N is for New

AtoZ N2015

The definition of new is terribly subjective. Fortunately, I am married to a GearHead who shares my concept of newness. We think of it as vintage, retro, antique, character …

We recently welcomed the newest addition to our family – a non-running, non-stopping, non-completed NEW pickup!

The fun of NEW!

M is for Maple

AtoZ M2015

I have to admit that I am a huge fan of maple-everything. I have had the good fortune to taste maple cotton candy at the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher, North Carolina. I’ve also spread more than a little maple butter on piping hot toast, and have been known to whip very cold heavy cream into billows of ivory while drizzling Grade B maple syrup into the beaters.

It’s a little late in the season to visit a working maple camp to buy the freshest syrup, but many family owned stores still have a good supply of regional syrup, molasses and honey. It’s well worth the effort to find the real thing since the taste of fresh, local maple syrup simply cannot be captured in mass produced plastic bottles shaped like apron-clad women or log homes.

The connection between that just-filled jar of still-hot maple syrup held in your hands on a gray February day, and the families who work with the land throughout the year is obvious when crunching through a cold woods where bright blue bags hang from tree trunks, steadily collecting the running sap.

The steam from the sugar houses rises into the gray sky, and the fragrance of wood fires, fresh pancakes and sizzling maple-cured bacon wafts from the nearby dining room. Many maple camps invite the public to celebrate the too-short harvesting season with live music, Native American-lead programs, colonial reenactors and artisans. Children are encouraged to make a maple tree themed craft, and families are welcome to tour the sugar houses.

Although the 2015 season is over, this is a good time to mark your calendars for February and March of 2016. Just be sure to bundle up and have lots of helpers to carry all those deliciously warm jugs of fresh maple syrup!

L is for Library

AtoZ L2015

In honor of National Library Week, I’ve listed five reasons for actually, physically going into your local library. For anyone who hasn’t been inside a library building since high school, old memories of musty books or shushing librarians will soon be forgotten and replaced with experiences that are such fun, you’ll wonder what kept you away for so long.

  1. Coffee Shop – Really! Local libraries often include a small cafe or coffee shop that’s the perfect place to grab a sandwich on your break,or enjoy an evening dessert with friends.
  2. Live Music – During the week and on weekends, your local library hosts free or very affordable concerts – everything from classical to New Age, jazz to folk.
  3. Make Something Cool – Who would think that hands-on activities like making soap or learning to cook would be something you and your family could do at the library?
  4. Get Healthy – No matter how in or out of shape you might be, there are plenty of friendly, welcoming fitness classes available at your local library – yoga, tumbling, relaxation – it’s all there for every age group
  5. Look Into the Universe – Many libraries invite the public not just to read about space, but to get outside, look through a telescope and learn about the stars and planets with fellow star gazers.

These are just a few of the innumerable events, activities and opportunities modern libraries offer their patrons. You don’t have to join your library – even though getting a card is free at all public libraries, and cheap at the smaller, private ones. All you have to do is walk in the door, look for a computer station or a printed calendar of events – and go!

Non-fiction book discussions, kids’ building challenges, beginner needlework classes, toddler storytimes and exciting poetry slams are happening throughout the year – so why not give it a try this week?

And just an idea – you might want to join the Friends of the Library when you get your library card. It’s a low-cost way to support your library since the library’s operating budget usually doesn’t pay for special programming. Friends and similar organizations foot those bills, so the more members, the more programming options are available.

What is your favorite thing about your local library? Are there specific programs you’d like to see offered? Would you like to present a class or program to the public? If so, have you talked with your library about it?

K is for Keeps

AtoZ K2015

Playing for keeps. This is for keeps. Finders keepers.

From childhood, we learn that keeping is good and losing is sad. To let something go, like a balloon or a kite, is rarely the goal, so we are warned to hold onto the string or we won’t get another.

We grow up and often struggle with not-keeping – relationships that fade over time, or jobs that no longer exist.

As we mature, we face the letting go of the people we most deeply love.

Today countless people are saying goodbye to a young woman who I never met. Lauren Hill was just 19 years old and died from  Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

On April 10th, her family had no choice but to let her go – to release her spirit into peace after a courageous and loving and painful and exhilarating and funny and frustrating and terrific life. A life that Miss Hill wanted very much to keep.

Sometimes we simply cannot keep what we most love. Sometimes the decision is just not ours to make.

But we aren’t necessarily limited to mourning and memories. We can keep the Lauren Hills of our hearts a vibrant part of our lives by taking up their unfinished work – be it fundraising for cancer, caring for others, reading a book, or planting a garden.

The strings might slip through our fingers and the balloons drift beyond our grasp, but we can look into the sky at any moment and be inspired to reach toward the heights.

Bebb Trees4

J is for Juggling

AtoZ J2015

It’s something I hear about all of the time – this idea of juggling the many parts of our lives.

Inevitably, we drop a ball here, we drop two there – yet we convince ourselves that we are capable of juggling the remaining eight while trying to bend down to gather up the rolling, slipping, escaping others.

I am a fine example of failed juggling. Here it is … 1:48AM … and I am only now writing about the letter J, after having just sent corrected tax information to my CPA. {Oh, you know she just adores me right now!}

Because my fingers allowed the TaxRecordsBall to fall, she gets to catch my early morning toss while keeping all of her spheres in the air. If she drops one or more of her own as a result …well, it goes on and on, doesn’t it?

So what if we stop juggling? What if we simply place the ClericalBall and the WritingBall and the FamilyBall and the ErrandsBall on the table – all tidy and still? We might even take a breath or two before picking each one up in turn.

How much better would our finished projects be if we could focus on the task at hand, instead of jumping up to answer the phone or go to yet another meeting? What if we could have dinner with friends and concentrate on the conversation; taste the food; notice the color of the napkins?

Of course the solution isn’t quite that easy, that accommodating. As much as we might like to think that we are juggling our calendars and kids, finances and health, it might just be that our lives are juggling us.

Certainly, very few people have the luxury of not feeling like a circus performer on a regular basis, but each of us does have options. Maybe the answer is in keeping our eye on the one ball that we most want to keep in the air – and simply do the best we can with the others. Maybe it’s not grabbing at every ball that’s thrown our way.

Maybe the real trick is in knowing what to drop, what to catch, and what to keep.

I is for Ice Cream

AtoZ I2015

I apologize for being a little late with the letter H, having just posted it earlier today.

But never fear – I can assure you that I am always on time when it comes to ice cream! How can you postpone joy when it arrives as a frozen delight in the colors of dreams and the flavors of giggles?

Blog Ice Cream SprinklesYears ago, I worked with a friend (Hi Karen!!) who always bought the big tubs of store-brand ice cream for program events. I wanted to buy B—-r’s brand cartons instead, since at that time it was made with real ingredients instead of artificial stuff.

She smiled as she explained that her memories of childhood birthdays included that particular kind of ice cream – the tubs of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry – and that it made her happy to share that feeling with our participants who were mainly children.

Blog Ice Cream Talenti

Now to me, that’s what ice cream is all about –  sharing happiness, remembering love and funny times and celebrating the really good stuff – cream and sugar, artificial flavors and colors included!

Blog Ice Cream Silver Tray

Dig in and have a great time! Oh, you might want to save just a little room since July is National Ice Cream Month!

H is for Hillforest

AtoZ H2015

Driving along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, it is not unusual to see riverfront homes dating to the 1800s. Sometimes these homes are open to the public as pretty Bed and Breakfasts. Sometimes they have been neglected and are collapsing into the Indiana mud. And then there are the structures that have been restored and are being carefully preserved.

One excellent example of a private home being successfully rescued from a vine strangled demise is Hillforest in friendly Aurora, Indiana.

This hillside museum overlooking the Ohio River has an opulent view that the original owner Thomas Gaff must have appreciated if only from a business perspective; one of Mr. Gaff’s many financial interests was the shipping industry. That is obvious when looking at the front of the Isaiah Rogers‘ designed building –  it has many unmistakable characteristics of a steamboat.

The interior is beautifully furnished with many pieces being actual Gaff family heirlooms. The tour guides are knowledgeable and willing to answer questions about the family, the many Gaff family business, some of which were located in the town of Aurora, or anything else a visitor might like to know.

Please click on the link to enjoy my 2013 slideshow/video showcasing more than 100 years of wedding dresses displayed at Hillforest, one of two public mansions in Aurora, Indiana.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvhKDrSyT5Y

This museum does charge a nominal admission fee, and is open to the general public seasonally. Arrangements can be made for small tours and is available for private functions.