Wednesday, November 22, 2017

If your teenager doesn't kill you, she might make you stronger

When I was pregnant with Alison, I prayed every night that she would get Jeff's genes but I had a recurring nightmare that she would be born with my legs and his arms, and her hairy knuckles would drag the ground when she walked.

Thankfully, the prayer rather than the nightmare came to fruition. She has long legs, long arms and  the metabolism of a hummingbird. As I am at the other end of that spectrum, it's a daily struggle not to smack her in the face.

Not really. We invested heavily in orthodontia, and I'm not one to waste money. But add killer smile and naturally curly, red-gold hair to that list of physical attributes and you'll see why I should win Mother of the Year for my soft and gentle approach to parenthood.

Why she keeps trying to kill ME, I'll never understand. Her latest attempt was cleverly disguised in a bid to get me to stop complaining about my weight.

"Come swimming with me, Mom," she said. "It'll be good for you."

Ali joined the Herron High School swim team last year and she's back at it again. She's doing well this season, beating her times and having fun, to boot. She practices every stinking day of the school week (she gets Thursday and Friday off this week) and swims laps that total out in the thousands of meters. Thousands. Every day. And she's 16.

Last year when I fell for her "Let's do it together; it'll be fun!" lines, I was left nearly dead at the side of the Jordan YMCA, panting like a beached whale.

This year, we're at LA Fitness and somehow I haven't drowned or beached myself. In a post-swim delirium, I did walk into the men's locker room instead of the women's. Twice, actually, but who's counting. (In my defense, they are very close together and I don't wear my contacts in the pool. Thank God the row of urinals is hard to miss even if it's a blur of white.)

Today was rough, but I pushed through. I stumbled home to find her on the couch.

"How'd it go?" she asked.

"I almost threw up," I said, truthfully.

"Awesome!" she said. "I'm proud of you."

She's a killer, I tell you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Bug's Life (2)

It was inevitable.

We went to the International Festival this weekend with two other couples and Ali, and she showed us the Taiwanese food stand where she had volunteered earlier in the week. She gave us pointers as to what to buy.

Next door was a stand shilling cookies and cupcakes that were made with ground up meal worms instead of flour. It's environmentally responsible, if a bit unusual to Hoosier palates. But it wasn't long before a dare was making itself known.

Ali came back after the boys had downed bites of tiny cupcakes that tasted like dry cupcakes. (I may be spoiled by Alison's confections. Or, worm cupcakes may just be gross.) No one threw up so of course, the cookie had to be tried.

Ali came by after the men had downed their share of the cookie that wasn't just made with worm-flour, but was riddled with actual, non-ground-up worms. "You have to try it, everyone else did," lied her father.

Susie did support the effort to get another mini-cupcake but Tracy was having none of it. No one asked for a take-out box.

I wish the lady at the stand luck in her endeavor. I like the planet, and I'd like to keep it humming. Living off bugs will be my last choice in environmental consciousness, though...

We've had quite the friends weekend: dinner with Team Vielee on Friday night where we shared some awesome wine and got caught up on John's impressive, month-long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

On Saturday, our Evansville friends, Tracy and Eric, met our Ogden friends for dinner at the Keystone Sports Review where we had just about every kind of bad-for-you-food (not one worm on the table.) It was yummy.

I don't know if it was the spirits or the fact that Tracy and I had taken a long walk before the trip to the fairgrounds for the festival or Ali coaching me through a swim at the gym, but I fell asleep soon after we got home. On the couch. While listening to a story someone was telling.

It's official: I'm old. Today, I finally got Halloween tucked away where it belongs and even cleaned up the shed a little bit, sweeping out the summer's dirt and getting the Christmas containers down. I won't decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving weekend, but it's good to get them down from their perch on the high shelves.

Jeff is at a bourbon tasting, Ali is doing homework, and Tracy and Eric have gone home. It feels too quiet, and I'm kind of hungry. Not so hungry that I need a worm cupcake, mind you...

I leave you with a few of my favorite photos of my favorite veteran. Back when I was a younger and just-as-trusting version of Alison, he convinced me that the tiny white curvy thing I found in a walnut was candy. Funny how history repeats itself. #BoysAreWeird

Happy Veterans' Day to all who served, those who are serving and those who will. It's a big deal to be an American soldier. I know I'm not alone in being grateful for  your sacrifice.


Monday, November 6, 2017

My endorphins are as blind as I am

The last time I went swimming with Alison, she nearly killed me.

It's possible that it was my fault. I made the mistake of thinking I could keep up with her. She was deep into the Herron High School Swim Team and had been conditioning five days a week, two hours at a stretch.

I was wearing an old suit that kept revealing more than my bad stroke. Oh, and I was wearing my out-of-shape, ancient body under it. Suffice it to say, my top wasn't the only thing not keeping up with the nimble fish called Alison.

A year later, I was more savvy, and I had a new suit. I was inspired by the realization that I can't zip the dress I wore in Auntie Jen's wedding. My same-old, same-old workouts aren't cutting it. Ali is back in swim and I told her I'd swim with her as long as she would ignore me unless I sank to the bottom.

So we went on Saturday and she suggested a few things and only once stopped me with a frown. I was doing a stroke of my own invention. I call it "Still-in-the-water-and-moving."

"That is not a thing," she said, observing me with one raised eyebrow.

It's a great stroke. You lay on your back and kick a little, but mostly move your arms, sort of like you're stretching. It gives you a chance to breath and to rest your trembling limbs.

She also looked askance at me when I started out my swim by heating myself up in the sauna. (The pool water is icy...) But I mostly got through it. When I pick Ali up from her conditioning sessions, she's sometimes a little loopy, and we blame it on her endorphin high -- a phenomenon I've never really experienced.

On Sunday, she had homework and a friend coming over, but she wrote me out a schedule to follow, using all the things she'd shared with me the day before. I told her I'd do my best.

I did 20 minutes on the treadmill to warm myself up and to finish a book, then a small stint in the hot tub to keep the inner heat going. There were a couple of women in the hot tub chattering away, but we paid each other no mind.

I did have to resort to my lifesaving stroke a couple of times, but I finished everything Alison had laid out for me and I might have met an endorphin. I was just as shocked as you are.

In fact, I was about to quit when I went back to the little sheet she'd written out to discover I only had one more thing to do -- and it was a cool down! 

So, I survive, and I stumbled out of the pool. I was headed for the sauna, which is in the middle of the Woman's Locker Room, to dry off a bit and recover. I had worn my glasses to the gym, and didn't have them on. My muscles were all tremble-y, I was exhausted and blind.

Which is how I ended up in the Men's Locker Room.

I could hear the shower going, and I had my hand on the sauna door, thinking, this lay-out looks a little different than what I remember. It was the row of urinals that brought it home, if not in full focus.

I didn't think I had it in me to scoot as fast as I did out of there, but I slipped and slid my way to the next door down and found myself where I belonged. I think it was in the escape that my endorphin made its presence known.

I sat down, still blind and laughing a little bit at myself. The women I'd seen in the hot tub were in there. My heart was still beating out of my chest from the Men's Locker Room detour. They were still chattering.

One of them was complaining about the latest news about the DNC, Hilary Clinton and the new book out about the influence her campaign had wielded. The woman was outraged. Her companion tried to dial her down, and I tried not to listen. But it's a small sauna. I was blind and under control of the lone endorphin.

I said, "You know, the DNC was nearly bankrupt," trying to support the other woman's message and imply the Clinton campaign had offered an investment and expected a return.

The angry woman whipped around to look at me, tells me she wasn't talking to me, I had no part in her discussion and she didn't care about my opinion.

I sat there silently for a nanosecond. I not only didn't know the women, I couldn't even see them as I didn't have my glasses on and I was still coming to terms with the lone endorphin. I was more amused than angry, but I was surprised at her vehemence.

I said something like, "It's not so much an opinion as a fact, but OK."

The women then left, the second one turning around and apologizing as the angry one flounced out. I stretched out, wondering if I'd just dreamed the exchange. Had I butted in? Sure. But it's a small sauna and it seemed like they were reasonably current, intelligent women.

I think that angry one needs to meet an endorphin. That'll settle her right down.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It's a Block... Party

Jeff and I moved to our house almost 20 years ago, and we've been really lucky when it's come to having great neighbors. Last night we helped host a block party connected to a Halloween at the park event. It was in the street between our house and our neighbors Kris and Ricky, and Jason.

Despite the cold, it was crazy good fun, and we had probably 60 people out on the street rotating between the grill, a neighbor's fire pit and a our chimenea to keep from freezing. (If it's against the law to have fire in the street, you can just keep that to yourself.)

Bier Brewery donated two small kegs of Weizengoot and Pumpkin Ale and our friends Angie and Nick Brothers brought wine. At one point we realized there was only hot chocolate for the kids, so we brought out our water dispenser.

Ali reconnected with a friend whose dad lives down the street. They'd met back when they were both learning to ride bikes, but she spends most of her time with her mom in La Porte.

Ricky and Kris's driveway was parked full of their patio furniture and a big screen TV. Angie had tunes playing from her car. And there were more little kids in costume than we have seen in a long, long time.

About an hour in, Ali was inside our house wrapping Jeff's birthday gifts (it's his birthday today) and Jess rang the doorbell like she used to do, and the girls were off on their own the rest of the evening. At one point, I saw them walking to Jess's house. Dave and Kim were still milling about near the fires. We figured Ali would eventually return. (She did.)

You know you have good neighbors when they're helping you drag stuff in when it's pitch black outside, and others just leave stuff, knowing they can come back and claim it when they're ready. I got up this morning to get the paper, and the pole tent was in the front yard, and Ricky's driveway was still full of patio furniture.

One of my sisters once lamented the fact that I lived in a city instead of being in the country or in our small town. But there's no beating the folks on my street and neighborhood. 

Canterbury is an older neighborhood with tons of mature trees and a wonderful little park next to the Monon Trail. It's a great place for a young family, but good for older ones, too. There are at least two families who are currently living in homes where they grew up or that their grandparents once owned. And we at least wave to each other if we don't stop to chat when we see each other.

One year, I was helping my next door neighbor with her leaves because she was having back problems. Four or five neighbors saw me and got their rakes to help out, too.

A couple weeks ago, Jason saw me helping Ali in the house after she had her wisdom teeth pulled the other day and texted to ask me if he could go to the store to get us anything.

I was sick recently and my mail carrier asked me if I needed anything he could get for me. (Yeah, I was looking pretty good that day. :) )

It's like my very own small town right outside my door. You should move here.

In other news, it's Jeff's birthday and next weekend we'll be celebrating (in addition to today's fun) at Taste, a fundraiser for the local Ronald McDonald House, and then at the Symphony with our friends Alison and Chris.

Speaking of Taste, our friends at Lee's Orchard donated three bushels of apples for the fundraiser, one of my clients gave a Christmas tree and his full ornament collection and Jeff and his beer friends are putting together an awesome craft beer basket for it. So that small town goodness extends beyond the neighborhood.

Speaking of small towns, Claymont is heating up again and I'm thrilled to report that I currently have a perfect score with my Amazon reviews. If you're wondering how Tammy and Danny are doing, I have a small stock of books on hand and am happy to cut you a deal. If you're coming around my neighborhood anytime soon, I'll cut you a deal. Or, you can order here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Powered by Indie -- and book 2 news!

The other day I was talking to my favorite millennial and she was telling me that because life is short and she wants to make hers count, she's going to have three distinct careers. She's plotting it all out.

There's a reason she's my favorite: I like to think we have a lot of similar traits. I'm 2/3 of the way to doing exactly what she's plotting.

Writing is my third career. But everything I've done as a professional is based in writing. First there was newspaper reporter, then (and currently) PR pro.

I'm a writer. I've always been a writer. It's the answer I want to give when strangers ask, "What do you do?"

Amazon is celebrating great writing this month and has asked its stable of writers to post about their experiences in self-publishing. Great or not, I'm happy to be in the stable.

My experience in self-publishing has been exhilarating, maddening, satisfying, terrifying -- sometimes all at once. The writing is a dream, sometimes literally as my subconscious helps me figure out plot lines and sequences. Formatting and marketing remain my nemeses. In my perfect world, I'll sell enough books to pay for those services. (Yes, I see the problem with that strategy...)

Whether I'll attract enough readers to make a living is still up in the air. But having resources like KDP and CreateSpace makes it more possible.
Speaking of writing, here's a look at Redemption, Book 2 of the Heartland Revenge Series, which is available here on Amazon. :

It’s not the heat or the humidity causing folks to sweat this summer as sex and death take center stage again in Claymont, Indiana. 

Just as Tammy Marks gives into her feelings for Detective Wes Bradley, she comes face-to-face with a man who can reveal her double life. The waitress’s plate is full of secrets that involve childhood sexual abuse, clandestine sex-for-hire and undiscovered murder. How many can she keep? 

Danny Johnson, Tammy’s partner-in-crime, discovers that his Special Forces skills are no match for the Rehmel children and their mother, the widow Justine. If she knew he was responsible for her husband’s death, would she thank him? Or see him for the heartless killer he believes himself to be? 

Tammy and Danny aren't the only ones feeling the heat. Bank manager Tracy Jones makes a decision that jeopardizes her career and possibly her very life. And Justine’s long-lost sisters help disrupt a theft and drug ring that has eluded law enforcement for years. 
Can they escape before their betrayal is revealed? 

Change is coming to the countryside. For some it's a turn for the better. 
For others...not so much.

I hope to complete Resolution, Book 3 yet this year. Next might be that look back at 16 years of PhotoShooting. I've always considered this blog a private kind of thing, a continuation of a weekly email to my mother-in-law. It's probably the best thing I ever did for her -- other than bringing Alison into the family. And then, maybe that fictionalized account of that case I covered back in Terre Haute...

The possibilities are endless. Because I'm a writer. And I'm #PoweredbyIndie

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another season; another doctor visit

Alison started her summer break with a collar bone fracture, and her first day of fall break was only marginally better.

She needed all of her wisdom teeth removed, and it made sense to me to have it done the first day of break so she wouldn't miss school and she would have time to recover. We traveled quite a bit earlier in the year and we didn't plan for more during this break.

She also needed a physical for swim team. So Day 1 of her break, she had a visit to the oral surgeon at 7:15 and her pediatrician at 5:15. Good planning or too much?

I was thinking that it was good timing until we realized at the pediatrician visit that she was eligible for three shots -- two vaccines and a flu shot. She balked and told me that she'd just had an I.V. that she hadn't expected and that the laughing gas hadn't taken hold before they slid the metal into her arm.

Ali has never liked needles. In fourth grade, I got a call from the school because she was putting up such a fuss, and she's yet to forgive me for having her be in a video taking a lead test for a work project. The Scooby Doo DVD I bought her as a reward helped a little, but she still holds the grudge.

We ended up getting only the two most pressing shots. She has time for the last vaccine. We got home and through the first day and night with a few issues. Vomit, a suspected burst stitch, a near sleepless night.

Jenna surprised her with a visit and push-pops, which was the brightest spot in the otherwise rather bleak day. Ali wasn't supposed to spit, but she had a hard time swallowing the blood and grossness, so I got her a cup that she sort of dripped into.

She called it her "blood cup" and was planning to measure the output.

Day 2 was better -- the stitch hadn't come undone -- and she was in less pain. She showed her Dad how to do something on Spotify and I let country music take a back seat to their noise.

 On Saturday, she went to see a friend of hers, who is also on fall break. They go back to school on Wednesday.

She's past Scooby Doo, and she took her pain meds with her. I wasn't sure what I was going to use to bribe her to return, but she agreed to come home just a bit ago.

On the way home, she was telling me about her time with Nikki and how the extraction was not without its benefits.

"Saturday morning, I got up and went straight for the ice cream," she said. "I didn't even consider real breakfast food, and I had a big bowl of it when Dad came in."

I waited for the description of the argument.

"He looked at what I had and just sat down beside me and had his own breakfast," she said. "It was awesome."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What 5 months of not having a "real" job has done for me

Tomorrow will mark five months of me being released from corporate captivity, and I'm happy to report that freedom still feels good.

I haven't been counting the days, though my husband might be. I've been wrestling with what to write for Amazon's request for self-published author stories. In doing that, I realized the significance of tomorrow. So I thought I'd mark the occasion and share what the past few months have been like.

Here's the thing: I don't feel "unemployed." That's mostly because, other than an already planned family vacation, I've worked every day since I left my job. I've either written or worked on my book(s), worked on freelance PR projects or volunteered for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana.

I don't know if it's the luxury of doing some of that work in yoga pants and no make-up or the flexibility of working in the yard or biking while I mentally work out a chapter or media pitch. But its been years since I've loved "going to work" like I do now.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could all love what we do AND make a living at the same time? I haven't solved the latter half of that compound sentence but I'm optimistic.  Even if I return to the regular workforce, I think I'll be a better employee because of this time of following my heart.

4 things I've changed in the last five months.
  1. I stopped ignoring my personal happiness: We're all adults with bills to pay and it's important to pay them. But you spend the better part of your life at work. If you hate it there, your unhappiness will spill into the other parts of your life, and that's no good for anyone. I may never make a living as an author. But I can't tell you how happy I am for having made the attempt.
  2. I network: I hate the word, "networking." It seems so selfish and calculating -- so user-y. I'm going to redefine it one day. For now, I'll call it what it's been for me: mutual support sessions with friends and colleagues. I've had more calls, walks, meals, drinks with friends since May than I had in the last five years of nose-to-the-grindstone work. Sometimes I listen to a friend who's lost a job, gotten a new one or is struggling with a current position. Sometimes I get advice. Sometimes I give it. It's always time well spent. I still eat at my desk -- old habits are hard to break. But I don't skip opportunities to meet with friends and colleagues anymore. Life is too short. Work will always be there when I get back.
  3. I slowed down: As an employee, I was driven to be productive every second I could. I checked and responded to email before, after and during work, on the weekends and on vacation. I was going so fast so long that slowing down felt wrong -- like I was cheating the company because I wasn't producing. I still struggle with this, but I know there's value in thoughtful reflection, and I don't feel guilty about it anymore.
  4. I've embraced self-promotion: I have always considered myself a background player and I'm super comfortable promoting anyone or anything other than myself. As a journalist, I wrote the story; I wasn't the story. As a PR pro, my client is front-and-center; I'm just the messenger. But I'm embracing the idea that I'm a client, too. Don't believe me? Watch this:

Go here to see the latest reviews of my first book,  Retribution: Regret, Revenge and Redemption in the Heartland.  Go here to buy it in paperback or e-book form. You can read it for free if you're a Kindle Unlimited kind of reader.

If you read it -- and love it -- please offer a review and tell everyone you know that they should buy it, too.

These past few months have had a sort of dream-like quality to them that wouldn't have been possible without the support -- emotionally and financially -- of my husband. Having a steady, helpful, supportive partner is a luxury, and I don't take it for granted. If your circumstances don't let you follow your heart yet, look for a way to do it when you can. And then do it for as long as you can.

That's my plan, anyway. Wish me luck. #poweredbyindie