Live Blues in Our Front Yard

Coolest thing ever? Our neighborhood park kind of doubles as our front yard.

Seriously, we walk out the front door of our building, and BAM! Twenty-six acres of green space with twenty-five varieties of trees, tennis courts, picnic shelters, grills, and flowers beds. There’s even a playground with a water feature, a couple of volleyball courts, a baseball field, and a .6 mile walking path.

And sometimes there’s also live music.

champaign concert in Hessel Park

On Sunday evening, the Champaign Park District hosted a free concert in the park. We sat in our lawn chairs, drank a couple of sodas from last week’s Soda Festival, and listened to local blues band The Delta Kings for an hour and a half. Attendance was a little sparse (maybe because it was overcast and chilly), but it was a pretty zen way to slide into what turned out to be a crazy Monday.

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Hanging at the Homer Soda Festival 2014

Today we drove to the village of Homer, IL (population 1,200) to guzzle shots of gourmet flavored soda at the Soda Festival.

There’s lots of small-town charm to be found in Homer.

Homer IL water tower

Like this guy relaxing in the shade  wearing a Soda Festival T-shirt.

homer IL post office

Admission to the festival itself is free, but you need tickets to taste sodas. We spent $4.00 on sixteen tickets, which bought us eight soda shots (one ticket per shot, or $. 25 each) and one bottle of cold soda (eight tickets per bottle, or $2.00 each) from the booths lining Homer’s downtown.

We tried several shots including: sour cherry, grape, banana, spicy ginger, salted caramel root beer, black cherry, birch beer, and watermelon. After that, Dan opted for a full bottle of ice cold Huckleberry soda from one of the vendors.

americana huckleberry soda

The huckleberry soda was pretty darn tasty; the banana and watermelon sodas were just plain odd; and the spicy ginger and black cherry sodas were my favorites of the day.

The festival is hosted by the Homer Soda Company, a small business on Main Street. We stepped inside, grabbed a six-pack carrier, and picked out a few bottles to take home. (Pay no attention to the hideous wallpaper in our kitchen.)


Outside the store, we found some people standing around a statue of Elvis.

elvis statue in Homer IL

Elvis had left the building, but he was not for sale.

Elvis is not for sale

Inside the store, the shelves were already looking bare. Hard to believe when they had so many bottles trucked in for the event.


There’s more than just pop at the event, however. Live music, a mini Coca-Cola museum, and classic cars added to the charm.

These ladies were pretty darn good. I don’t recall the group’s name, but I thought I heard the announcer call them Emily and the Wheat Thins.

live music at Homer Soda Fest

While we were standing around sucking down soda, a train came through downtown.

homer soda festival crowd

It was a fun, cheap excursion for a Saturday afternoon. I’m pretty sure we’ll be going back next year.

homer IL

Photos: Dan Poehlman

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I’m a Weight Watcher

weight watchers chartThe image on the right is a graph of my weight as tracked in Weight Watchers. It makes me very sad to look at it.

At the far left, you see my starting weight in May 2013. I did well, losing about 15 pounds at a relatively steady pace until the last time I logged my weight in 2013—the week my dog died. Two weeks prior to that, my father-in-law passed away. I was already feeling pretty low.

That straight, smooth, steep climb visually represents how I gave up on my health-related goals and indulged my sadness. I’d never really thought of myself as an emotional eater, but then I’d never experienced a period of such intense sadness before. I guess now I know. Because in 9 months I’ve gained 20 lbs.

I’m fucking stunned.

I re-opened my Weight Watchers account, charged up my Fitbit, then went for a walk in the park this morning—despite the fatigue I’m presently suffering due to a vitamin D deficiency. Something has got to change.

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Vitamin D Deficiency

Just five months into 2014, and I’m working on my third major malady of the year. In addition to a nasty fall on the ice back in February and gallbladder surgery in April, I found myself back at the doctor’s office earlier this week. (I figure since I met my deductible months ago, I might as well visit the doctor as often as I want until December 31, right?)

For several months, I’ve been suffering from muscle fatigue and weakness. At it’s worst, I couldn’t even walk the .6-mile loop at the park without stopping two or three times to rest. By the end of our ritual evening walk, my leg muscles would be Jell-O, and I’d have to grab Dan’s arm to keep myself from toppling over.

It was disconcerting to say the least. I’m young, and—with the exception of that faulty gallbladder—have been in pretty good health. It should be nothing for me to walk a couple of miles at a leisurely pace, let alone six-tenths of one.

So I went to the doctor, described my symptoms, and asked for lab work. She ordered a comprehensive metabolic panel. When the results came in, it was pretty clear what my problem was: lack of vitamin D. The normal range for Vitamin D is somewhere between 30 and 40 ng/ml, and I maxed out a whopping 18 ng/ml.

It makes sense. For two and a half years from 2011 – 2013, I worked a job with virtually no access to daylight. (I had a 30-minute lunch break, but usually ate inside so I’d have time to actually chew my food.) I was lucky enough to land my current job, complete with a window and the freedom to go outdoors when I needed, but it wasn’t long and I was suffering through the nastiest winter of my life. After one particularly brutal series of snow and ice storms, I slipped and bounced my head off the pavement. Obviously, I was reluctant to go outside or walk to work on unshoveled sidewalks for a few weeks after that. Then there were the gallstone episodes and the surgery. I didn’t feel like leaving the apartment for much of anything—particularly in those last painful weeks before the doctor cut me open.

And my diet. Ugh! We’ve been so overwhelmed with doctor’s visits and surgeries and trips back to Indianapolis since we moved to Champaign that we’ve been ordering dinner in. A lot. So my diet hasn’t exactly helped me compensate for the lack of D-generating sunshine.

From what I gather, by the time most people experience the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, they’ve been operating at a deficit for quite a while.

So, the good news is that I’m taking supplements my doctor prescribed and spending 20 minutes a day soaking up some sun. And even though it could be weeks or months before I’m back to my normal self, I already feel better knowing what’s wrong and that there’s a simple solution for it.

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