Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A red letter day...

 



Monday morning. 7:00 a.m. With my coffee brewing and the table set with Honey Nut Cheerios, I wake my sleeping children. Usually, they are the first to rise in the morning, but I guess a few days at Nannie Camp, and they are, well, tuckered out. They roll over once, twice until I whisper, “Today is the first day of soccer camp!” and up they go. They only have summer shorts and shirts, so we grab the sweatshirts and head down to the breakfast table. Noah must first check the back door to see if a Luna Moth came visiting last night and camped out on our screen door. No Luna Moth this morning. Faith brings me her hairbrush for her long blonde hair which is in full tangles (my fault completely!)

I get them to camp where they are a bit shy, but I know under the watchful eye of Tabitha at the Angola Parks, they will see some friends from last year and make new ones, of course! They love the programs at the park. Last year they just squeaked in with the age limit, and this year they are definitely old enough at seven! I do not send them to camp so I can have free time (really, I don’t!), but they love to visit Angola, and this is part of their experience with me.

I have been entertaining and keeping watch over Abe’s children since they were born, and Holly just turned 17! That’s a lot of summers of Nannie Camp, and I wouldn’t trade it. Faith and Noah counted the days until they arrived, and say to me every day, “We wish we lived here.” I have to agree, but I don’t think even I can woo them away from Charleston. The older girls, Holly and Brianna always said the same thing when they were younger. Now, I realize they are older with friends. Holly drives, has a boyfriend, and is very involved in theatre. Brianna is a social butterfly with friends in every neighborhood. I understand, but oh when they were younger…sigh.

Abe brought the twins on the Allegiant flight on Friday from Myrtle Beach. I met him at the airport where they all said good-bye, and he got back on the plane to do the turn around flight. We drug (seriously) the suitcase to the car and headed home. I had to laugh as the two of them jabbered all the way home. Could it be that my grandchildren talk as much as I do? There is a surprise for the first one to spot the purple house. Okay, not much of a surprise, the quarter for Aldi’s but nonetheless, it is a prize. My dad always did this when we went to Lake Michigan for the summer. The first one who could spot Lake Michigan got a dollar. Of course, he started the game when we were just out of Battle Creek, but it kept our attention until we got to Mackinaw City. Yes, I know, the purple house is not quite like Lake Michigan, but to seven-year-olds who can’t wait, it is just as wonderful.

I am ready at the house. Cupboards full. Beds cozy. Toys brought out of the garage and scrubbed up. They run inside from room to room looking at everything. They run outside and visit Harley’s grave first telling him “Hello.” I love that they always remember him. Even though our time together has just started, we don’t miss anything from planting extra pumpkin seeds in the garden to butterfly hunting (thanks to Aaron for taking Noah!), to bedtime stories when the day is over, and we gather on my bed. We take a deep breath and chat about our day before the books. My shelves are full of books…in every room. I choose stories for them that I read to all the other children. They always ask, “Did you read this one to Jonah?” I smile at that. Last night we read “Roxaboxen” which is one of my favorite children’s books. Yes, I read that to Jonah, and he made his own Roxaboxen with the neighborhood kids when he was little. At the end of the book, I cried. The twins looked at me wondering why I was crying. “Oh,” I said, “I guess because I read this Jonah and he is all grown up and some day you will be grown up too.”

“But not yet,” I whispered. “You are still mine for a while.”


Thursday, June 06, 2024

Willard Motley

 

I began participating in warmshowers.com many years ago. One night I was talking with a friend on Ocracoke about her bicycle journey across the United States. I found that absolutely fascinating and wanted to know more. I had many questions in which one was asking where she stayed at night. The answers were fun…campgrounds, cemeteries, churches, friends and folks on warmshowers.com. This was the first time I had heard about this organization. I immediately looked it up and became a host. It is quite easy, actually. Warmshowers is an organization that helps bicyclists, those traveling for long distances, to have a safe place to camp for the night. Each host offers something different. Some cook supper for the bikers, offer beds, advice, bicycle repair. I offer beds when I can, but I always offer a safe place to camp in my back yard, and a warm shower, of course!

Over the years, I have had many guests from all around the world. Everyone has a different reason do bike across the country. Some want adventure, some bike for a cause, some bike for their gap years between college and working, others just want to see the country from two wheels and not four.

This past week, I had a cyclist stop in for the evening. I had a free room, and he was grateful for that along with a warm shower. By seven in the evening, I was coming in from the garden and offered to order a pizza from Dominoes and would he care to join me? Benjamin was definitely interested, and hungry, so I ordered pizza, and we sat out on the front porch as dusk turned to evening with just the quiet sounds of my neighborhood.

“Okay,” I said, “what is your story?” He began. Benjamin is from Paris, and even with excellent English, his accent was quite strong and quite lovely. He has his PhD in biology and is currently teaching in New York City. I asked him about his bicycle trip. Benjamin became aware of a man, Willard Motley, who biked from Chicago to New York City in 1930. He followed Route 20. Motley graduated high school in 1929 after being editor of his school newspaper. He wanted to go to college and had hopes of attending the University of Wisconsin. However, the depression hit and made it financially impossible. Instead, he had to decide what he wanted to do. He knew he wanted to be a writer, so he decided to take this bike trip to give him something to write about. The year was 1930, and Motley picked up an old bicycle and started out. Route 20 was still in the infant stages and some places were still a gravel road. There were few places to stop for the night. Roosevelt’s CCC program had just begun so even state parks were not in existence. He spent some nights in cemeteries, other nights in churches. When he arrived in Angola, he could not find a place to stay so he knocked on the sheriff’s door and asked for a jail cell for the night. He was granted that and had a safe place to sleep. He kept an intricate diary, so we know he stayed here at the jail and spent time perusing the town.

Every few days his bicycle needed to be welded so he needed to always find a welder in these small towns to help him out. Following his bike tour, he took two road trips to California working as a ranch hand, laborer, shipping clerk, and any job he could take to learn about America. When arriving back home in Chicago he became a writer for the Office of Civil Defense and was a photographer. All of this went into his first and most famous novel, “Knock on Any Door.” This book was so popular that it was made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart.

As Benjamin and I talked about Motley into the late evening, I could only wonder how difficult this was for Motley as he was a gay African American man making these journeys in the 1930. He was determined to be a writer and find something in which to lend his own voice.

The next morning, after breakfast and a fond farewell, I decided to do my own sleuthing about Motley. I love learning about something new, and I love knowing that Willard Motley stopped in our town looking for material to write about in 1930!


Monday, May 27, 2024

In Flanders Fields



In Flanders Fields


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Music and Love

 


If you have never played ukulele with 200 ukulele players, then you are really missing out! (At least in my opinion!) This past weekend, Carolyn and I attended Ukulele camp officially called Mighty Uke Day which, of course, lasted for more than a day! These ukulele camps or festivals turn into reunions for uke players as well as playing for hours and hours!

We are fortunate to live in an area where we can attend many uke festivals since Michigan is a great uke capital of the country. With our bags packed early on Friday, we hit the road on a sunny day to get to camp to register early. As we arrived in Lansing there were so many old friends and new friends to connect with for these short few days. Nametags, lunch, check in to our hotel and back for our first workshop.

Carolyn and I have been teachers forever, and so we know how to be good students…well pretty good students. We took our seats, tuned our ukes and waited for the lovely workshop to begin. However, it seemed as if everyone came out of hiding (finally!) as a hundred players came to that particular workshop. We kept moving our chairs closer and closer together. Finally, everyone was seated, and it sounded as if we were all in a huge band with all the tuning and the ukes in place. The first workshop was hard, by the way! We stumbled through it, taking notes, practicing and then at the end of the first workshop knew that we had already had a great brain workout!

By late afternoon, we could barely zip our uke bags back up as we scurried to dinner to get back in time for the night concert. It is completely amazing to me how fabulously talented are the folks in the uke world. As I told Adam, I will never, ever be that kind of player, but listening to the concert is overwhelming. How can one small ukulele make all of those sounds? Rock band. Classical. Country western. Jazz. Blues. All of those genres were expertly played on the ukulele to a huge crowd of happy listeners.

You would think the evening would be over at 10:30, but oh no. Following the concert, we all headed back to the hotel and filled the lobby with a uke jam until well past midnight. I think the Marriott will never be the same; although they did greet each guest with a small ukulele token attached to our keys! The jam was again so crowded as player after player came into the lobby. The songs were put up on a big screen and we just played our hearts out until one-by-one folks called it a night!

The next day was no exception as we were transported back into our musical world. Again, workshops, networking and a late-night jam session.

By Sunday morning we were packing the car to head home. With a notebook full of notes and a tired uke, we made our way back as the conversation was as colorful as the music we played all weekend. Carolyn is much more a musician than I am, yet I love playing and thinking I am a musician! (I guess we can think we can do anything, and why not?) Research shows that we need “structural and functional brain reorganization beyond the developmental maturation period as an intrinsic property of the human central nervous system.” (Professor Bogdan Draganski, consultant in neurology at the University Hospital in Switzerland.) In layman terms, learning and playing music helps with an aging brain, and let’s face it, everyone has an aging brain! Ukuleles are so reasonable to purchase. They are not expensive, unless you want them to be, and you can have a great time no matter how much you pay. You don’t know how to play? Oh well, you are in luck, our ukulele group, The Steuben Strummers meets the second Monday of every month at the Angola Carnegie Library. Don’t be shy! We welcome you into our group. As I always say bike riding on long trails and playing the uke are definitely Zen moments for me!

Arriving home, I unpacked until Aaron and Rachel stopped by with a dozen pastel roses and an invitation to dinner. Of course, I would never turn that down! I did hear from my other boys and the grandchildren as well, so the weekend ended with a flourish of love.

Music and love…anything better?


Monday, April 29, 2024

Farewell, Mom.

 

Mom and Dad with the six kids!! I am the one with the long hair!


I love a houseful of folks. I love looking down the hallway at night and seeing the doors closed with a small bit of light creeping out from under the doors. This has always been the case for me, but this weekend it is different. Yes, my rooms are all full, but the visiting folks are not wandering travelers. No, this time the house is full of beloved brothers and sisters coming from all parts of the country. These brothers and sisters have come from Denver and Houston with my own sons from Charleston and St. Pete. Cousins have appeared from Tennessee, and one flew in from Italy.

This is not just any weekend, but today we celebrate my mom. As I sit here writing, I hear rumblings of my family waking up to open windows with birdsong and small chatting. Since my house is old, floors creak and the doors rattle so I always know who is moving about in the upstairs. As I sit here writing, my niece Claire takes a quick trip to Tom’s for donuts because they must have donuts from the donut capital of the world. The big coffee pot is full, and cups are ready to grab.

Last night we celebrated with a picnic in my backyard. My kitchen was full of food as we all gathered in a circle to send up a prayer of thanksgiving for my mom and my dad and family. We then scattered to tables in the backyard as each one became reacquainted with family. We all live quite far away so these times are precious to us. The conversations simply didn’t stop, and the stories flowed like wine. As it grew dark, I wanted to bring out a lantern or light the campfire, but I did not. I was afraid the spell would be broken as we sat in a circle and told story after story. The stars lit up our night sky as we still sat laughing, talking, getting to know one another all over again.

The service for my mom is today in Fort Wayne. My piper friend, Mark, will be there to do the honors with the bagpipes to the ancient songs we all know so well. My mom lived a lovely life of 94 years. She had two great loves and spent the last ten years living in England with her second love. I always told her how fortunate she was to have two loves in her life. My mom was beautiful and sprightly and the mother of six. She was born on Halloween day in 1929. I was always a little jealous of her Halloween birthday! We always celebrated with dumping out our candy bags and letting her choose. My brother Jack remembers we were not allowed to go trick-or-treating until the cake was cut.

She taught us money management at a young age as she would place cash in envelopes. When the money was gone, then that was that. I still put money in envelopes and ear mark them for different categories even though we pay bills online now, I still find money in envelopes. My mom was organized and ran our house smoothly when we were kids.

She and my dad were high school sweethearts. They met on a hayride on her 16th birthday and were married when they were 18. My dad always said he fell in love with her when they were walking under the streetlamps in Fort Wayne. He said the snow was softly falling and he looked at her with snow all around and fell in love with her. Later on, when they lived in Texas, my mom was working in the garden. Her white hair glistened in the afternoon sun. My dad looked over at her and then at me, and he said, “Isn’t she beautiful?” And she was.

Death takes us all one by one. I think sometimes we forget about that as we go about our lives filling them up with all kinds of activities. I know I do. However, I am always conscious of the fact that we are mortal. Living our lives full of love is the best remedy and then, as Mary Oliver once said, “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

 

Farewell, Mom

Monday, April 15, 2024

Thank you.

 


The Trine University Theatre Company on closing night of
The Matchmaker.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder!

 


It’s Monday morning, and I am sitting in the empty auditorium at the T. Furth Center for the Performing Arts. Or, should I say, my home away from home. So many thoughts occupy my mind right now and by the time you read this on Tuesday morning lots of events will have happened. Was the eclipse perfect? (I think it will be with this gorgeous weather!) Will Purdue win the championship tonight? Will another rehearsal for tech week be as scattered as last night? I hope not!

This eclipse has definitely taken over our lives. I love that we are so excited about this event, and for me, probably the last one I shall see. I have memories of watching the eclipse in school. Of course, school was not canceled nor was there all this hype! (Hello, social media!) We made our little boxes with the pinholes so we could watch during the school hours. The teachers were constantly saying, don’t look at the sun, don’t look at the sun. I still don’t know how those boxes worked, but indeed they did! A few years ago, I watched the eclipse at Pokagon with a group of folks. This year I am heading out to the new property of Aaron and Rachel. Yes, they bought a little farmette or something like that. They have been looking for land with a pond, and they found it. Last night was their first night in their new house. I sent a note wishing them a lovely, romantic evening! Rachel wrote back, laughingly, that it won’t be that romantic since both boys were there too. Jonah came home to spend the first night with the family. I love that they have found a dream, even though Cindy (Rachel’s mom) and I will miss them living just a few blocks away. They are now eleven minutes away.

Basketball has taken over this state as well. I think it all started with the Trine championship and we just keep moving forward. Now I am not a Purdue graduate, but I am a Hoosier through and through, so go Purdue. By the time you read this, we will have the answer to that also!

Now, back to the show. I always write a column in the quiet of the theatre. The lights are on, but no one is here by the stage except me. As I look around, I am a bit overwhelmed at the work still to do…more props brought in, more sets to work on, more costumes to complete. Yet, as I sit here, it is perfect, absolutely perfect.

Directing theatre at Trine has been a dream come true for me. I love the students. I love my job. This semester I have a new assistant director, Lydia Roop. Lydia is a senior at Trine and is definitely not new to the theatre, just to directing. She has not been able to participate in any of my shows, but before the semester started, she said she might audition. As I was looking for a new assistant, I approached her and within 24 hours, I had a new assistant by my side. She was a bit timid at first, but after a couple of weeks, she found her own voice and has been a tremendous help to me. I have a new stage manager this semester too so there has been a lot of changing of the guards!

What is the magic that is on this stage? As I sit here, I am thinking about the other three shows I have directed. All have been different, and all have showcased these marvelous Trine students. The stage echoes with their footsteps, their voices, their laughter. Sometimes in rehearsal, we all laugh so hard and long that I think we won’t get back to work, but we do. Theatre, like band or orchestra or any of the arts, brings young people together. I love watching the friendships take place within the theatre. The star of “The Matchmaker” is a young lady who transferred from Marquette University to Trine. When she arrived here, she didn’t know anyone and was not involved in anything. She decided it might be fun to audition for the show and to see what would happen! I will tell you what happened, she got the lead role. Wait til you see her!

Today the eclipse will be a memory, Purdue will have won or lost, and our show will go on this weekend. See you there!

A red letter day...

  Monday morning. 7:00 a.m. With my coffee brewing and the table set with Honey Nut Cheerios, I wake my sleeping children. Usually, they are...