A DOG'S LIFE: TOYS
If this toy looks exhausted, rightly so.
It's because that little Boston terrier in the background seldom is.
The toy is played with night and day, day and night. Its squeaker has been deactivated, its air deflated, its antenna ripped off. But still, it is tossed down the hall or across the family room dozens, no, hundreds of times a day. It is retrieved by its nemesis, that little Boston terrier named Reggie.
Reggie loves this toy and its countless ancestors that do and have entertained her since we brought her home a year-and-a-half ago. Along with the orange ones, there are cousins in red, yellow and white.
We’ve had them all.
The orange fellow in the photo is in a state of decline. He has but a few days, if that, left in his career. Next Reggie will rip a hole in the top where the antenna was and pick, pick, pick, until the squeaker remains are removed and she starts eating the plastic. Then it’s goodbye. Rubber probably isn’t recommended for a dog’s digestive system.
We’ll start over with a cousin of the orange guy, and the process begins again.
In the thirteen-and-a-half years we’ve had indoor dogs, we’ve found that although these toys are less than perfect and have short but intense lifespans, they are far superior to most dog toys. Most are just horrible! They are destroyed immediately.
It’s not as though Reggie is a vicious beast with huge teeth. In fact, Brian was recently overheard telling her, “You’ve got a big mouth but little teeth.” It is so true. Her teeth are not just little, they are itty-bitty.
But give the dog an official dog toy, say a made-for-canine stuffed anything and she’ll have the eyeballs ripped out and the stuffing removed before you can say bark. Sam bought her a seemingly sturdy nylon toy recently and probably paid a pretty penny for it. DE-stroyed! Boom!
I’ve tooled up and down the aisles of the pricey pet stores looking for toys that will last. They are not cheap. But they are either cheaply made or our dog has some sort of superpower.
We always come back to these little fellas. They aren’t perfect but they are cheap, they last longer than most, and she adores them.
Is it just us? If you have a dog, do you find it difficult to find sustainable dog toys?
Within the past few days, a couple of questions have been answered regarding my own little piece of nature. (OK, our suburban-subdivision plot of it. Humor me.)
First, my beautiful fox tail fern is even foxier now than it was when I brought it inside in October. I completely doubted that it would winter well, knowing my track record with ferns. But the weeks passed and I waited for it to brown and shed. It never did! So I’ve returned it to its summer home on our front, covered porch.
Second, for a few weeks now, I’ve watched our backyard ash tree with interest. Brian was sure it was dead. I hoped it wasn’t – but had my doubts given all I’ve heard about the ash borer that is killing these beautiful trees right and left. I’m happy to report that the ash is alive. The borer may get it—but for today, it is finally leafing out.
Third, today I picked up my secret weapon of the plant world. It’s a bridal veil plant. The basket containing it rests nicely on the elevated plant stand that sits next to our front door, giving it the look of a topiary. Bridal veils are a bit hard to find around here, but a particular local market always carries them in the spring.
Evidently I’m not the only one wielding this favorite find. “Are you the one I was supposed to call when these came in?” the market owner asked when I reached the check-out. “Nope, but I love these. I get one every spring.”
Another clerk added that they had already sold out the first shipment of these and that a new one had come in today. Guess I stopped by at the right time.
These plants are large, will get larger, and they require nothing of me other than a drink of water every few days. If they are thirsty, they have a delightful way of telling me: They bloom small white flowers! The plants love that particular spot (shady all day until late-afternoon and early-evening sunshine). And because it’s a sturdy thing, and under a covered porch, it won’t give up the ghost until I’m ready to put out the Christmas decorations.
Soon I’ll pick up some Boston ferns for hanging on the back porch, and a few geraniums to tuck in the dirt under the bridal veil. I used to get red-geranium hanging baskets and while they are my preference, they turned out to need a lot more care than the ferns, including daily watering in the heat of the summer.
This promises to be a particularly busy summer with a new book soon to come out and other fun summer activities on the docket along with my newspaper work so I’m going with the more forgiving ferns. (They are forgiving outside, but not so much inside).
That’s about all I’ll get done in the flora-and-fauna department this summer. But it’s enough for me, for now, in this season of life. My mother always cautioned not to plant flowers until Mother’s Day. I’ve heard May 1 or May 10 as other standards. Sounds about right.
What are you planting in this season of YOUR life?
THOUGHTS FROM THE STUMP WITH TRUMP
We all wonder about that greener grass on the other side of the pasture. Or in my case, on the other side of the reporter’s notebook or tweet.
When you’re a small-market, community journalist, and have been forever, or at least for 33 years toward eternity, you imagine those national reporters and what it’s like to hop a plane bound for … anywhere … to cover … anything … other than the usual.
What I learned Wednesday at the Trump Rally in Indy is that while it’s plenty fun, exciting and entertaining to hang with “big media” for a day, it’s no more glamorous than the routine stuff I do all the time.
In fact, I’m sure it would get old to run with that pack and hear the exact same candidates’ speeches every day for months on end. Heck, I could practically give Donald Trump’s speech for him after hearing it so many times on TV. Let’s see:
Build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. Going to take care of the veterans and build up the military. Get them out of here (hecklers). We’re going to start winning again. The media lies. All of them. Not all. Maybe 80 percent. But we need them.
You thought that was Donald? It was me imitating Donald.
But if I covered Hillary, the clichés would roll too, only the specific lines would differ. That’s how it is. How could it be otherwise? These people have a condensed message to take everywhere they go.
I learned there’s a whole lot of down time in the press “pen” awaiting a billionaire to show up at his own party. Then you wait some more.
I also want to commend the crowd – Trump fans and detractors. I found that people were by far polite, respectful and happy to talk to me. The protesters were hugely outnumbered by pro-Trump or at least pro-curiosity attendees. And the protesters were nice to talk to also.
Remember this: News, by definition, is not the ordinary, but that which is not. So that is why protesters get at times a disproportionate amount of attention.
If you look at my photos carefully you will see smiles among the protesters.
I also learned I’m old for this press pool. When did that happen? Then I had a moment to remember. Indy WTHR TV reporter Rich Van Wyk and one other older Indy reporter were there yesterday covering the day. I flashed back to about 1985 when Van Wyk and I stood side-by-side in a press wagon as we awaited the arrival of then-President Ronald Reagan who landed in Air Force I to give a speech at the Purdue Airport.
That was 31 years ago. And here we both are.
So aside for the three of us (the two older Indy TV reporters and me) the rest of those reporters – the ones who were live tweeting as fast as the news happened or even didn’t happen -- are so young! And the on-air ones are beautiful. No surprise, right?
None of them paid an ounce of attention to me unless you count a TV cameraman who told me not to move around because footsteps bounce the platform. Oops. They probably thought I was covering the day for AARP Magazine. (Don’t I wish, I might add).
I’d like to say the fun day ended on a positive note but the truth is, someone parked too close to me and scraped my car as she pulled out of the parking lot. Bummer.
Yes, a day in the life of covering an international figure …
Maybe I’ll get to cover Hillary too. If not, that’s OK. I got to go home for dinner, sleep in my own bed and file my story for seven Indiana newspapers. Not a bad day in the life of this community journalist.
The following slide show includes some “leftover” photos from the day. Still others not in this package will be in Sunday’s New Castle Courier-Times. And, our quarterly Her magazine for women will be out then too.
And Donald – I’m not a liar.
I love democracy. I love this country.
"YOU HAVE BEEN CREDENTIALED ..."
I’m not a political reporter. I’m a feature writer, columnist, editor of a newspaper lifestyles section and local quarterly women’s magazine. I love all that, but it’s sure not glamorous.
If you know me and my work, you know that.
You also know that I'm the one who posts the chicken-noodle dinners and meeting notices in a community calendar. I type in club-news reports and back when brides still put in long write-ups about their weddings, typed miles of stories about tulle and sweetheart roses. I also stomp around 4-H fairs and help paint the break room.
Duties at a small daily paper are, let’s say, varied.
But you never know when something unique will come your way, as it always does if you stick around long enough. I stick around. Eight years ago, Bill Clinton stumped for Hillary and Barack Obama dropped by on his own behalf – in the same weekend -- in Henry County, Indiana.
Our sports editor, John Hodge, God rest his soul, was called into duty to give the Illinois senator a tour around the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The stop was at the senator’s personal request, not as a prescribed media stop for show.
Once again, Hoosiers are told they have the rare opportunity for their votes to matter in any kind of real way (oh, I know, we have a duty to vote. Spare me that lecture. But let’s face it: If Indiana mattered in the national picture, the big names would be around every election cycle).
Ted Cruz’s dad was in New Castle a week and a half ago. Bernie’s people have inquired about dropping by.
When would we hear from The Donald? Or Hillary or Bernie?
So today word came that Donald is coming to the Indiana State Fairgrounds tomorrow. I wondered aloud if I could get media credentials. My coworkers looked a bit surprised at my musings. And if I could get them, would my paper be in favor of sending me?
My pitch was that I’d go as an observer, not a political reporter, to witness the goings-on of a Donald Trump rally. Get some photos. Talk to the local folks if I can find any. And then wrap it all up in a column about the experience.
As I awaited the “pending” notice on my media inquiry to turn into what I hoped was a green light, our area sister newspapers were contacted and so far, three have said they would like to run what I write.
By mid-afternoon, the green light rolled into my email in-box. I'm in.
The rally is at 3 but my day starts in Indy early in the morning for round one, the check-in. Then we leave and return a bit later. The whole shebang ends way after our Thursday deadline so my work will appear in Friday’s community papers.
That’s why I’m posting my Wednesday blog now. I’ll need to keep my first-string observations fresh for my employer so I won’t be writing about the experience in a blog tomorrow. But I imagine I'll still have plenty to say later.
No matter what you think of Trump, surely we can agree that he’s an interesting character and this election cycle is certainly not predictable, nor is it run of the mill. And we're far from done.
Am I in a time warp? One week ago the snow was falling and instead of a pair of summer sandals, I pulled on the winter dress boots – yet again. As I write this, a soft breeze nudges the curtains beside my writing chair and our windows and front door are flung wide. It’s heavenly outside, and due to the breezes, inside too.
No time warp, you say, just April in Indiana? I’ll buy that.
This day feels about perfect. This morning I sent a revised manuscript off into cyberspace. That alone makes me giddy. Soon I’ll be blowing up my social media feeds about my new project. But not yet … not quite yet.
Meanwhile, I found myself with a free Saturday afternoon, home alone. It’s lovely. Brian got called into Dad-duty to accompany younger son Ben on a quest to purchase a car. Ben inherited my 2003 Buick Rendezvous a couple of years back but last week, it met its maker, and I don’t mean the Buick company.
The engine blew up, dying in the middle of the street, and not just any street, but a major thoroughfare in Indy. Thank the Lord he was able to start it up One. Last. Time. and get it out of the road into a parking lot. Then it was hauled away in a hearse, I mean wrecker, back to Pendleton where it was pronounced DOA by our car guy, Ralph.
So he’s been without wheels for a week and relying on the kindness of a coworker to get him to his job. I haven’t heard how the search is going. I offered to go along and make a day of it but Brian said I wasn’t invited. He didn’t think it would be too cool for Dad and Mom to show. OK, I get it. It’s a Dad thing.
Fine with me, and a fine day it is. The spring wreath is on the door, the decade-old peony wreath pressed into service as a candle ring for the dining-room table, and I’m preparing to head outside to pick up sticks and do a little yard work.
And who am I kidding? To inaugurate my back porch with some reading time and maybe even a teensy nap.
Hope your day is equally glorious.
A CAMEL RANCH FOR YOUR HUMP DAY
I grew up on a Hoosier farm surrounded by cattle, cats, dogs, ducks, ponies, later a horse, and sometimes hogs. I enjoy animals and when I learned that riding a camel was on the agenda during our trip to Israel, I was all in.
There was no way I was not going to ride a camel!
We visited a camel ranch and our group members of about 35 took our turns riding an assortment of camels. My riding partner was my pal and roommate for the trip, Terri Fredericks.
Mounting a camel is nothing like getting on a horse. The camel has to work with you a great deal on this – and despite his appearing to smile, he is not a happy camper about the experience. The camel has to begin by folding his legs under him and lying down. Once we are on board, there is a particular way the riders have to lean in unison when the camel takes to his feet. It’s a bit like being swept up on a roller-coaster. There is a video of this scene, taken by our friend, Delaine, but it’s not a pretty picture.
It was, however, hilarious.
Once he’s on his feet, we took a nice ride around the grounds, overlooking the desert wilderness surrounding us. The camel knew the path well as that was his job, hauling foreigners around his territory. There were moments looking out into the wilderness … and imagining … this was the landscape so many biblical figures witnessed for themselves. This, the Promised Land.
During our couple of hours at the ranch, we enjoyed a traditional Middle Eastern meal in a large tent on the grounds. Always when I had read in the Bible about people living in tents and picking up their tents and moving, I had an American mindset of small, utilitarian tents used for camping trips.
A furnished Middle Eastern tent is actually elegant when decked out with furnishings. It felt like we were in a house, not in a tent on a barren piece of wilderness on a camel ranch.
If you ever get a chance, ride a camel.
So here it comes: Happy Hump Day, everyone!
CONNERSVILLE, Ind. -- Back in the winter, a cellphone call came out of the blue one evening from a vivacious woman named Billie Bertch of Connersville. Before I could scramble for a notepad, she was off and running with information and a question.
Her book club members were reading Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and would love for me to attend the discussion tea on April 9. Might I attend?
“Sure! I’ll be there,” I told her, scribbling the directions, then friending her moments later on Facebook. She told me the name of the club is A Dozen of Us. Our conversation was brief, and we didn’t get into background on the club. I assumed that it was a group of 12 friends who had formed a contemporary book club.
But when I got there today, as snow flurries sporadically drifted to the ground and the sun increasingly shone, I learned that A Dozen of Us (ADOU for short) certainly is not new. The Connersville literary club has been around since 1892 and there are 23 members of various ages on the roster. They read books, host speakers, sponsor scholarships, take part in community activities and enjoy – a great deal enjoy – each other’s company.
And, these women clearly love and celebrate their community.
Billie, just as vivacious in person as she is on the phone, got out the elegant silver and crystal for serving refreshments, provided in part by her friend and club sister, 92-year-old Marjorie Bastian.
On hand, as well, were other community leaders including a judge, a doctor, head of the Chamber of Commerce, an Edward Jones professional, and an assortment of vibrant retirees.
Ironically, one of the members, Kathy Sturgeon, remembered my sister-in-law, Linda, and said the two worked together at Ford back in the late 1970s-early 1980s. She thought highly of Linda, and I promised to pass on the information.
I liked what it said inside the club program, a quote from the writer Virginia Woolf from A Room of One’s Own: “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
These ladies have lived that out since 1892 – and counting.
This is a first: I’m officially on tree watch.
Conditions are favorable for, as it has every year, our prettiest backyard tree to start budding / leafing out. Last summer we noticed a few dead limbs and my glass-half-empty husband said he thinks the tree is dead.
I prefer a more optimistic outlook and am wrapping my limbs around the notion that it’s simply a late bloomer.
But it’s an ash. And I’m hearing bad stories about the ash bore that is destroying these beautiful trees. I’ve heard them for a while, actually, but hoped the disease would pass us over.
And speaking of beautiful trees, the Bradford Pear is apparently a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Our perfectly shaped, huge Bradford Pear bailed on us five years ago. An unremarkable summer storm blew through one day and the crash I heard was the tree going down, and our wallet emptying to the tune of about $400 to get it out of there. Ouch!
Meanwhile, its front-yard neighbor, a redbud, was on life support and two years later, we had it put down. The front yard looked so vacant.
Almost two years ago, we had a professional dig out the underground stumps that apparently go all the way to China, and replace the departed trees with white maples. At least they appear to be leafing out, although they lost their leaves rather prematurely last August and I thought they, too, were on death row. Our tree man had a look in the fall and thought they were fine.
What’s up with all the tree issues? I grew up on a farm and our landscape was surrounded by beautiful maple, poplar, walnut and other trees that had zero issues. Approaching 60 years later, those same trees that were large and lovely then remain large and lovely now out there at Route 1, Brownsville.
Apparently planting Bradford Pears were quick fixes for providing full sized trees in suburban neighborhoods – like ours, but when grown cannot support their own weight. And the ash bore? Well, who knew 18 years ago when I planted the fast-growing twig.
So, the watch is on. The ash may be doomed, but I’m hoping to get another summer out of it. Maybe I’m ash-king too much.
At least we know a tree guy. Perhaps we should have him on retainer. He’s probably awfully busy these days.
A DAY OF FIRSTS
Much was packed into a single Saturday.
While I’ve attended workshops, conferences and seminars, I had never attended a symposium until yesterday. I like that word. Maybe it’s just me, but there seems something elegant and a bit mysterious about a symposium as opposed to a conference.
I was delighted to be asked to be part of the program as a panelist, discussing writing with other Hoosier authors. I also got to spend time with Janis Thornton of Tipton, author of the cozy mystery, Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies. Good things always happen when I see Janis, herself a former newspaper editor in Frankfort. Months ago she told me to look into submitting something for a crowd-sourced book, Undeniably Indiana, published by Indiana University Press.
I did and my essay is in the book, which comes out in September.
My gratitude to the American Business Women’s Association, Raintree Chapter, host of the perfectly paced day of learning and networking. What a nice bunch of women.
Two firsts: a symposium and a panel.
Driving back to Pendleton, we experienced the strangest weather I can recall. The wind was blowing so hard that it felt like the car would go off the road – or take flight. It rained, then slushed as splatters hit the windshield in what one can’t really describe as rain, snow, nor sleet. It was slushing!
Meanwhile, we ran the car heater. It sure felt good on my sandaled feet. I also carried a summer straw purse. But I needed a winter coat and gloves.
There were patches of beautiful blue in the sky with the clouds putting on a show. It felt like anything could happen: Severe storms, thunder snow, tornadoes or maybe even, the sun would stay out (it was trying) and all would be gorgeous. Four seasons of weather seemed to appear together during a single car ride.
Before dark it snowed, and for a little while, the white stuff came down so furiously it was a virtual white out. But then the beautiful sun came out for moments and it was a beautiful spring day.
This morning, snow frosts our landscape, including the cushions on our summer-porch furniture which we evidently prematurely got out of storage. And our beautiful ornamental cherry tree blossoms appear defeated.
Two more firsts: snow and sandals in one day.
Then it was over to friend Terri Fredericks for a pitch-in supper in honor of friend Donna Shields’ April Fools-Day birthday. Terri is a gifted cook and baker and Donna had a hankering to learn how to make homemade marshmallows. So that was the agenda and they were a beautiful thing to watch take frothy form in Terri’s KitchenAid Mixer.
One additional first: homemade marshmallows.
Five firsts in one day. It was an interesting, eclectic day.