Monday, July 19, 2010


I took a course Friday and Saturday -- Program Evaluation of Mission Impact and Organizational Improvement (Bad Influence Girl suggested that I raise my hand and ask why is was not called: Do your programs work for your organization?).

It was a nice change of pace to sharpen my pencils and spend two days on a college campus and stretch my brain.  Math included.

The class was through the I.U. School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). There was pre-class homework of reading a book's worth of stuff about outcomes and inputs and evaluation and things I didn't even know about five years ago. I classified myself as a beginner in program evaluation when we introduced ourselves. The only other person who fessed up to the beginner stage was a woman who coached Division Three womens sports. Her outcomes were easy on the surface - wins/losses, GPA of student athletes --but how to do measure the impact against someone who didn't get a scholarship or make the team?

My measures seem pretty simple too - how many meals did we prepare, how many students did we graduate. But what about the impact on the folks that don't get our meals or are not accepted into the class. It's enough to make your head explode....and work a little harder.

The IUPUI campus is just a few miles from my house, but participants came from all over the country and Canada. I enjoyed bragging on my hometown and suggesting activities and sites to see to my classmates. I assured everyone it was perfectly safe to walk around downtown at night. When a text alert about this popped up I felt guilty. But that is a whole 'nother blog post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I love birthdays. Everyone has one and they’re fun to celebrate.

I can remember almost all of my birthdays. Mom always made sure they were special, even though I never got a pony.

The zero birthdays always get celebrated extra special. Sweet niece Molly turned 10 this year. I wish I felt as grown up now as I did at 10.

I have friends that are parents of 20 year-olds, and hang out with a few kids who recently turned 30. Another friend turned 40 last week.

My crowd is turning 50. Seriously. I hear 50 is the new 30. I sure hope so.

The really cool part is that my 50-ish friends seem really, really happy. And they look darn good too!

Which means that I have ten months to get it together.

Kristi celebrated her birthday yesterday. She’s one of my pulled-together, hip, beautiful friends and I was thrilled to celebrate with her. I am continually amazed by her generosity, humor, parenting skills and and all-around kick-ass self.

Cheers, friend!

Friday, July 16, 2010

band practice

I had band practice Monday.

You read that right. Band practice.

I’m in a band – Alice Chalmers and the Stick a Cork in Your Jug Band.

An all-woman jug band. [insert your jug jokes here]

We need Cliff to pull us around with Spooky Old Allis.

There are seven of us. Five are actual musicians, one is quickly picking up the washtub bass and then there is me - playing percussion on an old typewriter – with a wooden spoon.

I’ve dated musicians and band practice always seemed like a mysterious event, and often-unhappy one.

Would you like a breakdown of our band practice?
I’m sure they’re all like this one.

We started out with root-beer floats, cherry pie and complimenting each other’s makeup and instruments.

The moment practice started you could tell it was going to be a wonderful experience.

Beautiful four-part harmonies and gorgeous music.

Cara Jean Wahlers put the group together – she has an amazing voice and plays guitar, bass, accordion and whatever else she puts her mind to.

Stasia Demos Mills also has a marvelous voice and plays just about any instrument she lays her hands on.

Joni Back-Bubenzer plays ukulele like a rock star. And writes like one too.

Holly Jae Smith plays violin and sings like an angel.

Jude O’Dell is a marvelous singer, plays banjo and guitar and has a wealth of musical knowledge and a brain for old-timey songs. See her amazing clay work here.

Tammy Lieber plays washtub bass. I was not familiar with the instrument; it is an upside down washtub, a stick and a long string. The string makes a delightfully deep sound when plucked.

It took me a while to find the sound in the typewriter, but with coaching from Jude and wooden spoons from Cara we discovered some fun sounds.

I am partial to G.

I mostly just giggled about how remarkable the evening was.

Our first gig is at the Indiana State Fair, Tuesday, August 10, noon - 2:00, Pioneer Village. Check it out on facebook here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

yard sale

Jennifer and I had our annual yard sale this week.

We’ve been doing it for a dozen years. We couldn’t start until noon on Friday due to work concerns and the threat of rain and I think it cut in to our sales.

It was hotter than Hades. With the heat index is was over 100 degrees.

I didn’t sell much, got a sunburn and achy feet.

Yet, I had a wonderful time.

We love marketing and merchandizing our sale – and get compliments on our organization. We have a book nook – organized by age and subject, a kitchen korner, holiday table – Christmas and other, CDs and a toy table. We make outfits out of the clothes and hang them on the fence. The kids clothes are separated by size and season.

Jennifer’s brother helped us pack up and asked why we did it each year. I told him that I loved having two straight days to catch up with Jennifer. He pointed out that we could go to a spa instead.

Good point, dude. Good point.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


The news today of the barge hitting the tour boat on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and south Jersey combined with my reminiscing about the Riverton Independence Day celebrations reminded me of the exploring I used to along the river.

And makes me wonder how in heck I survived.

I lived on the top floor of a wonderful Victorian House just a few blocks from the Delaware River. The whole town is on the National Historic Register and there were very few rentals in the town. Somehow, I soon had half of the Houlihan's management staff moving to the town whenever something opened up.

A couple of us went in on a used fiberglass canoe, the thing was as heavy as could be. That wouldn't stop us from dragging it to the river to go exploring. We'd row across the river and walk though the abandoned factories.

Occasionally I'd go by myself. One day I spent hours walking through the fallen down buildings and climbing stairs and poking around where I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be.

I found the giant wooden tongs (pictured above) on that trip. I think they are for changing fuses and electrical stuff. The name Schweitzer and Conrad is on the metal label. It looks like the company is going strong, although they call themselves S&C now. There is also a patent number and guidelines as to what amperes and volts it can handle.

I shudder when I think of all of the not-so-smart stuff I used to do there. I thought nothing of rowing across the river, hanging on tightly to the sides of the canoe when the trash barges would go by, without telling anyone where I was going. I took a walk almost every night after work, be it in my town or in Philadelphia.

Middle of the night rollerblading with friends and a twelve-pack of beer, iced down in a pickle bucket were a regular occurrence. We're lucky we didn't crack our heads or get arrested.

On my days off, I'd go to NYC or down the shore or wander Philly by myself. Pre-cell phone, of course.

Those were the days before three jobs and obligations. I bet I could have been missing for a few days before anyone would notice. Of course, I was in my late 20s, early 30s then and as invincible as could be.

Man, I used to be a lot more fun.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


....for fun.

I've been wondering if I should take a hiatus from my column and other writing gigs. The last six months have been a whirly-gig of deadlines and panic writing and dread.

I'm working hard to get caught up and turning in assignments on time. This week has been a joy - column writing done, nothing due for NUVO or Ghettoblaster.

And lookie here - I blogged. And wrote for fun.

Now if I could just think of a way to make laundry and cleaning fun.

Monday, July 05, 2010


 [too damn lazy to take a photograph]

Sometimes I think I’m the laziest person I around.

I know what you’re going to say. I have three paying jobs and write for three publications and am in charge of upkeep on two houses and all of the paperwork and keeping track of stuff that comes with all of those obligations. And parents.

But sometimes I just stop in my tracks.

Today is one of those days.

I mostly just sat on my bum and watched episodes of Nip/Tuck. I finally garnered enough energy to put on my swimsuit and go to the pool. First order of business – grilled cheese with ham and fries, tamped down with an ice-cream cone.

I did swim/walk in the lap lanes, chatting with friends, for over an hour.

Today was good for the soul, if not for housekeeping or deadlines.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

favorite day of the year

Watching the fireworks with my siblings - J.R., Beth, me, Ann

I can’t remember ever having a bad Fourth of July.

Our whole family is usually together. Sort of like Christmas, without all of the pressure.

1976 was fun – we had a party at the farm. Mom made sure that each of us had our picture taken waving a hand-held flag. I’m sure the picture is in a box of photographs somewhere. And I’ll find it someday.

I’m sure I had a year or two of eye-rolling teenage angst, but they’re long forgotten.

My adult appreciation of Independence Day formed in my Riverton, NJ years. Riverton throws a good party. The Riverton Yacht Club is one of  the oldest yacht clubs in the country. Lest you think it’s too fancy, it’s a dock with a building. It was in Riverton that I discovered the power of water. Almost every night I would walk the two blocks to the Yacht Club and stick my toes in the river.

One year the Riverton celebration featured a fundraising auction. I realized that the most interesting man there was also the donor of an airplane ride over Philadelphia. I boldly bid and won. He seemed pleased about it too.

We took the ride a few weeks later and had a lovely day. Flying over Philadelphia and down the Delaware River was thrilling and sitting next to the pilot in the two-seater plane was delightful too. I can’t remember the extent of the relationship that summer, but we did hang out a few times after that and I remember a slightly tipsy make-out session on my balcony. I can’t remember his name but I do remember that he was real involved in the community. Ironically, I remember being a little turned off by his community work. In retrospect he seems like my ideal date. It’s amazing what a few decades did for my maturity.

When I moved back to Indiana I wormed my way into the Herr family party. The routine didn’t vary much over the years. Parade in Lebanon, stop for a treat at Ice Cream Paradise, Herr’s for a cookout and an amazing fireworks show launched off of a flatbed wagon.

Occasionally I’d bring friend or boyfriend along. Kids were born –Molly’s first year, she was two weeks old. The next July 4th she was crawling – and some fireworks fall-out fell a little too close for comfort. Ann Herr Mitchell and I brushed off the live embers and didn’t complain. We didn’t want to draw attention to how close they’d come to sweet Molly.

I reconnected with Jerry at the Herr’s one year and he explained blogging to me. Almost 500 posts later, here we are. Speaking of blogging, I spent 2008 at Blogstock. A memorable and fun year – we were in the Tekema, NE parade and I got to connect with wonderful people.

Then Mr. Herr died. And then Larry and Kathy died. And the party at the Herr home farm faded away. It was time for a new tradition.

Brother J.R. and his lovely family started hosting us on the terrace of Victory Field for the Indianapolis Indians game and the best view in town for the fireworks.

The traditions change – but it is still my favorite day of the year.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

i'm back

I’ve been struggling with this blog. I slowed down on writing for a variety of reasons.

At some point I started writing with the thought that both my mom and my boss might be reading it. Not that I’m writing about anything untoward or that can’t be read by anyone, but it was a different mindset.

I lost my voice. When I read back though the blog the best things I wrote were about being single and my day-to-day life and the delight I see in quirky things. The writing got stifled when I tried to make it too formal – sanitized.

So. Here I am. Again.

I’m 49 now. How in the Hell did that happen? Seriously – how did that happen?

My birthday as always seems like the time to make resolutions, changes. I decided to take a hard look at my lifestyle and myself.

Buying a new car was first on the list. I know the HHR is not the car of a typical mid-life crisis, but it is for chick trying to live within her means. Everyone else seems to morn the loss of the truck more than I do. To a good chunk of my friends and acquaintances my identity is tied to the truck.

I’m working on paying off debts -- yes, buying a new car seems counter-intuitive to that. It’s amazing how much you can save if you put your mind to it.

I’ve made great strides in organizing my house. Last year was all about necessary repairs – new garage roof, water-heater and plumbing. This year I hope it get the house painted and new gravel for the driveway. Again, not the sexiest of projects, but things that would make my house my own.

I’m also working on some intangibles.

Being a more thoughtful and generous friend, for one. In the old days I was on top of birthday cards and thank you notes. I used to leave jars of flowers and sidewalk chalk notes outside of friends doors. At some point I got too busy or too lazy for that.

Although I have a very active social life, I tend to do things by myself. I’m working on making plans with people. Planning to meet people at the pool vs. hoping to run into them. Carpooling to a show instead of going by myself. Dinner with friends instead of a bag of popcorn by myself.

I can't wait to see what happens!

Friday, July 02, 2010


[this is a horrible photo of me, but I'm using it anyway]

Sister Ann and brother-in-law Tim are visiting from Phoenix, which means our world gets a little more fun. Brother J.R. has a manufacturing factory just a few blocks from Second Helpings. All which lead to an impromptu lunch in my work neighborhood. 

The Milano Inn opened in 1934 and survived the a blip in the 1990s of a generational change in management. Last year they added outdoor seating and a bocce court. 

One of the great perks of Second Helpings is that we eat lunch prepared by the students every day. The flip side of that is that it's always a working lunch and no break in the day. 

It was fun and good for the soul to get out of the building for an hour. The icing on the tiramisu was that Ann and I kicked ass in bocce. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010


This meal looks an awful lot like the one I had yesterday. And the day before.

When you’re single buying a watermelon is a real commitment.

And you think twice before buying a loaf of bread or a bunch of grapes or a tub of bleu cheese.

It’s not so much the cost as much as knowing that you’re going to be eating some combination of whatever you purchase for a week. And if you’re lucky, it’s only a week.

Last week when I purchased the watermelon the guy checking me out – as in totaling my groceries, not checking me out in the fun way – pointed out that I could buy a bigger watermelon for the same price. I told him I’d worked hard to find the smallest one.

Buying popcorn and frozen dinners is much easier but I’m committed to shopping locally, eating healthier, slowing down long enough to eat – and maybe losing that last ten pounds in the process.

So here’s to summertime, farmer’s markets, dinner on the porch and fitting into my ‘skinny’ jeans!

Oh, and to finally finishing that damn watermelon.