Sunday, August 31, 2014

This has got to stop

There was a time I contemplated a big birthday party. People do that for milestone years, but I just wasn't feeling it. Parties like that are like weddings: lots of fun but you don't get to spend quality time with anyone.

But this stretched out -- celebration here, celebration there -- is killing me. More precisely, it's expanding me. Like to the tune of the re-emergence of that spare tire I thought I'd beaten into a flat piece of hard rubber.

Oh sure: I COULD refuse to drink and to never indulge in a sweet treat every once in a while. As in, "you only turn 50 once, right? Have the cake!"  Problem is, I've turned 50 about 75 times now and every time there's been a sweet or a yummy cocktail involved. Or 12.

Too bad I didn't get a mummu for my birthday. Maybe my new necklace will distract people from my gut...

This is not to say the past few weeks haven't been fun. I've enjoyed every silly second of it. I even -- finally -- got to see a friend I met back in my reporting days. Tamara Timberman-Wright and I have more than a few embarrasing moments from our Clay County days and it was great to reconnect. She hasn't changed one bit. It was one of those great times when even though more than a decade has passed by, we picked up right where we left off. 

My Bunconian friends are going to steal my Book Club's idea of retreating to a local hotel pool every now and again. My younger friends are already planning to ditch the one-time gathering, suprise birthday bash. And I have yet to tire of getting together with my awesome friends.

Thursday night's Bunco gathering was an exceptional blend of catharsis, true friendship and altruism. Jeff took Jenna, Breanna and Ali to an Indians game while most of the Bunco crew and Lisa Tabor (a potential replacement player) joined me on the porch. 

I was fretting over a parenting issue -- both Jeff and I are scheduled to be out of town - on separate work trips -- for part of this coming week and it was going to mean a scheduling struggle for us with Ali. Used to be when one of us needed a sleepover, it was easy. Moms made the plans and the kids were thrilled to go. With teens, they actually want a say in the matter, and because none of my Bunconians have kids in our school or live close anymore, it's harder. This one is even more complicated because two of the Bunconians will be at the same conference as Jeff. 

"Well, hell. I'll do it," pipes up Uncle Jeph. "I'd love to do it. I'll just come over and hang out. It'll be fun."

Just like that my friend fixed something that has given me at least four new wrinkles. Alison squealed like a little girl at the prospect of getting some one-on-one time with "Uncle Jeph." 

I love him. I know I CAN ask this crew for anything and they'd find a way to get it done. I'm just not very good as making the ask. 

When the girls got home, they wanted to do the ALS Bucket challenge. Even though it was a school night, we agreed. They'd go home wet but it's a great cause. They screamed and video-taped, answering their own challenges and issuing a few. None of the Bunconians challenged were feeling up for it, but the girls were up for another go round.

So they agreed to stand in for Jeff, me, Aunt La and Amer.  I was the designated dumper. My aim was terrible and poor little Bree got the brunt of it, so she and I conspired to let her get Jenna and Ali with the hose. I'm sure they all slept well that night. Yes, we are all donating as well.

This birthday has brough me more undeserved lovelies than I deserve, but mostly it's smacked me in the head about how lucky I am to have great friends who've stuck with me through good times and bad. That's a huge gift.

But next time I turn 50, we're all celebrating at the same time. 

Until then, you'll find me in the gym or munching on a carrot. Happy frickin' birthday.  :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Here's a shocker: 50 doesn't stink

I've collected more than a few markers of my recent milestone birthday. One is a cute-as-a-button,  plush skunk tagged with a cardboard note that declares "50 stinks!"

Don't believe the smelly little rodent. From where I sit, 50 has been pretty great.

It started early, of course, with Miranda Lambert, Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett last week, and still to come is a Bunconian gathering and Eric Church next month. On Thursday, I got a chance to gather with friends known by those in the FOB-JEK know as the "mini-skirts." 

Not only did Cathy and I win the euchre tournament, there was birthday cake for Monica, which she generously shared with me. She did not, however, share the ancient family secret recipe. We had a great night where in addition to dispensing lessons on how to win at cards, I served as videographer for their group acceptance of the ALS challenge. 

The cards and calls and Facebook messages have humbled me a bit. Say what you will about the annoyances of Facebook's constant delving into your personal business, it's fun to see all those birthday notifications.

On Friday -- when I actually crossed into no-way-to-hide-it middle-age, was a mixed day.  Despite a clear plan of the gifts being country music live concerts,  Jeff, Ali, Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter conspired to bring home the point that I'm now older and wiser.

We had bad news at work so it wasn't really a day to be giddy. But Jodie and Audrie found a way to make it special, so that was sweet and deeply appreciated. Audrie brought me a guilt-free "cake" and Jodie came up with a bag of treats that perfectly reflected some of my favorite things. And my friend Chris not only bought me pancakes for lunch, he didn't complain once when I had to do a bit of work in between bites.

Jeff, Ali and I went to Zest for dinner. Jeff and I had been there a number of times, but it was Ali's first. She got to wear a new, fancy dress and that was, I think, the best part of it for her. When we got home, I retreated to a luxurious bath complete with an enormous cocktail and country music while Ali and Jeff went downstairs to prepare for Saturday's epic debut of the new Doctor Who.

Ali tore herself away from the time traveling marathon to snuggle with me through Fashion Police and that was that. Stress diminished, birthday noted. All in all a good day. There may have been a little more celebrating, but I'm a shy and demure kind of thing so you'll just have to accept that the birthday was spectacularly noted by one Captain Reed.

But wait. There's so much more. Birthday Book Club was a tremendous success. I was glad for my work cake when presented with the to-die-for cupcakes and the champagne. Oh the champagne.  

We had the brilliant idea last year of marking milestone birthdays with a day at a hotel pool and dinner out. Book discussion included, of course.

Last year was Niki's 40th and while her birthday was the reason we met, it was the theft of Kate's flip flops that will ever be remembered. She was incredibly angry when her shoes went missing and she complained about it for hours. So much that it became hysterically funny. To every one but Kate. So of course we had to steal her shoes. We'll be laughing about that for years.

I had prepped for the day by hitting the gym early, and we had plenty of healthy snacks too, but the degree to which I indulged should probably not be defined.  

I dragged myself back to the gym this afternoon and I'm pretty sure my pores belched out a steady stream of champagne and chlorine. There was a reason I stood alone in the row of ellipticals. I'm pretty sure they had to Febreze the area once I'd left. 

Note to my friends still on the light side of half-a-century: If 50 does, in fact, stink, that's the smell to shoot for. #NoRegrets

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Ain't the Kinda Girl You Bring Home to Mama

OK, that's not really true. I've met plenty of mothers in my day. Some of them even hatched some of my boyfriends.

But there were many, many days I didn't feel worthy. I'd like to say that's all behind me, but I still have those days. So here's to Robin Williams and everyone who's struggled from time to time, especially those of us still in the battle.

Lest you uninitiated to the wonders of country music be confused by my title, it's a lyric from a Miranda Lambert hit that champions the idea that Jesus would understand a heart like hers even though she may not be the first choice for pastors and mamas. 

As I sit on the cusp of an age I never expected to see, I wish I could say definitively that I'm through with all the negative and that the dawn is finally here. But I can't even kid myself into believing that.

What I DO know is that I'm incredibly blessed and I want to make a more concerted effort to revel in that rather than to wallow in feeling unworthy.

Case in point: For my birthday, Jeff splurged big time to let me see Miranda Lambert in person. He even got VIP parking at the local outdoor music venue. Parking is a big nightmare there so the quick in and out -- and access to bathrooms where the line is long but not Exodus-long -- was key to keeping my impatient self happy.

The show was fabulous. If you know the Captain, you know country music is near last on his list of music he enjoys. I like to think I'm dragging him in, but he's just indulging me, and proving every time that he really does, honest-to-God love me.

Proof: I knew most of the songs of Miranda's opening acts (Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore) and every word to all but three of the songs she sang. Fueled by Red Bull & vodka and proximity to one of my favorite artists, I was belting most of them. Here's where the proof comes in: I can't sing. I can mouth the words and follow rhythms but I wouldn't recognize a key if it were presented to me on a pillow in large font. 

It was a large, outdoor venue, so maybe (let's hope) he couldn't really hear me. But he didn't flinch, and stayed right there with me. That, my friends, is true love. It's a good thing we live in Indiana because my voice is the stuff to attract whales. Or musk oxen. It's nowhere close to pretty. But sometimes you gotta sing anyway, right?

Jeff loves music. Lots of music. His range of knowledge is a little unsettling. Alison got a music assignment Friday to give a little spiel on mariachi music. Every kid got a differen genre.  She'd done some research but was looking for information on a famous mariachi person and said it was someone with a really long name.

Not only did the Captain know the guy, he even has an album downstairs. My contribution was "La Cucaracha" which Ali already knew. Sigh.

She'll deny it but Alison has admitted to liking some of my country music, though she prefers Jeff's stuff usually.  We had a great time at our annual mom-Ali day of fun & beauty. I take the day off work for the last day of her summer vacation and we get her hair done, shop and hang out. 

At one point shopping, she and I were in side-by-side dressing rooms, each with a pile of possibilities. At one point I said, "I'm afraid this might be hideous. What do you think?"

"Um yeah. You're right. Let me pick things for you from now on," she said.


Last week should have been all about school prep, but she was mostly more interested in GenCon. I'm convinced the Big Bang Theory gang's fascination with the convention was her initial inspiration but her friend Nick was equally interested. They went to the fabled convention with Nick's dad serving as chaperone and papparazzi.

Ali and Nick are fans of Dr. Who and all kinds of other sci-fi characters.  He dressed as The Punisher. She went at Mystique. More because she had a blue morph suit left over from last year's school play and she had an idea of using it to channel Jennifer Lawrence.

I have to say she looked pretty good. Nick, too. More importantly, they had an awesome time wandering around the acres of decked-out Gen Con gaming extravaganza.

This week the birthday stuff continues as the actual date has yet to arrive. I'm having two separate friend gatherings and Jeff and Alison have something going on that I don't know about. So it'll be a great time with fabulous friends and family. 

Those friends and family are part of what I'll revel in. Another is that Jeff did, in fact, bring me home to meet his mama, and that turned out to be pretty fantastic. It's early in the teen years but Alison still likes me. And we did have a great day on Wednesday. We have great days all the time.

Here's to great days for everyone!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

While you were sleeping...

Dear Captain Reed,

While you were sleeping, I opened the 2003 Spring Mountain Cabernet.

It seemed only fair. You stole my spot on the couch. And I'm hungry.

Love you.


It was a long week and an odd weekend for us. Jeff has worked down at his office for most of weekend, so Ali and I handled all the Saturday chores. We have a lot of Saturday chores. Funny how you forget that when you're  used to dividing them up. Kudos to all you single parents out there. Sincerely.

Alison will start school again this week. I'm inclined to call in sick all week just so I can hang out with her more and wring what little is left of her little girl years out of her.  She claims she's taller than me now, and if I were a better person, I'd admit that she is. Barely.

She still confides in me, though it's not the firehose it used to be. She frets more than I like. She worries over things that I suppose every girl her age is fretting over. My zeal to fix it all remains white hot, but I know not only that I can't but I shouldn't. 

If I could tell you all the things she's banned from this blog, you'd understand. If you were ever a 13-year-old girl you can imagine. If you've every had a 13-year-old girl you know.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, I have wine and I'm sworn to secrecy. A comination that seems so dangerous, I'll sign off quickly.  It's been an awesome summer. And there were great spots to this week too.

The neighbor's cat, Ephraim, came to visit this morning. He drinks his milk by dipping a paw and then licking the pay -- is that normal or does he not trust our milk?  He was here for about 30 minutes before he was claimed. During which, we discussed many things including cat vs. dog and Alison's wish for a pet.

"Cats are less high maintenance but you and your dad are allergic," I pointed out.

She agreed, but pointed to the cat's random indifference to her wishes to play. "You can't walk a cat," she said. "And you can't play fetch with a cat."

Today was mostly a snoozefest after our day of errands that was capped off by a great time at an Indians game that ended under a Super Moon with an Indians'win.

Today, we slept in. Jeff went back downtown to work. I did a little cleaning and worked out. Alison worked on her costume for GenCon Indy. She and a friend are determined to go in costume. I blame Big Bang Theory and am encouraging her to bring a set of clothes in case she doesn't want to be Mystique for the run of it. We'll see.

For now, I'm going to enjoy this wine and a quiet house.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Please God, Don't Let Summmer End. Like Ever.

About 100 years or so ago, when Alison was still taking ballet lessons, I was trapped in a room with the other moms. The classes were just far enough away that it didn't make sense to drop her off. Plus she and Jenna were about 4 when we started.

Usually Amy was there with me. Miss Betty, the proprietor had a few pounds on that dance instructor from Fame but she all the nastiness. Moms were banned from the dance floor and she even frowned on glances through the window, though she let it slide. Usually.

This day, Amy had abandoned me. I was surrounded by some uppity new moms who I didn't know. Here's why I never got to know them. I was reading my magazine, just minding my own business when I heard a conversation in progress.

"You know, the state fair would be great if it wasn't for those (insert nose wrinkle here) ANIMALS," sniffed on blonde, coiffed woman in yoga pants.

Her friend agreed. "I KNOW! They're so smelly!"

I'm pretty sure I held my tongue. I know I did not seek their friendship. But I won't forget their conversation either.

The Indiana State Fairs covers 250 acres of prime real estate in the heart of Indianapolis. And guess what takes up at least half of that area?  Animal barns and a horse racing track. (My Mainer family was aghast that there was no betting allowed but that's another story.)  Right. Guess what the fair is all about?  Agriculture. That means animals you pretentious freaks.


However. When TeamReed attended Opening Day of the Indiana State Fair this year, we were a party of six. And somehow the only animals we saw were those we, uh, well, ate.

In our defense, the kids were there for wristband day on the Midway where from noon to midnight you could ride all the rides you could stomach for the price of the band. And they got our money's worth, let me tell you.

We'd planned to be there until they dropped. Turned out to be only five hours, but it was a good five hours.

Their only foray outside the Midway was when we dragged them to an extreme trampoline exhibit that got rained out about a quarter of the way in. We took shelter at the 4-H building where we found a blue ribbon photo taken by my very own cousin and lots of other art.  They were back to the rides when the sun broke out again. But the crew was awesome while they could jump safely.

Jeff and I were left to own devices, which meant a stroll around the entire perimeter and stops at the fair's best sausage and lemonade shake-up stands -- ably operated by Cindy and David Athey. Cindy learned the art of the perfect lemonade shake up while just a teen herself -- working a leather goods tent over on Main Street. I don't know where David picked up his sausage skills.

All I know is if you eat at the fair, you should visit the tents staffed and stocked by Hoosier farmers rather than the pretenders who work the circuit, and the only sausage or lemonade that passes your lips should come  from the Atheys. 

Visit the pretenders if you must for deep fried things that maybe shoudl never see oil -- they're not evil. But there's a lot to be said for eating local, and there's no better farm-to-table than at the Fair.

At one point, Jeff said, "My plan is to gain only five pounds." I dug deeper into my stash of apples, carrots and celery. I DID steal bites of most of his treats and I did have my annual real chocolate ice cream cone. But mostly I was fairly good. (Ha. See what I did there? I'm so funny.)

Anyway, we go to see some old friends, made a couple new ones and our favorite kids in the world got to risk their lives while the rides were freshly oiled and inspected. A fabulous day.

Alex even performed a minor miracle. At some point after they'd all won animals at Midway games (Bree had to spend $20 on darts for her unicorn; Ali shelled out $10 for a tiger but Alex claimed he spent only $3 for his monkey and a frog for his sister at the water gun game.) they noticed Hannah's frog had a fluff-less leg.

"You should have seen his face! He had this look like he was NOT going to take no for answer," she reported. "He marched us back there to get it replaced."

Turned out the exchange was easy. But for a little brother to impress his older, wiser, cooler sister? Priceless.

Ali has know Jenna all her life, of course. She met Breanna at six or eight weeks and Alex at 2. Hannah came along that same time-frame but it took a while for them to bond. Somehow, despite their different elementary and middle school years at separate schools, and different interests, they've managed to be as tight as they were back when they all fit well into the tent in my living room for sleepovers.

Yes, we had Alex for sleepovers with the girls. Dale, his father, was initially hesitant. I still don't know if he was more thrilled or envious that his son had a harem before he could read. With help from Karin, he came around.

We ended up with a sleepover after the fair and while they are taller, their antics and giggles and silly games are no different than those Day Nursery days. I want to bottle it. The only real difference is that Alex gets segregated at lights out time.  

So I want this to go on forever. Summer is too soon over. Alex goes back to school Monday; Bree on Wednesday and Hannah on Friday. Ali still has a week and a half, so I'll get her to myself soon enough.

Sure, I've missed her as she's galivanted from Maine to Flat Rock River Camp. But I wouldn't take away this time she has with the best friends I suspect she'll ever have. And truth be told, I'll be devastated if she ever loses touch with any of them. They're more like cousins than friends.

Karin and I took them to the Jordan Y to swim while she and I worked out. On the way home, we talked about extending the sleep over and so far it's devolved into an after-dinner water gun fight. Jeff erected our super sophisticated obstacle course but it had cooled off enough that they mostly had contests to see how long they could stand being sprayed.

They're all covered in mosquito bites but no one's complaining. 

Alex finished his shower first so he's been whiling away the time in the living room. He just told me that in my wedding picture I look just like Mrs. Incredible.  I have always loved that boy.  True, as I was driving them home from Taco Bell, he did taunt me with water noises knowing I had to pee. But he also tried to get Ali to NOT put that plastic snake on my shoulder so many years ago when I was driving them somewhere and almost killed them by colliding with the stop sign at the end of my street when I noticed the snake.

So anyway, if I could hold summer's end off and keep these kids together, I totally would. 

There are 15 days of the fair left and we still have to see those the animals, afterall.