Monday, February 12, 2024

Happy Valentine's Day


It is Valentine’s week which is always a wonderful day to reflect or just a day to stay in bed and wait for next year. (Kind of like Groundhog’s Day?) I gave all of my cast members the evening off so they could just enjoy the evening with a date or with friends, and I do not give days off easily.

I have so many memories of Valentine’s Day! I loved making my valentine bags in elementary school. Paper, scissors, glue, and we made the best bags. Tucked tightly in my hand, I lovingly took them home at the end of the day. My sister, Jessie, and I would play with those valentines for days, maybe even months. We lined them up according to circus animals, and then cats and dogs, and later on we looked for signs that a boy liked us! Usually, the Valentines came in the packs, and we spread them out on the kitchen table choosing just the right valentine for the right person.

I remember the first time I got a “store bought” valentine from a boy. I hung on to that valentine for months shamelessly turning it over many times to look at the price of the card. (I said I was shameless!) Cards were not quite as much money as now, but that dollar sign on the back meant pure love! Girlfriends talk and tell stories, and we always asked how much the card cost. One year I got two store bought cards from two different boys. That was the year I knew I had arrived! Two boyfriends?

One year in college I received a bouquet of red roses with no card and no name. That definitely was an interesting conundrum. Who sent them? With my college roommate, Sally, by my side, we made a chart of possibilities and found the right young man to thank. Nowadays, my bouquets come from Aldi’s, and I buy them myself. Why not?

How did this day of candy and cards and romance evolve? Let us look into the history a bit. It was in the 14th century that romance came into the picture. Before that (and just some possibilities?) it was a priest who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. The lovely priest sent a letter to is jailer’s daughter and signed it “from your Valentine.” Of course, he was beheaded so not all was perfect for his romantic attempt! Another possibility was that St. Valentine of Terni secretly married young couples for the man could be freed from going off to war. That is a sign of true love, I think! Others think that the Christian church placed this day in the middle of February to coincide with Lupercalia, a fertility festival. This festival was outlawed in the 5th Century.

In the United States, valentines became popular in the mid-1800’s, although there are remnants of valentines from the early 1700’s. We owe a bit of gratitude to hallmark as well for making this a big holiday for love and friendship! It is estimated that there are 145 million cards sent on Valentine’s Day, second only to Christmas cards.

I know I sent valentines to all the grandkids. Cards this year were not just at the one-dollar mark, but rather five or six dollars! I make cookies too for family and friends! Luckily for us (well, some of us), we can celebrate with girlfriends and family members. There are so many fun events in town this week. Galentine’s Day is a big event to share with friends! The Brokaw is open on Wednesday evening for movies and there are basketball games at Trine. In other words, there are no reasons to just sit home and eat all the candy yourself. (Yes, it is okay to buy your own candy!)

As I think back over all my own years with valentines from my days with Jessie and my grown-up days, I am so lucky to have a drawer full of valentines from year’s past. And, yes, I do still believe in love and romance but with a different twist, perhaps. Don’t forget to notice the sky on Wednesday night. Build a fire, light a candle and ready poetry, even if it is to yourself.


 ‘She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.’

Lord Byron

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Carpe Diem


Sun streams through the prisms in my windows and casts dancing rainbows all over my downstairs. With the leaves off the trees, and the bright sun, I am living in a Pollyanna movie! As a kid I loved Pollyanna, and my very favorite scene was the one with the prisms in the windows. I knew right then I would want to do that someday in my grown-up house, and I did. It is amazing to look back and see so many events in my life which found a home in my grown-up world and my grown-up imagination. From theatre to poetry to prisms, all those things have ended up in my life.

I often say I was so lucky to grow up without the Internet or cell phones, etc. Of course, I love them, and they both play a prominent role in my life. As a child, they were not only unattainable, but not even invented yet! Wasn’t I the lucky one? Wasn’t I the lucky one to spend hours in my attic bedroom with just books and a table for writing? I wrote my first soap opera at ten. Yes, we all watched soap operas then while helping fold the laundry. I read my first adult book at ten, “Those Who Love,” by Irving Stone which set me on the path of historical fiction the rest of my life.

My own kids grew up on the cusp of technology, but we didn’t have any at the farm. There were Saturdays when I watched my three sons do what they love most of all. Abe was always tearing things apart and putting them back together. Adam could make anything from scratch and was often busy with building cupboards or knick knacks for the house. Aaron was usually fishing at the pond. All three were, of course, products of their childhood which took them into their grown-up years.

Now I watch the grandkids do the same thing. Holly is an avid actress. Brianna sings. The twins just play. Graham is getting ready for baseball and working at The Brokaw. Jonah just finished his first year of hockey at Indiana Tech where he is a freshman.

I remember the day, ten years ago, when he came home from the newly built Thunder Ice Arena to announce that skating was his life. I had to laugh and said, “Jonah, this is the first time you have been on skates! Maybe you should try it another time or two.” But the truth is, he didn’t need to do it another time or two to make that decision. He knew, and he was right. It has been exciting to watch his hockey career from an early lad to high school and now in college.

I talk about this because I am very much aware of the presence of technology in our lives. I love it as much as you do or anyone else including my students at Trine. I sit here in my cozy studio this morning writing on my laptop with my phone close by. Yes, I love it as much as you do! I do, however, know the limits of my technology usage. My students are not allowed to have their phone out during class unless, of course, they are expecting a call from home or a possible internship. For those purposes, I ask them nicely to keep it on vibrate and take the call outside of the classroom. I do joke that if anyone is a brain surgeon, they may leave it on at all times. I have yet to find a brain surgeon in my speech classes! They do complain a bit at first and always ask me what they should do instead. “Oh,” I say, “you can talk.” This takes a while for the talking to start. I always notice when the magic happens. Usually around the third or fourth week of the semester, I find myself saying loudly (with complete joy), “time for class…” as they are so chatty. They make friends, they build each other up and take care of one another. That is one of my teaching joys.

Technology is here with us, but let’s keep it at a minimum. Don’t miss snowman building, or cookie baking, or walking in the park noticing each little worm or frog that comes your way. And, if we can, let’s hang prisms all over our windows. Life is short. Watch the rainbows dance.

On this beautiful February day, carpe diem.

Monday, January 29, 2024

The groundhog knows...


St. Bridget of Ireland

I took a stroll around my garden this weekend. With the warmer temperatures and bouts of rain, winter just took a short recess. There are always those early, early signs of spring that cheer us on. My daffodils are up a couple of inches. Some of them are just peering out from under the bits of snow. Other shoots are sturdy and strong defying the end of January. The chives are just barely uncurling in this January thaw; even enough to cut a handful by the end of the week. It is early for all these signs of spring. I always worry about the daffodils and other plants that appear before it is time. I try to whisper to them to just curl back up and sleep for a bit longer. “Your time will come,” I say to them.

Not only are the daffodils a bit early, but Nate, our neighborhood “let’s go tap our trees” guy, was out tapping trees this weekend. He knocked on my door asking if I was ready to tap. I really was not ready for this event to start. I mean, once these trees are tapped, there is no going back. Nate tapped my trees for me this weekend, and so the show does go on. Today I find myself pulling out my wagon, washing out the buckets, checking on my enamel pots and making sure the candy thermometer is on hand. I love gathering sap and boiling it down in my kitchen! My house is always full of humidity and smells so sweet, but was I ready for this? I made a joke to Kathy that I was not emotionally ready to tap. That sounds so strange when writing it, but it is true. However, after today, I will be ready and for the next six weeks, I will be trudging up and down the street with my wagon replacing buckets and bringing home the sap. Last year I had a record crop (okay, I have only done this for two years), and I still have a quart left. I love looking at that jar in my cool, dark cupboard. The color is amber and full of last year’s February sunshine.

With these signs of spring comes February 2nd which is Candlemas and Groundhog Day. It is also the cross-quarter day between winter and spring! We all know the story of the groundhog and his shadow! This is part of our modern culture, but it dates to ancient times. A European folklore belief is if the weather is fine on February 2nd, more winter is coming! Another folklore states that if the dikes are overflowing, spring will make an early arrival. The most well-known lore comes from the ancient Irish. On February 1st they summon the goddess of fire and call to her to bring spring to the land. This Celtic goddess was known as St. Brigit. She was known as the goddess of fertility and everything in the household…including chores and children. Three thousand years ago in Ireland, fires and candles lit the way during the first of February to frighten away the winter and the evil spirits that go with it.

We do not think much about goddesses or ancient times. No, our lives are too busy, too on-task, but isn’t it nice to stop for a moment to ponder these old customs and folklore? No, all we get is a groundhog, but we have fun with that. I must laugh as I write, no matter what the groundhog sees or does not see, winter is here for six more weeks.

As for me, winter goes by quickly. I simply never run out of things to do, and winter is no exception. There are candles to light, stories to tell, books to read and soup to simmer. There have been hockey games with Jonah, ukulele practice with Carolyn, rehearsals to attend and now, of course, thanks to Nate and our neighborhood, there are buckets full of sap to carry home and boil down.

In between the light and dark, there are letters to write and a campfire or two to dissipate the darkness and the spell of winter. Who does not love getting a hand-written note or letter or sitting by a neighborhood campfire to watch the stars come out. Do not forget to plot out your garden, order your seeds, and start them in your house!

Winter is still here, and with a groundhog keeping guard, only six more weeks!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Robert Burns

On Thursday evening, January 25, we will be celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. Burns was the poet laureate of Scotland and he is still celebrated all these years later. (1759-1796)

He left a huge body of work that we still enjoy including, My Luv is Like a Red, Red Rose, and Auld Lang Synne.

Our celebration will be at Caleo Cafe from 3-5 with tea and cookies. Come join our celebration by bringing one of your favorite poems or just come to listen. Our celebration joins in with hundreds around the world. I like knowing we are part of the bigger picture!

Joining us this year is Mark Gropp, my very favorite bagpiper!

See you at the Cafe!

Monday, January 22, 2024

The January Night Sky


I sat outside last night as dusk turned to dark, and the sky was adorned with the diamonds of winter. So many of my favorite images appeared before me…the waxing gibbous moon, Jupiter, Orion. It has often been said the coming is darkness is saved for the poets and musicians and dreamers of the world. I quite agree with that, but it also belongs to anyone who takes the time to look. All you need is a jacket, mittens and a pair of boots! The rest of obtained with no money or thought of the morrow, but a bit of patience.

It was my dad who brought the sky into my life by his own adoration. I remember as if it were yesterday when we were ice skating on a pond on the edge of Fort Wayne. My dad sat on the bench with a thermos of hot chocolate waiting for us to toddle over to him to grab a blanket and a cup of that steaming cocoa. On that night his appreciation of the night sky drew us all in as he pointed out the constellations and planets. It was before I was old enough to traipse out into the woods alone. It was before I was old enough to gather stars as friends and share my stories into the dark. It was before I knew the Universe was bigger than myself. I know that now.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the stark beauty of the winter night sky. But why I ask myself? What makes the winter sky more beautiful than summer nights? Is it my own imagination or is there some truth to this? I found a lovely article by meteorologist, Danielle Noyes, from New England. According to Noyes there are three main factors which causes these beautiful sunsets. I will just paraphrase her information for you. The winter nights are colder and much less humid which causes bolder colors. Cold air travels down from Canada, as we well know, and the air is usually cleaner in the Arctic or Canada. The last reason is the Earth is closer to the sun in winter. The setting sun is at a sharper angle during the winter months. So, I guess there are a few reasons we enjoy these sunsets so much.

Winter months also brings certain constellations back in view. One of my very favorites and now easily seen after dark is Orion. I love the mythology of the constellations and folks often think Orion is in combat with Taurus the Bull, but no such story exists for that. However, if you look closely, you can see the hunting dogs of Canis Major and Canis Minor. Orion disappears from our viewpoint in the summer months and comes back to us in Autumn. Now, after dark, it is easily identified in our night sky.

This week also brings us the full moon of January. The moon will be full on Thursday at 12:54 p.m. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this full moon is known as the Wolf Moon. By January food is scarce for animals in the wild under the deep cover of snow so it is thought that wolves circle villages and howl in search of food. I think we are not in too much danger of howling wolves, but coyotes are another story. Perhaps late at night you will hear the coyotes howl until the snow cover is gone and food in once again available. It is a good idea to keep those chickens locked up during these cold months! Other names for this full moon include Spirit Moon, Canada Goose Moon and the Moon after Yule. Whatever you want to call it, make sure you do not miss this beautiful moon.

January brings so many activities that are only here in winter. Ice skating, skiing, ice fishing are just a few of the activities that bring us closer to nature. It is also a wonderful time to teach children about tracks in the snow. I know every morning I love to see who was visiting my garden during the night. Creatures do move about during the long cold nights. Poetry abounds in the mid-winter with readings by candlelight, or flashlight or firelight. Burns Night at Caleo will come and go warming our hearts and keeping such traditions alive.

John Stoddard, poet from the late 1800’s, once wrote, “The sunset embers smolder low, the moon climbs o’er the hill.”

Happy mid-winter.

Monday, January 15, 2024

In the bleak mid-winter...


With needle and thread in hand, my grandmother Luella would always say, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.” I always loved these folklore sayings from her. My head still holds them all in a special hiding place waiting for just the right time to say them. I think the time is now for that one!

The beauty of this week astounds me so…everywhere I look the pristine fresh snow gives our landscape a glow of life which we do not see in most of the other months. Each month has beauty although I often think the jury is out for March, but we carry through that month too with the promise of early snowdrops and sheets on the line. For now, it is January who holds court over the land.

Last week I held my first writer’s workshop in over several years. I tried it once years ago, but we didn’t get too far. I am hopeful with the new group that the writer’s group will not only be about writing but reading also. We sat cozy in my living room sharing the books we are reading, our thoughts on writing, our goals and, of course, a prompt with a ten-minute time limit. This month’s prompt was easy, “What did you do on snow days as a kid?” I daresay it was spurred on by the announcement of the Fremont Schools to have a real snow day! It was fun to listen to everyone’s short vignette about snow days.

Listening to WOWO on my transistor radio I always knew about the snow day before my mom even made it up to my attic stairs. One room at a time we, the six of us, would be thrilled about the day. We were part of Southwest Allen County Schools, so we had more snow days than the city schools, and we were happy about that.

On these days the McMillan Ice Skating Rink would open, and when I think about those days, that is all that comes to mind. Pancakes and hot chocolate made for the morning breakfast. It was early too as we could not stay in bed. No, snow days meant we were up as soon as possible so we wouldn’t miss the day.

I spent most of the morning helping with the younger kids. Snowsuits on. Snowsuits off. By noon they were worn out, and I could head over to the skating rink. Of course, we walked. No one would ever drive us anywhere…not school, not Girl Scouts, not sledding, not skating! I wore as many clothes as possible as the rink was all outside then. With skates slung over my shoulder, I headed out to pick up my girl friends one by one. We all looked alike with our old skating clothes on as we trudged through the neighborhood and to the park. There were pathways, some shoveled and some not. We chose the ones not shoveled! Maybe thinking of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. The snow was deep, if I remember correctly, but we didn’t care.

In those days I thought my Uncle Norman owned the rink. He did not, and that is another story! On these days though, he stood at the doorway taking money for our skate and stamping our hands. We never had to pay as he took of that for us! Once in the pavilion we sat on benches and threw off those winter boots. Do you know the kind I am referring to? Worn out boots with felt linings that stayed wet from December to March. Lacing up our skates was part of the experience. Lace them tight and snug and head out to the ice. With no roof to stop the falling snow and music piped in boasting all genres, we skated all afternoon. We skated til 5:00. We skated until it was time to go home for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. We skated with no where else to go and nothing else to do. We were free to skate in circles, twirling and showing off. Yes, I did that. I was such a great skater. I knew someday I would be in the Olympics. Isn’t it wonderful to think we were free to want to be anything in our lives?

Of course, I am not an Olympic skater…I don’t skate anymore. I have given that to Jonah.

My grandmother was right, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”

Sunday, January 14, 2024

"I want to do it all over again."


With the threat of gusty winds in Charleston and the promise of snow in Indiana, I was able to catch a flight back between all the weather patterns. It was smooth sailing all the way home. It was another early morning flight and Abe got me to airport by 6:00 a.m. The drive was nice even dodging several deer enjoying a highway stroll in the early morning hours. I would probably be very rich if I had a dollar for every flight I have taken since Abe graduated from college. First it was Santa Barbara, Portland, Phoenix and now Charleston. The kids often say I should move close to them; however, I wonder will Charleston be their final nesting place? I think it is their last big move. The kids are happy and involved in school and with friends. Holly drives, has a job and a boyfriend. One of the first columns I ever wrote for KPC was Abe and Kristin waiting for their baby to be born. Now we are sixteen years later.

I think I played at least a hundred games of “go fish,” sang hundreds of songs and read hundreds of stories. The twins are still in the Paw Patrol mode so that took care of a few afternoons. Abe’s birthday, soccer on the beach, movies, New Year’s Eve, meeting the boyfriend, well, the list goes on.

The last night I was in Charleston, I kept the tears at bay. The twins were extremely sad I was leaving and wanted me to give a list of all the things we did. Of course, I went through each day sharing our events and stories. We had a great time, it was obvious. Faith was quiet for a moment and then she said, “But I want to do all of that over again!” That opened the flood gates for me. I cried, as I nodded to her. It wasn’t just the two weeks with the kids in Charleston. No, it was more than that.

“I want to do all of that over again!” I thought about that on the flights home, and the drive and when I got home. Faith is right. I want to do all of that over again. Everything. Each moment of my life. I think most of you would say yes to some parts of your life. I would like to be a young mom again on the farm. Did I know much about raising children then…especially little boys. Did I know anything about the farm? Absolutely not. But I knew about love, and that got me through.

I want to do all of that over again. I would love to spend a few days in college as a young student with long dark hair and short skirts thinking about English classes and weekend dates. I would love to have those early theatre moments when the stage called to me, and I followed the call not knowing what I was doing.

I want to do all of that over again. Weddings. Birthdays. Holidays. Births. I guess maybe even death. I was so honored to be with my dad when he died. Those moments are still so precious to me.

The Charleston Children have a great grandmother on Kristin’s side. Edna is 103 years old. I never met her, but we are Facebook friends which is quite fun. She always loves it when I visit them because I fill my pages with photos of the children. Edna has had a bout of illness in which the family gathered to send her off to cross the veil and into heaven. However, she recovered, and they all went home. Edna makes hats for preemie babies, and she needed to make two more hats for a set of twins yet to  born. Edna has outlived her parents and all her brothers and sisters of which there were 17 total. If I were to ask her about doing it all over again, I think she would have some memories and stories to tell that we have never experienced.

Arriving home, my house is quiet. Abe’s house is noisy and messy and so full of love. My Christmas tree still stands beautifully in the corner beckoning me to be calm, be happy, be glad to be home and get back to my life.

Yes, all is well, but I know in days to come my mind will wander back to little Faith, “I want to do all of that over again.”

Happy Valentine's Day

  It is Valentine’s week which is always a wonderful day to reflect or just a day to stay in bed and wait for next year. (Kind of like Groun...