions during the game should get combat pay.

We watched the Belmont stakes yesterday and the number of ridiculous interviews before the race was mind numbing. I am aware of the fact that it is a big event and that it is over in less than 5 minutes. But they had a microphone on the sleeve of the guy riding the horse that escorted the winning horse and jockey back to the winners circle. What do you THINK that jockey is going to say? Do we really need to hear how well the horse ran and how grateful the jockey is 10 seconds after the race? Really - I can wait. Like, forever.

And admit it. Most sports interviews, before, during or after the game don't really provide you any real news anyway - unless the guy goes off the deep end - and then that becomes the story. Every time I hear "Playoffs?!" I will forever think of Jim Mora.

I'm sure broadcasters will continue to dig for answers on the court, ice, field, and track that will never be there. And maybe one of these days I'll be surprised. Maybe Quenneville really will slug someone.

*For the record, we had a lapse in judgement a very long time ago and had Sox season tickets for 2 years. But John finally remembered that he had bled Cubbie blue all of his life and we've been north side fans ever since, for better or worse. But with our buddy Mark (Cassy's dad!), we had a hell of good time going to those games - sitting in the outfield, drinking warm beer and razzing outfielder Ron Kittle. And every time we walked out of the old, cracking and crumbling Comiskey Park we were grateful that it withstood one more game.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I love kids

I do - I really love 'em. I love them when they are small and cute and their eyes are too big for their heads. But I love them more when they are old enough to be tortured.

"Oh Joanie! You shouldn't say things like that!"

Yeah, whatever.

I mean like our friend, Mark. He took photos of every nook and cranny of his oldest daughter's first apartment and labeled them: Cassy's first kitchen; Cassy's first bananas; Cassy's first future spoiled bananas; Cassy's first fire get the drift. I'm sorry, but that's funny. In the general sense, we absolutely know what is going to happen (ie, Cassy, will be just fine with her future spoiled bananas and most likely will not catch the apartment on fire - and if she does, she will most certainly know how to put it out, thank you Dad.) It's just fun to sit back and watch it unfold. You never know exactly how the cards are going to play out. It's like poker. You ante up, and you have to deal with the cards that are dealt - but sometimes, there is a little surprise that someone else brings to the table.

Good luck Cassy. You're going to be just fine. This photo is for you.