Archive for the ‘neighborhoods’ Category

Wrapped Up In Cookie Dough

October 10, 2012

When our oldest was in Girl Scouts my wife was the “Cookie Chair Person”.  That meant we warehoused cookies while the girls….er ummm their parents took the cookie sheet into work and danced the dosido to get their coworkers to buy a box of Dosidos, or Thin Mints or…Our phone rang night and day as Girl Scout parents called needing more.  My wife put a message on our voice mail mentioning the cookies.  My friends would all call and leave lewd comments about the cookies.  As the sale was wrapping up I was a little cukoo about the cookies.  So I changed the voice mail to say, “If you are calling about Girl Scout Cookies, my wife isn’t here.  She took the money and went on a vacation to Florida.  She’ll catch you when she gets back.”  Well one of the mom’s…one who was wound too tight…turned us in to the cookie police.  We were investigated and when it was determined that my story was half baked…we were cleared, but asked to turn in our apron and not return as a cookie chairperson again.

I still buy the cookies because I want to help the girls.  I also buy popcorn from the Boy Scouts and when the band kid comes around I shell out ten dollars for the scented candle with a scent only a great aunt could love.  That’s because her olfactory nerves were burned out by years of lavender perfume abuse.  I’ve bought cookie dough and then wondered what the heck I’m going to do with a ten pound cask of macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie dough…feed it to the birds in the winter?  One year I bought Chanukah wrapping paper to use at Christmas….just because.

So when our youngest, Grace, had an opportunity to go to France as a foreign exchange student I braced myself for “the Fund Raiser” speech.  Then a friend told me about Crowd Funding.  There are websites dedicated to helping you raise money for things like…an educational trip to France without schlepping peanut brittle.  I think we all realize that the company rolling in the dough when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies is the bakery not the girl scouts.  So why not cut out the middleman?    If we really want our money to go to good use…donate the 10 bucks we would spend on a pumpkin spice candle…straight to the kid with the cause…that way at the end of the day…the cause ends up with a lot more money.  It sounded like a great idea so we are doing that for Grace and her opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France.  Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.



The Faucet Episode

October 29, 2011

I like doing home improvements (drip, drip, drip) I embrace the challenges and I gain satisfaction from a job well done.  I also understand my limitations.  So if it’s a repair I haven’t done before, there will be some type of… learning curve.  Before I start one of those projects I make sure my girls aren’t around because odds are good that at some point in the heat of the learning curve… the words that roll off my tongue …are four letters and commonly shouted by every football coach and fourth grade boy in the Western Hemisphere.  The girls would chastise me more than they already do…they think they are steering the ship. (drip, drip, drip).   I’ve noticed that the more challenging improvements in our home seem to come in groups rather than being spread out over time.  Lately they have all involved plumbing.  (drip, drip, drip) The tough ones are deceiving.  They appear to be simple half hour jobs and yet somehow they are magically transformed into an odyssey that requires an attitude adjustment, two hours of YouTube instructional videos, a part that is on back order, and schematics designed by engineers…for engineers. (drip, drip, drip)  I think I just realized that maybe I don’t understand my limitations.  However I’m not talking about installing a new furnace, or rewiring our house.  The latest task was…wait for it…fixing a dripping faucet in the girl’s bathroom.  Seriously, now that you know the repair, would you expect the fix to take…two UPS shipments, and seventeen days?  It’s important to highlight the fact that even though it appears I’m in denial about my capabilities…I didn’t discontinue the model of our faucet, I didn’t decide to only label the schematics in Chinese, Latin, and Mayan, or take the replacement parts off retailer’s shelves…I did however turn off the hot water in that bathroom until the parts arrived because the drip became a small stream after the third time I partially took the faucet apart (see learning curve for details).  So every day it wasn’t fixed…there was more of a sense of urgency to do so.

Several years ago we remodeled our home.  Our bathrooms were rebuilt from the studs…by studs.  I say that because they did a great job.  I draw the line at totally rebuilding a room because frankly that kind of construction project takes a lot of knowledge, resources, and time.  Time that I need to devote to working so that I can pay for the stinking upgrade!  I’d love to do a project like that, but I’d also love to keep my marriage, keep my job, keep my sanity, and the list goes on. 

So the new faucets were all higher end Brizo Faucets by Delta which look like this.  They’re nice…when they aren’t dripping.



They come with a lifetime warranty.  Our model was discontinued sometime between installation and malfunction.  So Delta replaced the bad parts for free.  That makes the repair inexpensive, but we had to wait for them to fill, ship, and deliver the order, which takes about ten days.  Thanks to technology upgrades in plumbing you don’t simply replace a washer to stop a leak.  The top of the handle slides off revealing a set screw, unscrew the set screw to take off the handle.  That leaves the inverted bell shaped thingy (in the schematic it’s called a 鐘形片) I had to unscrew the bell from the base.  That reveals a cartridge that is held in place by another part that screws…since I didn’t do this installation I didn’t know the bell had been cemented to the base with clear calk.  So my attempt at unscrewing had me a little… screwed.  The bell wouldn’t budge so I was stuck, and puzzled.  Could the schematic be wrong?  I was forced to regroup.  After two trips to Economy Plumbing for advice, a pair of vice grips, and some choice words, I was able to separate the base from…my life which revealed the cartridge.  Under the cartridge was a spring and a rubber ball like thing.  Thanks to my first UPS shipment I could replace the spring, ball, and cartridge.  Then I screwed everything back in place, slid on the handle, set screw, cap, and…presto change, no drip.  I get to undo it again in ten days when the new bell comes in.  At least now I know what I’m doing. 

Each time I worked on that drip I had to clean everything out from under the cabinet. That way I could get under the sink to bang my head and wrench my neck.  I didn’t realize the cabinet had accumulated so much stuff.  There were two hair dryers (two?) A curling iron, a flattening iron(?)…why the curling iron if you need a flattening iron?…two rags, tampons, pads, sponges (the cleaning variety), toilet cleaner, Clorox wipes, half of a fresh water clam shell, fifteen swear words, some of my thinning hair, and several hours of lost productivity.  The last three are relatively new additions.

A Sign of the Times?

October 8, 2011

Early Wednesday morning as I headed to the Monon I saw a sign that read, “Who Stole Jesus?”  This was not a spiritual sign that comes to you in a moment of clarity.  It was a real sign in a real yard.    The sign was the same style and size as the “Home For Sale” variety.  It was professionally printed not written in marker.  My first thought was, “I didn’t know he was stolen!”  Was this THE Jesus Christ, son of God, or was he someone else… probably Hispanic… who happened to be given a powerful name?  If it wasn’t the beginning of October I would immediately think someone hijacked a nativity scene.  However we are in the midst of Indian summer and people are just gearing up for Halloween.  Give it another week before stores start pushing JC’s B-day and decorations start to sprout.  This appeared to be a message targeted to the people who frequent the intersection of Meridian Street and Kessler.  Were they trying to reach the governor?  Other people with money?   I’ve since seen several more of the signs around town.  So they are trying to get the word out.  I’m not sure why they are being so subtle about it.  This seems to be a big deal, given the stature of the guy who was nabbed.

I have to admit I didn’t know he’d come back.  You’d think that would have made the nightly news.  Our local stations are all so hungry to scoop a story I’m surprised we haven’t heard something like, “Breaking news from the west side!  This just into our news room…JC is back and he’s been spotted in Indianapolis!”  Not the case though.  Somehow they missed this and the subsequent story about him being stolen.  They were probably too focused on the Colts 0-4 start…or the possible renaming of Georgia Street

It’s interesting that he opted to return in the Midwest rather than the Middle East.  It is pretty here this time of year though.  Maybe he wanted to do Brown County before heading over to Jerusalem.  You know…take in the fall foliage, buy some apple butter, baptize a few people, and then go overseas after Thanksgiving.  He kind of missed our holiday the first time around.  It’s festive, it celebrates all the right things, and the parade is nice too.  I’m sure he was interested in taking in a Colts game, but with Payton out for the year…not so much.

This is a mayoral election year in Indianapolis.  There is only a month to go in race.  You’d think Melina Kennedy would have jumped at the chance for a photo op.  She could use a little divine intervention.  Surly the Mayor’s office would have countered with something of their own…but no? 

How does one steal him anyway?  You’d think he’s be surrounded by a few people.  Did someone sneak through the masses and slip a roofie into his glass of wine?  Boy you are really throwing caution to the wind when you decide to steal a guy like that.  Talk about Hell to pay.  I doubt you have the big picture in mind.  I mean this isn’t the Lindbergh baby.  This is pretty high up there on the crime chart.  What’s the motive?  What’s the ransom?  Who would be targeted for paying it?  Probably the Vatican.   How messy would that be?  One minute you’re sitting around an apartment getting high with two guys like Seth Rogen.  One of them makes the comment about how cool it would be to have more money than God.  Then someone suggests kidnapping JC.  You know because playing the lottery has poor odds and these days with the bad economy so does finding a job.  So they bumble into pulling it off.  They ask for ransom…something like gold, frankincense, myrrh…and three tickets to Montana.  They hide in…Rocky Ripple to wait for the drop.  The next thing they know they’ve got the Knights Templar on their tail and some church in Indianapolis has joined the search by posting signs all over the north side. 

Wow and I thought my life was complicated.


Hog Tied On The Monon

October 7, 2011

Shortly after several attacks occurred on the Monon the Mayor’s office said they would step up police patrols.  The trail winds its way from Downtown Indy, through bad parts of town, into artsy parts, through woods, and over rivers, before leaving the metro area to the north.  The trail then runs north into neighboring towns both exclusive, and Middle America.  I use that trail every morning at 6:30 AM.  I start at 62nd street in Broad Ripple and travel over the river and through the woods to 86th street, then back again.  I start behind the McDonalds.  The only crime on that part of the trail, the McDonalds drive through is always busy.  I can hear the speakers from where I’m getting ready.  “My name is Alisha.  Can I interest you in a caramel apple parfait?” All of the patrols in the world can’t prevent people from committing battery on their heart by eating dessert for breakfast.   Once I pulled away from the assault on my senses I saw some lame attempts at patrolling the trail.  Someone forgot to tell the mayor that patrolling any trail means stepping foot on it…and moving to and fro.  It doesn’t mean sitting in the patrol car next to the trail in the heart of Broad Ripple, one block from the McD’s, your breakfast parfait store (not kidding).  I would suggest the use of a bike unless you are enjoying a breakfast parfait while patrolling the trail.  That won’t work unless you are patrolling on a recumbent bike.  Then by all means eat, text, bring a pillow, and nap after the sugar rush subsides.   Honestly are you trying to catch criminals or zzz’s if you are patrolling a trail by sitting in a parked car next to the trail?  I saw the shape of most of those patrolmen.  Occasionally one of them would get out of the car and lean against the hood.  He was leaning for a reason.  He was out of breath from getting out of the car.  I think they were pulled from desk jobs to patrol the trail.  Those guys weren’t going to be chasing anyone on foot.  I also saw a police woman driving her patrol car down the multi-purpose trail.  I really don’t think that’s what the planners had in mind when they coined the phrase multi-purpose trail.  I don’t blame the officers for any of this halfhearted presence.  I think the leaders of the police force were against patrolling the trail.  It falls under the jurisdiction of Indy Parks.  They probably wanted park rangers out there and lost that battle.  One morning while leaving the trail I saw an officer getting ready to patrol on a bike.  I kneeled and bowed in worship his normalcy.  He said he was the only officer from the West district who was qualified to patrol on a bike.  Is anyone else wondering what it takes to become qualified?  Do they have to start with training wheels then pass a riding test?  Can I watch the test?

In Carmel they patrol the Monon on Segway’s.  I’m not sure which is worse.  Patrolling in a parked car or cruising the trail like a mall cop.  I wish I was sitting in the meeting when the budget for Segway’s was approved.  They should have gotten Disney to sponsor them because those cops look goofy.  Talk about an emasculating mode of transportation.  I suppose tricycles weren’t practical?  Is it just about using police presence to thwart crime?  If so then walk it.  In the meantime have a hand full of officers join a fitness program so they can become “certified” to patrol on a real bike. 

So as I’m heading over the first bridge headed north bound and away from the parked police presence I see a woman walking her dog near the other end of the bridge. She’s in the north bound lane.  Her German Shepard was across the trail on the outside edge of the south bound lane.  He was on a retractable leash.  I slowed and called out to the woman.  She didn’t hear me.  I tried again to no avail.  So I slowed to a crawl.  The dog faked right and cut left like a Pro Bowl wide receiver.  He darted around me and tied my legs together with his leash then darted back to his owner.  My rollerblades flew out from under me.  My legs were tied together like a steer in a rodeo.  I grabbed the bridge rail to prevent flipping on my head.  My leg was bleeding.  The leash was embedded in my ankle.  I’d been mugged by a mutt, robbed…of my dignity.  There is nothing police presence could have done to prevent that.  Especially if he had to put down his McMuffin and actually get out of the car.

Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.


The Morning Ride

September 10, 2009

This summer I vowed to change the way I start my mornings.  I would drink coffee and watch the News.  At first it was a way to get the weather forecast.  Then it became cups of coffee while hearing about murders, stabbings, robberies, and the weather forecast.  Based on the headlines, regardless of the weather it’s always gloomy on the east side of Indy.  After eight years of that routine it dawned on me…call me a slow learner… I was not getting an uplifting start to my day.

Now I sit on the porch and have coffee and feel the morning vibe.  Then I ride.  My bike is not one of the fancy, Lance Armstrong Super Dee Duper bikes.  It’s a touring bike with a spring seat!  I like the spring.  It has some obnoxious number of gears, like eighteen.  Who needs eighteen gears, aside from truckers?  I use five or six.  I wear a helmet.  I don’t like to.  My wife worked in the Neurology unit of a hospital.  Basically she scared/guilt tripped me into wearing it.  As a kid I jumped off a million ramps on my stingray and never needed a helmet.  None of my friends suffered brain injuries as the result of a bike wreck.  Apparently there are plenty of people who are now permanently drooling on themselves because they weren’t wearing one.  So for my wife and family I wear one. 

The neighborhoods around us are quiet.  I can ride for miles on streets lined with big trees, no traffic, and no pack of Lance Armstrong pretenders with the fancy bike, matching uniform, and attitude.  Sorry if you are one of those guys.  Actually I’m not sorry.  I have been stuck behind you in my car for miles because you don’t get out of the middle of the road.  You may not be a jerk, but you come across as one.  I’m not saying you don’t deserve part of the road.  I am saying you don’t deserve all of it.    Do you really need the uniform to train for what ever tour de jour?  Do you really have sponsors to ride your bike in traffic?  I wear a t-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.  I work up a sweat.  I feel great when I’m done.  I stay balanced.  Granted my t-shirt material flaps in the breeze like Ruth Gordon’s triceps, but that’s OK.  I’m not trying to sit on the pole for the Hilly Hundred.  If you were smart your sponsors would be companies who specialize in stress relief because the line of motorists who are stuck behind you have plenty of time to read the ads, over and over and over, until they find enough room to pass you.  They are stressed…thanks to YOU!  Did I get off topic? Sorry.  Did I make my point?  Hope so.

They just started doing road work in one of the neighborhoods I ride through.  I feel judged the minute I ride by the collection of construction workers all huddled together.  “Helmet?  What a dork!  Don’t get hurt!” I know that’s what they are thinking. 

Today I decided to cross the main road and hit another network of older neighborhoods.  I encountered my first Armstrong clone.  We were both stopped waiting for the traffic to clear before crossing.  He looked me up and down and then focused…on being the best bike rider of the morning…or what ever it is they think about.  Once the traffic cleared I went straight across.  He did some type of big sweeping motion, banking right and then swooping onto the road effectively putting him behind me.  “Is he drafting,” I wondered?  Then I thought about blocking him, giving him a dose of his own medicine.  Making him read my, Led Zeppelin World Tour 1972 t-shirt, for miles until I turn off the road.  That’s right Led Zeppelin sponsors my morning ride.  So do Folgers and Bayer…they are more like silent sponsors.  I blocked him for about 20 yards before moving out into the center of the road to let him pass.  He begrudgingly thanked me, and then kicked it into gear number nineteen.  The kid in me thought, “I may not look cool, but I’m drinking milk…”  The adult in me thought, “I need to blog about him”


June 25, 2009

Our lives revolve around time.  There is time to wake up, time to shower, time to work, time to take a break, time to work again, time to take lunch, time to cook dinner, time to play with the kids, time to do chores, time to argue about doing chores, timeout because of arguing about doing the chores.  We are always chasing time. In the end there is never enough time because the clock eventually runs out on all of us.  I’m not a fatalist and that’s not what this is about.

I have a friend who, for forty eight years didn’t understand the concept of being on time.  Every one would stand around looking at their watch waiting for him.  I did a roast for his 40th birthday….so this was…oh…nine years ago.  It was a video.  The concept was to make fun of his idiosyncrasies, time management for one.  In the video he was late for his party and we were looking for him around the city.  I went into a clock store thinking he may be buying a clock that worked.  I showed the clerk a photo of him.  She said, “I know him. He’s the guy who shows up just as we are closing.  No I haven’t seen him today.  He’ll probably walk up as I’m locking the door”.  It was fun to roast him for something that had been a pain for so many years. 

 Our garden works as a time machine.  Every time I step in it to work I go back to my grandmother’s farm.  I see her crooked fingers.  I hear her stories.  I see the smile on her kind face.  I taste her cooking.  I spent hours in her kitchen helping her make jams and jellies.  Her time was up before my youngest was able to benefit from her wisdom.  I try to pass it along.  This spring we have had a bounty of strawberries and raspberries.  The raspberries are still going….and going…and going.  Our briars average a gallon of berries every day.  When they are ready you have to pick them or they rot or dry up.  Time….is of the essence.  I’ve made sixteen pints of jam, frozen a bunch for pies, and given away gallons.  My grandmother never grew the berries herself.  They grew wild in the fence rows of the fields.  We would walk, talk, and pick.  The briars would scratch up your arms, the berries would stain your fingers, and the chiggers would crawl undetected into your waistband and other areas where they would bite.  You wouldn’t know about it until the next day when a welt would raise up and itch.  The itch was relentless and would last for days, but the time spent with my grandma was worth it.  Our briars are in the garden.  So we don’t have the chigger problem.  My problem is having enough hours in the day to work a full day in the business, cook dinner, pick berries, make jam, and get my other chores done.  I’m the only one driving the bus these days.  My wife is in month # 2 of grad school.  My girls are away for the next 5 weeks at a ballet summer intensive.  It’s all me, all the time.

 The ballet summer intensives are just that, intense.  They dance 60 hours a week.  The kids who dance in the intensive were invited because of their ability.  They want to be there.  They dream of dancing professionally in theatres.  They are willing to sacrifice social time to get there.  There is so much peace in following a dream.  Time has no meaning when you work at something you love.  I’ve learned that and I made sure my girls understand the value in that knowledge.  My seventeen year old is at the Jordan Academy of Dance at Butler University.  We moved her into the dorm Sunday.  I do some pro bono work for the school because of the beauty they bring to our lives.  That morning I received a call from the director asking if I would design the t-shirt for their summer intensive.  They needed the design done immediately so they could have the finished shirts back from the printer in time to give out to the dancers by week three.  That meant I had three days to get the design done.  I work 60 hours each week for my job, I had berries to pick, jam to make etc.  I said yes.  The design is done.  The berries were picked.  Nothing fell apart while my focus was shifted.  I never felt like I lost any time because the investment was made with love.  Time spent with love is time well spent.

the t-shirt design

the t-shirt design


Father’s day

June 18, 2009

The best thing in the world to me is being a father.  What a beautiful gift.  These little babies have come into my world to teach me about life.  Each came into the world differently.  Each has a different purpose, personality, path, and because of those differences they have each taught me differently.  One came into the world in a sterile hospital environment.  We took the child birth classes.  They talked about the roll of the husband/father in the birth.  Then when the chips were down and time had come they attempted to move me to the side line and relegate me to the roll of audience member.  We were a number and the OB had a tee time.  I’ve never felt more in the way of the system as I did that day.  There were rules, protocol, and ice chips….lots of ice chips.  None of that mattered once my daughter was born.  It all melted away when my daughter was born. Our youngest was born at a midwife center in a hot tub.  That birth was so different.  My wife was more relaxed.  Grace was born in 2 hours.  There was a lot more screaming, because there weren’t any pain meds….for me…but the environment was nurturing and full of love.  We actually traded the cost of her birth for a landscape design and installation.  Bartering for Birth, I think there is a book in that.  Buy two books and get a jar of organic jam and a tie die shirt…hmm


I decided early on that my place was at home with my family in the evening and on weekends.  I had friends going to Pacer Games or Colts games and on fishing trips, but to me it was more fulfilling to play with my girls.  Every day was a new adventure and a chance to expand your imagination.  Playing relieves stress and keeps the creativity flowing.  The stress of work took a back seat when I came home.  Our front yard has been the scene of many squirt gun battles, games of kick ball, tag, hide & seek.  Someone would always fall, get hurt, and cry, but the laughter always far out weighed the tears.  Our kitchen table doubled as an art studio and our family room became a “restaurant”.  We didn’t buy video games because we wanted our kids to develop their imagination.  All it takes is a drive through any retail area to see that creativity has been sucked out of the American culture.  It’s a challenge to be different.  All of the years of playing, creating, doing and being with my girls is the best time I’ve ever spent.  Day in and day out I’ve demonstrated to them that they can count on me.  If they have a question, a problem, or they just need to bounce an idea off someone I’ll help. 


I think dads are responsible for more injuries than moms.  Dads play differently.  When my 17 year old was in the second grade we were roller blading in front of our home.  It was 4th of July weekend.  My wife went into the office to get some work done while everyone was gone.  My daughter was on her bike.  I was on my skates, hanging onto a rope while pulled behind the bike, “skiing”. 

We were laughing and having a blast.  Then it was her turn.  She fell face first onto the street.  Blood was every where.  I couldn’t tell what was broken and what was missing.  We spent the evening in the dentist’s office having emergency dental work.  He determined that her top front permanent tooth was no longer permanent. I drove back to the spot, found the tooth, and he implanted it.  We taught her to visualize the tooth growing every night.  It worked.  I felt like crap, still do.


My youngest came to me early this spring.  She was planning her 8th grade schedule.  She wanted to take Latin at the high school because it would help her with English.  The closest I’ve come to Latin is when I fill a prescription.  She must have inherited from my wife because that didn’t come from me.  It brought back just how little I valued my education when I was her age.  I didn’t want my kids to make the same mistake.  I’ve worked on teaching them accountability from an early age.


Now that they are older the squirt gun battles don’t happen as frequently.  My roll is changing.  I’m more of a counselor.  Their ballet schedule has dominated.   Our conversations are about music, boys, and dance.  We go to shows together and play when there’s time.  I build things for them and we share pop corn during down times in the evening.  We are close.  We are more than I ever could have dreamed in a family.


Last week my youngest ask me what I want for father’s day.  I said, “mulch for the yard”.  She didn’t like that answer even if it was true.  She asked what she could give me.  I said, “You’re my gift”.  When I see them in ballet pieces I see grace and beauty.   I know they are happy doing what they love.  I see that dedication and devotion has a reward.  I see the future and I feel love.   I’m glad the theatre is dark because I cry at every show.  I’ve spent more perfect moments with them than at any other place or time.  You can’t buy that type of gift at the store.

 I would have any of this if it weren’t for my parents.  Happy fathers day dad!

my girls are my father's day gift

my girls are my father's day gift

Our Neiborhood Crime Czar

April 9, 2009

We moved into our neighborhood seventeen years ago.  It’s a quiet middle class neighborhood made up of ranch and two story homes built in the late fifties. I like most of our neighbors. Gladys Kravitz is alive and well and living two doors down.  She’s the head of crime watch.  She fancies her self a shrewd detective.  Each day she sits, nose pressed against the front window, looking for malcontents.  She calls regularly asking us questions about irregular comings and goings.  She’s very serous about her roll as the crime boss.  I can tell what she’s up to when she calls because she uses the suspicious tone.  “Did you notice an odd dog barking last night around two AM”? Honestly, she asks that!  I want to say, “That wasn’t a dog it was me”.  We were making love with the window open.”  Suspicious dog at two AM are you kidding?  What made it odd?  Did it sound like a chicken?  Could it have been a coyote and not a dog?

I know she means well but she’s not helping. Another time she called and asked, “There was a blue truck driving slowly down the street at 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon”.  “Do you know anything about that”?  I would think to myself, “Yes it was my new crack dealer.”  “He wasn’t sure where I live so he drove slowly to look at the house numbers.”  “He asked me to say hello to your husband”.  You know you’re in the suburbs when crack dealers deliver.

Two years ago she called asking if I knew that one of the neighbors was going to add a second story to their home.  I said, “No, they don’t talk to me about family matters”.  She said with her very suspicious voice, “Me ether, but I don’t like it.  It won’t blend in with the other homes”.  I almost said, “The Kremlin called, they want you back”.  Look I’m in favor of anyone who improves the property values here.  If they want to add a second floor…good for them provided they don’t use mud and twigs”.  If it ends up looking like a beaver hut or a back yard fort, I’ll sign a petition, but until then I’ll reserve judgment.  Well as luck would have it the guy was selling drugs and work was halted after he was arrested.  For two years the second floor sat unfinished.  It was a monument to the durability of Tyvec home wrap.  It was obnoxious.  It was an eye sore.  I felt the self-righteous stare of Mrs. Kravitz every time I rode my bike past her front window.  I wondered if and when the work would be completed.  I suspected an accidental house fire would take care of the problem.   The family would blame a faulty space heater and pocket the insurance money.  Then move to a new neighborhood.

We had a neighborhood crime watch meeting last night.  I didn’t go.  I noticed that most everyone who came to the meeting, drove.  Americans over weight?  How can that be?  Surely it’s not because we are…oh…I don’t know, sitting in front of a window all day or driving a block to attend a meeting?  It’s not like our neighborhood is the size of Manhattan.  It’s two and a half blocks wide and three blocks deep.  It wasn’t raining.  Here is an idea, rather than narcing on neighbors over doughnuts maybe we could ponder the merits crime prevention over salads and green tea.  Harsh?  Well maybe a little, but give me a break.  Every day the news mentions the healthcare crisis.  There wasn’t one several decades ago when people were active.  Maybe next time we can use Skype for the neighborhood meeting.  That way no one actually has to push away from the dinner table. 

We could each have an IV of pork gravy and two liters of syrupy Coke   Here’s a word to the villains who are casing our neighborhood.  “Stay away from the kitchen window and you’ll be fine.”

I love the neighborhood.  It has a lot going for it except these meetings….and the unfinished home.

Last summer a car of thieves pulled down the street in eyeshot Kravitz.  She was outside vigilantly working in the front yard.  One bullet in her breast pocket and a pencil drawn badge taped to her sleeve.  Her ears were pealed for suspicious noises and her eyes were poised to spot unscrupulous movement.  A car caught her eye.  They parked in front of their target house.  They kicked in the front door, took a big screen TV, computers, other electronics and then left.  Our esteemed crime czar saw the perps commit the crime from her front yard…one house away…THE WHOLE thing!  Once the criminals had driven safely away, she called real police.  They arrived and started asking for descriptions.  She couldn’t give the police a plate number, make of car, or description of the three intruders.  It was a blueish car.  That’s it!  I guess that’s why they call it Crime Watch.  I know that’s why I don’t attend the meetings.  Move over Barney, you’ve got competition.