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.