Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peaks and Valleys

Ever seen a yoyo master ply his or her trade? It's a blur of zigs and zags that makes you dizzy.

Such has been my professional life this week.

Happily, I've had other stuff going on, too. Here's to the peaks. To hell with the valleys.

Jeff brought home a bouquet of lilies that had yet to bloom before I left on a quick work trip. They were a great welcome home and have only gotten more gorgeous every day this week. 


After years of claiming to have a terrible case of stage fright, Alison tried out for the 7th Grade play. She got the role of Genie in an adaptation of "Aladdin."  Huzzah to not letting your fears hold you back. 


I'm trying to connect a friend of mine to another PR professional. One had to decline. The next prospect today responded with in minutes to my request with: "You had me at dominatrix."


Ali and Jenna were making cupcakes today and I overheard Alison impart the following wisdom: "I've found that if you give it a good beating, it'll tone right down."

Informed that that phrase exactly describes my parenting style, she rolled her eyes. Jenna giggled. I love Jenna.

It's week three of my debut fantasy football team. Squirrel Gravy has a 1-1 record and is going up today against Valentine's Heart Breakers, which, sadly, Jeff says should live up to its name. 

Alisha has Trent Richardson, who makes his debut as an Indianapolis Colt today. The bad news is he's apparently the best running back in the league right now. The good news is it's his first game with the Colts, and they're up against San Francisco's awesome defense. "So if you have to play against him ever, this is the game to do it," so says my advisor.

A note about that: When Jeff told his buddies I was in a FF league and he was helping me, Ed Kaufman (commissioner of Jeff's FF league for years now a frequent winner) replied, "Uh, why is she listening to you?)  Jeff has a great track record in fantasy baseball. He gets brought back to Earth with is football league. 

Regardless, he's enjoying my foray into football. "There's something sexy about talking football with your wife," he said the day. I have pledged to pay more attention.

Jeff volunteered his best email was when we were texting each other about something and I wrote: "Stop bothering me. I'm evaluating tight ends." I followed that up with a question: "What exactly is a tight end?"

It was funny, he said, because "of the high probability" I really didn't know what a tight is. (I didn't.)

We had a huge storm the other day with lots of thunder and lightning. Ali relocated to the couch to watch it through the living room window. I was sleepy and declined her offer to join.  The next morning I found evidence of who'd joined her.  Yep. Pink Bunny, her very first plush friend, still makes an appearance every now and then.  

Our neighborhood had a food truck gathering at the local park that included a live band that covered a bit of Johnny Cash. We squeezed in dinner there before Ali had to go off to basketball practice. Jeff had a smoked turkey, goat cheese and roasted red pepper sandwich on foccacia. Ali had bacon-topped mac-n-cheese. I had a kale and brussel sprouts salad. Happily for me, they shared bites. Strangley, they didn't want to sample my salad.



For those of you paying attention, I had a great time in NYC Sunday. I wore the shoes for something like three hours straight without sitting down. I think the high of being at the WWHL Clubhouse and being the whole mix of thinks kept the pain at bay. I'll admit that the dogs have wimpered a bit since then, but overall, well worth it. 

And now on to today. Alison will cheer again at the Christ the King football game. Here she is last week, courtesy of Jeff Reed, and a silly one resulting from me finally remembering to bring in a souvenir from a work trip. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sanctioned frivolity

My father-in-law, great man that he is, sent me a check for my birthday last month and instructed me to spend it on something truly frivolous.

I always do what my father-in-law says, and as a diehard Republican, I know he's not inclined to indulge in much frivoulous spending. I'm not either. It goes against my Pentecostal upbringing, and my instruction as a frugal Hoosier in state government.

My friend Angie says Jeff and I are the cheapest people she knows, and while she didn't really mean it as a compliment, I took it as one.

That said, I do like nice things, and I do like nice shoes. I don't wear heels as much as I used to, but tonight I have almost an obligation: I'm staffing Angie while she bartends on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live. 

So, I hadn't yet spent Gary's money, and I needed shoes.  I DID shop around. And when I had found the Stuart Weitzman shoes I really wanted, I still went to another store to see if I could find them cheaper.  And I alerted my fellow frugal partner along with asking for advice from my lady friends before I bought.

Jeff was with Ali at a high school football game, hanging out with his buddy Kit Earle. I texted Jeff a photo of my choices -- the ones I loved, the ones I liked and a pair that was a bit more practical. 

Text 1 to the great shoes: "Kit says absolutely."
Text 2. "I concur."
Text 3. Even informed of the price: "Perfectly frivolous."
Text 4. "I think the first pair is more interesting, but it'd be hard to go wrong with either. Kit concurs, but says the 2d pair might compliment fishnet better."
Text 5 to the third pair. "We aren't interested in the increased practicality of this pair, but appreciate the sturdier heels may have some appeal for the wearer."

My girlfriends were universal in their quick decision to buy pair 1.

So, thank you Gary, for defraying the costs of my work outfit tonight. I would ask you all to tell me to "break a leg" tonight in the tradition of the theatre where that's actually a call for good luck.

Unfortunately the likliehood of it actually happening is greater than it should be. I'm out of practice. But they are really, really pretty....

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Alison is set to cheer the Christ the King Tigers football team this afternoon in her debut performance as a cheerleader.

Amy Tokash (former cheerleader) is thrilled.

I think it's great that she's doing more at school and I do think she looks really cute in her uniform. But I've been a little squeamish about one of the cheers in particular. It's not Miley Cyrus twerking, but it could be a gateway move for all I know.

Lois Stewart (albeit somehat under the influence of pino grigio and ebullience after a fabulous gathering of old friends) rolled her eyes at me about it.  Lois is my arbiter of lady-like behavior and all things proper. So I guess if she's OK with it, I shouldn't fret. 

But she had been drinking... I might have to sober her up and have her her watch again.

Lois and my good friends Cheryl Gonzalez and Angie DeMauro Russo came over to the house last night for a bit after our FOB reunion. It was an adults only gathering so their chance to get a glimpse at the little redhead came at home. She entertained (?) them with her cheers but Jeff called a halt when she wanted to model her uniform. 

I'm 100 percent sure the girls would have been happy to see it. Angie has two boys, Cheryl is always a good sport,  and Lois has been Aunt Lois since Ali was born. 

After she was banished, Lois continued to roll her eyes at me being prim about the cheer moves. She reminded me that she, too, used to be a cheerleader, a fact I'd totally forgotten. 

I'll post some more photos from the game and I should get a move on getting ready for the game. The coach can't be there for the start, and I've offered to help corral the cheerleaders so they're where they should when they should be. I'm strictly logistics. What I don't know about cheerleading could fill the field.

Meanwhile, I'm shopping for a new arbiter of all thinkgs lady-like. 

Wish me luck this week -- it's my first week playing in a fantasy football league. What I know about cheerleading dwarfs what I know about football, but I'm learning. The other women in the league have really fun names. I'm playing against Anita Tight End this week, for example.

After much discussion with Jeff about what my team name should be, we settled on Squirrel Gravy, an homage to my roots and a reflection of my football prowess. I wore my "Squirrel: the Other White Meat" tee-shirt to the draft.

Excerpts from the week prior:

Ali and I were watching TV and an ad for a new show, "Trophy Wife" comes on. She asks what a trophy wife is. Forgetting that earlier in the year, I'd told her that her father had been married before I came into and vastly improved his life, I gave her the standard definition.

"So you're a trophy wife," she said.

"Yes. Yes I am," I said... 


As we were getting ready for her debut performance on the CKS Cheer Team, I wondered out loud what I should wear.

"Anything but your squirrel tee-shirt," she said.

I laughed and reminded her that I loved that shirt.

"Yeah, it's pretty funny," she allowed. "But not around cheer leading."


Surrounded by pins and signs and photos from days gone by, Tom New singled out an 8x10, black and white photo that any Hoosier political junkie would easily recognize as part of every campaign Frank O'Bannon waged in his years at the top of Indiana government.

It's his Indiana University basketball team photo that clearly shows him as a member of the team.

Holding it up, the governor's former campaign director and chief of staff recounted an old and favorite story about how the governor saw the use of that photo as a stretch. He'd never actually played in a "real" game. His action came in practice games, and he really didn't like using the photo for campaigning.

It was one of the few times Tom and the two-term governor argued, and it typified the man who was a true believer in the power of the team and whose leadership style elevated everyone around him. He didn't like using his IU basketball photo because it left the impression he'd had a larger role than he'd actually had.

Problem was, basketball-crazy Hoosiers across the state loved it, and so in every campaign, it was part of the story. At one point Judy suggested the politicos play up Frank's All-American status in volleyball where he actually was a key player. 

"That didn't poll as well," she deadpanned this weekend at a gathering to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the governor's death. 

It was a relatively small group. The organizers knew if there was a blanket invitation, there wouldn't be room to hold everyone who had a special connection to Frank O'Bannon. He was just that kind of guy. Regardless of whether they'd been there from the beginning or nearer the end, everyone gathered at that little shelter house in Rocky Ripple Saturday hold their memories close. 

I'd covered him as a news reporter and I remember my first interiew with him. I'd had to go through Donna Imus, his press secretary when he was Lieutenant Governor. She scared the beejesus out of me and still can, truth be told.  

I didn't have a grand scheme to work for FOB, though I did admire him. It was years and a career change later that I got my chance, and  I will be forever grateful to him and Phil Bremen, who lobbied to get me, for bringing me on board. 

Being deputy press secretary and later Director of Commuications has had a huge impact on my professional life. But the perks weren't just professional. 

My father's faith in the Democratic Party was second only to his Pentecostal faith. His religion and his nature forbade him from out and out bragging, but he was inordinately proud of my time in the Statehouse. 

I once staffed Governor O'Bannon at a fundraiser in Sullivan County. (It's always smart to bring a local girl/boy-made-good when you're out and about...) The governor knew my dad was there, so he made a much bigger deal of my role on the team than it actually was. For FOB, I think it was more than a savvy political move to made a big deal of a near-hometown girl. He was a father, too.  I can still see the grin on my dad's face.

I've never been known for following my father's faith, but in a post 9-11 speech I wrote for the governor, I used a line of Scripture. The governor was a man of faith, too, but like my dad, lived it rather than pushing it onto anyone else. The speech was at an event headlined by the father of Todd Beamer, ("Let's roll") who'd help down one the hijacked Flight 93. Using my remarks, the governor made a reference to Beamer's sacrifice.

The speech was apparently well received and later, the governor was kidding me about using that particular line. I retorted something like, "Hey, I know my Scripture!" 

He grinned and with the devil in his eyes and pointed out that within his preparation material, which I'd included with the speech, I'd left a print out where I'd Googled to find right words and the correct citation. "I don't think you know it that well," he said.

Another time, Cindy Athey called me and said the governor wanted to see me. She didn't elaborate and I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach like when you get called to the principal's office. I was in his office a lot, but generally knew why beforehand. 

I get in there and he says he's just gotten a copy of a book that collected some of the most inspirational or noteworthy speeches made in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. Still wondering what I was doing there, I nodded and went along with him.

He handed me the book. I flipped through it to see some really famous people with excerpts of their commentary. "Look at page 52," he said. And there he was with a line or two.

"You wrote that," he reminded me.

In a world where we're grappling with what to do over poisonous gas attacks, economic turmoil, human rights issues  and difficulties within our own personal lives, these flashbacks aren't really important at all. But they're special to me and anyone who knew FOB has hundreds of his or her own memories and storiees about him.

He sincerely cared about people and he actively worked to improve lives without ever taking full credit. He made you want to be a better person.

He'd done the hard work in actually delivering that speech, and it was his picture in the book. But he made a point to give it to me and to make sure I knew that he valued me. He probably got a bigger kick out of seeing my reaction to the thing than he did in seeing his name next to internationally known leaders.

When I was a news reporter, I learned a lot about writing, reporting, being organized and working ahead to make up for unexpectedly busy times. 

I learned how to be a better human being from Frank O'Bannon, Judy O'Bannon, Cindy Athey, Lois Stewart, Margaret Burlingame, Bobby Small, and dozens of other people who were core to the FOB team. Not that I always follow their edicts and examples. I do, however, always wear a slip now when my dress or skirt is even somewhat filmy. 

Alison was born while I worked with the FOB team. She was the first baby in a while and the Skirts (you ladies know who you are) made sure I had advice and support. The Mini-Skirts (you know who you are) did their part, too. Judy and Jonathan Swain came to visit her in her first days on the planet. 

Alison pointed out her letters on the state seal in the governor's office carpet, gnawed on the furniture and toddled around the place like she was at home. 

Because it was just like home.

When the governor suffered a stroke that September day 10 years ago, we all came back home to that office, streaming in the doors like lost children trying to find our way. It was a terrible, terrible day but we mobilized almost on auto-pilot because we were a team. Because we were a family.

Yesterday was a lot like a family reunion. And I'm grateful and honored and all over again to have had the privilige of working with the team that Frank O'Bannon built, and for still having them as friends. 

I'm sure I'll be a better person again. At least for a least a little while...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Money for nuthin' -- not at my house

While I was off having the gray washed right out of my hair, Jeff had Alison call a friend so when I got back we could all go to the JCC pool.

The friend turned out to be Breanna Tabor -- who is always, always a treat. Like Jenna, Bre has been part of our family for so long we forget she isn't ours. 

At one point, I asked Alison to empty and then fill the diswasher.

"That's not in my contract," she informed me. "I only have to empty the diswasher."

I gave her a sideways look and reminded her that I'd just made her pancakes. "Just kidding," she said, getting to the chore.

"You have a contract with your parents,?!" Bre asked, wide-eyed.

Alison does have a list of chores she is to do in exchange for her allowance. Jeff routinely threatens to take away a dollar when she isn't doing what he thinks she should -- or when she is doing things he thinks she shouldn't. But we don't actually have a chore contract. 

But now that I think about it... I do have a contract around here somewhere from the Ogden children who decided one day they should be paid for their blog appearances... Funny how I can't remember those terms.

"I wish I got an allowance but I don't like to do dishes," Bre said. "I do laundry sometimes."

Alison, industrious now that she had an audience, said, "Well it's not about liking to do stuff. You do stuff and you get money."

Breanna thought a bit. "I like to clean toilets," she offered.

I informed her that I had toilets that I would be happy to let her clean and I even offered to pay her.

"I'll do it for two more dollars a week," Alison countered.

I countered with 50-cents a piece. She did the math and recognized it was two bits short of her bid.

"I could do it for $1.50," she agreed.

"Have you ever actually cleaned a toilet?" I asked. "I'm not sure you know how."

"Sure. You spray in the stuff and let it change color and then you swish around that little squiggly brush and then you flush," she said. "I learned how on TV."

I sent her off to negotiate with her father. He's taken it under consideration but like me, he doubts her zeal for the task. I suspect he'll have a counter offer to her raise.

And just for the record, my toilets remain unscrubbed as of this writing.

In other news, Jeff is nearing the end of his fantasy baseball season and is on the brink of finishing in the money in both of them. One year, it bought us a bigger flat-screen TV. Another year it was diamonds for Christmas. He's in it to win it every second of day.

His fantasy football league draft occurred here last week, and I've made the potential mistake of telling him that I've joined a league myself.

The truth of the matter is that I just want to hang out with the girls in the league and I'm very excited that they asked me to join. I don't really care about football or have the foggiest notion of how to participate in a draft. But I'm super excited about getting together with them.

If only you could learn this crap, I mean stuff, by osmosis.  Jeff can wax on for hours about it, and while I do my best to pay attention, I have, on occasion, drifted off while he explained the nuances in excrutiatingly precise, I mean in fabulous detail.

He was hoping to come with me for the draft. Then he offered to teach me some stuff in advance of it.
So far I've dodged this instruction like "Sweetness" in his hey day. (Yes, I asked Jeff for a great example of a running back (I DID know the term) with made skills in the elusiveness category. I did, however, suggest that Walter Peyton was who I needed.)

My football draft coincides with Jeff's return to playing basketball, but I think if I asked him, he'd wear a wire and speak into my ear ala MacKenzie and Will on The Newsroom even as he ran up and down the court.

This morning he said he was dozing in bed, doing the math about the various things he could teach me about how to effectively participate in a draft -- apparently there are multiple and complex strategies depending on how your draft is conducted, digital vs. paper, etc..  -- compartd to my level of patience and interest.

I think he decided that any time he invested in me would be a negative return on his investment.

He's probably right.

Regardless, I'm going to have fun. I might even put my listening ears on when he talks about his own league. Maybe if he paid me......