Thursday, February 15, 2018

Report from a morning walk: Dispatch #2

It was hard to focus on the birds and squirrels today and, sadly, my route didn't take me by little Aurora's house, so I don't know if she is in trouble again. I kind of hope so, because her kind of trouble was the trouble kids should be getting into: she just wanted to play outside a little longer.

The Florida shooting was on my mind when I walked by the park and saw it there, pristine, empty of children but full of opportunity for squeals of laughter and the joy that comes from flying high when you're propelled by a loving, involved parent or caretaker.

I can't imagine losing a child. I can't imagine the emotions felt by the widowed spouse of a hero who gave his life to protect children from a fellow child armed with an assault rifle.

I can imagine a world without assault rifles, though. As I was walking I came across that old Facebook post claiming that ievery truck in a high school parking lot used to have a rifle in it and posing the question of "what happened?"

First, those were rural schools, and I went to one. Those rifles were hunting rifles. They were used by kids who hunted animals. I know that's a controversial to some, but that's not the argument today. They were used to kill squirrels and deer, that people ate. Some people relied on hunting for consistent protein in their diet.

Assault rifles are different. I don't know why anyone needs such a weapon. I know they don't belong in schools or at concerts or movie theaters. It's not that hard, people.

I want to know what's going on in the heads of the NRA leadership today and the elected officials who accept their millions of dollars. Are children just acceptable, collateral damage? This isn't a slippery slope. And if I'm wrong, and it is, that slope is slippery with the blood of children and innocents. Why can't we ban assault rifles?

In other Dispatch news from my (so-far) non-assaulted neighborhood:
  • Bikes outnumbered dogs this morning of uncommonly warm temperatures.
  • I saw a woman pushing a double stroller with an infant and young toddler aboard. She was maybe a size 2. I said "Good morning" and smiled brightly at her anyway.
  • The East side of the Monon Trail near Broad Ripple Avenue has a fresh pile of dog droppings on it. Avoid that, and whoever owns that dog: pick up that shit, man. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Report from a morning walk: Dispatch #1

 As I try to use my client's hours wisely and I ruminate on what Chapter 8 should bring to the potential fourth book of my series, I went for a walk this morning. No, I wasn't avoiding that chilled bottle of champagne in the fridge. I'm strong. It'll be uncorked when the Captain gets home.

For sure.

This is Dispatch #1 in what will likely be a semi-occasional report from a modest neighborhood near the center of Indianapolis where dogs outnumber cats, the squirrels run rampant and the birds are chirping as if it's spring.

I stayed to the northern streets this morning, encountered no other pedestrians, but learned the following:
  • Aurora is in Big Trouble.
  • The squirrels are out of control.
  • The Little Free Library is missing at least one important volume.
I don't know Aurora, but I almost suggest that her mother call her Rory when she's yelling at her to Come in. Right. Now! Aurora just doesn't have the right zing for a little girl who was just trying out her cute little raincoat. That little explorer is definitely a Rory. She can be Aurora when she's a grandmother...

The squirrels remain a menace. They're skinny this time of year, but I can't find it in my heart to worry for them. They'll fatten up on my flowers soon enough. I don't celebrate when I find one flattened on the roadway, but neither do I mourn. When they stick to a diet of acorns and sweet gum balls and I might change my mind.

I keep thinking I need to stock the neighborhood library with my book. Maybe there's a publisher in the neighborhood. The weatherati say it's going to get cold again soon, so I may not make this a daily ritual. I'm hoping the birds are right and that spring is not far off.

Then again, I don't speak bird and they might have just been trash-talking the squirrels. I bet they hate them, too.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Corn is out of season; Being corny? Not so much.

My days of frying bacon in a cast iron skillet are over. I tried the oven for the first time this morning, and I am going to be as obnoxious as a reformed smoker about it.

Ali -- who loves bacon but has never dodged grease explosions and has the unscarred arms to prove it -- was in heaven as the aroma filled the kitchen. She was making tacos but was full of ideas for the bacon.

"You know what we haven't made in a long time? That corn salad with onions and the bacon and the bacon grease," she said, answering her own questions. "Mmmmm."

"Oh, no," she said, suddenly, her despair palpable. "We use fresh corn for that."

I had warmed to the idea before she ditched it. It is an awesome salad, probably in part because we use fresh corn from the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market to make it.  Like our famous watermelon salad, the main ingredient is better when in season and from a local field.

She and Jeff routinely make fun of me for my habit of substituting what we have rather than making another trip to the store or not waiting for the proper season for things. I always buy one watermelon too soon in the spring and one too long after summer for it to be optimally flavored. And I will use herbs from a jar if we don't have fresh.

So it wasn't out of the ordinary for me to point out: "We have frozen corn downstairs."

Alison looked down her nose at me, which she can do now that she's taller than me.

"I'm from Indiana," she informed me. "I'm a corn snob."

Then, she cracked herself up and said, "You might say I'm a CORNoisseur."

I live in a comedy club.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It was supposed to be a summer fling

I distinctly remember the conversation. My closest friends (scroll to the bottom to see that motley crew) had convinced me to relocate from my West Side apartment complex where my ex-boyfriend also had an apartment to share a house in Broad Ripple with one of them.

The Home for Wayward Girls, we called it. And many a wayward girl traveled through it. We had some legendary parties and it just happened to be within walking distance of Jeff Reed's house. While still with the ex, I'd tried to fix him up with a few of my friends.

He was divorced and fun and it seemed like he should be with someone. Eventually the reason for that became clearer and he and I embarked on what we agreed was going to be a fling. Nothing serious. No commitments.

20 years later, the fling is alive and well. It's had more ups than downs (at least for me; you'd have to ask the Captain for his tally). We've agreed to have a low-key celebration when the actual mile-marker hits on Wednesday. We have a bottle of Dom we've been saving and a couple of others to choose from if the night turns truly wild.

If it's cold out, we'll probably have take-out in front of the fire. That combination has proved quiet effective over the years.

It's how we celebrated buying the house -- yeah, the first one in the neighborhood we love and from which I'm too lazy to move. It's how we celebrated being pregnant (minus the bubbly.) And how we celebrated a bunch of other good stuff. It seems like most of our big moments have happened in our little house. I kind of like that.

We go to plenty of fancy dinners, and we have had some amazing trips. We'll probably go out West later this year while Ali is away on a school sponsored trip. We can call that a 20th anniversary trip, I suppose.

One thing we won't do is renew our vows or get our names tattooed on each other. Anyone who's watched even one season of the Bravo Housewives knows that's the kiss of death. We should re-create the reception, though. That was a fun party. Not as crazy as a Wayward Girls party, but memorable.

Speaking of memorable, I found this priceless piece of art in the basement the other day. It seemed only right that I clear off the mantle and give it a place of honor at least for part of the month. Ali said she remembered making it at Helen's house, which means she was about 7. 

It's a bit faded now, and it was dusty when I found it buried under some other great art. But I clearly liked it at the time, as I framed it. I like the hearts and the sunburst, which you'll notice is close to me in that killer dress. Jeff looks like a cross between a Russian folk dancer and a swami. 

Should I want more to mark the occasion? Because I'm having a hard time thinking I need anything more than what we have. We have more wrinkles than we did two decades ago, and one of us has less hair. We do drive each other bonkers from time to time. But it's working out OK.

Long live the summer fling!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Discover BookGrabbr and help a friend out?

I spent the better part of last year writing. It was glorious. Amazing. Hard at times, but wonderful.

Now comes the really hard part: selling it when I don't have an agent, an established publishing house and a ton of money to pay for those things. I'm trying something that's new to me, and hopefully new to you, too.

It's a site called BookGrabbr, and it lets readers access a ton of books in exchange sharing the word about those books on Facebook, Linked in or Twitter. You share and you get to read all or part of the book at no cost.

It's good for readers because well: free.

It's good for authors because the books get shared among folks beyond their inner circle. I'd be grateful if you'd consider becoming a "grabbr" and spreading the word about Retribution.  Yes, I know: I hate misspellings, too, but not so much that I won't use it.

Here's what you do: 

1. Click on this link to the BookGrabbr site to see how it works and how you can use it well beyond just helping me out. Some authors only give you previews, others give you the whole thing. The idea is to get you hooked, of course. By giving away a limited number of my books, I'm hoping to hook new readers into buying the rest of the trilogy. If I can get some more momentum going, Book 4 could become a reality and not just something stuck in my head.

2. Either search that site for me or use this link to find Retribution on BookGrabbr. Feel free to send it along to folks who haven't yet discovered Claymont and what lies below the surface of the little Indiana town. And then peruse the titles to see what else you might want to read. For free!

Now, a word about my inner circle:

If you've read my book, told someone to read it or asked me keep writing, I will be forever grateful. Especially those of you for whom this is NOT your kind of read. Just yesterday, I was gobsmacked by a friend who told me she was reading it. I blurted out, "Uh, this isn't your kind of book."

We were both blushing a bit when she said she was a third of the way through it. "I wanted to support you," she said.

She's not alone. And I'm grateful for each and every one of you. Seriously. It might have been a lifelong dream to write, but putting stuff out there is scary. I know it's not for everyone, and I might have a different kind of book one day. One that might make you laugh more than gasp.

For now, I just want to say thank you to those who bought it just because I wrote it. And to those who bought it just because I wrote it and found you liked the characters enough to keep reading -- and even ask for more.

Happy reading! And sharing... Here's the raw link in case you just want to copy and paste it...

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tide pods and couch potatoes

I asked Alison the other day if her friends were eating Tide Pods.

If you don't know yet, it's a thing. Such a thing that celebrities have been called in to tell people not to do it and the media are reporting that it's, well, a thing.

 So it seemed like a responsible parenting kind of thing to ask. Alison gave me the old over-the-glasses look, issued a statement and went back to watching Netflix on her phone.

"No, Mom. My friends are not idiots," she said.

Good to know.

Not that I was really worried. I do wonder  though:
who are these people taking this stupid challenge? For the record, we use the pods and like 'em just fine. None of us have considered gnawing one open anymore than we'd toss back a gulp from the jug of detergent we used to buy.

Also off the table is sniffing powderized chocolate. Also a thing. Not one I'm asking Ali about for fear she'd commit me. I mean, really. Chocolate? That's even crazier than laundry soap. No one should waste chocolate like that.

After a busy Saturday where we didn't see each other much -- I spent some time with some hilarious friends and then Jeff and I attended the annual Christ the King Trivia Night fundraiser with other, equally fun friends while Alison had a friend over -- Ali and I spent most of yesterday on opposite ends of the living room couch.

I read the paper, read a book, wrote a bit about Claymont's latest goings on, and took a break to go to the gym. Ali, who swims two hours a day during the week, declined my offer for her to visit the gym.

I don't know if she moved while I was gone, but I doubt it. She had her headphones on and was connected to her friends and video via her phone. I refreshed her snack supply and got my own before rejoining her.

 If NatGeo had been observing us in our natural habitat -- probably from a hidden spot in the fireplace -- they might not have noticed how glorious it was. But it was. We didn't talk a lot, but we shared a blanket and nudged each other on occasion. Chatted with Jeff when he stopped by a couple times to report on just how long it had been since we had moved.

At one point, I had checked my laptop on the kitchen counter and got caught up in something. She called from across the way: "Hey, I thought you were coming back."

Alison is five months from the end of her junior year in high school. I have maybe a year left of this kind of lethargic bliss. So I'll be on that couch as long as she wants to share it with me.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Explosive Chicken, Numb Tongues & Champagne

Our 2017 NYE party will be remembered either as the year of the Explosive Chicken or The Year Our Tongues Went Numb.

If you're wondering, you don't want a numb tongue.

I blame Andy Seiwert and a guy named Action Bronson whose "Fuck, That's Delicious" came to our home via the aforementioned Mr. Seiwert. That's the author/chef/taste-bud killer there to your right.

Within his book, which is described on the cover as, "An annotated guide to eating well," is the recipe for explosive chicken.

Jeff just had to trot it out as the main entree for our NYE party. He went to something like 17 different stores to get the ingredients and made use of Alison's new kitchen scale to get everything just right. His trusty partner in culinary crime, Eric Yocum, was all-in on the caper.

In Eric's defense, he did say "That's a lot of pepper" as Jeff revealed the ingredient list. In his prosecution, he continued to assist in making it anyway.

All I can say is, I was grateful we had tons of champagne, craft beer and other food. One of which was my famous guacamole, which Jeff had complained was too spicy. Cue the irony.

I also stole and adjusted a recipe from Jen Chase that involves artichoke dip, stir fry sauce and cheese stuffed into halved sweet peppers and baked. Lisa and John brought sushi. Sara and John brought some great dip and crackers and something else that I remember loving but can't quite name. I seem to have lost track of what all was scattered about in dishes and platters and bowls. I broke out the chocolate fountain and Tracy brought her gourmet European cookie tin.

Early on, Jeff triumphed in recreating a Ramen dish we were given as a sample at the sushi restaurant at the Baltimore Airport. It was really good and was the perfect thing to set everyone up for the promised dish from the celebrated chef. It was going to be even better, right?

 I think it was after 8  p.m. when Jeff started passing around our portions. We were all a little soused and therefore vulnerable.

Rather than describe the dish any further, I'll just give you a sampling of the reactions. Some are continuations of longer quotes from people as they chewed, swallowed or (in rare cases) had a second or third bite:

"Wow. That's interesting."

"My tongue feels funny."

"Gak. That's bad."

"The finish is, wow, uh, wow. That's something."

"Oh my God!" (Not in the good way.)

"I can't feel my tongue."

"My tongue is swollen."


"Dude: we're gonna need those mini pizzas, STAT."

Later that night, someone found a bottle of Little Kings in our fridge. Duane Jasheway, who will eat pretty much anything and love it, and has a wide range of alcoholic tastes, said, "I would rather pull that chicken out of the trash than drink that."

The chicken notwithstanding, we had a great night with great people and even a demonstration of how to fold fitted sheets properly. Eric interrupted his kitchen duties (at my insistence) to show off his sheet-folding skills even as Scott Cunningham kept shouting, "No! No! This is not the memory I want of my New Year's Eve!"

I'm pretty sure the chicken took care of that fear. I'll let  you know if I remember how to fold the sheet. I'm pretty sure champagne will help.

Happy New Year, everyone.