MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: We Need A Little Christmas

I’m seeing many friends debating whether to put up their tree and decorations before Thanksgiving while others almost apologetic for decking the halls before the turkeys are thawed.

Just do it.

Who cares what others think?

It doesn’t matter what others think.

This is your choice.

Does it matter if you’ve never put the tree up before Thanksgiving?

Just do it.

Make it a great day!

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O, FOR HISTORY: The Mary Lincoln Coterie

In 1987, I decided my college music-composition final project would be a very short oratorio, a concert piece that includes orchestra/instrumentation, soloists, and a chorus. My topic was to be Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign, concluding with his February 1861 departure from Springfield to Washington, DC.

One of the short movements was a duet for Lincoln and his wife which would include the chorus in a Greek chorus format. The movement was a sarcastic love song aimed at Mrs. Lincoln and titled from the inscription inside her Etruscan gold wedding band, “Love is eternal.”

I began researching the Lincolns, believing the common myths on Mrs. Lincoln: she was a shrew, crazy, and a horrible wife. I thought to myself, “poor Abraham Lincoln being married to Mary Todd.” After several months of researching their marriage, I began thinking, “poor Mary Todd being married to Abraham Lincoln.”

The project quickly developed into the possibility of a musical thus beginning a thirty-three year project of continued research and multiple rewrites extended by teaching, directing shows, working on other projects, marching band and show choir, and mostly, raising five adopted sons.

However, my fascination with Mrs. Lincoln’s story never diminished through all my busyness. I continued visiting Lexington, Kentucky and Springfield, Illinois, often taking my sons on these personal trips so that I could keep the passionate flame of her story burning in my brain and even deeper in my heart.

In 2008, a college friend introduced me to a Mary Lincoln presenter, historian, and author, Donna McCreary. We corresponded by email but I honestly cannot remember what they entailed.

I later remembered Ms. McCreary telling me about her Mary Lincoln group, “Mary Lincoln’s Coterie.” (Coterie: a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people) I joined The Coterie Facebook group and began a wonderful new adventure.

Mary Todd left her plush, but tension-ridden Lexington girlhood home to live with her older married sister, Elizabeth Todd Edwards, one of Springfield’s elite society matrons whose home was a magnetic haunt for the newly crowned state capital’s opulent and political upstarts. Miss Todd soon became one of Springfield society’s crown jewels for her intelligence, engaging humor, political savvy, good taste, and charm. Elizabeth’s husband, Ninian Wirt Edwards, claimed Mary “could make a bishop forget his prayers.”

The Edwards’ Clique grew as young prominent state and national politicians gathered in the Edwards’ fashionable parlors. At some point, the ensemble was christened, “The Coterie.” According to Ishbel Ross, author of THE PRESIDENT’S WIFE: Mary Todd Lincoln, The Coterie was “dedicated to the cultivation of the arts, to political happenings in their fast-growing state, to the causes that excited the scholars of the day. They were conventional but avant-garde, and they went in for a round of parties, dances, sleigh rides, political rallies, picnics and other excursions. Lincoln was more at home swapping jokes and stories with his cronies around the stove in Speed’s quarters, but John Stuart saw to it that he joined the Coterie gatherings and visited Mary.”

Following her husband’s assassination, Mrs. Lincoln wrote to her sympathetic friend, Mary Jane Welles (6 December 1865), “In our little coterie in Springfield in the days of my girlhood, we had a society of gentlemen, who have since, been distinguished, in a greater or less degree, in the political world. My great and glorious husband comes first, ‘a world above them all.’ Douglas, Trumbull, Baker, Hardin, Shields, such choice spirits, were the habitués, of our drawing room. Gen Shields, a kind-hearted, impulsive Irishman, was always creating a sensation & mirth, by his drolleries…”

The online Coterie became one of my social media nesting places. It became, and still is a comfortable online attic of contentment, scholarly and informal discussions, mirth, and a number of deep friendships.

For several years I tried to work around my sons’ schedules so that I might attend The Coterie’s annual July pilgrimage to Springfield to memorialize the life and death of Mrs. Lincoln, culminating with a ceremony at the Lincoln family tomb at Oakridge Cemetery.

Finally, the summer of 2015, I was in between sons living at home and I harnessed the opportunity to visit Springfield for the event. I became even more immersed in the life of this social media group and acquired a number of new friendships.

The following year I found myself unexpectedly “with child,” again, and the arrival of my newest adopted son bonded me in Kettering for the following three years.

With the 2020 pandemic drying up all activities, The Coterie leaders, Donna McCreary, Donna Daniels, and Valerie Gugala, created a number of online Zoom experiences in place of the Springfield gathering.

They were wonderful!

It soon became evident that Mary Lincoln’s Coterie of 2020 was taking on a new direction and life. The best part was getting to meet other Coterie members from around the country, even as far as Hawaii.

Our monthly gatherings have also become a Thursday online lunch crew.

This summer, several of our gatherings concluded with Donna (McCreary), Valerie, one or two other members, and myself chatting until 3:00 AM EST. After each of these delightful maratons I was too exhilarated the following day to even think of being sleep-deprived.

It’s funny how one moment in the expanse of time can lead to something more. In this case, it was an email to Donna McCreary.

From there, The Mary Lincoln Coterie has become one of my most beloved life experiences, sustaining and heightening my fascination for Mary Lincoln.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Staying healthy all over

Last week I posted this meme with some very thoughtful points in maintaining our mental and emotional well-being as the pandemic begins its second wave.

I seldom follow recipes; I adjust them.

I often hear “redirecting your route” from my British GPS voice as I decide to take an alternate route for kicks or if I see something of interest.

I like structure in my day/life, but I’m also very spontaneous.

I liked the meme I posted but I needed to make it speak to me and work for me.

I shall most likely tweak this chart but for the past two days I’ve followed it. So far, it’s comfortable and encouraging.

Following a chart such as this works for structuring my day. Shortly, I will not be checking the list several times a day and eventually, every day or every several days. It will become a part of me.

If you are making your chart be sure you include “make it a great day.”

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MIAGD: Thou shalt not go without coffee

MIAGD: Make it a great day

The three days off seemed to drag, allowing me to accomplish so much, yet they sped so quickly that I wanted more time.

I didn’t get to write as much as I had hoped but a lot of research was completed while wrapping up some major household items. Other than that, my three days offered nothing exciting.

Sunday moved right along with a disjointed teaching schedule due to a number of students filming an a cappella video. I opted to forgo my usual 1:00 PM cup of coffee since it was a shorter teaching block.

I laid down at around 5:30 PM, thinking it would be for 45 minutes. 11:30 PM, I bolted up thinking it was Monday, 11:30 AM. It was still Sunday night.

Fortunately, I was back to sleep within 45 minutes and slept through the night. Whew! I should not skip my 1:00 PM cup of coffee.

Now, it’s on to Monday. My first class begins at 9:30 AM and I’ve had my morning coffee.

Make it a great day whether you’ve had your coffee or not.

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THE FAMILY ALBUM: Uncle Garry in Vietnam

102 years ago, November 11th, 1918, at 11:11 AM, The United States entered into an armistice ending its involvement in WWI, The Great War that would end all wars.

In 1954, the traditional Armistice Day, with a tradition of standing to face east at 11:11 AM, officially became Veteran’s Day to celebrate the veterans of all wars.

Long before I was aware of this holiday, I was enamored with a particular army soldier fighting on the other side of the world in a fascinating place called Vietnam. As a three year old, I pronounced it, “Bietnam.”

Uncle Garry Dean Jolliff was my father’s younger brother, born in 1944, Elwood, Indiana. He grew up playing baseball, riding his bike, and doing all the typical things a boy of the 1950s would do.

Uncle Garry was probably the more freer spirit of the two brothers, always ready for a buffet of exuberant laughter and hilarious stories, and a naturally spontaneous nature; my father, while as equally big-hearted and warm, was a bit reserved and witty with brilliant sarcasm.

Vietnam. I would pull the huge atlas from the World Book Encyclopedia bookcase to find the bookmarked section where Vietnam was located. I’d scan all the cities and nearby countries. Vietnam. That’s where Uncle Garry was.

Our family had a reel-to-reel portable tape recorder and the family would gather to offer messages to Uncle Garry. Sometimes, it took several days to finish up a reel. We’d mail it to Vietnam and several weeks later, a package would arrive with Uncle Garry’s responses and stories. To me, it was thrilling to think my voice was being heard on the other side of the world in Vietnam.

We also wrote letters on air mail paper. As I grew older, I read through his letters, learning portions of his stories that would have been horrifying. Some pages had caked mud from when he was sitting in a fox with water up to his waist. Another letter had peculiar dark stains; a soldier buddy next to him had been killed. Uncle Garry continued writing through the blood, stating there was little left of the man next to him.

There were several near misses. One of those near misses was nearly fatal. Indiana US Senator, Birch Bayh, was successful in getting our seriously wounded soldier off the battle field and onto a chopper. Sensing his fellow soldier would not survive, a Black soldier with a less severe wound, took off his Saint Christopher medal and fastened it around Uncle Garry’s neck.

Uncle Garry returned home; the soldier did not. Uncle Garry wore the medal for many years.

Upon his return, I was delighted with entertaining stories, most, I’m now certain, were fabricated for my young ears. The real stories of Vietnam were gruesome, unimaginable, beyond nightmare quality.

Shrapnel was embedded in Uncle Garry’s back, slowly moving into the spine. The realization of remaining crippled the remainder of his life, the next thirty years, were met with his typical courage and jovial nature. Aunt Jenny, always at his side, was probably the only soul who knew his hidden fears and anguish.

Aunt Jenny & Uncle Garry

Vietnam. Uncle Garry introduced me to a far off world where in my young imagination, was exotic and thrilling. I was to later learn the horrors and truth, but I’ll always be grateful for Uncle Garry broadening my world and connecting me to a piece of our nation’s history to which he played a lead role.

Happy Veteran’s Day, Uncle Garry… know you are loved.

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MY DAY: Sunday has revved up this week

Due to several Alter HS students being on a retreat I am done teaching by two hours and I’m glad to catch a bit of deck time before the night cools down too much.

I may need a melatonin for some sleep aide after some high energy lessons as I am still keyed-up. Great moments. Great students.

My head has had a lingering throbbing with sinus pressure. Rain is to be with us in The Miami Valley for Tuesday and Wednesday, so my sinuses are playing Paul Revere.

It’s moving in on 9:00 PM and I think I am going to grab some documentaries and reading before the 11:00 PM pooch potty party and quieting down.

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MIAGD: Papaw/Grandpa & Honkinn’

MIAGD: Make it a great day

For at least thirty-seven years, I was called the nickname bestowed upon me by my maternal grandfather, “Honkin.”

Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Donna were 42 and 40 when I was born in 1964, and they still had two young sons, ages 12 and 10, at home. My grandparents lived at the block’s opposite end on the southwest corner of South A and 8th streets.

Grandma Donna loved taking me to watch the The Elwood Marching Panther Band rehearse in the parking lot of TWay plaza or in front of the Wendell L. Willkie High School. At three, I was already conducting and practicing my salutes like drum-majors Phil Updike, Phil Sherman, Keith Goodknight, and Phil Simmons.

Wendell L. Willkie HS Panther Band drum majors.

One evening, after dinner at my grandparents, we were all gathered on the front porch, a wonderful pastime before decks began allowing more privacy. My grandparents took their regular seats on the swing to greet every passing neighbor friend. I was usually snuggled in between them.

Papaw asked if I’d seen the marching band practice that morning. I scooted off the swing and began marching around the porch playing my imaginary trumpet.

(And this is when both a nickname and my blonde nature kicked into full throttle!)

Papaw Leroy asked me, “Are you Honkin’?”

I stopped, curiously looked at my grandpa and replied, “No. I’m Darin.” I returned to my make-believe marching band.

My family roared with laughter and within a short period, I was being called, “Honkin’” or “Honk.” My grandpa liked to note, years later, “I think we all figured you out that day,” followed by his jovial eyebrow raise.

The family was not as consistent calling me Honkin’ as Grandpa Leroy was. Even the last time I saw Grandpa, a few weeks before he died, he greeted me, “well, there’s Honk!”

It’s been 16 years since I’ve heard my beloved nickname; when Grandpa died, the nickname went with him.

Today, Sunday, November 8, 2020, Papaw Leroy / Grandpa would have celebrated his 99th birthday.

Grandpa Leroy left us in June 2004 and at age 40, so did my cherished nickname.

What did not depart was the legacy of terrific humor and practical jokes that he’d bridged from previous generations. We are all the more richer for that portion of our DNA that manages to keep us afloat while riding life’s rollercoaster.

Happy birthday, Grandpa… I’ve not stopped missing you, but I’ve not stopped laughing and joking.

Leroy “Red” Barmes 1921-2004

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MIAGD: Gerald R. Ford remembered

I’m permitting myself to incorporate my utmost personal feelings.

This video echos my feelings about some of the possibilities for so many citizens of our nation, especially our young girls.

I first heard these words uttered by newly sworn in president, Gerald R Ford, following the resignation of President Richard Nixon and referencing the Watergate scandal. I was nine years old and on vacation with my family in Myrtle Beach.

I can still remember hearing those words, “our long national nightmare is over.”

The phrase has hovered in my mind since August 1974. Today, it is ringing deeply within me.

Make it a great day.

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THE FAMILY ALBUM: November 4th

One cold February night in 1973, my Grandma Donna and I assisted Mother in packing her suitcase as she prepared for that anticipated moment when she needed to head to the hospital to deliver her second child.

At age 8, I was disappointed that my new sister was not born on Abraham Lincoln’s February 12th birthday. Instead, Dena was born on Valentine’s Day.

October 31, 1974, was the due date for my next sibling. Our next door neighbor, Betsy Herndon, was due with their first child on November 4th. Ironically, Carter Anderson Herndon was born October 31st and my baby brother, Destin, was born November 4th.

I was thrilled.

Mother got it right this time as Destin was born on the November 4, 1842 wedding anniversary of Abraham and Mary Lincoln.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio in 1990, I became acquainted with Lincoln artist and historian, Lloyd Ostendorf.

Mr. Ostendorf was famous for a plethora of artwork featuring Abraham Lincoln. I was especially taken with his drawings of the wedding scene of Lincoln to Mary Todd.

Mr. Ostendorf had a number of other pairings of Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln that I’ve always loved.

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MIAGD: “Remember the ladies”

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage, and was ratified on August 18, 1920, ending almost a century of protest. Following the convention, the demand for the vote became a centerpiece of the women’s rights movement.

In a letter dated March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams, urging him and the other members of the Continental Congress not to forget about the nation’s women when fighting for America’s independence from Great Britain.

The future First Lady wrote in part, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

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MY DAY: Build a longer table

One day, while working my part-time job at the Elwood Public Library, Margie Steiner, an adult librarian, called me over from shelving books and introduced me to a gentleman by saying, “Well, this is Red and Donna Barmes’ grandson, Darin.”

The man proceeded to tell me how, each Christmas morning, there was always a box of food for Christmas dinner, along with a large box of presents for the entire family, left on their front porch. Due to the dad’s illness, they had struggled financially but always had a wonderful Christmas day.

When he was a teenager he decided to stay up all night to watch for the mystery Santa. Finally, a car came down the street around 3:00 AM, parked halfway down the block. A tall, bulky figure and a tinier figure got out of the automobile, took two boxes from the trunk, and set them on the front porch.

Several years later, having kept watch for Santa and Mrs. Santa, he approached my grandfather on duty as a police officer and said he was aware what my grandparents had been doing for his family. He said “your granddad looked at me and said, ‘Son, you didn’t see anything and even what you think you saw is never to be discussed.'”

With that, my grandpa winked and asked about his family.

The story did not surprise me in the least because my grandparents had always been generous with family and friends, and especially with Mother and us three children after we were abandoned by our father.

One December night, a year or so after learning about my grandparents Christmas morning drop-offs, something woke me. I went downstairs and Mother was wrapping presents at the dining room table. I noticed that none of the gifts were age appropriate for my younger siblings and asked about the gifts.

“We’ll talk about it later.” (Hmmm… that was not a typical response from Mother.)

“Are these for needy families?”

Mother ignored my question.

“You know, Grandma and Grandpa used to take…” Mother stopped, looked at me, and asked, “How do you know this?” I told her of the guy I met at the library.

All Mother said was, “That’s interesting. You need to go back to bed.” (WTH? and another Hmmmm? I don’t know that Mother ever had to tell me to go to bed, even as a little peep – I was THAT kid.)

A little later, I heard the back door open and heard the red and black Pinto Pony start up. I went to my side window and saw Mother turn off of Ninth Street onto Main Street, disappearing into the winter’s night.

My younger sister and brother, Dena and Destin, were also instilled with this generational service and have been a blessing to so many others for their quiet or corporate good deeds when a team effort is required.

My brother was a giant in his adopted town of Fowler, Indiana where he was an educator, administrator, member of multiple boards, and the Tom Sawyer that corralled others to “grab a paint brush” and help out others.

Even through the darkest days prior to his death, Destin still reached out with his genuine servant’s hands to assist others. We’ll probably never know the depth of his generosity to his family, friends, and the communities of Elwood and Fowler, Indiana.

If you need a cook/baker for the masses, my sister, Dena, is the Julia Child and Martha Stewart of the kitchen with the ability to feed an entire crew on a naval aircraft carrier with seconds available for everyone.

As we were well into our adult years and raising our own children, our dinners at 927 South A Street were not just limited to our biological or adoptive family members. Anyone who sat down to join us for any meal was considered family. It was nothing to have 25+ (up to 40+) folks for Christmas Eve breakfast, Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas morning breakfast, Thanksgiving, and every celebratory event.

The best part, always, was having on-duty police officers joining us for these meals. My grandfather began his career at the Elwood Police Department in 1952 and Mother in 1981-2012. Our hometown officers were bonus-uncles, their families our bonus aunts and cousins.

My sister and her husband own The Sparky’s Dog House in Mount Summit, Indiana. I don’t know how many times throughout the early stages of the pandemic, folks could drive by for pints of free soup, every Friday, until the soup ran out. I know there have been many other food offerings to anyone hungry, but I find this admirable and a terrific way to support the people throughout the community and entire area, and not just Sparky’s regular customers.

We grew up, not feeling poor, but feeling blessed and confident we were capable of doing anything. I am proud to see how our ancestors’ legacy is still a continuing part of our family, upholding a commitment to being of service to others. I am especially proud of my siblings’ contributions to their worlds.

It really is a beautiful thing.

The summer of 2019, as I spent the last few weeks with Mother prior to her death, I asked if she remembered that winter night I came downstairs to find her wrapping packages.

“No, I don’t because it never happened.”

Yeh, right! One of Mother’s most beloved police department events was Shop With A Cop. It was near and dear to her heart.

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MIAGD: 2020 Election

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I was so excited to vote in my first mid-term election in 1982 and my first general election in 1984.

Thirty-six years later I was just as thrilled as I was each time I utilized my right as a United States’ citizen.

I voted absentee and since I didn’t feel comfortable being out in public, a student dropped off my ballot at the Montgomery County board of elections. I appreciate Ian doing this for me.

Ballot received and included!

I’ve always felt the General Election and the presidential inauguration should be National holidays. They’re just as important as July 4th and they tend to go hand in hand.

Tomorrow, I’ll be teaching my two morning classes and then afternoon and evening lessons, anxiously awaiting the incoming results.

Make it a great day and go vote!

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MIAGD: For All The Saints

MIAGD: Make it a great day

As a child, I remember the minister reading the names of those who had passed away within that year. Then, we’d sing the majestic hymn, “For All The Saints

It’s All-Saints Day, today, also known as Todos Los Santos.

This All-Saints Day, I remember my mother on her second celebration, her parents, my uncles Garry and Ron, all my great-grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, cousins, Mrs. Paquin, family members of families and friends.

For All The Saints Who From Their Labors Rest. Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

While we make this a great day, let us remember those Saints who had an impact on our lives.

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O, FOR HISTORY: Monticello

The Garden at Monticello

Some dear friends, Marie and Jeff Mee, just visited Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop masterpiece, Monticello, and I was taken back through a myriad of my own visits since 1974.

I think my visit-count is 22.

It’s one of my historical happy places. I would wager to say I prefer Monticello over any other historical sites, including the Lincoln historical sites. I love feeling Jefferson’s passion for architecture, music, art, gardening, and thirst for knowledge.

I hope to visit Monticello one more time, merging it with memories of previous visits.

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MIAGD: Monday, Monday

MIAGD: Make it a great day

There are a number of songs about Mondays. “Rainy Days and Mondays.” “Manic Monday.” “I Hate Mondays.” And of course, “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas & The Papas.

I’ve enjoyed four productive and relaxing days off from teaching and am planning on adding the fifth enjoyable and productive day with this Monday. I also have Monday and Tuesday mornings free of online class teaching.

The first two days of the break were beautiful with warmer weather but the past few days have been chilly and damp with intermittent showers. Today is old and wet.

Monday gets a bad rap.

People begin complaining Sunday afternoons about returning to work. I’m sure most comments are a joking habit. However, there are some that seem to truly resent Mondays.

Mondays, for me, have always been a return to something I love, teaching. My Mondays, now, are my Sundays and I’m always eager to jump back into making music and spending time with students.

Monday. The “M word.”

Other “M words” are: magnificent, marvelous, majestic, mindful, magic, miracle, master, magnitude, meaningful, mystic, merry, motivation, moving, meditation, magnetic, mesmerizing… I know there are more “M words” but these were the ones that came to mind.

Magnificent Monday. Magical Monday. Motivating Monday. Mystic Monday.

One word can alter the meaning of something to make it more positive, possible, or powerful.

Make it a magnificent, merry, magical, motivating, masterful, and meaningful MonDay!

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MY DAY: The gathering storm

I know my deck time is limited as the storm moves into The Miami Valley but I’ll hang on until the very last minute.

About an hour ago I received an alert for a severe thunderstorm warning and it’s beginning to look fierce.

Mama Kay delivered my China Cottage order of six containers of creamy chicken soup and a vegetable entree in white sauce. I’ve downed one container and will empty the remaining five over the next several days.

I’m still ramped up from last night’s book discussion on Mrs. Lincoln and my mind is kaleidoscopic with ideas.

The wind has picked up a bit more; the leaves are grabbing tighter to branches while others turn into red, yellow, and orange gliders surfing overhead.

A speck of sunlight pushed through the heavy grey, spotlighting the deck but for a few seconds.

The wind whips up the smell of autumn…

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MIAGD: Racing clouds

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I’m sitting on the deck in unbelievable 63-degree weather, a cool breeze wizzing through the tubular chimes surrounding the deck, and watching the weighted darker clouds racing beneath the brighter clouds above them.

Last night, I led a group discussion on one of the earliest, most thorough biographies, “Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her Personality and Her Influence on Lincoln” by W. A. Evans. It was a great group and as with past Zoom gatherings, four of us remained until nearly 3:30 AM.

I woke at 8:30 AM to Imagine Dragons’ “I’m On Top Of The World,” fed the dogs, grabbed my coffee, and here I sit, absorbing the world around and beyond my deck. Rain is in the air.

I don’t return to teaching until Tuesday due to The Studio’s 5th week: I teach four (4) lessons per month. If there are five days (ie. 5 Sundays and Mondays), one of the five days is a non-teaching day. It’s a nice quick break and makes life easier on my studio manager so that monthly invoices never change.

Writing. More house purging. Dog time. Reading. Documentaries.

And, I’m already making it a great day while watching the clouds racing by.

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MIAGD: More Than Enough

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MY DAY: The Little Rocker

For my third birthday, 1967, I received this little blue rocking chair and foot stool from my great-great uncle and aunt, Alpha and Clara Jones.

Uncle Alphie was a younger brother of my maternal great-grandmother, Belle Jones Clary. He married Clara Swanson whose parents migrated from Sweden. I’m thinking Aunt Clara was born aboard the ship crossing The Atlantic.

When I was about ten years old, I asked Aunt Clara what she did for a living. With that familiar twinkle in her eye and preceding chuckle she said, “Well, this week I’m a stripper.”

Aunt Clara owned a furniture factory that built new products and refurbished old pieces. Her shop was so neat and kept her busy enough that she built a shop within one of the family barns to keep up with the demand.

A Facebook discussion resurfaced a discussions of this 53 year old treasure and I pulled it off the top of one of the two Rike’s’ metal wardrobes. Rike’s was a popular downtown Dayton department store.

I’m so glad I’ve saved a few items from my earlier childhood and can recall their stories.

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MIAGD: Colorizing life

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I go back-and-forth between my love for black-and-white photography and colored photography.

Black-and-white photography can be even more thorough at telling the story. However, I also find it very honest, chic, and dramatic.

When I look at photographs of my ancestors from the Nineteenth Century, I love imagining the colors they were wearing.

One particular photograph of my great great grandmother, Anna Greenlee Jones, has especially fascinated me. I used a colorization app to see what she might possibly have looked like, stepping out the black-and-white.

Like the daguerreotypes of the 19th century, long before color photography, there are some days where we just wish there was a bit more color in our lives.

When students, family, or friends share with me their sense of stagnation or being caught in a rut, I always remind them of what the Good Witch Glinda tells Dorothy at the end of the movie, the Wizard of Oz, about returning to Kansas…

Most of us may not have those sequined ruby slippers to click together three times, but like Dorothy, we do have our individual power to make choices and to change. A majority of the time, we allow ourselves to slide off the responsibility ride rather than clicking those damn slipper heels together.

Click away!

We have choices.

We have the ability.

We have the power.

Stand up. Pull your shoulders back. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And click your heels together. Write your own script!

We need both black-and-white, and Technicolor; however, most importantly, we always need to make it a great day!

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MY DAY: “If”

If (1895)

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Happy birthday, Joshua… Know you are loved…

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MIAGD: Look up

MIAGD: Make it a great day

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” – Abraham Lincoln

When I was a few months short of turning five, my beloved great-grandmother died and I was confident the kind-hearted, saintly soul had immediately gone to heaven which to me, was the chain of big fluffy clouds hovering above.

I would sit outside looking up at the clouds, hoping I might see Grandma Belle appear and blow me a kiss or possibly call me to the kitchen table to drink a bottle of Tab with her.

My partner, Rick, was a geologist but on our hikes, he looked up at the sky far more than he did at the rocks and stones below. “If you’re always looking down you’ll miss everything overhead.”

I did share this philosophy but would jokingly counter, “Cliff!” (He always chuckled but I’m fairly certain there were many eye rolls)

We’ve become a society of Down-Lookers.

I must admit that I slip into phone-watching, now and then, and remember there’s a time and place for everything. If my phone is out while I’m on a walk, it’s on camera mode.

My biggest concern that when looking down I might miss someone smiling at me, the opportunity to share a mutual smile or, more importantly, offer my smile to a passerby who could really use a friendly smile.

Look up.

When I’m in a town or big city, I cannot take my eyes off the overhead architecture that often seems carved in the clouds.

On walks or hikes, the sky is an ever changing canvas of all that hangs above or a visual-bomb with birds, trees, or aircraft.

Look up, damnit.

You can even peripherally see most everything around you.

Look down when you must, but always look up and invest in all there is around you. Take it all in. Breathe it all in.

Make it a great day but don’t stop looking up!

I SAW TWO CLOUDS AT MORNING John Gardiner Calkins Brainard I Saw two clouds at morning, Tinged by the rising sun, And in the dawn they floated on, And mingled into one; I thought that morning cloud was blest, It moved so sweetly to the west. I saw two summer currents Flow smoothly to their meeting, And join their course, with silent force, In peace each other greeting; Calm was their course through banks of green, While dimpling eddies played between. Such be your gentle motion, Till life’s last pulse shall beat; Like summer’s beam, and summer’s stream, Float on, in joy, to meet A calmer sea, where storms shall cease, A purer sky, where all is peace.

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MIAGD: Friday

MIAGD: Make it a great day

It’s nearing 10:00 AM and I’ve had a leisurely three hours of talking to Josh for thirty minutes, prepping breakfast for myself and the pooches, eating our breakfasts, recording a ten minute video with the dogs for my niece as she awaits her 2:00 PM eye surgery, and making schedule of what I need to tackle.

The temperatures are beginning to settle into upper 50s and mid 60s; today shall reach 55.

I tried taking photos of the dogs for my niece, Kaytlinn; Erma is taking Chief’s “I don’t want to look at the camera” approach; Bailey is in a grumpy mood; Chief is snoring away in my study; Harrigan? Well, as Brian Pollock hinted, Harrigan is cooperating because her social media numbers are up because she’s posing for more photos. I think he’s correct.

Whatever you’ve planned for your day, I hope it includes making it great.

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MY DAY: Kaytlinn & Things

I am wound up at 1:00 AM, Friday morning, for two reasons: I had a productive day and accomplished those little necessary things that always need attention, and I’m keeping updated by my sister regarding my niece.


Dena texted that my niece, Kaytlinn, was playing with the family dog and was accidentally bitten near the eye. Several different medical facilities didn’t wish to address the wound since it’s very close to a tear duct.

Right now, they’re at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, awaiting more word and tests from the ophthalmologist to see if she will need surgery.

Kaytlinn has the neatest names: Kaytlinn Mae. Kay is my mother’s middle name; Linn is my sister’s middle name; and Mae is my grandmother’s middle name. I love the family heritage interwoven through her name.

Kayt loves my dogs, so I woke them to send her some photos. Chief snored and ignored.

I feel so accomplished from today’s to-do list all checked off. I still have a few items to address over the next few days but am hoping to wade into writing, Friday and Saturday.

I will keep my phone near my ear to learn any further word from Dena.

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MIAGD: “Obey cheerfully the rules”

MIAGD: Make it a great day

It was nice to have a morning off from teaching class and to enjoy a longer time on the deck for breakfasting and reading before the temperature plummeted to a damp chill.

I’d hoped to see my sister and her children who are on fall break, but it’s just not the right time, even with safety precautions in place.

This was an interesting newspaper article from 1918 as our nation battled that pandemic.

“Obey cheerfully the rules…”

Yes. Maintain a positive approach to what needs to be done to decrease this virus we now battle.

“Don’t worry.”

For those of us who have compromised health issues, we do have to practice some level of concern but we need to be practical and smart. Don’t be stupid.

As much as I would love to grab a bus to Woodland Cemetery to take fall photos, I just don’t want to take any unnecessary chances. I can walk to Lincoln Park or around the neighborhood to find color and beauty.

Obey cheerfully the rules and make it a great day.

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