Water, water everywhere...

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I have always loved water. With anticipation, I would herald the beginning of summer with shouts of joy and jubilation! Daily we would play in the sprinkler as it swayed back and forth shooting out the coldest well water. For hours we watered the grass and squealed each time the spray hit our bodies. Now kids go to parks specifically designed for this delight.

When I was in third grade, our country school in Jackson Township offered to provide bus service to the Valparaiso YMCA. We learned all the basics of swimming and had a good time too. A few years later, my dad installed an in-ground pool and our home quickly became the neighborhood favorite spot. Friends from Gary would send their kids to spend weeks at the Carr house, so they could enjoy the country air, swimming by day and catching lightning bugs by night. The lazy days of summer would disappear once you jumped in the pool!

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When my husband Joe and I began to travel with our kids, we would camp at state parks throughout Indiana and if our budget permitted, we would stay in the inns. Most of these parks have lakes and pools. My boys never took to lake swimming, but they loved fishing and canoeing. When Seth was about 10, he stayed in the canoe for an entire 8 hours just paddling himself in a circle.

I enjoyed canoeing when we were with the boys, but once it was just Joe and me, it became an opportunity for us to pick at each other. “Put your paddle on the other sides! Look out for that rock! Sit still you will spill us!” One canoe trip Joe became especially annoyed with me when I refused to lift my paddle and I morphed into an Indian Princess who sat cross-legged enjoying the ride while her devoted Brave paddled her to shore. HA! Now you know why this was our last trip!

Far past sprinklers, pools, and lake romping, I longed for the water. So in 2010, Joe and I went to an outdoor show and I bought my kayak. She is made of kevlar and at 12 feet, she weighs a mere 22 pounds. I look forward to our paddling time with the same level of anticipation that I did when my mom was reeling out the hose. I sport a t-shirt that says: “70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. You just need to pick a boat!” I took that challenge and keep making my way through new lakes and rivers each year.

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Except for this year. It is almost the fifteenth of July and I have yet to get in the water ironically, because of all the water we have been receiving from the sky! The days that I have been ready to hit the water, we get more from the sky.

At the end of June, CBS reported that Lake Michigan had risen 6 inches in one month; that equals 2.3 trillion gallons of water! May went on record as the wettest month ever and we have experienced 78 days of measurable precipitation in 2019.

Since I can’t seem to get my boat on the water, I have an idea. The next sunny, 80-degree day we have, lets pile in the bus and go to the pad at Central Park in downtown Valpo and make a splash of our own. Who’s ready to join me?

Tis’ the gift to be simple; Tis the gift to be free —Shaker Elder, John Brackett 1848

Spring with all her splendor has arrived! She beckons us outside after our time of winter hibernation. I love the sound of the peepers in our pond and the neighborhood children playing. After dreaming about warmer days, I am anxious to hit the pavement. Walking, hiking and kayaking have all been activities that I have increased in the past decade. This year I am excited to be adding biking to the list!

 
The Mullet’s electric bikes packed up on the Jeep, ready for their next adventure.

The Mullet’s electric bikes packed up on the Jeep, ready for their next adventure.

 

I have never been comfortable riding a bike. We moved to the country when I was four. Our gravel country road was hilly, and my mother did not think it was safe for us to ride bikes. Consequently, I did not receive my first bike until I was 11 years old. As hard as I tried, I never felt coordinated and frequently lost my balance. The scientific principle of motion and stability did not register with me. That was not the only thing. As I grew in age and received a bike with gears, I never learned how to appropriately shift, nor the concept of hand brakes. My sons quickly picked up the skill, but I never could.

I have had five bikes in my lifetime. The last one my husband Joe got for my birthday about eight years ago. He is a great gift buyer, but even more so when I circle an item for him and leave it on his wallet. This model had been featured as one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things. An automatic shifting bicycle with old fashioned pedal brakes sounded like the right choice for me. I successfully rode it for a few seasons but still never felt totally safe. Having to stand on my tip toes at stop signs was very intimidating to me; after the second hip replacement, it felt just plain reckless. Having decided my biking days were over for good, I parked it in the corner of the garage that holds items for sale.

Then one day I read in the AARP magazine that new bikes were being designed with seniors in mind. Not only were the bikes more friendly in comfort, height, and stability, but they had an electric motor to aid when needed. 

Two weeks ago, Joe and I made our way to the bicycle shop to try them out. Getting on was the first test. No high bars to struggle with, smooth entry with the new “step through” design made it simple. When I lowered the seat no wrench required, I could sit and touch the ground with both feet. The shifter is a dial so I can clearly see what gear I am in. But the best feature is the motor. Whether I choose to go for the eco mode to conserve on battery or speed it up to turbo mode where I can go 20 miles per hour, if I pedal, the motor will kick in to provide the assistance I need.

With special thanks to the residents of Pines Village Retirement Communities and their generous Christmas gift, I was able to meet my savings goal and purchased a spanking new E-bike in LIME green with white-walled fat tires and a beautiful tan padded seat. I swoon just thinking about her and the gift of freedom she provides! Free from the chains of “I can’t do that” was replaced with “Joe can we go for another bike ride?” after one practice session.

 Have you ever let your fears and physical limitations keep you from trying something new or in this case, something old that needed to be re-worked? I hope you will reconsider and look for alternatives today. With advances in technology, there are numerous adaptive devices available to help us along the way.

If you do make your way to the bicycle shop, let me know so we can plan an adventure together. And don’t worry about that green flash outside your window. It’s just me on my lean green speeding machine!

Life's Most Meaningful Gifts

My uncle died nine days before Christmas. My heart broke for me but soared for him.

His memorial service occurred four days before Christmas. I cried tears of sorrow for me. In the evening, I toasted him with a dirty martini, up, with extra blue cheese olives, one of his favorites.

Christmas Eve came and as I sang “Silent Night” tears of sadness streamed down my face for me. Soon, they were joined by tears of joy for him. I knew he was in the heavens witnessing radiant beams from the most Holy face.

Christmas Day came and went in a flurry.  I always host our family holidays thus fifty people descend upon our home for six hours of nonstop chaos, eating, laughing, presents and the ever-popular “selfies.” I thought about my uncle often that day as he had been a part of my celebrations since I was a small child when he would drop by for a cup of cheer. I would keep all of my presents from Santa stacked in a pile and he actively participated in my “Show and Tell” with great interest and enthusiasm; reinforcing the sentiment that I had been a good girl the previous year based on my bounty.

As memories often do, many cascaded to the forefront that day, and when all the guests had left, I stopped to reminisce with my husband Joe.

I was five when our family moved from the city to rural Porter County. We attended church in the small neighboring town of Westville. My father was extremely outgoing and my mother, the exact opposite, a true introvert. They were excited to settle into a new community and made friends in the church finding their spirit couple, “Uncle Jack and Aunt Shirley.”

Jack was extremely handsome and charming. Shirley was beautiful and kind with a softness few women possess. Dad and Jack became best friends, and Mom opened up to allow Shirley into her life. They enjoyed each other’s company in times of joy and sorrow. The four of them celebrated life with gusto, Jack often taking the lead.

Jack taught Sunday school, and Shirley was the choir director that taught all of us to sing like angels. When I was in fifth grade, Jack introduced our class to the Holt Adoption Agency, and we all agreed to support children in Korea with our nickels and dimes. I went home and advised my parents that our meager offerings were not enough, and I believed we should adopt a child. Well, guess what? They agreed, three times. Jack and Shirley agreed four times. Another family in the church agreed two times. In addition, many foster children came through the little congregation and were loved for a season by all. I learned the true meaning of unconditional love from this experience and truly grew as a human because of it.

As I aged, Jack continued his interest in my pursuits. “What are you studying in school?” “Look at you! No braces and contact lenses!”  “Your dad tells me you are going to journalism camp tell me about it.” These conversations progressed over the years and included my choice of college, engagement and marriage, children, work, faith. I could go on and on. I shared more of my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with him over the years than I did with my parents. He always listened intently without opinion. It truly never occurred to me that he could be just that: a nudge of moral support. He didn’t have the burden of parenthood, he could just listen. And what a gift that was to me; more precious than any material present would ever be.

Later in life, Jack came to live at Pines Village. While residing here, he fulfilled a life- long dream when he went to the Porter County Air Show and flew a WWII Bomber. I was so excited to be a part of this life event and listened intently while he explained the exhilaration he felt when he took control of the plane from the pilot. I could hear the excitement of a child on Christmas morning in his voice. It was my turn to just listen. I am so grateful I was able to return his gift.

Who will you invite to your table this holiday season?

We received our first kitchen table as a wedding gift. Oak and 62” round, it came with two leaves and six rickety chairs. It had been handed down through my brother in law’s family for a generation or two and we were honored to receive it.

The table was perfect for our apartment and I did everything seated there. Together we journeyed through my life as a newlywed.  I studied for college, paid bills, and wrote letters. I prepared meals, entertained our families and played late night Uno games with friends and neighbors.  The table became the center of our home.  I adorned her with flowers, candles, holiday decor, and 1950’s tablecloths.

Soon we were blessed with two children and one leaf was permanently placed, making the table oval. From here, I heard tales of other children and listened intently as my children’s minds began to expand and grow in a world that I was no longer controlling. This table was the special place for birthday celebrations featuring lop-sided homemade cakes. I mended boo-boo’s, negotiated peace talks, and suffered over late homework assignments.  At this table, I cried into my milk and brownies the night that our son, Seth announced he would join the Marines during a time of war.

When Seth got married we decided to hand the table to the next generation. We were empty nesters now, off on a different journey.  My husband, Joe built a huge counter to prepare food for the two of us or for our family gatherings of fifty. 

A convenient breakfast bar, we centered there each evening, dropping our work bags at one end and preparing and serving dinner right from the counter.  Often we carried our plates into the living room to watch TV, a treat we rarely indulged in when the kids were home.

Time passed and the dining room remained empty.  We eventually purchased two plastic tables from Menards, covered them with tablecloths, and this served as our table when our kids and grans came over. All ten of us around one big table, it was great! We liked it so much we decided it was time to purchase a new table. We took a trip to Shipshewana, but the $10,000 price tag sent us home empty-handed.

One day Joe called and said, “They are getting rid of an old conference table at work. It seats ten, but you could squeeze in four more chairs at the corners. It’s not wood, it has a Formica top. Do you want me to bring it home?” A hearty yes was all he needed to lug it home. We bought ten stainless steel chairs, a rug the same width and length as the table, and voila! A family gathering place was created ready for meals, special occasions, and craft days or jarring up honey which can create a sticky mess. I never worry about nicks or scars to the table but embrace all the spills, glue and glitter that two gran-girls can bring! Most days the table is empty, ready for company.

Annually The Porter County Community Foundation hosts a tea. This year the speaker was Sarah Harmeyer, the founder of Neighbor’s Table and a self-acclaimed “People gatherer.”  Sarah moved to Dallas and found herself working long hours, exhausted, and lonely. When reflecting on her life, she discovered she was most energized when she was at a table preparing and sharing a meal with others. She asked her dad to make a table that would seat twenty and placed it in her back yard. She sent invitations to three hundred neighbors requesting them to join her for a carry-in supper. Ninety neighbors came to the first event!

Harmacher has since served over three thousand people at her backyard table. In 2017, she left her full-time job and began making and selling tables with her father.  With a goal of having backyard tables in all 50 states by 2020, she is already half way there!

Sarah got me to thinking about all the wonderful things I had done around the table. She emphasized that it wasn’t what I was doing at the table that held my memories, nor was it the table. Rather, it was the people that were with me that provided the warmth to my heart. It wasn’t the food that delivered the sustenance, but the conversation that was shared. She challenged me to begin inviting friends and strangers alike to our table, for there in may lay the memories of tomorrow.

With the holidays quickly approaching I have lots of plans for our table.  You too will have an abundance of opportunities to sit around the table. Who will you invite?

Where has curiosity led me?

Guest writer, Ruth Foster, writing in response to Laurie's last blog post.

I have always been interested in travel and writing. My husband, Lou, and I began traveling to Eastern Europe during the Cold War, chiefly Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. But by 1986, we began traveling to England with my brother and his wife to seek out our family roots and meet some distant cousins that we still had living in England.

In many ways, I feel as if it was more than curiosity that led us into this sort of exploration. Lou is an excellent photographer and bringing home thousands of slides taken while overseas was a great way to create slide programs and lectures about the countries behind the then Iron Curtain of which many Americans were not very well informed.

I found that being able to meet my family in England was something that seemed in many ways to complete me. Lou and I were able to live in England four different years while he did research at the University of Exeter in Devon and I was enabled to become a steward and guide at a 14th century decorated Gothic cathedral of Exeter. During those years abroad, we not only enjoyed being with family I had not known, but also it enabled me as a student of history to have hands on experience with a seven-hundred-year-old survivor of English history: The Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Exeter.

Lou and I were able to meet and grow close to many new friends and colleagues in England, some of whom still survive, and we are looking forward to being with them again during our next trip to England in October of this year. This year, we shall travel abroad with a good American friend and truly look forward to sharing with him our sense of return to an ancient kingdom which has inspired me to write seven medieval history novels in the past ten years.

It is obvious to us that curiosity can be a very positive influence in our lives. It can drive us to learn, to explore, to share, and to fulfill our interests in life. It is not to be ignored!

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Have you ever had an interest grab your curiosity to a point that it becomes an engaging hobby at best and at its worst, an obsession? In “Five Thousand Quotations for all Occasions,” I looked up curiosity and found the classic, “Curiosity Killed the Cat.” Also included was, “Curiosity is one of the permanent characteristics of a vigorous intellect,” said Samuel Johnson. Since I am going to share with you where curiosity has led me, I prefer #2.

In 1977 my husband Joe and I toured a log home in Brown County. From that moment on, Joe was determined we would have a log home and he would be the one to build it. Two decades later we were in a position to fulfill his dream. The journey commenced by touring three log home companies with our final destination being Hiawatha Log Homes located in the Hiawatha National Forest, Munising Michigan.

I immediately fell in love with the Upper Peninsula despite the fact that it was February. I had never seen five feet of snow along the roads. Nor had I ever visited a pub where the coat closet was BIGGER than the restaurant! I quickly learned my Hoosier fashion was not meant for the conditions and was forced to buy a coat. We stopped at the national park gift shop and this is where I bought my first copy of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water. ” Those words are ones that most of you will recognize. I cracked the binding of the paperback and began reading, quickly becoming frustrated with the cadence of the song. However, after reading it out loud twice (it’s a long car ride) I came to find comfort in the rhythm and the emotions of the words. I cried real tears when I read of Minnehaha’s death to famine. Annually thereafter I would bring it out when the snow would fall and experience the same emotions of wonder, sadness, joy, and heartache.

Then I began to buy used copies of the book. One, then two, now my collection is a dozen. OK, a baker’s dozen. “How many do you need and what will you do with them?” Joe will ask; I somehow never find an answer. With each new book, I learn more about Mr. Longfellow, the Indian people, and the Land of Hiawatha.

This year I asked if our vacation could be on the eastern side of the UP, along the shores of Gitche Gumee, Lake Superior. I wanted to visit the many places described in the poem. This June we spent two full glorious weeks exploring.

I got to visit seven beaches and collected rocks as black as coal, as pure as snow and ones that look like ghosts! I took a tour boat and saw the beautiful Pictured Rocks seeping manganese, copper, and calcium. I climbed a portion of the Grand Sable Dune. We kayaked lakes and rivers. We hiked down the foothills of the Huron Mountains to discover remote waterfalls with crystal clear water and heard the voice of Minnehaha, Laughing Waters. We visited the breathtaking Tahquamenon Falls where I dipped my toes in the river.

I learned that Longfellow based his poem on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft was the first Indian agent to study and record the life of the Indians of North America, specifically the Algonquin-speaking tribes of the upper Great Lakes. Schoolcraft interviewed thousands of Indians and carefully documented the Native American customs, religious beliefs, ceremonies, music, and folk tales. He published over 20 books and numerous articles. It was from these documents that Longfellow located the material he needed to craft “The Song of Hiawatha.” In the last bookstore we visited, we found a copy of “Schoolcraft’s Legends.”

As we entered that store, I shared with Joe that I am interested in researching Ernest Hemingway as I would like to visit Key West in the future. Minutes later, here he comes across the store with another book saying, “You aren’t going to believe this,” and handed me a copy of “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan.”

“This engrossing book vividly evokes the northern Michigan that Hemingway knew and loved as a youth that stayed with him for the rest of his life.” My husband looked me in the eye and said, “Does this mean we aren’t going to Key West?” It seems my hobby keeps lulling me back to the shores of Gitchee Gumme.

Where has curiosity led you? I would love to hear.

An Explosion of Color

I started to wear eyeglasses at age four but don’t remember much about that process until my exam at 13. When the exam was complete, the optometrist asked to speak to my mom privately. The next day my folks told me that my eyes were deteriorating at a very rapid rate. However, there was a new product that I could try that was supposed to help delay vision loss. After consideration of the expense and my maturity level, my parents wanted me to try it. Two weeks later, I was introduced to the experiment. Contact lenses!

The contacts arrived and they were made of hard plastic. After numerous attempts, I learned how to keep my eyes open while popping the contacts in and out.  When the tears finally stopped and I could focus, friends, it was as if I had gotten off the bus in OZ! Everything looked so REAL and so COLORFUL.  I ran around our yard touching leaves, flowers, pine trees and even the pets. It was as if I was seeing for the very first time.

Did you know there is a profession of people who study the psychology of color in an effort to determine what emotions are sparked in the human brain by various colors? For example, light green produces feelings of balance, harmony, and growth as it represents the renewal and restoration of spring. Conversely, darker greens trigger darker emotions such as greed and selfish desire as these tones are most frequently associated with money. And some colors are a little of both. I love a specific green fruit and eat it almost daily yet, I can most certainly assure you I will never have another avocado appliance in my lifetime!

I read in the March edition of the AARP Magazine* that the color of the walls in a home can actually increase or decrease the resale value. Who knew that powder blue/periwinkle walls actually add $5,400 to the value of your home; while off-white can decrease your home value by $4,035! Our second home had a BLACK master bedroom. It took a lot of paint and sweat equity, but I never thought to ask for a discount from the sellers.

What is the difference between periwinkle blue and cerulean blue (which only gains you $1856 in value) anyway?  To find out, I bought a new box of 64 Crayola Crayons. Contained inside were TEN crayons with blue names. They are cadet blue, turquoise blue, blue-green, sky blue, pacific blue, cornflower, indigo, just plain BLUE and yes, cerulean and periwinkle! Not that all this research matters to me. I live in a log home with only one painted wall on the main floor. My husband influenced the log home decision after painting that black wall!

I believe that color does matter to overall wellness. I personally love the beauty of God’s canvas, the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, the green of the grass, the orange of the sunset, the black of the night, the wonder of a rainbow.  These colors, especially in their natural environment speak to my soul.

Our new bus design was intended to be an explosion of color that crossed the entire spectrum. A FIESTA of color if you will!  What better way to Celebrate Life than through color! In the coming months, we will be introducing more color to Pines Village in various ways. I hope you will find your favorite on display and that your life will be enriched by “Living in an Explosion of Color.”

 *"The Color of Money." AARP The Magazine, Feb.-Mar. 2018, p. 13. 

Generations

I received a trade journal in the fall that sat on the corner of my desk. Ok, well I am not being honest. It sat in the pile of stuff that sat on the corner of my desk. After the first of the year, our administrative assistant told me it was time to “spring clean.” The Fall 2017 issue of the journal, Generations, published by the American Society on Aging had dedicated an entire issue to the study of generations.

We are one of the few industries that I know that work directly with ALL six of the generations living in our world today. Jason Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics defines a generation as “Predictability by scenario.” Peter Whitehouse *, president of Intergenerational Schools International states “trends associated with people who were born around the same time and place in history have been the basis for generation identification.”

According to the experts the generation breakdown is as follows:

  • The GI or Greatest Generation:  born from 1900-1924 AGE: 118-94

  • The Silent Generation: born from 1925-1945 AGE: 93-73

  • The Baby Boomer Generation: born from 1946-1964 AGE: 72-54

  • The Gen X generation: born from 1965-1980 AGE: 53-38

  • The Gen Y, Millennial or Echo Boomer Generation: born from 1981-1995 AGE: 39-23

  • The Gen Z, iGen, Plurals, Post Millennial or Homeland Generation: born from 1996-now AGE: 22 and below

My husband and I are boomers while our kids are split, the oldest is a Gen X, the younger is Gen Y. All our grandkids are iGen. Though our kids were raised with the same over all parenting style, in the same home, neighborhood and school system they are very different.  For example, my older son Aaron prefers to talk on the telephone, while our Gen Y Seth prefers texting. Now our grandkids expect FACETIME. In my house, they see the land line phone sitting in the cradle but don’t know how to use it, and laugh out loud when they see a rotary dial phone that we keep for emergencies (it can plug directly into our telephone line in the event of a power outage, my husband was in the Civil Air Patrol!) I was talking to them recently and said something about a telephone booth and they had a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that there used to be telephones that you put money in, “like a bank Grandma?” well…yeah sort of.

The reason I find the study of generations so interesting is because we have to continue to find common ground that join us here at Pines Village and in society as a whole. I have so much to learn from those who were born before me and those who were born after.  Most conversations about generations surround differences; yet to move us to the future, we have to unlock the strengths of each generation as we help one another to live in today’s fast paced world.

To illustrate, in October, I got a new car. It offered hands free telephone service by syncing with my cell phone.  My cell phone was 4 years old. It worked fine, but in order to activate this new feature, I needed a newer, more updated phone. So I got a new one. Despite reading the directions, I could not sync them. I tried for several weeks.  On the other hand, my 9 year old granddaughter had watched her father complete a similar task on his car. When I told her my problem, bam, just like that, she understood how it worked and we were calling her father, FROM MY STEERING WHEEL!  

I rest my case.

*From diversity to intergenerativity : Addressing the mystery and opportunities of Generation X. / Whitehouse, Peter J.; Flippin, Candace Steele. In: Generations, Vol. 41, No. 3, 01.09.2017, p. 6-11.