Friday, December 29, 2017

Angry Mama

"It's you!" my beloved child said to me, pointing and squealing in delight. "It's short. It has red hair and it's angry."

Working hard to be affronted, I said, "I'm not always angry."

Ali laughed. "It's SO you."

The "you" being discussed is what may be the most remarkable Christmas gift of the season: the Angry Mama stocking stuffer, which according to word on the street, is an effective and entertaining microwave cleaner. I don't have hard evidence, just two reviews from others who also received the item in their stocking and have used it.

Her head apparently spins around for 7 minutes while she squirts a vinegar and water mixture around.

I, for once, have a stunningly clean microwave already thanks to an explosion involving something red and sticky that happened just before we left for Christmas at home in Maine. I'll have to wait for a day or so for another catastrophe in our microwave.

For the record, I do, on the rare occasion, get angry. My head does not spin around, though, no matter what Ali and Jeff may claim.

In other news, we had a great time in Maine. Grandpa claims the crustaceans off the coast will be watching for Alison's return, and he may be on to something. On the way out, we discovered Gaicha Sushi at the Baltimore airport. It's worth planning your connections in Baltimore. On our return trip, the manager remembered us, and we had another lovely meal, including a sample of a new menu item. Ali can eat her weigh in just about any dish she likes, and she's getting more adventurous of late.

She left behind a mountain of hard shell crab at our annual Christmas Eve at a Chinese buffet in Portland. She munched on a softshell crab on the way home.

She worked a little of it off breaking ice up on the driveway. There was a ton of snow, which was pretty and only hazardous a couple of the days. I helped with the driveway and served as a craft beer mule for Jeff, who was determined to visit new and exciting breweries and beer outlets while he was there. We went with three suitcases of clothes, gifts and a few beers he took to share with other beer nerds he was planning to visit. We came home with six suitcases.

I think there was at least an equal ratio of Christmas gifts to beer, but I wouldn't be surprised if the beer edged the gifts out.

While waiting for one of the breweries to open its new release sales, I stood with Jeff who had made beer friends with a young couple behind us. They'd driven up from Connecticut and this was their second stop of the day. We'd passed a jack-knifed semi that had crashed into a sedan, a car that was on its roof in a ditch and a handful of other cars that had slid off the turnpike due to snow and sleet.

The young woman behind us asked if we were going to hang a while and sample the beer as well as buying the coveted new bottles or cans. It's possible I channeled the Angry Mama when I declined for the both of us before Jeff could reply.

She looked at me like I was the mean mom who didn't let her kids play in the rain. Maybe so, chickie, but there was no way I was making a call home to Grandpa telling him we'd crashed the car and were calling from the local county lock-up.


We may have done our best work in the cookie department this year. I had earlier reported to Ali that Auntie Jen was asking if we still wanted to make cookies. It's a tradition we started back when Ali was about two or so and horrified her Grammie by her less-than-precise cookie cutting and insistence on licking the icing spoons.

"Uh, duh!" was Ali's reply to the hint of a suggestion that we might not want to invade Jen's kitchen.

 In other traditions, Alison dragged out the dominoes. Grandpa long ago resigned himself to being bested by the reigning champ, and it was another year for Ali to triumph. We only played five rounds and while Grandpa managed to start each game by having the right doubles, that was his only luck.

Grammie taught Ali to play, and I'm convinced passed along her cutthroat approach to the game. Here they are, back in the day. you be the judge.

 On the other hand....


Hope your Christmas was great and you have only high-fives in the new year.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Whole Package

Ali had a big swim meet yesterday -- did pretty well; improved on her times -- and her body is still demanding that it be rewarded.

I came back from the gym this morning to find her spreading Nutella on just toasted mini-waffles and using them to make ice-cream breakfast sandwiches.

"Did you put some banana on that to at least pretend it's healthy?" I asked.

"No," she mumbled with a mouthful of sugar and fat. "But that would have been a good idea."

She then decided we needed provisions to get us to Zionsville for a performance of The Nutcracker. That turned out to be two pretzel rolls, one of which she ate on the way. Then, she had a bag of chips and half a package of Starburst. She wondered if we could stop for a snack on the way home.

We didn't stop, as dinner isn't far off, but she could have easily eaten on the way to, home and had dinner too. All that and she is a tall, thin, muscular stick. It's sometimes hard to like her.

We had a great time at the ballet. Alison has great posture and is often very graceful. (When she's not belching as loud as she can, that is.) I can barely put one foot in front of the other without falling down.

We'd gone, primarily, to see my friend Vicki's daughter, Audrey, who was stupendous. I was bragging about how great Audrey is, basing my commentary on what I've seen and heard from Vicki. Ali listened attentively and checked out the program photo I showed her.

"Yeah," Ali agreed that she sure looked the part of a professional dancer. "I bet I would blow her away in the water, though," she remarked, thoughtfully.

I took that as a cue to focus on my own child for a while...

The girls have never met. I think if they ever do, they'd like each other. They're different enough that they'd have stuff to talk about and similar enough to like each other. God forbid their mothers arrange their meeting. That only worked when she was 4.

In other family conversation, Jeff and I were talking about something the other day that I had done well. I don't remember what it was, but it earned me a pat on the head and the comment that I'm
"more than just a pretty face."

“Oh, yeah, Yeah, I’m the whole package,” I agreed. Because, well, sometimes even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.

"Hey now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” said the Captain who had a different nickname before we knew of his military service and that became his nom de plume. “ I’m the Package.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Postal Carrier's Name is John

I've learned a lot about my neighborhood in the past seven months or so.

More of my neighbors work from home than I knew. Most of them are awesome people. I don't have one I don't like. And our postal carrier's name is John.

I've known John for about 12 years, and I'm pretty sure he's liked me (and us) from the start. But it was only this week that I learned his name. Yes. Shame on me.

Why he would like me: In the winter when it snowed, we always shoveled a path for him from our west-side neighbor's house to ours and then to our east-side neighbor's house. And regardless of the season, if Ali has baked some goodies and I'm home when he comes to the door, I always share.

I remember the time he found me mowing my neighbor's yard and said, "Hey, you don't live there."

That might have been the first time it occurred to me that while I had been smiling and nodding at this guy for a long time, I didn't know his name. I don't know how many times I've thought to myself that I should know his name. It became too awkward to ask.

Besides, ours was a fly-by-night kind of relationship. I'd seem him fleetingly when I was doing chores in the yard and he was on his rounds.

This summer, I've seen him a lot more than I ever have in the past. I'm generally working at the kitchen counter, so I see him coming. Unless I'm on a call or absorbed, I meet him at the door. If I have them, I give him cookies and cupcakes. We chat about this and that.

When Ali broke her collarbone, she and I walked a gift over to the people who'd helped her. He saw us from a street away and he stopped his truck to see what we were doing. He commiserated with Ali and told her she'd be just fine. He'd had a similar injury. She had been super worried about always having a knot poking out. He made her feel a lot better about it.

I was walking to the mailbox the other day with Christmas cards for the mailbox (Yes, Amer, I did it.) and it was super cold. My plan was to get in a few steps to shut my FitBit up. A block away, I ran into him and he suggested that I might want to just give them to him and go get warm.

That afternoon, I lamented to Ali that I needed to break down and confess that I didn't know his name. I knew that he's an Army vet. I knew he likes chocolate. How could I not know his name?

"It's not that big a deal, Mom," she said. "Just ask him."

So I did. He laughed and said it was no big deal, "I've only been coming by for 12 years."

Ha. He's funny, too.

I don't know that me wanting to know his name meant anything to him. For all I know, I'm the most annoying stop in the neighborhood.

If you have a person in your life like this, there's no better season than to toss your awkward self to the curb. People deserve to have folks know their name. Except crappy people. Keep away from them.

I don't have a photo of John. That would be a step too far. But I do have the shot below. Ali and Jeff were twins in gray shirts and flannel the other day. They refused to pose for me. (That's borderline crappy...)


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Family tradition

Thanksgiving weekend may be the best weekend of the year if you're fortunate to have friends, family and reasonably good health.

Thursday was for family. I got to see my friend Sandy Cazee. (Thanks for the trip down memory lane, for being interested in what's happening in Claymont and that awesome fridge photo. I miss him, too.)

We gathered at my sister Donna's house where Ali and Rachel beat the snot out of me at euchre and I absconded with most of my cousin Lori's cranberry relish. It's good as part of the holiday meal, but it's even better the next day for breakfast. And lunch.

My Uncle Larry had a vintage fishing pole to get to his cousin, Johnny, and I delivered it to his sister Elaine who in spite of living just a town away from me, I never see. It was fun catching up with her and her husband Tom. We may even get a cousins/sisters/nieces shopping trip together soon.

While Jeff did a combo bourbon-craft beer trek, Ali and I spent most of Friday shopping and I scored this awesome wreath as part of my Broad Ripple Kiwanis winnings. It's from Sambol's Tree Farm and well worth the drive. It was almost a top-down day -- beautifully clear and sunny-- which was good because we were in the car for a good eight hours.

We had packed provisions, so we didn't go without food or water.

We started out around 8:30 a.m. to score some bargains at Half Price Books on West 86th Street. Our quest to win $100 gift car was for naught, but we snagged a free $10 and some fun gifts. We went east on 86th Street to some shops and then up to 96th Street to meet Elaine. From there it was Fortville, then back north of 86th and eventually back into Broad Ripple.

At one point, I think I said something to Ali about how we might be doing too much shopping.

"That's not a thing, Mom," she replied and scrammed to another aisle at The Good Earth.

Friday was also our annual Friendsgiving with Patricia and Patrick Jackson, who will one day simply make a date with Ali and make a reservation for a party of three. We tried out Public Greens, which was awesome.

Ali and I traditionally decorate the house starting Friday and throughout the weekend. I had a bunch of yard work, too, so I left her with most of the tree work on Saturday. Jeff channeled his inner lumberjack and cleaned up our woodpile and chopped some new fireplace fuel. He was celebrating a bit because he got in on a Kahn's liquor lottery that involved dialing until you got through to the store owner. I don't know how many other men (maybe women, too) for dialing for booze, but he was at it for more than an hour before he connected and ended up with a bottle of William Larue Weller bourbon.  It's apparently exceptionally rare.

When he connected, he was able to buy more, also collectible or coveted bottles of other stuff, but declined saying he'd give other people a chance. He'd made a bit of a haul the day before and probably had already exceeded his booze budget, but it was still a generous thing. Some people sell this stuff on a secondary market. It's a little like King Rat, apparently except no one's in prison. I think.

Anyway, when he went to get his super, jizzmonic bottle of booze, the owner of the store remembered his generosity. They got to talking and Jeff said if he'd made a miscue, it was that he'd let slip by the chance to buy a 2014 Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Merlot, which is this year's Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.

Just so happened there were three left, so I scored too and now have that bottle waiting for me downstairs. Karma apparently is a boozer.

Ali abandoned us for dinner at a friend's house, and Jeff suggested we go visit one of our favorite restaurants, The Vanguard. He made this offer just after I'd just about crippled myself mulching and blowing and bagging some of the gazillion leaves that have been standing ankle deep in parts of my yard. I was smelly, dirty, sweaty and achy in places I'd forgotten I had.

For a nanosecond, I thought, "No. I just want to go to bed and I might not make it to the shower first." But then I remembered that he had dismantled our bed and gotten out his power drill, mumbling something about needing to reinforce a support.

Apparently the lumberjack had morphed into Bob the Builder. So I couldn't have gone to bed if I'd wanted to. The shower was good. The Vanguard was even better.

Some lovely wine and two Aleves later, I was in my apparently reinforced bed and dead to the world. This morning brought a little more decorating and cleaning up but no yard work. The leaves are out there taunting me but I have the best wine of the year in here.

It's no contest. In fact, the leaves may be there come Spring.

Today, I decided my back porch will be a great wrapping room. Also, I got tired of looking at it looking so gross. I really need to find a permanent solution to that wall. I worked on a temporary measure for a bit before football began. I'm sure Martha Stewart wouldn't approve, but she's probably not going to be in my neighborhood this season.

Ali's doing homework and chores and we're all drifting slowly back to a normal school and work week. I need every bit of the four days of Thanksgiving weekend, and I suspect you do, too.

If I had one more day off, it's possible that I would get to those damn leaves. But not likely.

There's wine, you see...

Oh! Before I forget: I dug deep in the Christmas boxes and came up with these gems, which Jeff harvested from his father's basement one year.

Jeff's Dad always hangs a decoration, who the Reed siblings call "Sickening Santa." I don't know if it's because of the rotating lights or maybe they each, independently got soused and came home to see it blinking and in their bleery hazes, deposited part of their holiday spirit. Regardless, I offer these two Santas from the same vintage.

Ali thinks the one that's just a head is creepy, and I think the smaller one is angry. I think they may need to be reunited with their buddy back home.

For now, they've been allowed to be unboxed but are relegated to the porch.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

If your teenager doesn't kill you, she might make you stronger

When I was pregnant with Alison, I prayed every night that she would get Jeff's genes but I had a recurring nightmare that she would be born with my legs and his arms, and her hairy knuckles would drag the ground when she walked.

Thankfully, the prayer rather than the nightmare came to fruition. She has long legs, long arms and  the metabolism of a hummingbird. As I am at the other end of that spectrum, it's a daily struggle not to smack her in the face.

Not really. We invested heavily in orthodontia, and I'm not one to waste money. But add killer smile and naturally curly, red-gold hair to that list of physical attributes and you'll see why I should win Mother of the Year for my soft and gentle approach to parenthood.

Why she keeps trying to kill ME, I'll never understand. Her latest attempt was cleverly disguised in a bid to get me to stop complaining about my weight.

"Come swimming with me, Mom," she said. "It'll be good for you."

Ali joined the Herron High School swim team last year and she's back at it again. She's doing well this season, beating her times and having fun, to boot. She practices every stinking day of the school week (she gets Thursday and Friday off this week) and swims laps that total out in the thousands of meters. Thousands. Every day. And she's 16.

Last year when I fell for her "Let's do it together; it'll be fun!" lines, I was left nearly dead at the side of the Jordan YMCA, panting like a beached whale.

This year, we're at LA Fitness and somehow I haven't drowned or beached myself. In a post-swim delirium, I did walk into the men's locker room instead of the women's. Twice, actually, but who's counting. (In my defense, they are very close together and I don't wear my contacts in the pool. Thank God the row of urinals is hard to miss even if it's a blur of white.)

Today was rough, but I pushed through. I stumbled home to find her on the couch.

"How'd it go?" she asked.

"I almost threw up," I said, truthfully.

"Awesome!" she said. "I'm proud of you."

She's a killer, I tell you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Bug's Life (2)

It was inevitable.

We went to the International Festival this weekend with two other couples and Ali, and she showed us the Taiwanese food stand where she had volunteered earlier in the week. She gave us pointers as to what to buy.

Next door was a stand shilling cookies and cupcakes that were made with ground up meal worms instead of flour. It's environmentally responsible, if a bit unusual to Hoosier palates. But it wasn't long before a dare was making itself known.

Ali came back after the boys had downed bites of tiny cupcakes that tasted like dry cupcakes. (I may be spoiled by Alison's confections. Or, worm cupcakes may just be gross.) No one threw up so of course, the cookie had to be tried.

Ali came by after the men had downed their share of the cookie that wasn't just made with worm-flour, but was riddled with actual, non-ground-up worms. "You have to try it, everyone else did," lied her father.

Susie did support the effort to get another mini-cupcake but Tracy was having none of it. No one asked for a take-out box.

I wish the lady at the stand luck in her endeavor. I like the planet, and I'd like to keep it humming. Living off bugs will be my last choice in environmental consciousness, though...

We've had quite the friends weekend: dinner with Team Vielee on Friday night where we shared some awesome wine and got caught up on John's impressive, month-long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

On Saturday, our Evansville friends, Tracy and Eric, met our Ogden friends for dinner at the Keystone Sports Review where we had just about every kind of bad-for-you-food (not one worm on the table.) It was yummy.

I don't know if it was the spirits or the fact that Tracy and I had taken a long walk before the trip to the fairgrounds for the festival or Ali coaching me through a swim at the gym, but I fell asleep soon after we got home. On the couch. While listening to a story someone was telling.

It's official: I'm old. Today, I finally got Halloween tucked away where it belongs and even cleaned up the shed a little bit, sweeping out the summer's dirt and getting the Christmas containers down. I won't decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving weekend, but it's good to get them down from their perch on the high shelves.

Jeff is at a bourbon tasting, Ali is doing homework, and Tracy and Eric have gone home. It feels too quiet, and I'm kind of hungry. Not so hungry that I need a worm cupcake, mind you...

I leave you with a few of my favorite photos of my favorite veteran. Back when I was a younger and just-as-trusting version of Alison, he convinced me that the tiny white curvy thing I found in a walnut was candy. Funny how history repeats itself. #BoysAreWeird

Happy Veterans' Day to all who served, those who are serving and those who will. It's a big deal to be an American soldier. I know I'm not alone in being grateful for  your sacrifice.


Monday, November 6, 2017

My endorphins are as blind as I am

The last time I went swimming with Alison, she nearly killed me.

It's possible that it was my fault. I made the mistake of thinking I could keep up with her. She was deep into the Herron High School Swim Team and had been conditioning five days a week, two hours at a stretch.

I was wearing an old suit that kept revealing more than my bad stroke. Oh, and I was wearing my out-of-shape, ancient body under it. Suffice it to say, my top wasn't the only thing not keeping up with the nimble fish called Alison.

A year later, I was more savvy, and I had a new suit. I was inspired by the realization that I can't zip the dress I wore in Auntie Jen's wedding. My same-old, same-old workouts aren't cutting it. Ali is back in swim and I told her I'd swim with her as long as she would ignore me unless I sank to the bottom.

So we went on Saturday and she suggested a few things and only once stopped me with a frown. I was doing a stroke of my own invention. I call it "Still-in-the-water-and-moving."

"That is not a thing," she said, observing me with one raised eyebrow.

It's a great stroke. You lay on your back and kick a little, but mostly move your arms, sort of like you're stretching. It gives you a chance to breath and to rest your trembling limbs.

She also looked askance at me when I started out my swim by heating myself up in the sauna. (The pool water is icy...) But I mostly got through it. When I pick Ali up from her conditioning sessions, she's sometimes a little loopy, and we blame it on her endorphin high -- a phenomenon I've never really experienced.

On Sunday, she had homework and a friend coming over, but she wrote me out a schedule to follow, using all the things she'd shared with me the day before. I told her I'd do my best.

I did 20 minutes on the treadmill to warm myself up and to finish a book, then a small stint in the hot tub to keep the inner heat going. There were a couple of women in the hot tub chattering away, but we paid each other no mind.

I did have to resort to my lifesaving stroke a couple of times, but I finished everything Alison had laid out for me and I might have met an endorphin. I was just as shocked as you are.

In fact, I was about to quit when I went back to the little sheet she'd written out to discover I only had one more thing to do -- and it was a cool down! 

So, I survive, and I stumbled out of the pool. I was headed for the sauna, which is in the middle of the Woman's Locker Room, to dry off a bit and recover. I had worn my glasses to the gym, and didn't have them on. My muscles were all tremble-y, I was exhausted and blind.

Which is how I ended up in the Men's Locker Room.

I could hear the shower going, and I had my hand on the sauna door, thinking, this lay-out looks a little different than what I remember. It was the row of urinals that brought it home, if not in full focus.

I didn't think I had it in me to scoot as fast as I did out of there, but I slipped and slid my way to the next door down and found myself where I belonged. I think it was in the escape that my endorphin made its presence known.

I sat down, still blind and laughing a little bit at myself. The women I'd seen in the hot tub were in there. My heart was still beating out of my chest from the Men's Locker Room detour. They were still chattering.

One of them was complaining about the latest news about the DNC, Hilary Clinton and the new book out about the influence her campaign had wielded. The woman was outraged. Her companion tried to dial her down, and I tried not to listen. But it's a small sauna. I was blind and under control of the lone endorphin.

I said, "You know, the DNC was nearly bankrupt," trying to support the other woman's message and imply the Clinton campaign had offered an investment and expected a return.

The angry woman whipped around to look at me, tells me she wasn't talking to me, I had no part in her discussion and she didn't care about my opinion.

I sat there silently for a nanosecond. I not only didn't know the women, I couldn't even see them as I didn't have my glasses on and I was still coming to terms with the lone endorphin. I was more amused than angry, but I was surprised at her vehemence.

I said something like, "It's not so much an opinion as a fact, but OK."

The women then left, the second one turning around and apologizing as the angry one flounced out. I stretched out, wondering if I'd just dreamed the exchange. Had I butted in? Sure. But it's a small sauna and it seemed like they were reasonably current, intelligent women.

I think that angry one needs to meet an endorphin. That'll settle her right down.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It's a Block... Party

Jeff and I moved to our house almost 20 years ago, and we've been really lucky when it's come to having great neighbors. Last night we helped host a block party connected to a Halloween at the park event. It was in the street between our house and our neighbors Kris and Ricky, and Jason.

Despite the cold, it was crazy good fun, and we had probably 60 people out on the street rotating between the grill, a neighbor's fire pit and a our chimenea to keep from freezing. (If it's against the law to have fire in the street, you can just keep that to yourself.)

Bier Brewery donated two small kegs of Weizengoot and Pumpkin Ale and our friends Angie and Nick Brothers brought wine. At one point we realized there was only hot chocolate for the kids, so we brought out our water dispenser.

Ali reconnected with a friend whose dad lives down the street. They'd met back when they were both learning to ride bikes, but she spends most of her time with her mom in La Porte.

Ricky and Kris's driveway was parked full of their patio furniture and a big screen TV. Angie had tunes playing from her car. And there were more little kids in costume than we have seen in a long, long time.

About an hour in, Ali was inside our house wrapping Jeff's birthday gifts (it's his birthday today) and Jess rang the doorbell like she used to do, and the girls were off on their own the rest of the evening. At one point, I saw them walking to Jess's house. Dave and Kim were still milling about near the fires. We figured Ali would eventually return. (She did.)

You know you have good neighbors when they're helping you drag stuff in when it's pitch black outside, and others just leave stuff, knowing they can come back and claim it when they're ready. I got up this morning to get the paper, and the pole tent was in the front yard, and Ricky's driveway was still full of patio furniture.

One of my sisters once lamented the fact that I lived in a city instead of being in the country or in our small town. But there's no beating the folks on my street and neighborhood. 

Canterbury is an older neighborhood with tons of mature trees and a wonderful little park next to the Monon Trail. It's a great place for a young family, but good for older ones, too. There are at least two families who are currently living in homes where they grew up or that their grandparents once owned. And we at least wave to each other if we don't stop to chat when we see each other.

One year, I was helping my next door neighbor with her leaves because she was having back problems. Four or five neighbors saw me and got their rakes to help out, too.

A couple weeks ago, Jason saw me helping Ali in the house after she had her wisdom teeth pulled the other day and texted to ask me if he could go to the store to get us anything.

I was sick recently and my mail carrier asked me if I needed anything he could get for me. (Yeah, I was looking pretty good that day. :) )

It's like my very own small town right outside my door. You should move here.

In other news, it's Jeff's birthday and next weekend we'll be celebrating (in addition to today's fun) at Taste, a fundraiser for the local Ronald McDonald House, and then at the Symphony with our friends Alison and Chris.

Speaking of Taste, our friends at Lee's Orchard donated three bushels of apples for the fundraiser, one of my clients gave a Christmas tree and his full ornament collection and Jeff and his beer friends are putting together an awesome craft beer basket for it. So that small town goodness extends beyond the neighborhood.

Speaking of small towns, Claymont is heating up again and I'm thrilled to report that I currently have a perfect score with my Amazon reviews. If you're wondering how Tammy and Danny are doing, I have a small stock of books on hand and am happy to cut you a deal. If you're coming around my neighborhood anytime soon, I'll cut you a deal. Or, you can order here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Powered by Indie -- and book 2 news!

The other day I was talking to my favorite millennial and she was telling me that because life is short and she wants to make hers count, she's going to have three distinct careers. She's plotting it all out.

There's a reason she's my favorite: I like to think we have a lot of similar traits. I'm 2/3 of the way to doing exactly what she's plotting.

Writing is my third career. But everything I've done as a professional is based in writing. First there was newspaper reporter, then (and currently) PR pro.

I'm a writer. I've always been a writer. It's the answer I want to give when strangers ask, "What do you do?"

Amazon is celebrating great writing this month and has asked its stable of writers to post about their experiences in self-publishing. Great or not, I'm happy to be in the stable.

My experience in self-publishing has been exhilarating, maddening, satisfying, terrifying -- sometimes all at once. The writing is a dream, sometimes literally as my subconscious helps me figure out plot lines and sequences. Formatting and marketing remain my nemeses. In my perfect world, I'll sell enough books to pay for those services. (Yes, I see the problem with that strategy...)

Whether I'll attract enough readers to make a living is still up in the air. But having resources like KDP and CreateSpace makes it more possible.
Speaking of writing, here's a look at Redemption, Book 2 of the Heartland Revenge Series, which is available here on Amazon. :

It’s not the heat or the humidity causing folks to sweat this summer as sex and death take center stage again in Claymont, Indiana. 

Just as Tammy Marks gives into her feelings for Detective Wes Bradley, she comes face-to-face with a man who can reveal her double life. The waitress’s plate is full of secrets that involve childhood sexual abuse, clandestine sex-for-hire and undiscovered murder. How many can she keep? 

Danny Johnson, Tammy’s partner-in-crime, discovers that his Special Forces skills are no match for the Rehmel children and their mother, the widow Justine. If she knew he was responsible for her husband’s death, would she thank him? Or see him for the heartless killer he believes himself to be? 

Tammy and Danny aren't the only ones feeling the heat. Bank manager Tracy Jones makes a decision that jeopardizes her career and possibly her very life. And Justine’s long-lost sisters help disrupt a theft and drug ring that has eluded law enforcement for years. 
Can they escape before their betrayal is revealed? 

Change is coming to the countryside. For some it's a turn for the better. 
For others...not so much.

I hope to complete Resolution, Book 3 yet this year. Next might be that look back at 16 years of PhotoShooting. I've always considered this blog a private kind of thing, a continuation of a weekly email to my mother-in-law. It's probably the best thing I ever did for her -- other than bringing Alison into the family. And then, maybe that fictionalized account of that case I covered back in Terre Haute...

The possibilities are endless. Because I'm a writer. And I'm #PoweredbyIndie

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another season; another doctor visit

Alison started her summer break with a collar bone fracture, and her first day of fall break was only marginally better.

She needed all of her wisdom teeth removed, and it made sense to me to have it done the first day of break so she wouldn't miss school and she would have time to recover. We traveled quite a bit earlier in the year and we didn't plan for more during this break.

She also needed a physical for swim team. So Day 1 of her break, she had a visit to the oral surgeon at 7:15 and her pediatrician at 5:15. Good planning or too much?

I was thinking that it was good timing until we realized at the pediatrician visit that she was eligible for three shots -- two vaccines and a flu shot. She balked and told me that she'd just had an I.V. that she hadn't expected and that the laughing gas hadn't taken hold before they slid the metal into her arm.

Ali has never liked needles. In fourth grade, I got a call from the school because she was putting up such a fuss, and she's yet to forgive me for having her be in a video taking a lead test for a work project. The Scooby Doo DVD I bought her as a reward helped a little, but she still holds the grudge.

We ended up getting only the two most pressing shots. She has time for the last vaccine. We got home and through the first day and night with a few issues. Vomit, a suspected burst stitch, a near sleepless night.

Jenna surprised her with a visit and push-pops, which was the brightest spot in the otherwise rather bleak day. Ali wasn't supposed to spit, but she had a hard time swallowing the blood and grossness, so I got her a cup that she sort of dripped into.

She called it her "blood cup" and was planning to measure the output.

Day 2 was better -- the stitch hadn't come undone -- and she was in less pain. She showed her Dad how to do something on Spotify and I let country music take a back seat to their noise.

 On Saturday, she went to see a friend of hers, who is also on fall break. They go back to school on Wednesday.

She's past Scooby Doo, and she took her pain meds with her. I wasn't sure what I was going to use to bribe her to return, but she agreed to come home just a bit ago.

On the way home, she was telling me about her time with Nikki and how the extraction was not without its benefits.

"Saturday morning, I got up and went straight for the ice cream," she said. "I didn't even consider real breakfast food, and I had a big bowl of it when Dad came in."

I waited for the description of the argument.

"He looked at what I had and just sat down beside me and had his own breakfast," she said. "It was awesome."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What 5 months of not having a "real" job has done for me

Tomorrow will mark five months of me being released from corporate captivity, and I'm happy to report that freedom still feels good.

I haven't been counting the days, though my husband might be. I've been wrestling with what to write for Amazon's request for self-published author stories. In doing that, I realized the significance of tomorrow. So I thought I'd mark the occasion and share what the past few months have been like.

Here's the thing: I don't feel "unemployed." That's mostly because, other than an already planned family vacation, I've worked every day since I left my job. I've either written or worked on my book(s), worked on freelance PR projects or volunteered for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana.

I don't know if it's the luxury of doing some of that work in yoga pants and no make-up or the flexibility of working in the yard or biking while I mentally work out a chapter or media pitch. But its been years since I've loved "going to work" like I do now.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could all love what we do AND make a living at the same time? I haven't solved the latter half of that compound sentence but I'm optimistic.  Even if I return to the regular workforce, I think I'll be a better employee because of this time of following my heart.

4 things I've changed in the last five months.
  1. I stopped ignoring my personal happiness: We're all adults with bills to pay and it's important to pay them. But you spend the better part of your life at work. If you hate it there, your unhappiness will spill into the other parts of your life, and that's no good for anyone. I may never make a living as an author. But I can't tell you how happy I am for having made the attempt.
  2. I network: I hate the word, "networking." It seems so selfish and calculating -- so user-y. I'm going to redefine it one day. For now, I'll call it what it's been for me: mutual support sessions with friends and colleagues. I've had more calls, walks, meals, drinks with friends since May than I had in the last five years of nose-to-the-grindstone work. Sometimes I listen to a friend who's lost a job, gotten a new one or is struggling with a current position. Sometimes I get advice. Sometimes I give it. It's always time well spent. I still eat at my desk -- old habits are hard to break. But I don't skip opportunities to meet with friends and colleagues anymore. Life is too short. Work will always be there when I get back.
  3. I slowed down: As an employee, I was driven to be productive every second I could. I checked and responded to email before, after and during work, on the weekends and on vacation. I was going so fast so long that slowing down felt wrong -- like I was cheating the company because I wasn't producing. I still struggle with this, but I know there's value in thoughtful reflection, and I don't feel guilty about it anymore.
  4. I've embraced self-promotion: I have always considered myself a background player and I'm super comfortable promoting anyone or anything other than myself. As a journalist, I wrote the story; I wasn't the story. As a PR pro, my client is front-and-center; I'm just the messenger. But I'm embracing the idea that I'm a client, too. Don't believe me? Watch this:

Go here to see the latest reviews of my first book,  Retribution: Regret, Revenge and Redemption in the Heartland.  Go here to buy it in paperback or e-book form. You can read it for free if you're a Kindle Unlimited kind of reader.

If you read it -- and love it -- please offer a review and tell everyone you know that they should buy it, too.

These past few months have had a sort of dream-like quality to them that wouldn't have been possible without the support -- emotionally and financially -- of my husband. Having a steady, helpful, supportive partner is a luxury, and I don't take it for granted. If your circumstances don't let you follow your heart yet, look for a way to do it when you can. And then do it for as long as you can.

That's my plan, anyway. Wish me luck. #poweredbyindie

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In lieu of a rant.....grumpy cats and a book update

I'm having a hard time writing anything fun lately. In lieu of a rant about:
  • Old white men who think it's OK to keep women from birth control but it's OK for their mistresses to have abortions;
  • "Leaders" (those are air quotes) who are more concerned with personnel decisions in the NFL than white supremacists rallying in the streets or clean air, land and water;
  • The neglect of our own citizens who've been sucker-punched by Mother Nature, who's pissed at our neglect of her;
  • A president threatening nuclear war on Twitter;
  • Headlines are full of allegations that threaten to make my fictional account of small-town life seem tame; or
  • The next anti-humanitarian action from the administration....
 Here are some pictures that might make you laugh.

Alison has been cat sitting, and these are shots of her current clients. I think they must be, like me, too aware of current events to be be anything but grumpy.

Speaking of Ali, she has yet to let me ride shotgun while she drives a vehicle, but she will ride bikes with me. After seeing to the kitties on Saturday, we biked to 317 Burger and indulged in fries covered in cheese and gravy.

Below is a photo I borrowed from the interwebs to show my Showgirls friends how Squirrel Gravy is preparing for Week 5 in our Fantasy Football League.

In other news, Book 2 of the Heartland Revenge series is in the hands of the overlords at Amazon. Here's the description of what's going down in Claymont...


It’s not the heat or the humidity causing folks to sweat this summer as sex and death take center stage again in Claymont, Indiana.

Just as Tammy Marks gives into her feelings for Detective Wes Bradley, she comes face-to-face with a man who can reveal her double life. The waitress’s plate is full of secrets that involve childhood sexual abuse, clandestine sex-for-hire and undiscovered murder. How many can she keep?

Danny Johnson, Tammy’s partner-in-crime, discovers that his Special Forces skills are no match for the Rehmel children and their mother, the widow Justine. If she knew he was responsible for her husband’s death, would she thank him? Or see him for the heartless killer he believes himself to be? 
Tammy and Danny aren't the only ones feeling the heat. Bank manager Tracy Jones makes a decision that jeopardizes her career and possibly her very life. And Justine’s long-lost sisters help disrupt a theft and drug ring that has eluded law enforcement for years. Can they escape before their betrayal is revealed?

Change is coming to the countryside. For some it's a turn for the better. For others...not so much.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Jesus, Take the Wheel

Used to be that when a kid turned 15, all he or she could think of was when the drivers' education classes would start and how fast could he or she could get through it and be licensed to drive. Not so much for a lot of kids these days, including Ali Reed.

It's our fault: we drive her every damn place she wants to go, and technology takes her everywhere else. But today, at long last, the little redhead -- 16 since May -- is credentialed to learn to drive. She's not so little anymore. She's 5'7' according to her BMV-issued card, but you know who who I mean.

The captain was planning to go into work for most of the day. Ali had chores, homework and the BVM test ahead of her. I was on grocery, recycling, yard work and Ali-transport duty.

Jeff usually drives our Subaru, which has an automatic transmission, and I would never willingly give my convertible up on a day as beautiful as today was to be. But my Mustang has a manual transmission -- not the car most kids start out on.

So, when Jeff and I woke up, I snuggled close, said good morning, and suggested we switch cars for the day. I was, I will remind you, on grocery and recycling duty.

"No way," he said, wise to my scheme. He is determined to be her driving instructor.


After Ali sailed through her test and had her paperwork, we walked out into the sunshine. I suggested we pop over to Glendale's extra parking lot where she learned to ride her bike. It's huge and empty: perfect for learners of all things with wheels.

"Umm...." she said.

She and Jeff agree that I'm unqualified to teach her how to drive. I strongly disagree.

"Come on! Let's just try in this car," I said, ignoring the alarm my clutch gave out and giving her a step-by-step description of what my feet were doing every time I switched gears. "You can totally get this."

"Uh..." she said.

I kept wheedling and giving her reasons why we should use the card she had just earned, but the brat wouldn't do it. I complained that I didn't want to miss out on teaching her to drive. Jeff and Grandpa were her how-to-ride-a-bike instructors. We have the pictures -- and memories -- to prove it.

"But you were there," she pointed out. "I remember Grandpa pushing me, and I was so scared. And when I burned white rubber with Dad. That was so cool. And when Dad made me ride in circles around you. I was terrified I was going to hit you."

She thought we should go straight home after the grocery store. She had chores and homework waiting. Learning to drive could wait. For Dad. (Bastard.)

I couldn't believe it. Here she was, fresh off a successful test and officially credentials. There was nothing to hold her back!

Actually, I could believe it. She's brainwashed. It'll be her dad next to her when she takes the wheel. But I'll be there. Someone has to take the pictures....

You're not supposed to take photos inside the BMV, so don't tell anyone I have these.

On the left is Ali giving her info to the in-take desk, and on the right, she's taking her vision test.

 In other news, Ali continues to be a smarty-pants and was this week inducted into Herron High School's National Honor Society class.

She got her grades from ISTEP, too, and they were stellar. She's still thinking she wants to do something chemistry-related when she gets to college, but I'm not rushing that decision in any way.

Right now, she's focused on getting through as many episodes of 30 Rock as she can before it disappears from Netflix, and she still cuddles with me on the couch. Who needs a kid who can drive, anyway?

Below is the bunny who wrecked my black-eyed-susan flower bed. He's a bastard, too.

In news about me, my book is finally looking like something you'd buy in a book store and I'm so close to sending my second book in to be beautified to the level of the (new) first one. So, if you haven't bought Book 1 yet, wait a bit, unless it's in e-book form. That one is good to go. The new paperback is one dollar cheaper and so much prettier. 

The reviews didn't transfer, so if you like it, please review again. (Sorry to be a pain.) You can see the new version here.  I think a quick cut-and-paste will work.

I was with some friends from my old workplace this week, and one of them remarked that I looked a whole lot happier than she'd ever seen me. She claimed that I glowed. 

Now, in the interest of being truthful, that may be menopause. But I am so happy to be writing. Truly.

Thank you for those of you who are supporting this little dream of mine. I'd be forever grateful if you can positively review the book. Book 2 is sooooooo close..... (!)