Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Burns Night!

Me and my piper!!

On Tuesday evening, January 28th, come celebrate Burns Night at Trine University. (Actually it is in the afternoon at 3:30!) I will be sharing poetry and my friend and piper, Mark Gropp, will be playing the pipes.

We will end the evening with an audience participation of Auld Lang Synne. The event will take place in Wells Theatre inside Taylor Hall!

Looking forward to seeing you!!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial

Steuben County's newest Suffragettes!

My brown corduroy skirt hangs on a hook in my closet. It is not used very often. It does not work well for Johnny Appleseed or all those lovely fall festivals. No, it just works when giving house tours of my old house in the winter.  Or, whenever I feel like celebrating the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote! Tonight is that night. I pull out the skirt; give it a quick ironing, pin up my hat, and head out the door with a basket full of scones. Because I want to maintain my historical look, I wear my cape instead of a coat and the wind whips the flaps open before I can even get to my Jeep.

It is already dark when I arrive at the Cline Museum. This is a new experience of visiting the museum in the dark and seeing it ablaze with light in the windows. Once I brought my book club to the Cline in the evening, but I was the first to arrive so I never saw the lights streaming through the stained glass windows. Now the beauty of it astounds me as much as the cold air as I carry my supplies up the back steps of the museum. There I am meet by three lovely women who are dressed like me…Hope Wilson, Linda Mowry, and Cathy French. I hand Cathy her borrowed hat, place my scones on the table, and get directions from our leader, Hope.

Hope is like a fast moving bird all around the museum putting out placards and trivia quizzes and sign in sheets for the evening. Finally, everything is ready including our “Let Women Vote” sashes, and the Suffragette flag blowing out on the front porch. Jim Somers joins us sitting in Dr. Cameron’s office waiting for folks to arrive and perhaps wanting tours of the museum.

The door opens and our first guests arrive. The four of us surround them, take their coats, offer refreshments, trivia quizzes, but more arrive and we spread out. We tell our stories, share our plans and send them off to Jim for a nighttime tour.

It is a night of exceptional quality as we begin the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the USA. Our brochures are ready and printed with all of our events…something every month…and a list of books and films. For a time I stand back to watch and listen. There is much joy in this old house as friends and neighbors pour in to see what we are up to and share in this event. For a moment, I consider the fact that I almost turned Hope down when she called in the fall with this idea of hers. She and Peg Dilbone decided early on that we should celebrate in a big way. My very first reaction was to turn it down. I just cannot take on another project. However, really, how could I say “no” to this centennial event?

I join back in and continue conversations with folks still coming in. By 8:00, the crowds are thinner, cookies are in shorter supply, and the chill of that old house is seeping into our bones. We all decide our hats have kept us warm all evening!
The house is quiet with our guests gone. Jim decides he can leave, and we thank him profusely for giving the tours of the house. He brings in the outdoor signs and our flag before he locks the door behind him.

All that remains are the four of us. We sample some of the leftover cookies and scones before we pack up. We pull out names for the door prizes and give calls. We know the winners are happy to receive our call! We gather names, quizzes, and all the placards.

The four of us haul our supplies back to our cars. It is cold and my cape gives off no warmth, but we wait on one another to make sure our cars start and everyone is able to leave at the same time.

The drive home is a short one. Once inside I put on the kettle and ponder over the evening. Celebrating this 100th anniversary is pure joy for me. I want all the women to know the history and our upcoming events. Pick up our brochure at the local libraries and send me your stories.

I hang my brown corduroy skirt back up on the hook.

Until next time…

Friday, January 10, 2020

There will come soft rains...

Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. I love this day, and not because the daylight will begin to grow longer after this day! Perhaps it is because I am a northern girl or a writer/reader girl that I revel in these long dark nights. Whether you love it or not, it is here. Tonight is the long night of the year and a time for celebration.

I have celebrated this day for so many years that I cannot even remember when it started. When did I start paying attention to the sky and the stars? It must have started with childhood when my dad drove us out to skate on the pond in the country. There was an old bench where we could change into our skates and take to the ice…bumpy or smooth…it didn’t really matter. I do remember the color of the winter sky in those days. There truly is something quite magnificent in a winter’s sunset.

Or, perhaps it was the farm doing chores in the early evening, skating on the pond, walking in the woods. Again, it was the beauty of the sky. Yesterday I flew to Charleston and came in over the water just at sunset. I am celebrating this year the Solstice with the four little grandchildren in Charleston. They have been with me for the summer celebrations wearing crowns, scattering rose petals, singing songs to the fairies, but we have never spent a winter solstice together. Tonight after dark, we will go out into the back yard. I came prepared with glow sticks for all of them and necklaces of Christmas bulbs to light the way to the tall oak trees in their yard. We will scatter more rose petals (yes, I brought them in my suitcase!), and say our chant: “Root to root, seed to seed, may all that we have, be all that we need.” Holly and Brianna will love this, but I doubt the three-year old twins will get much out of the celebration except for the string of lights and the glow sticks!

Abe’s yard is full of nature and maybe that is because it is a southern yard. The tall oaks in his yard give way to long lives. The evergreens that grace our living room or gates assure immortality. The garden yew means “death to the old year!” Some of us have mistletoe, which actually means peace and happiness. In addition, the holly is said to protect us from something? Perhaps you have a rosemary plant in your house. I know I dug mine up at the end of summer. Not only is it fragrant and beautiful (yes, I also decorated it for Christmas), but it is the herb of the sun. Even if you do not believe or want to believe these plants give off meanings, we sure do love them in our gardens! I point all of these out to the children.

After the celebration, we will go inside to cocoa and cookies and read books. The rituals continue long into the evening…just as it was for my children…just as it was for me.

This week also begins Hanukkah on December 22. I have a wonderful song tucked into my suitcase for that event as well. On Christmas Eve, I will recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to these four little ones. Again, I always did this with my children and my dad with us.

During Christmas day, between the gifts and the food, I will call my other sons since we will not all be together. I will then stand back from to watch, to listen, to take it all in so I will not miss a thing.
I want to give way to the magic of children, the magic of the day, the magic of life. When the day is over, and they are lamenting that Christmas is over, I will tell them about my dad. I will tell them that every year on the night of Christmas the six of us children were so sad that it was all over. Oh, we had anticipated and waited so long. So very long. Before we all climbed upstairs to bed in our new Christmas jammies, my dad would snap his fingers and say, “It’s almost Christmas.”  I can still hear him say it.

Later, when the day is over, I will quietly go out alone under the tall oaks and give thanks to the holy darkness being careful not to step on any rose petals!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

SantaLand Diaries: David Sedaris

This is one of my all time favorite holiday pieces. Enjoy!!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Another semester in the book!

One of my students, Karlee, wanted a photo after class!

The semester is over, and I look back at the first day as I always do. They sit in their seats with anticipation, maybe fear (?), and certainly with much curiosity. They have heard rumors of my class. I don’t know them…not their names or where they are from or their dreams. I take roll call and phonetically write out their names if it is difficult, and some are difficult! At the end of the first day, I go home on my bike, sit out in the garden and ponder the situation. I will never get them to where I want them to be. The magic just will not happen, no, not this semester.

The golden days of autumn fly by as quickly as the geese take to the skies. One day at a time, one student at a time, we make our way. Before long, there is magic and we have come to know one another, and yes, I fall in love. When that happens, teaching becomes as common as drinking a glass of water or picking the last summer roses. 

I think of a few of my teachers who brought the magic to me. June Gregory was my high school English teacher, yearbook and newspaper advisor of which I was on the staff of both! She had red hair, which she wore piled on top of her head, and she was young. She must have been very young for me to remember her as such. I knew nothing of her personal life, yet she was my favorite teacher of all times. In those days, the paper was printed on a printing press in the town of New Haven where I went to school. On printing day, she issued passes to me and Dick Hoagland to spend the day helping with the printing making sure the typeset was perfect. I loved those days. Leaving school with passes in our hand, we headed out to do our job. We arrived back at school with the newspapers hot off the presses. On those days, we stayed to visit with Miss Gregory in the classroom. I do not remember too much about the room except that the windows faced south so the late hot summer sun or the early cold winter darkness would fill the room with shadows and images. We spent those hours discussing how to make the yearbook or the paper better. 

Little did we know that years later, Dick would become Ambassador Hoagland spending a decade in South and Central Asia. Whereas my life was not quite so eventful, it led me here to this town I love. I know Dick credits Miss Gregory for some of his successes. I know I do. Miss Gregory helped me get a high school job writing for the News Sentinel and later my journalism scholarship. She was also the one who knew I was not the reporting type. My love of words and language (and sunsets?) kept me on the essay page. She knew long before I did.

I think I always wanted to be that teacher. You know the one the kids will remember. I want them to remember how the sun came in the windows or the story I told, or the way I listened to their heartfelt stories.
Therefore, we come to the end of the semester, I have to let them go, and I find it difficult. One student asks me, “Do you always fall in love?” I think about it for a moment, and say, “Yes, I do.” She promptly asks another question, “What happens when you don’t?” I smile at that one. “Time to quit teaching,” I answer.
On the last day, we head out to the courtyard for my ritual of “Dead Poets Society.” I have all the pieces in a folder…Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Thomas, and Shakespeare. This year I add a piece by Mary Oliver. She became one of the dead poets last April. On one of these days, it is snowing hard in the courtyard…just one of those quick passing snow squalls, but just enough to make the students complain. I face the falling snow with laughter as they gather round. As in Frost, “The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.” 

I read all the pieces. Close the book. Give them my last bit of advice as I fiercely hold back the tears. They scatter like leaves or snow or dandelion seeds.

I pack up and go home.

Monday, December 02, 2019


Last night I attended a "Hygge" party hosted by my friends, Bill and Annie Eyster. I loved the name, the concept, and the great party. I have always lived by these ideas, but didn't know the name of it.

Here is the definition of hygge: a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

It definitely was a cozy and fun party with music and games...candles and soft lighting. Here are a few photos from the night!!

Traditional Danish cake.

Candlelight set the tone for the evening.

Simple, Christmas decorations.