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..... (!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I can see clearly now

I've been fretting about the white/gray threads that have been stepping up their assault on my hair of late.

Alison -- she of the uncommonly beautiful locks -- keeps telling me to just let it go. "Go natural and see what happens."

The picture to the right is what happens. Due to a scheduling SNAFU, I'd failed to make another hair appointment back in July when I had last teamed with Julie Lett to disguise the Gray Creeper. I think she threw up a little in her mouth when I sent her my current state of, uh, hairs, as September rolled in.

Ali was 6-years-old when she noticed our hair wasn't perfectly matched and thought that it should be. She was 14 or so when she discovered that unlike my six siblings, I only inherited the skin color and temper of my red-headed tribe.

I didn't go red until shortly before I got married, but I've been a shade of red since 1996 or 7. It was about a decade ago that Julie worked some magic to get me closer to Alison's hair. (Ali's hair most closely resembles the locks of my sister, Debra Strahla, or my niece, Jaime Weir.)

When I advised Julie, by text and photo, that I was thinking of just giving up and going totally gray, she said, "You be thinking about that."

I used a fun app to see what different shades would look like, and when I shared the photos. Ali re-thought her suggestion. Julie, God bless her, had my regular goop on standby. We compromised by taking a baby step. "You won't match Ali anymore," Julie warned me.

The picture to the left is what we ended up. It's designed to slow walk the terrible march to full-on Barbara Bush.

In other news, and still speaking of hair, I had a conversation the other day with a plumber. Ali and I shed like mangy cats, and I was tired of it taking 15 minutes or more for my sink to drain.

The plumber, working on separate project, had noticed Jeff's stockpile of Drano-type chemicals. I told him that Jeff used it on my sink on a regular schedule. He said we were wasting our money.

"None of that stuff really works," he said. "You've just got to get in there and snake it out." he said

You notice his use of the pronoun. He didn't want to go in after whatever was living in my pipes any more than I did. I tested his theory over the past few weeks. I emptied every container of what looked like stuff that could eat away grossness. He was right: none of it worked.

Last week, frustrated with issues related to re-formatting my book, I took a break from it and went to the sink. I used a pliable, rubber covered wire to fish around below the sink plug.

You know how you wash your hands during the day and your face at night and don't really notice what's slipping off with the soap and water?

You really don't want to know happens below the stopper.

This photo to the right shows the partial results of more than a month of ignoring my slow drain. The photo does not do justice to the depths of its gross-ness. And that's not all of what I dragged out.

The hair had trapped other gunk, which must have multiplied like some primordial creature-in-the-making. I swear to you that I am not that dirty. I've been pouring bleach down there by the cup-full to kill whatever else may linger. Ali is fascinated by chemistry right now and would probably have kept the stuff in a Ball jar to see what happened next. I am both repulsed and afraid of whatever it already is and have no interest in what may come next. (Hence: the bleach.)

Here's a fun fact, though: none of the hair that lingered in my drain was gray. Those bastards are hanging tight.

I leave you with one of the more fun shots of our summer at Victory Field. I met Jeff after work for a play-off game. We won that night but lost later, so the season is over.

He was still in work clothes. The park wasn't full, and he stretched out at one point, glanced down and said: "I look like I would be in danger of shriveling up if a house fell on me."



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Heavy is the head who wears the crown

It is with immeasurable sadness that I report the transference of the Crown of Dumbassery.

Not that I newly did anything stupid. Lately. Today. Yet.

The report on our Subaru Outback came back. Apparently there was an electrical issue involving two wires that conspired to disrupt the nerve center of the car. So we didn't run out of gas on the way to Labor Day at Donna's house.

It wasn't Jeff's fault. Sigh.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dethroned: Long live the King of Dumbassery

We were a mile from the Monrovia exit off Interstate 70, headed to Aunt Donna's for a little Labor Day weekend fun with the family when the mantle of dumbassery that I'd been wearing for the past few weeks shifted about eight inches up and three feet over to my left.

Jeff was driving, beating on the steering wheel in apparent beat to some crazy music he was playing. Ali was in the back with her headphones on. I was scanning my phone when I heard the herald call of change.

Or rather, I heard Jeff exclaiming "Whoa! That's not good." And the car slowed rapidly from its 70+ mph speed. Our reliable, safe Subaru Outback was completely out of gas.

Do you know what happens when you run your Subaru out of gas? Even when you get a quick ride into town to get a gas can and gas and then luck into another ride back to your stranded car, the car won't start up.

Or at least ours didn't. Jeff was following instructions from the Interwebs to turn the key and prime the gas pump when an off-duty, Indiana State Trooper pulled up behind us. He was headed to a family gathering himself but took the time to give us an extra buffer from the holiday traffic and even called us a tow truck.

When we got to the nearest gas station, our friendly tow truck driver was prepared to get the car down to the pumps but he had Jeff try to start it first. The silence that followed the turn of the key indicated to the tow guy that there was more wrong with the car than no fuel.

Or maybe he liked the idea of a tow into the city. With no service station open until next week, and zero expertise in what to do to repair a car in the shape ours is in, we opted for the tow.

It's been a while since I was crammed into the cab of a truck and rode for miles without a seatbelt on but desperate times call for desperate measures. I was just happy that I didn't have a desperate need of a bathroom. We had further good luck that Becca, my latest niece to be a Butler Bulldog, was still in Indy and would come collect us from our downtown service shop.

It was a spectacular start to the holiday weekend.

It took Jeff more than an hour to stop with the self-flagellation. He was so unhappy with himself, I couldn't even comment. (Or take a fun picture.) He readily (but not cheerfully) agreed to accept his crown as the King of Dumbassery.

"If we're only counting today, then yes," he said. "I'm definitely the winner."

I'm going with that. In the Kingdom of Dumbassery, the ruler is the one who's committed the most recent stupid thing. Deciding the crown based on number of incidents or the cash cost to the household would just be dumb.

The towing bill for when I stuck my Mustang on the curb outside Zheng Garden was less that this one. I'm salvaging the pot I almost ruined when I boiled those eggs into charcoal. No one died and no fixtures were harmed when I accidentally brewed mustard gas when cleaning toilets. (twice.)

Among the several bright spots of our latest experience was remembering that we had an extra large snack back as we were going down to Donna's. Ali and I survived the wait for gas by eating the leftover pound cake we'd planned to share with my family. (It was really good.)

Jeff cracked a craft beer as we waited for Becca in the parking lot of All Star Tires, the service station we use that's closest to Jeff's downtown office.

So anyway, we're back home. Safe and sound. Thanks to all the good people who helped us get here.

Hope your weekend is better than the start to ours...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Duke vs. Batman

I was driving Alison to school the other day and I wanted to quote one of my favorite John Wayne lines -- McClintock's "I ain't gonna hit you. I ain't gonna hit you. To hell I'm not!" 

I don't remember why, but it was perfectly contextual to the conversation. But to make it work, I had to be sure she knew who John Wayne was. (Sad, I know.) So I asked if she knew who John Wayne was. 
"Was he Batman?"
she said. Seriously.

I almost wrecked the car. "No!" I said. "In what universe could the cowboy John Wayne be confused with Batman?"

I explained who The Duke was, giving her the rundown of his cowboy movie persona, not the real life one which I choose to ignore. My dad was a huge John Wayne fan. And yes, I know the quote is incorrect but it's how I remember it... Anyway, I gave her the scoop on the larger-than-life characters John Wayne brought to life.

"So," she said. "He was violent. He liked to shoot people. He killed people to protect women and kids. He's Batman." 

Then she tried to throw in John Wayne Gacy. "He killed people, too. Was John Wayne a serial killer?"

I told her to get out of the car. By then we were at school, so it was time for her to get out of the car. But really: she had to go.

In other news, another birthday has come and gone, and it was a pretty crazy day. We overspent our birthday budget with an amazing night of champagne and food at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse downtown. Kimberly Reed alerted us to the event and even though we spent more than we generally do on dinner, it was amazing. It was great catching up, meeting her friend and sipping champagne with Dom and Veuve on the label. 

I followed it up with a physical, so I'm looking at zero  point soup for every meal from now until Christmas, but it was worth it. That means I have to avoid 
Alison's creations, which may rival that of Ruth's Chris. She made coconut cream puffs this week. All from scratch. They're amazing.

Summer is winding down and were going to the last Indianapolis Indians game of the season today. And we had a fire last night. I'm not ready for summer to end.

Although, I do have a challenge ahead of me. My birthday dinner fell on the night of my fantasy football draft. My friend Tina Noel made my picks for my team, Squirrel Gravy, is so named because I'd just been gifted a tee-shirt that says "Squirrel: the other white meat," and I thought it was fun. Megan's boys think I'm weird.

The Squirrel actually won the league last year, and more than a few of my Showgirls FF League owners are bitter, bitter people. I think it was actually the commish -- Megan Garver -- who came up with this gem. I might have to get John Wayne "Batman" Gacy after them....

For those of you anxiously awaiting Book 2 of the Heartland Saga, I'm getting very close. I'm happy with most of what's going on down in Claymont. Things are heating up, but there's a new bad guy in the area and he's B.A.D...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A little more this; a little less that

It's pretty easy to get depressed these days. Nazis and the Klan out in the open like we've forgotten the definition of atrocity. Kids shot by police. Shootings and other acts of terror everywhere you look. Hate blowing in the wind like the dead, dry leaves of early fall.

It's awful. It's not my America, and I don't think it's yours. I bet yours (even you, my red-state, conservative friends) is more like mine.

See the photo below? It was taken around 9 a.m. today. That's 60 yards of mulch in front of our neighborhood park and a bunch of our neighbors who came with shovels and pitchforks and rakes and wheelbarrows to tackle it.

Some of them don't have kids. Some do. Some, like us, have kids who don't play at the park much anymore. We don't know everyone's name but we can usually match them to their kids or their dogs.

A lot of the people you see in that picture also help plant flowers and clean up in the spring or do other things to make our neighborhood a place where everyone is welcome. Your sexual orientation is your business. We welcome all colors, cultures, religions, and political persuasions. 

We just want you to be friendly, pick up after your pets and be kind to those you encounter.  You don't even have to help spread the mulch. Do the former and we'll still like you.

Here's what that pile looked like a couple hours, a few gallons of sweat and a few dozen blisters later.

Here's where some of it went.

Even as my back aches and my fingers are wrapped in Band-Aids, I like this America better than the one I see on TV or online lately. Maybe if we can spread a little more neighborhood park mulch and a little less hate, we'll all have more of this and less of the other.

As long as I'm on my soapbox, here's another one: I was in Louisville last weekend with my Book Club and we were sharing the hotel pool with a bachelorette party for two lovely young women whose wedding is a few weeks away; a couple who live states apart but are dating and met in the middle; and a family -- mom, dad, two kids. It was an amazing, happy, silly, wonderful afternoon.

I chatted a bit with the brides' moms. One of them was all-in for the relationship from Day 1. The other was worried. Her daughter had been in a relationship with a man prior to meeting the woman who she'd fallen hard for. That mom had sent her daughter to therapy -- even went with her. "I had to be sure," she said, adding that she was all-in now as well.

The whole wedding party, of course, knew the saga, and they were all sitting around with us. Some in the water, some on the deck. Some paying attention to the conversation, some not.

That second mom, the doubtful one, had to learn that her new daughter-in-law would make her daughter happy before she could support the marriage. Some might think that's a terrible thing. Why couldn't she just accept her daughter's wishes?

But moms aren't built that way. They need to know their kids are going to be happy; that they have partners and friends who'll support them, love them, be there for good times and bad.

It's too early to say if that marriage is going to be one for the ages, but I'm cheering for them. And for the moms. Both of them. I'm an unconditional kind of mom, but I also would go to the ends of the Earth (even therapy) if that's what it took to make Ali happy. I respect the hell out of both of those women -- and the entire bridal party.

Theirs was a situation that could have wrecked a family. I'm glad Mom 2 was open to evolving and trusting her daughter. It's easy to fall back on "that's how I was raised" when push comes to shove in the culture wars. It's harder to be open to understanding something new, whether that's sexual orientation or culture or something else.
Why do we have to keep learning that love is always better than hate?

If you need a reminder, go to a park where the kids are too young to separate by color or to know what hate is. (Unless we're talking beets. It's OK to hate beets.)

Soaring in a swing or zooming down a slide brings the same joy to a boy that it does to a girl; that it does to black kids, white kids, Hispanic, African-American or mixed race kids.

That's the America I love. Let's get more of that one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

And the prize for dumbassery goes to....

I may have to get a job that takes me outside my home. That, or start working at Starbucks or Panera where all the other freelancers apparently hang out.

It's not that I need companionship. I have WFMS for that. It's not that I need a bottomless coffee or ice tea cup. I can do that here. It's because I'm a dumbass. A focused dumbass. But a dumbass nontheless.

Jeff and Ali shot off to school this morning, much like every morning. He, urging her to get ready so they could leave only to come back in the house three times because he'd forgotten something while she was already in the car waiting on him. I'd said my goodbyes and set up my work station out on my back porch. I generally work there until the heat sends me inside.

Today I had a noon meeting and then dentist appointments so I knew I had only the morning to get some work done for my favorite client and check in on what's happening down in Claymont. (Turns out quite a lot is happening in Book 2. More steam; fewer batons.)

Anyway, I was deep into work when it occurred to me that I hadn't eaten. I'm on a diet kick so I four eggs in a pan of water, set the timer and went back to work. An hour or so later, I went back into the kitchen to refill my water glass.

That's when I remembered the eggs. The smoke, the beeping of the timer and the shriek of the smoke alarm were my clues. I had not just boiled the eggs dry; I'd calcified the little ovals. The smell was worse than the time I'd made mustard gas in Alison's toilet bowl, but the fumes weren't as deadly.

It's past 8 o'clock now and it still stinks in my house. In every room. I'm going to be scrubbing that All-Clad saucepan for the rest of my life. I'd warned Ali on the way home, but told her I'd been running fans and it might have dissipated.

"Nope," she said, walking into the house. Then she spied the pan. "You used my Ramen pot? Mom!"

I've promised to bring it back to its shiny silver. (If anyone wants to remember my birthday, this might be a good gift...)

"You know I love you, right?" my darling daughter said to me as I sprayed air freshener and dug out the scented candles.

"Yes," I said suspiciously.

"I love you more when you're not in the kitchen," she said. "There's a reason Dad cooks."

It's hard to argue when you can barely breathe.

As for the Captain's reaction, I'm kind of staying away from him. He has a box of beer to prepare and because the upstairs has all the doors and windows open (thus no a/c) he's mostly been in the always-chilly downstairs since he got home. I'm taking my punishment by staying upstairs and breathing though my mouth.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

40 Goats and a Tesla

When Jeff suggested Ali and I tag along with him on a trip to Oregon to visit the much-lauded-but-never-met Sami Khawaja, we kind of rolled our eyes.
  1. We don't know this Sami guy.
  2. Oregon is a long way away.
  3. And all Jeff could talk about was the craft beer this far-off state had to offer, not really the kind of thing that requires, or allows in Ali's case, our participation.
So we sort of bided our time and waited to see if this trip would actually come to pass. Jeff and Sami met through work and Jeff would always go out to some nice dinner with him and other utility colleagues when he was in town. Jeff would come home raving about the dinner, the conversation and how much fun this Sami guy is.

Sure. Fine. Ali and I have fun when we're out with our friends, too.
But a trip across the country to stay with a stranger? Seemed like a long-shot to the women of Team Reed Indiana. But we'd never been to Oregon. And I'm involved in a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Indianapolis that will focus on wines of the Pacific Northwest, and Sami is a wine guy. So, sure, we agreed to go.

It just so happened that we had a chance to meet this Sami guy just before the trip. And once we met him, we had an inkling of why Jeff liked him so much. Suddenly the idea of a trip to spend some time with him didn't seem so bad.

We got there, just before midnight Wednesday their time, 3 a.m. our time. Not usually my finest hour, but I managed to stay upright for a little while. Thursday began a whirlwind of activities that made us all fall in love with Oregon -- and maybe even with Sami.

Sami was born in Jerusalem, was raised in Jordan and has spent the past 35 years or so as Oregon's best ambassador. Someone should tell the governor. He's amazing. He's also super smart, has his doctorate in statistics, is an expert in energy efficiency, which is how he came to know the Captain. Did I already say he loves wine?

He's so smart he has a super cool girlfriend, Miriam, who spent a large part of her life in Alaska and takes no grief from anyone, least of all Sami.

Fed by tales of Alison over the years, Sami had decided a while ago that if she were to be offered up in marriage, she'd be worth at least 40 goats.

Then he met her and created a goat index to track her worth. Within 12 hours, he had upped her value to 56 goats. Then she got comfortable with him and her value dropped to 26 goats.

Much of her drop had to do with her confusing his Model S P90D Tesla with a Toyota Corolla of a similar color. Goats dropped like flies at that and it was tough climbing back.

 In between, we:
  • Met his sons, Jake and Joe, who were delightful, 
  • Drove to see and hike among amazing waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge
  • Drove to Mount Hood, which is awesome
  • Took an Alpine Slide that resulted in Jeff getting an elbow abrasion that looks disturbingly like a penis (He got little sympathy because he violated the rules and was shooting video when he nearly wiped out and left a fair amount of DNA behind
  • Visited some fun wineries, including the Hip Chicks, which is run by one highly assertive woman named Renee who had a high goat index for Ali and me but no so much for Jeff and Sami.
  • Listened to some amazing jazz at Vino Veritas (Sami and a partner own it) courtesy of the Jake Khawaja Trio
  • Drove along the coast and stopped to let Ali have a dip while the older folks strolled on the sand
  • Had amazing dinners and beers and wines and breakfasts and lunches in between
  • Visited Powell's, the world's largest bookstore where I would still be had it not been for that annoying flight home already planned
  • Were having breakfast when a woman overheard our conversation and turned out to be an expat Hoosier who had a lot to say about where we should go next. She even followed us out to the car because she'd remembered something else we needed to know
  • Wandered around downtown Portland while Jeff visited every craft beer site he could find and
  • Saw the Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum -- it's really there, along with a bunch of other airplanes.
At one point during our drive along the coast, Miriam was playing around with music and four of us ended up belting out bad 1970s music, including "Muskrat Love" which was determined to be the worst song ever. Ali had tried to tune us out with her own headphones after awhile and perhaps because of the Captain and Tennille. Neil Diamond's "You'll be a Woman Soon" was a contender as well.

On the way back from Mount Hood, Ali picked lunch and we were searching for sushi, which led us to Happy Valley and a quick hello to my cousin Christopher Lehman, who just happened to be on duty at the Peet's Coffee Shop near the sushi place we found thru Nikki (the Tesla's voice) and Ali's Googling. Fate led us there, I'm sure, though Nikki was good for the assist.

It was an amazing trip with incredible vistas, but the most fun was hanging out with this guy Sami who was every bit as fun and amazing as billed.

By the end of our trip, Ali's final value was back at 40 goats, though I'm not sure how. Personally, I think she's worth a lot of goats. But it's nice to have an expert opinion on it.

My advice to you if you want to visit Portland, OR (and you do...): make friends with Sami.

Ali takes on the Pacific

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ali, Take the Wheel

Alison has been stuck firmly in "Park" when it comes to her ability to drive. She's not alone. Lots of city kids her age and older are less anxious to get behind the wheel than I was back in the day.

The report I linked to above says, among other things, that only 71.5 percent of high school seniors had their drivers' licenses in 2015. Eight-seven percent of kids in 1983 had their DLs. I'm betting it was 100 percent in rural communities.

Like many of her peers, Ali has little need to drive. If one of her parents isn't around or willing, she can bike or walk to find fun. Or she can just slide her finger over her phone or iPad and be happy as long as she has access to a wireless router and and electrical outlet. Back in my day and childhood home, it was miles into the closest town. I didn't always have access to a bicycle and the only phone we had was hard, black and plastic, tied securely to wall behind a cluttered kitchen shelf. It had no games unless they could be had in a voice-to-voice conversation and the idea of streaming video had yet to be conceived.

Even though we lived miles from anywhere fun, my parents did not see my transportation desires as something that hit their priority list. There was a school bus and maybe a ride from an older sibling if they were willing to let me tag along. Other than school and church (to which they were always ready to drive) there was apparently no need for me (or any of us) to leave the property unless it was under our own steam.

We had a horse for a long time, but Flicka has as much interest in my transportation needs as my parents did. As young boys, my brothers sometimes rode the pigs, but that was more a porcine rodeo kind of thing rather than an attempt to train them as viable vehicles. Before you ask, no: I did not participate.

I'm more familiar with goat rodeos, and that's a beast of an entirely different metaphor.

Anyway, Ali is 16 now and if she were born in the countryside where vehicular transportation is as necessary as grits on a breakfast platter, she would be chomping at the bit to learn how to drive. I keep offering to teach her.

"Uh. No, thanks," she said. "That's going to be Dad's job."

I've gotten over my annoyance at this repeated assertion. Kind of. She won't even try to back up the car in the driveway. "That's illegal," she'll say. "I don't have my permit."

She's amazingly proper. And stubborn.

"Dude. I'm right here. I have time," I've said. "We'll start off with your Dad's Subaru because it's an automatic transmission."

I may have a new transmission and clutch in my Mustang, but I'm not anxious to subject it to a new learner. Plus, I don't want her to get discouraged.

"I'm OK to wait on Dad," she'll say. "No offense Mom, but your driving terrifies me."

She likes that word, "terrifies." It's not even fair.

"You drive with one hand and drink coffee or keep looking at your phone. You get too close to the car ahead of you. You speed," she said, ticking off some of her issues with me at the wheel. "You don't pay attention and you don't always follow the law like when you turn left when there's a big red sign that says you aren't supposed to."

My counterpoint is generally something along the lines of, "That may be true, but I know how to do it correctly. And sometimes the signs aren't always appropriate for conditions. There's wiggle room when there's no traffic and I really need to get somewhere."

She doesn't believe me. Her drivers' education course is not helping my cause. In fact, it's created a kind of obnoxious shotgun rider.

"How fast are you going?" she'll ask as we barrel down an empty city street. "You know that's a double yellow line there."

She gets it from her father, who is notorious for coming to a rolling stop midway through a stop-signed intersection. We were all in the car the other day with Ali's friend Cory and the Captain was instructing us all in proper driving. I waited for an opportunity to pounce.

It came when Jeff was waxing poetic about protocol at stop lights, stop signs and yields. He was about to define the rolling stop when Cory piped up.

"You mean like what you've been doing all the way home?" she asked.

I like Cory a lot.

Anyway, Ali is nearly completion of her online drivers' education course and should soon be credentialed as a student driver. Her collar bone is healing nicely and she got back on her bike the other day. I was with her and apparently was a little too solicitous when it came to giving her fair warning of a need to brake. (It was a hard brake that led to her flipping herself off the bike and breaking her collar bone.)

"Mom. I'm not a seven-year-old," she said. "I can see traffic coming."

I backed off a little. She's been remarkably resilient since her fall. She's even assumed all of her chore list since the incident. Initially getting clothes out of the washer had been painful. She's been back to her cheerful Cinderella self for weeks now.

The orthopedic doc is happy with her progress and says we don't have to see him again until September and we can even skip that if nothing is awry. Her idea of safety is to wear her helmet when she's on her bike and to keep far, far away from me as a driving instructor. Her father agrees so I'm outvoted.

But I would be an awesome driving instructor. I'm sure of it. Send me your teenagers! Don't let them ask Ali or the Captain for a reference.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Please don't make me add werewolves or vampires or witches or fairies

Thank you so much for the positive response to my latest venture. Especially those of you who trusted me enough to buy early and/or submitted a review.

I'm overwhelmed. And I'm sorry, too. Kate is right: I rushed it.

I'm going to spend next week (or longer) working with another friend to fix the errors. I really thought I'd caught most of them, but like a lawyer who represents him/herself, only a fool thinks she can edit her own book.

Color me foolish. But most of my favorite ventures included a baptism by fire. So why not this one, too?

Maybe the soft launch versions will be collector's editions. Consider them the galley proofs I should have insisted on before pushing this out.

And yes, the book is fiction. Fiction. Fiction! I really don't want to throw in a werewolf or a vampire but if I have to do that to bring the fictional point home, I guess I might.

Anyway. Thank you. Standby for an update and the possibility of an event where the next version (edited) may be available. If you're one to overlook errors, hit me up. I have a few on hand and can save you shipping costs.

On a related note, Jeff and I were out when I finally got my first shipment of books. Alison had brought the box inside but hadn't opened it. Jeff grabbed one,  stood next to her and flipped through it. He asked her if she was going to read it.

"I just saw the word "moaning,"" my teenage Puritan said. "No way."

He said something along the lines of it might have been a reference to moaning in agony or something to do with food.

"I also saw "prostitute," " she said. "There's nothing about those two words together that I need to see."

Can't say as I disagree with her.