Sunday, January 24, 2016

That time Jeff borrowed Alison's eyeliner

I was in my bedroom when I heard her shriek from the living room after coming across her father. 

"WHAT are you wearing?" she asked.

It wasn't his vintage Flock of Seagulls concert tee that had her up in arms. It was the leather pants.
I strolled out to find them. Him on the couch. Her standing be the fireplace, pointing.

I reminded her that both she and I own leather pants.

"Yeah, but he's 50!" she said.

Rather than correct her math, I elected a history lesson: "Wait 'til you see him with the eye-liner on."

She looked at me. She looked at him. And grinned.

"Can I help? And can we use glitter?" she asked.

Yes. Yes we can.

Jeff was getting ready to represent TeamReed at the Christ the King annual trivia contest. It's a fundraiser to help the 8th grade class defray Washington DC trip costs. We've gone since 2009, I think, when one of the Vielee kids was in 8th grade.

Our team has consisted each year of a variety of Reeds, Vielees, Christoffs and Haases with regular ringer visits from our friend and trivia wizard Chris Austin. The team has won twice. Last year when I had to work the event rather than play and another time when I was home sick.

When we realized Ali's last YAT performance of Snow White was on the same night as Trivia, there was little question as to who would attend our daughter's needs and who would be trivial.

(At this juncture, I feel compelled to point out that I would have rocked the last category - guest stars on Friends - and possible saved the team from a second-place finish. I realize this logic pre-supposes I could have contributed to the previous categories...)

During her two prior play performances, Ali had learned that black eyeliner is a great lipstick. "It doesn't wear off even if you lick your lips a lot like I do," she said.

We had about 10 minutes to help the captain with his make-up before we had to head downtown to the theatre.  We work well as a team. She took the lip, I took the eye, and then I finessed the lip lines.

And then we left him to spike his hair.  Alison and the whole cast and crew exceeded prior performances on the stage. It was another awesome night for YAT.

As we walked out, I suggested we go over to the market where Ali could indulge in a bouquet of her choosing to mark her great work.

"In lieu of flowers, how about we get tacos," she countered.


"Yeah. I don't want flowers, but I could really go for tacos," she said. "In fact, I think I'll have that put on my tombstone: "In lieu of flowers, she wanted tacos."  Or, or, for my wedding, can we have tacos?"

I laughed and said I thought so. Thinking through her wedding planning, she considered asking for tacos in lieu of gifts and then mused that whoever she married could -- she guessed -- have some kind of other food if they didn't love tacos as much as she did. You could see her scoffing at the thought.

On the way to Taco Bell, we talked some more and I relayed the Trivia Night status courtesy of Lisa Vielee. That got us on to the subject of the captain, whose appearance she referred to as her dad the drag queen.

"Actually," I said. "You need to talk to Godfather Bob. He has a photo of your dad in a dress."

She gasped. "Really?"

"Really. He dressed up to surprise a guy who was retiring from his office. I think he wore a wig and panty hose and a blond wig."

And thus, the Captain rose even farther ahead of me in the race to be the cool parent. A few weeks ago he introduced her to the Beatles, which are now key players on her Spotify playlist. She has a few Sugarland songs, too, and the other day I heard her listening to the Statler Brothers sing "Flowers on the Wall."

"Don't get excited," she said. "It's on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack."

Yes. She and Jeff watched Pulp Fiction together.  And before you think she's flipping off a cast mate in one of the photos, she isn't. She may be genetically inclined to be a digital curser, but we have no proof that she is. Yet.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


It's so easy for a lot of us to get caught up in the idea that we're not good enough. For that job we want. For that person we want. For lots of things.

If you're person who's never doubted yourself or been mired in the muck of depression, I am truly happy for you. And more than a little bit envious. One of the many dreams I have for my kid is that she will be confident and happy in her own skin.

I've watched two of the last productions she's currently in with Young Actors Theatre. She's been in a few and it's always fun to watch her, though I'll admit they're sometimes a bit more complicated than I can easily follow.

It's not just me. When Hannah Ogden performs, Alex Ogden is always called on to provide translation services to her aunts and grandparents. When Alison found out that Miss Amy was out of town and would miss her latest production, she was sad, lamenting: "But this is finally one she could follow!"

I laughed. A., because it's true and B., because I'd said the same thing after the first time out.

The play is based very loosely on Snow White and it's performed really well by all the kids in it. As usual, a few of the cast offer up testimonials as part of the storyline. The testimonials are submitted by the kids while the script was being developed. The director selects a few of them and work them into the script. Or she works the script around the testimonials.

Alison's testimonial was one of the ones selected this time around. One girl talked about how she'd been at the popular table until the popular girls turned on her; a boy said he'd recently learned his father had other children outside his family; another boy said he'd been so scared to perform when he started acting he'd nearly cried himself to sleep.

Those were the part one of the testimonials. In two other segments, the players told how they'd felt about the issue and then concluded with how they'd come to terms with it.

Ali's testimonial Part 1: "When I was growing up, I had the image of the perfect little girl engraved in my head: pink and sparkly and clean. I'm not like that."

I'm proud to say that I was never the mom who forced Barbies or certain color schemes on Alison. She wore dresses, but she climbed trees in them. It's true I lamented her former dislike of bathing. But when she was 7 or so and Febrezed herself instead of showering while I was on a work trip, I was more than a little proud of her ingenuity.  Not that I didn't have a conversation with the Captain about what could slide and what shouldn't.

I have had more than a few moments of doubt about whether I should have pushed her to be more girly over the years. Especially as she struggled to find her place when puberty set in.

Ali's testimonial Part 2: "I felt I would be torn my whole life and never be allowed to be happy. Or as I am."

This was hard to hear. Sure, she's in those adolescent, horrible years, but my biggest dream for her is to be happy. The hardest part of parenting, I think, is knowing you can't ensure that for your kids.

Ali's testimonial Part 3: "I'm a tomboy, not a princess. I am who I am. And that's enough."

How cool is that?  I hope she really believes it, and that she believes it consistently.  Every testimonial ended with the idea that being true to yourself is enough. Whatever that is. You are enough.

Not a bad lesson for any of us, I'd say.

Every one of the YAT shows offers a similar, self-empowerment lesson along with the actual play. If the audience gets only a sliver of what the kids in the program get, they'll be better off. I'm biased, of course, but it's really a wonderful organization, well worth your support.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Of suction, hairballs and snow angels

I remember the day Jeff came home proud as a new father, of the Dyson vacuum he'd found at Big Lots. He had read somewhere that the discount chain had scored a batch of the super sophisticated machines.  So he’d gone off on a hunt.

I hadn't thought much about it. Seemed unlikely, but Jeff loves a bargain and so I kissed him goodbye and wished him luck. But then he actually found one. I had been saying we needed a vacuum for a while.

Our floors are hardwood, tile and linoleum and three of them are covered with area rugs. As the chief sweeper and floor caretaker, I felt qualified to judge. Jeff, as the chief ignorer of the debris that coats our floors, wasn't convinced. 

But a BigLots value vacuum: this was a point of pride. And a Dyson! This was about 10 years ago. Since that time, Jeff's involvement with the machine is largely to drag it upstairs when I'm lazy and helping me remember how to dump the dirt.

Over the years, the only real maintenance I've done on the thing is to turn it upside down and use a steak knife to hack out what looks like skeins of red hair from around the beater/roller/thing that rotates when you vacuum.

This is the real reason we don't have pets. Between Ali and me,
we shed enough hair to knit blankets. It literally has brought the
Dyson to a halt more than a few times. It's disgusting, but if it actually were thread - like the embroidery kind -- you might think it's a pretty shade.

Anyway, the other day, I was preparing to suck up the last remnants of Christmas and New Year's Eve when the captain, my captain said,  "Wait. Let me see if I need to do some work on that thing." 

Now, the Dyson is battle worn. In addition to it's systematic strangulation by red curly hair, it also suffered some sort of crash and it's barrel/body has been held tight to its suction by a cobalt blue bungee cord for probably the past six years or so. I don't remember how it came loose -- probably as I dragged it up or down the stairs. 

Sure we could get it professionally repaired but that "temporary" bungee cord fix works. And we'd have to actually take the vacuum in for the repair.

But I digress. Jeff flipped the thing over, saw the hair and asked for a screwdriver. I advised him of my steak knife method. He rolled his eyes.

He actually took off a protective shield, which opened up access to the roller bar. After he'd unrolled the hair, he spied another removable cover and unearthed a filter. 

A filter. Who knew there was a filter?  I think once it was white.
The one under the cheerful yellow disc, though, was coal-black. No hair, but pretty icky.

We considered trying to wash it, but I thought we'd suffered this
long with it, we should replace it and use it one last time. He
gingerly put the icky black round thing back in and away I went.
Within minutes, I'd sucked up the holidays. 

Later, after a week of actual lawyerly work, without my knowledge, he attacked the Dyson again. He'd found the owner's manual, too. I found out when he rushed in to the bedroom where I was painting my nails.

"Did you know we were supposed to clean the filters on the Dyson every six months?" He asked.

 I reminded him that the first I'd learned of the filter's existence was shortly after Christmas 2015. Doing the math, that
 means we'd neglected at least 20 cleanings if we've only had the Dyson 10 years. I'd say that with only three rugs, we probably don't need to adhere to the biannual cleaning but the hair thing is hard to ignore.

"Huh!" I said. "Who knew?"

"Yeah. When I went to clean it, it disintegrated," he said. 

"I've told you a hundred times that we live like pigs," I said. 

He just looked at me and then, serious as he could be, said: "Do you think you can wait six days to vacuum again? That's how long it'll take Amazon to get us new filters."

I just looked at him. Considered reminding him of how diligent I am when it comes to vacuuming. 

But all I said was, "I can commit to that."

The lesson you should take from this is that Dyson guy isn't lying when he tells you his machines are freaking awesome. 

There is a part of me that fears if he reads this, however, he'll stage a raid and take ours from us. 

So please don't tell him.

In other news, Ali actually agreed to take a walk with me in the snow today. It was fun. Now, I'm off to risk life and limb to get to Bunco. Wish me - and my fellow motorists - good luck.