Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taking to the podium for my cause.

There is a cause that I have believed in and given to for over thirty years.
I was nineteen the first time that I ever gave blood.  A good friend of mine really wanted me to do it and he went with me the first time and sat there giving me reassuring looks the entire time.
Here at IU, during Homecoming. we have the Blood Donor Challenge.  It used to be a challenge/contest between Indiana University and Purdue University.  (If you are not from Indiana, this is where I have to tell you that IU and PU are huge rivals.)  IU always won the blood challenge and basically, when you won, you got bragging rights.  We always won and a couple of years ago, Purdue quit.  Just dropped out.  This is where I have to say "just like Purdue."   If you are a Purdue fan, please don't write me a hateful response...I was married to a Purdue man, we held football season tickets for years.  (I still know the words to the Purdue fight song, do you?)  I thought I had died and gone to heaven...a forestry major from Purdue.  I truly thought "it doesn't get any better than this." 
When, when I divorced him, I divorced Purdue.  Then both of our children earned their undergrad degrees from Indiana University.  Then I went to work at Indiana University.  And with the exception of the one day when Ball State University (my institution- where I earned my BS in English with a minor in Natural Resources) play football...I am an IU person. 
 I even bleed for IU.

This was the scene yesterday.  The blood drive was held at the DeVault Alumni Center where I used to work when I worked for alumni.  It was nice to go see all of my old friends...

It seems to me that the most people who can give, do.  And people who can't want to tell you why they can't.  It will be a sad day for me when I can no longer donate blood. 
Please don't wait until someone that you love needs blood to donate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Makes me feel warm

Tonight I made a cup of tea to sip as I sat before our first fire of the season.  It is raining and in the low forties this evening in Southern Indiana.  Supposed to get down to thirty on Friday night.

There is something about a clean, tidy kitchen lit by the light of the stove.  Something about it that has always tugged at my heart.  Makes me feel warm inside. 

I've always loved the words to John Denver's "Back Home Again..."

There's a fire softly burning
supper's on the stove...
It's the little things that make a house a home

I can't bear to hear that song or to even sing it to myself, even if it is inside of my head and not out loud without tears coming to my eyes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Published in...

Fall edition of her magazine for women! The issue is a bonus to all Courier-Times subscribers.

The Courier-Times is my hometown paper.  Many years ago, before I ever went to school to study writing, I whipped out a column and submitted it to the woman who would become my editor.  My first piece for her was about a live nativity scene put on by my church.  As it often is in December in Indiana, it was bitterly cold that night.  I wore a white choir robe over bluejeans and hiking boots and sweatshirt.  I thought the angelic robe would be long but as it was, it ended far above the hiking boots.  I flapped my "wings" and sang the words to "I'll fly away oh, glory!" 
The nativity scene was a hopeless failure.  Few cars came, fewer people got out of the cars that drove by to come to see us in our effort.  We made jokes akin to "if a tree falls in the woods..." changing the words to "if we have a living nativity and no one comes..."  Near the end of the evening, a young mother came, her little daughter by the hand.  We all fell silent as we watched them approach.  The look on the little girl's face told the story.  She looked to Baby Jesus (a plastic doll wrapped in a receiving blanket).  Her face was enraptured, looking to the scene before her.  Suddenly the cold of night, the too-short choir robe, the frozen fingers and noses mattered.  It mattered to a small girl as she looked on with belief on her face.

This was my first story for my hometown paper.  Back then, I probably scribbled it long-hand on a yellow legal pad and handed it to my editor.  Fortunately for me, she loved it.  And, soon after, she believed in me enough to offer me a column. 

I was newly divorced and feeling kicked about by life.  I had taken my two children and moved from the nice house we lived in with their dad to a rental.  We lived in the downstairs and the landlord lived upstairs.  He was a drug dealer.  A drug dealer who partied a lot.  When he partied to the extent that he woke my sleeping two year old son,I asked to be released from my lease and he agreed.  While living in that house I was approached by the police to give descriptions of those buying drugs.  I had refused.  We were in danger.  We moved back into the neighborhood that I had grown up in and lived in a simple, nice rental for the rest of my children's growing up years.  My children ended up going to the same school that I had gone to.
I say all of this to show in those years, my life was not easy.

But this woman, my editor, believed in me.  Everything I've ever written for her she enthusiastically accepted.  She and I slowly got to know one another and became friends.  I watched her as she frequently mailed letters to another friend.  I envied the friendship that the two shared and how often the editor wrote to her.  I would learn later that the friend was her mother.  I felt this told so much about her.  That all of the letters that I saw addressed to this woman in her curved, rounded script was her mother.  I thought it was beautiful how frequently she wrote to her and mailed fat envelopes.

The editor, whose name is Donna, gave me so many opportunities.  I once had a front page story.  I remember the day that paper came out.  I picked up my children from daycare and sat with the paper before me, staring at the by-line.  My name.  My words. 

A recent opportunity Donna gave to me was to interview the author of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson.  I had read the book and gushed to her about how much I loved the story.  When Mortenson came to Indianapolis, Donna asked me to do the interview and to write the piece on him.  I was nervous to the point of being sick, but thrilled beyond belief. 

Through the years I would go on to work for another paper, to finish a degree in English, to move to another town.  When I left the newspaper that Donna worked for, she and I began to write letters.  The envelopes flew back and forth between us.  We both have always had a lot to say.  Then we both got on the Internet.  Oh dear.  The emails have been constant. 

Recently, the hometown paper, The Courier-Times, started a magazine for women called her.  It was given to Donna.  The second issue came out today and I have a story in it.  The story is about you.  It is about the relationships and friendships that come out of blogging.  I will share it with you, soon. 
Donna is a journalist who has never lost her drive.  One of the things I love about her is her inquisitive mind.  She is always thinking about that next story.  She is always asking questions.  She has never lost her excitement for each and every piece she has ever done.  She was one of those people who knew early in life what she wanted to be when she grew up and she went after it. 
She had always encouraged others.  She has always encouraged me and she has always encouraged a lot of other people.  She has always believed in me.  I have always been appreciative of all that she has helped to happen in my life. 
Today the second edition of her comes out.  The bonus is today is Donna's birthday. 
Whenever I've introduced Donna as "my editor," she has said "friend." 
Happy Birthday, friend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mammoth Cave

I have a life-long friend that lives in Tennessee.  I live in Indiana.  She teaches in a year-round school system and was about to be out on fall break.  We had not seen one another for almost a year and a half.  One conversation led to another and we decided to rendezvous in the middle at one of my favorite places on earth- Mammoth Cave National Park.
I've always loved camping but had not camped for nearly two years.  I hauled my equipment out of the barn and cleaned and scrubbed and organized for nearly a week.  Finally, with my little Honda loaded to the max, I was ready to head out.  Doug shot this photo of me just before I departed.  Yup, I'm a treehugger.
Me and my trusty steed
Just south of where we live I headed into Bedford, IN.  We live in the limestone belt.  The photo below shows common topography for this part of the state.  The air was thick with clouds all around.  
driving through the clouds
The Ohio River runs between Indiana and Kentucky.  I like to cross into Kentucky at Louisville over the Kennedy bridge.
Crossing over into Kentucky
 My friend and I were in contact via cell phone off and on during the trip and as I entered the park and saw this sign I pulled over to meet her.  We timed it perfectly and she arrived about ten minutes after I did.
She and I grew up together.  Her mother was my kindergarten teacher.  My family was moving and her daughter was in my new school district.  Her mother, my teacher, invited me over to their house one day after school to play so that I would have a new friend when I went to my new school.  That was when we were five years old and we have been friends ever since.  We went through Girl Scouts together from second grade through our junior year of high school.  We were Girl Scouts when most didn't think that was too cool, but we didn't care.  We always had fun camping and hiking together. 
We  quickly made camp and set out to hike a few trails.  We had a couple of  days of perfect fall weather.  The woods were pristine.
 We came upon this shag bark hickory tree and decided it looked like an old man with his arms extended.
The deer in the park are accustomed to people being all around and are quite tame.  The campers before us had spilled dog food in our campsite and we had deer coming to snack despite the fact that we were right there.
We planned our meals together and had bacon 
and fried potatoes for breakfast on our first morning.  We both like to drink tea and heated our water over the flames.  Food tastes delicious when cooked over a campfire.  That is my Grandma's old orange cast iron frying pan.  I love to cook in that old skillet and only use it on camping trips.
Our home away from home for a couple of nights was a tent.  Because we are getting older, and the ground is getting harder, we slept on a Coleman mattress.
I was thrilled to accompany her the first time that she toured the cave.  We took one of my favorite tours, the historic tour.  I have a special connection to this cave and love to see people's reaction the first time that they experience it.  The photo below was taken as we were coming back out of the cave into the sunlight. 
A friendly ranger snapped the photo of the two of us.  Friends for forty-eight years.  Shew, that is a long time!
Photo below is of me at an overlook in the park.  My favorite outfit- shorts, t-shirt and hiking boots. 
We were able to explore some areas that I had not visited before and we hiked around Sloan's Pond. 

We hiked, we cooked out over the fire, we talked, we laughed, we giggled.  Oh, we giggled like the school girls that we used to be.  The second night (our last) we stayed up late and talked and laughed.  We were up later than anyone else in the campground and were trying to be quiet.  If you are a female and reading this, you know that trying to be quiet usually just makes it worse. 
When we headed for home we departed later than we meant to (of course) and as I was near to home, the sun was just setting.
Back home again in Indiana.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let them eat cake!

We are gathering four to six eggs a day now and I've been baking about once a week.  Sometimes when life is crazy busy you just have to say "let them eat cake!"  Pay attention and I will show you how.
These children, are perfectly greased and floured Wilton cake pans.  Does it make a difference what kind of pan you use?  I think it does.  I used Crisco to grease the pans and lightly floured with flour.

Both layers cracked while baking.  Can anyone tell me why this happens and what to do to avoid it?  Or do we need to be concerned with such issues?  My mama always taught me to lift the pan an inch or so off of the counter top and drop several times before baking.  This does two things- it evens out your batter and it causes air bubbles to rise to the top. 

After allowing the layers to cool in the pan for ten minutes, I ran a butter knife around the edge and then flipped each layer onto a rack to finish cooling.  Doug was like a child asking how soon I could ice the cake so he could have a piece. 
Then I whipped up the icing.
I use a Wilton spatula to ice my cakel.  In another lifetime I dabbled in cake decorating.  I didn't take any lessons, just studied intensely on my own.  I was fairly successful.  I produced some birthday cakes and did the cakes for a niece's graduation and I wasn't too embarrassed with the results.  Doug was impressed with my cake icing skills, but maybe he was just trying to get me to cut a big piece of cake for him. 
Cake with a cup of milk?  It doesn't get much better!
Super-Moist Chocolate Mayo Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
3 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350degrees
Blend all ingredients.
Bake as directed on box.

The recipe says the cinnamon is optional, but to me that is what makes this cake.  And, just for your information, I don't eat mayonnaise in real life, but if it is in a recipe I will make an exception. 

Chocolate Mocha Frosting
3/4 cup Crisco
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
Cream Crisco, vanilla, salt and cocoa.  Add sugar and coffee alternately, beating until smooth.

The coffee in this icing is delicious.  Chocolate, cinnamon and coffee?  YUM.  Do you know that a piece of cake is excellent for breakfast?  YUP. 

I took most of the cake to work to share.  I think it was appreciated.  Or maybe they gobbled it up so I wouldn't feel bad.  Sometimes you just have to say "Let them eat cake!"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Autumnal Art

The good folks (a.k.a. local Hoosier gal Kristin Hubick) over at Retro Cafe' Art are having a "Anything Goes" Halloween contest.  I've never entered any of my work in a contest.  I entered via facebook.  You can find them on facebook here.  Retro Cafe' Art's blog is found here
I created the piece below last fall.  A gal friend of mine gave the retro photo to me.  To make it pop, I mounted it on corrugated cardboard.  I painted the canvas with Golden Fluid Titan Buff.  I distressed with a standard Versa Fine sepia ink pad and Tim Holtz distress inks in various shades.  I distress with finger tip pads and a sponge pad. I distress almost everything I make.  Sepia and the Titan Buff are two of my favorite shades.  The black bird is chipboard from a Tim Holtz set.
Which witch?
This card was created with a new stamp by Inkadinkado called Steampunk Skull.  I do love steampunk but this card is a take-off from what is normally standard for me.  That is what I enjoy about art though- that is is forever evolving.  Would be boring if it was the same old thing all the time.   
It is safe to say that I bought 99.9% of the supplies used on these two projects at Papertrix

You can enter up to three items.  I haven't created my third entry yet, but have it in my mind.  Hope over to one of the websites and check it out for yourself.  Or better yet, enter some of your own art work.  You have until October 14th. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It is for your own good!

Sometimes the powers that be have to make people do things that they don't want to do. belts.  And motorcycle helmets.  Well, that one didn't go over so well.  Don't get me started.  One of the more recent actions that will affect all of us is the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs. 
We already use CFL's but recently took advantage of Duke's free offer. 

Even if you aren't on Duke energy, you might refer to the website to learn more about why CFLs are a good idea.  After all, it is for your own good! (And isn't free an enticing word?)

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