Sunday, July 20, 2014

And she's off

If Alison doesn't look back on this summer as one of the best of her childhood, she has some fantabulous summers to come.

She ended her month-long acting day camp with an interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland" on Friday. After parties/gatherings had kicked into high gear in the last weeks so she was hanging out with her "teens only" crowd rather than hot-footing it to Jeff or me after class ended.

Her hour or so of freedom let her explore downtown Indy a bit and her habit of saving her allowance came in handy for that. She's totally embraced the idea of charting her own course.

On Monday night she informed me there was a teen party at one of the kids houses after class. I could pick her up at, oh, how about 11:30, she blithely informed me.

We backed that truck up pretty darn fast. And I got the, "please don't embarrass me" plea.

I probably did embarrass her, but no way am I letting her go to a boy-girl party where some of the boys are 13-16 and I don't know the parents. Or even know if they'll be home. Or if they even kow about this "party." Turns out it was all (mostly) innocent fun.

The parents were home. They were even nice when I picked Alison up shortly after 9. 

We got a happy surprise Friday when Jaime  and her crew took advantage of their Saturday airport departures and came in early to attend the play. We'd already collected Jenna. And then Alex and Hannah Ogden showed up! Hannah even styled Alison's hair for her part as the cook.

The Young Actors Theatre show was standing room only, which was great on a workday afternoon. But super fun and a bit out there for anyone expecting a Walt Disney Alice. Rebecca, Rachael and Aleasha had each played parts in other Alis productions so they were looking forward to it. I think everyone liked it. 

It made for an unruly crowd for our ice cream stop after, but a fun one. As the only boy, Alex may have gotten a bit of extra attention. "He's doesn't like that at all," Lee muttered at one point, laughing as the girls wrestled him down  the sidewalk.

Alison stayed in full make up, of course. I instinctively asked the Ogdens to come over and was trying to think of a way to keep the cousins (they had plans of course and a wicked early wake-up call) but I'd forgotten the "teens only" cast after party. So that was a bit of a bummer. Like with the cousins and Jenna, I snag Alex and Hannah as often as I can. They're just a great bunch of kids.                                                

But obligations are obligations. The after-after party was at a house with a pool. We'd gotten the OK for Jenna to go.  As we left downtown, I asked Jenna if she was OK going into a group of kids she didn't know. 

"Oh, I'm GOING," she said firmly. "I want to meet everyone."

If you've ever met Amy Tokash, you've met Jenna. Jenna's just shorter. 

Again the party was boy/girl. Again I met the parents and made sure at least one was going to be home. The girls reported that it was a great time except it did get a little awkward as the evening stretched on. But no way would they have missed it.

Saturday dawned on Jenna's delayed birthday party. And damned it wasn't boy-girl too. WTH is this?  I like boy-girl parties when Alex is the boy and I've known every one of the kids since they were at least 2.

Now we have these dramatic boys from parts unknown. And every party I've dropped in on has been at a home that could be a set for a Real Housewives of (insert locale.) Sigh. I've lost her. She's really a teenager now.

We have our moments, though. She still hugs me and snuggles. And we have to stop the car for things like this:
Takes you right back to "Make Way for Ducklings" doesn't it. We were looking for Office Michael, but happily the mama duck got her little brood across Meridian with no trouble.

What's also great is that she's still firmly attached to Jenna, Alex, Hanna and Breanna Tabor, her pre-school buddies. Well, Jenna pre-dates everyone, of course. But the others are family, too. And I'd be totally fine if she stuck with them the rest of her life. Drew Tokash is included in that bunch, of course. Alison could marry any one in that group and I'd be a happy, happy mom. I'm considering letting a newish friend of Ali's into that group, but he's still in that testing phase. 

Sadly, it's not entirely up to me. :)  


As we left Jenna's party early (Ali jetted off to Auntie Jen at 6 a.m.) I asked how the party was.  Alison sighed and said, "It was a lot of fun, but I think I see how Jenna felt about the pool party."

Bree was in attendance, but the other kids at Jenna's are from her school, so there were unavoidable awkward moments. No problems; just the clarity that as much as I'd like to encapsulate Ali and the friends I like best, you can't. You shouldn't, anyway.  Right? Because if I'm wrong, I can totally start the process of bubble wrapping Ali and try to get her good friends in there with her. 

So after this week with Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter (with visits from Uncles James and David, Grandpa and hopefully Auntie Mary, too) Ali comes home then has a sleepover birthday party at Brees.

Then she's off to Flat Rock again for another week of sleep-away camp. We're trying to figure out options and timing with Ogdens and Tabors that will include the State Fair (all day bracelets for the Midway) the orangatun exhibit at the zoo and the Terra Cotta Warriors at the children's museum.

In the next two weeks, my challenge will be to work out enough to work off the dinners & drinks out plans we've been putting together. We started early, actually, when Ali went to Jenna's last night.  Our Jasheway friends have tickets for KISS and Def Leppard on my birthday and they're thinking it would be a fun group outing.

I know as much about Def Leppard as Kirsten knows about Miranda Lambert, which is to say nothing. I did have a KISS flirtation back when I was Alison's age but rock music just doesn't stick in my head. I want to say I'm cool enough to go to their concert. (Jeff's a big DL fan and I do kind of owe him musically.) But I'm worried.

Before I agree to go, they're going to have to sign forms that they won't leave me sleeping on the lawn at Klipsch Music Center should I fall asleep before the concert ends. I did once sleep in a bar bathroom with the toilet paper roll for a pillow. I don't know how long I was out, but man I needed the refresher. And that was years ago! Imagine how less cool I am today.

I think Duane would at least put a jacket over me. Jeff and Kirsten will be drunk as skunks trying to get on stage with the band.  

We do tend to host good dinners and pre-games, though. And we had a great dinner out. It might just be worth the risk. Wish me luck!  And if you see Alison Reed out and about in the next few years, feel free to report in. I need as many eyes on her as possible...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Old friends...and I mean that

Seems like all my friends from school are turning 50 this year. I don't know how they got so old!

I first met some of them in Shakamak High School's Kindergarten class. My first memory was Jeff Eccles, who wasn't having a good drop-off experience. His mother pointed across the toddler-sized table and suggested he be brave like me.

I wasn't being brave. I think I was probably too terrified to speak. The youngest of seven country kids, my mother had seen no need to indoctrinate me into relationships with foreign children. And as I'd already survived five years of my brothers, I'm sure it didn't occur to her to stick around and make sure I was OK in this new pool of fish.

Let's be honest: it was her one chance of freedom in, what, 10 years of having kids at home. I'd have gotten the hell out of Dodge too. 

So I survived that day and all the others that followed. Most of the kids I met that day were still with me when I sat in a hot gym to graduate from high school. And now, they're all turning 50.

How did they get so old?!  I remember that day in kindergarten as clearly as the (in retrospect) ugly white shoes I wore to graduation. Now I see their grandchildren on FaceBook. That's right. Grandchildren.

Alison's only 13. That makes me at least a decade younger than my classmates, right? Probably more.

To celebrate their status as the last of the Baby Boomers, I thought I'd offer up 5 Things You Should Have Learned by Your 50th Year. I had the idea I could impart 50 bits, but that's an awful lot and as I'm not yet 50, I'm not really qualified:

1. It's not all about you. Never was, really, but by now you should accept it. 

Alison had a "teens only" gathering after her acting camp last week. Wrapped up in having unchaperoned fun downtown, she was MIA from our original plans and had forgotten her phone so it was hard to reach her. I ended up tracking her down at the mall because I had another commitment that she had to attend as well. My friend Jodie and I were together when I spied her. She wasn't ready to go. She went without a fuss but explained down two escalators, in great detail how I was a joy killer. We got to the parking level before I asked her if she was going to say hello to Jodie. "Jodie's here?" she exclaimed and immediately gave her a hug. 

Here's the thing. Yes, Ali can be self-absorbed. But she's 13. (And at her own volition before we reached our destination, she apologized for "being a brat.")  By the time you're 50 -- decades earlier for you high acheivers -- you should know that it's not all about you. And act accordingly.

2. It's not about the size of your ass or your bank account it's about the condition of your heart.

Some great woman posted the other day about how she knows she's not a single digit size any more but dammit, she's going to play in the pool/ocean/lake with her kids anyway.  I love that. Sure I worry about my gut and my sausage thighs. But I'm the one who frets. And if there are people who point out my imperfections, well that's on them. They're assholes. 

It's true that I embarked on a weight loss/fitness journey because I was concerned about my appearance. But along the way, I learned that it's not appearance that's important. I'm more fit, more healthy now that I ever have been. And that means I should be able to enjoy those golden years (so far down the road) so much more than if I wasn't. And hopefully I'll be around and in shape to play with a grandchild or two when that joy comes my way.  

I complain a lot about the Pentecostal upbringing I endured, but I'm sure it's the foundation of my belief that if you are in a position to help someone, you should. My family was far from rich and there were times that were harder than others. My mother was so ashamed during those harder times. But we got through it, in part, because of (gasp!) governmental assistance. 

We were so poor I qualified for Pell grants. Had it not been for those grants, I would not likely have gone to college. I'd be living in a trailer somewhere with 12 cats and an equal number of addictions.

I'm grateful. And I know there are tons of other people in similar conditions.

Giving someone a hand doesn't even always involve money. 

Donna Gorby (Miss Gorby to Shakamak grads) saved me from that trailer. She was my high school English/Journalism teacher and she recommended me when the Terre Haute Tribune Star was looking for stringer. Getting and keeping the job was up to me, sure. But without her, I wouldn't have had the opportunity.

If you can help with money, and you want to, go ahead. You could also mow the neighbor's yard if you're already out and have time. Clear the driveway of the folks down the road when you're out with your plow and they don't have one. Smile at someone who's having a bad day. Babysit for the couple who can't afford a sitter. Coach kids, like my friend Jeff Eccles, who survived kindergarten quite well after that first day.

Write a blog post about swimming with your kids regardless of the size of your swimsuit. Recommend someone for a job. Hell, GIVE someone a job if you can. Even if you're the only one who sees promise in that person.

Whatever you do to help someone, just give it and let it go. Don't expect your hand to be kissed or sky writers to tell the world how great you are. You know. Revel in your fabulosity if you want, but keep it to yourself. Make a habit of it and you'll find yourself not needing that revelry eventually. It really is an investment in self-worth. If you have to look at it that way, go ahead.  

3. Leave Judgment Day to whatever judge you worship.

Lord knows I'm judgmental by nature. If I was queen of the world, man, people would straigten up and fly right. Right. :)  I try, routinely fail, but really try hard to not impose my way of thinking/doing things on people. Unless it's really something stupid.  Seriously, though, whether you believe in a higher power or not, we should all be able to agree that reasonable people can disagree and still maintain good relationships. 

Here's a shocker: I'm not perfect. There's a ton of stuff to judge me for if you're of a mind to. I hope you're not. And I hope I'll give you the same courtesy. I wouldn't have in my teens or twentys. Maybe even my thirties. I guess getting older DOES bring some positivity afterall....

4. Laugh

Remember back when you giggled? When you busted a gut over something so stupid no one else could understand it? Do that again. As often as you can.

A hundred years ago, Debbie Ellis and I were getting ready to go to a basketball game and one of us (probably her) said, "I got gave a pig." Someone (probably me) poked a little grammatical fun at it and we were off to the races. I don't remember where the game was, only that her mother drove us, shaking her head at us and laughing herself because we couldn't stop laughing about it. Stupid, huh?  I still smile when I think about it.

5. Love something.

It's ok to love your pets. Just don't love your pets, if you know what I mean. When I was a kid, I didn't dream of a wedding or being a mother. I never thought it would happen and it was better not wasting time on it. I'm grateful for my family and my life. Every single day.

I'm not saying you have to give birth or be married to understand love. There are tons of ways to love something or some one or several somethings and someones. Being a good friend is loving someone.

It's amazing to me how much I love that little red head who lives with us. I struggle to keep from hovering over her all the time to be sure she's happy; that people treat her well; and that her life is as good as it can be. I know I have to let her struggle through these middle school years when it's so hard to find your place. I know there are harder struggles coming.

But having her has widened my scope on life. It truly isn't all about me. It's not all about her, either. It's about all of us. 

I think, at this stage of my life, it's this "Love something" thing that might be the key. Maybe it was seeing "Love Actually" the other day for the 124th time. Maybe I'm just sentimental this morning. Maybe I'm learning from my older, wiser classmates.

I'm not even drinking, but I'm pretty sure that if you're reading this, I love you. 

So there you have it: 5 things you should know by now. Come to think of it, you probably don't have to wait til you're 50 to learn them. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I am not Betsy Ross

I will never be mistaken for Betsy Ross, but yesterday after my daughter spurned my pastry making skills (uh, I'm also not the Cheryl of Cheryl's Cookies) I turned to a project I'd planned to foist off on my sister Donna, who may well be the reincarnation of Ms. Ross.

Our kitchen counter bar stools are great and we like them but the seats have taken a beating over the years. We patched them with colorful duct tape a couple of years ago and that held up well for a while. But the more we plopped and shifted and scooted, the more the tape unstuck. As it worsened, you'd find yourself stuck to the chair if you weren't careful. 

The kitchen towels we tossed on top of the seats just weren't cutting it, either. I ripped off the total-duct-tape cover last week and used a bunch of Goo-be-gone to get the adhesive debris off. Then I patched down the rips and worn spots.

Alison and I spent an hour or so at the fabric store looking for something that would liven up the kitchen and work with our Fiesta Ware dishes. We ended up having to order what we wanted and while I was describing my project, it occurred to me that the bolt of plain blue valance over the sink had been one of my more lazy home decor decisions.

The old curtain had been dirty and boring when it caught my attention one morning. I found a replacement at Target and it's hung in my kitchen for about 13 years. I thought having the curtain match the seats would be even more fun. So of course I bought about 12 times the fabric I needed. 

As Independence Day was approaching, and our annual visit down to Donna's, I will admit that my first thought was to beg for her help. She has about 17 fancy sewing machines and she actually knows how they work. I just needed a little hemming and a slot for where the curtain rod would go through.

Sure, it's her birthday today. (And a big one, too!) But we're bringing fireworks and Alison's fancy desserts. And she LOVES to sew. Right?! It's not an imposition at all...

But then Ali kicked me out of the kitchen.  Jeff was out tightening my bike's kickstand and assembling his buckets of tubes for fireworks at Donna's. The fabric pile was the only thing demanding my attention.  So I got my sewing basket out and decided I could do it myself.  

My entire sewing operation fits in a medium sized Longaberger basket. Donna has more types of scissors than I have thread and buttons. Jeff has a great bromance going with our local tailor. Said tailor tolerates me and didn't even laugh out loud at one of my hemming jobs once. At least not while I was in the shop.


Jeff may have walked through when I was muttering or cursing to myself. He offered to do the chair cushions. It's a project better suited to him, truth be told. He has more patience in his little finger than I have in my whole body. He does have big hands. But still.

So for most of the morning, Alison baked, I sewed and Jeff re-upholstered the bar stools. We were like a family on Conner Prairie.

Jeff and Ali even indulged my playing of WFMS. I'd actually blocked the way to the stereo so they didn't have a huge choice but it was great. Lots of patriotic country tunes were warming us up for the Indians game and fireworks downtown.

Just so you know, hand-stitching is no fun. I don't know why anyone would do it voluntarily. I'm pretty sure it was punishment back in the days of yore. And had I lived then, I'm certain I'd be a scullery maid rather than a tapestry maker.  Or maybe a bar maid. Anything but someone who had to make even stitches.


I only cursed a little bit, didn't bleed at all, and had to tear out only one set of stitches. I kept remembering the lady at the counter at JoAnne Fabrics who was patiently waiting her turn and engaged us in long conversation. "If sewing was hard, there wouldn't be sweatshops," she said.

I suppose. But even sweat shops have machines. I had a needle and thread. I'm pretty sure my 7th grade home economics teacher would not be impressed with my work. But I kind of like it. Also, I'm short, so I can't really see the top of the curtain where most of the stitching is. 

After a long night out -- the game went into extra innings, which is great if you're a baseball fan -- though we ended up losing by 1.  

The downtown fireworks was already going off as the game went on, and there were fireworks on the field after. On the way home -- top down of course -- we saw more fireworks. One grouping was going off with the moon in the background.

All in all, a pretty good Independence Day. Although it was really sad to wake up to news some goober took out a gun on Broad Ripple Avenue to settle a fight. Seven people are now wearing bullet wounds, and one may be seriously injured. Not getting on a soap box but it sure would be nice to find a way to keep hands in the guns of only those who can use them wisely.

But I'm not talking about that today. Today it's Aunt Donna's birthday and we have this bit of artwork to master. No sewing required. I hope.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day

Back 100 years or so ago, when Alison still had chubby cheeks and was learning how to make the scissors work, we did all kinds of projects together.

We painted, we glued. We had drawers full of stickers and ribbons, popsicle sticks, strips of magnets and beads. We made cookies and villages for her dinosaurs and stuffed animals. We made holiday cards and thank you notes, paintings and those little beads you melt with an iron and hang in the window. Jewelry of all kinds.

We made a terrific messes, too, but it didn't matter. My rudimentary (at best) crafting skills were buried under our amazement at the beautiful art we created together. Her friends would come over and head straight for the paint because (yes, I'm talking to you, Amer) they loved the idea of making messes and art without having to deal with clean-up or anxiety over it. "Paint spilled on the carpet? Who cares? it's on the back porch. Next time try to stay on the plastic, though."

Those were the days when she was re learning so much about things she takes for granted now. When she'd put her hands on her hips, huff out an exasperated sigh and say, "I do it mySELF!"  And then try to tie her shoes or paste on a bead that kept sticking to her fingers. 

So cute. So sweet. So inept that she'd have to turn to me eventually for help. And be grateful for it.

This morning, she presented me with her list of things she wants to make today for our family 4th of July gathering tomorrow: a watermelon made into a grill and decorated with fruit kabobs, and patriotic cupcakes. She also wants to make cookies for our neighbor in payment for his offering to haul away our yard waste to his farm.

"I want to do this by myself," she warned me.

I looked at her. I have a habit of lingering within ear shot and cleaning up her horrific kitchen messes while she's in the thick of things. I can't help it. I'm a clean-as-you-go kind of girl. I can't stand walking through my kitchen and feeling the sugar crackle under my feet. 

Or to have my hand stick to the refrigerator door handle because it's coated with icing. Or to see dishes piled up in the sink, icing and batter drying into hardended mortar when all it needs is a good rinse. I'm helping. Really. Just helping.

"You know," she said into the silence. "So I can prove that I can really do it. All of it. By myself."

I sighed. In one of our rare moments of pre-teen angst, she had gotten really upset when I'd cleaned up while she wasn't looking. Upon discovery, mid-act, she had protested that she was going to do that next! 

"Mom just won't let me do it my way," she sniffled to her father after I'd thrown up my hands and stopped what I was doing to get out of her way. Yeah. Generally, I'm the one she complains to. About HIM!

"And when my cookies are in the freezer for the hour they have to wait before I bake them, that's when I'll clean up. I'll scrub it all down," she said.

I gathered her up. "I trust you to do it. I will stay out of the way."

Ugh. I have clearly been dismissed. I know she CAN do it. The question is, can I?

I'm going on a bike ride to escape and to summon up the discipline to let her at it. 

Damn independent spirit. Happy fricking 4th of July.