Vacation time

Quick — what’s the worst thing about being on vacation?

The hassle of packing?

The agony of resting from work?

The relaxing of standards of diet and exercise?

Nope, it’s the being unconnected from things!

I took a few days off recently (more about that another time!), and even though I hauled my laptop with me, I found whole hours — even days! — passing without my turning it on.

To check e-mail.

To read blogs.

To do any work.

To simply catch up with the news.

I know, I know. Most people would say, “What’s the problem with that? You were on vacation.”

True, but when you like your “work” as much as I do, it’s not work.

It is vacation!

So, online friends, please forgive me for not commenting on your blogs or replying to your e-mail messages. I really didn’t fall down a hole.

I missed you, and your wit, and your thoughtful comments. I missed hearing what was going on in your world. I missed laughing with you, crying with you, seething with you.

I missed our connection.

And, even though there’s an immense pile of stuff screaming for my attention, it’s good to be back.

What Happened to our Summers?

I used to look forward to summer.

When I was a kid, summer meant outside — no vegetating in front of the TV for us!

That long expanse of time between the end of one school year and the beginning of another found us getting together with friends, playing games and jacks, dancing to music. We’d buy frosty milkshakes from the ice cream vendor who scouted the neighborhoods, swim in our city’s pool, and play hours of tennis.

The days were long and sunny. Who cared if they were hot? Just wait around a while and a raging cold front would come through, driving temperatures back into the comfortable range, moistening the ground, pruning a few trees, and wiping away the humidity.

Nights would find us catching fireflies in jars (with holes poked in the lids so the bugs could breathe!). We’d ride our bikes to a friend’s house, play softball in a vacant lot, and enjoy the lingering daylight.

So what happened?

I’m not sure. The Weather Channel hasn’t addressed this, and I haven’t seen anything in our newspaper or on TV or the Internet to explain it.

Somewhere along the line, our weather has changed.

Our summers have become fierce, with tons of rain, violent storms, high temperatures, and unbearable humidity. When cold fronts come through nowadays, like as not they’ll kick our power out, cause the tornado sirens to wail, knock down shade trees, and finally spent, leave destruction, flooding, and more high temps and humidity in their wake.

Spring used to be our stormy season, but its days were short and we were in school. Once spring flew away, the days lengthened into summer, and we raced outside to enjoy every minute.

Hard to enjoy summer anymore.

We’ve had the rainiest June and July on record, I think. As soon as winter’s snow melted, we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of a season that seems confused whether it’s “spring” or “summer”!

Maybe we’ll just have to look to autumn as our peaceful season from now on.

It’s a Festival!

Summer in Illinois is time for festivals.

From bagels and popcorn to wine and beer, from ribs and candy to herbs and strawberries — there’s a celebration for every body and every taste.

And we do know how to party!

Maybe it’s the freedom that comes from finally shedding our heavy winter coats. Maybe it’s the joy of being outside in the sun, with friends and family. Maybe it’s simply that carnivals bring out the kid in all of us.


Take a typical festival weekend, lather the kids and yourself with sunscreen, then don sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. You’re ready to sample huge varieties of food, buy stuff you don’t need, shell out “one more dollar” trying to win a stuffed cat, and have a ball!

First, the food:

  • Lemon shakeups
  • Funnel cakes
  • Hot dogs
  • French fries
  • Popcorn
  • Etc.

Then the activities:

  • Carnival rides
  • Games of chance
  • Arts and crafts booths
  • 5K walk or run
  • Bike rides
  • Golf tournaments
  • Pet parades
  • Car shows

And the entertainment (mostly FREE, of course!):

  • Up and coming bands
  • Tribute bands
  • Rock-and-roll bands
  • Country bands
  • Solo entertainers
  • Magicians
  • Ventriloquists
  • Stand-up comedians
  • Local talent shows
  • Beauty pageants

And for people-watchers, it’s like paradise. You can observe:

  • The wheeler-dealer trying to drum up sales from his vendor’s booth
  • The enterprising youth hoping to secure a late-summer job
  • The old guys sitting on a shaded bench, talking up the “good old days”
  • The young families trying to juggle baby, stroller, diaper bag, and toys
  • And boomers reliving their teen years as a favorite song is played

Some communities have opted to allow beer tents into their festival lineup. They’ve heard from organizers in other communities that beer tents are “real money-makers.” Of course, having beer tents means having a whole new set of rules, including banning sales to kids under the legal drinking age.

Other communities don’t want to be bothered with all that. They’ve kept their festivals family-oriented and alcohol-free.

To each his own.

Whether you’d like to chomp down on all the free popcorn you can eat at Casey’s Popcorn Festival, or feast on free bagels at Mattoon’s Bagelfest, or down sweet corn at Urbana’s Sweet Corn Festival, or get your fill of cheese at Arthur’s Cheese Festival, it’s all here. And that’s just in Central Illinois — there’s plenty available outside this region!

So if you’re looking for a neat place to vacation, don’t rule out Illinois. As our state tourism office proclaims, we offer “Mile after Magnificent Mile.”


Okay, it’s hot and sticky outside, and there are a gazillion things I need to be doing.

Therefore, permit me to post a link of total cuteness for you.

Go on, it will only take a minute or so. No sound, just video, for those in an office situation.

My Favorite Domer sent it to me, and I want to share it with you.

Here goes:

I’ll be back tomorrow with more musings!

On being needed too much

You know, there are days when I just wish I could escape!

Maybe to some place like here:

Sunshine on lake

or here:

At the bayou

or here:

A sunny stream

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my family, I love my job, and I genuinely like most of my clients.

But sometimes it seems as if they conspire to need me, all at once! And it’s frustrating, not to mention stressful, trying to be all things to all people.

I cherish my “me time,” when I can write, read, bead, or just loaf. And I haven’t had very much of it lately.

Maybe that’s why I’m cranky.

Probably time for a vacation!

Running my own Web Design business, I have to be the chief cook and bottle-washer. I wear all the hats — receptionist, designer, sales person, public relations specialist, photographer, accountant, billing person, collections person, even janitor. I can’t imagine it any other way.

Serving my client’s design needs, making sure they’re delighted with the job done (and spreading the word to others) is a labor of love for me. Even a “rotten” day (and there have been thankfully few) is better than slaving away in a cubicle for “the man”!

But living in a family doesn’t mean one person has to do everything, does it? What happened to sharing the load?

Somehow, everybody (even the dog!) decided I’m the “point person.” The go-to person. The entertainment committee, food committee, sounding board, and a host of other titles.

It’s nice to be needed — just not that much!

Diarrhea + long-haired dog = Ewww!

Last weekend, my darlin doggin was sick — with diarrhea, no less.

Now you might think that’s no big deal. That doggins get little stomach upsets all the time. That they act “puny” for a day or so, then perk back up.

Well, a dog’s digestive system is pretty short, but that doesn’t compensate for the aggravation such upsets cause.

You see, my Sheltie is a long-haired boy, with full “skirts” on his backside. Yeah, even in males, that fluffy fur on the hind legs is referred to as a “skirt.”

Skirts and diarrhea don’t go together, trust me!

I’ll spare you the details — be glad you didn’t have to smell it, either. What concerned me was what he got into. Could it be:

  • Medication. Giving too much medicine at once can make doggins sick. I gave him his monthly heartworm pill on the first, as usual, and waited until the following day to administer his anti-flea treatment.
  • Food. I’ve learned you can’t simply switch a dog’s food from one brand to another. You need to taper off the old and gradually introduce the new to prevent stomach upsets.
  • Chemicals. We don’t use chemicals on our lawn, and I keep him off laws that I know use them. Unfortunately, I can’t watch everybody 24/7!
  • Wildlife. We’ve got our share of squirrels, cats, and bunnies that regularly traipse across the back yard. What, they don’t smell the dog, for pity’s sake?

Of course this was over a weekend — a holiday weekend — and the vet’s office was closed. But when I finally did reach them, they said dogs, like people, get viruses. Or maybe he found a baby bird and scarfed it up.

Watch him, they advised. Sometimes doggins can get worms from eating wildlife. Yuck!

It’s been a week now, and the good news is, No worms! The not-so-good news is, I still don’t know what caused him to be sick.

My guess is chemicals. So I’ve taken to using a wet wipe to swab his paws after our walks, and I’m going to space his monthly meds out a bit more come August.

And pray that will keep the sickness at bay!

Save my Neighborhood…Please!

I called our city’s street department this morning to ask them (nicely!) when (or if) they plan on fixing an ongoing drainage problem in our neighborhood.

Like other neighbors who’ve called, I got the run-around.

Here’s what we’re dealing with:

pooling water

I don’t know about you, but I find this distasteful on several fronts:

  • Pooling water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus.
  • Lawn chemicals drain off into the sidewalk and street, eventually settling in the pooled water and attaching to dog paws. Dogs lick their paws, ingest chemicals, and become sick or die.
  • Some snakes (eeww!) prefer an aquatic environment.
  • Pooling water looks (and smells!) bad.
  • What kind of impression does it convey to visitors?

As I said, this problem has been going on for years. There are tiles in the nearby fields, they tell me, that drain rainwater into our neighborhood (and a few neighbors add to it by washing cars, watering lawns, etc.).

Admittedly, we’ve had a LOT of rain. During June alone, we amassed something like 10 inches of the stuff.

But I took this picture this morning — and we haven’t had rain for days! In fact, it’s been exceedingly hot and sticky, so you’d have thought this mess would have evaporated.

When I explained to the street department my concerns, the woman answering the phone said they’ve had crews out to look, but they “don’t have a solution at this time.”


Sure, I’ve seen ’em out looking. But all they do is wave and drive by.

I asked if they couldn’t at least take a big sponge and sop up the water. No.

Couldn’t they hire a consultant to recommend an acceptable solution? No.

We pay taxes out here, hefty taxes, I pointed out. Sorry.

When I finally suggested calling the newspaper to have them investigate, she said, “I don’t know what they could do.”

I started back on the taxes and how much money the city throws away on useless consultants and the nastiness of the stagnant water and other stuff when I noticed she wasn’t there.

Probably laid the phone down and walked off.

Grrr, this makes me MAD!

And it doesn’t address our problem.

Anybody out there who’s succeeded in fighting city hall? I’d welcome your suggestions — and so would my neighbors.

Remembering my first piano teacher

Besides the Fourth of July being, well, the Fourth of July, it’s also the birthday of my first piano teacher.

I don’t remember how my parents found Mrs. W., but her chief selling point was that she came to the house for lessons!

Yep, her aging husband drove her down from their tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it community every week, rain, snow, or whatever. He’d park their rattle-trap car in the driveway and sleep while she went inside for a 30-minute lesson in scales and the Schaum method.

As a kid, I didn’t appreciate her. My sister and I groaned about having to practice every day, having to endure a weekly lesson, having to participate in twice yearly recitals.

Mrs. W. was old. Clad in a belted dress (never pants!) and sensible shoes, she wore her graying hair in a bun and kind of leaned over you as you were tinkling the ivories.

Her breath smelled like an old person, and she had long hairs sticking out from her chin. Her eyes were a watery shade of blue behind her glasses; she never wore makeup or cologne or fingernail polish.

She was plain.

And looking back, I’m not even sure if she played piano! I mean, try as we might, we never could entice her to play something for us “so we could hear what it was supposed to sound like.”

But her fees were reasonable (too low, actually), and she awarded us lots of stars and stickers — Flags, dogs, flowers. And somewhere along the way, I learned how to play piano and how much I love music.

Mrs. W. passed away several years ago, and it bothers me that I didn’t have a chance to really thank her. After all, she was patient and kind, punctual and modest, and she must have known something because my teachers who followed her indicated I had a “good grounding in the basics.”

So Mrs. W., wherever you are, Thank You and Happy Birthday!