Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don't you want to be my neighbor?

I know I talked a bit last week about how I like my neighborhood.  Here's more, plus a fun (IMO) kicker about something fun I did at work:

Jeff had an all-day poker party so it was just Alison and me who went to help out at the annual Canterbury Park clean-up. She had her acting class in the afternoon so we went early, thinking we'd have to leave before it was over.

Alison tackled weeds in the playground while Katie and Rob Vrable and I worked on the north entrance. Brad Beach was roto-tilling around the trees and came over to lengthen the bed for us -- work smarter, not harder, right?

As I was explaining we had to leave early because Alison had Young Actors Theater later, a jogger came up the path, "We did that for two years. Loved it!" she called out as she trotted up the path to the Monon Trail.

Later, as I was toiling away, shovel in hand, I hear my name. "Hey, I thought that was you. I saw your hair shining in the sun a quarter mile off."

My friend Mike Potter was out training for the Mini-marathon. He doesn't live near me but was using the trail for his work-out.

Alison, meanwhile, had struck up a friendship with my friend Kathy Davis' daughter, Rory. They live a street away. Alison was chatting up her babysitting service. Rory was asking when they might get to have a play date. 

Other neighbors came in and out during the morning, ready to help get the park ready for the good weather.  We chatted about whether Adam and Trisha Brand would come out to show off little Veda. 

I don't know all of the people who came in and out. Some were there to work, others to play, but it wa just a great atmospher It was like all the good things small town are thought to offer -- quick smiles and "hey there neighbor!" kind of atmosphere.  We might all be high from the great weather, but Iike to think it's just the way of Canterbury.

While Alison and Hannah Ogden sharpened their acting skills, Karin and I took a long bike ride along the newly expanded Fall Creek Parkway. As we went north, we noticed a section was closed and were pondering what to do when another cyclist called out to us that he knew the detour and would be our scout.

Turned out he was a partner in a development firm that's building up the downtown and whom Karin had been hoping to meet to see if there were partnership opportunities with the downtown YMCA. He was looking for ways to incent his tenants and the talk of a fully equipped gym came up. 

It was a gorgeous ride. Karin and I have had a hard time getting together lately so it was great on all fronts.

After I picked Ali up, I ran back to the park to transplant some flowers from my yard to fill in our newly expanded space. Jenna had just arrived and the girls had zero need of me. 

On the way back, Beth Jansen from down the street, was driving by and stopped to chat. I'd cleared some mud and leaves from my street, which tees into hers, and she was appreciative. It wasn't an altogether altruistic move. Good drainage is important to all of us who have basements and I have a low spot in my backyard I'm trying to get level with the rest of my yard. The two wheelbarrow-load of dirt is getting me closer to goal.

I had the girls jump up and down on it to help tamp it down. They declared it the best chore they'd ever been assigned.

While I was gone transplanting, the girls had decided they'd make cupcakes to sell along the Monon. I'm happy nurture their entreprenurial spirit but I'd really rather tackle their cleaning skilz. To say they are not proficient cleaners is like saying Bruce from jaws had a slight eating disorder.

The Brands and Baby Veda were out (!) when we went back to set up their cupcake stand. So I went to see them as the girls put their sign and display up.  Veda needed a diaper change but they were planning to go over to sample a cupcake after they addressed that.

Despite the neighborly support, the girls didn't have record sales. 

"The first lady who bought cupcake took one bite and spit it out. But the nice lady ate hers and put the wrapper in the trash down there," they reported. 

Alison and Jenna's friendship is such that the spitter didn't dampen their spirits. And truth be told, they might have been a bit too liberal with the sweet icing on top of their whole-wheat flour and Truvia cupcakes.

Sales were slow enough that they resorted to making videos of Alison going down the hill backwards in her wagon, spilling over on more than on occasion. Jeff and I went to retrieve them at 8 p.m. to find they'd packed up the wagon and were playing in the sand volleyball court as happy as the first time they'd discovered it as toddlers. 

They're back there this morning, sans cupcakes, hoping to make more exciting videos. I hope they've not seen that terrible Jack-Ass show. Now that I think about it, I might have to spy on them to be sure they're not going to break any limbs. I set them off with an admonition to keep the screaming to a minimum, but then we agreed: it's a park. There are supposed to squeals and screams and laughter.

So anyway, it's just been a nice weekend, and I was reminded how lucky I am to have nice, friendly neighbors. And it's clear that mine isn't the only 'hood with friendly, happy people.

As for my work story, you know I'm a country music fan and Blake Shelton led me to become a fan of The Voice. This season, there's a contender who has a connection to Angie's List, and I was finally able to connect with him on the phone. This is the result:

I've gotten some fun responses via Twitter from people in far flung places who also appreciate the stylings of Josh Kaufman. One is a woman who teaches public speaking in Virginia who's also a fan of the show and wants to Skype with Team Usher for her class. I'm hoping to connect them. 

Possibly the most fun response, though, was from a stylist at my hair salon, which happened to be the venue for my phone conversation with Josh. She had a bit of a contact high from being in the building when Josh Kaufman had been on the phone. As I checked out, she came by to ask how it had gone and I whipped out my notebook and reported to her and others around the desk. It was hilarious. 

And not an uncommon reaction. You heard it here: Josh Kaufman is going to be a star. 

If you're in the WTHR-Channel 13 viewing area you can catch Angie's List shout-out to Kaufman on Andrea Morehead's report Monday afternoon/evening. 

As for me, I'm heading to the park. Cross your fingers that the girls have all their parts in the right working order. And possibly watch for them on JackAss. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Of local crime and country cousins

Back about 20 years ago when I informed my family back in southwestern – translation: rural – Indiana that I was going to move to Indianapolis, they looked at me aghast.

 “Why would you go to the city? It’s dangerous there. What are you thinking?!”

My Uncle Larry was getting ready to drive up to supply me with a fire arm because he thought I was living in a rough part of town. Aunt Shirley talked him off the ledge and he was relieved to find out I wasn't in the ghetto but they all worried.


I didn't. Sure, for Indiana, the capitol city is big, but it's not the mean streets of New York or LA or well, anywhere.  It’s just a small town spread out across a bigger swath than what I was used to. 

It’s always felt safe to me. There’s a ton to do. There are new people to meet and things to try. Alison loves to visit what she calls “the country” but she can’t imagine living without so many take-out options and high-speed Internet. 


But it’s literally been a bloody awful time in Indianapolis the last several months. Shootings and assaults. It’s been terrible. Nothing that’s touched us personally but it’s unsettling. I love this city.  I want to stay here. So I’ve been pondering how could I – and ordinary people like me – make a difference and reclaim the Indy I met two decades ago.


Just this week: 


One of our neighbors came by to show off shoes he used to run the Boston Marathon. They’re commemorative and super cool and Mark came by with them because Jeff had agreed to watch the mail for him while he was out of town and apparently FedX them to Boston if need be. Mark was happy they arrived early and we're happy to keep watch over his house while he's out of town. He does the same for us. This winter we worked as a tandem to shovel snow from our driveways.


Later in the week, Alison walked over to another neighbor to ask if she could scavenge a fun treasure box from the trash he’d set out. No problem, he said to the kid who routinely drops over with sample from her latest baking experiments.


When we were walking the other day, we ran into a family with dogs, got to talking, and I asked if she was new to the neighborhood. She wasn’t. She’s one hood over, “But I remember your daughter because she gave us some baked treats one day when we were out walking.”

Friday evening we were strolling again and ran into neighbors one street up who we hadn't me even though they've been here for seven years and we've been here for 15. They have two little girls and as Jeff and I talked to our new friend Chris -- he's used to be in charge of golf courses and may help me with my lawn problems -- Ali played with the girls. It could turn into a babysitting gig.

And then, on the way to Shakamak State Park for our family Easter gathering, Ricky (the neighbor who was going to trash a perfectly cool box!) called to see if Ali could babysit while he and his wife went to the Pacer game. It cut short our Easter trip but it was well worth it according to Alison's savings account.


So maybe it’s as simple as that. Be friendly. Talk to your neighbors. Give ‘em a cupcake if you have one extra. 

I'm not so naive as to think a few walks around the yard and some neighborly chore swapping is going to stop criminals from breaking into homes, or to stop people from using drugs and then having such trouble with their supply and/or demand that it leads to violence.

But I do know this: we’re better together. And we're better when we know our neighbors. 

I'm getting out more. And just for insurance, I'm bringing baked goods on occasion.

In other news, back in the country, our annual Easter egg hunt took a turn. We had the Easter Olympics instead. My team -- picked at random -- came in second only because I was the only one who saw the rabbit ears move when Marie took her turn at the rubber ducky shooting range.  We also lost (badly) at blind peep sculpting and blind drawing. I think we were in the middle of the pack when it came to twister. 

We won at redneck curling, though -- street hockey sticks, duct tape rolls and chalk -- and we broke a world record at egg bobbing.

Alison made the mistake of attacking Jason and stealing his hat. I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say a collective gasp you could hear on Main Street went up when she snatched the hat. You don't mess with Jason, man. She somehow lost her shoe in the melee and she's still complaining about the big, bad man "who beats children with their own shoes!"

She may have learned a lesson there. We'll see next time she crosses his path.

It was great fun. 

Our other adventures included Ali and me pulling up moss from the back yard and the three of us raking up the front. We ended up with 10 enormous bags of yard waste and a football field of moss. Sadly, there's a ton more moss. I'm hoing the new shed we build this summer will cover most of the rest of it.

If I can't walk or move my arms tomorrow, I'm blaming the yard work. You'd think an Easter Olympian would be in better shape...

Alison wanted to have her own egg hunt at home like she always has done. I was happy to play the rabbit and hid about 75 eggs in and around the house. She needed help finding the one in the gas tank but there's no dissuading her when she thinks a prize is involved.  

I put a few silly notes in some of her eggs, along with coins and candy and new supplies for her Rainbow Loom. She's definitely growing up. But there's still plenty of little girl in there. Thank goodness.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Screw the forecast: I declare sweater season dead!

I know. I know. It's early spring. It's Indiana. Additional snow isn't just possible, it's likely.

I don't care. For me, winter is over. Dead. Gone. Kaput. And good riddance.

My winter clothes are downstairs for storage. The snow scraper is in the garage and the trunk of my care is sand bag-free. Best of all, I reclaimed my back porch.  

The porch is really a breezeway between the garage and house. It becomes spillover storage in the winter now so we can get the Mustang in the garage. I don't really mind that so much, though every so often when it's cold out, I'll glance out the kitchen door to see the jumbled mass of stuff and cringe. It's unheated out there so even if it wasn't filled with stuff, I wouldn't be out there. But still. I'm not much for clutter.

In good weather, on weekend mornings, I can usually be found out here. It's not decorator show room material, but it has the stuff I need: sunlight, table and chairs. There's WiFi reach and plenty of audio thanks to the living room stereo or a boom box in the garage.

The church pew doesn't really make sense, I know. But it's the only piece of my dad's carpentry work that I have and I love it. At some point, our family church replaced the old butt killer pews I grew up with. A bunch of the old pews ended up in my dad's barn. At some point there was a rush on having shortened church pews in your house and he shortened some of them. This one, I think, is the one he made for my mom. 

Jonathan Swain says I should put a TV out here, too. One day when I actually do some real home improvement work out here, I might do that. But for now it's a reading/writing/reflection space. 

When Alison was smaller it was filled with toys. If I was out here, Alison was usually with me, playing with crayons or paint or beads.  

She likes being on her own a little too much for my comfort now but I'm trying to be OK with it. She needs her own space and she's not nearly as interested in the Country Countdown as I am. Plus, there's so much light, it affects her ability to see whatever's on her iPad. Gak!

There's still tons of evidence this was once her primary studio. I know I should replace the rug. But those paint stains come from times when Jenna or the Ogdens or Breanna or the cousins were here and it was a melee of paint and glue and glitter and giggles.  Alison's art work used to cover the walls. We cleaned up one year. I can't remember why now. Might have been because the constant sunlight had made most of the colors fade.

So yeah, I have some work to do out here. But for today, I'm going to drink my coffee, listen to my music, read my paper and listen to the birds outside. There are buds on the trees and flowers in my yard.

Winter is over. Welcome back spring!

In other news, I read this piece in the NYT about how to raise a moral child, which reminded me a lot of my dad who was deeply devout but not one to preach at anyone. He was happy to talk about his faith if you wanted -- he was active in jail ministry -- but only at invitation. 

He was my original "lead by example" example. I try, but often fall short and reminded of it when Alison, for example, will relate how many curse words she learned on the mean streets of, well, anywhere I happened to be driving.

But in my defense, the other day she came across a flyer announcing a toiletries donation drive and a walk for the homeless starting at our little park this weekend. It wasn't all that informative about who was in charge of the event, but it was a good thing, so I'd kept it, planning to contribute. 

When Ali saw it, she announced that she would donate from her collection of hotel lotions and potions.  

I swear we buy her as much full-sized soap, shampoo and associated toiletries and girl could possibly need, but she's a hoarder of hotel soaps and shampoos. She's gotten really good at charming the hospitality staff out of additional supplies. One Spring Break we almost had to pay extra to get her suitcase home she'd scored so much booty.

Anyway, it's a big deal for her to part with that stuff.  But on Saturday, she put a bag together that was every bit as full as the one Jeff and I had contributed from our bathroom cupboards.  When we got to the park, we found the donation/walk was the project of a little girl in the neighborhood -- a service project for school. It wasn't fancy. It didn't have the marketing heft of the Komen Walk downtown, but it was a nice effort and we were both happy to have contributed to it.

So she might have a bit of a sailor's vocabulary, but she's a generous soul, too. I'd like to take some credit for that, but I think she mostly came that way. Although, according to the NYT piece: 

 "The most generous children were those who watched the teacher give but not say anything. Two months later, these children were 31 percent more generous than those who observed the same behavior but also heard it preached. The message: if you don't model generosity, preaching it may not help in the short run, and in the long run, preaching is less effective than giving while saying nothing at all."

Jeff likes to remind me that Alison is a sponge and that I really need to watch myself whether it's speeding or cursing or just general bad behavior. I really do behave better when she's around. Maybe I ought to consider behaving better all the time......

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Um, hello Weight Watchers?

  We had another great week in Turks & Caicos thanks to Grandpa. We're kind of the anti-Bravo Housewives vacationers -- very little drama, though a fair amount of gourmet food and more alcohol than we typically consume. 

And of course, despite working out every day, I'm terrified to get back on the scales. Weight Watchers, I am yours again. I had momentarily decided that this year, I'd skip the chocolattte croissants that have faithfully followed my morning workouts like pickpockets follow tourists. 

But then I remembered I was on vacation. I might have doubled down a day or two. And it was totally worth it.

The idyllic weather, scenery and the awesome hospitality at Beaches resort may have something to do with it, but we Reeds truly do all like each other. Plus, there's no obligation to travel as a pack, so some of might do a group thing that others don't, or we might cluster as a group near water and within sight of the trolling waiters who are ever eager to refresh your cocktail for you.

Alison set a record one day for strawberry daquiries at the poolside bar. She'd been sipping on them most of the day when I joined in and ordered. "Two virgin strawberry daquiries, please," I said. I don't know if it was the word "virgin" or that I'd ordered, but she was slightly outraged.

"They usually come with rum," I said, defending myself.

"What?!" she said, momentarily convinced she'd been boozing it up. 

"I don't think they'd be giving ME alcohol," she sputtered. She later switched to pina coladas as it had been a goal of hers to test that drink out, too.


Jennifer, Peter, David, Alison and I took a SCUBA lesson. Jen decided she didn't want to spend the whole day on a boat, so only four of us went on a dive. Peter had trouble with his ears and didn't get all the way to the bottom, and David had trouble staying down but it was a fun experience. As beginners, we didn't get to go to the more scenic, deeper areas but it was still fun to paddle around breathing from a tank and realizing you were literally swimming with the fishes.

David also had trouble grabbing the rope to make the ascent, but he was within reach of me, so I snagged his hand and brought him to line. Thus, I decided I was the savior of the trip and will forever remind him that I saved his life.

Our dive captain, Gustavo, would likely have come to his rescue eventually, but I got there first. So there's me: officially a life saver.

We could have gone on more dives, but the beach was calling and Gary, David and Peter had fishing plans, and  Alison and I got hot stone massages, which were aMAYzing.


Poor Uncle David got a little fashion skewering from his still newlywed husband.

"I got them at Kohl's," David was explaining to someone.

"Yes," intoned Uncle James. "In the Missy Department."

We dubbed Peter "SharkBait" after David's repeated complaint that it was Peter who was manning the reel at the time his 100+ pound trophy fish was stolen off the line by a hungry shark. 

Without missing a beat, Alison threw her hands in the air and said, "Ooh Ha Ha."  (Nemo fans will get that..)

So all poor David has to show for his island vacation is a picture of the fish head that came aboard. Sadly, no one captured a shot of the munching shark. I'm pretty sure the tale the shark told was better received than the one we heard. But I still maintain that losing the fish of his fishing lifetime to a shark is a better story than actually landing the damn thing. Plus, had he done that and had it mounted, the boat captain said it would cost about $10,000.  That's a nice lunch....

Alison came away with a turtle tattoo, a couple of conch shells, shells she scavanged from the beach,  a fist full of fancy lotions and fun little bracelet. She also picked up a few new friends and got a chess lesson, which she promptly tried out on her father.  We had dinner waiting, though, so I don't think they  got to finish their game.


David asked Alison if she'd trade her week in Maine this summer for an extra week in Turks right now. She paused before declining. She likes her time on her own in Maine, plus, she couldn't possibly miss a week of school AND she had plans to go to the movies with Nick on Friday.

The Turks airport is tiny and there's not much there to eat, so we usually try to bring cookies or croissants and fruit to get us through the long wait there and the first leg of the flight home. This year, even the small bar was under construction so the options were a meat pie on a warmer, beer and assorted chips.

I dipped into the croissants and had an apple, but left one apple in our bag, which was quickly sniffed out by a cute little airport dog at the Charlotte re-entry area. Alison had wanted to pet him, but as he was on the job, it was probably a Homeland Security violation so I tried to steer her away from him. The handler was fairly sharp with Alison about not petting the dog as he sniffed, which did not endear the handler to Alison.

So the dog found the apple but missed the conch shells, which were detected by the extra Xray and security check the apple discovery had forced us into.

The people manning the agricultural check didn't seem alarmed by the conch. Alison, however, by the time we got through the extra security checks, was over her charm of both the dog and his handler.

"The beagle confiscated our apple," she complained to the bored security guards. They didn't care. And at that point, I didn't either. It was a long day getting home.

We were lucky though. Our flights were on time and screaming children free. Jennifer and Peter sat behind the family from hell on the way to the island, and then all the other other Reeds had to spend a night in Philly when their flight home to Portland was cancelled.

But everyone is home safe and sound, if a little bit sad to have left paradise.

"Oh man, mom," Alison said to me as we drove home from the airport. "Tomorrow, we'll have to get our OWN food. If we go anywhere and I just get what I want and leave without paying for it, it won't be my fault."

I kept her mostly home, just in case... :)