Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mustang conversations

Ali and I have had some of our best conversations in the car. She's also puked all over herself in the back while I was driving her to school, but she wasn't yet walking so I don't hold that against her.

It was super gross, though, and I sometimes wonder if the passengers of whoever bought that Honda sedan ever gets a whiff of the worst mark she put on its cloth upholstery.

Flash-forward to her current passenger status. She's not a puker, but her language can get a bit salty depending on her mood. She's also quite the backseat driver when she's not behind the wheel. I haven't taught her how to drive my Mustang, so she's a perpetual co-pilot. The other day, I was driving her to meet a friend and trying to get my FitBit off my shoe. (We'd ridden bikes to the library before our car trip downtown and she was still bitter as her ears thawed.)

I was approaching a red light and had shifted to neutral while I reached down to unlatch the FitBit closure, which was proving trickier than I'd anticipated.

"I don't think this car has ever gone this slow," she remarked as we drifted toward the light.

I snagged the FitBit and shot her a look as I strapped it to my wrist. "I don't always speed," I said.

She arched her brow and silently judged me.

"I don't!" I said, braking as we came to the light. She just kept looking at me.

As a student driver, Alison is hyper aware of speed limits no matter where we go. It's maddening.

On that same trip, we encountered a Mercedes vehicle that looked like a cross between a Land Rover and a vintage Bronco. It was hideous and I made mention of it.

"It looks like an old fashioned ambulance," I said. "But ugly."

"Or one of those cars when the ambulance doesn't work out," Ali mused, agreeing but stumbling for the appropriate word.

"Do you mean a hearse?" I asked, starting to laugh.

"Yeah," she said. "That's it."

Here's hoping your ambulance always works out...

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

On zippers and fasting and fast friends

I don't know why I thought I could slip easily into the dress I was married in 21 years ago, but I did.

It's a cool dress. It was ivory, velvet and not really wedding dress-y. It was actually a bridesmaid dress I found out wedding dress shopping. It had an asymmetrical top part and was kind of snug as it went to the floor. It seemed perfect for a photoshoot that will be used to promote a super fun party you should go to this New Year's Eve at Union Station in Indianapolis.

I was optimistic because after a year or three away from my strict WW diet, I've got a little more junk in my trunk than needs to be there. As I learned when the dress started slithering down my torso and stopped at said trunk.

It reminded me of the time I was a bridesmaid for my sister Nancy. Her BFF from high school, the twig-like Tracy Price, and I were standing up for her. We had bubble-gum pink satin dresses that I think my sister Donna made. Mine was double-digit sized. Tracy's was probably sub-zero. I was home for a fitting.

It was a bright, sunny day and I was standing in the kitchen/dining room area of the house I'd shared with Nancy before moving to Evansville. I stripped down to my underwear and slipped my dress over my head. It got a little lower than the wedding dress this week, but that wasn't good news because it got stuck. I was standing there with my arms sticking out over my head trapped in pink satin. No amount of tugging or swearing or jumping about did anything but jiggle the fat sticking out the other end.

I wailed. I cried. I was unhappy with the original size, had been dieting and now it was worse than the first fitting when we had to go up a size. Nancy tried to help me out of it, but as I recall was laughing too hard to be of much assistance.

Turns out, I was trapped in Tracy's dress. I don't know how I got out of it but I know Donna had repairs to make to more than a few seams. We're lucky we didn't have to call the fire department. I still hate pink satin.

Anyway, I didn't have to destroy my way out of the ivory velvet, and I have a new goal for the next few months: I'm wearing that damn dress to NYE. Just you wait.

What that means is no more trips to Chicago with my Bunco squad. I could tell you about the excesses that happened there but Chicago is my new Las Vegas. But I have to share a pic of the birthday boy when he was at least fully clothed...

Below is from last night's photoshoot where I did not wear the dress I'd planned. It's going to be an awesome night. Especially if I lose 100 pounds or so. Kelsey Taylor, who you see below, is more than ready right now. You know, even if I don't get back into that dress, I'm in excellent shape friends-wise. Maybe I should start measuring that way...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Every Second

In lieu of a standard morning greeting, I overheard this exchange between the Captain and our daughter who was studiously working through the college application process:

"Alison, did you really eat an entire package of pita bread?"

"In my defense, there were only four of them, and they were small."

"Did you have any fruit or anything healthy with it?"

She mumbled something about orange peppers but happily accepted a package of raspberries.


Jeff harrumphed his way to the porch where we had settled to read the paper. I kept my eyes glued to the magazine insert. The Captain is having a hard time realizing this is really the beginning of the end of us being routinely included in the majority of the formerly little redhead's waking hours.

"Our daughter is applying to colleges," he informed me on a walk the other day.

"She's going to be leaving soon," he'd said earlier in the week.

"This is really happening," he'd intoned after she'd asked each of us to give her comments on her common essay.

I've refrained from talking much about "this" because:

A: I've been freaked out about her being a grown up at every developmental stage;
B: I'm starting to freak out about the idea of having just Jeff and me rattling around in the Broad Ripple starter home I've never felt compelled to leave; and
C: I'm planning on making the most of every second still available to me.

Plus, she's asking us -- sincerely -- to be a part of this process. She hasn't completely shut us out of her life. We spent a lot of time this weekend discussing her essay, her use of the semi-colon and particular word choices. She asks us separately because our approaches are so different and she wants to have as much information to consider as possible.

Jeff likes to dive deep in his editing. I've learned to ask before I apply the red pen because sometimes she's just looking for content help and will address grammar last. Also: "I know how to properly use a semi-colon, Mom."

The required essays are short, and anyone who's ever tried to "write short" knows it's a harder process than having the luxury of waxing poetic for pages upon pages.

I forget the exact prompt for the essay. It was something about naming a time you questioned a belief. She used her frustration with her K-8 catholic education when she routinely would hear "It's God's plan" in answer to questions. She discovered and dove deeply into chemistry and the scientific process at Herron High School. She's hoping to continue that in her college career.

It's a good essay that I hope gets her where she needs to be next, even though it's going to be hard to have her gone. I'm by turns incredibly proud of her and eager to see what transformations she has left to make and weepy over the thought of her having a life that doesn't include waking up at home and getting in trouble with her father for powering through a bag of dried mango strips or hiding sea salt caramels under her bed.

She's still not gotten her driver's license. The other day we were coming home from school and I was driving as we're putting off teaching her the magic of the stick-shift until she's gotten authorization for solo passage in the Subaru.

"I pray a little every time you pass another car," she volunteered from the passenger seat.

I laughed because she works really hard to convince people she doesn't subscribe to a faith. She's been all in to the idea that I'm a bad driver for a long time. It's been a while since she blared "Highway to Hell" when we've been in my car together, though. I was kind of hoping she'd decided I've improved on the roadway. I do use my turn signals more often than I have in the past, but her routine scan of the speedometer hasn't slowed me down much.

She's been battling a cold for the last few weeks and it wasn't until 4 p.m. on the Friday of Labor Day Weekend that she confessed that rather than getting better -- which allowed her to go to a sleepover with friends -- she was worse and needed medication. Not able to get into the doctor, we ended up at Urgent Care Saturday morning.

Unusually, Jeff joined us. I think he was expecting she'd go with us to shop for a new bike for me. Ali, who's taller than me now, has been using my bike rather than her own, and we plan to let her take it to college.

I handed her the patient paperwork. Jeff gave me a look. Usually it's him who's pushing the teachable moments.

"If she gets sick in college, she'll have to do all of this by herself," I said.

She filled out the form and said she was fine going back to the doctor alone.

"I can do this," she said, unintentionally conjuring up all the times she's used that phrase in the past: tying her own shoes, filling her own glass, riding her bike.

The Captain shook his head but didn't protest. I swallowed hard. We let her go home while we bike shopped and waited for her prescription to be ready. We came home with meds and a new bike that Jeff was itching for me to try out.

But Ali put her sick little head on my lap and I suddenly had zero interest in going for a spin.

Every second, man. Every. Single. One.

Her love of junk food started early. That's a Hostess donut she's focused on. I LOVE this photo. Alex is over six feet now, I think. Hannah is in college. Gulp.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


It's been spectacularly humid in Indiana lately. Jeff and I went to a lovely outdoor wedding where I'm pretty sure I sweated off about five pounds. It was short-lived, though, as the dessert table was right next to us, and between that event and a few others, I consumed enough calories to tip the scales the other direction.

Speaking of sweat, the Captain and I spent most of Sunday outdoors at the Indy Women in Tech golf tournament last weekend. It was super fun but we were both dripping only a few minutes in.

We left the golf course when my niece, Jaime, called to tell me she and her daughters, Rachael and Aleasha, were on their way to my house from a visit with her father-in-law at an Indianapolis rehab center.

I should have gone straight to the shower, but with company on the way, I opted to just cool down on the couch. Jeff stayed home in the cool basement when the rest of us went to an early dinner. We used two cars because they were going to head home right after.

On the way home, I mused out loud that I still needed a shower.

"Oh yeah," my chauffeur agreed.

I looked over at her and she laughed.

"What?" she asked. "I noticed in the restaurant but I didn't say anything."

I showered pretty fast after that, but it wasn't until many hours later that Jeff came to bed. I kissed him, as I normally do, but it was late and I was nearly asleep, so I wouldn't say it was one of my better attempts. He seemed salty but not so much that it woke me up. In the morning, he confessed that he'd delayed his shower, too, and by the time he got to bed, he'd forgotten all about our morning.

All this to say, folks, is that we stink. Sometimes literally.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

When you can't tell family from friends, you've got it made

Possibly the best line I heard at my first-ever book signing this weekend came from Meredith, the IndyReadsBooks manager.

"It was clear you had a lot of family members come out to support you," she said. "That's key."

What's great about that statement is that only about 12 percent of the small crowd had a blood connection. So it was awesome when a stranger observed us in a semi-natural habitat and saw a family, too.


For the record, the official family members included my sisters Donna, Nancy and Debbie; my cousin, Lori; and my niece-in-law, Shannon. They braved city traffic and drove two hours to mingle with people who have known them for years via my stories. They were more than happy to be on the story telling end of things for a change.

Eric and Tracy won the prize for longest distance, coming up from Evansville, about three-and-a-half hours away. Kirsten win, through her mother, the prize for best marketing. Her mom has bought and read all four books. She lives in Australia, so I'm officially an internationally known author.

Also attending were most of Book Club and Bunco, and even a Showgirl. People from former jobs, current clients,  people who were at or in my wedding. We solidified a new friendship with folks who are new to the city and took a chance on stopping in to a room full of strangers who were at least an hour ahead of them in the drinking game.

I will admit to being terrified that no one would show up. And getting out the door with all of the books and snacks and drinks and things was a bit of a train wreck.

At one point, running late and still discussing if we had the right collection of libations, we were driving south on Keystone and slowing for a stoplight when a voice came from a motorist in the next lane.

"Sir, Sir! Something fell out of your car," said the nice woman.

We looked back. Jeff had lowered the back windows to get a little air, forgetting the back of our Subaru was stuffed to the gills. A bag had been leaning against the glass and spilled some of its contents when he lowered the window. Traffic was hopping, but Jeff jumped out to retrieve the spillage before we left a trail of snacks along Keystone Avenue.

Once we got to the store, though, it all fell into place. And people came!

Folks who couldn't attend the signing, but wanted to, reached out over the Interwebs and phone, so the crowd there was even larger emotionally than physically. Alison's French macrons and cupcakes were a huge hit, as was the array of libations the Captain was pouring.

We even sold a few books -- dozens of mine in addition to stuff from the shelves -- which was awesome because revenue generated at the store helps support the IndyReads literacy program.

I began this report with the best line, but there were many others bandied about as we essentially had a little party in the middle of the store. We even went over an hour our allotted time, which no one working at the store seemed to mind.
The Captain got a special bartender's license so he could serve.

"I want to meet your sisters!"

"Are you Chris from Facebook? The things you post are so funny!"

"I think I know that voice."

"Oh, my gosh, is that you? I haven't seen you in years."

"Tell me stories."

"That's the Captain."

"These macrons are stupid good."

"Are you going to read something?"

"When's the next book?"

Thanks to everyone who came or sent good vibes or messages and made it an awesome day.

That's Meredith behind the counter and Sarah Branham (and Anderson) checking out.
Jeff and I capped off the amazing weekend with a 2.5 hour hike with Eric, Tracy, Susan and a group of other fun new friends. Susan, who had come to the signing, along with her husband, Jeff, asked me what I'd learned from writing the book(s). Susan is often more philosophical and kinder than I am, and I'm always hoping some of it will rub off.

So there, along a trail at Eagle Creek Park, I pondered her question. What had I learned in the year I took to mostly focus on the thing I'd wanted to do for so long. That I could do it? That I should do more passion projects?

Yes, those things are true for me, and probably for you, too. But I think what I'm taking away mostly from this weekend is that I am truly blessed to have the family I have -- and I'm using Meredith's definition.

And now, a short note from our sponsors:
We went in with three boxes of books and came out with one, so we have a small surplus available at bargain prices. Hit me up if you want one. I suspect I'll have a sampling in the trunk of my car for a while. If you're out of town and want a book faster than the next time you see me, or better yet, you know someone who would enjoy my little thriller, direct them to Amazon here.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Gravel in our Travel

I reported already on Alison's Awesome Summer, but this morning our NBC affiliate, WTHR, aired its story on the filming of "The Misadventures of Bindu," and our messy-haired redhead made the cut. So it seemed like I should share the story.

You can see it here. I love her giggle at the end. It's so Alison.

In other news,  Ali drove us down to Brazil Saturday, her first at-the-wheel experience on the Interstate. Traffic was light so that helped, but she still had to deal with semis and other drivers coming up fast behind her. She did really well in both the city and on the highway.

It was a slightly different story when our GPS turned on us and directed us to leave Indiana 59 in our quest to get to a baby shower at Briley and Patrick's house. We'd not been there before, and if I'd only explored a tiny bit, I would have known that it required no gravel in our travel at all.

But I made the mistake of trusting the voice coming from my GPS. We turned onto a county road and Ali learned that not every roadway in America is clearly marked.

We wandered around a bit and found ourselves at an intersection with a road not referenced by the GPS. The numbered county road we were on led to what my rurally-trained eye told me was a driveway.

"Let's try right," I said, thinking that was at least in the direction of where I thought we needed to go. We hadn't gotten far when I decided we needed to double back. We met Cujo turning around in a driveway.

"Uh, Ali," I said. "Drive faster."

She was busy trying not to land us in a ditch, which I guess was a good thing, too, but the dog wasn't looking friendly as it approached. Yeah, we were wrapped in steel, but I had no wish to get Cujo slobber on the windows or to explain claw marks to the Captain.

We went back and through the intersection and found nothing but fields. We turned back again as I wondered if I'd entered the name of the road incorrectly. I'd never heard of a West State Road. Usually, three word-ed streets are county roads. So I changed the GPS to WCR instead of WSR.

We lost our signal, wandered some more and found ourselves back at the Cujo intersection. I mumbled something about being lost in BFE, using the three words of the acronym and taught my teenager a new word. I can already hear the detention message I'm going to get in a few weeks from her school.

Sitting at the now very familiar intersection, Ali said, "Let's just go straight."

She's a scientist. That was the one direction we hadn't tried.

"That's a driveway," I repeated.

"I bet it's a road," she said. "We are in the country."

"It's a dirt path," I said.

"Right and left didn't work," she reminded me.

"I have to pee," I said.

"Well I'm dying of thirst," she responded. "We have to get somewhere!"

We went straight and encountered a shirtless, unfriendly man coming out of a barn. Because it was a driveway.

She hit reverse again, seemingly more concerned about a close encounter with the man than she had been about the rabid dog. Backing up and turning is a new skill for her and she always has to remind herself out loud how to turn the wheel to point the car in the direction she wants. Amped up by thirst and adrenalin, she got out of there -- cleanly -- in record time.

I called my sister, Donna, who we were to meet at Briley's house. She also hadn't heard of WSR 340 and was coming from Brazil. She had the same address I did because I'd given it to her. I told her we'd drive until we got our signal back and let her know.

We found ourselves back on Indiana 59. We called Donna again. She had no clue and also hadn't heard of the WSR.

"Call Nancy," she suggested, another sister.

Nancy confirmed we had the right address all along and that WSR was really a thing. We plugged it in again, and it sent us right back to where we'd been. We waved to Cujo from the safety of our Subaru and eventually emerged onto US 40.

I remember enough about my home area geography to know that Indiana 59 intersects with US 40. If we'd stayed on the original state road, we'd have never gotten lost and been to the party on time. Stupid GPS.

The good news is that Ali and I got our diametrically opposite bodily needs met, we got to see family we hadn't seen in too long and Ali is more comfortable driving backwards.

She later drove Donna's big-ass pickup truck on US 41 on the south side of Terre Haute. The vehicle is larger than my house, so she had a tiny bit of drama turning off the highway where she and Donna met me for dinner. Two lanes of traffic turn into the street she needed and there was a vehicle right next to her as she made her turn. She apparently encroached a little bit into her neighbor's lane.

To her credit, Donna didn't yelp and Ali didn't panic.

But come to think of it, Donna hardly ever orders a cocktail at dinner and she didn't fight the suggestion.

Addendum:  While Ali and I were wandering Indiana, the Captain had another niece, Becca, on a morning whirlwind of shopping.We've been lucky to have Becca stay with us a few weeks while she takes some summer classes. She'll leave us soon to go back to Butler, which will make us all kind of sad.

It's not been too much of an eventful summer, but she had a budgetary trifecta hit. Her phone died and her car needed an oil change. Jeff likes nothing better than bargain shopping, and she and Becca had spent a good portion of Friday night talking about phones.

So they spent the morning first getting an oil change for her car, then phone shopping. Now, Jeff has hearing issues, but even he could hear her brakes grinding, so he forcibly suggested she get her car fixed, too.

The bargain he won for her phone was eaten up by the brake job, but at least she's safer.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rock star? Check. Movie star? Check. World traveler? Check. I want Ali's life.

Unless you're a Kardashian or some other crazily entitled person, my guess is you will be -- as I am -- jealous of one Alison Reed. Here's what her summer has been so far:

  • 10 days in Eastern Europe on a school trip, where she made out with a yellow boa constrictor ala Brittany Spears, ate amazing food and saw amazing sites, tempered by an incredibly emotive visit to Auschwitz;
  • 6 days in Maine with her best friend at Auntie Jen's lake house where they spent more time in the water than on land and got to work on their water skiing skills;
  • Serving as an extra in a Hollywood movie called "The Miseducation of Bindu." It includes David Arquette and other up-and-coming famous people, and Ali has spent hours and hours on set. 
    • She was sitting around waiting one day when the director pointed to her and said, "We need someone to talk to a reporter outside. You! Go." So she did. I flubbed recording it on WTHR and found only this online. Her interview could have been cut, I suppose...
    • The extras hanging about the school yard.
    • Kelly Wilkinson, an Indy Star photographer, snapped her and used the shot above in a 50+ photo gallery that accompanied the story you can get to via the link above.
  • Singing on stage with Foreigner. Sure, only one of the original band members is still on tour, but it was really Foreigner. She and some of the Herron High School choir provided backup vocals for "I Want to Know What Love Is." 
    She's in the group on the left, but hard to see.
  • Taking an overnight trip to Holiday World with friends from school. No chaperones. Yeah, that's coming up next week and both the Captain and I are queasy. Not because we don't trust her. It's just a long time to be on the highway in an SUV full of teenagers. Any of my Evansville peeps want to go shadow them and report in regularly that all is well?
She still has about a month left before she had to report back to school for her (gulp) senior year. She had exceptionally good grades both in school and on her AP tests and finals and she hasn't stepped too far out of line yet in the chores and attitude department so it's getting hard to say no to her.

I'm just saying that this is not how my summers went back in rural Clay County. To be fair, I guess, last year she broke her collarbone to kick off the season. Still. I'm a little green-tinged these days.