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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Armed Rabbits, Crazy Mice & Country Music

I highly recommend stretching out your birthday. Especially as your birthdays get higher in the digit count.

My latest, for example, has been a full two weeks. My work might have suffered and I've definitely benefitted from extra caffeine in the mornings but it's been pretty fun. Fun at work, fun on Facebook, fun with Book Club, fun with friends. It's been long and glorious.

But before I get to that, I think I have to talk about rabbits. Armed rabbits.

Yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. But you're wrong. There's no squirrel stew or gravy in this story.  This animal story is a gym story.

As my friend Adam Wire knows, I have a strict policy at the gym of getting in there, getting my work done and not making eye contact with others. I'm in the gym not for fun, but to fight the battle of bulge. I've burned through at least 500 trashy novels as I kept my head down and sweated in this never ending, never winning war on driving under a wide-load sign.

My policy counts at the work gym but is doubly true at the Jordan Y, the gym I visit when I can't fit a work-out in during the day. Karin and I used to ogle a certain gentleman there back  when we worked out together, but we never (gasp!) talked to him.  I tended to read rather than chatter while we worked out. Going solo, I barely speak beyond pleasantries getting through the front desk.

I have plenty of friends. I'm not looking to turn sweaty strangers into soul mates. Not that I'm rude. Oh. Hell. Let's just say I'm a quiet, focused spadex-covered person and leave it at that. So there I am, sweating on an elliptical machine with Suzanne Brockmann's latest SEAL novel as two guys next to me are on treadmills.

I don't know if they were there when I hopped on the stairs or if they came later. No eye contact, remember. The one closest to me was a chatty Kathy like you can't believe. I blocked him out using my newsroom skills and concentrated on the action going on in my paperback.

But then, I hear, "Man, I know it ain't no fun when the rabbit's got the gun, but you gotta get back out there."

The other guy demurred. The first guy kept it up. My pace faltered. I tried to go back to the book but these guys were hilarious.  I slowed, turned to my left and apologized for interrupting. "I'm sorry. Did you just say, 'It ain't no fun when the rabbit's got the gun?'" I asked.

As you may remember, I grew up in the country and am familiar with about 10 million expressions involving animals and actions that may or may not be anatomically or otherwise possible. This one, however, was a new one.

Larry -- turns out the first guy is named Larry -- laughs and admits it, telling me he's trying to help his friend Harrison get back in the game. But they're men of a certain age and the dating game is harder now. He  tells me -- silly girl that I am -- that they weren't really talking about real bunnies or actual weaponry.

That made ME smile, but I kept my heart rate up as I asked, as politely as I could, if it were possible these rabbit hunters were plying their craft in the wrong woods. Were the rabbits in their sights possibly too young for their, somewhate aged, guns? 

Sweat still flying, we quickly became friends. And then I told them of the virtues of armed, older rabbits. 
So now I'm hunting rabbits for them. I have Harrison's phone number and Larry's gratitude. 

This is what happens, Adam, when you break your no-eye-contact rules.  

So, ladies, if you're single, not interested in breeding new rabbits, please hit me up. Harrison is a funny guy. He has a good job, works out and isn't at all Elmer Fudd-like. I'd go out with him if I didn't have a mighty fine rabbit of my own at home.

Crazy Mouse

When Alison was small, she loved the Crazy Mouse roller coaster at the Indiana State Fair. No matter which of her Day Nursery friends we had with us -- or if it was just the three of us -- we had to take a turn on the Mouse.  This year, it was Alex and Breanna.

"No. I am NOT going on the Crazy Mouse," Alex insisted. "No way."

They were already through their first set of tickets after  Jeff and I had Ieft them on the Midway in all their teenaged glory. The girls each had a stuffed animal. Alex had a couple tickets left and Jeff was at the counter re-supplying them. They'd gone through the bigger rides, no one had thrown up, but the girls were sure it was time to keep to tradition.

Alex was having none of it.

"I'm with you man," Jeff says to Jeff. "No way I'd stand in that line either."

Yes he would. And so would Alex, who has a perfect record of being my favorite male friend of Alison Reed dating back 12 years when we first met him. 

As she dives deep into high school -- she is loving Herron High School -- I'm bracing myself for a wider circle of friends.  Amy Tokash and I decided a long time ago that if we could keep our kids to the friends they me in Day Nursery, our lives would be perfect. Sadly, they're growing up, meeting new people and expanding their horizons. I can accept that -- as long as Jenna, Breanna, Alex and Hannah remain solidly in the mix. As in the most important of their friends. 

Like I can control that. Sigh. She's been pairing her school uniform with combat boots lately. It's a really cute look but one that sends both Jeff and me into instant please-slow-down mode. He's already decided she's going to have to wait for college to get contact lenses.

Sleepover Book Club

When I say my birthday started early, I really bogarted Karin and Julie's birthday. This is year two of what I hope is an August tradition where our book club books a hotel room and we spend the afternoon and evening at hotel pool. 

We always have fun at book club. But summer birthday book club is the best.


Country Music

Friday night when Jeff took me to a Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell and Tyler Farr concert, Ali opted to stay home alone rather than have a friend over or go somewhere herself. Like me, she likes her alone time.

In between sets, I texted her to see if she was doing OK.  "Yes I'm fine and breathing," she texted back. 

I replied that she might be a bit of a smartass.  

Now, we're liberals, but we don't let her curse. We don't curse at her, and we try not to curse much around her. So of course, she texted me back, asking if I was drunk. I pointed out that I could still spell.

"Cough, auto-correct, cough" was her reply text.

I think I might have over-armed my little rabbit. At least in the witty repartee department.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Alison Finally Gets Siblings

BAlison has asked for siblings off and on since she was little. Mostly, she's happy being the sole focus of our lives, but occasionally she'll say it would be nice to have a brother or a sister.

When she was really little, she'd put a sad look on her face and tell perfect strangers, "No. I don't have a brother or a sister or even a puppy or a kitten. Just a fish."  Then she'd look pitiful so they'd just shake their heads and ask what was wrong with me to treat her so poorly.

Today, USPS finally delivered on her wish for siblings:

  We call them Kenny, Kyle, Cartman and Stan. She loves them.

In other news, we've had more than our fair share of my family.  We attended a lovely wedding for Acacia and Mark, and then helped Aunt Shirley, Uncle Larry and my cousin Lori with part of their move from Columbus closer to the county of their births.

Even though she's a teenager, Alison was a big help carting and packing and toting. We had a good time, even though it's a little bittersweet. Larry and Shirley built their home in Columbus 36 years ago well outside the city limits. Plenty of ground around and only a few neighbors.

But civilization has been encroaching for years and they're hoping to find another house where the country is still country. Their house is sold, though, and they're still looking for the permanent replacement. So it's a rental for them for a while.

Ali took one last swing in the swingset Larry built years ago for Allyssa and I took a picture of the birdbath -- it's a replacement birdbath. Jeff broke the original on, if I remember correctly, was his first visit to the Columbus house. Or maybe it was his first 4th of July there. In any case, he tripped over it running from a firework gone awry and broke it right in two..

Ah. Memories.

Ali was my date to the wedding. Jeff had important errands to run with Duane. We were with Donna, Diane, Jason, Jaime and her girls, waiting for the wedding to start. Most of us were seated, and as Annie and her newish husband Justin joined us, someone claimed Justin had earlier referred to my sister, Diane, as "the nice one."

There was a collective gasp and immediate, loud protest. The argiments began with, "Is he confused about which one Diane is? Does he understand the definition of "nice"? At least one person suggested herself as the nice one.

Justin looked on, bemused. Then in a rare moment of silence, we hear this from Rachael: "We don't have a nice one."

Rachael wins.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

There's nothing soft about a 24-hour softball tournament

I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to play in a 24-hour softball tournament.

I should blame the endorphins. I was, after all, in the Angie's List gym under the influence of Kelsey Taylor when I made the decision. But still. It's been a good 15 years since I played softball somewhat regularly, and then it was once a week. Double headers were rarities. We didn't sleep on the hard ground for only three hours in the midst of it.

And we were never fueled by spicey Bloody Marys throughout.

It was a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, organized by Angie's List. For the longest time after agreeing to play,  I thought only about having to hit the  team and individual fundraising goals. No one else from my department could play (though they all donated)  so I thought I was doing the right thing for all concerned. 

Thanks very much to those (co-workers, friends and family) who helped out.  My father had a heart condition and heart surgeons saved him more than once. I was in 8th grade when the phone in the kitchen rang bearing news the first time he was rushed to the hospital.

My mother immediately left for the hospital after dropping the phone and blurting out the news to my sister Diana. The news was a shock because as far as we knew, my father was a mythical hero with equal parts of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Moses and a dash of Jesus tossed in. He was  our hero. Invincible. Certainly not sick. 

The news swept our town like a tornado. People decided he'd not come back from this. They  started showing up, tear-struck, at our house and my Grandparents house with food and flowers. He was in the hospital all summer; my mother at his side despite repeated attempts by the hospital staff for her to vacate the premises.

I don't know what the rest of my siblings after my mother dropped the phonel. I fled to the apple orchard and commenced upon the biggest, longest prayer of my life. Then or since.

It had only been the day before that my friend Tracy Reeves and I had gotten a pack of cigarettes and I'd lied to the folks at the Sea Cove restaurant in town to get matches. We went to the city park and smoked the whole thing by the railroad tracks.

My father was devoutly Pentecostal. Anything that came as close as a whisper to fun was sin that could send you straight -- do not pass Go -- to the firey pit. Once there, you were truly screwed. Real fire surrounded you. You walked on red hot coals. People taunted you from up above. I always pictured it like the people in Heaven could come lean over shiny silver guardrails to peek into Hell where they'd try to send down water soaked cotton balls attached to long sticks. 

The people below (me included) would try to reach the water balls but they always erupted like marshmallows too long in the flames.

Anyway, I was certain that smoking those cigarettes and telling that lie had pissed off God and he reacted like the vengeful God I'd been told he was: by striking down the person I loved most. So I prayed, and I cried, and I bargained. If I wouldn't smoke again --ever -- God would let my father live.

He did. So I didn't. Ever. Not tobacco, not pot, not hashish. Nothing. Because right up until my father died at 70, I couldn't bring myself to break that promise. Of all the lessons I learned in my 16 years on the hard pews at the Coalmont Church of God, I think I learned most that God has both a long memory and longer stick.

Not that I didn't sin in other ways. But not smoking was the only thing I'd promised not to do. God might be Almighty but I'm not stupid. I know how a bargain with a higher power works. So, anyway, doing something for the AHA wasn't a hardship. 

But I honestly didn't give the actual physical event much thought. I work out. I'm in fairly decent shape for my advancing years. The worst part, I thought, was going to be staying awake for all of Round One. We had games at 8, 10 and 11 p.m. Friday after work and then one at 2 a.m.

Setting up camp was fun. The VIP tent had snacks and drinks and we had coolers full of energy drinks, more booze and snacks. We brought Jeff's new mini grill and more than enough to share.

Softball is not a sport that anyone loses weight at or even tones up. It's a game some people play with a can of frothy beverage their feet or, certainly in the dugout. How hard could that be?

I forgot about the crouching, the bursts of running, the stretching to catch, the repetitive motion of tossing from home plate to the pitcher. Or how far right field is from the infield. Or how far a missed fly ball can roll.  

Earlier this year I pulled something in the upper thigh, groin area. It is a fickle injury that attacks sometimes, it seems, for the pure hell of it. I'll be walking to the copier and my thigh will just kind of want to stop working. I'm careful with it, have been resting it a bit and stretching as directed by Kelsey -- our Fitness Director, coach, and except for those hours of agony, a friend. I'm pretty sure it's 99 percent healed, but I went into the games knowing I wouldn't be mistaken for Speedy Gonzalez and determined not to try to imitate him.

In one late game, we picked up a player from another team. He apparently thought I might be related to that Mexican mouse. I was on first base when Jeff, hitting behind me, hit a solid single. We were at first and second, when this new guy gets up and doubles. I'm happy at third, dreaming of making it home when the next batter gets up. But new guy didn't know I'd stopped. 

Jeff turns around to find the guy trying to share second. Not a great scenario. And one that made for an easy out. Despite my presence on the team, we did make it to the semi finals and I played every time I was supposed to. Not because I'm a go-getter, but because I knew that like a shark, if I ever  stopped moving, I would die.

At 3 a.m. -- a good five hours past the time my bed normally hits the pillow (and maybe seven before I get prone) we were preparing to grill.

I managed to stay upright for another couple of hours. Jeff came into the tent for a catnap around 5 before he was up to umpire a 7 a.m. game.

I'm not sure if it was the late/early hour, the muscle fatigue or the alcohol that let my body believe sleeping in the ground was a blessing, but I'd never been so happy to lie down in the grass. Even surrounded by a group of ballers still going strong, I was asleep in record time. If you haven't figure it out by now, 90 percent of the people we were playing with were young enough to be our children.

I take it as a point of pride that while I wasn't stellar on the field yesterday morning, I did manage to play while at least two whole teams of youngsters  failed to show back up. Yes, we got to the semi-finals through a combination of luck and forfeit. But a W is a W.

It is also true that as I sat on that dugout bench, I was wracked with pain. My toes hurt. My feet hurt. My knees were killing me. My thighs were on fire. I'd pitched in between games to give some folks some batting practice and my right arm was numb. My back was like a little kid trying to get his mom's attention even though she'd long since tuned him out. "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it HURTS!"

I was also dirty. I think I might have smelled. And yes, I might have sent up a prayer or six that we'd lose early in Round Two, the single elimination round. Or that we'd get to three outs before it was my time to bat. I did not, however, quit. 

Our last game started at 10:53 a.m. Saturday, which meant that we would play until 11:53 a.m. unless we were behind by too many runs early on. We were up against a team that took the game a lot more seriously than we did.  A couple of them - imports I'm sure - were kind of nasty about it. Most were more fun and some of those guys had joined the grilling party the night before.

Of course each of the meaner-spirited ones were loaded for bear come Saturday morning. We were losing, but not as badly as the day before, when we got our last out at 11:50. By ASA rules, we had to start the next inning, which would have mean Team Evil got to bat the hell out of us again.

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensued. Mostly in my head, I'm sure. But I was not alone. Thank goodness the Captain intervened and conceded for us or we'd still be there on that gritty field.

I almost cried with relief and the idea of my shower and bed that awaited me. Yeah, there was more Bloody Mary mix and the championship game to watch.  Jeff could likely have gone on to play with one of the other teams; I'm sure our powerhouse, Nick, and our steadiest player, Eric, either tried or did. Kelsey, for sure, was there to the end.

I don't know what her deal is. She's part Rhonda Rousey, part Xena Warrior Princess and part Engergizer Bunny. I love her to the depths of my soul. But I cannot keep up with her. 

Ali had shunned us for time with Jenna and had planned for Nick to come over to watch bad movies. I unpacked the car only of the things that needed refrigeration, then hit the shower. I crawled into bed, wet, and power napped, planning to be awake when Nick's parents brought him over.

Nope. When I did get up, Ali and Nick were into their second scary movie. Every muscle in my body seized up. Getting to the bathroom was like surving Hell Week for Navy SEALS. I think I got up and actually walked, bent over like a 90-year-old around 8 last night. 

Today was better. I didn't scamper off to the bathroom, and bending down to get the paper in the driveway was an exercise in discipline, but I forced myself to move around.

Even on a good day, I have bad knees. It's a gift from my mother whose response to pain -- or any opportunity really -- was always to stop doing whatever hurt and read a Harlequin Romance on the couch. It got to a point where she wouldn't go down to the mailbox. When my own knees started hurting like that, I vowed to work through it. It's a large part of why I keep at the battle of the bulge.

So, reflecting on my poor response to the softball tournament, I decided that not only would I not return to my bed today, I'd mow the yard as part of the 10K steps program.  Did I look good doing it? Uh, no. But I did it.

Will today find me on the couch with a book? Maybe. 

It's another gift from my mother; one I can't shake.  I read a lot. I started borrowing my mom's Harlequins when I was seven or eight. I gauge that by a memory of my sister Donna catching me at the Little League park where we went every single night of the summer (it seemed) because my brothers played baseball. "Do you see what your daughter is reading!" 

Donna was married when this occurred. I remember that because I didn't get to see her all the time anymore, and I was happy she'd stopped by. She would have just turned19 and I would be turning 9 the next month.

My mother didn't seem to think me reading a Harlequin Romance was a bad thing. Did it adversely shape my expectations for healthy relationships later in life? Probably. But I had a crazy good vocabulary in elementary school.

Let's face it, we lived in the country and the closest library was miniscule. Amazon hadn't yet been invented and we didn't have a lot of books laying around the farm. Between the Bible and a Harlequin, what would you have read? 

I like to think I've upped the quality of the books over the years, but I am much like mother when it comes to being able to say no to a good, soft porn paperback.

At least I'm not smoking.