Tuesday, June 04, 2019

100 years ago today...

One hundred years ago today women were given the right to vote by the Senate vote. The constitution still had to be ratified which it did in August.

So, ladies, are we voting??? Our vote counts. Every one of them.


Sunday, June 02, 2019

Happy Birthday Walt Whitman!!!

Original hand-written copy of "O Captain, My Captain."

At the end of each semester at Trine University, I take my students out into the courtyard for our “good-bye” as in Dead Poets Society. They all know it is coming as it is on the Syllabus and I speak of it frequently; yet when it is storming or snowing or sleeting, there is much complaining…of course! Actually I love it most of all when the weather is adverse!
I stand in the middle of them reciting their send-off with poetry. (And, no, it does not matter which class I teach…they all get the poetry.) I fling my arms out as I recite Shakespeare’s King Lear, “Blow winds, blow!” Or “I felt a funeral in my brain,” by Emily Dickinson. As I continue into my foray of poems, the students are polite, interested, and I think they know this moment will not come again. No moments ever come again. The last poem is Walt Whitman’s, “O Captain, My Captain.” By this time, I am usually in tears. Maybe it is letting them go, or the wind that circles around in the courtyard, or even the snow or rain that pummels down on us. Or is it the moving words of the poetry?

Yesterday was the 200th birthday anniversary of Walt Whitman. How could I possibly let this go by without sharing words and thoughts about him? Do you know Whitman? His life? His poetry? You are about to find out! Listen in…
Whitman was born in West Hills, New York on May 31, 1819. He was the second child of eight into a family owning a large piece of land which was sold off. He watched his father struggle through the years with farming, carpentry and sundry other jobs. Whitman was plucked out of school at age 11 to help his family with the income. He was an office boy for a Brooklyn attorney. Interestingly enough, without an education, he became a teacher in Long Island at age 17, but, by now, knew journalism was his calling.

He left New York in 1848 to become editor of a small newspaper in New Orleans, the Crescent, but quit in less than three months and went home. He continued with odd jobs, all-the-while keeping a small notebook with his thoughts and ideas. In 1855 he self-published his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass. It was a radical political piece at the time. (Note: in 1870 copies of the book sold at auction for $2. In 2014, a surviving copy sold for $305,000.)

The Civil War took a toll on Whitman. His brother, George, was wounded, and the nation was in disarray. Whitman volunteered his time visiting wounded soldiers. Record keeping in Washington, D.C. logged more than 80,000 patients. He wrote, O Captain, My Captain to eulogize Abraham Lincoln.

Whitman was one of America’s first democratic poets celebrating life in America. We learned, or at least heard this poem, in school, “I Sing of America.” The first line says, I hear America Singing, the varied carols I hear. Whitman knew it was his job, his responsibility as a poet to write about the fate of the nation and those forgotten. I think we could use a little Whitman today.

He was so popular in New York that they began to publish the status of his health on the front pages of The New York Times. They wrote what he ate, how he felt, what his physicians said about him. He died on March 26, 1892 leaving behind his expanded version of Leaves of Grass and so many other poems we all love.  He is considered to be a groundbreaking poet of American Society on culture and politics.

I am ecstatic on this day of his anniversary. The sun is shining. My garden is growing. But what can I do, or should do, to celebrate and remember this poet in my own life?
After a long talk with a guy named Shaun in New York, and one click of the Etsy button, I am now the proud owner of a 1963 Emerald Green Smith Corona Sterling portable typewriter with an extra ribbon. This is a combination birthday present to myself and a celebration of poetry, and I will love it!

And you, my friend, will see me sitting on the square typing out poems for you. Stop by, let me write you a poem or let’s chat about anything.
Let’s keep America singing. It is our job. I will do my part…how about you?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Spring is here...almost...get the bikes out!

Ellen just got her new bike!

Spring is almost here...although I must admit...I still have the heat on in this old house! I was looking through files today and popped over to my blog and realized I have not  written a thing for over a month. Well, actually, I have written many things, I just have not taken the time to put them on the blog. So, with school out for the year, and summer here, I guess it would be a good time to start putting everything back on.
Hope all is well with you. Drop me a line or two so I know you are still out there!!
Lou Ann

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ukulele Camp

You might think I am going to go on and on about my spring break. Well, I am. You might think I am going to go on and on about ukulele camp. Well, I am. But first let’s start with this: Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

I guess this quote sums it up rather nicely.

By 7 a.m. I am packed and ready to go. My clothes, phone and ukulele are neatly waiting by the front door for Carolyn to pick me up. She arrives and we fill her van with my necessities and I hop into the front. We stop for coffee and begin the drive to Midland, Michigan, for as I call it, ukulele camp.

This is our second camp, if you remember. Two years ago we attended camp in Indiana, but this one is different … more players, flash mob, mall concert, nonstop ukulele playing. There is a Western theme for this camp as is noticed by Carolyn’s bright pink cowgirl hat in the backseat. I forgot my hat, but tie a purple bandanna around my neck as we drive. I know I am excited and happy about this camp, but really, I have no idea.

We arrive by noon to check in, get our name tags and share in the meet and greet. In the background I hear the strains of ukulele chords as if the Philharmonic were warming up. We meander back into the large room and find folks decked out in their “git along little doggies” clothing. There are still two seats available in the second row next to a handsome cowboy named Larry. We introduce ourselves to Larry and find out he is a guitar player from Richmond. We sit down, put our music on the stands and tune our ukuleles. My heart is beating wildly as I realize I am part of this marvelous event. I look around at the 60-70 folks each wearing cowboy hats and bandannas. And then it begins.

Johnny Hunt, the leader of the pack and board member of the Folk Music Society of Midland, takes center stage and welcomes us. He goes over the agenda and we begin.

Ukulele in place, songs on the overhead, we commence singing and playing. I am smiling from ear to ear. I look at Carolyn and she is doing the same. Soon we rehearse for the flash mob at the mall. We will be playing and singing six songs without music in front of us. My eyes reflect the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. No way can I do this, but we pack up and meet everyone at the mall. Two by two we arrive in the center playing “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.”

I don’t know how, but I do it, and folks gather round to take photos and sing along. This is my very first flash mob, and I think how proud my grandchildren will be of me!

Mid-afternoon we are back singing and strumming ’til nightfall. My fingers are raw from playing, but do I care? It isn’t until 9 p.m. that we head over to our hotel. But no sleeping for us … oh no. The lobby is full of ukulele players. We throw our stuff onto the bed, grab our ukes and join in the fun ’til the wee hours. I think to myself that I am now a real musician!

The next day is exactly the same, except now we have lots of friends. On this day there is a mall concert, but we get to take our stands and our music. After a rehearsal we head on out to the mall and take our places. It is Saturday so the mall is full of shoppers with 60 ukulele players in the middle. We play and sing our hearts out under the direction of guest artist, Petey McCarty, but he doesn’t know “Cool Waters.” Our new friend, Larry, goes up to sing and direct. We cheer and holler for him.

The rest of the day is full of strumming and singing and again at the hotel into the night.

I don’t want it to be over. Really, I don’t. I lament leaving my new friends and this rich experience.

I think of Plato as we drive. “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life.”
*First published in KPC Media News.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sisters Forever

Every year I take Jessie's photo on the beach!!

My sister, Jessie, calls to tell me our tickets are purchased and we will soon be on our way to visit our mom, Dick, and our Uncle Dean. We chat about our sister’s event knowing it is our once-a-year travel event. Not only do we get to visit our mom, but we have time to talk non-stop for four days. Before we hang up, she reminds me of a photo we have tucked away in a scrapbook somewhere. In the photo we were five and three and wearing matching sundresses. We were at the Toledo Zoo with our parents facing the monkey cages. Our dresses were tied with bows in the back and we were holding hands as if nothing in the world could bother us as long as we stuck together.

There are six siblings, but Jessie and I came first. The others came in two pairs of two also so everyone has at least one buddy close to their age. Families are not perfect and go through so many layers in life. I am just glad it is Jessie I have by my side.

Spring break arrives. My small suitcase is packed and tossed into my Jeep as I head out of town early before the sun appears. Ice and snow still decorate the landscape and my car thermometer shows me winter just won’t give up. I take the extra moment to drive around Miss Columbia. Stoic and proud she will wait for my return.

The chatter starts at the airport. We love our flight attendants and with a little extra chatting, we are awarded with extra cookies on our tray. We save them for our midnight snack at mom’s. We are on vacation so we don’t really care if there are cookie crumbs in the bed!! 

Two flights and we are West Palm Beach. I am never, ever prepared for the change in weather. I know it will be warmer than northern Indiana. I know it will probably be hot. But I still bring along my wool socks and long sleeves. (Okay, I really don’t want to get a suntan, but seriously?)

Mom and Dick meet us with hearty greetings. They are happy to have us bounce into their lives, even if it is only once a year. (If you remember, they live in England!) We travel the palm tree-lined streets interspersed with azaleas, hibiscus, and everything else green and blooming. The scent is a bit intoxicating as I am still in the scent of winter and snow boots and wool mittens that really need a good scrub after this season.

Mom and Dick enjoying warm Florida weather...look at their lovely tans!

Layer by layer, I finally peel off the winter garb and let the warm sun fill the winter voids. It is a nice lazy visit. We join in the condo experience of sitting out at the pool every day at 4:00. The folks at their condo give us a party. I guess we are the distinguished guests…at least for a day or so. As we sip on marguerites, it is as if snow and ice and long winters are a memory watching the sun dip behind extraordinary clouds. 

Everyone packs up at dark on these late afternoon pool visits, but Jessie and I stay out to watch the stars and planets appear. Finally, we mosie back watching for alligators in the dark!

A beach walk, a visit with my favorite Uncle, shrimp at my favorite restaurant, and the visit comes to a close. There is never enough time to say what needs to be said, to do what needs to be done, and to hold close that which needs to be held close. For us, four days is all we have.

Spending time with my Uncle Dean is always one of my favorite times!

Another quick drive to the airport, and we are gone. Late aircrafts and delays hold us up for a few extra hours, but the truth is, I don’t mind at all. It gives me more time with Jessie so we can tell more stories. We drink coffee in West Palm Beach, we eat burgers in Atlanta. We sweet talk the flight attendants so we can go home with more cookies in our bags. And we talk nonstop. We finally reach home by midnight. 

She takes me to my car, and it is freezing cold. How did I forget in four days? We hold hands and say goodbye. 

I holler at her over the wind. “Til our next adventure!”

I drive home in the dark of midnight. One time around Miss Columbia, and I am home.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Welcome Miss March...

Thanks to EarthSky.org

One day last winter a large book appeared on my front porch. It was a huge book for star gazers featuring planets, constellations, and guides to the night sky. It even came with a small infrared flashlight to use during those lovely evenings. It did not take me long to find out who I should thank. Mark Wilson brought it over to me knowing how much I loved all of the above, and I do. I also adore the book and keep it handy in my studio for those clear nights when I meander out under the stars.

To be honest (yes, perfectly honest) it is sometimes difficult to meander out under the stars when temps hover at the zero mark. And those of you wondering about those campfires of mine? Wonder no longer. There have been only a couple this winter. The pathway to the campfire has been covered in ice and snow along with the woodpile. (Reminder for next winter: put some wood in the barn/garage!).

March has whistled in with a bit of a snarl. Cold winds will still blow. Snow will fall. March is so fickle…she never decides which dress she will wear to the ball. “Shall it be deep purple velvet with amethyst jewels?” she asks. “Or will it be a gown of aquamarine?” Perhaps she doesn’t even know.

What do we know of March? In ancient times March was the first month of the year according to the Roman calendar. Ahhh, the first month of the year brings on hope, new lambs, new resolutions, and spring. It was also named after Mars, the Roman god of war.  However, all of that changed with the assassination of Julius Caesar on the 15th of March. He was stabbed at least 23 times (some sources say over 50!)t in 44 B.C. on that date in history. According to history a seer warned Caesar to watch out for the Ides of March. Too bad for Caesar as he ignored that warning! It was Shakespeare who made us all pay attention to that date in his play, “Julius Caesar,” written in 1599 with his famous words, “Beware the Ides of March.” (On a side note, this site has received the go ahead in Rome and will begin its restoration. This site, Largo di Torre Argentina, will be opened to the public in 2021…the first time ever! Mark your calendars now!)

When the Gregorian calendar came into play, March became the third month of the year instead of the first. March also has a flower which is the daffodil.

Besides all of the above history, March will find me at my campfire leaning back towards the early morning sky or the night sky. Come sit with me.

In the early morning, before the sun of March shines or even gives a glimmer of hope upon our land, our town, our own backyard, Jupiter will make her first appearance shining so brightly you won’t miss her. Set the alarm, take out the early morning coffee, wait for the newspaper to be delivered and make a toast to Jupiter. Soon after Saturn will join her and last of all Venus will make her grand entrance. (She has always been the show off!)

Maybe evenings are your favorites then come on out to the garden with me. Bring your cocoa or tea or the last of the red wine and let’s have a look. Mars is the only evening planet except for a glimpse of Mercury this week. But you must look quickly as she is fleeting!

The full moon will join us on Wednesday, March 20th, the first day of spring. Her once-upon-a-time name of Worm Moon is apt as the rains begin to fall and creatures large and small come out of hiding back into our world.

March is here. And I, a lover of winter, am happy to see her. I can practically smell the sheets hanging on the clothesline. I know the birds will begin their morning serenade. I, too, will watch these skies from my garden. I will beware on the 15th, stand in awe on the 20th, and share my evening with anyone who saunters over to my garden.

This week’s poet is Walter De la Mare.

Look thy last on all things lovely,

Every hour. Let no night

Seal thy sense in deathly slumber.

Hello March, month of great beauty, great change, and great stories.

So my dear March, won’t you have this dance with me?
*First published in KPC.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

On The Road to the Oscars!!

Carolyn and I celebrating at Chapman's last night!

It all started with The Brokaw Movie House. In fact, I think I will blame The Brokaw Movie House! I mean, wow, two great movies in one week luring me to the theatre. Now don’t get me wrong, I love The Brokaw. Hey, I even have a t-shirt and a mug from winning the St. Patrick’s Day dress-up night. (By the way, are we doing that this year?) And I probably have had more punched movie cards than anyone in our town! (Am I right, Dave?) But two great movies in one week is still too much for me. I called Carolyn Powers right away…she is always my partner in crime. “We have to go,” I said, “double feature!?” Not only did she go, but we rounded up a few others and made a night of it.

We arrived early, bought our popcorn and beer, and settled in for our first movie, A Star is Born. We loved it. Yes, we thought, Oscar possibilities. Out in the lobby the four of us gathered around one of the tables eating pizza and watching the clock so we would not miss Bohemian Rhapsody. “Oh, wait,” I said, “this is the winner!” At midnight we all said farewell, and I biked home.

Little did I know this night would become the game of choice (not chance) for Carolyn and myself. We didn’t mean to get hooked on the movies. No, not really. And we certainly didn’t mean to race to the Oscars! Neither of us ever did that before. (Really, I never have.) But something clicked inside our brains and we were off on a movie fantastical journey.
We began to follow movie stories and movie notes and when the Oscar nominations came out, we printed the list, taped it to our refrigerators, and kept the race going.

Each morning found us texting one another with movie stories or highlights and with information on where the movies would be playing. It was innocent, at first, just on Sunday afternoons, but then we became serious. There were movies in Auburn, at Dupont, Jefferson Center. I was reluctant to give away my loyalty to The Brokaw. (Sorry, Dave, you know I love you first and foremost!) We took turns driving, and sometimes after the movies we just sat in our cars with nothing to say. The movies were deep and profound. Green Book. The Favourite. If Beale Street Could Talk.

We found Roma and Black Panther on Netflix. We ordered BlackkKlansman and The Wife on Amazon Prime. We debated, made popcorn, wrote notes, even argued a bit.

There were a few difficulties. Where would we find the animated or the short action films? As if the Universe heard us calling, Tibbits Theatre in Coldwater announced a special four-hour evening showing exactly those. We filled the car and with our Lyft driver, Elten, we went to Coldwater for the shows. I tucked my grannie hankie in my purse ahead of time, and that was a good thing as I needed it for most of the evening. After the show, Carolyn announced, “I can’t do that ever again.” It was intense. (I am sure she will be back next year!)

One week left to the Oscars and still two films to see. Vice and Can You Ever Forgive Me. We checked papers, and on-line with no luck. “We just have to find these movies,” I said in an authoritative voice. I decided to check Family Video, and there it was. The gal at the desk took me right to the Melissa McCarthy movie. $2.99. I called Carolyn. We had a party that night. Now there is just one left, Vice. I am happy to announce; our Lyft driver is taking us to see it tonight in Fort Wayne.

We did it. Not only are we on our way to celebrate, but Family Video is having a contest with full ballots. If you want to participate, get those ballots in today! Mine is almost filled out! There are cash prizes. I know for certain I am going to win! I am keeping my votes a secret, even from Carolyn.


Tomorrow night we are having an Oscar party. I am wearing a fancy black dress and a necklace of fake diamonds. I might even swoop up my hair. With our ballots (another sheet) filled out, Carolyn and I (party of two, thank you!) will be cheering and jeering as we watch.

And, oh yes, we invited our Lyft driver.

P.S. This story was first published in KPC. Also, on a side note, Carolyn and I saw 30 movies this winter! Cheers!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Ice Man Cometh...

The storm started in the night. I could hear the droplets of ice pelting on my roof and on my windows.

Upon waking, I realized the world was encased in such beauty...but beauty always comes with a bit of danger, does it not?

Frozen sidewalks, cars, trees. Limbs and branches tumbling to earth. Walkers tumbling to earth.

This is my best photo from this day of quiet. Day of ice. Day of dreaming.

I took this photo of my crabapple tree in my front yard.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Grandma's Winter Garden (and Nannie's)

Jonah's Photo of my Winter Garden

It was a cold winter’s day in February. The drive to my grandparent’s house in Dunfee was a short drive, but nothing is short when you are six and four. Scraping the frost off the backseat windows was our only occupation unless we wanted to sing a dozen more verses to “She’ll be coming round the mountain…”

Arriving at the farm house on that day, the first thing we saw was the snowman on the front porch. With much laughter and glee, we climbed out of the backseat knowing full well (even at our young ages) that the snowman was our grandpa standing at attention with an old hat on his head and a broom in his gloved hand. We brushed off the snow and followed him into the house. Our grandma was waiting attired in her apron and hair held back in a small hairnet…the two signs of a good cook. She had to “tsk, tsk” our grandpa as we took off our winter coats and old rubber boots and set them on the heater.

Dinner was soon served in the dining room. The dining room was adorned with heavy long curtains to keep out the cold. Jessie sat on the huge phone book so she could reach the table…I was good on my knees. My grandmother was the best cook. There were always pot roasts and mashed potatoes and the typical meat, bread, and potatoes dinners that we were all accustomed to at the time. Sometimes meatloaf would show up full of green and red peppers which we picked out piece by piece.

Desserts were our favorites, especially on those cold winter nights. Everything was homemade…no mixes for our grandma. Brownies. Apple Pie. Oatmeal Cake. I can’t remember my favorite. Maybe there wasn’t one?

After dinner I put on my own apron to help wash and the dry the dishes. There was a small wooden stool in the corner of the kitchen on which to stand so I could reach the sink. Jessie was too little and played around at the back windowsill rearranging the African violets which my grandma called her Winter Garden. I didn’t mind helping with the dishes. The water was warm and full of bubbles and grandma kept my mind busy with stories. When the dishes were dried and put back into the cupboard until morning, I always admired the blue ribbons strung across the garden window. Each ribbon represented her win at the Airstream rally for her baked goods. I knew each ribbon, and I definitely knew each dessert!

After dinner we were allowed to build tents out of blankets in the living room, eat apples in the parlor, read our little white Bibles, or just climb up on the horsehair couch to watch it snow out the window.

Passing on these memories and stories is what is most important to me. Aaron brings his family over for dinner on this cold winter’s night. I make chicken and dumplings, which is one of their favorites. I light candles. I play music. I bring out my own Winter Garden which consists of flowering narcissus paper whites. These I started the first week of January and now they bloom and fill the house with the scent of spring. Jonah takes photos, and they are as beautiful as the blooms itself. The evening is filled with homemade apple pie (my signature dessert), games and a farewell as they all wrap back up in the clothes of winter for a quick walk home.

As I turn back to my kitchen, I see my grandma smiling at me holding out my worn apron. I tidy up, blow out the candles, and go upstairs. Before sleep I pull back the curtains to watch it snow upon my own world.

Grandma Luella’s Prize Winning Oatmeal Cake

(Exactly as she wrote it to me!)

Pour 1 ¼ boiling water over 1 c. quick Quaker rolled oats

Let stand covered for two minutes.

Cream together 1 stick oleo with 1 c.  sugar and 1 c. Br. Sugar

Add 2 whole eggs, 1 t. cinn. And 1 t. vanilla.

Add oat mixture.

Then add 1 1/3 c. flour and 1 t. soda.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

When nearly done top with the following:

2/3 c. Br. Sugar, 3 t. oleo, 5 T. cream and 2 egg yolks.

Bring this to a boil first and add chopped pecans and cocoanut.

Spread evening and bake another 15 minutes.

“Prize Winning” (she wrote that!)
Note: This was first published in KPC.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Snow Days make the best memories...

It was quite the week for those of us in northern Indiana. How will we remember it? Cars didn’t start, kids didn’t go to school, and hardships were aplenty! I was one of the lucky ones. I shopped early for the necessities…coffee, milk, good wine. (I did forget the chocolate though!) And I prepared for frozen pipes and drains. When this old house was built, there was, of course, no running water. With all of that added later, it is a bit fragile to the environment and often I lose water or even drains. This year I added a small heater, dripped all the faucets and got up in the dark and dead of night to check everything.
With the house holding up, and everything canceled, what was there to do? I baked bread. I cleaned closets. I wrote stories. I played the ukulele. I did play around with science experiments by tossing boiling water into the air to make clouds and blowing bubbles outside to watch them freeze. I tried to film it, but that was impossible to film and blow bubbles. (I am sure Larry and Cheri wondered about my sanity in the cold as I tried these experiments every few hours!)  But I needed a big project to prove I didn’t sit around and let the cold win.
Come take a journey with me. Come on in. Let’s take a walk down the hallway in the kitchen. This wall became a litany of stories and cards beginning with the day I moved in which was 17 years ago. But the wall was full. The cards were dusty, and it was time for a face lift. I bought a quart of gold paint from Sherman Williams to motivate me. (Okay I bought the paint two months ago, but stay with me now!) With the temperature way below zero and no one to talk to, I decided it was time to take down the cards.
The truth is, I didn’t expect it to take all day, and I didn’t expect to let memories and stories flood my soul, but that is exactly what happened. I pulled down card after card, letter by letter. All were attached by thumb tacks or staples so I had to tug quite hard for some of them! I held each card in my hand, dusted it off and remembered the person, the story, or the event. There were letters from friends and family who have passed on. Letters and funny stories from my dad in his handwriting. My friends, Fred and Midge Munds in Indianapolis who encouraged my work and always laughed at my stories, left me stories and letters.
There were love letters from long ago boyfriends. There were letters from friends who wished me happy birthday, or a welcome card to my new house. Aaron had the most letters to me. Mother’s day cards. Birthday cards and even a postcard from his single days in Alaska. There were notes from my other sons too and their girlfriends and wives. Underneath all of the cards was a card from Randy and Shannon Wallace welcoming me to my new house. I remember coming into this house the day I got the keys. Shannon left this card along with scented soap and a bottle of wine.
As I held each card, I had to decide which ones I should keep and the ones I should toss away. It was an easy choice. Each card which included a note or a letter was put into a large empty box. Those cards with just signatures had to find their way out. By the end of the day, the box was full.
In the afternoon Lee came over to begin the painting. There was a lovely letter from his daughter, Mackenzie. She must have been six or seven. We could not read her words and laughed trying to decipher what she was saying! This year Mackenzie will graduate with her PhD. Time moves on for all of us.
The best part of that day was to remember folks, even though it was only 17 years in the making.
I put a note in the box for my children to find some day. “Please read every card. You will know me a little better when you are finished.” And I put the box away.
Hand-written letters. Let’s not forget how important they are in a world of technology!
Yes, it was quite the week for folks in northern Indiana.