Sunday, April 28, 2013

50 Shades of Gray -- and not the fun kind

Does your mood ever reflect the weather?

Mine does. I prefer the summer above all seasons -- even when it's so muggy the mosquitos stop swim through the air to snack on you. I like to think that means my default setting is sunny and bright.

Today, unfortunately, was gray and drizzly. Good for the flowers we planted yesterday at the neighborhood park but not at all the reward I was looking for after our volunteer effort. I'm a little sore, but Jeff hurt his back so bad that he skipped basketball and the batting cave. (I know he's really sick and not just whining when he gives up fun stuff.)

We haven't been good neighbors for the past couple of years as other obligations made us miss the annual clean up event, so it's possible we worked a little harder than normal. By my estimate, we owe them at least a few more years of hard labor Alison loved that park when she was little.

Lately it's just a green flash as we pass it going up or down the Monon on our bikes. But I figure it'll be where she first tries cigarettes and booze if she ever discovers that she won't fall down dead immediately if either substance passes her lips.

I'm not sure exactly where she got that idea, but she's sure her mild asthma will do her in if she ever indulges. I see no need to correct her.

While Jeff and I were toiling, Alison got distracted by a little boy who needed some company on the playground, newly cleared of weeds thanks to Alison. Before our three-hour tour was up, she's gotten two phone numbers from moms who thought she might be a good, local babysitter.

"I've got to come down here more often," she said, waving her paper with the first mom's number.

She's a week away from turning 12, which I think was about the time I started babysitting. I'm not sure the Johnsons ever really thought about my qualifications. And it's a good thing they never came home unexpectedly or that Kelly, Shelly or Michael ever ratted me out for being a terrible babysitter. I remember a lot of Totino's pizza and TV.

I'm sure Alison will do much better as an authority figure than I did.

We had Jenna for a while this weekend and as we came home from delivering her, I asked Ali if they'd talked about high school again. They spent five years together in day care but have been torn asunder for elementary and middle school. They've been plotting an educational reunion for a while.

"A little," she said. "You know we're going to North Central."

I just nodded. She looked over at me. "You're going to cry when I go to college, aren't you?" she asked.

"Maybe," I allowed. "I'll be sad. But I'll be happy, too."

"You know I'll visit, and you know you can visit me, right? " she said.

I nodded, but was calculating the odds of college-girl Alison wanting her mom on campus...

Like I said, gray and drizzly.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I stand with Boston; I stand with America

I'm not sure we learned anything this week.

We knew before Monday that there are crazy people in the world who think it's OK to kill children and innocents in order to make a statement.

We knew before Monday that there are good people who'll run toward the danger to help in a crisis.

So yes. There are bad guys and girls in the world. Prisons are full of 'em. Everyone has someone in their life they could happily live without ever seeing again. But those people are annoying. They're not evil.

By and large, we're mostly good people. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And many of us are extraordinarily good when push comes to shove.

Why is it so easy to forget that? Why is it so easy to focus on what can divide us rather than what can make us stronger?

Would someone please tell Congress that most of us don't really care what goes on in each other's bedrooms. Most of don't see a need for civilians to own weapons of mass destruction. Most of us would rather avoid a fight than start one. Most of us remember that it wasn't that long ago that our families were hitting this shore for the first time -- and that nearly all of them contributed positively to the shaping of this country.

As we start this week fresh, I hope we'll remember that Bruins and Red Sox games where the audience took over the national anthem and sang every damn word loud and proud; when Neil Diamond flew in to sing "Sweet Caroline" to give the crowd a jolt; the police officer who delivered milk to the family on lockdown whose babies needed it; the first responders who gave their lives in Texas, the innocents --and the innocence -- lost.

The police who took a somewhat maddening meticulous (to those of us watching safely on TV) approach to apprehending the suspect as safely as possible.

I hope we remember that we're Americans and that we stand for opportunity for everyone.

I don't know why those men decided to turn against the country that gave them safe haven. I don't know if lax regulation made that fertilizer plant blow up in Texas, and I don't know why anyone thinks violence is the best route to accomplish a dream.

But I know that when I told my daughter that a state rep. in Arkansas made fun of Boston liberals for staying in their homes, saying he bet they wished they had assault rifles, she said, "Well that's stupid. They were doing what the police asked them to do so no one else got hurt, right?"

And when I told her that a U.S. Congressman thought we needed to tighten our immigration laws because of the Boston Marathan bombing, she said. "We're all immigrants, aren't we?"

And when we talk about two people wanting to be married, she doesn't ask if they're a same-sex couple, she just celebrates their love.

She's a month away from being 12.

There's hope, America. Don't forget that.

Remember those voices lifted in song.

Remember David Ortiz -- born in the Dominican Republic who became a U.S. citizen in 2008 -- at the Red Sox game telling the crowd:

"This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston. We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department, for the great job that they did this past week. This is our f–king city! And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

Remember the cop who got milk for that family.

Remember Patton Oswalt: "The good outnumber you and we always will."

Remember the couple who saw something odd about their boat and followed the request of law enforcement to report it rather just go out to fix it.

For the sake of us all, just please remember.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My dad the international thief

So Jeff has one more cool factor point ahead of me in the parenting department. Alison found out about his international thief status the other day and is so impressed she can't stand it.

The worst part is that it's entirely my fault. Ali and I were studying for her social studies test this week and it had to do with Russia, which involved communism which involved the fall of the Berlin wall.

"You know we have a piece of that wall," I said, sure she'd roll her eyes and say, "Yes I know, Mom. You've already told me that story.".

"What?!" she said.

"You've seen it a million times. It's next to my piece of coal back from when we were coal moguls," I said in a half-hearted attempt to remind her that I am responsible for us having a cool rock in the house, too.

"Where did it come from?" she asked -- not at all interested in the home-grown rock but dazzled by the overseas, man-made specimen.

"You should let your dad tell you the story," I said. "But back when he was in the Army, he got a piece of the wall. He could have gotten way in trouble, too."

"Cool," she said.

So yesterday morning, she finally saw her father long enough to have a conversation. He's had a lot of late nights working the past couple of weeks. And for some of that I use the term "working" loosely. I reminded her to ask him about the piece of the wall.

So he launches into the saga of when he and a buddy were in Berlin and noticed that a new building was going up near the wall. A pile driver was making a bunch of rhythmic noise as part of a new building construction project.

You can just see them look at each other, look at the pile driver and look at the wall. So, they somehow arm themselves with some hand tools and in violation of about seven U.S., East German, AND West German laws, treaties and/or regulations, they snuck down a deserted, dead-end alley and waited for the pounding of the machine.

They timed their own hammers and chisels to wrest away pieces of the historic barrier.

"Were you wearing your uniform?" she asked, eyes all agog.

"Oh good heavens no," he said said, fondling his graffiti-covered rock totally transfixed in his stroll down his crime-ridden memory lane.

"We really shouldn't have been there, and I shouldn't be telling you this story because it was wrong," he said. "Really wrong. Like really wrong to break the law and I don't want you to think that it's OK."

"Yeah," she said, totally in love with the idea and strolling arm and arm with him in Berlin. "And you're an attorney, too!"

I may have rolled my eyes. I might have even considered asking him if he'd violated any other international treaties or laws or guidelines and wanted to share those escapades with our pre-teen.

But I didn't. Cause I'm a good wife and an even better mother. "(Ha!)

Ali wanted to take the rock to school to show it off but she's fretting that it'll get her father arrested. I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out by now but maybe we'll stay out of Germany just to be safe...

So yeah. He's a super cool international thief. Way ahead of me in the favorite parent of the week.

I'm just the one who made sure she had lunch, got picked up from school and had underwear that fits. And hid from the storm with her in the basement. And helped her through an incident at school with a friend who wasn't being very friend-like.

But as we worked through the friend issue -- I'm proud to say she came up with the solution on her own -- she did turn to me and say through her tears, "Thanks for helping me with this, Mom. I really appreciate it."

I jest from time to time about Jeff being cooler than I am. I'm not actually bitter. To quote the universally regarded philosopher, Popeye, "I am what I am." And I'm totally OK with it.

Together, the captain and I seem to make a pretty good team most of the time. We're pretty far away from perfect, but we tend to fill in each other's gaps whether it's about Alison or housework or anything else that comes our way. We're very fortunate, and I think she is, too.

Now, if she turns out to be an international thief, or even a domestic one, I'm totally blaming him.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Morning Coming Down (apologies to Kris Kristofferson.)

I love spring weekends. The first day in the yard with the sun at your back coaxing colors to burst through the soil with their happy little faces; birds chattering and neighbors strolling by laughing at you as you sweat and they saunter. Even the beady eyed little squirrels scoping out where my bulbs are hidden don't get me down.

It's only later that my un-spring-seasoned muscles turn on me and I remember that I don't really do squats anymore or rake or turn and twist to fill lawn bags full of the stuff I should have gotten rid of last fall. Kristofferson recovered from his drugs on Sunday morning; I recover from mine.

Happily for me, the back porch was beckoning. It had been full of our garage stuff, but now it's clean and offering a nice little recooperative space. As we cleaned up last week, Alison decided it was time to take down her artwork that had been decorating a far wall since she first started putting paint to paper.

Now, it's prime time for Sunday morning with the paper and coffee, family dinner and home to the Back Porch Beauty Shop where we'll paint nails and probably straighten hair. Jeff put an old boom box in the garage years ago so he could rock out when he grills. It now plays mostly country music, much to his and Ali's chagrin. I'm pretty sure the neighbors side with me.

We have a Monopoly game spread out on the dining room table. I was playing the part of the mogul. Jeff and Ali were cash poor and horsetrading when we had to break for bedtime and somehow we haven't gotten back to it. Funny how that works.

We had a bit of excitement this morning when Alison woke up without her bottom retainer. I hadn't had two sips of coffe before she came rushing at me all panic-stricken with the news. She wears the bottom retainer only when she sleeps so while I we were going through her room, I was pushing aside visions of her sleep walking and flushing the thing down the toilet.

We spent a good hour on the job before Jeff got up. He joined in before he went off to basketball and he was certaint that the laws of physics had been broken. "It couldn't have just gotten out of your mouth on its own," he said, ordering her hither and yon throughout the house.

I took a break and reasoned that it had to be in the house somewhere. Ali and I went back at this. This time actually removing furniture in our zeal to check every nook and cranny. The room is tiny but she loves it and refuses to move downstairs to one at least triple the size. I eventually stepped on the missing retainer after moving her bed and sweeping for the 12th time.

I just barely lived through her hug of thanksgiving but it didn't seem right to stop her. Oxygen is over-rated.

In any case, the aches (both self-inflicted and from my child) are worth the already burgeoning color in the yard and the still-straight smile on her face. Jeff had fantasy baseball drafting, basketball and work at the office to do so we didn't much of him this weekend. What we did see was kind of handsome as you can see below. I have that shot only because I was teasing a reporter who'd reported that Indy is among the worst dressed cities in America for men. I sent her that shot as proof that the report is wrong. (I didn't share the ones that supported the report...)

In any case, the captain is home, Blake Shelton is crooning from the garage and I have wine leftover from another fabulous Friday Book Club. Our book was "The Good Earth." How ironic is that?  My earth was better to me than poor Olan; better husband and family, too.

It's good to have a weekend. And a back porch.