MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Mister Cardinal & blue skies

This was the first part of my morning while shivering on the deck, drinking coffee, and listening to this fine chap.

Make it a great day even if you don’t have a cardinal and blue skies! It’s your choice.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: “Because there are people way worse off than you.” The West Wing Weekly Podcast

Since the moment THE WEST WING pilot appeared on television on September 22, 1999, I was hooked.

Twenty-two years later, I am still hooked. And, thanks to Cheryl Dowd for recommending THE WEST WING WEEKLY podcast, my deep interest has been fiercely reignited. I love the characters Aaron Sorkin created and molded with his fine team of directors and actors. They seem so real.

It also doesn’t hurt that three of the key actors, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, and Martin Sheen are all from about a three mile radius of where I currently live. It’s like watching my Oakwood (Janney and Lowe) and Kettering (Sheen) neighbors in action.

On the current podcast interview, former TWW actor, Josh Malina, and fellow podcaster, Hrishikesh Hirway, are interviewing Martin Sheen. Mr. Sheen stated his favorite episode was “Two Cathedrals” where he prepares for the funeral of his formidable secretary and life-long friend, Delores Landingham. It’s powerful. It’s somewhat chilling.

In this scene, Mrs. Landingham reappears to “talk some sense into Jeb.” She had been President Bartlet’s (played by Sheen) father’s dean of students secretary at a prestigious boys’ academy, and had moved on to work with, and for Josiah “Jeb” Bartlet in The White House.

I am posting the portion of the scene, as well as the video.


CUT TO: INT. THE OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT President Bartlet closes the door behind C.J. in THE OVAL OFFICE. Thunder roars.  Bartlet walks to lean on his desk and places his hands among the many pictures on it.  Suddenly, the wind blows the portico door wide open and rain pours in. 
BARTLET Ah... Damn it! Mrs. Landingham! 
[He turns away, realizing she won't come to his call, and then the door opens...]
MRS. LANDINGHAM  [walks in, small and resolute] I really wish you wouldn't shout, Mr. President. 
BARTLET  [beat, as he looks at her in disbelief] The door keeps blowing open. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM Yes, but there's an intercom and you could use it to call me at my desk. 
BARTLET I was... 
MRS. LANDINGHAM You don't know how to use the intercom. 
BARTLET It's not that I don't know how to use it, it's just that I haven't learned yet.  
[She looks at him and he smiles shyly, as if he's been caught lying.] 
BARTLET I have M.S., and I didn't tell anybody. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM Yeah. So, you're having a little bit of a day. BARTLET You're gonna make jokes? 
MRS. LANDINGHAM God doesn't make cars crash, and you know it. Stop using me as an excuse. 
BARTLET  [motions her to sit and sits down] The party's not going to want me to run. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM The party'll come back. You'll get them back. 
BARTLET I've got a secret for you, Mrs. Landingham. I've never been the most popular guy in the  Democratic Party. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM  [sits opposite from him] I've got a secret for you, Mr. President, your father was a prick who could never get over the fact that he wasn't as smart as his brothers. Are you in a tough spot? Yes. Do I feel sorry for you? I do not. Why? Because there are  people way worse off than you. 
BARTLET Give me numbers. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM I don't know numbers. You give them to me. 
BARTLET How about a child born this minute has a one in five chance of being born into poverty? 
MRS. LANDINGHAM How many Americans don't have health insurance? 
BARTLET 44 million. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM What's the number one cause of death for black men under 35? 
BARTLET Homicide. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM How many Americans are behind bars? 
BARTLET Three million. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM How many Americans are drug addicts? 
BARTLET Five million. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM And one of five kids in poverty? 
BARTLET That's 13 million American children. From a shot up top, we see President Bartlet is talking, and the opposite chair is empty. BARTLET Three and a half million kids go to schools that are literally falling apart. We need 127 billion in school construction, and we need it today! 
MRS. LANDINGHAM To say nothing of 53 people trapped in an embassy. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM You know, if you don't want to run again, I respect that. [stands up] But if you don't run 'cause you think it's gonna be too hard or you think you're gonna lose... well, God, Jed, I don't even want to know you. 
[Mrs. Landingham walks out and gently closes the Oval Office door behind her. President Bartlet stands, walks into the open door onto the portico and lets the wind blow on him and the rain wash over his face. He looks up into the sky. Music starts.]

The most powerful dialogue that truly resonates with me is:

BARTLET I have M.S., and I didn't tell anybody. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM Yeah. So, you're having a little bit of a day. 
MRS. LANDINGHAM  [sits opposite from him] ... Are  you in a tough spot? Yes. Do I feel sorry for you? I do not. Why? Because there are  people way worse off than you. 

“Because there are people way worse off than you.” (Mrs. Landingham to President Bartlet)

I remember sitting next to my great-aunt, Bonnie Barmes, at a family gathering in the late 1980s. At that time, Aunt Bonnie had battled cancer for approximately 3-5 years; what is more, she is still bravely looking the beast in the eyes and always moving it to the side. She is so doggone tough.

We sat in the large gathering room and listened to groupings of family members who seemed to play this conversational game of “who has it worse?”

Mother had always stressed to any complainers, “you don’t have it that bad; there are too many others suffering far worse than you.” It always seemed like an appropriate moment for her to finish her stricture with “so, suck it up, Buttercup.” She did not.

One relative began discussing how frustrated they were with their lawn care company. As they vented the room with exhausting complaints, Aunt Bonnie leaned toward me and softly said that these gripes we’d witnessed seemed so dwarfed in the whole scheme of things thrown in our paths by life.

In these past 35+ years of her never ceasing battles with cancer, several of which recaptured the powerful, yet doubtful David and Goliath scene, I have never heard Aunt Bonnie mention her cancer, nor seem gruff at the hand life has dealt. She is always fastidious with hard work, serving others, and defining the ministry of Christ with her actions.

Aunt Bonnie is a damned great role model.

“Because there are people way worse off than you.”

I feel as though I hear a continuous echo of “how hard life is.” However, it’s not really coming from those who, on the surface, seem to have it hard. It’s more about interruptions. I know there are countless individuals and families who are struggling in so many ways, and on so many levels, yet, they are the ones who remain positive and silent.

“Because there are people way worse off than you.”

Every time I re-listen to this particular scene from THE WEST WING, Mrs. Landingham’s line sternly cautions me to look past anything tugging at me, coaxing me to bathe in misery. My mother, and her parents, raised me better.

“Because there are people way worse off than you.”

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MY DAY: Full moon fallout

I’ve a 30-minute break in lessons, the first long break since 1:30 PM, and it feels like the residual dragging from the recent full moon is having an affect on everyone.

Fatigue is robbing students of their energy and singing has been a challenge. Not uncommon.

I had a ten minute break at 4:50 PM and wandered into the front yard. I saw the neighbor’s huge white fluffy dog jump the fence to run across Shroyer Road to greet a passing walker and her pooch.

Fortunately and quite oddly, there were no approaching cars from either direction on this commonly busy four lane road.

I hurried back inside to retrieve a leash, moving as quickly as my legs would permit to the other block to grab hold of the big white pooch. The passing lady hurried on with her dog, not too concerned about the friendly pooch in a dangerous situation.

The pooch happily accepted me leashing it up and making the journey across the street to the neighbors who were napping (the mom has several little ones).

Mission accomplished.

My body, under the stress of the moment and exertion of managing the large playful pooch seemed to take a hit. Some ibuprofen should manage the aftershocks.

The dogs have been an annoying blessing, off and on; sweet and affectionate, yet on a larger than usual barking mission.

Three more lessons and it shall be my thee-day break of writing, communing with fellow writers and historians, and resting the body.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: The love of dogs

So much has been written about the devotion and love of dogs that I don’t think much more can be written; yet, their love is so incredibly deep I don’t think enough can ever be written.

I could write an entirely new book at the end of each day about my pooches.

If a dog can have the great capacity to love I can only imagine what each of us could do as humans.

It’s a beautiful morning and the sky is as blue as blue can be.

Make it a great day!

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MY DAY: Just a few more questions…

I grew up around the corner from my maternal grandparents, Leroy and Donna Barmes, who lived on the southwest corner of South A and 8th Streets in Elwood, Indiana, and at a very young age I began devouring every nugget of our family’s history, those beloved stories that seemed to make my own life a bit more 3-dimensional.

One of my favorite memories is standing on a wooden step stool in my grandparents’ kitchen serving as my grandmother’s sous chef and baker, listening to all the stories of our family from the late 1800s to the early 1960s. I learned about my pioneer ancestors of Boone Township in Northern Madison County of Indiana and committed to my memory all the names and surnames of Clary, Jones, Vinson, Greenlee, Ball, and Noble.

On Grandpa Leroy’s days off from the police department, we’d often drive up to Dewart Lake to visit his dad, Grandpa Virgil. While driving the 90 minutes to the Syracuse and North Webster area of North Central Indiana, I heard the stories of my Barmes and Daugherty families. When Grandpa Virgil and Grandpa Leroy were building the house near Lapel, Indiana, I was a sponge for even more stories from each of the two generations, my grandfather and his father.

For 53 of my current 56 years, I was dedicated to asking questions, absorbing as much as I could, writing down notes, giving out questionnaires to family members to collect their stories, and always preparing myself to prepare something for the succeeding family generations so the stories of our family would always be preserved.

Mother and her aunt, Joyce, my Grandma Donna’s younger sister, my two remaining resources. I continued to ask questions about our family history, especially about those who died before my birth: “What were they like?” “What do you remember most about them?”

Now, both Mother and Aunt Joyce are gone.

I am proud that I’ve been a beneficiary to all these stories and I thought I had asked all the questions to everything I could hope to know. However, as I sit here scratching down notes and outlines, more questions, NEW questions flood my brain. It’s frustrating. In some ways, a bit painful.

I do seem to know more about my family history than so many of my friends. I’ve completed my genealogy down a number of lines, clearing lines to Europe as far back as 1400s. That’s pretty damned good if I do say so, myself.

Still, the questions of “how did so and so meet?” or “when did they move?” or… or…

As a young boy, I had a front row seat to family history and US History, hearing first hand stories of meeting President Theodore Roosevelt, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the 1913 flood in Central Indiana, WWI, The 1918 Pandemic, The Great Depression and the many connections our family had to each of these major events throughout the early part of The Twentieth Century.

Some answers I might find through in-depth research but most of the questions I have won’t be found in libraries, on line, or in dusty files. These questions are now out of my reach.

I am beyond blessed to have the trove of stories with which I’ve grown up. Still…

Always that “still…”

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Back to Monday

The windy 35- degrees doesn’t feel chilly but the dull grey sky gives the atmosphere a slight edge.

It was such a nice relaxing weekend, four days of restructuring, online book discussion, a great walk with Mama Kay and Laura, lots of research and writing, and tons of time with the pooches.

For me, that was perfection and the warmer temperatures made it all the more pleasant; doors and windows were opened, welcoming the fresh air.

It’s time to shower and get ready for a long day of classroom teaching and private breaching.

Make. It. A. Great. Day.

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MY DAY: 3:30 AM…

These are the moments I treasure.

3:30 AM nature break. Does anyone still say, “nature break?” Ive not heard the phrase in years. So, I woke, rose, walked the few steps to the bathroom to relieve my bladder.


Grateful I didn’t relieve the bladder in bed, I was especially grateful to see Bailey snuggled next to Chief as they slept.

When I rise each night for my nature break ritual, The Sisters generally respond and stir around. Chief at least opens his eye(s) to acknowledge me and probably hope I leave him alone. I generally pet him.

Then, Erma.

Erma loves her naps and sleep time. She physically sets up her own “do not disturb” sign, readjusting her posture to ward off any communication. Sometimes she will even cover her face with her paws when she sees me coming toward her.

But, this very early Saturday morning, Bailey snuggling with Chief is just sweet as can be.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Friday’s frowning

The past several mornings have greeted the day with dazzling sunrises but this morning there’s a strong effort by the clouds to shield the sun from appearing.

At least the cardinals are not holding back: two sang to me around 5:00 AM while it was still dark outside; I stood in the kitchen listening. When I let the dogs out at 7:50 AM after their breakfast, there were several cardinals around the yard.

It’s a full morning of researching. The dogs are already spread out across my study, returned to the slumber that their stomachs interrupted just a few minutes earlier.

Whatever your day holds, make it a great day!

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THE FAMILY ALBUM: John William Garrett Clary – registration card

Tonight, while researching for a project, I happened onto my maternal great-grandfather’s registration card.

John William Garrett Clary was born near the northwest corner of Duck Creek Township near Elwood, Madison County, Indiana on August 31, 1898.

The registration card indicates he was 20 years of age but it was dated 1912. While I’m not certain as to why there’s this discrepancy but this find is terrific.

Grandpa Garrett was not the typical grandfather or great grandfather of his era: he was active in our lives and always ready for fun and laughter. If a grandchild or great grandchild was on the floor, so was he.

I adored this man and am grateful to have had him in my life for nearly 33 years.

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MY DAY: Thursday…?

My Thursday was entirely different than planned but it certainly was not lacking in enjoyment and involvement.

My zoom lunch and a rescheduled lesson (which I never do) both went different directions, however, that did not prevent me from accomplishing a few items around the house.

I made a good dent in my upstairs’ bedroom with purging no longer needed clothing, condensing chests, and packbig off odds and ends that no longer are needed. Goodwill will be kept busy when these deliveries are made.

I also did some minor switching around in my bedroom and study. The kitchen is cleaned (for my needs) and I’m taking time to relax in the deck in 42 degree weather and a sun beginning to make it’s descent behind the row of easement trees and this end of the high school.

I counted a total of 16 trips up the stairs and 16 trips down the stairs, unassisted, and one descent was carrying a three-shelf bookcase.


A good day, indeed.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: MY Day (3 of them)

Once again, the early morning sun is blinding and wrestling to get to the west side of my house to the deck where I’m currently engaged in a funny political historical story with my son via Zoom, drinking my coffee and wearing my Franklin Roosevelt cape to ward off the chill.

It’s my first day of my three private days assigned just for me and I’m so ready to get this party started.

Last Sunday, I invited a student’s parent to assist one of my acting students with a particular role in which she is portraying a therapist who deals with trauma. My friend is an MS PCC which translates to MS (Master of Science) PCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) and she’s marvelous in her field and as a person. In fact, my student later said, “she’s so cool! She’s the kind of person I’d want to hang out with!”

During the Q&A, my MS PCC friend said she was adamant in taking one day just for herself to assist in eliminating the emotional debris she collects throughout the week.

Many of my private teaching colleagues have always expressed how much we end up wearing our “counselor” cap with students and at no time has this been more true than this past year of pandemic life.

For the past two years, I’ve set up my schedule, insisting I give my self three solid days of “My Day.” I do exactly what I want and utilize these My Days for my writing and whatever else I elect to do.

My Thursdays always include lunch with some of my favorite folks who are engaged in history, writing, and research. It’s thrilling! Tonight, I’ve a Zoom event with an author.

My Day days are valuable even more as I navigate a slightly different journey. My “connect-to-me” routes are blocked until Sunday at Noon when my private teaching week resumes. I do yearn for the time when I can return to my about-town adventures without being so concerned with health issues.

While I am making it My Day, I am not going to miss the opportunity to make it a great day.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Wednesday morning

At 7:35 AM, I actually walked about the deck with my coffee, Zooming with my London-based son, and enjoying the brilliant sunlight splashing the sides of the house, desperately attempting to grasp the backyard with its golden fingers.

Now, the doors are opens allowing in some cool air, the sounds of the wind chimes, and a mixed chorus from the birds. The score is fresh and impromptu but pleasing to the ear.

In thirty minutes I’ll be at my desk with my first of four online classes before teaching 13 privates lessons. Then, it’s three days of writing and hobnobbing with my history writing and loving friends.

Each of us will be galloping down our own tracks, today. Be sure you’re making it a great day!

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MY DAY: Taking small steps and reawakening the inner process

I teach process, a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end, from the beginning of my teaching day to the very close of the teaching day. The “P-word” as it as often referred to by current and former students, is the foundation of my teaching-life.

I too often forget, however, to incorporate “process” into our daily living.

We get to a certain age and toss the observation of process out the window. Everything in life involves process.

Over the past several years life has redirected me back to establishing my own awareness of process in so many daily moments.

Today, I had some milestones in acknowledging the steps I need to address more and more.

My steps are slower, more choreographed, perhaps, but when I refocus on process, the retraining becomes more rehearsed and steady.

Today, I climbed the stairs to the second floor on three separate occasions without holding onto the handrail or humming “Pinball Wizard” since I wasn’t bumping shoulders to walls. I repeated the descent as many times with the same success. Not only did I feel more confident, my legs felt reassured.

I also found myself rising from my seated position without using my hands and arms to brace myself. At age 56, I was feeling age 55 all over, again! I even laid down on the floor with Chief for 15 minutes and rose with far more ease than I expected.

Temperatures are moving into the mid to upper 40s with Saturday and Sunday hopefully bringing in a 55 and 58.

The past year of being physically quarantined for the year has, in so many different and amazing ways, has refocused and refreshed my mind. I’ve sorted through clothes and house items to determine what is truly necessary. I’ve done the same reassessing with my life’s line-items: what continues to matter to me? And, I’m left to wonder just how much I will allow myself to return to life as I knew it prior to March 2020.

Process. Choices. Process. Needs. Process. Desires. Process. Me.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Lessons from Lucy – Pt. II

Monday, I posted about Dave Barry’s LESSONS FROM LUCY which I loved listening to on audiobooks.

I found this expertly written assessment on the book by Rosepoint Publishing. The full read can be found here:

Here are some of Rosepoint Publishing’s main points:

While the narrative doesn’t open new doors in wisdom, create new cosmic thought on life with dogs (or life itself), it is certainly written in an entertaining and satisfying manner. The author points out seven major lessons bestowed on Dave and his family by Lucy, their ten-year-old mixed-breed rescue. Dave’s keen wit and inspired observations of human behavior, metaphors for dog behavior, generally hit just where you’ve been. He sums up each lesson:

Lesson 1: Make New Friends, (And Keep The Ones You Have) Just don’t try to find them in a bar amazing them with your ability to smell asparagus metabolite.

Lesson 2: Have Some Fun Getting old sucks. (Or is that AARP?) Join something like the (World Famous) Lawn Rangers (yes, they use a broom and a lawn mower and perform in parades). Or as Barry did, join the Rock Bottom Remainders termed by Roy Blount as “Hard Listening,” composed of famous authors such as Stephen King and Amy Tan (but I doubt you’d recognize her), among others.

Lesson 3: Pay Attention to the People You Love (Not Later, Right Now) Please, don’t ask him about “diversity training” as opposed to “mindfulness training.”

Lesson 4: Let Go Of Your Anger, Unless It’s About Something Really Important, Which It Almost Never Is. Among his list of top five things he is exceptionally good at, besides sarcasm and ridicule (that’s just too easy cause you already knew that!), is his knack for developing an instantaneous hatred for people he doesn’t know. (That would definitely include the cable TV company, “Bomcast”)

Lesson 5: Try Not To Judge People By Their Looks, And Don’t Obsess Over Your Own. (…a book by its cover.)

Lesson 6: Don’t Let Your Happiness Depend On Things; They Don’t Make You Truly Happy, And You’ll Never Have Enough Anyway. Learn the definition of GAS – “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and the necessity of storing lentils.

Lesson 7: Don’t Lie Unless You Have A Really Good Reason, Which You Probably Don’t. Two reasons not to lie: (1) It’s wrong, and (2) It’s stupid. Be like Lucy, “if you mess up, fess up.” A dog can look amazingly guilty, whether or not they are, but they usually know when they are.

This is a pseudo-self-help book from a skeptical self-help book hypocrite. He doesn’t ascribe to them. Even he can’t believe he wrote it. Normally, he is a snarky, cynical Pulitzer prize-winning columnist and bestselling author. It was intended to be a book about dogs. But there were so many parallels he could draw from his reflections.

It’s honest, sincere, and authentic. Also humorous, appealing, and a feel-good novel about dogs. As the author says, every dog he has ever owned has been THE BEST DOG EVER. It is a great read that I wholeheartedly recommend. I received the ebook download from the publisher and NetGalley. I so appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Thank you!

Dave Barry - author

The Author: The New York Times has pronounced Dave Barry “the funniest man in America.” But of course that could have been on a slow news day when there wasn’t much else fit to print. True, his bestselling collections of columns are legendary, but it is his wholly original books that reveal him as an American icon. Dave Barry Slept Here was his version of American history. Dave Barry Does Japan was a contribution to international peace and understanding from which Japan has not yet fully recovered. Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys is among the best-read volumes in rehab centers and prisons. Raised in a suburb of New York, educated in a suburb of Philadelphia, he lives now in a suburb of Miami. He is not, as he often puts it so poetically, making this up. Find Dave Barry at

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Lessons from Lucy

Lucy & Dave Barry

A family friend, John Moore, sent a book around for the family to read, LESSONS FROM LUCY.

Humorist Dave Barry wrote a syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald for more than two decades and is the author of many amusing memoirs. In this book, Barry relates seven life lessons he learned from his beloved dog Lucy. The lessons are largely common sense, but the anecdotes from Barry’s life provide a nice personal touch.

I was aware of Dave Barry but I think it was just his quotes on one of those daily desk calendars. Other than that, I could not repeat anything he had written or exactly who he is.

For over a week, I could not get to the book. I pulled it up on my Audible account to listen to as I write or research.

Last night was my first introduction to Mr. Barry reading his own work, LESSONS FROM LUCY.
Oh, my gosh! The guy is hilarious.

Sometimes, with his phrases or wording, I feel like I am listening to myself speaking through the speaker around the corner, aimed into the center round hall so that it reaches my study, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom.

Dave Barry is the bomb!

“Remember this: however bad you think things are today, however awful you consider our leaders to be, however stupid you think your fellow Americans are, this country has seen worse times, including – to name a few – the Civil War, 9/11, the Great Depression, and six seasons of Jersey Shore. We muddled through those times. We will muddle through these.”
― Dave Barry, Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Rainy + Monday = A Carpenters’ hit

“Rainy Days and Mondays” always seems to be the go-to song when we have wet starts to the work week and we end up with the lovely, dreary ear worm with Karen Carpenter’s voice chewing inside our heads.

It’s an odd morning with a luscious 36-degrees bathing us in less frigid temperatures, sprinkling rain, an odd steel-blue sky, and a breeze keeping the wind chimes dancing as though it’s summer. Their song is much lighter than what I’ve heard the past several weeks, not laden with ice and severe cold.

I’m loving this weather; it’s suspiciously like a chilly summer evening storm rolling in. In fact, I turned off the furnace. Fresh, refreshening and cleansing breezes fill the house, giving me a boost on numerous levels.

And, I can listen to the several cardinals serenading me.

The Girls finished their post-breakfast potty and yard adventures and are now back in the guest bedroom, primping and pampering themselves for their morning siesta while I teach. Erma has finished and the old girl is already snoring away on her pallet.

Chief will be another ten minutes of slowly and casually exploring the backyard, perhaps recalling the days he chased rabbits and squirrels, running to the chain link fence to defend The Haasienda of any offenders walking along adjacent Rockhill Road.

9:15 AM, I’ll move to my place of honor before my classroom issued camera to teach four hours with fascinating college students.

There are three ten-minute breaks between the fifty-minute classes where I can dash to the bathroom, let out the dogs, retrieve my two separate Instacart orders from the front porch and put away, and be back in my seat with a fresh smile for the next class.

Then, I’ll enjoy an hour break before diving into teaching fourteen voice students.

Mondays that are mixed with rain might seem the perfect time to dip in spirits, especially with dark, cloudy skies; but this morning’s particular combination has an energy buzzing through it.

I’ll take it.

“Hangin’ around (hangin’ around)
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”

Today, don’t be a drippy Karen! Do your best to suck it up and make it a great day!


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MY DAY: Chief’s 10th year Gotcha Day anniversary

A February Sunday afternoon in 2011, my son Quintin and I were traveling through east central Indiana when we spied a huge plywood sheet with the hand painted letters: F R E E P U P P I E S.

And… I did.

We brought home litter mates, Chief and Navi, born November 20, 2010.

Sadly, Navi left us only after three years.

Here are some photos of those first few months.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Take the newer road

By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Stop following the tracks of others once you feel you’ve mastered enough work and experience; that’s their journey with their tracks. When you have so many on the same path you’re really shortchanging yourself and eventually, you’re just like them: afraid to break away from societal conditions.

Always make it a great day and Make. Your. Own. Tracks.

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MY DAY: Literally

Someone asked what my weekly schedule is like. Well, here it is.

It’s the best life I could hope for.

I work from home, work with incredible students throughout the week, and enjoy a lot of time with The Quartet.

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MY DAY: Ending Sunday

I finished by teaching evening just after Mama Kay, from next door, had left a tub of chicken orzo soup and a gift from her daughter, Laura.

The soup was delicious.

The gift sent from Laura was a large D.

Don’s D with my collection of conducting batons, a Wright Flyer ornament, a JOSEPH reminder, a Wright Brothers’ stein, and a handmade “Love Is Eternal” dish.

Mama Kay had given an L and D to Laura and Don, and Laura passed the D on to me. It now has a place of honor in my study atop of my writing desk with other memorable gifts from family, friends, and students.

Thank you, Laura…

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I remember my parents taking me with them to a drive-in movie so they could watch M*A*S*H and since it was the second feature, I would be sound asleep.

Looking back, I could never understand why my parents, with me as their only, extremely precocious child, ever attempted such things. Hopeful, perhaps, that they would not be a repeat of Henry and Alice Mitchell.

The next morning, I was repeating phrases and words from the movie.

When the television show ran from 1972-1983, I was either too young or too busy to watch it, often. However, Mother and I were a bit sniffly as we watched the final episode.

Life at Ball State University reconnected me with the beloved sitcom. As we waited in the lounge for our dining hall supper groups to gather, M*A*S*H was always on the Swinford Hall television. As the episode began rolling the credits, the area cleared out.

I appreciate the show’s writing and the brilliance of the assembled players, but I never hooked snuggly with the series.

Maybe someday…

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O, FOR HISTORY: Me & Mr. Lincoln: how it all began

The books of L and K in my large World Book Encyclopedia set were the most oft used books since they contained the sections on Lincoln and Kennedy.

Classmates in kindergarten had little to no idea who Lincoln was.

It was frustrating because I’d been reading on Lincoln and Kennedy for over a year… and well, we weren’t taught reading until first grade. Mother insisted that like my deaf ear, I should probably keep quiet about my ability to read and write.

My desk in Mrs. Singleton’s first grade classroom in the southeastern corner of the 1894 grand, two story school building, was directly across from Fred Aaron. Monday morning, February 13, 1972, Fred and I engaged in a steady debate before school began and it continued throughout the day.

The previous Sunday evening, we had each watched a documentary on President Lincoln and it offered a re-enactment of the assassination. Fred insisted that Lincoln could have easily turned around to wrestle John Wilkes Booth. I’d previously read a book from the public library’s adult floor that explained how Booth had timed his entrance to the presidential box to the action on the stage below.

Thus began an even greater infatuation with President Abraham Lincoln.

1972 was an exciting year for me!

    I learned I was to become a big brother for the first time.
    I went on two summer vacations, one with my grandparents in July to Virginia and Washington DC and with my parents in August to Florida.
    I began second grade in the fall and was proud of all the reading I had completed on President Lincoln. I even wrote a letter to Mrs. Brugger, the 5th grade teacher and Lincoln devotee, explaining how excited I was to be in her class because I knew we’d have great discussions on President Lincoln.
    And, I followed my first presidential campaign, stunned seeing Gov. George Wallace gunned down the previous May 1972.

January 20, 1973, I watched my second presidential inauguration, live.

February 12, 1973, I awoke expecting my new sibling to arrive that day to share President Lincoln’s birthday. Mother promised she would let the school office know if she left for Muncie where Dr. Behnken would be waiting at Ball Memorial Hospital.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Cassidy, humored me, allowing me to frequently make the long walk up the split marble staircase to ask the school secretary, Mrs. Dudley, if my mother had left a message. I still remember the sweetness of Mrs. Dudley smiling and leaning on her elbow to give me the sympathetic pout, always reassuring me she’d rush right down to my classroom with any message.

No sibling arrived that February 12th.

Two days later, my sister arrived on Valentine’s Day. However, my brother was born November 4, 1974, the 132nd wedding anniversary of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln. Mother’s apt delivery on a Lincoln-related date has placated me for nearly fifty years.

March 23, 1973, my grandparents, Mother, my one month old sister, and I piled into the car early and headed toward Indianapolis. I was told we were going to check out a new mall on the south side of Indianapolis.

Several hours later, my grandfather asked if I could help him watch for signs of the newly built wall. Naturally, I obliged.

I looked out the window just in time to see a state sign: Lincoln Boyhood Home.

I remember feeling that flutter and excitement but… maybe my family had actually planned to visit the mall and…

Grandpa turned the car into the entrance that was, at that time, between the memorial cabin and the pioneer graveyard that contained the remains of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

I was practically dancing with joy but began learning a new brand of patience; my sister needed her diaper changed.

We explored all the sites that day, taking care to absorb all the Lincoln history.

My first Lincoln book was purchased that day. Mother carefully wrote my name and date on the inner cover.

I read through the book several times that night in the hotel. The following morning, we drove down to Lincoln’s birthplace and the Knob Creek Farm site.

Next February 2022 will mark fifty years since I remember an actual event that sparked intense interest in Lincoln.

My collection of Lincoln mementos has grown these past 49 years from my Lincoln bust, given to me by my uncle, Ron Barmes, in 1972, to books and items given to me by friends and students.

I’ve loved this particular journey, and have been blessed with an investment in the study of his wife, Mary Lincoln.

My Lincoln-life journey has been thrilling.

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MY DAY: Meet my new men’s apparel line, “Shorts via Don”

One week ago tomorrow, a wonderful human being slipped away quietly, leaving a huge void.

I really didn’t get to see Don much, these past few years, except at holiday or family gatherings but there was never a beat skipped in our friendship and laughter.

Who was Don Parker?

Don Parker

I first met Don as Mama Kay’s son-in-law, the husband of her daughter, Laura, who is exactly three months older than me… to the day.

From 2004 on, I saw The Parkers at all the gatherings Mama Kay hosted. Don was always the additional host of hosts: he loved people and was a magnet for sharing laughter and feeling welcomed.

When the economy tanked, Don, Laura, and two of their children, Jozi (daughter) and Kelley (son), moved in with Mama Kay. Katrina was older and living on her own, but Jozi and Kelley were the same ages as Jose and Quintin, making for an additional connection.

Had Don and I lived earlier Lucy and Ethel, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, and so many others would have had even funnier sitcoms had Don and I been to he writers. Most of the hilarity and highjenks would have been from first hand experiences.

Several times, Don passed on shorts that he no longer wanted and they always seemed to fit me. The first time I’d wear them, I’d shout through the fence, “Hey, Don, I’m in your pants.”

I wish I had the time to list all the fun stories I shared with Don throughout the years, especially when he lived directly next door. He and I both challenged the other for King of PJs, practical jokes. Some things were not intended as PJs but ended up being so.

Last Tuesday evening, I received word that Don saluted the world one final time as he accepted new orders following one of the most spirited battles against esophageal cancer.

Tonight, I’m wearing a new, but used, pair of shorts, formerly worn by Don Parker.

The Don Parker Apparel Line.

It’s funny that we had much the same taste in summer shorts we both wore year round. But, what’s nicer is that I don’t have any of those damn Goodwill Store plastic barbs to cut out before they scratch me.

As I posted last week after you took off…

Thank you for laughing with me…

Thank you for laughing at me…

Thank you for keeping me laughing with your stories…

Thank you for not trying to convince me 10 Wilmington Place was a historical bed and breakfast I should check in to…

Thank you for being such a wonderful neighbor…

Thank you for being my bonus brother-in-law…

Take a bow, Don, you were amazing…

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: Cold complaining

Last week when it became more apparent we’d be in for a solid polar belt this weekend, the oral vomit of anxiousness and complaining began in full force.

Sunday, January 7. 2021

This morning, it’s embarrassing to read posts about the horrible weather.

Why is it embarrassing?

The complaints are coming from folks who have a warm home, food, and other luxuries (or unnecessary luxuries) that many can only remember, or imagine.

Their lack of gratitude I find embarrassingly sad.

One social media poster complained about the grayness of their morning adding, “We watched ‘The Sound of Music,’ last night and I could enjoy the cold if I lived in Salzburg.”

Well, okay…

I loved my peek at the sun’s relevé over the homes across Shroyer Road. It was beautiful.

I hope the constant complainers find something for which to be thankful.

As for me and my house of four dogs, we’re going to make it a great day.

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MAKE IT A GREAT DAY: …even when you have to work at it

I try my damnedest to be of good attitude and generally make every day a great day but sometimes I really must work at it and fight off the weight of moving forward.

Yesterday was a busy day that bounced off an unusually week.

A.) I resumed online distance teaching with consolidations so I’m only teaching Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:00 AM to 1:45 PM.

B.) Several private students let me know about their OMEA music information needs that were due today; fortunately, 30+ years of doing this made it fairly easy.

C.) Wednesday afternoon I discovered my water heater was leaking; time for a new one. Thursday morning, the guys were here at 10:00 AM and done by 12:15 PM.

D.) My 12:30 PM weekly luncheon.

E.) Gate back up (taken down for water heater needs), living room furniture back in place.

F.) Worked on writing and researching.

Earlier this week, I learned of actor Hal Holbrook’s passing.

Tuesday night, my former neighbor and bonus-brother-in-law, Don Parker, 58, lost a fast battle with esophageal cancer.

Today, February 5th, would have been Dad Haas’ 79th birthday.

This morning’s attempt to physically function was far more than a challenge I could fight. Therefore, it was back to bed for 3.5 hours and at 2:00 PM my brain fog is lifted and my body feeling like it’s 55 years old, again!

Because I daily exercise and fully execute an attitude of gratitude, powerful positivity, a dedication to determination, and and a racing highway of laughter, it was an easy swipe of debris to return to normal. The past few days I’ve even been able to rise from a seated position without grabbing hold of something nearby for assistance.

I don’t care what is staring you down in life’s dark jungle, always, always determine to make it a great day.

It’s a choice.

It’s your choice.

Pandemics are huge; our minds are huger. Much, much huger.

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