Sunday, June 30, 2013

Where the Monon Ends

There will come a time when Jeff Reed doubts my love.  If you're around when this happens, please point out that on Sunday, June 30, 2013, on what some call a day of rest and when I was just starting to recover from a wicked cold, I ironed his shirts.

Four of them. 

You know I'm no June Cleaver, but I do try to at least keep the place clean and food in the fridge and cupboards. Ironing has never been my strong suit.

This afternoon, as I dodged steam and re-ironed the wrinkles that formed after I'd already gone over that particular area six times already, I was grateful that we have jobs. Jobs that pay us money. Money that I gladly give the dry cleaner every other week or so to wash and iron Jeff's dress shirts.

My mother loved to iron, but my father built houses for a living. He wore dress shirts to church -- and yes, we went twice on Sunday, Wednesday night and every night for a week during summer tent revival. Jeff wears a tie just about every day. Sometimes he takes the stick out of his, I mean sometimes he dresses down on Fridays, but he's a suit kind of guy.

He wore a suit Friday to drop Ali off at the airport just in case there was some trouble at the gate as we did our first "unaccompanied minor" transaction. He thinks -- probably rightly so -- that the better dressed you are, the better regard strangers afford you. 

He had actually planned to iron the shirts himself, but he has a tendency to put off the things he doesn't really want to do. So I made a deal with him that if he cooked, I'd iron. Silly, silly me. He would have cooked anyway.

But there I was, reverted to a 1950's housewife. I can't remember the last time we had a can of spray starch in this house. And I'd forgotten how tricky it is to use the pointy end of the ironing board to get the sleeves right. Oy. Four shirts is a lot.

And yes, I might have cursed the tailor who quite ably made the shirts Jeff found on sale a little more snug than the other shirts that hang in his closet and, since he really focused on getting in shape, need a bit of tailoring, too. If that tailor wants me to love him as much as I love the John at Atlas DryCleaning on Keystone, he'll iron the damn things after he takes them in.

I believe I managed not to scorch any of the shirts, but there may be patches where they're not exactly wrinkle-free. I think Jeff should keep his suit jacket on until these shirts go to the cleaners.

In other news, Alison got off to the airport just fine, and she and Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter are having a fine time. She's made breakfast the past couple of days and seems to be adjusting well. I've heard from her a couple of times.  This morning she called to tell me that the lake is full of loons and they call to each other across the way all the time.

In our Date Week, so far, Jeff and I have had drinks at his fancy "The Libertine" bar; taken a long bike ride that went miles beyond where the Monon is paved; went to a party; and have plans for more adult-ish kind of fun.

I have to say that while I'm very grateful for the dry cleaner, I'm even more grateful that Jennifer and Peter have set this time apart to have Alison out there with them. It means a lot to me that they want to spend their own time with her. And again, I'm grateful we have jobs that enable us to afford these things. 

Ali loves all of her Maine family, of course, and the visits we've made together have all created wonderful memories.

But this is different. She's on her own -- sort of. And having adventures that she gets to create without a parent hanging around.

The afternoon before she flew off, we were out doing last-minute things and talking about the trip. "I think we should do this every year," she said.

I laughed and said said Auntie Jen might have something to say about that -- and that we should ask her at the END of the week if she was open to the idea of an annual trip.

Alison was aghast at the idea that she couldn't be a welcome guest for more than 7 days. I reminded her that Jennifer wasn't used to have kids around that long and that she was used to being around adults more.

"Oh, so she might say words I can't say?" Alison asked.  

I laughed again.  "Oh you won't have that kind of trouble with Jen," I said.

"Right," Ali agreed. "That's James and David. You know I banned myself from their canoe after I learned seven words that time we went on the river."

She's going to have a great time as she explores her own path beyond where where the pavement ends.  Evidence is this first shot.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Don Juan DeMarco

100 years ago or so, Jeff and I met and started flirting around the edges of each other's lives. At one point or another -- with other people possibly -- we saw the Marlon Brando, Johhnny Depp movie, Don Juane DeMarco, released in 1995.

it's a silly movie. Possibly the movie where Johnny Depp discovered eyeliner. Certainly focused on the need to be romantic. Or at least aware of the occasional need for romance.

As some of my co-workers discovered Thursday when I dropped into a work party, sweaty from my workout, paranormal romance novel in hand. John Buck started reading from the back to the potentially aghast group of men around me.

I was not ashamed, though, and schooled the young men on the benefits that could come their way if they fully understood the ramifications of a good romantical (some may say soft-porn) library. They need to endorse, embrace, encourage the reading of books that wax romantical. I hope I don't need to tell you why.

In any event, the movie was on HBO this morning and we couldn't stop watching. It's totally worth your 90 minutes. Young Johnny Depp. Old Brando discovering late in life the need and ability to sweep his long-suffering wife off her feet.

Days before he retires, he asks her, "What are your dreams, your hopes? What were you doing, dreaming when I was working and thinking only of myself."

She gapes. He smiles and wonders why she doesn't immediately answer. Finally, she beams and says, "I thought you'd never ask."

It's a good lesson, and one, sadly, I need to learn more than Jeff does. He is tres romantical and a great partner.  I had to work really late one day this week and I came home to find dinner ready and a drink waiting.

"This is the kind of guy you need to marry, Alison," I said.

She rolled her eyes. But I do think she gets it. They had a fun night out while I had Book Club Friday. She'd been rushed through the Indianapolis Art Museum at camp last week and wanted to go back. He was over the moon at the chance to take her out. She even wore a dress!

Now, for the record, he farts entirely too often and too loudly. He is loud. He tends to want my attention often at the precise time I'm totally focused on something else.  He rarely puts away his own folded clothes, and if I had a nickel for every time he mopped or swept the kitchen floor, I still couldn't buy myself a cup of coffee. 

But no one's perfect. As far as I could tell, Don Juan never held a real job. But he was pretty. And, if legend is to be believed, he is "the greatest lover the world has ever known."

Sigh. My life is good.

On Friday, Alison will fly off -- all alone --to visit Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter. She is beside herself with excitement. Jeff is already plotting. Well. You know what he's plotting.

Myself, I'm both proud of her for being not one bit afraid of flying with out us and worried that I won't be with her. Invariably when we fly, I always go through the worst--case scenario in my head, plan to put the oxygen mask on first so I can get her all taken care of  and then, depending on whether we're flying over water or land, I plan for what might happen after the emergency landing. 

I wish I was making this up.

So Friday, I'll fret until I hear from Jen that she's arrived safely. And then I won't worry again until she gets back on the plane to come home. OK I lied. I'll worry that she'll drown after crashing on her 15th try to gtet up on water skiis. Or that she'll sneak out at night and get eaten by a bear. Or, oh, hell, I don't know, get carried away by a moose. I'm a mother. I worry.

Unless, of course, my own Don Juan can keep me occupied...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How does your garden grow?

I don't know what most people think about when they're doing yard work. Whether it's just a chore to get through or whether it's a time to celebrate the wonder of nature and revel in the idea that if you put this thing there it will turn into something wonderful later.


Sometimes you don't do it right or you don't stick with it and your lovely green shoot shrivels up like a 12 day-old piece of lettuce and lays there mocking your delusion of gardening grandeur. Sometimes the squirrels eat your little shoot for lunch. Sometimes the grubs and weevils sneak in under cover of the soil to do your little plant in.

But when it works, it's glorious.

I was thinking about this the other day when I swung into the drive to notice the yellow flowers on the ground cover whose name escaped me shortly after I put it in. The purple and pink flox flowers my friends planted in honor of Alison and which I have supplemented have faded; the little white bells on the hostas that came with the house are gone; and the irises I transplanted from my mother's yard chose to sleep through this year's season . So it's  the yellow flowers' turn to shine.

My lilac bushes are struggling but hinting at good things to come. Just starting to pop out are the pink daisy-like flowers, the purple tiny flowers on the lamb's ears and the in-your-face orange day lilies. On deck are the black-eyed susans. Those flowers are a mix of transplants from back home and things I've picked up over the years.

They'll see us through summer and then the mums should make their presence known.

Fifteen years or so ago when Jeff and I moved into this house, there was a sweet gum tree in the front yard spilling nasty sticky balls all over the yard and hoarding the sun. What grass there was was laced with sticky balls and bare patches and weeds with more family members than the Kardashians.  The front walk was a series of flat cement squares mostly dug into the ground as if they knew they were too heavy to fly away and tunneling to China seemed like a good second choice.

Scraggly evergreen bushes and trees added a splash of green. The  oak and magnolia trees showed promise, but this was January and they were shivering, naked in the spotty snow. In a nutshell, it was not a jungle out there.

But after a few years of digging in the ground, releasing the sweet gum tree to a far better life as firewood and dramatically improving the drive and front walk, we now have a veritable rainbow of color from spring to fall. 

And for that I'm grateful. Yes, it was a lot of work. Some stuff withered along way either by my mishandling it or the vagaries of nature. My neighbors will assure you that there's still some work to do. But lots of stuff has worked. In part because I show it some attention from time to time. But mostly because given time, most things can find a way to survive, and sometimes thrive...

It's not unlike other living, growing things in my life. I battle depression and job-related stress just as I battle weeds, squirrels and grubs. Sometimes that keeps me from properly caring for the human people in my garden. Working in the yard helps me get back to center; to put things into better perspective.

The ephiphany I had in the driveway the other day was that my yard has come a long way over the years but it's doing OK. And if I can just remember how my flower garden grows, I can remember that my profession and my family will grow the same way.

I came within a hair's breadth of understanding something my father had down cold: patience and faith. I actually don't know if he really had it down, but he sure acted like he did. He handled the stresses of life -- and believe you me, he had much more trouble to worry about than I do -- with this calm kind of outlook and belief that if you plant good stuff and tend to it a bit, more good stuff will grow than will bad stuff.  You have to take a bit of loss, a set back here and there. You have to give it time.

But somehow, someway, you'll make it through and you'll have something beautiful to look at when you come home at the end of a rotten day. 

I'm not a Master Gardener (a title that actually exists) in any of my various fields. But I have some really pretty crops. And I'm going to focus on celebrating them instead of focusing on the weeds.

Hope your Fathers Day was as good as ours. Among Jeff's gifts were comic books and a subscription to, which will enable him to watch the Red Sox and any other game that's being played on a variety of devices.

We won't see him until October. 

Ali and I tried our hand at tiramisu again ( with better tools) and she is finishing up dinner prep now. 

Happy Fathers' Day!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The art of summer

Before I hand it over to a guest blogger (who doesn't yet know she's guest blogging) I just want to thank The Golden Ace and Santorini's Greek Kitchen for serving my sweaty self fresh from the gym and my semi-sweaty friend, Jodie, who'd helped on a Habitat for Humanity build earlier in the day. Also, Jeff and Troy, who both were still in work clothes and looked like they belonged out on the town, who still agreed to sit down with us.

We followed up the dinner out (Ali was at Jenna's for a sleep-over) with a trip to Talbott Street Art Fair -- always fun. Today, I fear I'll have to work out twice to make up for the other.

As we entered the art fair, I told Ali that her father was there to appreciate the art but he was mostly concerned about the food he'd find.

"Mom," she said. "Food IS art."

She is her father's daughter... And now, the guest post, gently edited, from Amy Tokash:

She was hosting a dual sleepover -- Drew and Jenna each had their best friends over. I know I've mentioned that Jenna and Ali claim to have become friends while still in utero. Andrew Tokash (Drew to the world) and Andrew Fralich had to wait until Day Nursery to meet, but they're just as commite to each other as the girls.

The foursome does play together a bit, but the boys are, well, boys and the girls are girls. So there's a lot of sibling jeering back and forth. They tend to separate when forced together. The boys apparently had biked off to chase neighborhood girls (not the icky, sister-y kind) and the girls had gone to the neighborhood pool. 

Some parents would have lived it up, watched non-animated movies or had a tryst as they enjoyed the solitude. Knowing Amy, she probably trysted with her washer and dryer. 

In any event, the girls had an 8:30 curfew. The boys (two years older) got an extra hour.
In between the time they had to come home and stay home, the girls were total water sprites. They boys interrupted their girl-chasing to stop by home to eat a whole bag of Doritoes.  Then they went to the pool and probably annoyed Ali and Jen for a bit.  Then it was back home for tacos.  Then video games downstairs (with the girls who'd only reluctantly dragged their butts home, lured no doubt by the taco aroma drifting down the street). The boys went back outside on their bikes.
As they left, the girls hot-footed it upstairs to track down the lady of the house.

J:  "The boys don't have to be home until 9:30!!  It's not fair!"
Amy:  "They are two years older and boys.  Big difference.  And it's not midnight; it's one hour later."
J:  "Whine, whine, whine."
A:  "Whine, whine, whine."
Amy:  "Come here and let me hug you both and wholeheartedly apologize for loving you both so much that I don't want anything to happen to either of you."  Big hugs.  Yes, they still both let me and even hugged me back.
J:  "But we have a NICE neighborhood, Mom!"
A:  "Yeah, because one of my friends, she lives in a neighborhood that if you go trick-or-treating, you get abducted and stuff stolen from you!"
Amy:  "Unfortunately, girls, good neighborhoods or bad neighborhoods, there are bad people everywhere, even here.  They may just be driving through looking for a really cute redhead and a brunette to pick up.  Besides, Cat, what in the world would your mom and dad say to me if I had to call them and tell them that you and Jen never made it back from the pool?"
A:  "I know what my dad would say--he'd say 'What the BLEEEP!   And my mom would probably just make another baby."
Amy:  After dying laughing inside said, "I may not know your mom through and through, but there's one thing I know for certain, and that's that we're BOTH done making babies!  I can bet my house on that!"
A:  "Ewwwwww!  Can we stop talking about THAT?!?"
Amy:  "You brought it up, Cat!"
Two gigantic eyerolls and a trip back up to the safe haven (away from those two-year older dudes, who just happened to walk in the house at 8:55) of Jen's room, and that was that. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Of tools and schools and summertime

We're not quite done with Alison's room but she's moved back into it as we work on the final touches to her new,
more grown up decor. Three garbage bags of stuffed animals await new homes, as does a four-foot-tall stack of 
once mesmerizing boks.

Yesterday we did our usual errands. Alison made cookies as she did her chores and at one point got a little snotty.
Not in a horrible way, but just enough past cute to be annoying.

I remarked that I was a bit unhappy with her attitude. We chatted a bit and she went about her business.  She 
was quieter than usual for far too long and I asked if she was OK. "Just trying not to be snotty," she said.

Oh well then.

We chatted some more.

She's not even an eye-roller yet, so I'm not really complaining. She ended her school year Friday with really
great indications of another good year. We celebrated a little bit with a stroll down to Mama Corrolla's. She is
just about ready to admit Mama has a bit of an edge over her favorite, Fazoli's.

And she's not too greedy, either. I was all set to treat her to a zebra print rug to go with her new bedding but 
"That's just too much, Mom."

Not as in, "Oh you've done so much for me already," but as in overkill with the zebra theme. She picked out a 
turquoise shag and one small pillow to help that color punch. We haven't decided what to do with the curtain yet.
While we were in the store, she was eyeing some new books and I reminded her that she could use her 

She reminded me that she's still paying off her new retainer after having her original fall out of her pocket at 
Lowe's on a paint run. By the time she remembered where it was and she and Jeff went back, it had been
run over by a shopping cart. She's forfeiting her allowance to pay half the replacement cost.

Don't tell her, but if her report card comes back as good as we expect, the captain is going to forgive her debt.
Totall his idea and a reward for her working hard at her core job: school.

As she's out for the summer, I suspect she'll be trying to expand her culinary skills, and the Captain is all about it.
He came home the other day with a new  kitchen toy: a small blow torch. Because you can't make creme brulee 
without a blow torch..

I'm not sure which of them was more excited when Jeff came home with it. It's second only to his absinthe mister.
He had to have that after his new favorite bartenders showed him how they make this new drink he's in love 
with -- a sazerac. 

It requires you to put absinthe in an iced glass then toss it out. In a shaker, you mix simple syrup, rye, 
Peychaud's bitters and ice. You strain that into the iced, absinthe-coated glass, twist a lemon peel over the
glass, then rim the glass with the lemon.

Jeff didn't want to waste the absinthe by following the recipe as he found it. The guys at the Libertine make the 
drink with a special mister, which I'm sure was designed for something else. But of course we have one of those
things now.

As for me, I'm enjoying my back porch and my yard with the same set of tools I had last year: a newspaper, a
pencil for the crossword puzzle, and my iPad. I guess I did kill the old lawn mower last year and so I have a new
one of those. But the shovel and the spade are older than Ali. So I'm still mostly old school.

Shots today include a bouquet my neighbor surprised me with as a thank you for a little work I did in her yard. 
She's a single mom, and I'm a little lopsided in my debt to Karma, so it's a win-win.

Go here for a look at her old room, complete with dum dum wrapper wall paper: