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.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

So, I did it..

One day, not long before I left my corporate job, I was talking to a friend about the future. We’d just announced the company was to be acquired and we were musing about what we would do should we no longer be with the company. 
I repeated a line I’ve said many times: “If I had the opportunity, I’d write a book. And then another one. And another one.”

Have I not had the opportunity to write book throughout the past few decades? Sure. Sort of.
But I apparently didn’t have the discipline or the mental bandwidth. I fed my creative writing appetite with my little, un-monetized TeamReedBlog and focused instead on work, family and more than my fair share of Bravo TV.
All that all changed in May with my career switch. 
I’m both terrified and excited to tell you that I have published my first novel. You can buy it right now in e-book form and/or paperback on Amazon if you go here.
You can review my Amazon author page, too (I’m an author!!!! Yes, I’m a little squeaky about it, too.) It's here
I’d love for you to read any version, of course. I’m going to be obnoxious and ask that you add a review for it, too. Reviews are super important if I’m to extend my readership base beyond friends and family.
I would be forever grateful for your participation. More so if you forgive the typos I know I missed. 
In my defense, I was so anxious to complete the process that I put production ahead of perfection. As a seasoned author (ha!) I will be much more patient for Volume Two of the saga of Trailerpark Tammy. Chapter 1 is already done…
Anyway. I wrote a book! It’s fiction, based very loosely on stuff that lingers in my head from my childhood in rural, southwestern Indiana. 
The cover art is by a fun guy whose website is If you ever need your own cover art, I recommend him.
So go on, read! And please let me know what you think. Caution: it's a tiny bit racy in some parts and a little, well, irreverent, in others.   
As a side note, I will devote a portion of profits to organizations that do good in the world in an area related to each book in this series.  The Julian Center, for example, will be the organization to benefit from "Retribution" sales. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Murphy's Law vs. Pleasant Pond (the Pond wins)

I don't remember inviting Murphy on our summer trip to Maine this year, but he sure made his presence felt as it sometimes seemed that whatever could go wrong, in fact did.

If the days in between our Murphy experiences hadn't been so perfect, I might be regretting our time at Jen and Peter's camp. But it's hard to beat our time with them on the aptly named Pleasant Pond.

We usually send Ali for some alone time with her Maine family. But this year, she brought her best friend, Jenna Tokash, for a few days and then Jeff and I joined in for a long weekend. All was rosy for the girls as they got themselves through two airports and off to Auntie Jen without a hitch.

Jeff and I ran into delays on the trip out that stranded us in Washington DC Friday night right about the time we should have arrived at camp.

We had no hope of getting to Maine until Saturday night if we were to remain in the unfriendly skies. We opted to drive the 500+ miles, starting at midnight Friday.

Twelve hours later, we'd argued ourselves awake as I tried to figure out his Android phone, which has a light touch and kept switching screens. In case you don't know, I tend to get cranky when I don't have enough sleep and am hungry or annoyed by uncontrollable forces or have to learn new smart phone tricks on the fly.

We consumed more energy drinks than were healthy -- including an enormous Slim Jim for Jeff and too many Dunkin' Donut Munchkins for me. Jeff got us out of DC and thru Baltimore and into New Jersey, with me dozing more than was helpful. I got us through New York and Connecticut. Jeff set alarms for himself to be sure I kept us on a northbound course. He took the wheel back before we got into Boston.

Takeaways from the road trip:
  1. New Jersey has awesome rest stops.
  2. If you're going to risk driving into Maine on a holiday weekend, be sure you have accommodations for bathroom emergencies and a solid partnership with whoever is in your car because everyone and their brother, apparently, heads north in July.
We managed to get to Maine without killing each other or leaving any lasting DNA in the rental car. If Jen and Peter had showed up three minutes later, they'd have found us asleep on the curb outside the airport, though. 

My plans for bed changed when the girls convinced me to get into the water. By dinner time, I was out of juice. Jeff had napped and I snagged a few Zzzs while the table got set but between the long travel day and paddling around in the pond, I almost face-planted at the table. I was out by 7:30.

For the next few days, we kayaked, skied, paddle boarded, swam, speed-boated, canoed and played like campers should. We picked strawberries and sent the boys into town for lobster. And beer, of course, as Jeff was along.

We'd stopped at the Maine Beer Company on the way to camp and the three of us were waiting in the crowded lot for Jeff to re-emerge. When it was clear that a guy wanted our parking spot, Peter made sure the guy got it, pulling out early so he could slip in. That guy gave Peter a cold Treehouse Haze to thank him for his trouble. (Peter was pleased but Jeff was ecstatic as the MA-made beer is hard for a Hoosier to get. And it was delicious...)

Jenna, excited to have her first whole crustacean, decided it wasn't her favorite, after all. The texture did nothing for her, but the extraction process grossed her out as well. "You want me to put my thumb where?" she asked, doubtfully. She's right to question Captain Reed, who has led her astray for his own enjoyment for years. She fell in love with Nicodemus, though, and if she could have gotten him in her suitcase, she would have. 
We discovered that Jenna and I have awesome taste in swimsuits and once mixed them up and had to switch back. 

We resorted to calling Jennifer Reed "Jen1" and Jenna Tokash "Jen2" after several confusing conversations.

Cousin Peter Williamson and Auntie Mary Sturtevant came over and Pete put us all to shame with his first-time on water skis. We applauded his salute to us on the short until we realized he was returning Jeff's one-fingered salute. 

Ali was a great sport as we all took turns skiing or tubing while she had to stay on the boat with her broken, but healing collarbone. It didn't keep her from much.

It might have helped that Uncle Peter is also nursing an injury and couldn't do more than drive, either.  They're both looking forward to next year when his shoulder and her collar bone are fully healed and ready for power sports.

He gave both girls a driving lesson before the week was out and ended their water time with a private trip around the lake at speeds that left them breathless and wanting more.

Jeff, who like me, hadn't skied in a long time, got up and stayed up for long circuits around the pond, but the image we all like is the great shot Jen1 got as he ended one trip.

Time to leave came too soon, and we happily had no flight SNAFUs. The girls loved watching fireworks from above, and they got to see most of the Indianapolis shows as we we came in around 10:30 p.m. or so.

Once home, Murphy made his presence known again as a fuse had blown sometime between Friday and Tuesday, rendering our refrigerator the depository for a bunch of smelly food. I usually empty the fridge of anything that could go bad while we are away but had left milk, thinking it would be nice to not have to stop for groceries when we got home late.

Jeff was scheduled to work Wednesday but stayed behind to help me clear the three garbage bags of spoiled food. I'd planned to restock while he was gone and went out to the garage only to remember then that we'd left my car at a local dealership before our trip so a recalled air bag could get replaced.

We'd both forgotten about it. I considered biking to the grocery with a backpack and even got on the bike. But it was as if all the exertion from the prior days caught up with me and I napped instead. 

I must have looked like death warmed over when Jeff and I drove up to get my car back because the sales staff had that "Should I call 9-1-1" look in their eyes when I stumbled to the desk.

In my defense, at camp, you get up, brush your teeth, pull your hair back and face the day. I was still at camp in my mind and groggy from little restful sleep.  

Today, we're fully back home in mind, body and spirit. It's a rainy day so I'm out on the back porch catching up with country music. Ali is inside avoiding country music, getting ready for summer school and clearing out her room. Jeff is at work. It's a pleasant kind of Indiana summer day.

Not as pleasant as Pleasant Pond, but it's a good place to be, too. Thanks, Jen and Peter, for an awesome time.

I leave you with a shot of what Ali and Jen2 did when they were out of the water and not playing board or phone games.