Thursday, June 30, 2016

Step by Step by Step by Step

I could write forever about how wonderful our trip to Paris was. I can't begin to express how thankful I am to Tracy Wiseman and Eric Yocum for inviting us to join them there.  I can, however, quantify it a bit, courtesy of my FitBit.

Sunday: 11,707 steps. Mostly in airports.

Monday: 18,871 steps. Notre Dame and a Segway tour in a rain that chilled our bones but was so worth it.
Tuesday: 14,784 steps. Musee d'Orsay, long walk home through the Marais neighborhood, dinner in the park behind apartment where a music festival was underway.

Wednesday: 17,509 steps. The Arch d'Triumph, lunch on the Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower

Thursday: 20,979 steps. Bicycle tour of Versailles. Picnic by the Grand Canal.

Friday: 19,563 steps. The Catacombs, Pompidou Centre and the Louvre
Saturday: 26,460 steps. L'Orangerie, shopping and twilight stroll to see the lights of the city and the sparkly Eiffel Tower.

Sunday: 9,928 steps. Flew home. Sad.

I've shared a lot of photos that illustrate the incredibly beautiful structures, country side and art. But I owe it to my calves and quads to also share this side of Paris that they will not miss.

Conversational Highlights:

Deep in the Catacombs, Ali was chatting with a friend, Lauren, she'd made in line. They shared a love of anime and other things things that had them jumping up and down and squealing. "As a vegetarian, I'm a little disturbed by all of this," Lauren confided.

"Well, there's no meat left, if that helps any," Ali pointed out.

Later, as we rode to Versailles on our bicycles that were packed down with French treats for our picnic, Ali turns to to Jeff and says, "Hey Dad. You're riding a bike. In France. With a baguette."  They laughed about that for half a mile.

Jeff and Ali did a much better job speaking to everyone in French. I was less eloquent. On our first full day, Ali was buying a treat for her and a drink for me. She did a great, job of asking in French if the merchant spoke Englais.  The woman smiled and said yes. "Awesome," said my little American. "I'd like a Nutella waffle and a coffee," Alis said.

On our last night, we were walking from the apartment to a bridge where we could see the Eiffel Tower light up the night. We passed by the 117th ancient structure and I asked Tracy if she knew what it was. "It's a church," she said. "See the crosses and such?"

We giggled like little girls at her ability to spot religious structures.

Pretty shots:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sure, I dropped $10K on the Captain for Father's Day...

Well. Kind of.

Usually when Alison is away at Flat Rock River Camp, Jeff and I live a bit large. We sample new restaurants and revisit our behavior in days before her arrival. We did find ourselves at an Indians game catching up with Godfather Bob Johnson. It was a wicked fast game, or, as Jeff informed us: there was a game going on while you two were gabbing.

PS: I could talk all night to my favorite Johnson. Hope you didn't really need to follow each play... :)

This year, we dropped $10K on a new furnace and air conditioner. Not because we wanted to. But because after 15 years or so, the bottom-of-the-line HVAC unit we bought just after we moved in finally gave up the ghost.

Getting the new unit had Jeff in the basement for hours moving our years of packed up memories, Christmas decorations, a couple ratty pieces of storage furniture and other bits of stuff you acquire off nearly the full length of one wall in the basement. This was to make room for a new pipe along the ceiling.

He was thrilled. I was at work. He did an awesome job of it. I wish he cleaned like that more often... I hope the crew appreciated it.  Just as they got the old things out and the new things in and began to test it, Jeff watched a transformer next door erupt into a shower a sparks.

We'd been surviving a heat wave with a bunch of box fans. Luckily, a cool front accompanied the power outage, which stretched over two days after a storm followed the cool front. So we were out of power AND out of A/C for a while.

Needless to say, we survived. And Ali came back from camp full of stories, fresh bruises and another week in the record books with BFFs Jenna Tokash and Breanna Tabor.  Among the highlights:

  • Day 1 of river stomping included a lot of little kids so no one could wade past their ankles. Day 2, however, only teenagers went so they were allowed to get in up to their knees. "Bre and Jenna could only get in a little bit, but I could go halfway across!" long-legged Alison chortled.
  • One girl in their cabin fell in love with a counselor who she kept saying she was going to marry. Jenna and Bre just prayed he and another counselor would take off their shirts.
  • Jenna got paired with the biggest horse on the ranch for their ride, which gave Ali the opportunity to remind her that her perch was probably going to be the tallest height she'd ever gain.
  • Alison ate something like 20 tacos one night, stopping only because she ran out of shells.
  • Bre attracted a shadow in the form of a younger girl named Emmy. Ali and Jenna claimed it was because Emmy shared Bre's talent for belching. This opened the door to asking if Jenna had attracted a Mini-Me with a penchant for farting. (Apparently not.)
There's no contact from camper to parent during the week, but we get to email them, mail Care packages and stalk them through pictures posted daily by the camp.

Jenna celebrated her birthday en camp on Thursday and had asked to let it be a low-key event. So naturally Amer conspired to get nearly 100 people send her emails marking the day. I sent a Care package so full of treats and silly gag items that it cost $30 to ship. It was, however, well received by the girls if not their long-suffering counselors.

These girls don't remember a time they didn't know and love each other like sisters, so it's awesome that in their 15th summer, they are still as silly, giddy and close as they ever were. They insisted on signing up for next year, too. "Well, yeah!" they said looking at us like we were crazy when we asked, each of a tiny bit fearful they were getting too grown-up for camp.

The fact that they aren't made us a little silly and giddy.

Because we weren't busy enough this week, we helped host a block party Friday night, which proved to be such a success there were calls to do it again before the summer was over, in the fall and every summer to come. We know our closest neighbors pretty wall but not all of them as you go down the street. This is true for all of us apparently because you'd hear people introduce themselves and one would say, "Are you new to the neighborhood?" and invariably, the answer would come back, "Nope. Been here 10, 20+ years."

But there were new people too, including a guy who joined Angie's List a few months ago in another department. So that was fun.

Today is Father's Day so here's a happy wish to all you great dads out there.

I would tell you about the most awesome gift a guy ever got to celebrate his Dadness. But you'll have to wait a week or so.

I leave you with what might be my favorite pictures of the year: the  little girl who gave the captain his favorite title and her dad at the Cow Palace:

À tout à l'heure!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A sobering addendum

I just posted my weekly blog that talked - per the usual - about our recent days. It included a bit about Indy Pride and I was remiss in sharing this story, which, in light of #Orlando, I wish I'd been smart enough to share in the first place.

We were walking out of the festival portion of the day and dripping with parade sweat when we noticed the two men with microphones advising the crowd to "repent or perish."

Those are words I grew up with in my Pentecostal family. Sin was going to get you if you weren't on the straight and narrow 24/7 but that was harder than putting a camel through the eye of a needle. Hell, even God's chosen people couldn't make it through the rigors of the faith.

At 7 or 10 or 13, the fire and brimstone terrified me. As I got older, I started to question it, but I'll admit that even today, I wonder if I'm doomed. But yesterday, as Alison complained about why those men were allowed to spew their hate speech to people we had literally rubbed elbows and shared laughter and fun with.
"But why can they just stand there and say that stuff?" she asked.

So we talked for a long time about free expression and the need to respect people for their true faith - especially when we don't share their faith or beliefs. She didn't like it, but she's thinking hard about it.
It's hard for my kid to understand how a person of one faith can hate someone simply for not sharing their beliefs. I'm kind of proud of that.

We're all horrified by what happened in Orlando. My friend Jim Donovan reported from Philadelphia where the gay pride folks shared a field with a Pentecostal conference. Peacefully.  Can you imagine the amount of love in that grassy area?  

Let's find more of that. And let's support lawmakers who actually fight for sane gun regulation instead of issuing platitudes and empty prayers to the communities that suffer because of the insane laws they help pass. 

If you're a sitting lawmaker who voted to let people buy assault rifles without background checks, I hope you understand now what you did. And I hope you can see why you were wrong. As to why we need assault rifles in the first place? Clearly we don't. How can we not see that?


Blood, sweat, a few tears and a lotta Pride

It was all fun and games at the 10th annual Angie's List Derby Day until Kelsey Taylor said to me: "Girl, you're gonna need stitches."

Derby Day, for you nonListers, is our annual team building day where employees are randomly assigned a derby team. As the company has grown, so has the event and it's now held at Wilbur Shaw Derby Hill, a nationally acclaimed site where the Boy Scouts hold soap box derby contests

My team was Green Thunder Dome, an homage to Mad Max and an internal initiative.  Jana Abbot, Leslie Shiffler and I had created an awesome cake for the cake contest; our team derby car was great, and I was paired with Allyson Reagan for a three-legged race.

The asphalt race track is also home to the three-legged race. Three-legged races have long-served as prime picnic fare for making people of all ages look ridiculous, but it's not really considered a blood sport. To make this long story short. Team Reed-Reagan fell down. Hard. And on my head.

To my ears, the thump of my skull on hot asphalt was akin to a really ripe watermelon being thumped by a discriminating farmer. In the ensuing haze, it took me a while to realize that it wasn't sweat dripping down my face. Dr. Taylor's diagnosis kind of woke me up.

Poor Allyson was distraught, but anyone who knows me knows I'm not gifted in the grace department. I'm just glad it was me who got the worst of it.

So anyway, a couple of hours and three stitches later, I was short one pair of new sunglasses and learning what else went down at Derby from my pals Lisa, Leslie and Heather, who sprang me from the health clinic after delivering my belongings and car back to work from the scene of the accident.
 Despite leaving bits of myself on the race track, my team came away with nothing in the prize selections.

So that kind of sucked, but it could have been a lot worst.  I do have a great, gory new desk ID and I was still able to get to Book  Club. I may not have been  in full command of my faculties, I still had a great time.

Yesterday was the annual Pride parade and festival. I'd hit the pain meds and went straight to bed after Book Club so we could all make the event.

We got to walk with the Downtown YMCA team, led by Karin Ogden and populated with tons of great people.  We've been going to Pride for years, but have only been part of the parade for the past two.

Among the highlights: 

  • When the YMCA folks started blasting the Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," everyone in earshot stopped what they were doing and threw their hands up to spell out the letters.
    • It was hilarious and reason for the parade announcer to proclaim the unit was the only one in the parade with its own song.
  • When the "Pence must Go" car and walkers took their place in the processional, cheers erupted in a kind of ripple effect. 
  • The "Keep Indianapolis Fabulous" unit was also a fan favorite. 
  • Right behind us was a float with some beautiful people with angel wings. I didn't actually get past the angels to see who they were representing, they were that heavenly.

We were back in the line-up a bit so we didn't see everyone, but it was great to see my Democrat friends in full force -- with Mayor Hogsett stepping the parade off,  with the man who should be our next governor -- John Gregg -- not far behind and a host of others from my favorite political tent.

It was also nice to know there were some great, right-thinking (IMO) group of Republicans there as well. Molly and Bill: I'm still saving you a spot... :)

It's hard not to have a good time at Pride. Everyone is happy and silly and just pleased as punch to see you there. Ali got a new shirt and rainbow socks at the festival and by the end of our time there, we were nearly dripping with sweat. But it was laced with glitter, so, we were still fabulous.

Today we took Ali to Flat Rock River camp where she'll be for a week with Jenna. They've been going for years and are probably edging into the twilight of their career there. Jenna will turn 15 while in the camp's teen valley and Alison hit that mark last month.

As it should be, the parental units were useful only so far as camp property. Ali was prepared to haul all her stuff on her own. All she needed was Jenna. So it was a short goodbye other than Ali's reminder to me that "Miss Amy emails me more than you do when I'm down here." I'm taking two things from that: 1. She DOES like to hear from me despite what her nonchalant attitude and 2. I'm upping my Care package game.

Despite their advanced adolescence, Jenna and Ali are both super sweet and awesome people -- just as Alex and Hannah Ogden are. I'm not sure how we got so lucky to have such great kids, but I'm grateful for each of them.

I love it when they get together after long absences and immediately revert to when they had chubby little faces and arms and didn't know the world didn't treat everyone equally or that they'd be part of helping affect positive change. These are young adults who look at the world with fresh eyes, see the best in people and don't accept injustice when they find it.

Here's hoping that never changes. And that she's always still a bit silly...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

All seasons considered, I pick summer

Summer is the best season. It's the happiest season. The sunniest season. And even if it rains, it's not a hard, biting, sleety kind of rain that slices into your skin. It's a pitter-patter on the roof in the morning, a refreshing rinse that feels good on your face.

Even if you don't have a great summer vacation coming, you still have weekends in the summer that beg you to get outside and just sit on the stoop and soak in the sun.

I took care of the yard on Thursday and Ali and I made a grocery raid Friday night, so there were only a few chores keeping us from fun this weekend.

 I got her tacos one of those nights when Jeff was out and she was drooling over the Taco Bell bag and musing a bit. She asked why I never order for myself at the Bell and I said it had a lot to do with my excess middle. She launched into a diatribe that Gloria Steinem would have approved, telling me I was in great shape; that PhotoShop is to blame for women's body issues and that I should enjoy myself.

Then, she started waxing poetic about her tacos.

"If I like you, I'll share cupcakes or cookies or just about anything. But I have to really like you to share my tacos."

I enjoyed my bite just fine. :) 

Later, I realized that despite her solid self esteem, I've failed her in a different way. She was folding laundry -- one of her weekly chores -- when she exclaimed: "What in the world is this anyway?"

She was befuddled by a rectangle of silk and elastic. "It's a half-slip," I said.

"Who wears this stuff? What in the world is it for?" she asked.

I invoked Lois Stewart's name and advised her that proper ladies wear slips so you can't see through their dresses. She's not convinced, but I can work on that. She is the kid, after all, who tells perfect strangers to put shirts on.

She had a friend over while Jeff and I met up with our DeCourcy friends for the wedding of our friend, Molly.

It was a lovely event, and Molly's smile lit up the venue. She has a great smile on a normal day, but the wattage Saturday was enough to clear up the gray skies outside.

Ali had consented to go to the gym with me earlier in the day, so I was feeling OK about stealing doughnut holes from a side table on my way to the bathroom as the reception got underway.

I did not mean - nor do I accept blame - for others stealing whole doughnuts from the display. There were no rules listed that forbade it, but apparently we were supposed to wait for platters to arrive. This is the risk you take when you launch a new wedding tradition. I would never have swiped a piece from a traditional cake, but the doughnut holes were just piled up there, taunting me.

So, #SorrynotSorry, Molly. I really didn't know, and I was seconds from being hangry. But the doughnuts in lieu of cake was a superb idea.

Sunday had Ali wanting to meet friends over in Plainfield, which isn't as far as Jasonville to drive, but is still a good 45 minutes from Broad Ripple. I conned Jeff into going with me, thinking that
while Ali was at the mall with her pals, he and I could see a movie.

We didn't find a movie we wanted to see so we decided to get our steps in and be outside mall walkers outside. Ten thousand steps is a lot of steps to get at an outside mall. But it was nice weather and we included a couple forays in strip mall land. When she wanted to stay another couple of hours, though, we played the parent card and advised her that this was a good lesson in pre-planning.

Back home, Jeff is grilling. I biked down to the Vegetable Stand to get some of their awesome slaw and found my favorite spot on the back porch. This is summer. I would like a lot more of it, please.

And doughnuts. Doughnuts would be good, too.