Leslie's Omnibus

Happy Dance!


Book Your Ticket

I told you it was a busy month for books, and I had some humdingers in the mix:

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, James Bradley[1]

If I Have a Wicket Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?, Melissa Kantor[2]

Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr*

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving*

Stopping Time, Melissa Marr*

The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created Alice in Wonderland, Jenny Woolf*[3]

Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel, Merrill Markoe*

Heart of Texas, Vol. III (Nell’s Cowboy & Lone Star Baby), Debbie Macomber*

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel, Helen Simonson*

Summer on Blossom Street, Debbie Macomber*

Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel, Jonathan Kellerman*

The Help, Kathryn Stockett*

Breach of Trust, DiAnn Mills*

Born Under a Million Shadows, Andrea Busfield*[4]

Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, Steven D. Leavitt & Stephen J. Dubner*

Confessions of a Compact Camera Shooter, Rick Sammon

Drive Me Crazy, Vicki Lewis Thompson*

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón*[5]

That's 18 books for the month, 81 71 books year-to-date.

*Read on Kindle

[1] For all you history buffs, and those who don’t understand why we’re reviled in Asia, this book by the author of Fly Boys and Flags of Our Fathers is a must read. It is in no way, shape or form an easy read, but it is a must read.

[2] Young adult reading.

[3] I couldn’t bring myself to finish this apologia for a moralizing pervert and mentally threw it across the room set it aside at about the halfway point. The woman who wrote this is so in love with Carroll’s literature that she quotes his blatantly manipulative writings as proof of his moral uprightness. Ugh. Unreadable twaddle.

[4] Best main character since Piscine Molitor Patel. And that’s really saying something!

[5] It’s a quest novel. It’s a coming of age novel. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a thriller. It’s about a love of books. It’s a love story. I had a terrible time putting this one down. It’s so good, in fact, that I just bought the next book in the series.


In Memorium

On Memorial Day, I hold dear in my memory all those who have given their lives in service to this country... and their dear ones who supported them, and miss them still.

From General Orders No. 11, which formalized the recognition of May 30th as the day to remember our war dead -- and their families:
"We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, 'of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.' What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms.

"We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

"If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

"Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."

I give thanks for Illinois Guardsman Sgt. Rick Davis, who keesp the memories of fallen comrades alive:
For a career military man such as Davis, Memorial Day always has been a respected holiday, but this year, he said, it is a time to reflect on his four comrades killed in March 2009. Three were fellow Delta Company soldiers in the Illinois Army National Guard based in Woodstock. The fourth was an Air Force staff sergeant from Arizona.

On Monday, Davis will walk alongside relatives of some of the fallen soldiers in a parade in Woodstock. Other relatives will join President Barack Obama at a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. They include Paul and Barbara Abeyta, parents of Sgt. Christopher Abeyta, 23, who filled in for Davis as commander of the Humvee that day and is buried at Lincoln....

For Davis, the place to seek solitude is at a granite memorial for the slain soldiers erected in the front yard of the National Guard Amory in Woodstock, where he works as the supply officer. Sometimes, Davis said, he sits at the base of the monument with the engraved faces of Abeyta; Spc. Robert Weinger, 24, of Round Lake Beach; and Spc. Norman Cain III, 22, of Mount Morris staring over his shoulders.

"I'm the one that gets to wake up every morning," Davis said. "It would be an injustice to the memory of the four men who were in that truck if I were to just sit around and not function.

"So every day, I ask myself, 'How can I make a difference today?' I don't take anything for granted anymore."

I give thanks for the life of Officer Thomas Wortham IV, who battled enemies both in Afghanistan and in the streets of Chatham.

I will honor the grief of Gold Star families:
Some people inadvertently contribute to the heartache with awkward talk of closure or a tone-deafness about the significance of Memorial Day.

On this somber holiday, here's what three parents said they want you to know about their sadness: what helps, what hurts and why it's important to remember.

Jim Frazier, father of Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, 24, Illinois Air National Guard

"Don't ever use the word 'closure' with me," said Frazier, who lives in Lake in the Hills. "I once threw a reporter out who used that word. It's simply a hole in your heart that is always there … and you learn to live with it."

That was just the first of some well-meaning but clumsy gestures after Jake was killed in southern Afghanistan seven years ago.

Another occurred Memorial Day 2003 — just two months after burying Jake, who grew up in St. Charles and graduated from Burlington Central High School. Jake's parents found themselves on a parade float going down State Street in Chicago. The jarring contrast between the happy, smiling crowds and their own sadness left an indelible imprint.

"When it was over, I said, 'Thanks for having us, but don't ever make anyone sit on a float again.'" It's one reason why he has been involved in the city's parade committee ever since.

He explains his activism this way: "I lost a boy … I can't do anything for him, but I sure as hell can do something for the other young men and women in harm's way. … It's the way recovering addicts help recovering addicts. They're the only ones that understand … and I seek out people who have gone through the same thing."

So what expressions of sympathy are truly helpful?

"The kindest thing you can do is just say, 'Tell me about him,' because if you don't talk, you get sick. I've had some terrible times after Jake was killed, but for me, being of service is the way to go. I'd hope Jake would say, 'I'm proud of you, Pops.'"

Kirk Morris, father of Marine Pfc. Geoffrey Morris, 19

Geoffrey Morris was a 19-year-old Marine when he was killed by a grenade six years ago in Iraq. His father's voice still catches describing all the activities they shared, such as fishing and pheasant-hunting.

"The one thing I don't do is play pool anymore. I have a beautiful table downstairs, but I just can't do it."

Like Frazier, Kirk Morris marched in Chicago's parade on Saturday. Still, he wrestles with ambivalent feelings on Memorial Day.

"It's one of the most important days of the year to me, but it's also unsettling," said Morris, a Gurnee village trustee.

"I don't think that the majority of Americans get it," he said. "It's about remembering those who have fallen. ... I don't want to diminish our veterans, but that's why we have Veterans Day. This day is about all those who never got their tomorrows."

Since Geoffrey's death, he has kicked his activism into high gear, including an unsuccessful run for Congress, a fishing tournament to benefit military families and maintaining a Facebook page dedicated to these "Heroes of Freedom." But he'll call you out if you ask if lending a hand is a means of coping.

"It doesn't help me recover one bit," he snaps. "In fact, it makes things worse because I see so many families in pain. But families have so many questions … and I saw a need and I filled it."

He also has a long list of expressions of sympathy that rub salt in the wound. The worst: "When someone says, 'They're in a better place.' I just want to yell, 'Are you frickin' kidding me?' He was 19 years old. His place was with his daddy.

"There are no magic words, so don't even try coming up with them. Instead, if you see someone serving or a Gold Star license plate, just put a note on their windshield and say, 'Thank you.'"

Sandra Miller, mother of Army Pvt. DeWayne White, 27

The yellow ribbons — faded and tattered — are still wrapped around the trees on Sandra Miller's front yard in Country Club Hills. She can't seem to take them down. It's just one of the many ways she remembers her son DeWayne White, one of three U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb near Baiji, Iraq, in 2007.

Another is the prayer box that she keeps on her bedroom dresser. Every time a member of the U.S. military dies in battle, she writes his or her name on a slip of paper, adding it to the box and praying for the family.

"There's an awful lot of pain in there," she said.

But while Miller, a deeply religious woman, does her part to tend to the legacy of her son, she is baffled that so many Americans do not recognize or even think about his sacrifice, especially on Memorial Day. Even family members, she said, are too busy to mark the occasion, leaving her alone in her sorrow.

"It's not about having a barbecue. It's a day for remembering. … And what's up with all the sales?" she said. "If one TV channel could just put up the photos of all the fallen for just one day, that would make a huge difference."

Miller quit her job in the mortgage business after her son's death and hasn't returned to work. She also stopped painting because "DeWayne loved art," she said. But she hasn't stopped worrying. Another son, DeShaun — three years younger than his brother — is in Hawaii, about to be deployed for a third tour of duty in Iraq.

"All I asked is that he bring back some sand because that's the last place my son touched."

Like Morris, she wishes more people would acknowledge the Gold Star, a symbol used by those who have lost loved ones in battle, which she wears proudly on her lapel.

"Most people have no idea what it's for. When I tell them, they usually hang their head, like they don't know what to say. Just give me a hug. Tell me that you appreciate that my son died for our freedom. Just make it count for something."


Don't take it for granted. Make it count for something.


Interpreting the Signs Along the Way

Having a hard time keeping up with fast-moving developments in the Gulf? Confused by the cacophonous nonsense coming from oil industry hacks and government spokesmouths?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Below is a handy timeline that cuts through the absurdity and tells you everything you need to know.

April 20 – An explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon – owned by TransOcean and leased to British Petroleum (BP) – kills 11 workers and injures dozens in the Gulf of Mexico. Within days, the rig sinks in 5,000 feet of water. Industry and government officials insist there is no oil leaking from the site. Few people believe them.

April 24 – BP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency admit that well, actually, yes, oil is leaking, but only at a rate of 1,000 barrels a day. This number is determined by combining data from an Ouija board, several antique backgammon dice, and a family of capuchin monkeys who throw darts at numbers taped to a wall. (This method is also used to calculate the unemployment rate and other massively understated government statistics.)

April 28 – The Obama administration and BP now say that oil is spilling at a rate “more than originally estimated,” perhaps as much as 5,000 barrels a day. BP insists that “it’s too early to speculate” on the flow rate and flatly refuses to make its capuchin monkeys available for comment.

May 7 – As the scale of the disaster becomes clear, outraged Americans react in typical American fashion: By complaining loudly about oil company greed – and by continuing to consume 20 million barrels of oil a day.

May 11 – In testimony before Congress, BP blames TransOcean. TransOcean blames Halliburton. Halliburton blames TransOcean and BP. Rinse. Repeat.

May 12 – Some Americans begin to ask why a private corporation continues to call the shots on containing the spreading environmental disaster it created. These Americans are quickly labeled socialists, tree-huggers, terrorists, dead-enders, criminal elements, petty thieves, and even “former Ba’athists.” Meanwhile, heavy oil reaches Louisiana’s coastal marshes.

May 13 – Independent scientists studying new video of the massive gusher suggest the flow rate may be as high as 95,000 barrels per day. Viewing the footage for the first time, a spokesperson for BP accidentally says, “Whoa! Look at that sucker go! Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop that thing!” (He is quickly fired.)

May 14 – BP CEO Tony Hayward suggests that the amount of oil released is “tiny” compared to “the total volume of water” in the Gulf of Mexico. A BP spokesman says “it’s too early to speculate” on whether Hayward’s brain is “tiny” when compared to the size of his entire skull – or to the brain of a capuchin monkey.

May 15 – BP again refuses to deploy equipment that could accurately measure the flow rate. A company spokesman actually says, “It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.” This earns him a Botox Award, given to PR flacks who say ridiculous things with a completely straight face.

May 19 – With options dwindling, the world turns once again to the one man who can save the day. He is contacted by a talking holographic image of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, beamed from a small, beeping robot: “Help us, Kevin Costner. You’re our only hope!” Costner responds by (a) providing technology that filters oil from seawater, and (b) apologizing, yet again, for “Message in a Bottle.”

May 20 – BP tests a new machine (also developed by Kevin Costner!) that takes weeks’ worth of preposterous public relations statements and transforms them into a massive, impenetrable ball of solid waste that can be used to plug leaking oil wells. The company says “it’s too early to speculate” on the machine’s effectiveness, but ramps up its production of “preposterous public relations statements” anyway.

May 21 – Reports surface that a newspaper columnist Bill Shein recently trademarked the phrase, “it’s too early to speculate” and has made millions in royalties from BP and the Obama administration for its use. BP says it’s too early to speculate on how much the columnist will ultimately earn, but that a team of capuchin monkeys are working on an estimate.

(Thanks, Elizabeth!)


Via Calvin's Mom, an explanation of just what "Mr. I'm Responsible" has been up to since the day the well blew. Pryoritteez -- he haz Dem.

Quick Stop

You write and you write and you write... and what do people end up here for?
  • foghorn leg porn (Estonia)
  • oh f*** o f*** I am never drinking ... (Finland)
  • dog shits (Saudi Arabia)
  • sell by dates see top of cap (U.K.)
  • turtles yelling at snails (U.S. of A.)
It warms the cockles of this girl's heart, I tell you.


Tootin' The Horne

I've got an obnoxious earworm... obnoxious if you're from Philadelphia, that is!

So what kind of a Hawks fan am I? A unique one, according to this. Why? Because I'm still debating whether I want a jersey that says "Bolland" or "Byfuglien" or "Versteeg" or "Campbell" or "Keith" or "Niemi." I think I need the whole set...

Sunday Schedule

I had another nocturnal visitation last night. This time, my spirit guide was this old friend. The dream again involved water and a journey. And Diana wasn't blind, but she was still as delightfully sunny and outgoing as I remember her, and she chattered away as she led me to where she wanted me to go. Where was that? I don't know. It was more about the journey than the destination.

Two days in a row, I've awakened refreshed and happy.

I sure wish I could pass a little bit of that peace I'm feeling onto the Wortham family, who laid a truly good man to rest yesterday:
While serving in Iraq, Wortham led soldiers over dangerous routes and worked with his mother to get school supplies for Iraqi children. In Englewood, he policed an impoverished and at times desperate place on the busy night shift. And in Chatham, his neighborhood, he defended the safe and loving environment where he was raised against encroaching violence by leading a community group.

On Friday, from those who hold the highest offices in this state to the sister who played with him on those Chatham streets, a promise was made in Wortham's name: Nobody is giving up.
I sure hope not, for his memory's sake.

There's another special group that honors Memorial Day here in Chicago, and it's not who you think -- it's circus veterans. Go here for the whole cool story.

Book Your Ticket

This has seriously been an incredible reading month for me. I can't remember which sidebar ad I tripped over that brought me to The Shadow of the Wind by Carolos Ruiz Zafón, but I'm certainly grateful I did. It’s a quest novel. It’s a coming of age novel. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a thriller. It’s about a love of books. It’s a love story. I had a terrible time putting this one down. It’s so good, in fact, that I just bought the next book in the series:

So that's three adolescent male protagonists to make my list of all-time favorite characters: Piscine Molitor Patel, Fawad and Daniel Sempere, two of which I only met this month. And in my noodling around Amazon.com looking for the Life of Pi link, I found out that Yann Martel has come out with this:

Yay! Looks like June is going to be another great reads month!

Sunday Funnies

Gleefully swiped from Kimsh.

Saturday Ramblings


... reminds me of these guys:

(Okay... the guys that inspired those guys.)

(Hey, I've been abnormally quiet on this issue, but when even my BlogDaddy questions the Big Guy's handling of the situation, you know it's bad. How bad is it? Go see Jihad Gene for the answer.)

How cool is photographer Sharon Montrose??? Go visit her Etsy shop.

(I just bought the baby porcupine photos. Don't have a clue where I'm going to put them, but I'll find a place! I freaking love them.)

Question for my pals of a certain age -- when you were growing up, did your mom buy you...


Were they the brand that you wanted, too?

Coney Island revitalized? I can't wait for Erica's take!

Planning to travel to or from Europe any time soon? Better make sure you have a Plan B in place. Katla is getting ready to blow.

Seems like I'm not the only one dreaming up a Super Hero costume lately. I'll bet we'd both look stunning. He'll slay 'em with nun-chucks. I'll slay 'em with laughter... and kindness.

Eric wants to know our definition of sexy. Here's mine:

Top of my list? -- Brian Dennehy at any age (with the exception of his portrayal of John Wayne Gacy). I've seen him live in three different plays. He blows my skirt up. He makes my knees weak. He makes my... (you get the picture).

Nathan Fillion -- smart, funny, self-deprecating.

Bruce Campbell -- ditto above.

Don Williams -- Mmmmmmm, what a voice!

Randy Travis -- Another voice that just melts me.

Lt. Col. Allen West -- If you need to ask why, you need to hie thee to the optometrist ASAP, and the audiologist immediately thereafter.

Yep. That's a good start for me. How about you?

Giggle of the Day:


Roadside Diner

Chew on this:

Unpalatable, isn't it?

(A somber tip of the cap to the Advice Goddess.)

Keep an open mind and go chew on this, too.

Off to Dreamland

I frequently have dreams that go on all night long. I've been known to wake up mid dream, go to the bathroom, stumble back to bed, and pick up the dream just where it left off. Usually I vividly remember them on waking, but an hour later can barely remember bits and pieces, aware that I did, indeed dream and vaguely what it was about. Other times, though, the details remain crystal clear, usually when I've dreamed of The Princess Mom or Darling Daddy.*

I'm not one of those people who goes into the woo-woo too often, but, given the nature of my dreams from time to time, I do find comfort in this:
...[W]e do get visits from loved ones in dreams. If they are loving and positive, it's their spirit saying "hello". If the dream is filled with angst or a fight of some sort, it is your subconscious working out emotions you have yet to process.
Last night, the Divine Miss Marilyn visited my dreams, and stayed with me all night. Unlike a lot of my dreams of my felines where they run away and I chase them all night long with my heart in my throat and waves of panic, this was a peaceful dream, set in a beautiful place with vivid green meadows and shimmering blue ponds and waving golden grasses and sunlight.

I felt her lovely thick, wavy coat and hugged her to my chest and inhaled her scent -- a unique blend of sunbeams and Temptations -- and felt as well as heard her purrs.

Yes, she got right up in my face and tapped my cheek with her paw -- her way of saying, "Pay attention to me, dammit!"

Last night I had my cat back again for a while. After two years, you'd think I wouldn't miss her so much, but I do. And I'm incredibly grateful for the visit last night.

These Dreams

Spare a little candle, save some light for me.
Figures up ahead moving in the trees.
White skin in linen, perfume on my wrist,
And the full moon that hangs over these dreams in the mist.

Darkness on the edge, Shadows where I stand
I search for the time on a watch with no hands,
I want to see you clearly, Come closer than this
But all I remember are the dreams in the mist

These dreams go on when I close my eyes.
Every second of the night, I live another life.
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside,
Every moment I'm awake, the further I'm away.

Is it cloak and dagger, could it be Spring or Fall?
I Walk without a cut through a stained-glass wall.
Weaker in my eyesight, a candle in my grip,
And words that have no form are falling from my lips.

These dreams go on when I close my eyes.
Every second of the night, I live another life.
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside,
Every moment I'm awake, the further I'm away.

There's something out there I can't resist.
I need to hide away from the pain.
There's something out there I can't resist.

The sweetest song is silence that I've ever heard.
Funny how your feet in dreams never touch the Earth.
In a wood full of princes, freedom is a kiss.
But the Prince hides his face from dreams in the mist.

These dreams go on when I close my eyes.
Every second of the night, I live another life.
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside,
Every moment I'm awake, the further I'm away.

These dreams go on when I close my eyes.
Every second of the night, I live another life.
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside,
Every moment I'm awake, the further I'm away.


*And in my latest one of those dreams, The Princess Mom appeared as herself, but Darling Daddy appeared as Tom Ricketts. If you can figure out where that one came from, let me know, will you?