Sunday, December 9, 2018

Your other right

Alison has never had a strong grasp on directions. North, South, East and West are simply words to her, not indicators. And while she can read and speak Latin, sing songs in various languages and recite every element on the periodic table, she's hard pressed to find her way home on her own.

She had a swim meet in Eastern Hancock County Saturday.

She did well in her first time in competitive water this year, but we arrived at 8:30 a.m. and didn't leave until 2 p.m. I've been trying to do this intermittent fasting thing and had purposefully not brought snacks.

By the time the swimmers left the water, the hallucinations were starting. Not remembering that she needed driving practice, I speed walked to the Subaru and asked her if she was hungry. She wasn't but agreed to plug "Arby's" into Google Maps.

"Not Dairy Queen?" she asked.

"Oooh. Dairy Queen," I said, guessing correctly that if there were an Arby's, there'd also be a DQ. I get a sandwich and then head to dessert. We agree that she'll drive once we get all our dietary needs met.

At DQ, I ask her what she wants. She reminds me that she filled up on the coach's bagels.

"YOU love Dairy Queen," she said. "Oh, but if they have those star things, can we get a box?"

I get her an individual item and we decide we need to listen to Christmas music on the way home. And, I remember that Sambol's Tree Farm is in Hancock County. I got a great wreath there last year and was hoping to get another one but didn't want to make the trek out there.

Thank you, Google, it's just down the road. "Let's go!" I say.

She looks at me as she nibbles on her cherry star. "Uh, I'm driving. I can't eat and drive at the same time."

My little rule follower. We find music, she finishes her treat and we wait for the voice in the phone to tell us where to go. Hancock County abuts Marion. It's not exactly Kansas, but it's not her usual environment.

The tree farm is just down from the interstate ramp, so we had our bearings and didn't need Google to get home. I get my wreath, we get back in the car. I tell her to turn left onto the the state road and then look for Interstate 70 where she'll head west.

She looked at me, uncertain. "Follow the sign to Indianapolis," I say.

She gets us on the interstate and I said, "Just keep west, take the Keystone exit and turn right."

We belt out Christmas tunes. I turned to Candy Crush and email and it wasn't long before I heard her say, "Whoops" and inform me that she'd missed the exit.

I looked up and around as the Shadeland exit grew smaller in the rear view mirror.

"We could have gone home that way," I said. "But let's take Keystone."

"OK," she says, explaining, "The sign said Indianapolis."

Just this year, this kid has successfully navigated herself across Eastern Europe and around the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. But OK. 

I went back to my game. I was on a particularly hard level, and the girl has got to hone her local navigational skills.

My reasoning was that Keystone is clearly marked, and it's a straight shot home. A few miles north, a left, a right and then left onto our own Castle Row.

"You know where you're going, right?" I say when she exits smoothly onto Keystone.

"Yes!" she says indignantly. "I'll be turning right, right?"

I shake my head in the non-affirmative. "Left," I say.

"I'm pretty sure it's right," she said.

I shook my head.
"I know what I'm doing," she said.

"OK," I say, thinking I've got all afternoon, a power source and a heated seat. I leaned back.

She rants at me a little bit more as she makes sure she's driving the speed limit, not a speck more, and checks traffic to change lanes to the right.

I bite my tongue. With more confidence than she deserved to feel, she turns right on 56th and heads east. I maintain my silence. Moving further away from home, but at a steady 40 miles per hour, she happily buzzes along. We come to Allisonville Road. She looks around a bit as we wait on cross traffic.

I'm still minding my own business in the shotgun seat.

"Hey!" she says suddenly. "I'm on the way to Nikki's house."

"Yup," I say.

We crack up as she sighs and turns right and then comes to the next intersection. "I turn right here, don't I?" she asked.

"I don't know, do you?" I ask.

She looks at me. "I think so," she says. "Yeah. I just came from there, so I'm just going to make a big square. I turn right. Right?"

"Right," I say.

We get back to 56th Street and head west toward home.

"You told me to turn right," she said.

"I said left!"

"No, you didn't. You said right!"

"I did not!"

We're shouting, but laughing at the same time.

We get to Keystone. She stops and looks at me, her foot magnetized to the brake.

I'm incredulous at this point. She's lived in this area for all of her 17.5 years on this Earth. Our Ogden friends used to live just up the street from where we are and beyond that is Taco Bell. I know she can get home from Taco Bell. It is not, however, in sight.

"Well, you have some options," I say. "You can just go straight and we can go home down Dominic's hill."

Dominic is a friend from her Christ the King days. If we biked near his house, we had to go up what was to her elementary school-sized legs and little girl bike, an enormous challenge. That incline behind the Chatard baseball field will forever be "Dominic's hill" to us.

She guns it across the intersection and gets us home without another question.

"You said right," she mutters.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Tradition delayed

For at least a dozen years, Ali and I have had a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together. It's Step 2 of the Reed holiday habit.

Nice spread, aye?
We start things off on the way home from Thanksgiving, which is usually down home, by breaking out Jeff's House of Merle X Marks the Spot Christmas music mix. We sing along for the 90 miles or so it takes us to get home and by the time we get home, we're on the edge of ready.

This year, instead of waking up to hours of pulling out decorations, I got up at 3 to get Ali up and to the airport for a trip to Mexico with her school choir. She was chosen for the 8-day, over the school week, trip to Tlaxcala and has spent the last several days singing her heart out in churches built in the 1500s and traipsing around scenic Mexico.

Mr. Riley is earning his corner of heaven... and snack on Earth.
You can see and listen to her choir here, here, here and here, thanks to great trip chaperones and the magic of Facebook and mu pilfering from a Dad named Mike Berry. His daughter apparently didn't think he was too bossy to go. The least he can do is let me steal from him. 😁

In between multiple singing events, the girls have danced with local villagers, sang with kids, exchanged gifts with schools and host families, scaled ancient ruins, eaten tons of great food and sprang a flash mob in a crowded market. They've had a wonderful time.

As for me? Well, Christmas has still escaped from the bins but the tree is naked of ornaments -- that's Ali's favorite job. One year, we had a tree with little else but stuffed animals. She's gotten over that, though she may not appreciate what I've done with our collection of Island of Misfit Toys collection. She usually insists they sit above the picture window in the front room.

I did put the tree up and wrap it in lights -- not her favorite part. She claims she's excited to get home and get to it. We'll see. She comes home tomorrow night. I've cleared the next day for whatever she wants to do. I expect my morning will be available, though...

Thursday, November 22, 2018

When turkeys attack

In an hour or so, we'll get in the car and drive to my sister's house. We'll laugh. We'll eat. We'll make fun of each other and talk about old times.

Like when we were all at home and somehow ended up with an attack turkey. It was a huge old Tom. I don't know why he was so mean, where he came from and if we ever ate him, but he was terrifying.

If you've never had a turkey chase you to the outhouse in the dead of the night, you haven't lived. Or had your bladder control tested.

Too much insight into my psyche on a national holiday? Sorry. Not sorry.

Our upbringing was one long lesson in the old adage, "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I was the youngest, so I missed some of the more bucolic of our family times, but I'm sure I'll be reminded today. 

We won't be at my family home. It and the outhouse is gone now. The only turkey at Donna's will be on a platter, but if past gatherings are any indication, we'll serve up memories of that enduring life lesson and how our truly devout dad tended to laugh at things that other parents might find alarming. Like:

  • When I'd snatched Nancy's 10-speed and was riding down the country road in front of our house and a snarling dog chased me into an electric fence. He was down at the neighbor's house when it happened. They both watched the scene play out. As the dog ran back home, the neighbor asked my dad if they should go untangle me. My dad shook his head no and probably said something about me needing to build up a little more character.
  • When my parents' friends were over and the wife was in bathroom when a water pump sprang into action. It was a normal sound for those of us who lived there. Carmen Boyd, however, came from the city. Pants around her ankles, she jumped from the toilet to the ceiling and called for help thinking a wild animal was in there with her.
  • When Donna failed to come to dinner for what seemed like hours, only to drag herself inside, wet and cold. She'd fallen into a well while she was out watering the cows and had to drag herself out of there.
  • When Diane was dressed for a date and fell into the muddy pig pen.
  • When he caught my brothers with smokeless tobacco and made them eat it. Donnie swallowed it and sat there defiant. David had a harder time and Dad let him mix it in with what was left of the gravy.

Sigh. How those were good times, I can't quite explain. I'll have to gather more proof.

Hope your Thanksgiving is full of laughter and safe travels.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Behold the mighty oak

Without fail, the Captain and I argue over how to deal with the leaves in our yard come this time of year when the magnificent trees in our neighborhood morph into hideous monsters that do nothing all day but drop their refuse onto our yards and streets.

One year, capitulating to his hatred of all things yard work-related, I waited to collect them all once and only once rather than attacking them every week as I normally do. We had leaves up to our knees. Well, I did. They were more ankle height on Jeff.

But they swirled into the house as if seeking shelter. They blew into the cars, into my hair, into my mouth at the slightest breeze. Walking into the house was a crunch fest.

Alison loved diving into the piles. She could have probably jumped from the roof and landed safely the piles were so high. Bagging them all took forEVER and it was so cold. I vowed to never wait so long again.

This year, my strategy is to mulch them at least once a week. It requires a lot of passes with the mower, but it's a great way to rack up steps, and it doesn't result in a sore back. Jeff is gone to a beer event in Chicago, Ali is focused on homework and college applications so there was nothing holding me back from time in the yard.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself and optimistic about the idea of escaping bag duty. But even my additional time with the mower didn't get me to my step goal, so afterward, I took a walk around my neighborhood.

I noted how many of my neighbors' trees had already shed completely and now stretched bare, skeletal arms to the blue sky. I complain about the leaves, but the carpets of color they laid were spectacular.

Most of the yards wore one color, but one sported canary yellow as well as crimson, with a beautiful blur of both where they came together. On the one hand, I was sad that so many had fallen already. On the other, it meant less work for me in the coming weeks.

I got back to my house and was greeted by a mostly green yard with spots of leaves that I didn't dig out of the flower beds. I figuratively patted myself on the back for being so smart to use technology to fight my seasonal battle.

But then, I looked up. I'm pretty sure the squirrels in my oak tree -- and maybe the tree itself -- were laughing at me. Yeah, the shorter, lesser tress might have let go. This baby is hanging on.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Let's Keep This Week Going

In the past seven days, TeamReed has seen:
  • The BoSox win the World Series the day before Jeff's birthday,
  • Both Jeff and my fantasy football teams won their matches,
  • Jeff did a stellar job arguing before the Indiana Supreme Court, and 
  • Alison had some awesome moments on the sports, academic and social scenes. 

Then, this morning, on a walk after breakfast, Jeff and I saw a line of people filling the sidewalk in front of a strip mall that includes a Planet Fitness and a discount department store. At the far end of that strip was a polling site. The line started at the polling site, crossed the full length of the strip mall, and looped around so it looked like the returns counter on December 25th. And people were still strolling up to vote early.

It's too early to tell, of course, whether these awesome Americans are voting on my side of the ballot. But just the idea that they were out to vote -- and that voting is at an all-time high here in Indiana -- was enough to increase the bounce in my step.

But let's pause for a moment to officially laud the Captain, who hit a career high with his appearance before the Indiana Supreme Court.

You can watch it here, or you can trust me that he did a terrific job articulating why the court should agree with his side of Case No.18S-EX-0047593A02-1711-EX-02735, NIPSCO Industrial Group v. Northern Indiana Public Service Company, Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor which concerns Cause No. 44733-TDSIC-2 before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

If the title of the case isn't enough to dissuade you from watching it, you can fast forward 19 minutes to see him argue. It's been 20+ years since I was in a hearing room where he was working, but I was glad I went. Thanks to Andy Siewert for making time to sit in and others who watched it in live stream. Jeff had prepared really well, but the good vibes probably helped, too.

We had another record year of raising money for the local Ronald McDonald House at the annual Taste gala. Thanks to Peter Dunn for emceeing and support from, Borshoff, Neal Brown Hospitality, Jack and Karen Shell and everyone who helped out. I just realized I didn't take any pictures there. It was a fun night and such a wonderful cause. If you ever find yourself with too much cash on hand, feel free to give to the House. It's an amazing place.

In other fun news, our friends Nick Wangler and Anna Zumbrun had a moment in the sun from WISH-TV, which highlighted their use of the beautiful and historic Union Station for a New Year's Eve party that's going to be THE place to be to ring out 2018. Get your tickets here. 

It's not just a good party, they're raising money for Dream Alive, there's an arts component via a partnership with the Harrison Center for the Arts and even more entertainment options. Check out the Indy Masquerade via Brenna Donnelly's Facebook live hit, where you get to know Nick and Anna, too.

Or, in case you missed WISH live, check out some more here.  If you're thinking you can't ballroom dance so you can't take advantage of all the things at Masquerade, folks from Indianapolis Ballet will be there to help you bust the right move.

For you Indianapolis folks, keep your eye out for art from Abi Ogle, which will signal a surprise, pop-up "Masquerade Moment" from now until the end of the year. 

The most important thing you can do this week, though, is vote. If you want advice on who to support, I'm full of ideas. But you're smart. You care about other people. You want America to be the place anyone can find a fair opportunity. Keep those things in mind when go stand to cast your ballot and you can't go wrong.

Then, ask yourself, "What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve....


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sometimes my stories may seem like a bit of a stretch

But not these...

Alison buried in goats courtesy M. Burlingame
With this being Alison's senior year of high school, I've taken to thinking of it as my last year with her. Sure, we'll still be related, and I suspect she'll come around every so often after she heads off to college and then her real life. But it's difficult for me not to see this year as the true beginning of the end of my "real" time with her.

So I'm actively looking for ways to insinuate myself in between her study/watch YouTube time, her swim time, her friends time, school and other non-Mom activities. Saturday was our day of yoga.

I didn't mean for us to have yoga sessions in both the morning and evening. I had already purchased tickets for yoga in the Indianapolis "Catacombs" before my friend (and Alison's "Aunt Margaret") asked me if we'd like to join her for Goat Yoga. They just happened to be on the same day.

Ali was attracted to the Catacombs option because she'd really enjoyed our trip through the Paris Catacombs -- a collection of millions of bones of people buried beneath the city. I'd warned her that the local version was bone-free and really an enormous root cellar that serves as a support structure for a community building that's long been replaced by the City Market.

The goat idea earned me a bit of a side-eye that was echoed by my friend Peggy Boehm's remark: "I get the goats. Where's the yoga?"

Let's start with the morning session at the Happy Goat Lucky Yoga session in Noblesville, just north of Indianapolis. On the drive up, Alison quizzed me about what we were in for.

"So, there are goats?" she said around her breakfast taco. "Won't they, like, pee and poop on us?"

"No!" I exclaimed. "Of course not. Well, probably not. Of course, because of the weather, we'll be inside, so maybe. But I'm sure they're prepared for stuff like that. It'll be fine."

(We cut here to me -- even before we'd gotten started -- discovering a pile of poop by my ankle and remarkably millimeters away from getting on me. Alison's "I told you, so" look was classic. She laughed so hard even the goats couldn't hear her.)

"So why are there goats?" she asked.

"Because they're cute," I said. "They're little goats. It'll be fun."

She had questions about biting and jumping and I assured her it would be nothing but fun.

(We cut here to Alison -- laying supine as instructed when one of the five little goats walked up on her torso. It was joined by another and she was giggling and trying to lay still as they came closer to her face. Then, "Ooof!" she exclaimed as third hopped up to see what all the fuss was about. She later informed us that the third goat had landed two of its little hooves on her vagina, which apparently brought her up off the mat and led to the goats' hasty dispersal.)

To get us started, we were given handfuls of goat treats. It's hard to know if the goats appreciate the yoga or the initial pampering and cooing they receive upon introduction. They do, however, fully appreciate the treats.

Having already had a deposit at my feet, I silently questioned the wisdom of stuffing the goats with goat treats before we all laid down on the floor while the animals remained free. Math isn't my strong suit, but I was pretty sure that the time we'd be down there and the time their little bodies would need to metabolize their snackage  was roughly equivalent. So I kept my eyes peeled for poopage.

Already assaulted, Alison,was, perhaps, even more vigilant. She identified -- but did not share her knowledge with the two of us -- which of the five goats was the prime pooper.

"When it came near me," she said later, "I would pray, 'Not that one. Not that one.'"

Her silent pressure apparently worked for all of us. Afterward, though, a group of women assumed the "Table Top" position and another woman positioned four of the goats on top of them for photos. The goats seemed willing, but apparently the ladies took too long to get the perfect shot. One of the goats peed on one of the ladies and the tables quickly collapsed.

It was fun. For us. I can't speak for the goats.

We went to lunch where we learned in full detail about how Alison had suffered hoof prints on her hoo-hah. Ali's stories tend to increase in volume as the drama builds, so I'm afraid all of Courtney's Kitchen learned of the incident, as well.

We came home, rested up, set out candy for the neighborhood Halloween fest before going downtown for our next yoga experience. We were encouraged to dress up, which Ali took to heart and wore a yellow racing catsuit. I borrowed her devil-horn headband and slapped some lipstick on.

We met Julie Miller and Alisha Valentine there -- both much more experienced in yoga than Ali and me -- and about a 100 other people. No joke. So many people signed up for this spooky class that they had to add a later class. Which was great because the class was a fundraiser for the YMCA.

So our descent to the bowels of Indianapolis was good for the community as well as good for us. And it was taught by a yogi in full "Day of the Dead" makeup from a previous gig at the Eiteljorg. We were surrounded by a bunch of people some there in costume and some there just for the yoga.

This was a more seriously focused yoga experience. So much more than our morning session that at one part, Ali and I looked over at each other in alarm/pain. Proofing our genetic and non-yoga-expert connection, we said to each other :"I miss the goats."

Later into the hour-long session, our instructor was telling us to move in a rotation of movements that included "downward dog" "three-legged dog" "cobra" and the "chaturanga" process. At one point, she said people could do what they wanted, work harder or rest. I've been trying to get back to doing "planks" at they gym, so I was working fairly hard.

To my right, Alison had taken the instructor to heart. "I looked over at you and saw you working and though, "Yeah, you go, girl," she said later, confession that she'd taken a long break.

It was, Alisha told us later, a milder form of class than that particular instructor usually offers. I was grateful for the leniency. I'd also always wanted to see the Indy Catacombs, so all in all, it was a great experience. The venue isn't one for a daily work out. The floor is packed dirt, and there are drips from above, some more steady than others. It's chilly, too, and spooky enough that you're glad to have the lights on.

Many of my friends love yoga. I wouldn't say I'm there yet, but the stretching alone is good for my aging body. I don't know if I'll ever be able to breathe from my belly button or roll down vertebrate by vertebrate. Also, after two sessions of yogo and going to and from, in addition to an evening out with the Shells and their friends (super fun but a story for another day) I recorded only 5,846 steps on my FitBit.

Until I can get step credit, I don't know how I can devote an hour a day to yoga.

Unless Alison wants to do it with me, of course.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Voting and Remembering My Dad

I never feel more American - or closer to my father - than when I vote.

Since I turned 18, I've voted every Election Day, usually in the morning before work or other obligations. I voted early for the first time today because I'm going to work the election and don't yet know where I'll be assigned.

Most of you are tired of my stories about Election Day in my childhood home where we turned the living room into a polling place and folks from our rural area came by to chat and vote. My dad was a precinct committeeman and my mom spent her morning and afternoon feeding the poll workers. We'd all watch the election returns in the dining room where the living room furniture still crowded all the nooks and crannies.

We were Democrats, of course, so I remember the shock of realizing we lived in a Republican state. I remember my dad chuckling when I turned to him to question why Indiana had been colored in red while the other states were still showing white on the TV screen map of the USA. It was probably 6:01 p.m.

My dad in his Army days. Apparently winning.
Jimmy Carter would win that year, but not with Hoosier help. Doc Bowen was our governor, but not up in 1976. Dick Lugar won his first U.S. Senate spot. He'd become the unusual Republican office holder my Blue Dog Democrat father would support.

This is an interesting year with Alison still a year away from being able to vote but vocal about her views on the political world. She was making fun of some ads the other day -- we're drowning in Donnelly v. Braun messaging -- picking apart elements that she thought were ridiculous.

"I mean, I like him because you told me I should," she said. "But really, he's splitting wood!"

I laughed at the idea that she was following my advice but hugged it tight just the same. It's anyone's guess who she'll be listening to this time next election.

Anyway, it was nice to think about you Dad. Pretty sure you'd be happy with my picks.