Thursday, September 28, 2006

Friday's Feast One Hundred and Thirteen

Feed your mind
with thought-provoking,
mind-stimulating questions…

visit Friday's Feast:

a buffet for your brain.


What is your favorite herb or spice?
Coming into fall, my first thought is of cinnamon and clove for hot cider. Aside from that, we use a dry rub on most everything we grill that is simple, but to die for - salt, paprika, pepper, and brown sugar. I'm also considering a venture into the world of pesto, so that would be basil.

Name a song you like but haven't heard in a long time.
Right in Time by Lucinda Williams from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The best Lucinda is the old stuff.

If you were to take just one minute to write down as many things as you can think of that you need (not want) to do, approximately how many things would there be?
Three. Maybe. My needs are not great!

Main Course
Tell something interesting about one of your family members (nothing scandalous, please, just something unique).
My son-in-law was a founding player of the improv group Rice Pilaf during his days at Taylor University. He is a wonderful addition to our family. Between he and willi, there is never a dull moment at our dinner table.

What's the latest you've ever stayed awake?
Back in the day I would pull all-nighters. Those days are long gone. Now I'm lucky to stay up past 10:00 and still make it up at 5:30 for work. It's hell to get old, but I'll take it any day considering the alternative!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Goodbye, Tomatoes!

For me, there’s nothing better than a bright red tomato, ripened in the sun, preferably from my own garden. I’m talking about a tomato that is so good and juicy; all you need is a salt shaker. No knife, no fork, just a pinch of salt and a big bite, with juice running all the way down my arm to my elbow. Even better if they're still a little warm from the sun. Back in the day we would buy tomatoes by the bushel from Luebcke's Farmstand and set them on the back porch with some napkins and one of those tin salt shakers, the kind with the handle on the side. Everyone would help themselves. What was left ended up in ball jars in the fruitcellar, and eventually in a pot of chili or spaghetti sauce. This year we were the grateful recipients of what must have been a bumpercrop for some friends of ours. We ate the last one over the weekend.

Plant `em in the spring;
eat `em in the summer.
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer.
Only two things that money can't buy, that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

-Guy Clark

Ah, lament the passing of summer and homegrown tomatoes! What are we left with? An unsavory little product of Purdue University's genetic engineering. In the early 70's I attended a summer horticulture program at Purdue, where they were working to develop a tomato that would ripen slower, travel farther, and stay on the grocery store shelf longer.

Sadly enough, they hit their mark. This tomato has been sitting on the cabinet for well over a month. I thought it might ripen, but no, it's just as hard and orange as when I brought it home. This tomato has outlasted two grocery bags full of garden tomatoes.

Having a tomato in my salad in December is nice. I guess. I'm just not sure the gain was worth the loss. Come on Purdue! Maybe you could go back to the drawing board one more time and give it the old college try. You can do it Boilers, I know you can!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

WWC and the morning papers.

Willi and I always start out our morning with coffee and the newspapers. This has become our ritual. Enough time is built into the waking hour so we can read, share, critique, complain and on occasion, do some editorializing of our own. Sometimes he reads an article to me, interjecting his own verbiage. On occasion he does it so well that I can't tell where the real article ends and he begins, that is until it becomes so outlandish even I, the gullible one, see through it. It's always interesting to compare the reporting via the political slants of the papers, the Times (R) and the Post Tribune (D). You almost have to read them both to get the whole story.

Most mornings I can manage to find some good news interspersed with the usual gloom and doom. If not good news, maybe something that will make me laugh, or at least giggle. For example, last week we followed the story of the power hungry mayor of a neighboring town who harassed the fire chief into resignation. The final straw came when the mayor found fault with, of all things, a sign at the fire station honoring the 9/11 volunteers. This fire chief, the fourth in five years, lasted three months. The town functions so much like Mayberry, you just have to laugh.

This morning's papers had no redeeming qualities, except of course for Opus. After reading about Indiana's high school dropout rate and overcrowding in the local jails, I moved on to the world news. A bombing in Iraq kills 38, mostly women and children in line at a gas station...well you get the picture.

Searching for something a little more light-hearted led me to the horoscopes. In my former life, pre-Willi, I read the horoscopes every morning. Times were not the best and every once in awhile they actually forecast something good or exciting - heaven knows, we all need that. On the other hand, anything that had the slightest possibility of preventing me from stepping in "it" was greatly appreciated. Mind you, I didn't plan my life around them but on some days I certainly ducked when told to. At any rate, today I found my giggle...
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21):

The Times (R)
Neither too-big ideas nor a too-big mouth will serve you well now. Keep a low profile to avoid stirring up resentments - although you may think you have all the answers now, chances are you do not.

The Post Tribune (D)
You choose the right words and make a difference. You have some imaginative and intuitive thoughts. Try putting one or two into action. You might be delighted by the outcome.

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Objective and Value.



A clean desktop: Friday 's objective and Monday 's value.

And finally, making mowing the lawn a valuable objective.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A rock and a hard place.

The elementary school down the road from our house was where I worked a few years back. This was before Columbine, 9/11 and Homeland Security. We actually thought we were pretty safe and sound in our own little corner of the world. In a small town like ours, everyone knew you and your kids, maybe even your parents and grandparents depending on how long you lived there.

Richard was a fixture in our town. He was a nice enough guy. We would usually see him on his bicycle or walking on the side of road. Sometimes he would be in the plowed fields picking up rocks, arrowheads, or other mementos he found in the overturned soil. He was right around my age, 40 or so. Friends said that when he was younger someone had slipped him a mickey, and he never was the same. Nonetheless, he was a happy sort who pretty much kept to himself. Everyone seemed ok with that, and he did, too.

One usual day at work, I sensed someone standing in front of my desk, looked up, and there he was. He wore a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, work boots, and an army jacket. His hands looked as though he had been in the fields collecting rocks. All in all, he had the appearance of a working man. He emptied his pockets onto the top of my desk. There were about a dozen rocks of various sizes, shapes and colors and the usual pocket fuzz, which he sorted out and put back in his pocket. He told me about the rocks with great amazement. I blinked my eyes, opened my mouth, and he was gone; in and out of the school in a matter of minutes. It was a singular conversation, no response was necessary, and exclusive of everyone else in the office.

This ritual was repeated every couple of weeks or so. We thought maybe he visited because this was where he went to school as a little boy. There was always a pile of rocks on my desk. Some of them were arrowheads which eventually made their way into the classrooms. Some were pebbles that ended up outside as a rock garden. My favorites were two rocks which he explained were used by the Indians to grind grain into meal. I always thought they were just two rocks which fit very nicely together, my proverbial "rock and hard place".

Toward the spring of the second year his behavior appeared a little different. In as long as it took his clean shaven face to become stubble and then bearded, his clothing followed suit. His speech faltered and within days he made no sense at all. Along with the rocks, came cigarette butts, tabs from pop cans, and many other things that found their way into his pockets.

It really was an easy decision. We had to call the police and have him picked up. It took a bit of doing to convince the chief that this was not a good situation. After all, everyone knew Richard and he was "ok". Finally he told me to call the next time he came, and as usual, he was in and out in minutes. By the time they caught up with him he was several blocks away. It took three officers to subdue him and boy, were they surprised. Shortly after, an alarm system was installed.

It turns out that Richard had been living with his father, who suffered a stroke. He was not being cared for and what we saw was the result of not having medication. He was hospitalized, they straightened out his medicine, and he came out of it in great shape.

This was one of those "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations - couldn't take a chance with the kids, knew he wasn't taking care of himself, but sure hoped that he would be ok. I'm so glad it turned out well, but it sure felt like being caught...

between a rock and a hard place.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It's a comfort thing.

Fall is my favorite season. It's early. It's not here yet, but it's coming. I can feel it. The temperatures this week are in the 60's during the day, with a cool 40 tonight and maybe even the mid 30's tomorrow night. Yahoo! Pretty soon the leaves will start to turn and it will be beautiful. The best sleeping weather ever; cool nights with the windows open just enough. The mornings will be crisp and cool, and there will be frost on the lawn. The Farmer's Almanac warns of cold spells and significant snowfalls for the winter, or so my friend Rita tells me. Soon we will have a fire in the fireplace, and that's a comfort thing.

We had a pot of chili tonight. It's not beautiful. It's just chili...but it was good. You're supposed to make chili when the weather gets cold. I know that to be true, because that's what my mom did. In fact, it's kind of interesting because when I first married and started doing mom things, naturally she was the one I wanted to be like. So, I called for her chili recipe. Although she did not have a recipe per say, she did her best to pass along the ingredients and measurements. Try as I did, it never came out as good as hers. It took me many years and even more pots of chili to get it right. I always wondered, in my heart of hearts, if she intentionally left something out so that home was the place to come for chili, because she knew it was a comfort thing.

There are many things that are a comfort; a long flannel nightgown my daughter gave me, my old grey sweatpants, hearing my husband play his guitar. For my son, it was a woolen blanket with a satin binding, and my husband has a serape from South America that is his second skin every winter. I wore one of my dad's plaid wool shirts until it was threadbare, and even then it hung in the closet for awhile. It made me feel warm inside, and made me smile. It was a comfort thing.

So, what about you? Do you have a comfort thing?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

WWC and some other letters too.

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words this week are Touch and Release. Instead of having one picture of Touch and one picture of Release, there are two pictures of both. I bent the rules a bit. Sometimes I run with scissors, too. Here's my first shot...

The touch of the bee will release the pollen. One more try...

Being a soft touch, you release the dollar. Maybe.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Blog Blither - that pile of clippings left over from the morning read.

This is an interesting bit of news for those of you that followed the story of Martha Seroczynski. Martha ran into some flak from the Porter County Board of Commissioners in August while attempting to renew her permit to protest the war in Iraq on the sidewalk around the courthouse. You will remember that the requirement to provide liability insurance was rescinded just as producers from the Fox and Friends morning show became interested.

The Post Tribune reported early last week that Valparaiso police had made 12 alcohol-related arrests, Saturday, September 9th, during the Popcorn Festival, a very lucrative annual event also held on the courthouse lawn.

In another section of the paper, "Quickly Answers", I found this little ditty:
"Q: With the question over insurance for the woman protesting the war on the sidewalks in front of the Porter County Courthouse, how much liability insurance must those participating in the Popcorn Festival on those same sidewalks have?

A: The Valparaiso Popcorn Fest, which is sponsored by Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, does not require liability insurance from people who operate booths on the courthouse square."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Look at what the Post Tribune has done to my favorite Sunday comic, Opus. Well, actually it's the only comic I read, save for the editorial cartoons. Not long ago, this politically incorrect piece of newsprint appeared in all it's glory, front and center, full page width, under the Sunday Comics masthead. Now relegated to an inside space 60% of the previous size, the print is so small you can hardly see it. Well, I can hardly see it.

So, like Martha, Opus "shows up regularly, with a somewhat unpopular stance for the community" (thanks mjd) and boom, he's banished from the front page of the Sunday Comics.

What's with that?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Creek Always Rises

It has been raining in Northwest Indiana just about all summer long. It sure seems that way at least. When it hasn't been raining, its been humid and hot. Really hot. You can tell that I'm not much of a summer lover. Come to think of it, we really didn't have much of a spring either.

The last two days have been the worst. My friend mjd posted yesterday about carrying buckets of water up a flight of stairs, trying to hold down the fort until help arrived. In Highland, a few miles north of here, my daughter's friend lost most of her belongings. She and her son have moved in with mom and dad until she can find another place. Today she was wading through her ground floor apartment in hip boots with rubber gloves and a mask looking for items that might be saved. Once again family, friends and strangers have come forward to lend a hand.

We, on the other hand, are fortunate to have a dry basement. Our house sits up on a hill that overlooks a usually small winding stretch of water. On down the way, it feeds into Turkey Creek. Back in the day it remained just a little drink of water, no matter how much it rained. When they turned the nearby farms into fields of concrete, all the runoff headed our way. With a normal rain we see the creek rise about a foot. When we get heavy rains, this is what happens...

The water has risen to the top of an 8 foot retaining wall. The picture above is the same area you see in the picture below, which was taken sppring of '05. If you look close you will see the Great Blue Heron wading in "ankle deep" water. These were drier days.

Several years ago, when this was my mother's place, one of the town politicos came by. It was near election time so he decided he'd like to see, up close and personal, the soil erosion caused by the larger and stronger currents of water that accompanied the heavy rains. He brought in an engineer, who brought in a bulldozer, that was going to straighten out all the bends in the creek. I'm not quite sure what his end goal was, except that even in my feeble mind I knew that the current would have been faster and harder, gathering steam as it reached the turn. I suspect that it would have aided the runoff from mall parking lots a little up the road. What was a mild erosion problem would have been multiplied exponentially. My mom was beside herself as they fired up the heavy machinery. They had no intention of waiting for her lawyer. I coudn't think of anything else to do but stand in front of the bulldozer. Which I did. To this day, I don't know how I mustered up the nerve to do that, but it worked. They stopped long enough for help to arrive and send them on their way. I'm glad no-one actually knew how close I came to having wet trousers.

Mom's gone now. Most times the water just meanders down and round the curve, heading toward Turkey Creek. But everytime we get a heavy rain and the creek rises, I think of my mom and that bulldozer. God willin'.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Good Will Found!

Was yesterday a long day, or what?

Are you looking for some good news? Me too.

Last night I came across a very thought provoking question I would like to share. On a post called Remembering the Victims, Peggy laments that in the aftermath of 9/11 “There had never been a larger outpouring of good will. What happened to that good will?”

Well, good will can be found in the tiny southwestern town of DeGonia Springs, Indiana. Maybe you have heard about this. A tornado ripped through this town in November of 2005, claiming 25 lives. Also in its path was the Baker Chapel United Methodist Church. The pastor recollects pews and hymnals in the cornfields. The members will tell you the tornado might have taken the building, but not the church.

Yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of something horrible, something really great was happening. Firefighters from Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn were joined by Amish and Mennonite volunteers, local residents, rescue personnel, and disaster survivors from San Diego,California; Utica, Illinois; and Slidell, Louisianna, in framing the new building. For more information, visit the New York Says Thank You Foundation.

In the midst of the memorials, tributes, gloom and sadness, this was really a sight for sore eyes. So Peggy, if you’re out there visiting today, I think I found us a bit of good will, something we all need a little more of.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Celebrating the Life of Robert Hussa

It has been five years since the death of Robert Hussa, on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center in New York.

While gathering information for this post, it became evident that Mr. Hussa lived each and every day of 51 years to the fullest.

Please join me in celebrating his life.

Son of Robert and Stephanie

Brother of William and Stephen

Husband of Kathryn

Father of Robert and Thomas

Uncle of William, Michael and Nicole

Above and beyond all else, the love of Robert Hussa for his family permeates every piece of writing that I found. Co-workers spoke often of his focus on family, and family members found comfort in his love and support.

Associates of the Senior Vice President of Carr Futures describe him as a quiet person who devoted many hours toward the success of the business, all the while putting his family first. Straightforward and decent; willing to help those trying to get a leg-up; a respected leader; a person of character; all qualities repeated again and again by his friends.

Being a true sportsman and competitor, his passion for the game was contagious. It enveloped his wife, children, and friends so that everyone played. A profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 29, 2001 follows:

Robert Hussa's hobbies eventually became his family's hobbies. He took up golf and got his oldest son, Robert Jr., hooked. His wife, Kathryn, was taking lessons, too. And though his youngest son, Thomas, did not play golf, Mr. Hussa managed to interest him in skiing and riding mountain bikes. Those were his hobbies, too. "Every season, there were different activities," said Kathryn Hussa. "We were rarely home."

Mr. Hussa, 51, a senior vice president at Carr Futures, shared more than just his hobbies with his family. He believed in honesty and integrity, and stressed the importance of those values to his children. "He led by example," said Robert Jr. The weekend before the World Trade Center attack, Mr. Hussa joined Thomas and his friends for a barbecue at the family's home in Roslyn, N.Y. The next day, he rounded up Robert Jr. for an outing to a Jets game at the Meadowlands. "He was very content with his work and his family," said his wife. "He had a life that was full."

Although it was not my fortune to have known Robert Hussa, I believe he was a passionate man; living every day with a fervor and enthusiasm that touched all around him, someone whose life we should celebrate. No one can take that time away.

"It wont be long before another day
We gonna have a good time
And no ones gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, its all right
I dont know no love songs
And I cant sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When Im gone"

- James Taylor

Listen to You Can Close Your Eyes

Sign the Guestbook for Robert Hussa

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Friday, September 08, 2006

He's a pretty good dad...

I had this catchy little title all lined up for this post.

It was going to be:
"Stepdaddy on a stepladder at the stepdaughter's new digs."

What do you think? Well I changed my mind, and here is why...

My husband and I found each other at a time when I pretty much thought I would spend the rest of my life flying solo. We think we were blessed to have crossed paths. So do my children, which is an added blessing.

This picture was taken on one of those weekend days when I am sure he would have rather stayed home to enjoy a beer and watch some football. Instead we packed up the toolbox and drove the little red pick-up over to the newlywed's abode to install shades and curtain rods. Not only that, he remained patient the whole time. Sometimes the being patient part is harder than the actual task at hand. At least for me. Nonetheless, there was great satisfaction when the job was done. The curtains were hung, the daughter was happy...and so was the dad.

My daughter and her husband asked him to give the toast at their wedding reception. He began with a story about Johnny Cash saying that in his family there were really no stepchildren; they were all just his and June's kids. He then drew the comparison with our families and welcomed the newest member in as well.

So even if the other title was cute and catchy, it just would not have done justice to a pretty good dad and those of us who love him.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Martha Wins!

Well, for those of you who may have been following the saga of war protester Martha Seroczynski on past posts, What's with that? and An update on Martha...maybe , here's how it came out. The headlines in Monday's Post Tribune read "Dispute settled prior to FoxNews show". According to the article, producers from the Fox and Friends morning show contacted Martha and Commissioner John Evans, R-North District, about an appearance on the show. Although the article does not give an indication as to why the interview did not take place, the good news is that the Commissioners withdrew their waiver requirement, along with the need for proof of insurance. All of this with the understanding that the protest stay on the courthouse perimeter, rather than on the lawn which is owned by the city. Interestingly enough, that is all she wanted in the first place.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

On the all night radio

"Where was I when the lights went out
Up in my room listening to twist and shout
Hot summer nights by the window fan
Out on the air waves with a big dance band
On the all night radio"

Things were really different for us back in the day...or were they?

My radio was my best friend. It was my link to everything outside of my neighborhood. News of world events were directly tied to the music for me, and have remained so even to this day. At that time we had only AM radio, WLS and WCFL, both Chicago stations. Disc Jockeys like Larry Lujack, Dick Biondi, Clark Weber and John "Records" Landecker were names we all new and we didn't miss the top forty countdowns.

"Gotta hear that new sound from across the ocean
All strange and soulful full of blue emotion
Makes you wanna miss somebody that you already know
Lying there in the dark all alone with the sound down low
On the all night radio"

New 45's came in down at the corner dimestore, "Jeanies", once a week. She usually had at least the top ten, according to that week's countdown. I could save up and get one record. This was mid 60's...I don't think I even knew what an album was for three or four more years. All I knew was there was some really cool music coming out of my radio, and I could not get enough.

At that time, at least for me, that was my choice... play records, or listen to the radio. Additionally, electrical current being a necessity, even the clock radio on my nightstand had its limitations. My transistor radio went with me to all other locations and I was in good shape, as long as the 9 volt battery held out.

Wherever I went, my trusty transistor radio went along. If I walked to the park or rode my bike, the radio was close to my ear so I didn't miss a stitch. It became a point of irritation for my parents who did not always have my full attention. This was about status quo up until the time when I could drive...and the car radio diminished the need for a transistor. As technology advanced, so did the means of satisfying the music junkie within.

Now, forty some years later, my transistor has been replaced by an iPod. It holds a gazillion more songs and the battery lasts a lot longer. There is a docking station at work and in my car. Almost our entire cd library fits in a little pocket in the front of my purse.

Everyday I see people of all ages, in all walks of life, with a little battery powered box that brings their world a little closer. And I wonder, are things really that different now than they were back in the day?

"Where’s that music coming from?
Sure got a whole lotta soul
On the all night radio
When you close your eyes to the dark soft glow
Tune into the world on the all night radio"

All Night Radio - Tim Krekel

Per eBay:

Vintage Transistor Radio
Soundesign Model 1177
Unusual 2-tone Radio
Circa: 1963
Battery: 9V (not included)
Wrist strap - Nice retro design
Great radio to collect or put on display