Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pentecosts, Catholics and Big TVs!

Somehow we got on the subject of the Pentecostal religion over dinner tonight.

I think it got started because Alison had make a reference to bad language and Jeff claimed all her bad language knowledge comes from me. But it might have been her reference to Mr. Klee and his wife.
Mr. Klee is her Religion teacher. He married a high school Religion teacher. Alison and her school chums are convinced there's not a couple more devout than the Klees and that if the Klees ever have a child, it will be the savior incarnate.

They're probably right. But back to dinner.

We'd gotten on the subject of being drunk, somehow. Jeff had broken out a bottle of wine I'd gotten him at Christmas. It's a 2010 Napa Vally Red called, "The Prisoner" and it is fabulous. I'm a lightweight, admittedly, but I was woozy before my second or third sip. And of course we finished the bottle. So if my story tonight seems to yaw and pitch, well, let's just blame Jeff. He did, after all, open the bottle.

So Alison was explaining to us that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John weren't all apostles, and I was complaining that some man had dictated who got to be featured in the Bible and that while some of the apostles were stiffed, there was no female author anywhere within the Scripture. And, you know, that was wrong.

Somehow that led me to tell Alison about my grandfather, Laymon Bickel, who married an outstanding woman of faith -- my grandmother, Thelma. There was never a more devout woman born and he slowly came into the fold. Together they helped buiild my family church -- a Pentecostal one -- and he eventually was allowed to teach the adult Sunday School class even though he struggled with vices like cursing, smoking and occasionally drinking alcohol. He was an amazing guy. I both worshiped and feared him. My grandmother, on the other hand, I 150 percent worshiped. 

She didn't reach 5-feet but she stood taller than any woman I've ever met. My dad had her faith, her patience, her balance, her grace, her beauty. Everyone came first for her. She was Job and Martha all in one package but was the best grandma ever sent to Earth. (Martha was the sister of Lazarus and Mary -- the sister who got all the work done while Martha attended to Jesus, fyi)

Anyway, one night, somewhat early in their 50+ years of marriage, My Grandpa stumbled home drunk. Drinking alcohol was a huge sin, and he'd fallen more than once. My Grandma took stock of the situation and (gasp!) made him sleep it off in the yard.

Alison thought this was hysterical. 

My grandmother, at the time, struggled with her Pentecostal prohibiliton on anything fun and her need to be a good wife. Ultimately, God won in the struggle and Grandpa woke up sober in the dew. He may or may not have given up booze. Legend has it, he always had a bottle in the basement but it was a "Don't ask, don't tell" kind of policy.

Grandma claimed later that she felt guilty about leaving the head of her household out there in the cold, but you know, God. He's like a higher power, and in the Pentecostal faith, you'd better damn well do what He says. Or there's a lot of fire and brimstone in your future. So Grandma was really doing Grandpa a good turn.

So I tell Alison that she's lucky she's learning from the catholics. When I was small, it was Pentecostal all the way. No swimming or dancing with boys in the same space; girls couldn't cut their hair; they had to wear dresses and there was no cursing, no smoking, no movies, no TV. 

I tossed that TV line in there only because we once -- I swear this is true -- had a minister who said television, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc.. were all just Satan stand-ins and you couldn't have them in your life because it was getting in the way of your focus on God. He might have also been the one who threw hymnals at my brother David and me when we weren't paying close enough attention. He was in the pulpit; we were near the back row. It was a small church but he had good aim.

My brothers fed his children canned dog food and told them it was braunschweiger. That might have fueled his aim that day...

Anyway, I as I told Alison: "I was lucky. I was the youngest, so by the time I came along, my parents had relaxed about most of the hard stuff. Aunt Donna, though, she got it all. She wore dresses all the time except once in high school when she broke her leg."

Ali, totally caught up in the story, said, "That explains the big TV."

Donna has a big-ass TV in her front room.

But then, Alison turned the tables on me and set about trying to figure out how to get her father hammered so we could leave him in the front yard to sleep it off.

He was not amused.  

"Between the two of us," he argued, "which parent is more likely to get hammered?"

God love her, she's totally thinking it's him. I told her that he was on to her, though, and we'd have to find a way to both get him hammered AND lure him into the front yard.

So the next thing I know, she's hauling up a block of fireworks from the basement.

"Hey Da-ad," she calls....

I love that girl.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shop til you drop

I'm not a great shopper. I like shopping but I'm more of a strategic shopper -- I know what I want and I go find it. Jeff and Jennifer Reed have some genetic gift for sniffing out bargains, but that can take days and weeks of patiently sifting through racks and bins or watching for an item to go on sale.

Jen's also a great coupon user. I'm the one who puts them aside and then either forgets to bring them with me to the store or whips them out only to hear, "Uh, ma'am, that coupon expired last year."

A couple of weeks ago, though, on my way home from a visit to my favorite aunt, I stopped at the Edinburgh Outlet Mall and scored a great find at White House Black Market and thought I had some great shorts for Alison from J. Crew. I'd sent her photos of some possibilities and then ended up getting the wrong colors.

So we'd planned on going back this weekend. But first, we stumbled (thanks, Jodie) onto a once-a-month opportunity to visit a Dr. Who warehouse sale. The story in the local paper said it was from 2 to 6 and Alison and I were sure we needed to get there right on time.  Jeff was less sure.  "How crowded can it be?" he scoffed.

The store is a warehouse in a section of town near the old airport terminal. It was in the southeastern corner of a block of other office buildings. When we got there shortly after 2, the line was to the northeastern end of the L-shaped office block. When we staggered out it was after 4 p.m. And it wasn't the selection that kept us there so long.
Kudos to the staff for crowd control. They must have had an earlier visit from the fire  marshal. They let you in in groups of 20. First, you had to go to the viewing room where, if you didn't know about Dr. Who -- and why would you be there if you didn't? -- you could watch part of a show and get a short infommercial about DrWhoNorthAmerica -- the business. There was a life size Dalek there and happily, comfy sofas. 

Then, it was on to the museum. Actually a room crammed with glass cabinets stuffed with items dating back to the first years of the show. It was really remarkable. There was even a pinball machine.

Finally, you could enter the warehouse, which was arranged kind of like the old Kahn's Fine Wines on Keystone or an old five-and-dime. Shelf after shelf with every kind of Dr. Who propaganda you could imagine. Books, movies, tee-shirts, Jammie Dodgers, posters, etc... Alison was in heaven.

We ran into the Earles -- whose son Charlie was equally impressed. Jeff and Kit wised up and got in line to pay long before the kids were ready. Dee and I went outside to breathe and soak in the unusually warm temps.

Jeff and I went to a birthday party last night and Alison had Jenna over. Jenna brought her flat iron so they flattened Alison's hair in preparation for our Sunday shopping spree.

This morning, we made the trek to Edinburgh and it was Dr. Who all over again but with trips into clothing stores in between arctic blasts of winter back like a bad penny.

We played the alphabet game on the way down. It's never a good idea to give me anything to think about besides driving, and the wind was buffeting us all over Interstate 65. They ganged up on me but I almost beat the little mongrels both times.

Once there, we mapped out a strategy that began with me being mostly a Sherpa, but they took pity on me when I kept finding them the right sizes and pointing out fun outfits. 

At one point, the girls were trying on clothes and I took a bathroom break. We were in Rue 21 -- a store where I'm sure Julia Roberts must have shopped before she met Richard Gere. On the way back, I stopped in at Coldwater Creek and instantly felt like I was 150 years old. I declined, later, to stop in at Chicos.  I might be old, but the retail whiplash was an experience I needed only once.

They had a great time. At one point, they were in a dressing room together -- well they always shared a dressing room -- but this time, Alison was sitting on the floor just hanging out while Jenna was trying on a dress. It's a good thing they didn't have food or they'd never have come out. We had a fantastic, albeit late lunch, and on the way home in the back of the car, the girls put on these crazy fake fingernails.   

We got home just in time to fine Jeff had built a fire. I laid down on the couch and promptly fell asleep. Jeff ended up taking Jenna home while I was still snoozing and yes, there was a moment when I woke up to an empty house and thought the Rapture had come and left me behind.  (It's an old flashback from a Pentecostal upbringing.) Gah.

They eventually returned, so unless we find others have vanished overnight, I think we're OK. 

And as long as Jeff keeps putting logs on the fire, I'm not sure I'm ever getting off this couch.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Animal Stories

One evening in a Key West bar, I was telling stories from home to the wife of one my favorite new colleagues. Debby and Allen are fun people, hipsters, urban dwellers who likely buy only organic fruits and vegetables and have images of farm life not unlike my friend Jackie who grew up on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Farms to them are happy places where the chickens bring you their eggs and the bacon comes from a pig down the road, but certainly not Wilbur from  your own pen.

On our farm, we ate a lot of the animals Jackie would have named and be-ribboned, and my brothes thought if it moved, it was shootable. And maybe edible, too. They didn't kill every animal, though, of course. Some were needed to run down the animals marked for grilling; and some they just took a liking to. 

So anyway, I told Allen and Debby about my dad and the fox he’d befriended and which followed him like a dog. Eventually, the fox was shot and killed by a hunter, I think. I don’t remember the who or the why of that action. What I remember is my dad liked the fox so much, he had it stuffed, and it sat near our television for years.


He also brought home a baby raccoon once, which we raised. Until, the day (or one shortly thereafter)  I was carrying it through the dining room when it jumped on the back of the poor sod sitting there at the table with my father, trying his best to sell him an insurance policy. The insurance salesman did a dance like no dance had ever been done in my house (my parents were fundamentalists to whom dancing was a sin.) My father thought it was hysterically funny. I don’t think the insurance salesman ever came back.


Back in Key West, I also told Allen and Debby them about my brother who rescued two baby raccoons he found out in the woods one day.  Never mind that he was probably responsible for their orphan state -- ‘coon hunters spend all night in the woods with dogs chasing, treeing, retrieving and eventually killing and skinning the raccoons. 

I don’t know who buys these pelts, but in the winter at my house ('coon season is a winter sport) there were always dozens of hide stretchers lying about, drying out the skins for sale. So David finds these baby raccoons and brings them home. He raises them like puppies, but as anyone from the country (and one former insurance salesman) knows, raccoons are not indoor pets. 

They’re not even pets. I don’t remember why, but David's raccoons were always terrified of thunder and lightning. He babied them through the storms, and as they got bigger and bigger, he eventually returned them to the wild. I always thought that was a bad idea because he was, still, a coon hunter and might have eventually brought them home again in a different fashion. Maybe he thought their connection was strong enough that he'd spare them. Or maybe he only really liked them in their baby state. The world will never know.


He was married at the time of this wild life adoption and living in my grandfather’s house, which had a long, long linoleum covered hallway from the back door to the master bedroom.  Weeks after the raccoons had been gone, a storm hit. It woke David up but not his wife. He heard the raccoons break in through the back screen and skitter down the hallway. I can see him grinning now in the dead of the night, waiting for them to jump into safety with all the grace of a night-terror-striken toddler. 

Laurie, though, was was blissfully, deeply asleep. 


He divorced not long after that night. It wasn't only because of the racoons, but you do have to wonder if they were the tipping point. She did not seek custody of the raccoons.


I was reminded of these stories and other animal stories this weekend after I drove home from visiting my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Larry. Cousin Jimmy (my mother and Aunt Shirley’s cousin) was there, as were my sisters Donna and Debbie and my cousin Lori. 

Shirley is my mother’s sister. Larry is my father’s brother. So when the story telling started, it was difficult to leave. There was the one about the attack turkey (It attacked everyone with no provocation, but it was only when it attacked the family’s first grandchild that it became dinner.) There was the one about Uncle Larry’s pig, which Donna as a young child killed accidentally (I think) when she threw a croquet ball and hit it in the head. “Killed it deader than hell,” Larry mused.

I only remembered the turtles I'd tried to save on the way home. I was driving a two-seater Geo Metro LSi convertible when I saw them trying to cross the highway. I was on my way home to visit the family and I thought the kids would get a kick out of them. There were two and I snagged them and threw them in the passenger floorboard. 

It was only about 10 minutes from there to the my dad's house but I swear those turtles tried to kill me for at least nine of those minutes. I might have jumped over the door to escape them whe I got home and there he was again with that grin. "Don't you know it's mating season for turtles?" he said. Turns out they weren't just frisky, they were snapping turtles. 


It was the attack turkey that inspired the last of my father’s Animal Stories, and one I hadn’t heard.


We’ve always considered my father kind of a Pied Piper. He attracted mutts of both the two- and four-legged variety. No one and no thing was ever turned away, and most of those that came within his force field found a way to stay there.  I only vaguely remember seeing a white rooster strutting about the farm, but apparently in the last year or so of his life, my father collected a white rooster. 

It followed him around like that fox must have done. If he went across the road to the garden, the rooster followed him. If he patrolled the yard, it was at his heels. If he strolled down to the barn to observe the collection of crap he had squirreled away in there, there was the rooster, cackling off the inventory list.


The rooster also, apparently, channeled the attack turkey. If it didn’t like you, it would attack you. I must not have inspired it at all, because it didn’t so much as look my way.  I seem to remember it being a straggly kind of thing with tail feathers that might have suffered electric shock at one point. While chickens are not known to be especially attractive beasts, this one was less comely than most. And of course it had that bad attitude.


When my father died unexpectedly at home one day, no one thought to tell the rooster.


To hear Donna tell it, she and my sister Diana observed it walking over every speck of ground that little farm had, looking for my dad. One day, on another trip across the road to the garden, a favorite haunt of my dad's so a logical place to look, the rooster was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. 

There was no attempt to track down the driver because there were no hard feelings.


“We’re sure it was suicide,” Donna said.

When I got back home later that evening, Alison reported that her father was so worn out by his baskeball session that he'd taken a 3-hour-nap. She'd tucked him in with her quilt and had even brought him the stuffed turtle he'd had as a kid and which she heisted from her grandfather's house.

Don't worry, though. It's months away from mating season, and I don't think it's a snapper....




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Girl Talk

The fine folks at my daughter's school have been sponsoring "Girl Talk" to help the middle schoolers cope with all the angst that comes with puberty and middle school. It's led by a high school girl with the idea that the junior high kids can connect with one of their own. 

It's a great idea and one that I think any parent would appreciate. It's been going on for years, and if I remember correctly, my friend Peter Lazarz actually was one of the teen lecturers back in the day. I'm pretty sure they only let him talk to the boys, though...

Anyway, when it came up as an option, Alison was adamant that she did NOT need to attend. She has her moments struggling with how to deal with this particular stage of her life, of course. It's part of the passage no one escapes.

But she had zero interest in sharing any of that stress with anyone who she might run into the next day. Jenna is her primary go-to.  She shares with me, too. Sometimes. While I'd love to believe she tells me EVERYTHING, I'm happy to get the intel I do right now. And I'm doing everything I can to keep the information flow going.

So even though I told her she could skip Girl Talk, I do still encourage her to reconsider going. I mean, I know I know everything she could possibly ever need to know, and I DO want to be her primary source of information big and small. But a little extra information can't hurt, right?

So while we feasted on Zheng Garden's finest take-out this evening, I noted my latest e-mail alert from school. 

"You're still not going to Girl Talk, right?"  I asked with zero inflection.

She slurped up some lo mein. "Oh, I go sometimes," she said, focused on the latest installation of Total Drama Action on her iPad.

"What!?" I shrieked. I mean I responded with no escalation of interest in my voice whatsoever. I can be cool.

"Yeah. I've been to about three of them," she said, still slurping and focused on the antics of animated people who are competing for $1 million ala Survivor and whose theme song is, "I wanna be. I wanna be. I wanna be famous."

I looked at her. "When did this start?" I asked, recalling her arguments over why she didn't care to be in a room full of other girls talking about "feelings and stuff like that."

"I dunno," she shrugged. "I go for the free food."

"Well, what do you talk about? What kinds of topics are covered? What do you LEARN about?" I asked. 

She looked up, finally. 

"Well," she deadpanned. "I learn about how to score free food."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Apples to Apples

As we awaited the latest snow-apocolypse, we were entertained by the silliness that invades our house any time Alison has one of her long time friends over.

Saturday it was Breanna Tabor. Just getting into the car was a flashback in time. Ali did something crazy, which left Bre to abanondon her in the backseat to drive from her Castleton area house to ours in Broad Ripple. Along the way, Alison decided to torment Bre in several different ways.

I left them in the car to pick up a pizza and came back out to find Bre in the back seat with the red headed demon.

"I decided to get back her to avoid having to smell Alison's feet," Bre informed me just before they dived into the breadstick box. It was understandable. Had they not opened it, they'd have had to wait at least four minutes to get home.

We left them to go out to dinner -- another winner where we sampled drinks at E&D while we waited for our table at Delicia -- a great way to deal with that little time waster. We ran into a few friends ourselves so that was fun. We came home to find Bre in pajamas and Alison running around in a bikini.

I don't even want to know what they'd been doing besides having a bath in my garden tub. There wasn't any evidence of real wrong doing.

This afternoon, we played Apples to Apples before we discovered Bre had homework due tomorrow. It's a great game where you deal out cards and each player tries to use one of the cards in their hands to define another card the rotating judge turns over. You try to get to 7 wins. We have a lighting round with the remaining cards to declare the ultimate winner. It's a lot of fun because sometimes you have really terrible cards that don't really fit the card you have to define so you have to try to argue your way to a win.

Bre may have had the best round when we were trying to justify "important."  Alison had "our family." I had "telling the truth."  Bre had "glazed donuts."  Jeff was the judge that round.

She made a great case. And really, glazed donuts ARE important. Somehow Jeff went with "our family" over "turning the truth," but he did consider the idea that he could adopt a new kid, find a new wife and the weight of honesty against a hot glazed donut was in doubt for a while.

It's a good thing we were playing in the basement because I think the giggles and the arguments would have attracted the neighbors. If they'd brought donuts we'd have likely let them join the game.

I took a nap while Jeff and Alison took Breanna home. I'm resting up for Clay Miller's annual Oscar party. I woke up to Ali listening to a YouTube video on how to make a new rubber band bracelet and Jeff practicing how to tie a bow tie.

The next snowfall has yet to fall.  I guess if it doesn't swamp us, we'll actually get out for the party.  Which means I'll have to get dressed.  I'm sure I'll have a good time at the party. The nap was really fun though. Between that and the glazed donut discussion, Clay has his work cut out for him if I'm to have another highlight...