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.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In the still of the morning

Some silences are better than others. The quiet that comes from a house where everyone else is still sleeping has more promise than a house that's silent because you happen to be the only one home. 

It's like watching a rain drop start to drip from a flower petal or a rabbit in the middle of your yard: you're witness to something fleeting that if you breathe too hard will disappear. It's not that you won't get this chance again -- but you're the only one in the world who has it now.

I need my quiet. My time when it's just me and I can choose to watch that bunny have my flowers for lunch or with a small rebuke give the daisy a reprieve.

I could tell you that I spend my quiet time as a silent witness to nature taking its course; contemplating where my energies could do the most good; or atoning -- at least in my own head -- for slights or sins I might have committed. I could be meditating.

But that would usually be a lie. 

Generally, I haven't silently sipped my first cup of coffee before I'm evaluating the state of my lawn, which section of house I need to clean, or what I can do next at work. And then, I might squander the rest of my quiet time actually cleaning up or reading a novel that might or might include one or 150 salacious love scenes.

Right now, I'm at the kitchen counter listening to the hum of my refrigerator, the bugs outside who have to know their salad days are about to turn ugly, and the clicking of my keyboard. Jeff is snoozing and Alison and Jenna are downstairs sleeping the sleep of two girls exhausted from giggling and sharing secrets -- the import of which only each other can fully appreciate. 

For Ali, it's a little boy trouble I'm sworn not to discuss. For Jen, she's missing her mother who's on a well-deserved trip to see a friend. But as of 3:47 p.m. yesterday, there's nothing wrong with either of their worlds.  

Thus, there's nothing wrong with mine.

In other news, Team Ogden and Reed (sans husbands) spent some time together yesterday. Hannah, who is rapidly putting her childhood firmly behind her, joined Karin and me in the gym while Alex and Ali ruled the teen center at the Y. Afterward we had lunch, did a little school project shopping and checked out Orange Leaf frozen yogurt for the first time.

We have been avowed Huddles frozen yogurt fans for a while, but the kids were really disappointed when they switched from funky orange spoons to more traditional orange spoons. They're also phasing out Alison's favorite topping -- cookie dough -- and their choices have remained largely the same since we started going.

Orange Leaf is a few miles east of Huddles and features way funky orange spoons and even funkier chairs. It has more flavors and a full bin of cookie dough. We may have an issue with the vanilla flavor. "It has a really weird aftertaste," declares my daughter, 3/4 through and still sorting through marshmallows and cookie dough to get to the frozen confection.

We'd switched up because OL is giving 20 percent of its sales to either Chatard or Cathedral high school -- whichever sends in the most customers willing to declare for one or the other schools.
My guess is we'll stick with OL until Alison has what she deems enough of the funky spoons -- they're kind of like tiny shovels -- which of course makes the yogurt taste better.

We have two days left before we head back to school and work, with much fun and a little homework ahead of us. Alison has to build Zeus' temple for school and Jeff has to decide if he's going to put a bid in to coach Alison's basketball team.

He's a great coach for boys. I know he CAN coach girls. I'm afraid he might forget they're different than the boys he coached back before we were married.

He was prone to some tough love tactics back then. One poor kid had a mother who asked Jeff if he'd go easy on her son because he wasn't used to rigorous play. I'm pretty sure that mother never spoke to Jeff again -- though she may have spoken of him.

Jeff didn't push that poor boy harder than the others, but he certainly didn't let him take a pass on the stuff he made the others do. He used to taunt them with "my dead grandmother can run faster/shoot better/block better than that!"

I think he might have to rethink his motivational tricks if he's to be accepted into this role. Alison is fine with it. 

But I suspect she's hoping if he'll coach her, he might leave math homework to me.