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.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Don't forget to look up tonight!

Tonight's sky is featuring the constellation Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia was an Ethiopian queen in ancient Greek mythology. She boasted of her beauty! (Ha! That will get you every time!) Poseidon became angry so he tied up her daughter, Andromeda, to a rock by the sea, of course! (Play hero music in the background here.) Perseus rescued her and they became stars and lived happily ever after. Tonight. Free. Out your back door. See you there!

Friday, February 01, 2019

Let's Be Known for our Generosity!

I know what it is like to have $1.16 to my name. It was often due to choice (I don’t need money as I am living off the land), but not always. I can remember nights on the farm, after tucking in those three little boys of mine, and heading out to the cornfield and having a good cry. Yet, even on those nights, we had the house and wood to keep us warm, wool from the sheep for mittens and sweaters, milk from the cow, eggs from the chickens, and well, the list goes on.

One time in Pennsylvania, before children, before jobs, we searched our car to find a few coins to make a phone call to Indiana. The coin was found. The call was made. That was a long time ago.

What I want to say is that even if I think I only had $1.16, there was always family, there were always possibilities, even then.

The other night Kathy and I were talking about the government shut down. We are all talking about it. The feeling of helplessness fell over us. We are pretty isolated here in this small bubble of utopia in northern Indiana. But while my refrigerator is full, and my bed is warm, the guilt spreads over me. Have I really ever gone without in a hopeless kind of way? Except for those few nights crying in the cornfield, I have not had that experience.

So how about you? If you are reading this column, then I would guess life is pretty good to you. You either get the paper delivered to your doorstep, as I do, or you are on-line reading this. Either way, you probably have coffee and heat. At least I am assuming that is true.

I made several calls this week seeking out ways to help in our county just because it is January and it is cold outside.  I had a long chat with Josh Hawkins who is the case manager at Turning Point and the pastor of the Fremont Community Church. My question was simple, “How can we help?” I am, of course, interested in helping families who are in need because of the government shutdown, but it appears we do not have a great need here, but let’s talk about giving in January.

As Josh and I discussed, during November and December we are all givers. We give freely to Project Help or Turning Point or food banks or families with names on Christmas trees, but what about now in mid-January? Donations are down, but needs are not.

So, how can we help? I have actually put a short list together for us. None of this is complicated or expensive, and every little bit will help. My list is just a beginning. You can make your own list and give where you see the need.

At this time Turning Point needs donations of consumables such as laundry detergent, diapers, feminine products, toilet paper, soap, etc. I suggest we each buy something extra at the grocery this week, maybe just one or two items and then drop them off anytime Monday-Friday from 9-5. Think what we could do if we all bring a couple of items. Add your own to the list…toothpaste, toothbrushes???

Don’t forget food donations to Project Help. Send your clothes off too! Josh also said his church in Fremont has a food bank which helps over 200 families a month.

I asked Josh how we could help in this cold weather. He sadly told me about folks trying to stay warm in cars at night. I am naïve and saddened, but there are places to call. If you, or someone you know needs help, please call 211 or even on-line at They will direct you to help in your own town with a list of programs and shelters. Let me just say the phone wait is long, so please be patient.

I am so proud of all of us in the ways we take care of one another. We just need to know there are great needs out there and that Christmas is not the only time to give.

The moments of giving are still upon us. Donations of cash are always welcome too.

We are known for our beauty of lakes and parks. We are known for our university and hospital. We are known for the sweetness of this town. Let’s also be known for our generous hearts.

I thank you all.
Note: First published in KPC newspapers, January 26, 2019.