Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful I Still Have all my Digits

Right up until I almost cut the fingers off my right hand, it was a holiday worthy of Rockwell.

We'd celebrated in Jasonville with my family where Jaime and Alison beat Rachael and me at euchre. 

Highlight quotes: "I'm not saying you're a cheater, but you win suspiciously."

"Hey, I'm not trying to see, but if she SHOWS me her cards, I'm gonna look!"

The food was tremendous and I was extremely grateful that the New England idea that you should boil onions and then serve them in milk had not made it to Indiana.

And yes, I had seconds of mashed potatoes and noodles. Plus dessert. I'd tried to prepare by jogging around the neighborhood before we left Indy. This was nearly a failure because A. I hate to run and B. I run about as fast as Alaskan molasses in December. But I trotted as long and as far as I could and tried not to cry when my muscles cramped up on the drive south west.

It was a lot of fun and ended with most of the girls poring over sale ads in anticipation of hitting the Terre Haute sales. For those of you who think shopping on Thanksgiving is akin to kicking puppies, the trip was largely for a Toys for Tots drive, and hitting the sales greatly expands the ability to buy for the needy. So it's a great thing. We usually don't spend the night on Thanksgiving but I might plan better next year just to help shop. 

Ali and I generally spend the Friday after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas. She has done the tree for the past several years.  For a couple years, it boasted most of her stuffed animals, including our Island of Misfit Toys collection.

This year, she went traditional and put the animals above the picture window, taking my suggestion of using a strand of un-matched lights to give them an extra boost.

I've been very crafty this year. I wielded the glue gun with glee, and I had to repaint our outdoor terra cotta snowmen, who'd gotten flaky - and not in a good way. They look great and while I nearly fumigated ourselves out of the house with my applications of sealant, they shouldn't flake for years now.    

We got through a lot of the indoor decor Friday before our traditional post-Thanksgiving Day dinner out with Team Jackson. We were all pumped. I'd seen Patrick and Patricia last year when I went down to Evansville for a wedding but Patricia had gotten sick and missed their annual shopping trek to Indy. 

We met at Petite Chou - one of our favorite places to eat in the city - and had a fabulous time catching up and just chatting up a storm. No one was seated in our section after we came in. I'm pretty sure we were very entertaining. Maybe a little loud. Maybe. 

In between our catching up, I was checking on what seemed to be an outbreak of feral pigs in Jasonville that had gotten the local police involved. Turned out later to be only four escapees from a local farmer (I think) but it was fun for a while.

Dessert was at our house because Deb had sent Jeff home with an entire pecan pie. He was in heaven as was Patricia. Patrick and I agree that all good desserts have chocolate in them and we came home with two servings of pots de creme to go.

Saturday dawned and brought with it a warm front so it was outdoor decorating time. I asked Ali if she wanted to help. She hesitated. I told her I'd pay her. She suggested that we couldn't decorate before we got rid of the remaining leaves in the yard.

I was prepared to make the sacrifice but she was right. So out we set.  I dragged down the leaf blower,  absently noting that that last time I'd used it, I'd somehow knocked off the cover of the motor. I remember thinking I should fix that. But it hadn't gone back when I tried to re-afix it before and we had stuff to do. So out to the leaves we went.

Ali found the damp leaves unresponsive to the leaf blower and I'd had her snip down dead flowers and ornamental grasses while I took over. Jeff had come out, too, and was starting to apply 15 wheels of light strings, each containing 160-LED multicolored sparklers to the magnolia tree in the front yard.

He was happy because he got to use the ladder of his dreams -- possibly the best birthday and/or Father's Day gift he's ever gotten. (Boys are weird.)

It was about three hours in before it happened. I was in the midst of getting out the leaves beneath the bushes closest the house when I lost my focus. And just like that my index and middle finger met the hard plastic blades of my leaf blower as they whizzed by at a gazillion mph. Maybe 1- gazillion mph.

I was momentarily stunned. Ali and Jeff were at the magnolia. I looked down to see if I still had fingers. And how much blood was going to seep through my purple and black gloves.

It really hurt. Like hurt so much you couldn't really feel it. You know? I think if I'd seen blood, I would have cried out. Or fallen down in a faint among the leaves.  But no matter how long I looked, there wasn't any blood.

Here's where you are thankful for reflexes honed in the fires of having to evade saber-toothed tigers or marauding Huns or your brothers' BB gun. I don't know how it happened that my fingers met and fled the flying blades. I'm just glad I had only a little numbness to deal with. And that I wasn't an Angie's List DIY disaster story. (I've used others; I'd have used me, too.)

But with no real harm done, I finished the leaves and went to the rake as fast as I could. I have a newfound affection for that rake. It's awesome. 

So something like 15 bags of leaves and debris later, we'd depleted our store of decorations. 

Jeff was up in the tree for a few hours. I helped a little.

Years ago, long before we had the fancy ladder, Alison had gotten stuck in that tree. I'm sure she was wearing one of her mesh, frilly skirts and her Dora the Explorer underwear.  Under the influence of that early role model, she'd traveled a little too high and couldn't get down. I'd dragged out our old wooden ladder that came with the house, but I couldn't reach her. I was standing out there, craning my neck and trying to talk her down like she was a cat in a tree when our neighbor, John Engle from down the street came ambling over with his extension ladder.

He didn't say much. Just leaned the ladder against the tree, extened it and climbed up to snatch her down.  As he left, he said we could come get the ladder anytime we needed it.

Yesterday, as Jeff was high in the tree stringing lights and I stood beneath him, John drove by. He slowed his car and lowered his window. "I'm not going to have come back and get HIM down, am I?" he drawled before driving away.

I doubled over in laughter. Jeff grunted. He probably smiled a bit. For the record, he got down on his own.

Today has been a battle of wills and patience that I lost a few times. Since I got my iPad a few years ago, I've been horrible about backing up and organizing photos. Jeff bought a hard drive specificaly to save the artistry and I spent hours trying to move and organize more than 1,000 photos. It's been made more complicated by the fact that when you modify a photo, it affects its metadata. As a result of something I'm sure I did wrong, we had a bunch of imports that were allegedly shot in 1969. There were whole years's worth with the same date.

I dragged out old paper copies of Photoshoots, did a bit of googling and Jeff and I traded question like, was it 2012 or 2013 we went to Disney? When did James and David get married? What year did Ali first go to spend a week with Auntie Jen?  It was maddening.

After what seemed like light years, I escaped to the gym and Jeff took pity on me, doing a large part of the work. I still have to sort and and name a bunch of them, but I'm up to 2011 and have spent tons of time remembering some pretty good times in photos.

In the middle of the work, Team Jackson stopped by on their way out of town with two bottles of what may be the world's best chocolate milk. They'd talked about it at dinner and decided Jeff shouldn't live without the experience. Trader's Point Creamery makes it, and it's like drinking a Hershey bar. It's amazing.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I deserve some right. As I've regained the feeling in my fingers, I can even hold the glass. Plus, I have more damn pictures to label and sort. You need working digits for that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I love my friends. Really hope they're wrong.

We've had a few misses in our Book Club. Everyone can't always love every book we read. But the evening is always a great experience, and I've never once left wishing I had those four hours (more or less) back. I'm fortunate to have a great mix of women in my book club. I'd like to be more like each and everyone of them in one area or another. This month's offering was "Defending Jacob," and it inspired a lot of passionate thought. In short, it's about a family whose only son is accused of murder. The father is/was the chief prosecutor in their affluent town. The wife a fine person. The case of course blows their happy lifestyle wide apart and the guts of the book is how the parents dealt with the kid and each other. I won't blow the book for anyone who hasn't read it. It's definitely worth your time whether you're a parent or not. One of the tangents we followed for a while was how it's normal for a teenager to -- at some point in their most angst-filled years -- hate their parents and tell them so in word and/or deed. I had to disagree. I don't think it's normal. And right up until Friday night, I was sure that people who say it's OK for teenagers to treat their parents like crap is 100 percent unacceptable. It's sort of like the toddler who is allowed to kick and bite his mother as she's trying her best to keep the little brat alive. When I see that, I always fast-forward in my head and see the kid as a tattooed, facially pierced, green-haired teenager demanding keys from his mom who he/she calls a certain 5-letter word. (Am I judgmental much? Yes, sadly. But I'm working on that.) "You never told your mother you hated her?" I was asked by the majority of the group, who collectively were looking at me like I was the last American to try Starbucks. "Nope," I said. I refrained from the explanation. And upon reflection, I wonder if I really am smoking Pollyanna parental crack. I didn't tell my mother I hated her. (I didn't say I never thought I felt that way; but I can't imagine saying the words. And let me tell you, there were occasions...) I didn't tell my mother I hated her because I'm pretty sure she would have slapped the bejesus out of me. It's just not something a Pentecostal kid is ever allowed to do. It's no fun to be on the slap-ee end of an adult hand or plastic toy or the dreaded switch you had to fetch yourself. But then I thought about it. One of my sisters -- the one most close to my mother then, now and forever -- had big-ass fights with her a lot. I remember them yelling at each other and at one point, my mom literally pushing her out of the house with the broom, literally sweeping and smacking her out the door. Why? I don't remember. I just remember the incident. I don't know that this sister said the words, "I hate you," but their verbal disagreements do linger in my mind and I can picture it. Another sister was often unhappy with my mother, but I think it was mostly out of earshot of my mom. I'm not sure. I'm the youngest of seven, and I'm sure my memories are distorted. For the record, my mother was a fine person. Had I birthed seven kids in 10 years on a farm where modern conveniences were long in coming, I'd have been in prison for sure. In my older years, I like to think I give her a break for whatever perceived shortcomings she had a mom. At the same time, I never had a solid hold on where my mother unconditionally liked me. I know she loved me. That was non-negotiable. She didn't really have a choice. But liking your child isn't the same thing as enjoying their company. I wonder now if I didn't fight with her -- as my friends say normal teenagers do with their parents -- because I was afraid she'd cut that flimsy cord altogether. Certainly my sister who fought with her routinely had a strong tie to her. So, could my friends be right? They all have great relationships with their mothers despite their teenage rampages. Am I really destined to one day soon have the littlest redhead in my house turn on me like a snarling weasel? And should I want that to happen? On the way to acting class yesterday, I gave Alison an abbreviated review of Book Club and asked her if she thought one day she'd look at me and tell me that she hates me. She thought for a minute and said, "Well, I guess it would depend on what you did." "This isn't about me," I said. "It's not what I would do. This is all on you." She thought a bit longer. She couldn't envision such an emotion though she did allow that I annoy her from time to time. She kept going back to her original thought: "It would depend on what you did to me." I've known for a while that parenting is hard. I'm not sure I'm ready for the next few years. Did you tell your mother you hated her? And was your relationship stronger as a result?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Shop til Mom Drops

If shopping were an Olympic sport, Alison Reed would rival Michael Phelps for gold medals. I have both the receipts and the sore feet to prove it.

She gets it honest, though.

Jeff is a fabulous shopper. Second only to Auntie Jen for his bargain finding skill, he'll spend hours sifting through clearance racks and bins and not think a thing about it. This applies to cashmere just as it does to anything Kroger sells. He likes fine quality, but he likes a price cut even better. I'm sure he's never paid full retail. For anything.

Me, I'd rather forfeit the bargain so I don't have to change my postal address to whatever store I'm in.

Take yesterday for example, the Captain and Duane Jasheway joined the VIP Club of Big Red Liquors in a quest for a bottle or two of the fabled Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Made in small batches in Kentucky, the hooch is so sought after, there's a black market for it. The boys were hoping to land the chance to buy some of it via lottery at this VIP gathering. Also on the list was some craft beer favored by Tom Tokash, made in Indiana, but also in very limited quantities.

So they get to the warehouse before it opens. It took them 15 minutes to get to the beer where they discovered both of the beers they wanted had been snatched up. They didn't win the lottery to buy the Pappy, either.

Makes for a bad Saturday, right? Nope. There was a ton of high-end booze on sale. And somehow these two got themselves ensconced in the VIP VIP room for bourbon tasting. For Carrie Bradshaw, this would be the equivalent of being one of three people invited to a Louboutin trunk show. Or me at a book store where I could get all the vampish, get-me-through-the-workeout paperbacks I could get into a duffel bag.

They were there for at least six hours. Most of it in that back room where they compared and then re-compared sips of really expensive bourbon, whiskey and rye.

"I saw a guy buy a bottle for $3700!" a still reeking Captain Reed said about eight hours after he'd first set out. 

This is how much they drank: Jeff had forgotten his keys and Ali and I were 20 minutes behind his arrival thanks to a grueling grocery visit. It was in the 30's most of the day. Even having waited for us out in the yard, he wasn't cold. 

If I'd lit a match while he was talking, he'd probably ignited the both of us.

Knowing they'd gotten to the place by SUV, I asked: "Did they feed you at all?"

"Nope!" he said, grinning. He Duane did, however, stumble across the street to a Wendy's to soak up a bit of the liquor before they drove home. I don't know how Duane fared, but my boozer laid down on the couch and didn't move for a few hours.

Turns out, the store had come into several specialty bottles that were really hard to find, and they were offering a discount, too.  Amazing bargains that just couldn't be passed up. Really. He'd passed on most of the really expensive stuff, even the bottle one woman (member of the Jasper IN Bourbon Club and possibly a plant by Big Red Liquors) claimed was in the top 5 of the 3500 boubons she'd tasted this year.

The fact that Jeff now knows who the BRL wine guy is as opposed to the bourbon guy does not bode well for our savings account...

He came home with boxes and bags of booze including a Blue Label Jim Beam, a Four Roses bourbon, some champagne for me and other wines that were just too good to pass up. Right. Some of this we'll share with others and if you're really good to us, you might find booze in your Christmas stocking.

Today, after he set off for basketball and later work, Ali and I hit Target and the mall. We left around 11 and staggered back into the house around 4. 

Alison has a bit of the bargain shopper gene. She scored a pair of $100 jeans for $30. I decided to take them off her hands and add them to her Christmas pile. 

It was our first shopping trip where we split up and communicated mostly by phone. I spent a bit of it hanging with the husbands in the center aisle imbibing in my Candy Crush addiction. I don't think there was a store that Alison missed. She'd call me every so often and I'd go find her to give advice. 

She had a handful of earrings at Claire's but after consultation decided Christmas is coming and she really doesn't NEED any more ear art. Same for the tee-shirt with the funny saying at Hot Topics. And the boots at Journeys, though she'll be asking for multiple -- or one really big -- gift card from there.  She also loved some dresses and shirts at Charlotte Russe. I think I'm glad she didn't get my hooker job. I know I'm glad we left there bagless.

We're also experimenting with loose-leaf tea thanks to a recommendation from a friend of Alison's. 

"This could be something we do together for a long time, you know, Mom," she said after luring me to the store she'd been haunting for a while. Yeah, the Big Red Liquore store boys have nothing on her when it comes to closing a sale.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are we atheists?

I went out with my friend Lisa last night, leaving my daughter to the mercies of her father.

They had a great night chatting about the latest in homework tribulations, current events and even dabbled a bit in philosophical matters. The Captain was deep into the conversational bonding until he started suspecting that she was really just getting around having to finish her homework.

But the lure of father-daughter bonding was great and he gladly bantered about the various subject matters. Until this.

"Hey dad," she chirped. "Are we atheists?"

He considered the question. Ali attends a catholic elementary school but we're not catholic.

"No," he said slowly.

"We don't go to church," she pointed out.

Now, my issues with organized religion are well documented and I count more than a few atheists as my closest friends and people I admire most.

I also admire more than a few of the religiously devout, and a few in-betweeners like myself. I'm honestly not sure where exactly I sit on whether He or She really out there, up there, or wherever a Higher Being might hang. He gave her  his position on the matter and discussed his light touch of Baptist instruction during his short-lived Sunday School Days 

As I wasn't there to stake a claim, Jeff said he didn't really know what I would say about the Big Question of whether I believe or not. He did remind her of the many hours I'd put in on a Pentecostal pew. 

"I'll tell you this, though," he said. "If you were in trouble, or hurt or something awful had happened and we couldn't find you, I bet the first thing your mom would do is pray."

She immediatley disagreed. "I don't think so Dad. I think she'd dial 9-1-1."

I laughed out loud when he told me about it last night and again this afternoon when she confirmed it. She's sticking to her guns about what she thinks I'd do. 

For the record, I'm pretty sure I'd hedge my bets and send up a flare as I dialed.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

No sommelier? No problem.

I don't usually drink alone. Unless you count the bath tub, and even then, I'm usually fortunate to have at least one visitor inquiring as to whether I need anything. So it's not really a solitary occasion.

But sometimes, I feel like wine and my favorite sommelier, AKA the Captain, isn't around to ponder what vintage would serve me/us best. Choosing the wine is kind of his thing, so I don't often venture into our wine cellar. 

It's a cellar only in the sense that it's in the basement. We have a wine rack tucked into a closet in the coolest, darkest corner of the house. We have it because one year I was desperate for a "good" gift for Jeff for Christmas and decided he should stop piling up bottles in the corner. (This was far better received than the year I thought he'd love a hat rack.)

The same year I bought him the wine rack, I bought him a leather-bound wine journal so he could jot down all the research he does on his wines. But he's a Renaissance man and keeps his wine data in a Dropbox document so he can always pull it up no matter where he is.

I knew all this. But sometimes I get all full of myself and decide I can pick my own damn bottle. So I went to what I thought was an OK shelf on the wine rack. Some bottles I know are there for the long haul. (His digital wine journal says so.) Others are expensive (for us) and for special occasions. But there are some rows just fine for a Tuesday night, and I was pretty sure I had the right one.

Lemme tell ya, the wine I chose was spectacular for a Tuesday.  That''s because the 2006 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion Grand Cru was a fine wine. According to the Dropbox wine diary, one wine critic, upon its birth, opined that it would be perfectly lovely. Between 2018 and 2023.  

Jeff swallowed hard when he saw the open bottle on the counter top. When I told him I was really enjoying it, he just said, "I'm very glad to hear that."

I DID take me several days to finish it, and I shared the last of it with my good friend Kirsten Jasheway. So while it may have been decanted a bit early, it was celebrated and fussed over as it should have been.

In other news, we ARE still married and mostly happily so. Alison ended her basketball career (perhaps forever) this afternoon with, sadly, a loss. But, there were cupcakes, she scored a free-throw, had a few rebounds and somehow escaped a foul call when she hip-checked an opponent.

We had a busy weekend with Helen Mansfield as our guest. We haven't had Helen overnight for a long time so it was fun to have her in the house. The girls baked cupcakes -- chocolate with fresh raspberry filling -- and generally cavorted about when they weren't busy with their own activities. 

Jeff was on his annual trek to West Lafayette with his buddies where they again went to a place with three Xs in the name that they swear is all about hamburgers. 

With basketball and a Tastefully Simple party at Aunt La's already on the calendar, Ali informed me this morning that she needed to paint a couple of paintings for a presentation due tomorrow at school. She's been studying Vincent Van Gogh and claims she'd mentioned the need to pick up canvass and paint. The wine might have dulled my memory of this, but regardless, we had last-minute homework to do.

So after Lyn's party, we flew to Michael's to get the goods. Helen had her own homework and needed to get home and I'm hoping she got to it OK. It was a FUN weekend. I'd totally forgot to cover homework duties.

Alison went straight to painting when we got home and Helen left soon after. If we're lucky the paintings will dry by morning. Yes, there's more than one, and that was by design. Alison had a vision of copying Van Gogh's  Crows in Wheat Field" painting as art critics saw it as well as a sloppier version to symbolize how his fellow villagers saw it. Turns out his friends and family never saw the brilliance of his work. It took out-of-towners to see it.

And, even better, the field is the location where the artist chose to off himself. So it's a perfect image for her presentation about the artists' life, work, self-worth and death. 

Given the short time span, I'd tried to talk her into a less ambitious presentation but she struck to her guns. (No pun intended, Vincent.) They're turning out really well and I'm proud of her for coming up with the concept and getting it done. Even if it did seem a bit last-minute. (Thanks, Helen, for finding the smaller canvasses. Key move.)

Heck. The paintings are even kind of good! But that might be the wine talking...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hello. My name is Cheryl and I am addicted to Candy Crush

I knew better. I've been down this road before. But I've been too many places with Jeff Reed lately where there was a lull in activity and he was just sitting there patiently, not complaining or impatient at all.

He was playing Candy Crush on his big-ass Android phone. 

I ignore it for a long time. Fidgeted. Complained. Whined about waiting whether it was waiting for Alison's basketball game to start, at the gym with no reading material. At the odd, long stop light.

FinallyI downloaded the goddamn thing and I'm this far away from inviting my friends on Facebook and actually spending real money to extend my lives when I lose too many times in a roll and it puts me in time out.  Yeah. It locks you out unless you pay up or invite others into the addiciton.

So far, I've accepted the break and returned to paying attention to things like my kid, my family, the soup bubbling over on the stove. You know, real stuff. I'm addicted and I don't even want to stop.

But here's the thing: I can work out a long time if I have a book to read, but sometimes I'm between reading stock and I don't want to re-read an old favorite again. This stupid Candy Crush game got me through a two-hour workout Friday and then another hour wait for Jeff to get out of city Permit Pergatory.  I didn't complain once! Well, except when I kept losing.

Anyway, besides my online gaming problem, we did manage to find some fun this weekend. We got lucky to score Jenna for the weekend and even a bit of Alex Ogden. It was day care days all over again even though they've all grow about three feet since then. And their bathroom habits are much improved.

They still fight and punch and giggle like they were 2, though. So it's always fun just to listen to them.

At one point they'd been catching up on each others love life and I remarked that Alex was their cute boy. Simultaneously they all groaned. Jenna: "Well that's kind of possessive. " Alison: "Mom. He's just my friend."

I agreed that he was their friend, but "Who doesn't need a cute boy in their life? No one!"

I couldn't swear to it, but I think Alex was fine with his position in the threesome.

It used to be that he'd be in the thick of their nonsense but as he's growing up taller than both of them and has that teenage air of coolness, I see him occasionally just watching them with this bemused expression on his face. "Is it still OK to hang with girls?" I asked him.

He grinned, said, "They're loud," but yeah, he still has a good time. Later, when they went to the bathroom together, he and Jeff just shook their heads at them. Ten years ago, he'd have been pounding on the door and they'd find a way to sneak him in. Ah. Maturity.

Speaking of cute boys, Halloween was a raw night and only the bravest -- or silliest -- trick-or-treaters were out. That mean Drew hung about in the house when the girls went out and we had the best time sitting around Amer's kitchen table sharing stories. Drew is like, 6-feet tall now. Definitely a cute boy. And not too cool to spend some time with the old folks.

I'd tell you more stuff but I think my Candy Crush time out is over. Happy Halloween! Don't forget to vote Tuesday!