Monday, December 28, 2015

At the Airport

Portland Airport may be my favorite place to await a flight. It's clean, the people are friendly, there's an outlet for every passenger and you can actually understand the announcements.

The rocking chairs are nice and if you haven't had enough lobster, they're ready for you. 

Other observations from @PWM:

I don't know how people traveled without smart technology. I suspect it keeps a lot of folks from going postal. Unless, of course, there aren't enough power outlets.

It's 705 steps from one end of the airport to the other. For a person short on steps and snug in the waistband, that's kind of a godsend.

In my journey up and back, I've learned a lot more about some guy's father's health issues than I need to. We're worried about whether he can get dialysis in the area to which they want to relocate him. What I learned from my newfound knowledge: bluetooth tech should be kept to the car. Or away from others' ears.

I've learned that families who leave their 2-year-old in charge of luggage risk TSA flocking toward them. You're welcom, random family. Happy travels.

When did dogs become passengers? Not service dogs. Just your ordinary pets; some that fit in carriers and some free-ish range. We shared space with four dogs on one of our flights out and I've seen at least six here. No cats, rats or ferrets. I wonder where TSA draws the pet line?

I was tempted to channel a store clerk and inform the hipster girl that she needed to decide if she was going to buy that book or just read it in the aisle. 

I was even more tempted to tell the guy with the jeans to his knees that they needed a pull. His backpack was hiding his underwear, though, so I gave him a pass. Sort of.

I'm worried now about the soldier who left his military security badge behind at gate three. Seems like his/her C.O. might frown on that when he/she gets back to base.

Jeff is sacked out on a stretch of chairs. He never sleeps well the night before a flight. Ali took pity on him, sharing her pillow and Pink Bunny.

We had another awesome Christmas in Maine.  Sadly, Ali and I had to leave our paintings behind because we'd already shipped out our extra stuff and had no room in our bags. We've redecorated a bit at Grandpa's. The bet line of the art outing was when I'd stepped back from my snowman family - a departure from the instruction - and was proudly surveying my work. Jen glanced over, pointed to the shortest snowman and asked if that was me.

Separately, Alison had done the same thing. Tall people have issues, man.... :)

We're traveling with a packet of James' donuts and some fruit. I think the fruit will make it home to Indiana. Not so sure the donuts will.

Hope your holiday was awesome, too. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shopping with Alison

Ali and I spent much of the day shopping. We'd made a dent on Mass Avenue yesterday but my foray through Circle Center mall was a bust.
Worse, I was dressed for my Saturday workout. No one else in the mall was wearing sneakers and I had their hair scraped back. More than a few people gave me funny looks. I guess it's the season for dressed-up shopping.
So today, heading into the madness we call Castleton at Christmas, I put on an outfit and even brushed my hair. Not saying I kept up with the Carmel housewives but I wasn't barred from the door.
Highlights from The Fashion Mall:
On the way, Ali reminded me she was celebrating a holiday she made up when she was supposed to be studying for finals. She calls it Reverse Lent and during its tenure, you do whatever you want with no repercussions.
I asked her how long it lasted, noting that Lent's days of deprivation number 40.
"No! It can't be 40 days: I'd run out of stuff to do."
As we strolled, we saw a bunch of really beautifully decorated trees. I said we might need to have a themed tree one year. Something elegant like the ones we were seeing and others from Mass Avenue with their one-color or special design theme.
Alison was not convinced. "Our theme is family. A mish-mash of stuff that's old and new and some stuff so old it doesn't even make sense. We're keeping it all."

We took a break to have lunch. Alison had offered to share her coconut shrimp and I demurred as I'd already had one. She pointed out that I didn't have a tail on my plate and I told her I don't like debris on my plate so I'd tossed it into my empty soup cup and it had been carried away.

She doesn't subscribe to my dining quirk.

"I keep it all on my plate to show my pride. Especially with ribs. I like a big pile of bones so I can say, 'Yes. I ate all of that," she said. "The bones of my enemies, you know?!"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Hits & Misses

Pretty sure you're like me and scrambling to get ready for the holidays. I thought I was ahead of the curve but then got trapped in Shutterfly Hell last week. It put me back a good six hours, which if my Facebook feed is any judge, is not an uncommon occurrence for folks trying to make last-minute(ish) gifts.

I'd complain to Shutterfly but I'm pretty sure they'd roll their collective eyes and ask me if I'd sorted my photos before embarking on the task. Thinking you can whip out a calendar filled with touching/funny/silly/significant photos after not backing up or sorting photo files for three years is like thinking you can build a deck in a day after watching HGTV.

So, sorry, family. By the time I get those damn things organized, Alison will have graduated from college. But riddle me this: I was complaining about my picture plight to a fellow sufferer when another woman happened into our conversation. "What? You sort your photos? You name them? Why would you do that?"

She didn't actually call us idiots, but I'm now sure that I'm missing some sort of virtual magic photo sorter. If it's just me and that lady in the dark, I'm going to explode.

In any event, I resorted to using an old photo to make cards at CVS. It outrages Alison now that I hooked her baby self up to our old sleigh and called her Max (the Grinch's dog.) But it's a great shot.

Here's an updated one, though, which is fun, too. It only took a little begging to get her to do it.  

"Remember when you used to love helping me with Christmas pictures?" I said.

"I was a baby," she deadpanned. "I had no choice."  

Ali has taken to blasting “Highway to Hell” when I pick her up from school. She's not a huge AC/DC fan. She is though, of late, not a fan of my driving. 

When she was a kid, she and the Ogdens loved to sit in “the way back” of the Subaru and I’d bounce them around by swerving wildly (while in perfect control) in our neighborhood. But now, she’s subscribing more to the unfounded rumor that I’m a bad driver.
Here’s a conversation we have had nearly daily for the past few weeks:
“You almost killed me. Again. ” she will claim from her shotgun seat,  referring to a time when a car swerved out of traffic in front of us and I had to slam on the brakes.
“Actually I saved your life,” I retort.
“Only because you almost killed me first,” she'll claim.
No respect.

Jeff was struggling (kind of) to get off the couch where he was weighted down by the youngest redhead in the house

"Be like that blue train," she encouraged.
"You know. That blue train. Be like that blue train!" she said.
"What are you talking about?" he said, exasperated and still trapped.
"You know: “I think I can. I think I can. You can do it!”


One of the first clubs Ali joined at Herron was an a capella group that meets an hour before school one day a week. She's also in the choir and was chosen to be part of a special part of one of the songs in the school's winter choral performance. The choir has new dresses this year and her's needed hemmed.

I thought I'd do it myself. What a mistake: it was Shutterfly all over again. In my defense, I'm not my sister Donna, and the skirt was full -- with a lining. 

It was well worth the $20 to have it hemmed and to withstand expected ridicule from our tailor, Lam Son in Broad Ripple. He's great and knows us mostly because of Jeff's suits, though he took in a bunch of clothes for me a while ago. I went to pick up the dress, which still bore the safety pin hem-mark job I did. 

"How hard did you laugh at my poor attempt?" I asked. (Jeff had delivered it.)

"Well, you don't have the tools I have," he said.

Savvy, Lam Son. Savvy.

If you're downtown in Indy next week, look for Ali to be caroling with her a capella group. She might have her Santa hat on. I'll give you a cookie if you ask her how to spell "a capella."


She's still fun most of the time. The teen drama has been minimal. Or perhaps she's just investing it in snark. The plumber was coming a few days ago so I cleaned her bathroom.

That night: "Hey mom, while you were destroying my place of sanctuary, you didn't happen to see my Harry Potter hair bow, did you?"


She was baking cookies this morning and moved my teapot, which sent her pan of just-baked cookies a titter. So of course she grabbed it with her bare hand. I told her not to put her hand under cold water but to instead put butter on it. I took out the remnants of a stick from the fridge.

I reached for a butter knife to apply it. She plunged her singed fingers into the 1/4 stick nub of butter.  I looked at her. "Uh. I wouldn't eat this," she said.

Merry Christmas. Hope you keep your oven mitts handier than we do.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

And so this is Christmas

We have strict rule about Christmas around our house: no decorations can go up before Thanksgiving is over. But with Alison off all week last week and me off Wednesday, we violated it a little bit.

Defying her father, Alison broke out Jeff's legendary X-marks the Spot collection of Christmas music in early November and has been blasting it every chance she gets. He grumbled about it but was not-so-secretly pleased.  And on the way home from Aunt Donna's house, he blasted it in the car.

If you happened to be traveling I-70 Thursday evening, you might have heard us singing along to Snoopy v. the Red Baron, by the Royal Guardsmen one of my favorites, or some of the classics.

The CD collection pre-dates Ali and my appearance in Jeff's life. He started it with cassette tapes for his family, which explain the alternative stuff and the 80's classics for Jen and James and the classics for Gary and Marian.

There's a bit of everything in there, a lot of classics with a bit of a twist or two, classics straight up, some reggae, calypso and hip-hop. Elvis and Bing Crosby are well represented, along with country (for me) rock, jazz and bits from comedy albums and Christmas-themed shows and movies.  There's even some Wiggles and Crazy Frog (for Ali from Christmases past.) Ali and Jeff like to torment me by twanging out to some of the country songs.  

I take heart that Alison can identify all of the country artists even as she claims disdain: "That's Alan Jackson," she'll say before starting in with a sound somewhere between a yodel and a howl when he hits the honky tonk part of "Honky Tonk Christmas."She skips Toby Keith's "Santa I'm right here" because it makes her cry.

Each of us has  trigger song. For Jeff on the way home it was "White Christmas." As it ended,  he said something like, "That'll do it for WMPG. Gram if you're out there, this is for you."  Then he told us the story of when he was DJing in college, his shift happened to be the last one before Christmas break. He ended the session with this song for his grandmother then went home to find her crying in the living room, so touched that he was thinking of her.

Alison is trying to get Jeff to work together on a new CD but he's been working too much lately to do it. I can't decide if it'll be a great collaboration or will be one long fight. She has no idea the hours he put into those things. He used to start in August. On the other hand, it would be fun to watch. For a while.

We had a great Thanksgiving. It rained for most of it so the inside of the house is fully decorated. Jenna's coming over soon -- if Team Tokash ever wakes up -- and we might get out in the yard to do the rest. We have a 6-foot-tall inflatable Godzilla (Thank you Eric & Tracy) that Alison is determine to turn into Santa.  I have a fine place for it on the back porch. Or back yard. Or back in the box where it's lived since our wedding.

We had planned to re-gift it back to the Yokam-Wisemans but clearly failed in that mission. There's still time... Part of our Thanksgiving tradition is Friday night dinner with the Jacksons. Ali was three or four when we started this, and I wouldn't have blamed either Patrick or Patricia with being a little leery of having dinner with us and a toddler. Ali is as much in love with them as they are with her, though, and there were times last night when I thought she might just sneak off with them instead of coming home with us.

Part of my mission this holiday break was to back up my tons of digital photos, to finish some homework I have to do and get the house decorated. I got lost for a bit in the shots of Ali and her friends as little tykes  but I'm about 80 percent there, so I'm feeling pretty good.

We have too many pumpkin chocolate chip cookies leftover from Thanksgiving. And Jimmy sent us home with a pumpkin roll so it's been an exercise in discipline, which I've largely failed.

For Thanksgiving I tried a new dish that paired roasted Brussel sprouts with butternut squash, pecans and cranberries. It didn't look much like the photo Lisa posted and I might have been the only one to eat it. I figure the fiber count alone negated some of the cookies.

So today, I'm thankful for sweater weather. And fabulous friends and family. Possibly not in that order.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving with a side of guilt

Like most of us, I often let myself get bogged down in third world problems.
  • How to get the photos off my phone and onto the backup hard drive 
  • Is it time to tell Alison to stop with the full-bellied laughs over South Park that the neighbors can hear
  • Frustrations at work 
And then I open the paper to find stories like this and I realize how fortunate I am to be born in the U.S. where the most we do to inappropriately dressed people is put them on a People of Walmart post or, if the perpetrators are in LA, bow to their fame and beauty.

It's so easy to ignore the news or tell yourself "It can't happen here," "It doesn't really affect me" "I don't need to know that." I'm a bit of a news junkie and I almost put down the paper this morning and turned to TMZ to distract myself.

My problems are not real!
  • My friend Google and I could do it if I was the damn administrator or knew our IT codes. As it is, I just need to get them from the Captain. Think about that: my only restriction to the Internet is my own ignorance. In countries right now, people could be whipped or killed in a public square for violating limits on use and going to sites where others deem they shouldn't go. We're not talking porn or criminal activity. Meanwhile, they kidnap women for troop entertainment.
  • Alison is a kid. Table manners aside, her laughter lights my world and I should revel in every note.
  • Frustrations aside, I have a good job. Heck. I have a job. Lots of people don't and wish they did. 
It's so easy to get overwhelmed today. So many choices, too little time or energy. As we go into this Thanksgiving week and the holidays to come, I'm going to try really hard to do a better job of appreciating my place in this world. I would like to say I'm going to do something that will change the fortunes of people who have real problems. I don't know yet what that would be.

My charitable contributions generally go closer to home; organizations I'm either involved in or close to that help people and kids in my backyard. I support politicians who put humanity ahead of ideology. I try to set a good example.

I'm feeling really unhelpful to the world right now as I sit in my warm house in my warm clothes with more food and drink on hand than I need with a healthy, beautiful, smart kid who's streaming video and howling at the antics of animated 4th graders. I have a healthy, employed husband out playing basketball and anticipating an afternoon of The Red Zone football.

I don't know what I can or will do to help others in the future; who those others might be or where they might live. I'm pretty sure I can stop complaining about how difficult my life is, though. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My daughter the barbarian

We were so proud of Alison, whose first high school report card was stellar. Honors classes; one teacher said she thought she might need more challenging math; another said she was a delight; and one more said she was a hoot.

And then this week came Etiquette class. You all know that I was raised in the woods by wolves, but the Captain had great instruction from his mother, a highly proper Maine lady. If we had a nickel for every time he's told her "Sit up straight at the table," "That's too big a bite," "Get your elbows off the table," or "Eat like a person," we'd be swimming in coins.

And yes, this is the same Captain Reed who once showed me how he and James used to eat french fries "like a trout" which meant "No hands, Ma!"

Anyway, she knows good and well how to properly behave at the dinner table. So when we were being indoctrinated into the Herron High School lifestyle and they talked about etiquette lessons during their Thanksgiving lunches, I was unconcerned.

I think she flunked it, though. As in, sub-zero scoring. As in, she'd fit right in among my siblings where it was every kid for himself and you were lucky to leave the table without bite marks on your forearm.

To hear her tell it, it  began with unfortunate seating. "I sat right beside lady who teaches the class," she said. "She was kind of scary."

This is no five-minute lecture on how not to slurp your soup. It's a professional etiquette course taught by Christe Pate Herron.  Now, remember, Ali knows how to behave. All I can imagine is she had some kind of mental breakdown.

"There were three forks but all we had was salad, mashed potatoes, green beans and turkey," Alison said. "There was no way I needed all those forks."

The meal began with the kids being told how to properly fold and lay their napkins on their laps. Used to paper napkins beside her plate, this exercise apparently took a toll on Alison as she managed to get the napkin on her lap but then immediately forgot it was there.

She had her eye on  the rolls and the turkey but was instructed that you pass the food to your right, only taking it when it comes back to you.

"You do that and all the good stuff is gone," complained my delicate flower. "The teacher did that and all that was left for her was crumbs. She didn't have hardly any food at all!"

Like her mother, Alison loves bread. She'd taken a huge bite of her roll just as Ms. Herron was telling everyone about proper bite sizes.  Ms. Herron's eyes met Alison's as she downed a full 2/3 of the buttery roll.

A super fan of gravy, Alison took issue with the delivery system. "There was a spoon in the gravy boat," she said. "A spoon! I told everyone that it was a gravy boat and you were supposed to pour from it. There shouldn't have been a spoon in it at all but she didn't listen. And I had to fish the spoon out of the gravy boat a couple of times."

"You at least used your knife when it came to the turkey, didn't you?" I asked.

She shook her head. "No. I didn't really need it."

I gulped. "You didn't stuff huge wads into your mouth, did you?"

"Well. Um. Probably not. I could cut it with a fork like with egg foo young," she said. "And everyone thought I was crazy when I put gravy on my turkey. But who eats turkey without gravy?"

I asked if she at least kept up polite conversation with her dinner companions. "Well, I told the teacher she kind of scared me," she said.

Any inroads she'd made with Ms. Pate were likely eroded when, in a flashback to the buttery roll incident, she was wiping the gravy off her mouth with her sleeve when she next caught Ms. Pate's eye.

I asked her why she hadn't used her napkin.

"Well, I totally forgot it was there," she said.

At least she didn't entertain the table with stories of squirrel as the main course. I'm hoping academics will outweigh etiquette when it comes time for graduation.

out gravy?"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Heroes among us

Sometimes I'm amazed at the great people I know. And disappointed in how I sometimes take them for granted.

Thank goodness for Karin Ogden who reminded me about this last week without even knowing it. The great person in this scenario is Betty Cockrum, who heads the Indiana-Kentucky Planned Parenthood operations.

I've known Betty for a long time. She was a key player in the O'Bannon administration and joined Planned Parenthood after our time in the sun was temporarily dimmed. Betty doesn't come from great wealth or one of those families who run their corner of the world. She's made her way in this world on her own chutzpah and charm. She was born with extra measure of each.

I know some of you automatically connect her organization with abortion, and I know some of you are opposed to that procedure. You know that I adamantly prefer abortion over abuse. And sure, adoption is a wonderful alternative, no question. If only we had as many people actively engaged in that effort...

What you might not know is that abortion is a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does and I know dozens, hundreds probably, of women who've received crucial (non-abortion-related) services from this organization. It's important. It's needed. And I'll advocate for it to anyone, anywhere anytime.

So when I had an opportunity to attend a small fundraiser, I invited some friends. Karin and Hannah Ogden joined Alison and me. We ran into great friends there and made some new ones. And it was there that Karin inadvertently and virtually smacked me upside the head:  "I want to introduce you to a really great woman," she said to Hannah, introducing her to Betty.

I know Betty is a great woman. Ali has chatted with her a bunch of times. I think Betty -- creator of the Redheads for O'Bannon group -- has a special affection for my little one. Not just because of her hair, but because she and the other Skirts were there for me when I had her. And the issues that came before Alison's arrival.

But I don't think I ever adequately described her to Alison. To Ali, she's just Betty; a friend of Mom's.

Ali and I talked a little bit about Betty and the challenges facing Planned Parenthood on the way home from the event. Per her usual, Ali volunteered to stand watch at Betty's house to protect her from anyone who'd protest against her there. She understands that no one celebrates abortion, but that everyone deserves good health care. And in those instances when abortion is the choice, that it should be done in a medically safe way. Am I indoctrinating Ali into my liberal world? Probably.

But this is the kid who spent nine years in catholic school without assuming the party line. I think she'd push back.

Alison also met my friend Helen Small recently. She's Bobby Small's wife and a strong woman who made her mark in the arts community. Ali met Helen in the most trying of circumstances: while Bobby was in ICU at Methodist Hospital but like me, years before, fell instantly in love with her.

I never really thought much about this 'It takes a village' kind of thing but I think I'm getting it now as Alison is really becoming a young, independent woman. I'm fortunate my village has tons of awesome, strong, funny, smart women she can learn from. I need to do a better job making sure Ali recognizes their strength.

Speaking of fine young women, Hannah Ogden is constantly amazing me. She's two years ahead of Ali, and I remember back when Ali and Alex were thick as thieves in their toddler days. We didn't really know Hannah much. I was planning on having Alex over when Hannah became available as well and was interested in coming along. We had the best time and it led to Hannah always being invited.

We had awesome summers with the three of them. Now, she drives and has a boyfriend and a job. She's so near an adult that it hurts. But she's still sweet Hannah Rose. A few weeks ago, after an unusually stressful week with Ali, she texted me to say she'd enjoyed my blog and she was sure that Ali would one day be happy I insisted on taking photos of her in her first school dance outfit. She's 16! Who does that?

It's OK to go "Awww" here in your head. I did when I saw that note. You don't get to be that thoughtful on your own. Karin just may be approaching hero status, too.

The Planned Parenthood event wasn't just a Eureka! Moment. It was fun, too. My friend Heather was there. When she told Ali she knew her as a baby and that we'd worked together in the governor's office, Alison immediately apologized for peeing on the governor's couch. (True story.)

The two of them trotted off to the bar where Heather introduced Ali to some funky tea drink and the two of them charmed each other's socks off.  I drove down home for my niece, Annie's baby shower where my sister Debbie threw everyone's gift under the bus with hers: a 6-foot-tall giraffe-shaped piece of wood that she had hand painted, installing a yard stick to make a growth chart.

I can never move from this house because Alison's growth chart is marked on her bedroom wall. I guess I could take the wall with me, but who knew you could have a piece of hand-sawed, hand-painted piece of moveable art? Debbie is an amazing artist -- as gifted with a paintbrush as Donna is with a needle and thread.

I got home just in time to join Ali and Jeff in a walk to Fat Dan's Deli -- never my choice given the menu items reflect the name of the place, but the two of them love it. We had to wait forever for a table but even at 14, Ali bore it well. Possible better than me.

While we waited for service, she slipped away and Jeff asked me where she'd gone. "Probably to get a beer," I joked as she'd headed to the bar. Turns out she was after chalk, which is an homage to Matt Elliott, who once operated what we called "The Newspaper Stand" when Ali was small.

We met Matt when I was home on maternity leave and in search of exercise and the Sunday paper. Ali honed her color skills as a toddler sorting Matt the Newspaperman's candy. He gave her her first candy -- a lollipop she consumed on the way home promising all the while not to tell Dad that she'd violated the "no sugar" policy we had going. She of course ratted me out first chance she got. Matt was unapologetic and continued to slip her candy every week.

She later drew in his sketchbook as kids were wont to do there. He, sadly, passed away and the deli has taken his space. It offers chalkboards by the tables and our hangman games attracted players as they passed by. Alison's "Donald Trump Needs to Go" was perhaps the winner of the night although my "Today I saw Black Jesus" won Jeff's vote. (Long story, but again, true.)

We capped the night off with a no-TV evening upstairs where Alison celebrated her love of classic rock music and the imminent arrival of sanctioned Christmas music. Jeff is trying to hold her off, invoking the  after-Thanksgiving.rule. Sunday has been largely uneventful other than me mulching another 17 tons of leaves.

We have another couple of weeks before the arguing over Christmas music will end. Ali's started calling him Scrooge instead of the Captain. In the meantime, she's dancing to classic rock and continuing to deride country music. That's one bit of indoctrination she's proven immune to. So far.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Halloween is barely over but if you're within a mile or so from my house right now you'd think it's Christmas. No, I haven't dragged out the decorations. I'm a steadfast Not-til-after-Thanksgiving kind of person: Alison has created a Christmas playlist that she's playing at a deafening volume.

I've been referring to her as a demon child lately whenever she gets to bedeviling me more than usual. I suspect it might have led to her Halloween costume. Now, she's deep into the sounds of the holidays.

Jeff lost his hearing aids at a Purdue tailgate outing so I'm the only one who's ears are bleeding. I'm sure they're thinking it's payback for me playing country music. They're enjoying it so much I don't have the heart to complain.

I have, however, retreated to my bedroom and closed the door. It's vibrating a little bit, and I can still hear the tunes but my ears aren't ringing anymore.

These are the sacrifices a good mom makes, right? I do like the Charlie Brown songs, though. And when we all three -- in different rooms -- sang, "Merry Christmas, my friend!" during Snoopy & the Red Baron, it was an indication that we have at least a little in common.

It's not a bad thing to be hanging in the bedroom. Both Jeff and I have been really busy at work. I had two fundraisers that required some work -- and heels -- Ali had acting class, Jeff had his trip to Lafayette. And there were something like 6 billion leaves in the yard that weren't going to leave on their own.

I read a gardening column this week where a guy claims that you shouldn't bag your leaves, but instead mulch then and put them on your flower beds. Every fall, Jeff and I argue over when it's time to address the leaves.

His preference is to wait until the last leaf falls before we start to think about where the rake might be.

If we ever did that (which we won't) we'd have leaves deeper than I am tall. I love our neighborhood in large part for the huge trees that are glorious autumnal bouquets this time of year. There's no need to drive to Nashville to go leafing.  I can just step outside and revel in the color spectrum.

Then they fall.

They're not as pretty on the ground, and they're not fun at all when they sweep into the house. From the magnolias and their elephant-ear sized leaves to the oaks, the maples and the ones with tiny red leaves, they just drown us in crackly debris.

So I got the mower out and start plowing through them. Initially, I was thrilled. Instead of huge piles all around the yard, there were just minuscule
leaf parts everywhere. By everywhere, I mean the yard was brown. No hint of green anywhere under that carpet of leaf guts. I think I even exploded a few tons of acorn parts.

But no raking or bagging, right? Instead, the leaf blower gets fired up. It takes a looooong time  to blow tiny leaf parts into the flower beds. It's kind of like vacuuming in reverse. And on a bigger rug.

It's better than raking and bagging, though, and as long as it rains before it gets windy, the yard should be in good shape.

There are still some leaves in the trees, but the maple and one of the magnolias have given up their bounty, so I may have to do this again. But maybe only once more.

Good eco work, right? And no back pain. Of course my arms, knees and legs are screaming but I prefer my exercise to have a purpose.

Speaking of purpose, Jeff and I had great times supporting two organizations this weekend: Meals on Wheels and the Indiana Recycling Coalition.  They both do important, great work and I'm proud to say I have great friends leading in both the efforts. If you have some extra money or time that you want to give to someone/thing, check out either. They'd be investments that help your heart and help others, too.

I have great friends who do great things. I'm lucky they put up with me. Of course Vicki made me dress up like a cowgirl and Carey made Karin and me wear recycled candy wrappers on our heads, so they may owe me more than I owe them.

I'm seriously grateful that my crazy journey has led me to not just meet fabulous people, but to count them as true friends.

Bobby and Helen Small are among that group. Both have made huge contributions through their family, their professions and organizations.

As many of you know, Bobby collapsed last week and has been in ICU ever since. He's getting a little better but he's not out of the woods yet. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He's a wonderful man with a wonderful family and it's awful to think of any of them in pain.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Peaks & Valleys

A couple of weeks ago I was all in angst about Alison and her unwavering commitment to growing up and being her own damn person.

I know every parent and every teen goes through this peak and valley kind of thing, so what makes our problems so much bigger than everybody else's? In my best Ally McBeal paraphrase: "They're ours."

And, I'm happy to report that we're out of the valley and approaching what I hope will be a big, long peak.


Alison is the biggest user of our data plan so when we get messages from AT&T that we're in danger of eclipsing our plan, the Captain heads straight to the redhead. By biggest user, I mean her Internet, Spotify and movie downloading generally uses 3/4 of our limit.  So her surfing wings have been clipped until the new cycle begins.

I asked her to look something up for me on our way home from school. She asked for my phone. In response to my inquiry, she said she wasn't using hers unless she was on a wifi network. I said I thought we had a little room. She declined and used my phone.

"Dad's gonna kill me if I use any more data," she said.

I laughed. "Oh come one. The worst he'll do is take your phone and iPad," I said.

She looked at me. "I know. He's gonna kill me."

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur with both Jeff and I crazy at work. Ali had mid-terms. She thought she did well on them, and I'd have to say that high school so far has been a great success. Parent-teacher conferences were due but work kept both of us away.

So I emailed all of her teachers, explaining we weren't deadbeat parent; just busy ones. I gave them each a bit of what I was experiencing from her and asked if they'd reply via email - at their convenience - if they had concerns, issues or accolades to offer.

Here's a great thing about Herron High School and it's teachers: "their convenience" was nearly instantaneous, within hours at the latest. I was really expecting something over the next several days as most other parents would have made a way to have these visits in person.

Alison's teachers are finding her "a delight" "a hoot," "a sarcastic wit" a welcome presence in class and a great kid to have around. Except when she doesn't get her work done in class. She might need to be challenged in Honors Algebra -- she didn't get that from me -- but all in all, she's having a great freshman introduction.

She's making great new friends and her independent nature is being fed quite well. She had an unusually low test score in one class that I wanted to talk about more deeply than she did. I let it slide over dinner then came back to it. She ended up going to bed early and I was conflicted about whether to see what was up. I let it go.

She went to bed, Jeff went to work downstairs and I went to watch bad TV in my bedroom. It wasn't 10 minutes before she came rushing in, crying and laid across my lap. It took me while to even understand what she was saying.  "I've been so mean to you! I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

I was taken aback because we were well beyond the occasion when she came slightly close to being mean and even then, it was just being 14, not malicious. She had spent a large part of the day with Hannah Ogden, and I don't know what all they talked about but I suspect it might have covered some of our somewhat troubled ground. (Remind me to send Hannah a gift.)

Also, she'd been listening to a play list that happened to include, somehow, "You are my Sunshine." I used to sing that (badly) to her when she was tiny. It is, apparently, some sort of guilt-laced trip wire of past gloriousness. All I know is, she came in to snuggle a bit before going back to bed, apologizing for sins I'm not aware of nor need to be.

Last night, we went to a Pumpkin Slashing party hosted by the Horlanders, who've had the party for years for the boys in Ali's CKS class. Last year was the first time Alison had been invited -- she was the only girl to ever be invited and they had had a great time.

She had reservations about going, though she clearly wanted to. She even gave up going over to Asher's house to do it. She walked in and it was like a "Cheer's" episode with her playing the part of Norm. Nick, Nathan, Ty, Lindy, and gaggle of other boys were there.

She wore her father's Army hat and jacket with green pants and a camp tank top. Costume of the night, though, was either Tom's Star Trek uniform or Drew as a knight with real chain mail and period helmet.

It was a fun night and from all appearances seemed like nothing had changed among the group except for everyone being a bit taller.

"That's just wrong, Mom," she said later. "I'm supposed to be taller than some of them and Rylan's voice got deeper too. It's just wrong."

This morning, she slept in while Jeff and I ran to the Broad Ripple Farmer's market where we were at the Lee Orchard apple stand chattering away. I stepped back a bit and saw a guy I knew I knew but couldn't place.'

We chatted a bit. I petted his puppy and recommended he try the apple cider ice cream at the Lic's booth. After a while he said, "I don't know if you remember me but I'm Clay Taylor."

I confessed. "I know we've met, but..."

"I was on Coach Reed's basketball team," he said and instantly I placed him. When Jeff and I were first dating, he coached for Immaculate Heart of Mary. His group was largely the same over three years or so and we had the best time with the boys and the parents.

It's not uncommon for us to be some where and hear, "Coach!" and it's one of those boys from those or their parents and it's alway something that stays with you a while.

Ali wasn't born yet when Jeff was coaching so the "boys" are all grown up now, so I think I should be forgiven for not recognizing Clay right way. He introduced us to his wife, for goodness sake, and he's about to join his father's dental practice. He's a man! They're all men. But the photo below is how I will forever see them.

Clay is at the top. The Miller boys are the twins. One of those poor boys is the one Jeff made run so much that his mother protested. He has flat feet, she said. He shouldn't have to run so much. "Ma'am, he may have flat feet, but if he's gonna play ball for me, he's gonna run," Jeff responded.

At some point during their seasons, we got married and word trickled to me that the team fully expected to attend our wedding. "Of course they should!" I said.  Some of the moms were appalled and thought they had overstepped.

I thought it was an enormous tribute to the coach and they were among the highlights of the event.

Speaking of the coach, the captain, Jeffrey Merle Reed: he had a birthday on the 29th. We celebrated - sort of - at a work event at Hotel Tango and of course our traditional morning present drop. We'll do more later tonight. And I think we'll be checking back in to HT early and often in the coming weeks and years.

Today, leaving the market, he said to me, "I got a thank you card and letter from my sister."

"A thank you note? I said. For what?"

I usually know what's going on in the family, and I was pretty sure if anyone had done anything remotely worth a thank you for Jen, it had not been the Captain.

"Listen," he said. "Sometimes when the words don't make sense, you should just go with it."

Hmmm. Words to live by. We're off to Halloween stuff now. Alison's actual Halloween costume will be revealed later. I'm still trying to decide if I should have hired bodyguards for her. She's off with Herron friends, Asher and Asher's friends.

I'm a little spooked.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I took time off work to hang out with Alison during her Fall Break. I'd pictured us taking advantage of the beautiful weather by biking all over the neighborhood.

Biking to BR Nails for pedicures, then to lunch somewhere in Broad Ripple or maybe all the way up to Carmel via the Monon. She has a homecoming dance soon and I was hoping we'd have some fun shopping for that -- incorporating bike trips to Macy's or Marshalls or the vintage shops sprinkled in between.

I forgot that she's a teenager now.

"Why would we bike?" she asked?  "I think I'd rather stay here and sleep."

It was 10 a.m. Maybe 11. I'd just walked back from 55th and Keystone where I'd left my beloved Mustang in the hands of Mike at Edwards Transmission. The car's get up had gone a while ago and I feared a huge problem. Mike was great, theorized a bit and assured me he'd get right on it. His 2010 Mustang convertible had been T-boned a while back and he still had traces of the grief in his eyes. I thought it was in good hands.

So I was energized when I got home. I'd texted ahead and even gotten her to start my coffee. I knew I'd need caffeine when I sprang my plan on her. She's a wily one. But her toes were in bad shape and the dance approacheth.

"Why?," she asked again. "Do we need to bike? Dad left you his car."

I agreed that the car was right there but it was for emergencies. "It's a great day. Let's ride up and then maybe shop for an outfit for the dance."

"I have plenty of clothes," said she. "I don't need to shop. And I'm NOT wearing a dress."

Pete the Planner and the frugal captain might have rejoiced at those words, but this is her first high school dance. The first dance she's ever expressed an interest in attending. She skipped all the catholic "gatherings" and had to be tricked into the father-daughter Girl Scout dance.

Come to think of it, I might have tricked him, too. No matter.

I caved in on the biking to BR Nails, thinking we could drive up to Castleton and spend a few hours shopping. She suggested the Glendale Target instead. We compromised on Macy's for the outfit and Target for some candles.

Off we set, successfully shopped via car, but when we got home, the 3-wick candle I bought would only catch one flame. Then, we discovered one of the garments we bought still had the clunky plastic tag on it. It was late afternoon, though, and we were making dinner, so I decided to move my bike plan to Friday.

You might think it's not easy to bike carrying a defective 3-wick candle, but I managed it. I also stuffed in her still-tagged outfit and the receipts and money we'd need. First stop Target where it was easy to get a credit and then Macy's where the clerks waved off the need of proof of purchase.

"You two were in here yesterday weren't you?" the check-out clerk said. This was not the same clerk we'd rung out with. It's possible I was wearing the same clothes as I wore Thursday, but still, I was a little curious as to why she didn't think we could be shoplifters.

At our puzzled looks, she said, "I remember that beautiful hair."

We smile. Minutes before, in the Target customer service line, a strawberry blond woman with a fragrant toddler had asked me if we were both natural redheads. I just smiled because, WTH lady. I don't ask people if they're naturally chubby. Why be so personal? I don't lie about my hair. I just don't feel the need to confess all to perfect strangers.

So Ali of course, as she always does, tells the nice stranger that SHE, Ali, is a natural but I'm not. The woman is annoyed with me - visibly - for not having corrected her. I'm about to point out that her kid might need a refresh when she gets called to the counter. Anyway, back to Macy's.

Compliments politely acknowledged and tag off, we went back out to the bikes.

I tell Ali that if she had planned a life of crime, she'll have to give it up because criminals have to be able to blend, to be forgettable. With her hair, she'll never be incognito.

"Do you want to me lead a life of crime?" she asks.

"Well, no, I'm just saying."

We ran into Hannah Ogden on our way to another store. It was fun to see her and we chatted about the night's upcoming surprise party for her mom's birthday and off we went to Walgreen's where I planned to buy a gag gift for Karin as suggested by her co-workers. She's always losing her reading glasses so we planned to gift her with enough she couldn't ever lose them.

If you've never shopped for readers at Walgreens, here's a clue. They're at the end of an aisle which offers on one side hair care products and on the other an amazing array of more intimate items.  I know this because I was deep into figuring out the proper magnification of the glasses I wanted to buy when I hear, "That's a LOT of condoms."

Right. Trojans have come a long way over the years. Alison read off some of the more interesting specialty items they offer now. Then, she came to the lotions and "Uh, Mom. Is it legal to have something like that in a store like this?"

Walgreens is selling a vibrator now. Right there in the magic lotion section next to the condoms. Just around the corner from the glasses for old people.

"I'm sure it's legal," I said. "Why, were you thinking you needed something like that?"

She was appropriately horrified then said, "I think Dad would have a heart attack if I came home with something like that."

We ended our drugstore shopping with just the readers, thank you. We were heading home with my backpack lighter one big-ass candle so I suggested we lengthen our ride.

"Why?!" she said. "Let's just go home."

"Why should we go home? It's a beautiful day. We're young and healthy. Let's keep riding. Why do you want to go home?"

"Because home is where the TV is," she said, pedaling hard like a field horse who could smell the hay in the barn.

I sighed and gave in again. On Friday, she slept in again. I attempted to get her to run errands with me but she clearly wanted to laze about. I got her into the car and even started out, thinking she'd come around by the time we got to our destination. No go.

Annoyed, I turned the car around, planning to set her free in the driveway.

"Are you sure," she asked? 

She was struggling with not wanting to hurt my feelings but really not wanting to hang out with me unless it involved us being at home, likely in separate rooms. I was struggling with knowing she's growing up and needs her own space. But dammit, I'd taken time off to be with her! The ungrateful wretch! When she was little, we would have been a fabulous time together.

These days, if I can't fully appreciate the nuances of the 654th episode of South Park for the day, she considers me uneducated. So in she goes and off I go, doing my chores. Alone.

I got home, later than I'd wanted, barely in time for us to get to Karin's surprise party. We go -- she peels off to be with her friends -- as she should -- and we each have a great time. It's impossible to not have a good time around the Ogdens.

On the way home she leans over and says, "I'm glad we came. This was fun."

Sigh. She's still my little girl. Kind of.

Saturday was a rush of getting my car back -- thank you Mike! -- hair appointments and YAT before she babysat. An unsolicited hug here and there. Chinese food on the way home -- eating a few dumplings in the car because we can't help ourselves. Laughing over my driving skills as I get used to a clutch that's working perfectly and causing me to stall out occasionally.

Jeff and I walked Ali to her baby sitting gig here in the neighborhood. Heading back home without her, he said, "You know, it's not going to be too much longer until it's just you and me. Walking just like this like we did 18 years ago."

I didn't choke up. I didn't wail. It's an inevitable truth. And it's not like I don't enjoy my time with the captain. We had a great date night last night.

But this parenting thing is hard. I don't have pets because they die and I don't want to have to face that. How did I ever get talked into being a parent when you raise the little beast intentionally giving it the strength and courage and tools to leave your ass behind? What kind of a sick process is this?!

All I can do is brace myself and hope she'll drift back to me from time to time. In the meantime, I have one more day of fall break.

If she ever gets up, we're going to have  F.U.N. Whether she likes it or not. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My favorite SIL

OK, it may be true that she's currently my ONLY sister-in-law but she would have been top of the list even before she shared this recipe.

I should make it a secret family recipe -- it's really that good -- but that would be like hiding fine art or country music. The world needs these things. Also, the more YOU all eat, the less apparent my pumpkin-like shape will be.

The Only Cookie You Need in the Fall:

2 eggs
1 29 ounce can pumpkin
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
4.5 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp each of:
baking soda
at least one package of chocolate chips
nuts (optional)

Combine the wet stuff with the sugar: (eggs, pumpkin, oil, vanilla, milk) Blend well. Add dry stuff. I usually stir in the chips last and keep aside a portion of the batter to add nuts so I don't have them all with nuts. (I find it nuts that people don't like the nuts, but to each his own.)

The batter will be wetter than you think it should be, but don't worry. Drop in lumps, but don't get too big. They're pretty rich if you do it right. They should stand up rather than spread out.

Spray your cookie sheet with Pam or a substitute. Bake at 350 for 11 minutes. Don't let the bottoms get too brown.

They're fabulous right out of the oven and the chocolate won't scar even though you think it might burn a hole right through your tongue. It's well worth the pain. They're also good with a dip or six of ice cream next to them.

The recipe makes a lot of cookies. Especially if you are a responsible sizer. I recommend sharing or resigning yourself to shopping for a larger size. But remember: it's pumpkin so it's healthy and practically the law for this time of year.

For those of you who can't help yourselves, I used Truvia instead of sugar, whole wheat flour in equal parts with white flour. I wanted to use an oil substitute but wasn't brave enough. Next time I'll try half oil and half applesauce, a trick I learned from Cindy Athey.

But this is a post in honor of one Jennifer Lynn Reed Chase. My favorite sister-in-law now and forever. With or without pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. (But especially with...)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Screw Time. Time Doesn't Matter

So the other day at work, I'm holding the door from some guests who can't otherwise get into the key-coded doors. I'm a little distracted because I need to get in there to do a little work but, you know, I'm being polite to the outsiders.

I didn't pay them much attention, just smiled and welcomed them in and turned to get to my business when I heard: "Cheryl Bickel?!"

That's a name I haven't heard in, oh, say 24 years or so. I turn. Lo and behold it's my friend Vicki Burdick who I'd seen last in Evansville, Indiana.

"Vicki Burdick?! What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here, Cheryl Bickel?"

Turns out, Vicki works with Meals on Wheels, one of several local non-profits that Angie's List was giving its first foundation grants to. We hadn't seen each other since she left Evansville where she'd run a downtown development group and I was the city hall reporter for The Evansville Press.

How cool is Karma?

We were great friends. Super friends. BFFs before the acronym came to be. Separated when her husband got a promotion and they moved back to Carmel. A few year passed before I moved to Indianapolis, then a few more after that I got married and changed my name. I don't know how we lost touch, but we did.

What was super weird was just that morning I was trying to decide what to wear and while I was in my closet I'd thought of Vicki. She used to wear patterned business suits all the time with a patterned shell underneath. For some reason that fascinated me as I'd thought one pattern meant you couldn't wear another but she made it work and it was great. (This was before I became a Joan Ranger and developed my fashion sense from Fashion Police. Cutting edge. That's me.)

Anyway, the years just melted away and we descended into our 20-soomething gibberish, examined each others photo gallery and caught up. We've been chattering ever since.

She actually put it best in a Twitter post "When you see a great friend you haven't seen i 24 years and it feels like it's only been 24 hour!"

I'm lucky to have several friends who fall into this category. You know who you are.

I feel blessed every time I run into them and every time I wish I was better at making time to see them more. Rather than wallow in the friendship guilt, I'm just going to take what I can when I can and say "Screw Time!" Time doesn't matter. It's a quality v. quantity thing here."

Vicki and I will be solving more world problems over drinks on Mass Ave. Tuesday evening if you want to join in.

In other news, Alison and her Young Actors Theatre group performed small skits on the Soldiers & Sailors Monument Circle Saturday. It was gray and drizzly and cold but they did a great job entertaining the passersby and promoting their upcoming productions.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Biking and Bladder Control

The last time I crashed my bike in a spectacular way, I was with Jeff and Ali on the Canal Tow Path and I went straight down into a deep ditch on the waterless side of the dirt path. Engrossed in counting turtles, they kept going and I had to drag my leaf-strewn, bruised and bloody body back up to the path. Alison was probably 8 or 10.

I was probably 12 or so the other time I remember crashing. I was riding my sister's 10-speed -- likely without permission -- down the road from my parent's house. A crazy dog was chasing me and I was trying to dodge it. I finally escaped him by sliding off the road entirely, over a ditch and under the electric fence that surrounded a field separating Charlie Wilson's house from the Johnsons.

Across from that field lived the Millers. And on this sunny afternoon, my father was in the front yard talking over or working on a small renovation at the Miller house. The dog was loud. The crash fairly spectacular. Much like the tow path incident, though, my impending doom must have muted me.

This is what I remember hearing in the eery silence as I twitched a bit from the combination of nearly being ripped to shreds by some slobbering mongrel and the combination of an electric charged fence reacting to me having lost all control of my youthful bladder.

"Ain't that your youngest girl, Don?"


"She alright?"

"Looks like it."

"That fence live?"

"Don't look like it."

This exchange occurred between two grown men. Fathers the both of them, who stood stock still watching first the chase then the sight of a young girl tangled up in an electric fence. Not to mention the damn killer dog.

Remember that I grew up with two thug brothers. Crying only worsened whatever ill had befallen you when they were around. Usually they were a large part of the ill. While they weren't around to be blamed for this particular incident, my father was also a faithful subscriber to the No Crying Club. We didn't see a doctor unless the blood wouldn't stop or a bone protruded.

If I could demonstrate the ability to extricate the bike and myself on my own, it would be clear that I had passed some sort of test. So of course that's what I did. I don't know where the dog went, but I went home. My father apparently finished whatever he was doing.

I thought of that crash today when I braved the chilly weather and a bit of rain to fulfill an obligation to my friend Karin Ogden whose work team is involved in some crazy competition about demonstrating love of riding bicycles. I almost didn't go. It was really cold. But I'd said I would do my part so I dug out my ear muffs, bundled up and got out on the Monon Trail on my trusty bike.

I set an alarm on my phone so I'd know when to turn around. I mean, I love Karin and I will fulfill my obligation but I'm not going to risk frostbite to do it any longer than I need to. So there I was, counting the minutes and wondering how far I'd gone.

Part of the biking challenge is to take a picture while you're biking and to report in. So I pulled out my phone, thinking I'd take a picture of the other folks on the trail and pair it with a quippy line about how I was surprised I wasn't the only one out in this chilly weather. This grand inspiration came as I was approaching an intersection and a car was approaching from the left. So I had to brake.

It might be possible to take photo with one hand while braking a bike with the other, but I will never know. Because when I did it, I over-braked. And that made the bike jerk to a stop. Which made me almost drop my phone. But I didn't want to drop my phone on the asphalt, so I stopped braking to get a more secure grip on my phone. Which made the bike fall over. That chain of events might make a woman of a certain age who's had a child lose her grip on another part of her body. Maybe. It was raining, so who can say, really?

My little accident happened just before the intersection, still on the trail so I wasn't in danger of getting run over by a car. I was wearing all black like a ninja but somehow the real cyclists on the other side of the street still saw me. They were kind enough to inquire about me as they rode by. I was upright by this time, securing my phone in a pocket and retying my shoe, clearly in no need of assistance. But it was nice to be asked.

Anyway, I limped home, showered and ran a load of darks all the while grateful there are no electric fences along the Monon Trail. Now I'm going to record my ride. I don't think the #LovetoRide folks have a trophy for this kind of challenge but I think they might need to consider it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Oh, I know Ali Reed..."

The Captain caught a little bit of my Alison-is-growing-up-melancholy last week. She'd opted to go to bed instead of stay up to watch "Doctor Who" with him.

For a few years now, they'd bonded over their love of British TV. He's loved every second of their time in front of the big TV downstairs and I don't blame him. Sure, I know it's important for them to have their own thing. And it's fun to listen to them nerd out, as all good Whovians do on occasion.

I also know how hard it is to see her slip away into her own, singular interests. Parenting, right?

Now that I've dragged you down into our hole of discontent, let me lead you right the hell out. Yesterday was the annual fundraiser for Young Actors Theater, the group Ali fell into thanks to Hannah Ogden. Karin and I -- and by extension all of the family members we can get to help us -- were on board to help pull off the food, the drinks, the chocolate fountain and the candy buffet.

Jeff was manning the lemonade stand and a young lady named Eleanor was assigned to help him. He introduced himself as "Ali Reed's dad."

"Oh, I know Ali Reed," she said.

He was surprised as Eleanor looked to be college-aged. "Really?" he said. "How do you know Ali Reed?"

"Well she's the reason my little brother went to Christ the King," says Eleanor. "She was my parents' tour guide when they went to the Open House and they loved her so much they wanted him to be just like her."

The beam from my husband's face would have powered the electrical needs of a small country, I'm sure. But wait. There's more. This story is a great 'guess what's great about my kid' story but it gets better.

Back when we were scouting Kindergarten for Alison, we went to a number of schools, among them CKS. They have their 8th graders perform the task of taking prospective students' parents around the place, telling them this and that and talking about their time at Christ the King.

Some of the schools we looked at were public. Some had higher, some had lower tuition than Christ the King. For two public school graduates, the idea of paying for elementary and/or high school was a new thing. We could handle it, sure, but it wasn't something we'd considered an automatic part of getting her ready for real life. But that afternoon we strolled around CKS solidified it for the Captain.

"No matter what it costs, if our kid can turn out like those kids, it'll be a great investment," he said. "I want her to be like that."

So, Fantastical 2015 is in the record books. A good time was had by all. We raised some money for YAT scholarships and we solidified some new and old friendships. And I'm deeply sorry to whoever has to get the chocolate stains out of the fountain tablecloth. The photos below are the before. The after was just a minefield of candied popcorn, chocolate drippings, M&Ms, and sticky candy. I hope the vacuum survived.

Midway through the event, I had to de-clog the chocolate fountain of debris that had come unskewered and left with as much chocolate on me as some of the treats. But I've had worse things under my fingernails than chocolate. Other than that, I don't think we had many issues. Jeff's signature cocktail was a hit with the bartenders, which warmed his little mixologist-wannabe heart.

Afterward, kids were hoping they could fill up cups of the remaining chocolate. Karin's mom, Joan, served as Banana Lady, cutting up the fruit a small pile at a time for dipping so it would be a pile of brown mush. When she heard the request for cups of chocolate, she shuddered a bit. Someone asked her what the ratio of snot, saliva and other kid-nastiness might be in there.

(Note to anyone thinking a chocolate fountain is a must-have for their next event: it's a Sisyphean task to keep kids from using their fingers and double dipping into a chocolate fountain. IM-possible. You can try, but I don't advise trying to save the chocolate at the end...)

I'm off work today recovering from the whole thing, cleaning and putting away all the dish and glassware we used. My big goal is to plant the last of the tulips bulbs I have in the shed and to find a way to keep the squirrels from digging them up and hoarding them for deep winter snacks.

I guess tulips and little girls are a bit alike. You just never know what's going to come of that seedling. All you can do is do your best, hope for the best and, as my friend Karin reminded me: "When I expect great things from my kids, they always deliver. YOUR kid is a great kid too. And she always delivers."

That Karin Ogden man, when she's right, she's really right.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

As Ali nestles deeper into her teenage years, I've been a little sad that she's not always a chatterbox with me anymore, relaying the days news, her hopes and dreams and random facts at the drop of a hat. Our car rides home from school generally start with a greeting and end quickly with her plugging in her ear buds to escape my country music.

I'm was pretty sure it was the music and not me she was fleeing until I started turning off the radio and quizzing her about this and that. It's not that she's sullen; she's just growing up and I know better than to push too hard. But I AM curious and I was hoping for more communication in the car. At home. You know, anywhere.

When she was little, we used to recite passages from our favorite books -- Go Dog Go! at stoplights for example -- or just talk about whatever was going on. We'd play the ABC game or remark on stuff we saw along the way. So I was encouraged when she brought back a classic car ride game the other day.

Until my arms started hurting, that is.

We play a modified version of Slug Bug. It's the same game where you slug your co-rider whenever you see a VW Beetle, calling out the color, but we also count any car painted yellow -- you just call out "Tweety Bird" instead of "Slugbug" of whatever color.

And woe be unto the driver with weak vision and traffic on her mind if she mistakes a convertible MG with a convertible VW. That's a double punch from the offended competitor. As you might guess, Alison Reed has a quick eye and a quicker, harder punch. Damn those years of Tae Kwon Do.

It's been kind of fun arguing over whether a bronze or brownish-gold counts as yellow. In case you're ever brave enough to get into a car with her, construction equipment doesn't count, but taxis that are primarily yellow do. People wearing yellow shirts but on bicycles do not. The pedal-powered trolley does not. Dumpsters do not, even though flashes of them when you're moving makes it seem like they're moving too.

She usually rules in her own favor and pretends great frustration over confusion.

"Mom. It's not that hard. No school buses because Dad outlawed them. Orange is NOT yellow. But that car counts because it's like that mustard he has that looks like it comes in a paint tube."

"That's brown mustard," I say. "Brown does not equal yellow."

"It's mustard. OK? Mustard is yellow. It counts."

Why we let her decide the rules is beyond me. Also, how Jeff managed to ban school buses mystifies me. It's not fair. I can ALWAYS see a school bus. Ali knows every hidden drive harboring a yellow car between Broad Ripple and 16th Street.

My arms haven't hurt this much since I ran into Kelsey Taylor at the Angie's List gym and she made me start working out in the weight room.

This afternoon, we're road-tripping to Worthington to see my family. If you have just a speck of affection for me and you know anyone with a Beetle or a yellow car, please keep them off I-70 or anywhere in southwest Indiana after 1:30 today. I'll be forever grateful.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

As princesses go...

Alison has been in the poor house lately. She made a strategic shopping error recently when she made a major deposit in her savings account. That account is, thus far, a one-way street.

She did save a bit back, but when we went shopping just before school started, she ran smack into the issue of unlimited wants and limited resources. I was her shopping buddy, so that means she's in debt. To me. Which is a pretty good spot. For me.

It's not that bad a spot for her either, actually. The Captain is far less lenient when it comes to her being broke but also going out and about. He tends to think she'll learn faster when she has to be deprived. I get that. I even agree with it. But I also believe you should never leave home without some cash in case something goes wrong.

Here's why I'm right on this and the Captain isn't. I believe that in a situation where you need rescuing, you should consider yourself to be your first rescuer. Sometimes you do need help. But often, you can solve your own problem. Having cash is a key part in being able to take care of things yourself. And if you have wait for help to arrive, it's good to be able to wait in a safe, well-lighted area. Again, cash comes in handy for that.

My example: On Monday, I got busy at work and realized I wasn't going to make it on time to pick Ali up from school. Students have to leave school grounds at 5 p.m. Ali was expecting me at or before 5. The school is pretty close to me, but with traffic, it's still a good 10-15 minutes await.

I texted her as soon as I realized I was going to be late and asked her to meet me at a coffee shop near the school. No problem, right? It was the plan we'd agreed to at the start of the school year.

I packed up and sped over there only to realize she'd gone to the coffee shop but she had no cash. It wasn't that long of a time for her to be there, but if I was the coffee shop owner, I'd be less-than-thrilled to have a nonpaying person lurking about.

So she now has an emergency cash stash. I hope I don't strand her again, but better to be prepared, right?

Anyway, this morning after she stumbled out of her long slumber, I sent her downstairs to face the piles of laundry she'd left dirty to go biking with her friend Nick. She mumbled -- in a good-natured way -- about the hardships she has to endure. She'd also put off homework and knew her Sunday was going to be less fun that her Saturday. The Captain had let her skip finishing ti Friday when he whisked her off to a fun dinner out while I worked late. (Yeah, he's the tough one...)

"Oh Cinderella," I said from the back porch where I was reading the paper. "It could be a lot worse."

She adjusted her glide path to come quiz me. "Why are you calling me Cinderella?" she asked.

"Uh, your chore list," I said. "Duh."

"Oh," she said. "I would prefer to be Sleeping Beauty."

"Not a chance," I retorted.

Ali's not much of a princess, unless it's Merida from Brave. Since she cut her hair, it's a bit more of a stretch, but the attitude still fits.

Speaking of, she and I were talking the other day about Planned Parenthood and how people who work there or support the cause (like we do) are sometimes criticized, even killed. She was aghast.

"I respect their right to have an opinion," she said. "But why would they think they could hurt people."

She then went into war-room mode, strategizing how we could deal with protesters if they ever came into our yard.

I love her. Even more when she does her chores.