I have an old iron bell from my folks' farm where I grew up, and where my paternal grandparents lived before that. There's no reason I would need a farm bell. There are no men in the field awaiting its ring to dinner 'round the threshing table.
But I like it because it reminds me of such scenes from farms of old.
For years after it left Dad's barn, it sat in first one garage, then another, until finally I asked our friend Monty Foust to post it in our backyard. I like it there and wonder why we didn't raise it sooner. It does require a bit of maintenance. It had been painted silver once, for what reason I can't guess, and I painted it black. Now it needs a good touching up a couple times a year, most notably, after the winter months. Most notably, now.
But its fresh coat will have to wait a while. Things are pretty busy inside that bell. A few weeks ago I noticed that a family called Robin had claimed squatters' rights by building a nice little home there, sheltered sweetly by the protective shell of iron. I've stayed out of Mrs. Robin's way, observing from the window that she's been spending a lot of time maintaining her new digs which she decorated beautifully with found bits of dried grass and straw.
Some years robins nest in ferns on our back porch, but I don't have the plants up yet. One year a front-door wreath hosted a family. When the family sets up housekeeping in an eye-level fern or on my front door, I take the liberty of carefully peeking into the nest. Never touching, mind you.
Sometimes the tiny birds mistook me for their mother and opened their mouths wide, only to be briefly disappointed that I couldn't deliver a juicy worm. But soon, their mother swooped in and picked up the tab for lunch.
This bell is too high and I might do great damage to the family dynamic if I got out a ladder. So I watch from afar and was rewarded while ago when I saw a tiny head lift toward the heavens and a mouth eagerly await a to-go order.
Soon enough, the cozy nest will no longer suffice, and the birds will wing away, as birds and boys do, and their mother will do something else with her time besides deliver lunch and cuddle with them.
Meanwhile, here's to you, Mrs. Robin. Enjoy your family. Stop by again next year if you want.
So it's around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Suddenly arrives a new thought for the day: It's Wednesday! Blog day!
That's right. And until then, I had no thought about what I would post. You see, Tuesday was a sick day, a 100-percent time out. I almost commented to Brian a couple days ago that we had made it through to spring with no flu. I suppose that is technically true, given that we're now supposed to be in spring.
Then at 5:30 Tuesday morning, I felt terrible cramps grip my upper abdomen, a wave of nausea, and then .... oh, come on. You know good and well what happens next. And yes, I made it to the bathroom in time.
A few repeat performances took place and by 7, I texted my boss to say I wouldn't be in. Sick day. I slept quite a bit of the morning away, my consciousness and remote in and out of daytime TV. I learned from an interview with Tatum O'Neal that her mom is the actress Peggy on The Andy Griffith Show. I might have giggled over a preview of the new Roseanne show. Brian didn't think much of either of my tidbits of information when he got home and urged me to get back to work ASAP.
I had the chills, and sweats, but my stomach settled and the best news of all was that because I had no body aches and no headache nor neckache (my neck is always the first thing to go when I get the flu), things were looking up.
I was able to sleep well last night and by this morning, I was good to go back to work! I actually had a good day and had a reserve of energy come day's end.
So what did I crave during my illness? 7 Up and chicken-noodle soup. A classic remedy for what appears to have been a classic 24-hour bug.
Even though it was only a day in la-la land, it sure feels good to be back among the living. And away from daytime TV.
March is quite the fickle month and never has that been more the case than today. The best way to describe today’s weather forecast across the state would be to draw a weather map and across it put in bold letters, “WHO KNOWS? LOOK OUT THE WINDOW THROUGHOUT THE DAY.”
We left a clear and dry-skied Pendleton at 10:20 a.m. this morning, bound for Indy and a belated-birthday breakfast for our younger son, Ben. As we approached Marion County, the snow was falling heavily. By the time we got to the diner, the flakes were HUGE and the snow thick.
Was this a January Throwback Day? Diners wearing thick parkas and snow boots waited on their coffee and eggs while we waited on the Birthday Boy, followed by Sam and Allison.
We had a nice brunch where we spoke of jobs and birthdays, Colts schedules and March Madness.
Happy 27th birthday to our Benny Boy! Still our ray of sunshine on any day, snowy or not.
Sam got a chicken-breast breakfast sandwich. Brian chose a burger lunch.
Forty years ago today, Brian and I were officially engaged!
In the winter of the Blizzard of ’78, this day was cold with plenty of snow on the ground. For several weeks that season, I slept nights on the living room sofa of my brother and SIL Tim and Jeannie in Liberty.
Brian and I had been talking about marriage for a while, and were privately engaged. The ring was selected after Christmas. It needed sized, and what better time to make things official than with a Valentine's Day debut!
After work that day, I arrived at the home on East Seminary Street in Liberty where Brian rented a spacious apartment in the upstairs of landlady Mary Snyder. He was visiting downstairs with Mary.
“Your ring’s upstairs,” he said when I arrived. I went up, found the box, and brought it back down for the two of them to admire.
There was no band, no knee proposal, no asking my dad for my hand. But I knew that we loved each other and all these years later, there's no one I would rather come home to.
Forty years ago it was official, and soon came the engagement photo in the newspaper, obligatory back in that era.
Come October, God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. But on that February day so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the double-digit anniversary numbers that we have today. It was simply too far into the future to even imagine. I couldn’t anticipate that four decades from that day, on our mind would be Brian’s signing up for Medicare and Social Security this week and I’d be wrapping my mind around the idea of turning 60 this year.
Last night I helped friend Patti decorate Valentine cookies that she planned to put out as a surprise for her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge today. By the time I got to her house, she and her little niece had decorated most of the hearts in bright colors. I added a few to the stack. Life is full of pattern and color and the unexpected—like those cookies that are no doubt by now gone!
On Monday, my Bible Study Fellowship group leader had old-fashioned Valentines for all of us. Not only Valentines, but red suckers attached. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone gave me that combo. The little card took me back to the fun we had in elementary school on this day.
Whether your Valentine’s Day comes with candy, hearts, a diamond engagement ring, or not, may the day remind us all of special loves, past, present and sometimes, those that are one and the same.
The Brownsville, Indiana Lions basketball team, 1929-30. It's in the Depression, in my father's high school sophomore year in a tiny town between Liberty and Connersville. My dad, Huburt Jobe, is in the middle row, far right, leaning in. He'd be 106 now. He died at 79. We talked about his basketball days a lot. Why did I never ask him to write the names of his teammates? If you have cherished old photos such as this one, ask your loved ones to ID everyone.
It's the last day of January 2018. My dad was born in January 1912 in the tiny town of Brownsville, Indiana. The separate gym, and the three-story brick school, built the same year he was born, are gone. He's been gone a long time, too.
January in Indiana means basketball season, and in my father's heyday, basketball season was the time of his life. Two years after this photo, he was recruited to play college basketball. I can't help thinking it wasn't so common for a boy from the sticks during the Great Depression to continue his basketball career at Earlham College. He went, and for a while, that's how the ball bounced.
Three years after this photo, Dad's father bought a farm north of Brownsville. For the next half century, my grandfather and then father farmed it, and for 32 of those years, Dad was also a school bus driver.
My dad was more than meets the eye. He was an inventor, could make or fix about anything -- because that's what you did as a farmer. He also studied art both on his own and by taking classes, and he painted pictures. He played chess with a passion, and as a young man, played the violin. He loved to roller skate and taught me.
But basketball was his game. He loved to watch Indiana University play on TV, and whenever something was on television that he really wanted to see (such as IU basketball), he pulled his easy chair close to the TV for a front-row seat in our living room. He always followed our high school basketball team.
By the time I came along, born when Dad was nearly 46, the Brownsville Lions would soon consolidate into first Short High School in Liberty, then Union County High School, which is where I graduated 41 years ago.
My father was something of a perfectionist, or at least that was so in the subjects he cared about, such as math. I hated math and found it difficult. When Dad tried to teach me what my schoolteachers couldn't get through, the sparks flew.
Much to Dad's disappointment, I didn't want to play chess and had no particular artistic talent. So on those topics, I couldn't be his companion. But we had our mutually favorite topics. We both loved our swimming and fishing pond where dad taught me to swim and fish. We both loved having ponies and later, my horse around. He set me up well with those and taught me to ride.
But our favorite shared topic was basketball. In the 1970s, our high school had some fine teams. One year we were undefeated. My senior year and the one after, the Patriots won the Connersville sectional. That was big potatoes for us.
I rarely missed a varsity basketball game in high school, and never a home basketball game. My parents had season tickets, too.
Back at home, Dad and I sat up late and talked over each game. Once we thoroughly rehashed the key plays, shining moments, and outlook for what was ahead on the schedule, then we talked about Dad's years as a Brownsville Lion basketball star.
Those were years still precious to him. We talked about his games, and how the game itself was different back then. We discussed how a big shot from a Connersville factory tried to get my grandfather to move the family to Connersville, complete with a job offer, so Dad could be -- horror of horrors -- a Spartan! Why, that was in the late 1920s and here it was the mid-1970s and we were still outraged by the very notion of such a treasonous offer!
I remember quivering with excitement in the chilly house in the wee hours of the morning over dad's tales, and imagining him at the age of the boys who played for my high school. I never felt closer to him or happier in his presence than those winter nights discussing basketball.
The advice he offered, not what I had expected, is something I've never forgotten.
One year I learned that the Patriots would take part in the Richmond Holiday Tournament. The tourney was a whole year away when I heard the news. This was exciting! What's more, the tournament would include a large Indianapolis school that had a star player. It was as though the rural country kids from Liberty were finally going to get their due and be noticed!
When I heard this, I was babysitting at the neighbors' house. I called Dad to tell him. "I wish it were next year right this minute and we could play in that tournament right now!" I told him.
His reaction took me by surprise. "Don't wish your life away."
Simple. Profound. I have never wished away time since. Not even wish away a bland day in January. Life is too precious and time passes too quickly to miss out on a single moment.
It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
Following is my Dec. 3 New Castle Courier-Times column. I’m still thinking about ornaments today as I prepare a new Christmas program for tomorrow night's Lilac Literary Club in Hancock County. It’s about how our ornaments tell the stories of our lives.
Thirty-one years ago, I couldn’t wait to place baby Sam’s first ornament on our Christmas tree.
As the years passed, new ornaments were purchased annually first for Sam, then also for Ben when he came along. At first I did the choosing, picking out Disney and bear decorations, but as the boys got old enough to care, they got to choose their own.
It became a much-anticipated Christmas tradition to take them to the Hallmark store and select their ornaments. As the “senior” son, Sam got first dibs, and usually selected the year’s cool Batman or sports hero. Along the way came orbs depicting trends such as video games or the hot sports figure of the year.
There were athletes with staying power such as Peyton Manning, and ones who are forgotten footnotes in old box scores. There were action figures such as Spider-man and Lego creations such as a fireplace with Santa appearing to be made from them.
Several years ago, I stopped putting the collection on the big family Christmas tree. These were during the years that the boys were in their late teens and early 20s. The boys had lost their thrill of selecting new ornaments and moved on in their interests. It seemed the time for childhood ornaments had passed.
It’s funny what a few years out of circulation will do to a collection.
Our younger son, Ben, is 26 now, and this is the first Christmas he’s truly been out on his own without a roommate. On Thanksgiving, he was anxious to get back to his apartment and have Brian and I help him put up his own tree.
His lights worked great on the shimmering white tree that came intact from his small patio storage closet. But the problem was, he had no actual ornaments.
So, I offered up his childhood Hallmark ones. I don’t know which of us was more delighted – Ben over the idea of the nostalgic decorations, or me over seeing his delight.
That weekend he came home and went through the pile of Superheroes and athletes, cars and novelty items, all created with the special charm of Hallmark, in ornament form.
One by one we looked them over and he separated his stash from his brother’s and home he went with them. Later that evening, he sent us a photo and video of his decorated tree.
I had always wondered what would become of the boys’ ornaments and if they would ever want them.
I’m happy to see them enjoyed anew in their new home on their new tree – with their old boy.
Brian has always enjoyed Halloween. While he doesn’t do anything with the Christmas tree other than tell me if it is leaning to one side (a particular pet peeve of his), and yes, tell me it’s pretty once it’s all decked out, he is the one who carves our pumpkins.
At this stage in the game of life, I’d be content to plug in a fake one and carry on, but not him. He always makes a production of selecting an annual pumpkin or two and carving them.
I came across this photo of him with a Parke County pumpkin 40 years ago. This was taken in his parents’ Rockville, Indiana basement the first weekend I met them.
We had been to the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival where he snagged a pumpkin (I probably got one too but don’t remember that). It was my 19th birthday weekend and Brian’s mother surprised me with a gift, a new wallet.
I’m pretty sure she made pumpkin pie. Boy, she could bake pies! In the fall there were always pumpkin pies on her counter top.
I have fond memories of trick-or-treating as a kid, throwing "spook-house" basement parties for the neighbor kids in my family's rustic basement, canvassing the neighboring farms for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and then going to the church basement for a party. And who can forget the full-sized chocolate bars out of Philomath?
I'm seeing a trend here ... Halloween and basements.
Then came the years of our boys and their Halloween parties and trick-or-treating. This is my favorite Halloween photo of Sam and Ben. It's actually one of my all-time favorite pictures of them period.
Last year, Brian had a little issue with his pumpkin. He carved it and set it on the porch. I wasn't paying much attention and didn't connect the dots when he asked if we had any Duct Tape. I told him we did and asked why.
"Oh, I probably won't need it," he hedged. I still didn't think anything of it.
Until the next day.
His carved pumpkin had Duct Tape wrapped around its head.
"I cut his nose off," Brian confessed.
I roared with laughter.
"It won't even show when the lights are out," he insisted.
To my surprise, he was right. The pumpkin looked just fine -- in the dark.
Here's this year's duo, carved yesterday while I was at work. Pretty cute.
What are your special Oct. 31 memories?
As for leaf color, I can’t say this October – so far – is a ringer. But it’s been a beautiful week all the same. Brian and I usually fly pretty low-key with birthday and anniversary celebrations, but this week we’ve been extra blessed!
On Tuesday, my boss Katie surprised me with a cake, balloon, and card signed by everyone in the building, and a beautiful bouquet of seasonal flowers.
Here it is Saturday and the flowers are just as pretty today as they were several days ago.
Yesterday, Lisa Perry, our newspaper editor who preceded Katie, was in town for her annual community walk through New Castle highlighting such stories as that of the 104-year-old unsolved mystery of Catherine Winters, a little girl who famously has never been found, making her the oldest-known unsolved child disappearance in Indiana history, along with some other tales.
Lisa and her late mother, Charlene Perry, have published books and written extensively about Catherine. But before her annual stroll through town, she took time to have lunch with her cronies at the paper.
Last night, Sam and Allison hosted an anniversary dinner honoring her grandmother Jo, her parents, John and Carla, and Brian and me as well as themselves. ALL of us got married the same October weekend. Allison’s grandmother and late grandfather were married 66 years ago tomorrow, her parents 34 years tomorrow, and Sam and Allison will celebrate five years tomorrow – all married in the same downtown Indianapolis church! For Brian and me, today is our 39th wedding anniversary. My brother Tim and wife Jeannie got married 46 years ago yesterday.
Allison’s brother and his wife, Mike and Lauren, as well as Ben joined us and it was a most pleasant evening featuring a home-cooked meal by Sam and Allison and plenty of talking and watching the MLB playoffs.
Allison surprised me with a tiny birthday cake – a little bigger than cupcake-sized, and I wish I had taken a photo! It was adorable. And, they all sang “Happy Birthday.” A sweet night.
Do you ever have something random happen that makes you feel like “an adult in the room?” This week for me it’s new “adult” table lamps for our bedroom night stands.
For my birthday and our anniversary, Brian and I went shopping for night-stand lamps. In late spring we bought a new bedroom suit, our first since 1983. We thought it was time. Have you ever wondered why these sets only come with one night stand? I have! This time we bought an extra.
I didn’t mention that I would like matching new lights for the stands. I figured all summer that when Brian asked what I wanted for my birthday, I’d have that answer in my back pocket.
I don’t know what style they are, or what era. I just know that we agreed that we like them, they are large and give out good light. We both spend a lot of time in our bedroom watching TV, reading, or working on the computer or projects. They work!
So today, another beautiful day. The week ahead is supposed to be seasonably chilly and maybe blustery too. After we get our grocery shopping done, we’re going to put away the porch furniture and tidy things up for the fall. I’m going to cut down our ornamental grasses out front and toss the summer plants. If we had hatches, I’d batten them down.
As for this trio of trees in our back yard, I tend to view them as a seasonal barometer. I’ve photographed them when they were drenched with ice and snow, making a crystal winter-scape, and when they were drenched in white blossoms. But in all the 19 years we’ve lived here, these trees have never done what they are doing now. They are covered in red berries! They are serving as bird feeders to happy birds who come and go and enjoy these fruits. One large flock of birds even happily stopped by as though they were visiting a birdie Golden Coral. They ate and were in the air again.
Usually the leaves on these trees are long gone by now. Sometimes the leaves even fall in the summer. But this year, this …
What a beautiful October surprise.
Say what you will about love and marriage, but most girls dream of meeting Mr. Right. In my great-niece Nicki Barrett's case, make that Mr. Wright. As of 4:30 p.m. Saturday, she became Mrs. Wright.
The two are special to me because Nicki is a blood relative (I'm her mother Marlene Thompson's aunt, as in the sister of Marlene's late brother, David Jobe). But there's another reason they are special. They live in and are remodeling the home where I grew up on the old Jobe family homestead in Union County. Yes, it's on Jobe Road. That's about as down-home-from-the-heart as it gets. And I am delighted to see this couple make their home there.
The two had Brian, my brother Tim, and sister-in-law Jeannie, and me out last October to show us their progress. I blogged about it on Oct. 15, 2016.
Their talents aren't limited to remodeling an old farmhouse. They also prepared the food for their wedding reception (including the beautiful cakes), made the decorations and Nicki even crafted the boutonnieres and bridal bouquets. It was all country, all the way.
The site is a race-horse training grounds deep in the countryside of Fayette County around Waterloo. Surprisingly, there had never been a wedding on the property before, but it was an ideal venue for this energetic couple.
I thought the jockey-inspired men's attire was a perfect touch for the setting, don't you?
In fact, you might say that everything was just exactly Wright.
All the best to you both.