Sunday, December 30, 2012

Can it really be over?

Jeff and I were sitting on the living room couch yesterday, basking in the glow of the fireplace. We'd just met new and old friends over cocktails and appetizers. Alison, tummy full of roasted marshmallows, had commandeered the family room.

We were alone.

And two months away from 15 years of wedded bliss (mostly) we still like each other.

It was the early evening of our second consecutive day of shoveling the driveway. We'd unpacked from our trip, and I'd spent the morning and early afternoon clearing away some of the house's year's worth of grime. I had had a glass or two of wine.

In my haze of musculatory exhaustion, slight inebriation and proximity to the man who contributes much to my level of happiness, I was damn near immobilized. And yes, baby. It was cold outside.

Our house could be bigger. I could have cleaning and lawn care services to lighten the household load. We could be living far larger than we do. But I just can't summon up the ambition for those things.

We must have sat there for more than an hour, talking a little bit but mostly just nibbling on leftovers and sipping our drinks. Jeff could have been plotting the overthrow of his coming fantasy baseball league for all I know, but I think we were both mostly thinking about the state of our being. And I think we jointly determined that there really isn't much about our lives that needs fixing.

Here's what I want for 2013:

1. I want Alison to conquer her respiratory issues, to be totally healthy, to be happy and to be as good a friend throughout her life as she is right now to her little set of buddies. If I was a better mother, I'd wish for her romantical dreams to be realized but I just can't bring myself to that just yet. I want another year or 12 of little girl not this tween who pines for puberty to really strike and who frets about her popularity.
2. I want Jeff to find a car his actuarial self can justify, that won't give out in rush hour traffic and will give him a modicum of vehicular fun. I want him to be able to play basketball without lingering pain and not to get too fixated on his work with Kelsey in the coming year. I want him fit, not fanatical so much that I will have to work harder, too...
3. I want my friends and family to be safe, happy and healthy and to continue to consider us part of their collection of friends and family.
4. I want Jeff and me to keep our jobs and be better at them in the coming year.
5. I want to want to read more intellectual or business-focused books this year so I'm smarter. OK. That's a lie. I want more of the stuff that's kept me pedaling. I'm just not that deep.

I've also not yet found the kinder, gentler person I keep thinking might be buried somewhere within me. I need more patience. I need to be slower to believe the worst is about to happen. I'd still much rather sit around eating pizza and cookies than eat well and exercise.

But all things considered, I've got no complaints. Oh wait. Yes I do!

1. We traveled to Maine, land of snow, only to find green grass and double digit temps. While it did snow as we left, we came home to the winter wonderland we'd planned to visit and then leave behind.
2. My iPod turned on me was replaced (thanks, Reeds!) with a newer, fancier version. Now, on top of still having to learn more about my iPad and iPhone, I have to figure out the new music. Ugh. Learning. Bah.
3. I'm going to think of other stuff. I'm sure there's a bunch. Maybe.

Until I remember what's on my complaint list, I will report that we had another great Christmas in Maine.

+ Alison continued her streak of domino domination.
+ Jeff and Peter toured a vodka distillery and emerged with all kinds of ideas for new drink cococtions.
+ David and James are planning a commitment ceremony next year that will mean we get to go back in warm weather.
+ Our cookie's with Auntie Jen was another fabulous success.
+ We got to spend time with Team Sturtevant, and:
+ We're all salivating at the thought of another Spring Break together in the islands together.

This year seemed to fly faster by than years past. I'm OK with skipping some of the cold and snow parts to get to islands and summer. But I'd like it to slow down for those parts. Let me know if you know how to make that happen.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year!

I know I should probably list out a bunch of hope for a better world full of peace, good weather and no more violence toward each other. Much as I'd like to think that if I had the power that would make those things happen, that I'd use it only for good and not evil.

But I'd probably have to get back at a few people first. And then I'd get carried away. And then, well, then I'd be in Congress.

So let's not hope for that. Let's just focus on our own selves. Maybe if we do that, some of the peace will come about, as the SEO and green people say, organically.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Green to the Xtreme (aka Team Reed Xmas card 2012)

So I've been fiddling around with the keyboard trying to compose a Christmas card this year. For my trouble, I have a virtual trash can spilling over with discarded thoughts and random phrases. Type as I might, I haven't been able to capture a suitable holiday message.

But tonight, I spied my collection of real-life, honest-to-goodness, words and pictures on paper Christmas card collection. While I do treasure them (and I will pull out my box of Christmas cards past if you want proof) I remain committed to my pledge to be more green all year round.

So I won't be mailing out cards, even though so many truly special and cherished friends and family were so kind to go to that trouble for me and mine.

If you're getting this environmentally friendly message, please know you're loved and that you hold a singularly special place in our hearts.

Thank you for the love, the support, the truth (both the hard ones and the easy ones) the kicks in the pants (whether we took them graciously or not) the advice (see previous parentheses) the jokes. But mostly, thanks for sticking in there. (we know we're not always the easiest of creatures to love.)

Whether it's because you're connected by blood and you can't escape us, or you came to us and stay with us willingly, we count ourselves blessed to have you in our lives.

Because of you, we do believe. We do have joy. And we wish you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings and Noel.

All our love.

Cheryl, Jeff and Alison

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Give a little

It's hard to get past last week's school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

While most people decried the inexplicable attack on innocents, one Christian spokesman said God didn't stop the gunman and protect the children because America has kicked him out of school.

Some people called for gun control. Others called to arm teachers. Some called for anyone with a hint of being different to be locked up immediately. Others called for more help for those with mental illness.

But mostly we grieved. Grieved for strangers we'll never meet. Grieved because no one has a real clue about why it happened and how to keep it from happening again.

As we get closer to the holiday where we celebrate the birth of Christ, I hope that we can focus on the things he focused on: compassion, kindness, and adherence to the idea that everyone has value and that even the worst of us can be redeemed. I'm not even a believer as defined by organized religion, but I like what he said. I like how he allegedly lived.

Maybe we can hope -- some of you can pray -- that we can get back to some of that in the days and months and years ahead.

In the meantime, I'm celebrating how eager Alison was last week to give up some of her books to a toy drive at school; how excited she is to share some homemade treats she made with neighbors and family; and that Jeff and I will give a meaningful contribution to people in need this week.

Our little contributions aren't going to save anyone's life or keep a gun man at bay, but it's something. It's a start. And a start is better than standing still.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Discovered: how to make bath salts and where the Real Truth is hiding.

So bath salts have come to Castle Row.

No need for panic just yet, though. They're actually salts for the bath, not the latest drug epidemic. Or at least I think that's the case.

Alison have moved on temporaily from concocting edible treats to those that she thinks might be suitable as Christmas gifts and as one of her most coveted gifts is a spa trip, these things she's making have a spa-like use..

She'd started with the idea of making bath bombs -- I know! It scared me too -- based on a recipe she'd found on the Internet. It called for citric acid and sodium laural sulfate, jojoba oil, cream of tarter and vanila color stablizer among a reporters' notebook sheet of other ingredients that I'd never heard of. Mixed together, they apparently result in a cupcake creation that explodes into fragrant, soothing oils when properly detonated in the tub.

I convinced her that we should start with a smaller project, which led to her asking for my friend Kelsey Taylor's recipe for soothing bath salts. It also required a trip to the local herbal remedies store and the purchase of some Dead Sea Salt, epsom salt, essential oils and almond oil -- stuff I'd never bought before but at least I recognized and didn't fear could be combustible. I considered the idea of plain old vegetable oil. Oil is oil, right? But Alison wanted to follow the recipe exactly.

Twenty-six dollars later, we were in the kitchen mixing it up and scavaging the house for interestingly shaped and correctly sized jars.

If you come to be blessed with homemade soothing agent this year, I expect you to ooh and ahh long before you hit the tub. She worked really hard and chattered nonstop about which colors to use for boys and girls and just who should get them. It's a big deal to her.

She's been mixing it up in her bathroom, too. She's invented an overpoweringly frangrant facial scrub, a lotion and several different types of cleanser by taking the household inventory of cleaners, potients and lotions and recombining them. I tend to be her guinea pig, though she does try them out on herself, too.

She asked me to put her hair in a high bun so she could indulge in a soothingly salted bath and when I did, she saw herself and started laughing. "This is why I quit ballet," she said, pointing to her head.

Next week she'll be back to the real cupcakes, making the treats for her class Christmas party.

Seems hard to believe the year is almost over. We're all very excited about our annual trip home to Maine. We've been online shopping and shipping fools.

No great stories from the week other than Alison's assessment that my party outfit last night -- a sparkly top and leather skirt -- made me look like Michael Jackson. Silly girl. I'll never be that thin. I did, however, sparkle up the place.

The party was fun. Judy has this 17-layer (or something close) chocolate cake and we brought champagne. As always, there were a ton of really interesting people. Usually we know only the Judy and Ken, and this year wasn't much different, but this new collection was even more interesting than last year when we met a couple who then invited us to their wedding. You never know what you're in for at the Beaches -- except you know you're in for great food and fun conversation.

This year, the party was also informative. As you know, I can, on thed occasion, be a little skeptical when people around me speak out loud. But now I know how to find the Real Truth. The guy who turned me on to it didn't tell me it was a secret, so I'm sharing it with you.

The Real Truth -- proof that pretty much every terrible thing that's happened in America in the past few decades occurred far differently than we all have been told -- is waiting at

I'd give you all the examples of truths revealed that I was let in on, but you don't have time for that. The guys on Death Row don't have time for that.

And just in case you're wondering, I was a perfect guest. I might have questioned him, politely, a time or two. But mostly I nodded and listened and widened my eyes at appropriate times. I might have even said, "golly, gee-whiz" a time or two.

But I was very nice.

So, if you a little time on your hands or if you question anything you hear or read or see, all you have to do is go on YouTube. I'd give you the guy's name and number but somehow it didn't make it home with me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cleaning is a gateway drug

There's talk lately of a surge in the idea of legalizing marijuana, and it's brought up all the old arguments about pot being a gateway drug. I have little concern over whether pot is legalized.

I guess we could make some tax money off sales and maybe save some money on enforcement. It's not like it's not going to be grown and consumed anyway. Will it lead to people doing harder drugs? I don't know.

What I do know is that cleaning is a greater danger to us all. If there ever was a gateway drug, it's cleaning and, sadly, I see no groundswell of support for an Anti-Cleaning Czar to be appointed. I would make a great Anti-Cleaning Czar. Any kind of czar, really.

But back to my case that cleaning is a horrible, terrible, life-altering gateway drug.

This morning, I was doing my thing, gauging just where my benign neglect of the household chores was showing most. I decided it was the kitchen floor. So I set about to rectify the situation. My mistake was starting under the kitchen counter.

The floor there wasn't so bad, but as I approached the area, I was reminded of some dust particulates that had materialized on the actual counter this week. While I don't really know where the stuff came from, I suspected downward drift from the woodwork that trimmed out the wall that used to be there and now lets you eat cereal while talking (and viewing) someone in the living room.

So I got up on the barstool and wiped it down. No. I don't remember the last time I did that. But cleaning up there led to the counter and tile work, and that led me face to face with the wall under the counter where you prop or kick or swipe your feet while sitting there eating your cereal and talking to folks in the living room.

I have attempted to clean that portion of the wall many times, but it resists my efforts. What else is a girl to do but paint over it?

That's right. I went downstairs and unearthed the paint can our remodeling crew had used 11 years ago. It was labeled kitchen paint. It wouldn't last forever. In fact, it had a covering not unlike the film that settles over a pot of Jasonville-made potato soup that's sat out too long. Or oyster stew. Or any soup my mother made. I'm sure she used Crisco in everything.

Underneath that skin -- which was kind of gross if you must know -- was paint segregated from its oil as solidly as the South before Rosa Parks and Company set things right.

But I was high on cleaning. Nothing bothered me. I skinned that film and stirred that paint to within an inch of its life. I brought it back upstairs and commenced to doing my best impersonation of Tom Sawyer.

And yes, Alison fell for it.

She helped quite a bit but was more interested in getting back on the roof. We'd spent part of yesterday putting up Christmas lights, and she had scampered up the ladder after me. Painting was fun, but not as much fun as the roof, she said.

We painted until Jeff got home. He's never impressed with my spotaneous home improvement projects, and pointed out that I was going to have to finish the upper part of the wall because, well, it was connected to the lower area I'd started with.

Well that led to the next wall over because I got a little over zealous with the stroking. And that led to the wall next to that where the big-ass refrigerator is.

I could see the fear hiding on Jeff's face. It wasn't doing a very good job of just standing behind the disgust and frustration. In fact, it was jumping up and down, saying, "Goddammit Cheryl, I helped with the lights yesterday. I'm not moving that damn refrigerator today."

But like a goood soldier (or rehab nurse) he just let me work it out. Clever me, I painted above and beside the fridge.

"It's not moving for a long, long time," I said. "No one's going to know I haven't painted the whole wall."

Note to anyone who visits: You'd better damn compliment (or ignore) the state of my kitchen walls next time you're over. I don't need the compliments (which are richly deserved) and I sure don't need him to hear you point out the flaws. And don't even think about trying sneak a peek behind the fridge.

There's nothing there for you to see, see. It's all just shiny and white in and around there now.

I never did get back to the rest of the floor.

And I rest my case about cleaning being worse than pot. It seems all innocent and all, but then it gets you hooked on the chore one level up. And then before you know it, you're onto something else!

I guess the good thing about being addicted to cleaning is you don't get the munchies after so there's no weight gain. You do, however, find yourself noting other places that need work once you sober up.

Alison has already pointed out the need to repaint the walls going downstairs. I'm thinking about something bold... Don't tell Jeff.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reindeer down!

The House of Reed is deep into removing all traces of fall celebration and bringing in the Christmas cheer.

We've had Jeff's X-marks the Spot collection on heavy rotation since dawn broke Friday. While he rocks out and reminds us where he was when he found that particularly excellent tune, Alison and I have been decking the halls and walls and other empty spaces.

At one point, I was in the kitchen and she was decorating the tree.

"Oh no! I crippled a reindeer," she exclaimed.

A little Super glue got the vintage flier back on track. It wasn't and won't be the last time glue will come into play this weekend, I wager.

We had a great time at Thanksgiving at Donna's where I reigned victorious over ever euchre table I sat at. Alison's game is coming along, too.

She spent most of her time outdoors, however, including one scary episode where she and Rachael re-enacted a scene from Lassie -- a show they've never seen.

And no, we don't have a Lassie so they had to rescue themselves.

They were allegedly playing hide-and-seek with Aleasha who was happily in in the warm house. The girls thought she was outside. As she wasn't, they quickly got distracted with other fun and Rachael found herself stuck ankle deep in a stretch of mud that will one day be a pond.

Right now, it's a mud bog. "Ack!" she called. This is where Lassie would have been handy. Ali went to rescue her and promptly got stuck herself.

Their calls for help bounced right of the windows and doors and didn't have a chance against the wails and moans from my euchre victims.

After a while of sinking deeper and deeper, the girls used a stick and elbow grease to climb out of the pit. They came to the door, covered up to their knees.

I hosed them down outside and Jaime had to go home to get them new clothes.

"We were calling and calling for help, Mom," Alison said. "Where were you?"

Other excerpts from the weekend so far:

Lee Weir (euchre loser) complained long and loud that his game was off due to nefarious activity between his daughter and me.

"I'm as honest as the day is long," I protested (truthfully.)

"Have you noticed how short the days are this time of year?" he groused.


Alison at dinner with our friends Patrick and Patricia Jackson was telling them of her Thankgiving feast. While we were surrounded with mounds of ham, turkey, homemade rolls, cheesy potatoes and a counter of desserts that would put any Paris cafe to shame, what did Alison have?

"I had four bread sandwiches," she confessed.

Patricia called foul. "It's not a sandwich if you don't have something in between the bread," she said.

"Well, there was air there," said Alison.


For many years, my contribution (by demand) to any family meal was ice. Yes. My culinary skills have never been exalted by the Bickel family. I've been elevated in recent years to fruit and vegetable trays -- which is good because it's my only defense against the rest of the stuff.

Jeff and Alison made whoopie pies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and sugar. (See why I still get invited?)

Alison is all business when it comes to baking. Somehow, though, her thumb smashed into one of the sugar cookies as she was retrieving the pan from the oven.

"Dang. Guess I'll have to eat that one," she said.

With two full days of break before us, Team Reed is planning to make the most of it. Hope you are, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prelude to Thanksgiving

Another busy weekend coming to a close too soon.

The important stuff:

Breaking Dawn is worth whatever you need to pay to see it. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll gasp. You'll celebrate the end of super great villians and/or the salvation of good guys depending on your point of fang.

Skyfall is also worth whatever you need to pay to see it.You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll gasp. You'll celebrate the end of super great villians and/or the salvation of aging good guys depending on. Well, depending on nothing. If you know anything about Ian Fleming's creation, you'll love this movie.

In between movies, I hosted Book Club and went to Bunco, raked the yard and sweated some of my wine away at the gym. Ali and Jeff made sugar cookies from scratch.

I sort of cleaned the house. Jeff cleaned the oven. Alison got to babysit herself while we went spy watching.

All in all, a busy but good weekend. At Target this morning, after she helped me recyle and before our last cinematic expedition, I offered to buy Alison a new book she's been wanting. I figured it would keep her from vegging out in front of the television too much while we were gone.

As we walked to the check out, I suggested she might want to contribute some of her allowance to the purchase.

"I'm not falling for that again," she said. "You already said you'd buy it for me."

I haven't told the ungrateful brat that she's not getting paid for babysitting but I'm sure she'll ask what her rate is before the night is out.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you get to enjoy good friends and family.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Screen-free weekend

Alison has never liked to get in trouble. She doesn't like to be the center of attention, generally, and never when it's negative attention.

So you can imagine her reaction to her very first detention.

That's right: the little red head had to visit the principal and explain herself. And then she had to explain herself to her mother. And her father.

It was not the happiest of times.

We're trying not to be too upset about it. Afterall, in her seven years of catholic academic instruction, she's never been sentenced to detention. She's barely been on the bubble.

And her crimes were not felonious. She failed -- three times -- to be prepared for class.

She claims she didn't hear that one assignment was due on Monday (rather than Tuesday) another one required both sides of the work sheet (not just one) and she didn't check the email account for math so she didn't even know about that other assignment.

Three preparedness infractions = a lunchtime detention to be served Monday.

When I went to pick her up Friday, she knew I knew. She saw me and her chin hit her chest. It's a wonder she was bale to traverse the gym floor to get to me her head was so low.

She sobbed on the way home as she confessed she'd had to see Mr. Stewart and he said he was "shocked" to have her in the hotseat before him.

I did not smile. I was severe. I used the dreaded "disapointed in you" line. She's grounded for the weekend. No Chatard football game. No screens of any kind.
And yardwork on Saturday.

Do you know how much time there is in a weekend without a television or an iPad? There's a lot of time. Like, a lot.

So it was good we spent so much time in the yard. We broke out LPS Monopoly, Pictureka, Gin Rummy and dominoes. She did her homework early and read a few books that had been collecting dust.

We cooked. We shopped.

We did allow her to attend the Christ the King Spaghetti Supper. But only because it was the most convenient time to gather with her basketball team for an end-of-season meal.

It was really sweet. The girls gave Coach Reed a gift card for dinner and some unique art and some really sweet notes. He spent all afternoon creating certificates for them with a tiger watermark, a team photo and cheer, a individual note from coach to athlete and a headband to keep them focused while they practice for next year.

The team is made up mostly of 5th graders and they'd really like it if he'd coach again next year. Alison was not in favor of being held back a year so she could play with her team again.

The moms and I are pondering whether Jeff could coach two teams next year. It would make practice easier...

He truly is a great coach. I admit that I was afraid he's be too hard on the girls and let a few bad words slip but he was great. The one time he pounded on a wall and made the gym echo turned out to be a celebration of something good.

So it was a great, albeit losing season.

Also this weekend, I was inspired by my friend Tina who changed her Facebook profile picture to one of her father in uniform. I, too, made note of Veteran's Day by posting a photo of my father in uniform.

I've been peeking at that photo all weekend. It's made me sad sometimes because I really miss him and happy too because I was so lucky to have him.

Alison looked at it and said, "Oh, he looks so happy and carefree. But that was before you all were born, right?"

A Facebook friend from home said "Everyone loved your dad. I never heard a bad word said about him."

My dad was 70 when he died. That's a long time to be around and not have anyone grouse about you.

He really was a great person. He was raised an even more strict Pentacostal than he raised us, and for him, it really stuck.
He was one of those unusual Christians. Deeply devout but not one to push it on anyone else. He suffered a lot, but seemed to deal with it by actually believing the Scripture that said the more you suffer on Earth the better off you'll have it in Heaven.

I'm not always sure there is a God. But I hope there's one, and I hope that he delivers on all the promises he made to my Dad.

None of my father's seven children measure up to him. Not a one of us. But he still loved us. Still tried to make us better people.

If he had to get a microscope out to do it, he'd find something about each of us that he could be proud of. He was good like that.

So anyway. Happy Veteran's Day to my dad and to everyone who served, including Captain Coach Reed.

My father liked Jeff a lot. In part because my dad was a traditionalist and he was happy that someone finally agreed to take responsibility for me. He might have also hoped that Jeff's law degree would be helpful in keeping some of us out of jail.

But I think my dad saw more in Jeff than I did. He saw the coach, the dad just waiting to be. I'll leave you with this interesting parallel.

Back when I was in high school, I was involve in an altercation at school. Long story short, I was in a bit of a love triangle although I was unaware of it. After nearly a year of bullying, a direct threat was made; a punch was thrown and I landed in the prinicipal's office.

Unlike my daughter, however, I wasn't in trouble as I was the victim and simply defended myself. But word on the street was that I was going to be beaten up next time I was in town and crossed paths with the other girl and her friend.

When my father heard the word, he decided I needed to know how to fight for real. As he was showing me how to make fist and where to punch first, I said, "Dad! Do you really think I can beat her up?"

"No, honey. She's gonna kill you," he said. "But I want you to get in at least one good punch."

(The second fight never happened. But I was ready with that one good punch.)

Flash forward to Alison's losing season.
The girls were starting to gel when the best player broke her ankle. Jeff was beside himself. But he didn't give up. He did some research, came up with new plays and flat-out told the girls to use their butts to get positioned.

The next game, Alison nearly fouled out and I'd never seen him more proud of her. He was going on and on about how aggressive Ali was and how the some of the other girls were coming along, too, and how this one had great promise and that one could do this when she put her mind to it.

"Do you think they can win?" I asked.

"Nah. They're gonna get killed," he said. "But they're trying. That's the important thing."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week in review

Had a week that might have been as busy at home as it was at work. More success than failure, so I suppose it was a good week.

I'm trying to get past the failure part and to focus on the successes. Wish me luck!

Jeff had his birthday Monday, which was full of fun suprises in the morning and at night, and then two days later, he celebrated Halloween by fitting (well, I'll tell you) into his Army uniform that he hadn't even tried on in 20 years.

Yes, there really was a Captain Reed, and I'm hoping that if I'm ever in a fox hole, he's in there with me.

Alison converted her chocolate Halloween candy to $8 in a hard-fought negotiation with her father. She's getting way better at pleading her case.

We've been running into an old friend at Chatard football games, which is really fun. Mostly we freeze our butts off so Alison can hang with her friends. Having our own friends to hang with makes it better.

Unfortunately, the Tigers 5-6 girls basketball team hasn't been enjoying the blow-outs the Trojans have.

We lost our last regular season game today, but some of the kids were taller than me, and they had twice as many. So even though we didn't win on the boards, I consider it a victory that the other team had to sweat. A lot.

Plus, it was indoors. Oh! And I curtailed my cursing pretty well. I'm really getting better. Or maybe I was just happy it was inside.

Daylight saving time seems to be kicking my butt tonight. I think I'm going to call it an early night.

But before the lights go out:

Happy early birthday to Grandpa Reed!

Please join me in hoping for continued good news for little Christian Padilla and his parents, Brooke and Geno.

I hope, also, that you'll make time to vote this week. Even if you're on the opposite side of my politics (I'm happy to help you come over to the light; just let me know) we're priviliged to have this right.

And please keep those in the path of that bitch Sandy in your thoughts. While I complain about the temperature here, I know how lucky I am.

Here's what made me happy last week:

Monday: Happy to be inland today. Hoping for the best for everyone in Sandy's path.

Tuesday: Happy today with our latest project (see the photo below.)

Wednesday: Happy today that nearly all the holiday and birthday desserts are outta my house!

Thursday: Today I'm happy to successfully get through the first part of a busy morning and to get great advice from a co-worker who's turning out to be a great friend.

Friday: Happy today to have a kid who makes me laugh out loud and often. Last night she was yammering on about her life and future and ended with: "Once I get clear of you two, I'm going to get myself a puppy." (For the record, it's the Captain holding up that particular wish; her allergies keeping the kitties away.)

Saturday: Today I'm happy to finally get to the gym. Had a bad run in with bacon-laced, au gratin potatoes yesterday.The potatoes won big.

Sunday: Happy today that basketball is played indoors. Last regular season game for the CKS 5-6B team is this afternoon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

So close and yet so far...

After posting up a win 17-14 on Wednesday, the Tigers were back in action this afternoon. They led every bit of that stinking game until the last minute and a half or so.

Sadly, they fell 13-11. Alison Reed, #22, had four fouls and no baskets. But at least we had no broken bones this game. Last game, our star play did, in fact, have her ankle fracture and everyone was worried we'd finish the season with nasty, soul-sucking blow-outs.

Happily, we almost pulled it out. So all is not lost. Coach Reed, if not a happy man, was at least not prostrate as he was a few weeks ago, cursing mightily in his head and considering a deal with the devil.

Had we won, I might have thought he'd actually pulled off that devilish deal. With due respect to Satan, Jeff is a tough negotiator and I'm sure that he'd have wrangled wins, not heartbreakers. in a match with Mephistopheles.

We have one game left in the regular season. And here's a nice little bit of news. It's CYO -- Catholic Youth Organization -- basketball, so there's a prayer before the game and no one gets really crazy. (I try very hard to confine my cursing to mutters.)

Jeff got an email from the coach of St. Pius -- the team we played when Riley had her ankle broken. Scott Dorsey -- yes, that Scott Dorsey, the CEO of Exact Target, was the coach.

He sent an email asking if his team could send a get well card to Riley. Now that's a classy move.

In nonsports action, I bagged a gazillion leaves this weekend and am hoping the rest just stay attached through winter. Or until I convince the CKS 8th graders to raise money for their DC trip by doing a little fall lawn care work.

While Alison had a sleepover with Jenna, Jeff and I had a fabulous pre-birthday dinner with our Jasheway friends. If you haven't been to North Side Social yet, you are missing out on a lot.

If you see the Captain tomorrow, be sure to wish him a happy birthday.

At the last minute, Alison decided she wants to be a vampire for Halloween. Scary, isn't she...? :)

Hope your Halloween is all treats and no tricks.

Here's what has made me happy as of late:

This morning: Happy to have celebrated Jeff's birthday a little early with Duane Jasheway and Kirsten Greiner Jasheway last night at our new favorite restaurant, (North Side Social) new favorite waiter (Pete) new favorite cocktail (don't remember its name but man it felt good on my lips) and now breakfast (thanks, Pete!) It WAS the best cornbread ever to grace my plate.

Saturday: Happy today to be snuggling in a warm bed. Baby, it's cold outside!

Friday: Happy to have dodged the doughnuts and pizza today. It was a close call but tonight I'm celebrating a high honors kid and need the points in the bank.

Thursday: Tigers win! Tigers win! Christ the King Tigers, that is....hard not to be happy about that first win. Also happy that our little Tiger brought home a high honors report card last night. And that that basket she shot in the wrong end of the court as the clock clicked slowly down did not go in... And that Alison was the player who dribbled out those final, excruciatingly slow seconds stretched out.

Wednesday: Happy today to have gotten a look at Wreck-It-Ralph last night. Just because you're a bad guy, you don't have to be a bad, guy! Great (not preachy) message of acceptance for who you are -- whatever that may be. Love the rebranding effort from Satan.

Tuesday: Today I'm going to be happy that the Fever won; my candidate spanked his debate partner and that I have great friends and family.

Monday: Today I'm happy there were no police cars patrolling my path to work. Fun drive.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nothing broken about this Fall Break, by gosh, by golly

I read a news story today about Mitt Romney's predilection for using words from the 1950's -- gee, golly, gosh -- that had a photo with women looking like they could be friends with Mrs. Cleaver and a quote from a woman who said she likes Romney because he could bring us back to the 50's - her unashamed goal for Election 2012.

I identified more with the former Romney staffer who later in the story confessed to trying rile the former governor so much to get him to say real curse words. (I reveled in some similar moments with a different gentleman governor, who would, albeit rarely, let a good honest curse fly.)

Not that I lived in the 50s. I'm not THAT old. Even though I have had some great times in my life, I wouldn't go back. Not to my childhood. Not to high school. Not college. Not my reporting days. Not my time in the Statehouse.

Like Edna Mode, I prefer to live in the now.

Or maybe yesterday when Jeff and Ali and I took a wander through the forest of Eagle Creek park. (To Alison, any stand of trees that numbers more than 10 or so, is a forest. Not the woods. The forest. So we were in the forest.)

It was glorious. The colors were amazing and the company was perfect. For the most part, it was quiet. There were others out enjoying the weather, but we had a lot of time when it was just us teetering on fallen trees, slipping on wet leaves and dodging branches as we made our own trails.

I love it when Alison is with her friends and they're screaming and giggling. But sometimes it's nice to be just us three.

For the last three days, I've had my June Cleaver moments. Ali and I spent some time in the kitchen making cake pops. I tried my hand at pumpkin soup -- Jeff salvaged it. I made a good batch of vegetable soup, which Alison spiced up.

I did not wear pearls, but I did make breakfast. We did a little housework, discovered we needed a new lawn mower and plotted about what to buy Jeff for his birthday.

We watched some movies and indulged in pedicures. Jeff studied ways to beat a pressure play, and today we'll cheer on Alison and her basketball team. They're looking for their first win.

If it was 1950 and we were the Cleavers, the Tigers would win today with a last-second 3-point shot from the red-headed guard, and we would celebrate with another round of cake pops.

Happily, it's 2010. If past performance is any guide, Coach Reed and the girls will be having another character building lesson, and I'll probably let a few curse words fly in a catholic school gym.

By golly.

(Go Tigers!)

Here's what made me happy last week:

Monday -- I'm happy to have another good weather day to have a pleasant after dinner walk with Jeff and Ali.

Tuesday -- I am happy for coffee. And that I'm neither Mormon nor Quaker. What would life be without caffeine?!

Wednesday -- Happy today to have my Friday arrive early with two days of Fall Break with Alison just 10 hours away. Can you say "pedicures?"

Thursday -- I'm happy to have the whole day before me with no obligation to even get dressed. PJs rule!

Friday -- Today, there will be bacon. And baguette and St. Andre cheese and fruit and coffe and mimosa. Yes. today, I will be happy.

On Saturday, Alison and I were walking the 'hood looking for a house for my friend when Alison stopped in the middle of the street and said, "Look at how bright yellow those leaves are!" Our neighborhood is in the height of its atumnal glory, but I'm going to have to check tonight to see if that tree glows in the dark. It WAS bright. And I was happy that Ali takes the time to bask in beauty when she finds it.

Sunday mornings make me happy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Goodby old friends

It's been a difficult week.

Sure, I was off work Thursday and Friday for Alison's Fall Break, and we did manage to get those pedicures and have some fun.

But two things happened that put a pall on the fall festivities.

First, news of the death of my lawnmower was neither premature nor exaggerated.

I'd hoped my full confession to Ray, the highly rated and local Lawnmower Man, would magically absolve me of my neglect. He had an open smile, two cats and not an ounce of judgement. when I told him that it was possible that I'd run it dry of oil.

When he called with the death notice, he said the problem was a broken cam shaft.

"What might cause a cam shaft to break, Ray," I asked.

He hesitated just a bit and then said, "Well, a lack of oil."

There it is. My fault. He could fix the thing, he said, but it would cost nearly as much as a new model. He advised me to buy new and offered to dispose of the body.

He's a good man. I'm a bad mower owner.

The second incident wasn't entirely my fault. As you know, Jeff's been very supportive in my zeal to improve my diet and follow the Weight Watchers rules.

He calculates points like a weight loss ninja. So when he told me that bag of 97 percent fat-free popcorn was 3.5 points, I didn't bother to double-check.

Instead, I'd say I've downed a few acres of blessed corn just this year Its only 3.5 points! And you get a lot.

Almost too good to be true, right? No. It was exactly too good to be true.

The recalculation done in response to my WW coach's eyebrow level: 6 points.

My daily allowance is 35 points if I work out; 32 if I don't. Looks like more carrots and less corn in my future.

I'm probably just as stingy at spending Weight Watchers Points, as I am real dollars, so it's hard to decide if the lawnmower's passing was worse than popcorn-gate.

On the plus side, I can't really attack the lawn today. On the minus side, the lawn work would have earned me enough activity points to have some popcorn.

Some days it just doesn't pay to be me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Put her in coach

The morning of Alison's last 5-6th grade basketball game, Coach Reed said, "You know, I was on a team that didn't win a game all year. If those girls have as much fun as they did last time (23-2 loss) I can handle it."

Captain Coach Reed is not an uncompetitive man. If there's a way to keep score, he'll find it. If there's a sliver of a chance in hell he can win at something, he'll brave the gates of Hades. The first baseman on his softball team once got hit in the head by a line drive as he was running bases. The ball knocked him unconscious. When he came to, he was blind.

"So who took him to the hospital," I asked when Jeff was relaying why he was late getting home.

"Hospital? After a while he could see so we had him play catch."

That's right. They finished the game before they took the poor sap to get medical care. They're all still playing every summer.

Alison does not have that same drive when it comes to sports, and none of her teammates seem to be killers either.  After their first game, Jeff was replaying the game to me even though I'd watched it.

"Did you HEAR them? Did you HEAR them?" he exclaimed. "Even when we were getting the snot kicked out of us, they were cheering each other on! You can do it. They were HAVING FUN."

He shook his head. Coaching boys was so much more natural. It was also CYO so there wasn't audible cursing, but there was pain. There was frustration. There was agony. Stuff the Captain could understand.

So game two for the Christ the King Tigers comes along Sunday. He's not optimistic but he's got his game face on.

And it was as if the girls were possessed. They still had fun, but they weren't intimidated by the other team. They hustled. They waved their hands and stole the ball and shot the ball and rebounded the ball. We actually led for most of the game. Alison scored her first goal, barely missed a 3-point shot that was actually a planned play, and racked up two personal fouls.

Ultimately, they lost by one point. In double OT. (That's free basketball, folks.)  As the first OT went into the second, Helen Mansfield called his attention and said, "Hey coach. Annalise hasn't played very much yet. Can she go in for me?"

I'm certain that a part of his brain just shut down.

The shot that won the game for the other team was the second free throw attempt by the enemy. She'd air-balled the first one, which gave everyone on our side great hope.

But no one on the bleachers knew we were in a sudden death situation -- the first team to score would win no matter how much time was left. The girls knew. The coaches knew. The two girls on the our bench fell down stunned, groaning when the ball went in. The parents were all confused at the cheers from the other team and the dismay by ours.

The Captain? Well, the Captain took it really well. He slapped a smile on his face and he looked at the girls, I'm sure prepared to lift them up from the depths of despair.

But they had had fun!  Sure it was better than last week, but losing again didn't make them give up. Our parents gave the game a W regardless of the final score.

We're all super excited for tonight's game. I just wonder which team will show up.

Jeff's post-game note to the parents was really nice. He said the girls "played their hearts out yesterday.  Team spirit, especially support for each other, is just fabulous to watch."

Personally, I think Jeff might be learning more than the girls.

Go Tigers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Spoiler Alert

It's been said that I'm too soft on Alison and her friends. That I spoil them. That I need to take a harder line.

Today's photo will bear witness that I can sometimes cross the line. Even I think today's allowance might have been a step too far into the silly. But I'm not dragging them back to the sane.

Here's why: The world is all too often a scary, mean, unfair place. It's indiscriminate. It's scary, mean and unfair to everyone at one time or another. No exceptions.

I like to think I offer a safe haven from all that. I'm not indulgent 24/7 no matter what my husband might say. I even said no to something already today.

But how much damage can unadulterated -- and somewhat regulated -- fun do to a person?

I just read a piece in the NYTimes a about a man's recall of a childhood where his grandfather planted pumpkins that he and his brother sold to their neighbors. Their father took care of the leftovers and the boys just spent the money.

He doesn't remember how those boys, who contributed absolutely nothing to the labor and never once thought about giving a little of it back to the men who made it possible, spent their spoils. He remembers the pickup truck, his granddad putting ketchup on his fish sandwich and their conversations.

After all these year, he feels a glow everytime he sees a pumpkin. That's the payoff! I bet dad and granddad are happy with that ROI.

I hope that one day Alison and Jenna will be giving their kids a bath and think about the time they got to have breakfast in my garden tub.

Or when we rode with the top down even though it was crazy cold.

Or when there's a backseat full of kids and no one can agree on what fast food they'll feast on, I'll go through as many drive-in windows it takes (within a certain mile radious) to please every palate.

Is that spoiling them? Maybe.

I prefer to think of it as recompense for the slights -- real or imagined -- that will inevitably be visited upon their lives.

I can't fix everything. But I can be silly.
I think they'll come through it just fine.

The week's happyisms:

On Monday I was happy my kid can be funny in difficult situation. She's wavering with her unrequited crush and woke up thinking she might be over it. But she's not sure she's broken the fever. " It's like taste buds. You go along loving ice cream and then one day you wake up and like pickles. This sucks!"

On Tuesday, I pledge to be happy to have my own in-house tech support so I can focus on other stuff and still have super cool toys that work.

On Wednesday I wondered if it would be wrong to be happy that I might have killed the lawn mower this weekend?

On Thursday I was happy because even though the scoreboard read 23-2 and some jerky coach (not mine) had apparently fed his team Honey Boo Boo juice, our girls were happy and encouraging to each other the whole game. I think my coach is learning something....

Friday I was going to be happy to celebrate the weekend starting with a girls night out with Alison; tomorrow with Ali and Jenna; and another round of killer CYO basketball on Sunday. Plus I think the Democrats woke up last night. So that's good. (roar)

Yesterday I was happy just to enjoy this beautiful day with good friends who are my family.

There are lots of reasons to be happy today. Chief right now is the sound of my two favorite girls' laughter echoing through every part of my house.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Renaissance man

So our Thursday wasn't a highwater mark for me, but the weekend has more than made up for it.

We went to a renaissance fair late in the afternoon yesterday. Jeff had mentioned it, but we'd let the day get away and went up with only a few hours left of it.

It was in a muddy, muddy field where cars were being pulled and yanked and towed as we arrived. We found the dryest spot in the marsh and trudged on in.

I'll admit to spending too much of our short time pre-occupied with wondering how in the world these folks were going to get the mud out of their costumes.

There were some extreme costumes. And of course they were doing their best to speak in the period. It was awesome to see a bunch of Hoosiers speaking the King's English.

There was real, live jousting. Huge horses, 11-foot-long lances, armour and even a contest to slice an apple from a squire's head. Apparently the players are involved with a jousting show on the History channel.

It was the highlight of the fair, so of course we couldn't get really close. Alison climbed up on her dad's shoulders -- a seat she's not had since she was about 4, I think.

She loved the view and took video with my iPhone. Jeff liked the jousting, but I think he liked his role better than any of those taken up by the actors.

This morning, Alison and I answered a call to harvest from the Angie's List garden. We spent a good two hourse plucking peppers, collard greens, tomatoes, egg plant and carrots from the ground.

Who knew we were such good gardeners. There's a bunch of still there, but our backs were barking and our bags were full.

It's supposed to freeze tonight -- which prompted the need to reap -- but we opted to risk the rest.

If you're in the neighborhood, go on by and grab dinner. There's still fruit on the trees, too.

I'll leave you with a line from Cowboys & Aliens, not the best flick I've ever seen, but worthy of a little time at home in front of the new TV:

"God doesn't care who you were, son, only who you are."

And my happyisms, of course:

Today: While my back might disagree, I'm happy Kelsey dragged Alison and me out to the Angie's List garden today. We are awesome gardeners! Soup for everyone!!

Saturday: I'm happy today that I have a book club and it's delightful every time.

Friday: Today I'm happy that yesterday I had pancakes for lunch, took advantage of great weather for a topless drive with a great friend, that I didn't start a fire when rubbing my calves together to stay warm while I waited for my Captain to rescue me and that my Captain did arrive with tools in hand to carry out said rescue. So happy for those pancakes...

Thursday: Today I'm happy to understand why Big Bird might not like Mitt Romney this morning.

Wednesday: Today I'm happy to have successfully scrubbed out a zero-point vegetable soup stain from my favorite white blouse last night. Toothpaste, soap from the bathroom at work and OxyClean.

Tuesday: Today I'm happy that no matter how bad my work day gets, I'm not in 6th grade with boy trouble.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Into everylife a little dumbass must fall

So yes, it's true. I locked myself out of my bicyle the other day.

Before you cast your lot in with the rest of the world who believes I'm a dumbass, be warned: this could easily happen to you, too.

Here's what happened:

I went on a business trip and wanted to divest my keychain of unnecessary keys and charms and crap. this included my Bunco dice, my Weight Watchers medals, reward cards and my bike lock key.

I travel lean, man. One carry on bag for three days/two nights.

So I get home and reassemble what I think is all my stuff on my keychain and think nothing more about it except to note that I have to much crap on my key.

So Thursday, I get home and have extra time because Jeff has Alison at basketball practice. He's picking up ribs from my former friend Tom Vielee so I decide to skip the gym and bike up to the Nora Kroger to get green beans.

It was a beautiful day and even though a cold front threatened, I planned to ride hard and be back home well before dark. So I wore shorts and a small tee. I get to the store, get my produce and depart with plenty of time to add a bit to my route home.

That's when I discovered my bike key wasn't on my keychain.

The only think dropping faster than the temperature was my stomach.

The Captain was not going to be happy with me, I thought. On the bright side, I was stranded at Kroger. So I went to the salad bar, got a magazine and settled in to await my rescue.

When my prince got my text and voice mail, I'm sure the only thing keeping him from spouting his standard, "goddammit Cheryl!" was the presence of the basketball girls.

My new iPhone rang clear with the tone of his disdain, however. Both with the first return call and the second which came as he was tearing apart the kitchen drawer where the missing key was supposed to be living.

Meanwhile, the temperature keeps dropping. I tried to rub my calves together to stay warm but was afraid my stubble would spark and catch me on fire after a while. Sure I'd be warmer, but I didn't really want the repercussions of a full-out fire. So I drifted in and out of the store like I was casing the joint.

So it's almost 8 when he arrives with two keys that were not the keys we need. We go get the ribs. Jeff borrows wire cutters and a battery-powered
saw from my former friend Tom who says, "So are you gonna make her bike home in the dark."

Pretty easy to see how his friend status changed... He did not, however, laugh at me to my face. Maybe I'll reconsider. I did keep Scott Cunningham after all.

We tell Alison, who has yet to have dinner, our plan.

"Uh, Mom. Don't you think people will think we're stealing your bike?" asked Alison.

I assured her that theives would be way quicker than we would be and that we didn't really look like thieves working out in the open with our family Subaru parked out front of the store and with our daughter along.

You could see the fear in her eyes. I'm sure she was wondering if she'd like the group home FSSA was going to send her to after we got carted off to jail.

My bike lock was suprisingly hard to break. I'd highly recommend it if you ever want to keep your bike secure from theives. And yourself should you ever lose your key.

That bike lock sneered at the wire cutters and initially sniffed at the saw. I held the cord apart while Jeff started the saw. Had anyone seen me as I stood, I'm sure I looked like something out of a cartoon, hair on end and skeleton showing.

At one point when there was a fair amount of traffic of shoppers going in and out of the store, Alison leans out of the car and shouts, "Hey DAD. Are you doing ok getting MOM's bike free?"

Subtle she's not.

It took a lot longer than we'd expected to saw through the lock. The vibration has at least warmed me up a bit.

On the way home, Alison confesses that she's been playing with my phone and saw a post that discussed my plight and my state of dumb-assedness.

"Mom. Some guy on FaceBook called you a, can I say it? Dumb A.S.S." she said.

I laughed. "Yes you can say it. Sometimes in this life, Alison, you're just going to be a dumbass. I've done it. Your dad's done it. You'll be a dumbass everyone once in a while, too."

She gasped, then giggled, and then said "dumbass" every other sentence.

The captain, my prince, denied ever being a dumbass, which of course led to Alison and me tossing off a litany of evidence to the contrary.

It was quite the night. We finally had dinner finished well after Alison's bedtime.

I'm grounded from riding my bike until I get a combination lock.

We have yet to eat the green beans.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sometimes it's the little things

Was it me or was last week the longest week in the history of mankind? It seemed like work followed me every where I went. It was so bad, I was happy to clean my pig sty of a house just to have some other kind of work to do.

I cleaned, in part, because we have a new television that required a new stand. We'd been using a hand-me-down microwave stand that worked just fine but when we got the grown-up version of a TV stand, the plastic shelving that had seemed quite at home in our basement-level family room needed to go, too.

And that led to a total reconsideration of where everything went, which led to cleaning. And cleaning led to a purge, gasp!, of old books.

I love books. Love to hold them in my hands. Keep them in my purse. Read them over and over again. It's like visiting old friends. But I did have too many. And frankly, I don't need that many old friends.

If you've loaned me a book in the past few days or 50 years, please speak up if you want it back. Otherwise, I'm going to claim possession,  and it could end up at Goodwill where you'll see it and think, "Oh! I loaned that book to that stealing, varmint Cheryl. I think I'll buy it back now for 50 cents." You'll curse my name and vow to never, ever loan me anything again.

I'd like to think that for 50 cents, you'd keep my friendship and get your book back never knowing it was the actual book you loaned me. But I do like to keep track of MY books, too. So I'll totally understand if you're mad that I've held on to yours for so long. It's in excellent condition, though, and worth every bit of 50 cents.

In the midst of the cleaning frenzy, we were lucky to have been visited by Alex Ogden. It was a last minute thing and Alison was at the Purdue game with Amanda and her family when Alex came available.

He had other options, of course, but when presented with the idea of hanging out at a Reed house with only the Captain and me until Alis returned, he still chose us. I love that boy.

OK. He chose the Wii. I'm not delusional. But still.

Sometimes all it takes to make me happy is a clean house and a boy who doesn't mind spending time with me and my stuff. And those are good times indeed.

This morning I was happy:

that our new BFF Tyler from AT&T Uverse got us back on line with a smile and admirable patience. Also that my absence may have secured a 2-0 record for the SHS alumni team that included a mix of classes from as far back as the 60s as well as few from my own class way later in the last century. Now we'll never know if I would have helped or hurt the effort..... :)

Saturday I was happy so many people were in for  a super fun weekend at Shakamak High School's Homecoming. I watched from two hours away and waiting to hear/see all the stories on Facebook.
(I had committed, at my high school reunion in August, to actually play in the annual alumni tournament if a fellow classmate was successful in organizing a our-class-only team. She didn't. So I didn't.)

Friday I was happy to have been entertained by the Zac Brown Band (and other country music artists) on the way to work.

Thursday I was happy to note that even though Alison had fretted that I would embarrass her at the school Career Day, she attacked me, ninja-like, at the end with a kiss, a hug and and "I love you Mom" as the crowd was dispersing. Sure I had a Marine talking up the excitement of world travel and another guy building artificial limbs around me while I talked about PR. (not so exciting at Table 3) But that unexpected paycheck from the little redhead made it all worth it.

Wednesday I was happy for a slow morning to present at Alison's school for Career Day. She saw what I was planning to wear and denied me, saying it was too fancy. "You're not a business woman! Dad wears a suit and tie every day, but you don't have to," she explained. I had contemplated wearing  sweats.

Tuesday: I was happy that Alison didn't detect the lower fat version of the Pillsbury cresent rolls I made for her breakfast. She has a discerning palate for switcheroos like that and a highly forgiving metabolism. Unlike her mother who also likes cresent rolls... :)

Monday I basked in the happy of the previous night when Alison and Alex asked if Jeff and I would play baseball with them in the front yard, and the game had to be called on account of darkness. Super fun.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

And the angels sang -- twice even!

Getting an opinion out of me is not unlike getting a fish to swim. And sometimes I'm a little too quick to share my thoughts.

But that's usually in a crowd I'm comfortable with or if I feel like there' s injustice afoot.

In settings where I don't know anyone, I'm more inclined to slink around the edges observing. This week, though, I was on a mission for work that forced me to not just interact with strangers but to charm them. Three straight days of it.

On the first night, I wasn't successful. I did make friends with a few hotel and conference staffers, but none of the big wigs I was to target were afoot.

Evening of Day 2, I had a colleague along and we did OK both during the day's work and and a little evening party. My wingman left me, though, for personal plans and I was on my own.

As I left her, I had only to turn left, go to my room, head to the gym and then order room service. It sounded so great.

But there was a big party hosted by CNN on my right. I was actually going left -- natural for me -- when my work ethic kicked and propelled me to the party.

It turned into a great professional networking opportunity but the absolute best part was when, in the midst of talking to perhaps the biggest wig in the place, I turn to a tap on my shoulder and see my friend Lesley Stedman Weidenbener.

It was nighttime but I swear the sun rose and angels sang. I had a friend on the island! A person who knew me and even liked me!

I did finish my conversation and makde connections that could serve me well in my professional life. Duties done, I beat a path to dinner to meet up with Lesley and her colleague Tom where we bored him silly with old war stories until another colleague arrived and we bored him too.

So I get through the next day, get home to Jeff and Ali, which was wonderful. I was really happy to get home.

Then, this morning, I was in the middle of my dirty kitchen, finishing up breakfast when Jeff says, "There's someone walking up the drive."

Alison was outside, so of course I looke up to see if she's about to be snatchen and found my friend Denise McFadden and her dog, Daisy, in my front yard.

And again the sun broke out and the angels sang. I love Denise. I even love her husband, Scott.

Knowing them makes that year of toiling in a place I won't name totally worth it.

I love my family. I love my friends.

Life is good.

Here's what made me happy this week:

Today: I'm happy to be in the kitchen with my little family, the NYTimes, coffee and breakfast about to be served.

Yesterday: I am happy to be home. Good trip. But home is, well, home.

Friday: I'm happy that in the midst of schmoozing strangers last night, a friend appeared out of nowhere. Great suprise that made this trip so much more fun. Not that the expected friends weren't already great...

Today I'm happy I was able to put all that early footage from the premiere of 'Revolution' behind me when I traveled the friendly skies yesterday -- did you see when the lights went out all the planes crashed?! Between that show and memories from that book Amy made me read about EMF plunging the world electricity-less, I was plotting out my last seconds! :)

Wednesday: Today I'm happy that when Alison is sleepy she still calls me mommy.

Tuesday: Apparently I wasn't happy....

Monday: Today I'm going to be happy and focused on the fact that when I survive the day, my family will entertain me at home.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Veggie Tales


I tried a recipe for kale chips yesterday. While we've gotten tons better in our eating habits, kale is new menu entry. (confession: first attempt was not so good.)

Alison came in as I had the fiber and vitamin-rich produce spread on a baking sheet.

"What's the green stuff?" she asked.

I defined it for her and said I was going to turn the pile of leaves into potato chips. She volunteered to spray it with the cooking oil. I salted it.

Five to eight minutes later I pulled it out of the oven.

"Mo-om. You said it was going to turn into potato chips!" said the disappointed sous chef.

There's been an unpleasent smell in the fridge that I can't quite locate.

In my latest unsuccessful bid to identify it, I speculated aloud tht might be the asparagus that was waiting to be grilled, but silently decided it wasn't the culprit. Out loud, I mused: "We should have that for dinner tonight."

"You're' gonna make me eat that smell?! exclaimed the small fry.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy is as happy does

For those of you who missed my explanation for the "happyisms" I'll try again. They're not meant to be an in-your-face-I'm-happier-than-you kind of thing.

They're my attempt to punch my demons in the face every morning so I can be a kinder, gentler human being for the next 23 hours.

The theory goes that if you affirmatively start the day thinking you'll be happy, you increase the chances that you actually will be and that you'll be a force for good not evil. I'm not sure it will work forever but it's working for now.

The Photoshoot is a look back at the week. I started doing it for my mother-in-law in Maine so she could watch Alison grow up here in Indiana.

I do it now for me. I'm glad you read it. And I hope that you like it more often than you don't; that it makes you laugh more often than cry or shake your fist or curse; and that it helps us stay happily connected.

I think of Marian Reed every time I type the words PhotoShoot Sunday. Sometimes that makes me cry and sometimes it makes me smile.

The PhotoShoot has gotten me through some really bad times and let me share some really great times. Believe it or not, I do edit some of the content so I don't hurt feelings or cause trouble. Well. Sometimes I do that.

The happyisms are part of the week's reflection.

I get that it might be easier to take on a daily vs. weekly basis, so here are two suggestions for those of you who vomit a little bit in your mouth when you see the collection:

1. Skip them! They're at the bottom of the blog for a reason. I won't be offended.
2. Be happy that if you're reading a week's worth of happy, I've beaten back the demons once again. Light a candle that I keep winning.

You're my friend. You've known me a long time. You've seen me when the demons are in charge. No one wants that.

Love you. Mean it.


Sept. 9... I'm happy that after two days of fun, Alison is tackling her weekend chores without an audible or visible complaint.

Sept. 10...

Sept. 11... I'm happy that we live in a country where our leadership is decided by votes, not bullets. And that we have emergency responders, military, and common citizens willing to rush into the face of danger to serve and protect. It's good to be an American.

Sept. 13 ...I'm happy that even though my muscles are sore they have successfully infiltrated and destroyed some of my fat cell villages.

Sept. 14...I'm happy my neighbor is also my friend and suprise veggie delivery man. He delivered a bag of kale from his farm to my door yesterday. Jeff discovered and stored it so I didn't find it until late last night! Kale chips for everyone!!!! (Thanks, Mark!)

Sept. 15 ... Today I'm happy that even though I don't always deliver, my friends haven't given up on me yet.