MY DAY: The cardinals

In July, 2013, I first learned the ancient Native American legend of a cardinal’s visit from a dear friend, Valerie Marsh, following the death of my dog, Flyer.

For the past seven years, cardinals have been a constant addition at The Haasienda.

I grew up with a cardinal in the tree outside my bedroom window. I whistled to him; he whistled right back. He often sat on my window sill but I had to remain still so he wouldn’t startle.

The cardinal was Ball State University’s mascot so my scarlet connection continues.

In 2003, I moved to Shroyer Road in Kettering. For the past seventeen years, cardinals have been consistent residents at The Haasienda.

Since my mother’s passing, August 5, 2019, the cardinals have been even more present. If I’m in the front yard, there’s always one about. On the deck, my red feathered friends are nearby, even on the deck’s rail.

My cardinals usually begin their choruses around 4:00 AM, right outside my guest bedroom window where I’ve taken up camp for the summer nights.

Ironically, Mother was always waking around 4:00 AM, as that was when she would begin reading and commenting on my Facebook posts.

Today, one cardinal has been quite attentive, several times within less than ten feet. His female companion, with the faded, less spectacularly crimson coat, keeps her distance but still not out of my sight.

How I love these visits!

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MIAGD: Friday… let’s get moving!

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I was prepared to sleep by 1:00 AM, but busied myself with more reading and before I knew it, 2:30 AM was upon me; I posted a note for my son, in London, that I was still awake since it was 7:30 AM when he is usually awake.

He was.

We talked until I saw 3:37 AM come up on my phone.

7:30 AM, the dogs were wanting to go out. Once that was completed, I threw myself back onto the guest bedroom’s twin bed for another hour of sleep.

Well, it was a bonus nap! I woke at 9:30 AM! The dogs were patient and I kept to the schedule by preparing my meal, first, and then they got to eat so I could abandon the kitchen.

There had been more rain overnight and the deck was wet; breakfast inside.

Darin & Aunt Joyce

Today, July 24th is a double family birthday celebration: my great-aunt, Joyce Riser, is 86, today, and my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes, is celebrating her 117th birthday in heaven.

My Facebook remembrance post on Grandma Thelma captured the attention of several cousins. Judy Smith Hallett, my mother’s first cousin and one month apart in age, is one of the last to actually remember Grandma Thelma who was killed at age 53 in an automobile/train collision seven years before my birth. It’s been touching to remember her with a cousin-discussion.

Grandma Thelma with her family

My day has plugged away but with little accomplished. However, the discussion on Grandma Thelma has been a wonderful treat; keeping her memory fresh, sixty-three years later is a blessed accomplishment this day.

Now, on to other items that need my attention.

Make it a great day!

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MY DAY: Thursday into Friday

I can definitely say that this has been a productive day despite the morning rain showers and a day that dragged on with high humidity, making everything feel weighted in dampness through this evening.

I got a ton of reading completed on Mary Lincoln, President Truman, Thomas Jefferson’s travels to his other plantation, Poplar Grove, and some Dayton history.

There were also presidential podcasts on Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

I grabbed a few documentaries on Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and the making of the movie, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD.

As evening moved in, I had a dinner of fried chicken, seasoned boiled potatoes, and corn on the cob. It felt so Hoosier!

A strong rain had drenched everything so that I ate in my study enjoying THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW which included several of my favorite episodes.

I made a big dent purging items from the guest bedroom and despite the second twin bed being free of boxes and stacked items for Goodwill, Bailey’s head is on my pillow, snuggled against my chest, and Harrigan is in a ball, shoved against the back of my knees.

I actually had a productive day without struggling against fatigue. It felt so good.

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MIAGD: Jefferson’s journey to his beloved Poplar Forest

MIAGD: Make it a great day

My friend, Sue Branson, lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, and had told me about Thomas Jefferson’s other plantation, Poplar Grove, years before it restored.

She shared this article about his typical three day journey to Poplar Grove.


Route to Poplar Forest | Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
— Read on

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MIAGD: Tuesday morning

MIAGD: Make it a great day

The deck is so comfortable despite the humidity beginning to rise for a day with temperatures expected to be in the upper 80s.

The Quartet is lounging about the deck, hoping for some kind of action to prod their eager desire to take charge. Harrigan, as usual, sits tall and controlled at the top of the deck stairs, prepared to jump into action with the first sign of a pesky squirrel.

The marching band has kicked into energetic gear, giving the morning an additional beat. I assume the color guard is the component warming up to some cool recorded music.

The marching band competition season is dwindling each day as more bands make the painful decision to take a safe break. God bless them.

I’ve a full day of teaching, 9:45 AM – 10:15 PM. I’m really one hell of a lucky guy to have such hardworking students who bring something new to each lesson.

The cardinals and yellow finches are busy in the backyard and I hate to move to my study knowing they’re fluttering and singing, adding to the texture from the guard’s warmup music.

Make it a great day.

Photos of Erma.

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MY DAY: The weekend fades…

I can definitely say that this has been a super day, even with a few stumbles due to the wind and the storm.

107867408_10158347328065761_3712391119193773350_nThursday through Saturday was the laziest of days. I just could not find the button to switch off the fatigue.  I spent 3/4 in the guest bedroom reading on Mary Lincoln; documentaries on Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother; podcasts on the presidents; and the making of the movie, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD.  Jonathan Winters and Buddy Hackett are hysterical.

Friday, I tuned in to a live-feed of THE JUNGLE BOOK musical that featured one of my Colorado students as Baloo. He did a super job.

Sunday arrived.

7:30 AM was my weekly coffee with Zoom buddies in Boston and London.  I really do enjoy this weekly alliance.

Breakfast on the deck at 8:45 AM; the wind was already a bit strong, but warm.

Took advantage of a few more hours of sleep.

Into my second lesson, the storm finally introduced itself, preceded by ferocious winds that tugged at the internet’s stability. Then, the lights.  Thank heavens for my Mophie rechargeable cell phone case!

This week is supposed to be in the upper 80s and low 90s.

It’s now 1:00 AM and I am beginning to nod a bit.  Perhaps a bit more reading before allowing sleep to consume me.



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CURRENT EVENTS: Marching bands

This week seems to be somewhat prophetic for marching bands this upcoming season.

Monday, I finished breakfast on the deck and moved inside to write in my study.

Within a few minutes, I heard pounding percussion! I made a second cup of coffee and altered my first 90 minutes of work to research on the deck. The percussion’s battery of snares, quads, and basses were non-melodic entertainment.

When we first moved to Shroyer Road, July 2003, I was in my study one morning, originally on the high school parking lot side, when I thought a semi had blown a tire.

I ran to the front porch, still a bit startled. It was the high school’s marching band percussion warming up, only a few hundred feet away.

One of the best perks living next to the high school is having the marching band in the summer and fall, and often, the winter percussion in the spring.

The metallic beats of the metronome are actually pleasing. I love the marching band energy. It’s exciting.

The next morning, Tuesday, while teaching, I kept an ear to the south for the percussion.


I texted a band mom whose son is in the battery. She said one of the neighbors had complained so the battery was moved to another campus location.

Years ago, the band director often had to visit a retired Air Force VP whose naps were interrupted. There were others.

I’m sorry. If you buy a house next to or near a school, especially a high school, expect noise.

Many band director friends are uneasy about the prospects of a marching band season as the nation moves through this next phase of the pandemic, wondering how or if on-site school will be allowed.

Several Miami Valley school marching bands have started practicing with tentative plans to return to school with numerous alterations and restrictions.

Last night, I learned from a former Indiana student that ISSMA, Indiana State School of Music Association, has cancelled their marching band events and contests for this coming season.

Indianapolis Star: 2020 Marching Band Contest

I fear this is just the beginning.

There are plans for a full season. There are plans for an adjusted season of only performing for football games. And, another option is simply having a large pep band for the football games.

This is not fun.

I’ve grown up with marching band my entire life. Even when my sons were no longer in marching band I was still at most of the area contests.

I feel bad for the students and directors.

I hate this unpleasant scenario for all of us who love marching band.

I understand.

But it still sucks.

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MY DAY: Teaching and remembering Mary Lincoln

Mary Lincoln

Every year in mid-July, a group of historians, researchers, authors/biographers, and Lincoln enthusiasts gather in Springfield, Illinois to celebrate the life of First Lady Mary (Todd) Lincoln.

Mary Lincoln as First Lady

This year, due to current circumstances preventing us from venturing to Springfield, one of the leaders set up a brilliant series of events via Zoom that have been so enjoyable.

On 15 July 1882, Mrs. Lincoln, residing with her eldest sister in Springfield, collapsed and later transitioned into a coma on the eleventh anniversary of her son Tad’s death at the age of 18.

Young Tad Lincoln

Tad Lincoln at 17 or 18

Tad was the third of her four sons she would bury.

Mrs. Lincoln never regained consciousness and expired the next evening, 16 July at 8:45.

Mrs. Lincoln after the death of her son, Willie, 1862

Ironically, Wednesday morning, my last Mary Lincoln day lily bloomed, closing out the deep yellow bed’s 2020 showing.

Today kept this week climbing the charts of some great lessons.

My summer’s three-day weekend has begun. I’ve several live-streamed shows of some Colorado students to “attend” and a final Lincoln event Thursday evening.

I don’t even dare list any “to do” list items as it’s become quite fruitless.

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MIAGD: Tuesday rolling in

MIAGD: Make it a great day

The morning could not be any nicer even though there’s still a sense of dampness still remaining from Sunday’s heavy rain showers.

The last of the Mary Lincoln day lilies are here for the day. I hate to see their run end. They were wonderful this year.

It’s a heavy day of teaching and I’m eager to get busy!

Make it a great day!

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MIAGD: Monday, here we go!

MIAGD: Make it a great day

My day is off to a somewhat late start because my morning chat with Joshua centered around the topic of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts (1905) and it seems I’ve done a good job of modeling “sharing one’s passion” as it was sixty minutes of him enthusiastically sharing.

Morning business and some research will capture most of my morning from 10:00 AM to Noon before teaching starts at 1:30 PM until 10:30 PM.

Two Mary Lincoln day lilies have greeted the day and it appears only three more remain. They’ve had a good run this season.

Make it a great day!

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MIAGD: Zoomday is not a day of rest

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I am in between Zoom meetings on this extraordinary beautiful day with the most agreeable weather and I would be far too distracted outside on the deck.
(11:30 AM – 1:30 PM) fellow arrangers. 
(1:30 PM – 2:00 PM) a researcher friend from Williamsburg. 
(2:00 PM) my nephew’s love-streamed graduation ceremony. 
(3:00 PM) teaching until 8:30 PM
(8:30 PM) studio Zoom session with theatre director and educator, Jason Hamen from Centerville HS.  
I have kind of missed these busy days but glad they are not consistent because I’d never catch up on rest.
Harrigan was not easy to capture; she had to grab a piece of plastic from the trash can and run around crying and talking because she was so excited.
Make it a great day!
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MIAGD: Saturday morning

MIAGD: Make it a great day

It’s a super boost to the day when you hear the familiar text-tone that always puts a smile on your face before your day even officially begins.

The morning was repetitive as any other morning at The Haasienda. The Mary Lincoln day Lily count is eleven blooms with the hopes of more tomorrow.

I spent a good deal of time on the deck as The Kids explored the yard and lounged about the area, some on the deck, sometimes in the guest bedroom with the opened door to return outside, and even in the yard or on the walkways.

It’s currently 83-degrees but a steady breeze, a continuation from last night’s made-perfect for sleeping breeze, keeps it comfortable under the umbrellas.

Even the humidity is holding off at 44% until it climbs, again, late this evening.

It’s now almost 2:00 PM and I’ve, once again, made it the perfect day of reading, HAMILTON, writing, researching, and enjoying The Quartet.

Make it a great day!

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MIAGD: A restful Thursday

MIAGD: Make it a great day

Morning and early afternoon have come and gone, and true to form, I’ve accomplished little this day except reading, listening to documents and presidential podcasts.

The morning began like any other Thursday morning:

  • FaceTime with Joshua and Dave
  • Prepped my Carnation Instant Breakfast and orange juice to set in the freezer while attending to other things
  • Front yard to count the 17 Mary Lincoln daylilies
  • A beautiful cardinal sat on the line above, chatting for the longest time
  • Fixed my toast
  • Fed the dogs
  • Ate breakfast on the deck
  • Read on the deck
  • Came inside when the sudden rain shower began
  • And, so on…

It’s a schedule. It’s my Thursday life.

Now, at 3:55 PM, I’m sitting in my rocker, enjoying the heat that is actually pleasant due to a rather nice breeze that mingles both warm and cool air.

My Thursdays are a comfortable existence. After my four days of solid teaching, I welcome my Thursdays to simply relax.

On to more relaxing and laziness, but it’s still a great day.

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MY DAY: On to the weekend

Unless you can swear “For life, for death!” –
Oh, fear to call it loving!

The teaching week is over and I feel drained from the energy expelled during a tremendous amount of fantastic lessons.

I climbed into the one twin bed in the guest bedroom with Bailey on my pillow, Harrigan at my feet, Erma on the floor beside the bed, and Chief in the octagonal hall. It’s oft a chore to climb over and step around dogs just to move to the bathroom; I’d not have it any other way.

The past two nights I’ve been able to turn off the A/C and use a window fan for sleeping. I prefer moving fresh air for sleeping but we’ve not had many cooler nights this past week.

No solid plans accompany me into my three day weekend. I have a list but it just keeps getting moved to the following week.

Forty-one years ago, July 8, 1979, I met Rick at Smith-Walbridge drum-major camp. It’s hard to believe this many years have passed since that Sunday afternoon while standing in the mess hall line.

Once upon a time…

I been enjoying colorizing old black and white photographs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt which I’ve added to this evening’s collection.

FDR with daughter, Anna
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MIAGD: My Friday…

MIAGD: Make it a great day

It’s been one very busy, long four days of teaching great students who are climbing higher in their skills, each day.

It’s exciting.

Other than that, precious little else has happened around The Haasienda.

Yesterday, there was a record 24 Mary Lincoln Daylilies and today there are seventeen.

My teaching day commenced in thirty minutes and concludes at 10:45 PM, this evening.

Friday, I have two online shows for students out in Colorado and I am eager to see their finished product.

Make it a great day!

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MY DAY: A Quiet Fourth of July

The weekend was quiet for this year’s Fourth of July, but in no way was it dull, but rather, relaxing and restful.

HAMILTON dominated Friday and Saturday, as well as reading, napping, dog time, and watching documentaries.

Sunday, teaching resumed. The evening ended with my beautiful friend and colleague, Katie Musick, Zooming with my studio about life as a performing artist. Two solid hours of advice for life/performance skills and interaction about the world of performing.  Excellent.

It’s Monday and I begin teaching in 20 minutes until 10:30 PM.

The dogs made it through fireworks that last from 6:30 PM to 1:30 AM, Saturday evening.  Today, at Noon, Chief briefly howled during the monthly tornado siren test; normally, all four cry and yelp at the top of the precious little lungs!

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MIAGD: Hamilton Day

MIAGD: Make it a great day


For another night I could not find sleep to be my immediate friend and I laboring in exhausting exhaustion.

Twenty-two Mary Lincoln day lilies have joined us on this first Friday in July.

My son and his partner got to see HAMILTON at 8:00 AM in London just as we were allowed to stream here in The States. Over our meal chat, he was pretty excited after viewing it and he is not a musical theatre fan.

I decided to go ahead and pull it up and “The Schuyler Sisters” just finished. Wow. I’m a bit groggy and feel sleep coming over me, again.

Whatever your energy, today, make it a great day.

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MIAGD: The Afternoon Edition

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I fully intended to have this post completed by 10:00 AM but now that it is 2:00 PM, that intention has thoroughly passed.

I was completely exhausted after finishing teaching at 11:00 PM Wednesday night and I could not manage to fall asleep until sometime after 3:00 AM.

Finally, at a little before 9:00 AM, with a very patient and seemingly understanding quartet, I was finally awake, one full hour late and missing chat time with my son in London.

After breakfast, I could not return to the guest bedroom bed quickly enough and slept soundly until 12:30 PM. I always feel as though I have wasted so much of my day but remind myself that I don’t keep the typical work hours as most folks. I am fine with that.

Lunch was Marion’s Pizza that I had ordered last night, and another amazing iced coffee.

Fifteen Mary Lincoln daylilies are in the front yard, today, and many more blooms on the wisteria tree by the back deck.

Here are some photos of the pooches from this morning,

Continue to make it a great day!

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MY DAY: On to the weekend

My teaching day ended just before 11:00 PM, having started at 9:30 AM; I am pooped.

Normally, my body just crashes on Thursdays after four long days of intense teaching. I’m hoping for some solid energy, tomorrow.

I made iced coffee for the first time. Nicole Melin gave me several options of how to go about the process. I chose one but adapted it since I kind of got started a little after 1:00 PM.

  • Hot coffee in Mason jar
  • Two hours in refrigerator
  • Two hours in freezer
  • Added sugar and creamer
  • Added ice
  • Magnifico!

Friday begins HAMILTON on Disney+ and I cannot wait to see it.

Bailey was the only one to join me on the deck at 11:15 PM since the fireworks and cannons were sounding. Poor Erma and Chief are so nervous. The next few days will be hell, and probably for the rest of the summer; these individuals are sophomorically selfish.

Now, some reading and then, sleep.

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MIAGD: My Friday is starting

MIAGD: Make it a great day

This has been an exciting week of student progress and many incredible moments of discovery which leaves me both elated and exhausted.

It is strange to not have my familiar plans for Independence Day, joining the McCutcheon family for the parade and festivities. I’m sure the only annual tradition to be kept will be watching the movie musical, 1776.

As I ease into my weekly three day summer weekend, my mind is making notes of what needs to be accomplished around the house. I think I already know how that game plan will go.

It’s to be up in the late 80s to low 90s, and the cool morning air is thickening with humidity.

Thirteen brand new Mary Lincoln daylilies are greeting passers by this fine Wednesday.

Make it a great day!

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MY DAY: Goodbye, month of June

Another fine day of teaching is in the books and I am pooped.

I took dinner to the deck at 10:00 PM and within a few minutes the fireworks began. It’s gotten to the point that Erma and Chief will not join us on the deck at night.

Tomorrow is July 1st. During the Civil War it was the first day of Gettysburg in 1863.

July 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

And then we have July 4th this Saturday. It will be a more subdued day than in years past, but it does diminish the meaning of the day in any way.

It’s time to read for a short time and then time for sleep.

While I was teaching Marisha, I looked over to see Erma, Chief, and Bailey. Harrigan was in her favorite corner, curled up, sleeping.

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MIAGD: PuppyTudes

MIAGD: Make it a great day

Something is definitely in the air that is affecting the attitudes of four dogs, this morning.

Normally, the morning potty time is about 7:45 AM. This morning, Harrigan was terribly demanding about going outside at 6 AM. When I finally relented and let her out, she just sniffed the air at the edge of the deck and returned inside.

Picture taking was a bit like having four toddlers experiencing their terrible twos.

  • Chief, naturally, was turning his head but as I lined up one great shot, he rolled over on his back
  • Erma managed to get one or two good shots but she was still persnickety
  • Bailey wiggled through everything
  • Harrigan found a few sticks, refused to sit, and grunted and talked back to me the entire time

On the brighter side, twelve Mary Lincoln daylilies are spreading their joy out front.

Make it a great day!

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MY DAY: Monday is done

The air outside is just comfortable enough but I retreated into the study where I have an A/C window unit to keep the room cool while I am teaching.

The day was a solid hit of some great moments with students making steady progress.  It was exhilarating.


Ed Iverson

The afternoon session ended with a tremendous hour of area actor, Ed Iverson, reading Willy Loman against my student, Adam Weaver’s Biff Loman.  They worked on two scenes from Arthur Miller’s classic, DEATH OF A SALESMAN. It was riveting. I read the roles of Happy and Linda and I am so glad I had minimal work as I was so affected by the electricity between Ed and Adam. Unbelievable.

It’s 11:05 PM and my Tuesdays are long days.  I am going to read for a while and then turn out the lights.

It’s been a great day!

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MIAGD: Monday is moving along

MIAGD: Make it a great day

The morning hours completely escaped me and though much was accomplished, I feel slightly behind.

Sunday afternoon I began a new week of teaching. At 8:45 PM I led a conducting class on Zoom and at 9:30 PM we had a special guest for a studio zoom class.

50394065_10213818841841458_1594241209725878272_oJames Hamen, teacher and theatre director at Centerville High School, gave the students a fantastic presentation on maneuvering, managing, and making it in the performing arts. It was an excellent message and super coaching for the students planning on any type of career in the performing and educational arts.  Thank you, Jason!

Today, there are 16 Mary Lincoln daylilies.

Monday’s teaching schedule begins at 1:30 PM, dinner break, then another five hours starting at 5:45 PM.

Make it a great day!

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MIAGD: Sunday morning

MIAGD: Make it a great day

Five new Mary Lincoln day lilies are dancing in the breeze beneath another round of grey skies.

People have been mentioning the Sahara Dust passing over so I’m wondering if that’s the result of two days of grayness.

7:30 AM, I had my coffee while Zooming with Joshua, Dave, and The Bostonians (Dave’s parents). These Sunday morning gatherings are such a great jumpstart back into my teaching schedule.

The outside is still a bit wet and damp from yesterday’s heavy rain showers. The older pooches are relaxing near me while the six year old sisters are patrolling the backyard.

I’m going to spend some time in the deck, listening to “something” while reading through my new book on Jefferson’s Monticello.

Make it a great day.

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