Two important things

I realized two important things recently.

When I visited Jeff Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class to talk about Dancing in Heaven on May 1st, one of the adult or non-traditional students said, “My daughter’s friend has a sister who is disabled and in a wheel chair. I always felt a little sorry that my daughter’s friend wasn’t able to share the mother-daughter experiences that my daughter and I were able to share. Her mother was always too busy taking care of the disabled sister.” She made the comment to point out that Dancing in Heaven showed her another side, a different side, of having a disabled sibling or daughter.

I smiled, but made no comment in reply, because she hit a very sensitive and very deep nail on the head. And I think that is one of the things I’ve grieved for with the loss of my mother the most—the hope I had, the possibility I had, of having some of those special moments with my mother. That’s one of the things I realized recently. And perhaps the word “realized” isn’t the best choice. I always knew that Mom wasn’t able to do the some of the things with me that my friends’ parents were able to do, or that I had wished she were able to do. “Faced my denial” might be more accurate.

I remember only three shopping trips with my mother. One was to help her buy a dress to wear to my grandmother’s funeral in 1984. Another was to the drug store in 2012 so she could buy all the over-the-counter rememdies for her stomach pain that we all attributed to stress but was actually cancer. And a time when I was a young teenager that she wanted to walk to the grocery store, not thinking in advance that we’d have to bring all the groceries we bought back home. We weren’t able to carry them all between the two of us, so we decided to push the grocery cart filled with bags home. We hadn’t crossed the first street when Mom tipped the grocery cart over as she bumped it down the curb. The groceries spilled out into the street. I laughed so hard I was afraid I was going to wet my pants.

I have often gone shopping with my daughter Anna. It is one of my favorite things to do.

I went out to lunch with my mother once, I think, although I can’t really remember it well. Then my sister and I took her out to lunch for her last birthday in May of 2012. I remember that one a lot better.

I have taken all my sons and my daughter out to lunch.

You might say I even have a passion for creating those mother-daughter and even mother-son experiences.

But while doing all this self-revelation recently, I can’t help but remember all the things my mother taught me. Or the things she made for me. Or how she patiently ripped out and fixed badly sewn or completely wrong seams in my fashion creations. Or the late-night conversations at her kitchen table on the overnight visits. Or how she was always there when I really needed her the most, if not in person, then certainly across the telephone wire. The time when she and Dad came to my dorm room with a computer when mine died the night before a test. Or when she and Dad came to my hospital room the day I had neck surgery, or the day I had Michael. Or the way she hand-wrung out the wet baby clothes in a washer full of water that wouldn’t drain when she came to help me at home.

Some people have mothers who are alcoholics, or drug addicts, or too self-interested to bother. Some people have mothers who die young. Some have mothers who leave.

No. My mother didn’t have a lot of time for lunches and shopping with me. But in every way that she could be, she was a mother to me. She was a very good mother to me.

And I miss her so.

If your mother is still with you, I hope you are able to enjoy her each and every day. If not, I hope you can remember her kindly for what she was able to give you under whatever circumstances or challenges she faced. And if you are a mother, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day.






The animals at Conner Prairie – a scoot and shoot event

Conner Prairie is an Interactive History Park in Fishers, Indiana, about 25 minutes north of Indianapolis.


It is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program. I never realized such a thing existed. Live and learn—which is the idea, I suppose.


Conner Prairie has a welcome center, a nature walk and five main areas: the 1863 Civil War Journey based on the Raid on Indiana, an 1836 Prairietown, the Conner Homestead, the Lenape Indian Camp, and an 1859 Balloon Voyage. It probably goes without saying that this little guy was standing guard in the Civil War Journey. He looked familiar. I wondered if he accompanied Lincoln the day he came to town.


And this handmade canoe was part of the Indian Village. I stopped by there briefly. A young man who couldn’t have been a day over eleven was hefting a tomahawk over his shoulder getting ready to throw it at a target. The target area was roped off, but the spectators were fairly close to the young man’s backside. I didn’t want to be around in the unfortunate event of a backstroke misfire that sent the tomahawk (probably just an axe, really) sailing towards the crowd (or two or three parents and siblings who were watching.)


This little blue wheelbarrow was loaded with hay, just waiting for a small person to come along and interact with it.


The larger blue wagon made a nice lawn ornament.


What would an interactive park be without a petting zoo, or in this case, barn? Isn’t this little girl adorable? I watched her drum up the courage to get close enough to touch the goat, that outsized her by quite a bit. The goat was a patient and tolerant participant, as you can tell by the look on his face.


This little calf was also working at the petting zoo, although I must have caught her at break time.


Even the human animals needed to find a place to rest their back and take a quick break every now and then.


Some of their work was quite challenging.


These pigs were working hard digging a big pit in their pen. I’m not sure why.


And the chicken was standing on the rail keeping an eye on things. Probably a fairly boring job, but somebody had to do it.


It’s more fun to strut around the yard looking important, I imagine.


This blacksmith really was working hard. He spent an awfully long time heating and hammering out a solitary nail. I’m not sure how the pioneers got anything done at this rate.


I really think these guys were just loafing around. I couldn’t see any useful purpose in their activity, unless it was their job to keep the grass trimmed. They were chewing on it quite deliberately.


Isn’t she a doll? I watched her try and try to pick this stick up. She finally got it. Sort of.


This goes without saying. But it illustrates a new and useful purpose for a picket fence.

We had a beautiful day at Conner Prairie. I hope we go back when the trees are in leaf. It will look like a whole new world then, I imagine.


See more Scoot and Shoot posts here.

What’s blooming now

The early morning sun strikes through emerging iris blades and sets them aglow.


The Lenten roses, true to their name, are blooming again.

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Tiny yellow flowers that look like miniature daffodils to me, are confidently called Buttercups by my grandson Luke, who’s three.

Larger daffodils are beginning to flower.


Pink hyacinths begin to bloom, their fragrance yet to make itself known.


The garden is coming up green.


And periwinkles carpet the woods across the way.


Even after the coldest, harshest, longest winter, spring, at last, comes again.

Where’s my stuff? — Anna moves to Chicago

Mark and I helped Anna move to Chicago at the beginning of March. Her new company gave her relocation money that included paying for the movers, so we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting as we have so many times in the past with her and our sons’ many moves over the years.

We drove to Chicago the day before the moving van was scheduled to arrive, Anna’s car packed with necessary and fragile items.



A new take on “bed-in-a-bag”

After arriving at her new apartment and lugging our survival supplies up three flights of stairs,

First stop - Chicago pizza

First stop – Chicago pizza

we headed out and walked a few blocks to Clark Street where amongst the shops, bakeries, and bars, we found Calo’s, a restaurant that served excellent Chicago-style pizza.

06-Basic necessities

The bare necessities

Well-armed with paper products, leftover pizza in the ‘frig, and our electronic devices,

01-floor seats


we settled in for the evening to wait the arrival of the moving van in the morning.


A rear window

The weather forecasters were calling for snow. No big surprise this year. You can barely see that the snow had started by morning.


Snow delay

These rear windows to Anna’s apartment tell the story. And the early morning arrival of the moving van became a hopeful wish,


and then a disappointment, as the day dragged on and Anna continued to ask, “Where’s my stuff?”


All the comforts of home

We passed the time and entertained ourselves with our iPhones in the comfort of collapsible lawn chairs.


Boxes and paper

Alas, the stuff arrives. It’s packed in boxes.


It’s on the bed,


in the bathroom,

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and on every available surface area. But it is here. We spend the rest of the day helping Anna unpack with the goal in mind of emptying and then removing empty knocked-down-flat boxes so she wouldn’t be suffocated by stacks of disarrayed boxes in her cozy apartment. Then we tried out another local restaurant for dinner. In the morning Mark and I head south for home and our plane to Arizona in the morning. (The tickets for the Red’s spring training in Goodyear, AZ  purchased before any of Anna’s job-search and relocation were more than a passing gleam in her eye.)


We drove away, leaving Chicago, and Anna who was happily settling into her new home, behind–the yet-to-be-explored possibilities making it all worthwhile.


This post is part of a continuing series - Anna moves to Chicago.

Signs of spring at the VOA


A man is fishing.

03-ducks-2014-04-21Ducks are swimming.

04-robin-2014-04-21A robin rests.


A kite flies.


A grebe migrates through.


And Arthur, me, and my shadow are walking again.

It was in the 60s here today.

It’s time, Spring, and we’re all more than ready.

Spring is coming — just ask the birds

It’s been a long, cold winter here. But the month of March always gives me hope for spring. And this year is no different. Even though white patches of snow still dot the ground, I know winter’s days are numbered.

Yesterday I saw squirrels running through the woods hopping from limb to limb in a kind of feverish ecstasy that enters all of our souls to one degree or another with the coming of spring.


Our first robin is back. (A quick google search will tell you that some of the robins never leave. We, however, have not seen one solitary robin at our feeders the entire winter until the past few days. You can judge for yourself.)


And a red-winged blackbird has been visiting our feeders. (Websites like the Cornell lab of Ornithology will tell you that these birds are here year-round. It also states, “In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.” Again, you can judge for yourself.)

Spring is coming. I can see it in the birds, and feel it in the air.


Clinging to the old ways

My husband Mark walks into the study where I sit, still in my pajamas and bathrobe, reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” on my Kindle. Mark is dressed. He shoves his feet into the high-top leather shoes he left there yesterday and bends over to fit his heel into the shoe.

I hear the sounds of coffee-making in the kitchen, followed by the coat closet door opening and closing. Then the outside door opens and closes, and I know Mark is making his morning trek down our driveway and up the private drive for his morning paper that the delivery person leaves at the top of the drive.

Mark has national and local news apps on his iPad and iPhone that he reads throughout the day. He follows the Reds baseball team with on his smart devices. He reads long news articles from various sources on his laptop computer at his desk.

But in the morning, he makes his coffee, takes a little walk, sometimes in rain or through the snow, so that he can read his local print newspaper. Just like always.

But for how much longer?


Springboro, Ohio – on the route to freedom

A Scoot and Shoot event.

Being located on the Ohio River just across the water from Kentucky, Cincinnati in particular, and Ohio in general were heavily engaged in the Underground Railroad and former slaves’ journeys to freedom. A small town just north of Cincinnati called Springboro was founded by a Quaker named Jonathon Wright in  1815. The Quakers abhorred slavery and Springboro became actively involved in the Underground Railroad. Quaker and non-Quaker residents of Springboro risked legal consequences from their illegal activity of aiding slaves on their way to freedom. Many of the homes and businesses of these courageous individuals are still standing on or near Main Street in the small downtown strip of Springboro, Ohio.

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Unfortunately, even though I had a brochure that described the various buildings, I am not able to match the exact buildings to the descriptions I have. We started the tour somewhere in the middle, later crossed the street, and ducked into the Wooly Bully Yarn Company at one point. Which, by the way, had an awesome selection of yarns. On these Scoot and Shoot events my companions are more interested in taking photographs than in writing journalistic reports. And sometimes I am too.

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At 200 South Main Street the Jonah Thomas House has a documented connection to the Underground Railroad.

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Jonah was a Quaker and a conductor on the Springboro leg of the Underground Railroad.

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I think this is the Joseph Stanton House at 250 South Main Street. According to the Springboro Chamber of Commerce brochure, “This building was a stop on the Underground Railroad which may have been known as the ‘Quilt House.’ Quilts hung in back of the house told runaway slaves it was safe to enter. The basement hiding space extended westward under what is now the side walk.”

I’m patting myself on the back that I was able to bring you two buildings that were involved in the Underground Railroad, but instead of trying to read illegible house numbers, or match my photos to small black and white thumbnails on the brochure, I’m just going to throw in a slide show of some of the buildings and details I saw along Main Street in Springboro. Perhaps you’ll take the walking tour someday if you find yourself in the area.

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I don’t know about you, but I have always been enthralled by the idea of an Underground Railroad. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands on the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati and teaches about not only the path to freedom through this area, but also about current locations where freedom is still out of reach. It’s worth a visit if you are in town. Maybe I’ll visit there with my camera, and a notebook, sometime soon and share my identified pictures with you.

Do you live where an interesting part of history took place?

Anna moves to Chicago – Apartment hunting


After a stress-fraught couple of months while our daughter Anna was applying and interviewing for a new job, Anna accepted an offer from Humana in Chicago where she will begin working the third week in March. In a few short weeks, Anna will make the move from her comfortable and relatively spacious suburban apartment in Columbus, Ohio to an urban life-style in Chicago where rents are high and spaces are small.

Much has to be accomplished in a short period of time. Anna’s first priority was to find an apartment in a safe area.

Like most cities, Chicago is made up of distinctive neighborhoods with their own personalities all nestled together from the center of downtown Chicago out to the distant suburbs. Some neighborhoods are more convenient than others for commuters. Some are safer. Some are more fun.

Even though Anna was embracing an urban, mass-transit life-style, she wanted to be able to keep her car with her in Chicago. Parking can be challenging in the neighborhoods, so one of Anna’s higher priorities when looking for an apartment was to find one with an assigned parking space, if not a garage.

Another high priority was to have her own laundry facility in her apartment preferably, but at a minimum, in the apartment building.

A reasonably close distance and safe walk to mass transit, as well as a walkable distance to shops and restaurants,  were also important considerations.

Finally, the size of the apartment, and in particular, the storage space were important.

Anna was fortunate in that one of her college classmates works at Humana in Chicago and was able to give her guidance regarding neighborhoods she might want to consider. He also referred Anna to a Chicago apartment broker, Chardonnee, who proved to be invaluable.

Anna contacted Chardonnee and provided her with her apartment priorities and budgeted amount for rent. Chardonnee searched the MLS listings for apartments in neighborhoods Anna was interested in that met most or all of her criteria. Anna studied the lists Chardonnee sent her of good matches. With the help of her computer and Google maps, Anna spent hours mulling over the listings, plotting the apartment locations, identifying the locations of the closest metro stations for each one, evaluating the pros and cons of each apartment, and generating a list of seven apartments to visit.

I drove with Anna to Chicago last Wednesday to look at apartments with the hope that she could sign a lease before we returned home. We arrived in downtown Chicago and checked into our hotel then went out driving through the neighborhoods and past the apartments we would be seeing on Thursday with Chardonnee. This wasn’t a particularly productive use of our time, but I think it helped us understand where the neighborhoods were located relative to each other and how far out of the downtown area they were. The other benefit, I thought, was that we were able to see that Chicago, even though a large city, is one that is drivable. We were able to get everywhere we wanted to go without much difficulty.

Anna focused on the north neighborhoods of Chicago, where she could catch the red line metro into work in town. She was interested in the popular Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the downtown area, but was not able to find an apartment that was affordable for a single person with her salary, without a roommate to share expenses. Parking was also either not offered, or an expensive add-on.

Lakeview, just north of Lincoln Park, is another nice area for young professionals, but we did not find anything affordable that met most of Anna’s criteria there either.

A little further out, Uptown, and Logan Square were two neighborhoods Anna looked at. We visited four apartments on Thursday (one of her top choices now had a lease application, we couldn’t open the lock-box on one to get in to see it (it didn’t have parking), and one of them had mini-kitchen appliances so we took it off the list), and Anna settled on one in Andersonville. Although it is located within a couple of blocks from a street lined with restaurants, shops and importantly a grocery, the disadvantage of her apartment is its nearly one-mile-distance from the metro. Otherwise it is a lovely condominium on the third-floor of a relatively small building. She will have an assigned parking space behind the building, and a stacked washer and dryer unit in the apartment. The room sizes are smaller than those in her current apartment, but she has a small den in addition to the single bedroom and living room spaces. She will have to continue making choices as to what she plans to bring with her to Chicago and either discard, donate, or store (most likely in our basement) those things she won’t have room for and can do without.

As for me, I am relieved that she was able to find an apartment where I believe she will feel safe and comfortable. Having never lived in a big city, I have some anxiety about Anna traveling about the city, especially at night, where she may have to walk a long distance by herself. Hopefully I will grow more comfortable with that idea with time.

Next up — on to the move.


Do you have any experience with or tips for living in Chicago?



Arthur goes to Florida – Traveling with pets

This post is not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.

We decided to escape the frigid, snow-covered landscape of the Midwest and go to Florida for the first week in February to visit my sister Carol. (You might have seen the picture I posted.) We also decided that Arthur was ready for a big-time road trip. We travel to and from Columbus, Ohio with him, a two-hour drive, on a fairly regular basis. And last year Mark and I took him on a three hour trip to a cabin in Hocking Hills to try him out on the road. The Florida trip was a lot longer at almost exactly 1000 miles. We planned to do it in one long, eleven-hour day, and a second shorter five-hour or so day.

2014 - 02-03-Arthur in car-3

Arthur, all safely harnessed into his car seat on the way to Florida.

In honor of the event, I purchased a special car seat for Arthur complete with a suitcase for his supplies. The car seat sits on top of the suitcase in the car and raises Arthur’s head up high enough to see out the window. I read that this helps prevent pet car-sickness. More on that later.

I’m happy to say that Arthur made it down to Florida without any major catastrophes. Although he did spend almost the entire trip looking out the window. He did not sleep at all, which is his normal mode of operation at home.

2014 - 02-03-Arthur in car-2

That’s one mangy looking dog. Probably should have made a quick stop at the groomers before departure. . .

We stayed overnight at a pet-friendly LaQuinta. Not deluxe accomodations, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but which were adequate, especially once the owners of the dog across the hall returned and he quit his incessant barking. All-in-all it was fine. Mark went next door to a restaurant and brought us back dinner that we ate in the room.

We arrived in Siesta Key, Florida in the middle of the afternoon the next day and checked into our apartment at the pet-friendly Gumbo Limbo. The room we had was small, but adequate as long as Mark and I weren’t both trying to work in the kitchen at the same time. The bad thing about Siesta Key, which is probably a good thing for many people, is that pets aren’t allowed on the beach. We came to realize in short order, that Arthur was fine with that.

2014 - 02-07-03-Arthur at sunrise

We sneaked him onto the beach in this front-pack pet carrier that looks a mite too small for him even though it states it can accommodate up to a 20-lb animal and Arthur only weighs about 11 pounds. We were there early to see the sun rise. But it was an extremely chilly morning and the closer we got to the water, the colder it got, and the more Arthur was shaking. I think he was both cold and afraid of the ocean. Considering he is also afraid of many other things, like our refrigerator for example, this did not come as a big surprise.

Mark took him back to our room which was only a block away and returned to enjoy the sunrise.

2014 - 02-07-Sunrise

We did take Arthur to Myakka River State Park, where pets are welcome. And he enjoyed the walking and hiking there, but we had to keep a close watch on him as small dogs are considered bait for the many alligators that roam along the waters’ edges. I’ll show you the alligators next time.

Arthur takes in the sights upon our arrival at Myakka Park.

Arthur takes in the sights upon our arrival at Myakka Park.

But mostly Arthur just hung around the pool with us and visited at my sister’s house, which was the primary reason for the trip anyway.

Here’s where the queasy part comes in. When our week of fun in the sun was up, we packed ours and Arthur’s bags, and headed north. Arthur was doing his usual looking-out-the-window routine and completely disregarding any efforts I made to command him to lie down. He was looking tired and miserable. So I decided to hold him on my lap for a bit so he could sleep.

Thank goodness it was raining at our first stop.

We all got out, and Arthur got wet, so I got one of the beach towels, my favorite one to be exact, and placed it across my lap for Arthur to lie on. Shortly after we started moving again, Arthur started expelling all his bodily fluids.

First he threw up. But as we had withheld food that morning, all that came out was a clear foamy liquid. The towel caught it, and no harm was done. I folded the towel over and gave Arthur one of the pills for nausea I had asked the vet for before we left.

It wasn’t until I felt warmth on my forearm and looked down to see a large brown spot forming on my sweater that I realized we were in big shit, literally. Little Arthur was having a bout of diarrhea of major proportions, and it was happening in technicolor right in my lap. Thankfully the beach towel was catching most of it. And thankfully Mark didn’t lose his stomach from the stench that was now permeating the car. And thankfully we were only a few miles from an exit where Mark threw the beach towel in the trash and where I was able to change my clothes in a BP bathroom and clean Arthur’s long white hair on his tail, bottom, and lower legs using paper towels and a bottle of water.

We put our last beach towel over Arthur’s car seat, put him back in his harness there, and hoped for the best.

2014 - 02-09-Arthur in carbed-1

I think Arthur was probably completely humiliated. I shampooed Arthur when we arrived at the Knoxville LaQuinta for the night. The next day we made it home without further ado.

Suffice it to say, if Mark has his way, it will be a looooong time before Arthur takes an extended road trip again.

But if that ever does happen, here is the list of items I will be sure to bring.

1. Plenty of plastic bags (which we had)
2. Plenty of paper towels (which we really didn’t have)
3. A couple of gallons of water in case of a necessary roadside shower (nope)
4. Plenty of old towels (which we did not have)
5. A few changes of clothes for me within easy reach (I only had two pairs of long pants with me. Another unfortunate event and I would have looked like a beach bum in the snow.)
6. Medicine to help Arthur sleep. (When I called the vet, she asked me if I wanted medicine for nausea or to make him sleep. I took the nausea meds. That’s a mistake I won’t be making twice.)

So tell me. Have you taken your pets on a road trip? Any tips? (Not that we need them. . .)


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