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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve actually got an unexpected fifteen minute break in my schedule which is quite nice considering the deck is a collection of some favorite things: a strong breeze mastering five sets of wind chimes, sounds of nature and Shroyer Road traffic, and four dogs, thrilled that I’m away from my desk.
I saw this familiar quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero:
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
It’s certainly true for me. Every room inside The Haasienda has bookcases filled with the result of a life-long passion of collecting books.
My sons would joke to me upon leaving a store with an armful of books. “You’re probably not going to read them.”
Perhaps not. But they will always be there should I ever wish to read them.
One of the greatest pre-kindergarten moments came around 1968 when my parents purchased the complete set of The World Book Encyclopedias and solid wood book stand.
The top row was A-Z; the second row had sectioned ends for a double dictionary and something else for the opposite end with a centered collection of individual books of cooking, countries around the world, poetry, famous people, science, nursery rhymes and children’s stories, etc.
There was a long shelf on the bookcase’s bottom that held the gigantic atlas. It was one of my favorite books and I would pull at it and finally slide the weighty book from the shelf and travel through the pages for hours.
While the books are long gone, the bookcase is still in my possession, fifty some odd years later. It’s traveled from Elwood, Indiana to Ball State University in Muncie, from Muncie to Dayton, Ohio and on to Centerville and Kettering.
I love that book case.
As a young tyke, the treasure-filled structure was a crib to rest my energetic mind, my television, my escape from my father’s alcoholism, my very own Disney World of delight, my cruise ship and air plane so I could explore all the different states on the American continent or other countries that I eventually got to visit, and it was a great water tank to continuously fill my ever draining cup that wetted my thirst for learning more, and more.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY came out 31 years ago, several years into my teaching career, and Robin Williams’ John Keating had a terrific impact on my career and on my life.
Seize the day.
John Keating had great passion for teaching and demonstrated his passion in different ways. He was not cut from a mold. Keating made every day an adventure, taking his students on incredible, mind-opening journeys.
At some point, or around a particular age, we seem to stop embracing adventures and take shorter journeys. If that works, super. But what about each day’s opportunity to splash around in the life’s energizing, soothing pool?
“Make it a great day” is my version of John Keating’s remind to “seize the day.”
My Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Donna took me to Indianapolis for special outings, several times a year. Our visits always included interesting sites or entertainments, as well as neat places to eat.
One particular visit was to an art exhibit that was passing through.
There was one abstract painting that, at age eight, I promptly dismissed. My grandmother gently urged, “let’s look at it from this side.” We moved to one side. “Move over here to look at it and let’s see if there’s something new to see.”
We spent several minutes looking at the painting and I kept finding new things. As a teacher and as a stage director, I walk all sides of the stage and auditorium seating.
No entertainer made me laugh more than Robin Williams. He was not only the “funniest mind in the West” but clearly one of the most intelligent minds on so many levels. I still watch video clips of his interviews because they are so damned cheery.
While Mr. Williams was making certain the word was laughing and happy, there seemed to be no amount of laughter to treat his depression. He was secretly imprisoned with several physical restraints that would continue to diminish his abilities over time, continuing to shackle him to even greater depths of depression and anxiety.
Since March 2020, countless members of the performing arts world have been shackled by the imprisoning pandemic. Many friends and former students have altered career paths while others have found measured, safe ways to continue creating.
It’s been absolute hell. It appears that this hell is to continue a bit longer.
Man… how we could use Robin Williams’ invaluable humor and insightful gift at looking at things differently.
But, I always believe that when someone passes on, they leave a legacy, something from which to continue learning and to continue growing.
We must be a Robin Williams sharing thoughts, insisting on laughter, and always looking at things a different way.
I’m quite comfortable on the deck with a slight breeze moving about with heavy grey skies shrouding The Miami Valley.
Since The Boys are “on holiday” in The Cotswolds, our weekly morning chat did not commence with them and Dave’s parents in Boston. I missed our enriching discussion most often filled with bunches of laughs and thorough enjoyment in one another’s company.
On with the day. Teaching begins at 1:00 PM, ending at 10:30 PM.
I was raised in an optimistic home and Mother always insisted we stick to our optimism no matter how severe the blow. Mother demonstrated confidence often masking the weight she carried at times.
This has been a week of “some not so good news comes in threes,” challenging my optimism.
Two family friends moved beyond this life and a friend, as dear as a brother, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer.
Until earlier this week, I’d never known a day that Jack Barnes was not a part of my world, somehow. I don’t ever remember meeting him as he knew my family long before I was born.
Jack and Judy Barnes have three children: Kevin, who was a year ahead of me in school; Scott, a fellow high school drum-major, trumpeter, and thespian; Anne, another marching band member with my sister, a high school girlfriend of my brother, and who offered a beautiful, tender tribute to Mother at her funeral.
I rarely saw any of the Barnes trio without seeing Jack and Judy Barnes present, not only to cheer on their children, but everyone else’s kid, as well. After moving to Ohio, I often saw Jack and Judy upon returns to Elwood for events or when we were out to eat.
Over the past several years, I’ve remained in touch with Mr. & Mrs. Barnes through Anne who has been a true angel in every way to aide her parents’ declining health. The photos with her dad are priceless as she coaxed that familiar smile and chuckle.
Mr. Barnes was kind-hearted and an all-embracing gentleman that knew no stranger and always warmed the world around him, and beyond, simply be being Jack Barnes.
Thank you, Mr. Barnes, for being a part of my life.
May, 1984, I was on a 747 flying over the Atlantic Ocean with fellow members of The Ball State University Singers (show choir), en route to Greece, when I mentioned to my seat mate, Monty Kuskye, that I needed to purchase something special for my mother whose birthday was in April. He asked my mother’s age and I said, “thirty nine.”
The lady in front of us rose from her seat and said, “Thirty nine?? Ugh. I’m officially old enough to be the mom of a college student.”
A kindly looking gentleman peeked through the seats and said, “Don’t worry about my wife; she won’t ‘mother’ any of you on this trip. She’s just as young as all of you.”
And that was how I met Jan and Rod Richard.
Jan was a 1964 charter member of The Ball State University Singers and joined the ensemble on the overseas trips. She’s still the heart of the group with her generosity and devotion.
Rod and Jan’s hotel rooms were often near mine and I got to know Rod who I found charming and fascinating.
On the return flight from Greece, I had my fellow travelers write in my trip journal. Rod wrote the most touching and still, much treasured note:
Through the remainder of the 1980s I saw Rod numerous times at campus events, running into him unexpectedly throughout Muncie, or fondly remembering a lovely evening at Jan and Rod’s home where we dined with friends and enjoyed wonderful conversations.
Rod battled Parkinson’s Disease and passed away yesterday with Jan by his side.
Thank you, Rod, for being a part of my life.
This afternoon delivererd a shocking blow when I learned that a very dear friend has Stage 4 throat cancer.
Upon learning the news, I sat in numbing stillness not knowing what to do nor how to react. This news affects so many folks who’ve become my bonus family.
After a few text messages with his wife, I was calmed by her/their own optimism, that I must admit had crumbled.
This has been a dramatic week both personally and on a national scope. However, while friends are grieving the loss of the loved ones, they’re also celebrating two wonderful lives lived and beloved by so many.
And, my dear Ohio family has reminded me that we move onward, making the most of every moment.
I shout the phrase, daily, but I often need to be reminded to “make it a great day.”
Even with a healthy breeze, it honestly does not feel like 55-degrees at 8:30 AM as the sun is sharing its brilliance.
This is my longest day and the one with the least amount of breaks. It’s my grab-‘n-go day with food and bathroom breaks.
My briefly vacationed cardinals are back and I’m relieved to know they’ve not abandoned The Haasienda.
When I was ready for bed last night, Chief, who’s battled arthritis in his hips until a new treatment, was once again up on my pillows. My old boy slept beside me most the night, sometimes punching or kicking me with his large paws, but loving his snuggle time. Harrigan and Bailey were furious having to sleep in the other bed!
It’s time to prep for my first online class. Some great students with terrific personalities and incredible minds.
The 55-degree weather doesn’t seem all too cold and the overhead umbrella of bright blue is refreshing as I eat my lunch on the deck.
I finished teaching my on-line classes at 2:00 PM and will shortly begin lessons at 3:00 PM until 10:15 PM.
The pooches are swarming me as I eat.
My Monday lunch consists of a salad and some sliced celery, green peppers, and carrots to dip into the family’s legendary cauliflower dip or brown dip or whatever my brother nicknamed it. Thanks to Nicole, I have some wonderful green bell peppers to use for dipping.
The early afternoon is peaceful. The swishing Shroyer Road traffic is the only violation of having complete silence, which is certainly not an issue.
It’s 2:45 PM and time to prep for the next seven hours of teaching.
It’s only 62-degrees but the fierce sun has warmed us a bit, allowing some non-bundled up time.
From beneath the deck, the aroma of Downy fabric softener wafts up through the boards as some towels dry.
The clouds are particularly beautiful this afternoon, theatrically displaying the light and the shade as brilliantly lit white clouds exchange places with darker clouds. I love their high up production.
Out front, I looked at the large star on the front of the house. The original paint has peeled, nearly all gone. I always loved the contrast of the slight beige against the brick.
Now, the rusted metal on display blends in with the bricks sheltering the Cape Cod frame. I rather prefer seeing the raised edges of the crispy beige remnants that cling mightily against the strong winds that often blaze their course from all directions.
Strength. Courage. Toughness.
After trying minutes of writing, the overhead stage has already changed scenes, entirely, and the upcoming scenes appear to be just as dramatic and beautiful.