Sunday, October 20, 2013

And the beet goes on

Karma can be a bitch, but this week, she's done nothing but smile on us so I'm pretty happy with her.

Alison has been off with Jenna, so that left Jeff and me with a couple free nights. Night one, he was at a concert and I was blissfully at home alone with the remote and half a bottle of wine.

Saturday morning found me out in the yard dodging an occasional, chilly October rain while I ripped up a bunch of bricks I'd decided needed relocated from bordering my backyard flower beds.  I have this narrow strip of yard that runs along the east side of my house house, connecting front and back yards.

Along the house, there are healthy bushes, our basement escape hatch, the air conditioner and gas meter and a small tree or two. But between that strip and the neighbor's brick yard is a strip of Earth that has a bad case of going bald. Oh, dandelions and scrub grass will pop up here and there, but come August when I run the lawn mower over it, I cause a dust storm that would wake the Scorpion King.

So putting down a walkway seemed like a smart way to go, and the bricks were just sitting there. About 6.3 billion of them. 

I got out the wheelbarrow one day in the summer and relocated them. At first I was just wanting to give myself an idea of what it would look like. So I didn't prepare the ground or put down plastic or do anything but configure the bricks into a pattern. 

Before you knew it, they were all down. Some were nubby with mortar still attached to them where they used to be part of the original neighborh's wall. Others were smooth. Some were taller than others. It wasn't pretty but it did cover the ground. I wondered how long natural erosion would take to smooth them down like river rocks while they snuggled into the ground to level themselves out magically.   I'd planned to put down mulch to even up the edges and sort of disguise my work while the erosion thing happened.

To be honest, it wasn't pretty. It wasn't well-received. And I'd been thinking about how to deal with ever since the family had discovered my latest spontaneous home improvement project.

And then this week, My friend Karen -- despite Squirrel Gravy kicking her Live Action in fantasy football last week -- had offered to drop off a bunch of mulch after a tree was taken down at her house. So I was going to move that mulch to cover my brick walkway.

But even as I contemplated whether I could get the mulch and cover up the thing before Jeff woke up and caught me, I kept hearing his and others' reaction to the whole idea.

Alison: "Mom, how are Alex and I going to run through there barefoot when we play hide-and-seek? It hurts my feet."

Jeff: "That's not going to work, Cheryl. You're going to get weeds and how are you going to get the leaves without scraping off your mulch?

Even my neighbor, Mark, owner of the brick wall: "I think you're going to have some issues when the rain comes."

So I spent Saturday morning pulling up all 6.3 billion bricks and putting them back where they belong. You think planking is hard?  Brick work is harder. And longer.  But they're all back where they belong and the pathway is back to its bald-headed look.  

And here's where Karma comes in.  I'd gotten everything put away. My arms were trembling. My back was aching. And all I could think of was that truck-full of mulch headed my way that would have to be shoveled and put into the various flower beds. I was already a muddy mess. I'd broken a nail and had raw spots on the backs of my ankles from wearing my boots without socks. (I hadn't wanted to wake Jeff up and would have had I gone in to get my socks.)

I was in the kitchen, contemplating whether to shower, when I would just get dirty all over again, when my phone buzzed. It was Karen telling me the rain had washed out the tree service so there would be no mulch this weekend.

I may have fallen to my knees to praise God or Karma or whomever had sent the rain. I'm not sure.  All I know is the lack of Round 2 with the yard left me time to shower, recover and have a lovely night out with Jeff.

We went, finally, to Delicia, which is probably a mile away from our house. We'd wanted to go there for a while but had been told it was hard to get in and we're poor dinner planners. We had a school fundraiser and an award winning Broad Ripple Kiwanis fundraiser on the schedule before dinner, but I advised the school folks we weren't going to make it. (I'll send in money Monday to keep my friend Karma happy.)

So we set off walking to Delicia. By early evening, it was brisk, but dry. It was a great walk. When we arrived -- early so we could make the Kiwanis event at The Speak Easy Indy, there were only three tables occupied on our side of the restaurant.

Our waiter, Alejandro, was telling us of the specials. One of which was a spicy beet salad. He was extolling its virtues and all the accompanying vegetables and peppers. "But there are still beets in there, right?" I asked.

He confirmed it. I advised him that I'd like to try it but I'd recently tried to convince myself that I could eat beets -- they're kind of the popular root vegetable right now -- but no, I hadn't like Napolese's beets.  Alejandro thought Delicia had a special take on it.  I was not convinced.

We did order drinks while we perused the Latin menu. My mojhito was excellent but came in a water-glass sized container. Jeff had some fancy thing but was jealous of my drink and had to have one himself. On top of the wine we'd finished, I was a little woozy before the appetizer came.

Before the goat cheese-stuffed jalapenos arrived, Alejandro dropped by with a slice of beet on a saucer for me. "So you can decide," he said.

I appreciated the gesture. Really I did. But to me, it looked like a bit of raw liver looking up at me. Raw liver that tastes like dirt. You can spice up dirt, but it's still dirt. With the texture of raw organ meat. Blech.

The entrees, however, were extreme. So amazing. I had corn cakes with shredded beef and Jeff had fish tacos. It was so amazing. Made me think they might have made similar magic with the beets.

Jeff loves flan, which to me is the beet of desserts, so I had coffee. The restaurant was nearly at capacity by this point -- and it wasn't 7 o'oclock yet. The hostess came by to ask if we'd mind moving to a two-top. They had two, two-tops left and we were at one of them. A disabled American veteran in a party of six was waiting for a seat.  Of course we didn't mind and happily scooted over.

Jeff had his flan and I had my coffee and we were talking about walking to the next event where I was sure my body wouldn't tolerate one more bit of liquor.  The bill came and they'd not just treated us to dessert and coffee, they'd doubled the cost and deducted it.

Delicia would have been on our list of favorite restaurants before then, but consider this:  it's fabulous food, indulgent wait staff, generous in pour and portion, and they're kind to veterans.

Love them. Will definitely be back.

Right now I have to scoot to Alison's football game and then get her off to  basketabll game. Jenna and Amy will get to watch, so it'll be super cool.

I'm going to have to do something nice for someone today to keep my karmic roll going. I'm accepting ideas for good deeds....

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My daughter has been kid-nap-ed

This happens every so often. Amy Tokash will get a wild hair, decide she needs two daughters and call me up to demand I give Alison over to her until she's ready to give her back.

I almost always say yes because every so often, I get a wild hair, decide I need two daughters and call Amer up to demand my Jenna rights.

Alison is in heaven at Amy's house where she gets fed her fill of white bread toast and gets introduced to exotic things like Ho Hos, Hot Pockets and chicken and rice. She'll go over there regardless of season but summer offers the neighborhood pool, so I'm lucky I see her at all from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Here's how you know your kid is in good hands with your friend: Amy almost always plans to pick Alison up before she gets Jenna so she can have some alone time with her Cat. (shortened from Ali Cat back in the day.)

"If I don't do that, I'll never get a word in edgewise once she gets with Jenna," explains the elder Tokash.

Alison, of course, loves Amy, and lately she loves an audience, so I'm sure she didn't stop talking from our driveway to Amy's. Had I cocked my head to the left, I would have heard the squeals and screams as Amy pulled into Chez Tokash, which is about five or six miles north of us. 

Which would have been the only peep I've heard from that pack of losers since Amy absconded with my only child. Well that's not true. She DID text me, asking if I still have a waiver on file with the local Sky Zone for Alison. She and Jenna were going to trampoline for a couple of hours while Drew and Fralich took in a hockey game.

As for me, Jeff had left me, too. He and Duane Jasheway went off to Bloomington to see a band so I was left to my own devices.

It was WONDERFUL. I did work out and grocery shop. I even started laundery as my chore-girl wasn't going to be here to do it. A quck shower and it was me with the big screen, a bottle of wine and treats that wouldn't negate my work out but would still make feel like I was indulging. 

My friend Jodie had treated me to a pumpkin pie blizzard that morning after we'd done our Indy Do Day tour of duty. 

It was before noon, but there's a Dairy Queen right across from the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful office where we worked on a fence. It seemed like kicking fate in the teeth to pass up the ice cream when the sun had finally come out and the "open" sign was on.

This is one of those walk-up DQs that close for the winter season. So really, it was almost a requirement that we stop in. I mean, they might have been left with unsold inventory. So really, it wasn extension of our community service work. Plus, they have a kid-size portion you can buy that makes it practically guilt-free to have full-fat ice cream.

And, everyone knows (or should) that calories consumed right after doing a good deed are burned at light speed. 

I get Ali back tomorrow in time to get her to her football game where they'll get to use the banner she and her friends made a couple weeks ago.Then, it's a basketball game. The football team is undefeated going into the tournament. The basketball team? Well they're undefeated to.When it comes to winning that is. They have a perfect record of defeat.

But it doesn't seem to be getting the girls down. They only lost by 1 point last week, and it was in the final seconds that the other team scored to go ahead. 

So go Tigers!  And go Sox. If Boston gets into the Series tonight, they'll go up against Godfather Bob's STL Cardinals and suddenly my annual angst over what to buy Jeff for his birthday will be easily resolved.  

And now for the Great Plank Challenge of 2013 Update:  I went up to 1:45 yesterday. Times three. Thanksgiving can't come soon enough for me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

So I'm going to go with "no" on that...

So the other day, Ali and I are coming home from school or practice or shopping and I tell her that her play director has informed the cast parents that she'd be open to us helping the kids run lines when she has to be working with the school band.

"Would you like me to help out?" I asked. I'm asking these days because sometimes she wants to be the Lone Ranger or some kid from TV who never seems to have parents around.

"Well," she said. "My class is full of people who don't listen. The boys might be doing "the worm" on the floor or messing around and you might get annoyed with that. And remember that time in third grade when you helped with the class going to Canterbury Park and you screamed at some of the boys for not paying attention? I'm still getting flak for that."

She took a deep breath."So I'm going to go with no on the play thing," she said.

I came to a full stop at a stop sign and looked over at her. "Seriously?"

"Oh yeah," she said.

So I might have dodged that bullet. But we're still on the hunt for the best genie costume we can find. We had some fun looking last week and even got to enlist Jenna Tokash for a little while.  We're still looking for something sort of like Barbara Eden but not, in Alison's terms, "something that won't make me look like a stripper."

In other news, I'm on day 4 of the Great Planking Challenge of 2014. Some of my nieces and I are trying to do this 30-day challenge. We'll have a plank-off at Thanksgiving. Planks are hard, man.

We're really excited to have Grandpa Reed fly in to spend Thanksiving with us. We're hosting my family this year -- we generally rotate the duty but most of my family is "in the country" as Ali calls it so we generally go there. We're hoping to keep this amazingly wonderful weather for it, but it IS Indiana and we'll be more than a month closer to winter, so it's unlikely.

This whole week has seen near summer weather and I want to keep it. Last night we broke out the chiminea and had a fire. Jeff and Ali decided we needed a picnic dinner so we put down a tablecloth, had our dinner and roasted marshmallows after.  

Alison questioned whether the sticks Jeff found in the yard were really the right tool for marshmallow roasting, but I convinced her that "in the country" sticks are the preferred tool. Fancy skewers are for city people. 

It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things that turned into a memory I hope none of us forgets.

"I love this," Ali said, snuggling up with me in the dark. "This was a great day."


And in yet more other news, I've started re-reading the Lily Bard series by Charlaine Harris. Ms. Harris created the Sookie Stackhouse character, too, and while I love me some vampire/fair/were-animal intrigue, in a battle of wits and depth of character, Lily would kick Sookie's ass without breaking a sweat.

As the series begins, Lily is the best house cleaner in the town of Shakespeare and she's fighting some pretty intense personal demons as well as grime and grit. She's apparently inspired me to dig through a few layers of grime in my own house. My bathrooms and my kitchen are currently sparkling.

The weather kept beckoning, though, so my yard -- as well as my neighbor's -- is looking pretty spiffy too.  My neighbor is having a bit of a difficult time right now so I've been helping in her yard. With the return of our chainsaw, Jeff finished a job I'd started with a tree in her yard. We'd actually thought we'd tossed it but it turned up when my friend Karin moved and discovered it in her garage.  

He was thrilled to see it return just as I remembered the job left to do over there... :)  

So anyway, in the midst of mowing and chopping down black-eyed susans gone by, Ali comes out and asks me to take her to basketbally practice. Jeff was in the shower after he'd played ball, and apparently he'd lost track of the time. So we jump in the car -- top down of course -- and scoot off to practice only to find it was cancelled.

As Alison rejoiced in the seat, her coach came by to apologize for the confusion. "No worries," I said. "We have a hoop in the drive way. What do you think? Alison does 50 shots out there instead of practice?"

The redhead shot me her death stare while the coach grinned and agreed. 

God bless her, as soon as she got home, Alison got out her ball and started dribbling. She even got a piece of chalk to keep track of her shots. She even exceeded her assigned 50 when her father joined her for a little one-on-one.

This week has been sweet but not free of the bitter. Dave Cox, one of a team of men who schooled me in the art of journalism and clean writing, passed away.

I was just out of high school when I was fortunate enough to get a job as a stringer for the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. My high school English teacher and newspaper sponsor, Donna Gorby, had recommended me. Without that action, there's little doubt that I'd be living in a trailer by the Eel River somewhere with 17 cats.

Instead, I got to spend my professional formative years hanging out in a real newsroom with a crew of people, including Dave, who never seemed to mind my coming by. At first, I'd phone in stories and later use some funky pseudo computer to send my stories in over the phone from the field, but once I started dropping into the newsroom at night, I found my home.

I didn't write like the "real" reporters because they were actual adults with J-school under their belts. I idolized almost all of them and learned something important from every one of them.  Dave and the rest of the editing team gave me endless grief about my leads and worked really hard to meld me into a newspaper man.  I learned that you make your own luck at the Tribune-Star. And it's served me well.

For a while, a group of us played Trivial Pursuit after the paper was put to bed. We couldn't have done it very often, but it's one of the first things I think of when I think about those days. Dave and Carl were always there. Joe Baker sometimes. Rob someone. I can't remember everyone who played but I think it was anyone working nightside. 

I must have got to play with them because I brought cheesecake. I can't remember how it started or when it ended. They'd tell stories and cuss and moan about things. They'd fight over grammar and beat their endless rules into your head until you bled newspaper ink, I swear.  I don't think I'd ever felt truly at home before  I found myself in the Tribune-Star newsroom.

Dave Cox was the city editor then editor -- I think. His was the voice of reason. The happy voice. The guy whose smile was always right around the corner. He got such a kick out of things. He was just a rock of good judgment and support.

It's been years since I've really thought about my Trib-Star days. They were great days. They helped me get started on the path that's led to where I am today. I'll always be grateful, not just to Dave, but to everyone there for taking a chance on a girl they didn't know.

Of course at 50-cents an inch, it wasn't that big of risk..... 

Godspeed David Cox. I hope there's cheesecake waiting for you up there.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Cold October Rain

When it rains in Indiana in October, my preferred spot is snuggled up under a blanket, maybe watching the rain through the living room window while I move between newspaper, iPad, book and crossword puzzle. I'll have a drink, maybe a snack. Ooh. And a fire. A crackly fire in the fireplace tended by my husband who checks on the drink and snack supply from time to time. Maybe he'll rub my feet, too. Maybe switch out the iced tea for a nice cocktail...And country music.

Ah. Glorious.

Today, however, I spent the better part of the downpour perched on an aluminum bleacher watching the first half of the 7th and 8th grade Christ the King Tigers football game. It was approximately 75 degrees below zero. 

A few of the girls had rain ponchos. Ali had her rain coat. Some resorted to trash bags, supplied by a mom who keeps a roll in her car. (She has boys.)  I had a strip of plastic mat and a cushion to shield my butt from the bare metal; a raincoat and an umbrella. So it wasn't like I was totally unsheltered. But I was reminded that I'm strickly a fair weather, outdoor football fan. 

I can't imagine sitting through one of those blizzard-stricken football games. Or playing/cheering at one. I guess the players and cheerleaders actually move around, but geeze. I'm totally putting this in the pile of "Things I Did for You" to pull out when I'm old and alone and need Alison to push my wheelchair or grind up my food.

The boys were behind 8-0 at the half. The cheer coach had decided the girls would get to do their half-time dance but then would get to go home. This was welcome news to most of the girls, but Alison was already planning an early exit because she had a basketball game of her own to get too.

She'd brought her basketball uniform and shoes, but had brough the bag to field because it also contained her pom poms and other stuff. I should have been smart enough to get the bag to shelter when the rain started, but I was more focused on keeping myself from melting like the Wicked WItch in Oz.

By the time Jeff arrived -- he'd played basketball that morning -- we discovered the wet things. He took them home and tossed them in the dryer. I followed with Ali soon after the dance. We poured some hot soup down her, too, and headed back to the school.

The basketball team, sadly, fared no better than the boys. We got home; Ali headed to the shower and I headed to the gym to work off a little of the Bunco madness from the night before. 

What I gained in conservative drinking Saturday, I lost to chocolate chip cookies, Ruffles potato chips and french onion dip. (Lynda is evil and knows my weaknesses.)

It's still pretty cold out there, but I have no reason to be out in it. Peyton Manning is killing my fantasy football score. The couch is calling my name. I wonder if I can talk Jeff into a fire....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The exception

it was parent-teacher conference this week. It always falls on a Tuesday, which is Jeff's basketball night, so I usually make the rounds by myself.

Up to now, Alison has always gotten good reviews. Good student. Participates well. Helps other kids. Sometimes rushes through the instructions and doesn't score as highly as she could have had she followed directions. (genetic; sorry.)

This year, there was a new theme: her spunkiness. Her entertainment value.  Both traits I've enjoyed for years but she seemed to have hidden a bit. It seems this is her break-out year when she's hit that level of freedom to be herself.

She's a cheerleader for the football team.

She's playing basketball.

She's on the spell bowl team.

She's Genie in the 7th grade production of Aladdin.

She is still, however, a prude. Mrs. Aragon AKA Drama Coach, Band Director and All Around Fabulous Person, is hoping Alison will be a genie like "I Dream of Jeannie."  We talked about how close to that costume my Ali would go.

I informed Mrs. Aragon that sadly, I doubted Ali would bare her midriff. Since she could talk, she's been telling men of all ages and body types to put their shirts back on.

Alison is currently insisting that her costume be more like Disney's latest genie, voiced by Robin Williams. I reminded her that she IS a girl.  No matter. She even suggested that we find a way to glue on a goatee.

"I am not wearing that costume that looks like a, well, can I say it Mom?" she asked.

"I don't know what you want to say," I said, then sighed and said, "Go ahead."

"Like a stripper. I am NOT going to wear that!"

So anyway, I also talked with her homeroom/math teacher, who she adores. He's a hard-ass so we like him, too. He's one of those teachers we'll hear her quote years and and years from now.  I was telling him that I was worried her extra curricular activities would affect her grades and that we'd been talking about it.

He tells me that last year, everyone involved in the 7th grade play suffered a decline in their grades. No exceptions. I told Alison, and warned her that her father and I wouldn't be happy if her grades fell.

"There were no exceptions?" she asked.  

"None," I said.

"Well, Mom," she said. "I intend to be the exception this year."

We shook on it. And as everyone knows, when a genie shakes on it, he/she means it.