Elfie’s New Year’s Greeting

The Moms at my house were very busy in November and December. I enjoyed the beautiful decorations  while I listened to LOTS of piano and flute music. Sometimes Mom Deb plays very high notes, and I circle around her feet, hoping she’ll stop, but evidently she thinks I like them!

I should have known something was afoot when a black case appeared in the basement. I sniffed it when my Moms weren’t looking, and decided to steer clear of it. Then one morning after breakfast, Mom Deb put me in it and carried me to the truck. I tried hard to see through the case, but the mesh sides made it difficult. She didn’t let me out until we were in a little white room. It had lots of smells, and some of them might have come from dogs! I was about to get back in my carrier when a nice lady came through the door. She had a soothing voice and nice hands, so I didn’t mind her too much until she jabbed something sharp into my hind quarters.  I heard Mom Deb ask about car sickness and drugs, but I was too busy licking my wound to pay close attention.


Things seemed to return to normal, but I should have been suspicious when my Moms started piling a lot of bags and boxes in the hallway. The next thing I knew, they put me  in the carrier again and put me in the back seat of the car, which was full of other stuff. I tried to stay awake, but Mom Deb kept driving and driving so I took a nap. When I awoke, we were in Tennessee at an older lady’s house. She liked talking to me, and I found a lot of places to explore, even her bedroom. We were there several nights, and I got pretty brave except for on Christmas day when lots of kids were there.


As you can see in this picture, I’m eying the floor, trying to plan my escape route.  I’ve never been a cuddly kind of kitty, probably because of my  childhood, which started in a barn in northwest Ohio. I was the runt of the family, but my mother and several siblings were killed by a coyote. Somehow I survived until a kind old lady found me and started bringing milk and scraps to the barn. During the day I hopped through the bean fields searching for mice. To make a long story short, the woman grew to old to live alone on a farm, and her daughter gave me a new home in Indiana.  Since I grew up in the wild, I wasn’t used to being held or petted. As long as my Moms had other kitties, this wasn’t a problem, but since they died I’ve gotten a lot of attention–too much if you ask me. Every time I turn around, they’re trying to pick me up.

After we left Tennessee, I began to suspect the car was my new home. My stomach felt queasy when I looked out the front of my carrier, so I spent a lot of time facing the rear of the car and dozing. We stopped at a “pet-friendly” hotel but there were so many smells in the room (and spots on the floor) that I went on strike and wouldn’t eat or use my box.  The next day I was quite happy to be in my carrier again, even if it meant more riding in the car.

When we finally stopped moving and my Moms opened the door, it was warm and humid outside. I like sunshine, and hoped they would let me out so I could find a nice spot for a nap. Instead, they took me inside and left me in my carrier while they unloaded the car. When they finally let me out, I was so tired I curled up on the couch and went to sleep. If you ask me, you can never have too many naps.

Elfie on condo.jpg

I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but it’s much nicer than riding in the car and I’ve found lots of new places to explore. Sometimes I sit on my condo on the lanai watching little dogs walk by on the street. I take great satisfaction in knowing they can’t see me. I’ve overheard my Moms talking about something called a gecko, but I haven’t seen one yet.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the music. My Moms love it, and if they aren’t inviting friends over to play with them, they are playing songs for me. About the only time they stop is when they are biking, writing, or going to band or dulcimer practice.

Don’t tell them, but I saw a penny whistle on the shelf the other day, and it looks about the right size for me.

elfie with penny whistle

Posted in Cats, music, Travel

Happy Ending


I discovered Howard’s Bookstore on the downtown square when I moved to Bloomington in the late 1970s to attend graduate school. It soon became one of my favorite places–I spent countless hours there, and more than a few dollars. I loved the store’s resident black cats (pictured on my treasured Howard’s Bookstore coffee cup) and appreciated the bookseller’s knowledge of books and wry wit.  I was sad to see the store close in 2013.

Fast forward five years, when I joined the Bloomington Brass Band to play tenor horn. I spent the first few months focused on my music, the director, and the people sitting immediately to my left and right. It took awhile before I learned people’s names, and realized that Joie, one of the tenor horn players, was the woman who used to sell me books at Howard’s Bookstore.

Bloomington Brass Band

The other night as we waited to play Christmas music outside Sam’s Club, Joie relayed a story. Recently, as she returned home in the evening after a meeting, she spotted some debris on her driveway. At first she thought leaves had blown there, but upon closer inspection she discovered an array of good quality tools, including a heavy jack. Nearby she found a toolbox. The next day she placed an ad in the local paper:  Found: tools, near ____. Call xxx-xxxx to identify. It turns out that a workman making a delivery in the area hadn’t latched the tailgate on his truck securely, and he was very grateful to Joie for placing the ad. When he came to collect the tools, he tried to give Joie a reward, but she refused. When he insisted, she told him she’d put it in the Salvation Army’s red kettle.  What a nice outcome for everyone involved!

In this time of political upheaval and grim news about the stock market, it’s nice to hear a story with a happy ending.  In the coming year, may we all be the authors of stories with happy endings.

Posted in Bloomington, Indiana, bookstores, brass band, Christmas

Whirlwind trip to the Windy City

This past weekend we spent less than 24 hours in Chicago, but made the most of it. Arriving around noon on Saturday, we parked our car in the Millennium Garage and set out on foot to our first stop, the bean, officially known as Cloud Gate. It’s fun to watch people snapping photos here, and also to take a few yourself.

As we made our way through this urban park, we admired Christmas decorations and stopped to watched skaters. Chicagoans seem like hearty people, and I was impressed by how many people were out doing something fun despite the cold. This little skater was a bundle of energy.

Chicago-SkatersNext, we walked to Marshall Field–oops, I should correct myself, it is now Macy’s.  Years ago when I was a graduate student at Bowling Green State University, I had the privilege of studying with and working for Professor Robert Twyman, author of The History of Marshall Field & Co. At the time I had never heard of Marshall Field, but then one time he returned from a trip to Chicago with boxes of Marshall Field’s Frango mints for his graduate assistants.  Ever since that time, I’ve made it a point to buy them when I visit Chicago, and I’m glad to see Macy’s was smart enough to continue carrying this product.

The Marshall Field department store was always known for its amazing window displays, so we strolled the street to see what Macy’s has done. While the windows are eye-catching, I prefer old-fashioned content to digital displays, especially at Christmastime. But inside the store is decorated much as I remembered it from previous holiday visits. I love riding the escalators and getting a bird’s eye view of the decorations, which include a great tree suspended from the ceiling of the dining room on the top floor.

From Marshall Field’s, we continued a short distance down the street until we saw the red and white roofs of Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, inspired by Nuremburg, Germany’s Christkindlesmarkt.  We managed to stop here three times in our short visit to Chicago, and each time the market was more and more crowded despite the chill in the air.

It was great fun looking at the booths with holiday goods from Germany, Poland, and neighboring countries–stained glass, chocolates, beer steins, intricate Christmas ornaments, and much more. The glass ornaments looked amazing, but I knew I could never get one home without breaking it, so we chose edible goods–German pretzels and hot chocolate.  At least we have a commemorative cup!

By now it was late afternoon and despite the pretzels, we were still hungry. A trip to the cafeteria in the basement of Macy’s solved that problem, and soon we were ready for the highlight of our trip, a concert in which Deb’s flute teacher (who is also my piano teacher) performed in the lovely Chicago Temple, conveniently located across the street from the Christkindlmarket.  On one side of the Temple we saw amazing stained glass telling the history of this church, the oldest in Chicago. It was founded in 1831 by Methodist circuit riders.

Chicago-Temple stained glass

But I digress, back to the concert. The music was heavenly, in part because these excellent musicians performed using period instruments, Leighann on a baroque flute, Stephanie playing cello, and Charles on the forte piano. Then, at the end of the concert, we watched in fascination as Charles supervised the packing up of his forte piano, which must be transported to each venue every time he performs. It only weighs 400 pounds!

Chicago-packing forte pianoThe next morning as we prepared to leave the city, we returned once again to Millennium Park and were greeted by a digital display that I call “the faces,” but is officially known as the Crown Fountain. They seemed to be saying, “We’ll see you next time!”

Chicago-faces in the rain

Posted in Chicago, Christmas, music, Travel | 1 Comment


Works in progress

Some might say I’m a bit ADHD when it comes to knitting.  I love to start new projects, and often find my needles already occupied with things I should finish before starting anything else. Some time ago, I wrote a blog about the one-sock syndrome, and as you can see, I’m still plagued by it.  Above you can see a few items awaiting my attention. Roark with blanket

I am happy to report that this past year I did manage to finish quite a few projects. A few were gifts, like shawls and scarves for friends, and this blanket for my great nephew, Roark.  Since his father and mother didn’t want to know if they were having a boy or girl, I also knitted blankets in alternative colors, as well as sweaters, hats, and washcloths.  Baby things are fun to make.

Most of my knitting is donated to various charitable causes.  I suppose I could try a booth at a craft fair or an Etsy presence online, but I was never cut out for sales. Instead, I enjoy the colors of the yarn, the textures sliding through my fingers, and imagining that the item I knit may bring joy to others.

I don’t take pictures of everything I make, but here’s a small selection of my output.  Most of these items are earmarked for the Y Holiday Bazaar.  We have a group of dedicated knitters who meet once a month to create all kinds of wonderful items for the sale. One of the women makes the most amazing knitted stuffed animals–elephants, tigers, kitties, and more. They are certain to put smiles on a child’s face.

Every year I also try to knit baby hats for newborns born in a nearby hospital. I can’t imagine having a head this tiny!

Hats for Reid hospital

Sometimes, in the heat of the summer, I wonder if anyone will want to wear the warm hats, mittens, and scarves I love to make, but the recent dip in temperature has cured me of that illusion. As Elfie can testify, the knitted cat bed is very cozy, and I’m looking forward to wearing the holiday socks (which I’m pleased to report are finished) in the coming weeks.

In the past twelve months both of Bloomington’s yarn stores closed.  Some attribute yarn store closures to online sales and the availability of less expensive yarn at chain craft stores. While I have bought some yarn online over the years, I much prefer visiting a shop, picking up the yarn to feel its texture, feasting my eyes on the colors, and chatting with other knitters about projects and techniques. Thankfully, my favorite knit shop, Ply Fiber Arts, in Richmond, Indiana, is doing well. This month it moved into a larger recently renovated location.  I can’t wait for my next visit. Perhaps I’ll return home with a new project or two!

Ply Fiber Arts

Ply Fiber Arts, Richmond, Indiana

Posted in Knitting, Knitting Stores

Yarn \ n. (my definition of)

Yarn bowl

Yarn\ noun

1. A fiber used in knitting, crocheting, and weaving; may be handspun and dyed, or processed in commercial factories.

2. Includes luscious merino or delicate silk ideal for making lacy shawls, affordable and practical acrylic suitable for garments babies will inevitably spit up on, durable bamboo for breathable socks, exotic dog or rabbit hair for knitted keepsakes, and scratchy but serviceable sheep’s wool used to create warm hats, mittens, and scarves.

3. Its colors range from the natural ivory of a sheep’s coat in early autumn or the tan of an alpaca’s fleece to the olive green of an Acacia tree in Kenya, the pink and rose hues of a baby’s cheeks on a chilly winter’s day, or the blues, purples, oranges, browns, and golds of the New Mexico dessert.

yarn basket4. Is much more satisfying to purchase in a charming yarn shop than online because one can caress soft skeins, hold colorful hanks to her face while imagining the possibilities, and discover fun items like sheep earrings or handwoven market baskets from Ghana.

3. After purchase, it joins the knitter’s ever-growing stash, which is stored in bins and baskets, or cascades from shelves like waterfalls in the rainy season.

4. Is a source of community, especially when one meets another knitter, takes a knitting class, or joins a knitting circle.

5. Is  usually cheaper than therapy sessions, a way to soothe one’s self in today’s tangled up world.

IMG_3196 (1)

Some items knitted as donations for the Y’s holiday bazaar

Posted in Knitting, Knitting Stores

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson!

My Wharton teachers

I woke up this morning thinking about one of my favorite elementary school teachers, Mrs. Ethel Kauble Johnson. I’ve written about her in a previous blog, but since she is the woman who taught me to read and write, I think she deserves another mention. When searching online for a picture of Mrs. Johnson, I found the above picture of three generations of teachers at the Wharton School. My eyes are drawn to the back row, especially to Mrs. Johnson, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Mary Kear, my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hazel Sunderland, my fifth grade teacher, and Miss Ruth Kauble, who retired in 1962 but substituted a number times while other teachers were on maternity leave. Collectively, these women opened up the world by teaching me to love reading, to express myself through writing, and to be curious.  What wonderful gifts.

Wharton School

Wharton School (Wyandot County, Ohio)

Mrs. Johnson, who lived to be 111, came from a long-lived family and resided in a two-story brick farmhouse about a mile from our house as the crow flies. Widowed twice, she lived with her mother (who lived to 100) and sister Ruth. Occasionally, when my parents needed someone to watch me, I stayed at their house. I can sum up those times with one word–FUN! They loved playing games and always had good snacks. Among other games, I remember Password and Old Maid (the Old Maid card was creased from overuse).  Once I won a game and they handed me a can of nuts as a prize. “Go ahead, have some,” Mrs. Johnson said with a twinkle in her eye. Trained well by my mother, I carefully removed the lid, but at the last moment I turned it toward her, intending for her to take the first handful of nuts. Out popped a plastic snake, and the joke was on her! She and her sister laughed so hard they had tears in their eyes.


Mrs. Johnson moved into town after her mother died. When she was in her nineties, people used to worry as she walked to and from the post office each day to collect her mail. After awhile, she had a walker, but it was not unusual to see her carrying it up the street, just in case she needed it. Each morning she raised the blind in her front door so the woman across the street would know she had lived to see another day. At some point after she turned 100, Mrs. Johnson moved into the Wyandot County Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Since my Dad also was there, I saw her often, reading and working jigsaw puzzles. She always seemed to take joy in the little things, an greeted everyone with a big smile.

One holiday I visited Dad and we went to a special dining room. Across the way sat Mrs. Johnson with her nephew and family. After a few minutes, she motioned for me to join them. “Do you know how to make a reindeer?” Puzzled, I said no. The next thing I knew, she was making one from a piece of bread, peanut butter, pretzel sticks, red hots and raisins. Once again, I saw the gleam in her eye as she handed it to me.


When Mrs. Johnson moved into town, she had an auction to sell off things she no longer needed. In addition to goods from the barn, furniture, and household items, there were boxes of odds and ends. Among them was a box of yarn, which I bought. At home, when I emptied the contents, I found this colorful crocheted butterfly. Somehow, it seems a perfect reminder of the woman who brought color and creativity into my life. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson!



Posted in teachers, Wharton, Ohio

An Afternoon Walk Across Campus

Blog 1

This afternoon I left my car at a nearby park and walked to Indiana University to buy some theatre tickets. While it’s possible to drive on campus, and to find parking, I wanted to enjoy a beautiful late summer’s day as a pedestrian.  Everywhere I looked, I saw flowers in bloom. I can’t begin to imagine how many hours the grounds crew has spent in beautifying a campus already noteworthy for its limestone buildings. Even on a busy day, a student can find a peaceful place to check his (or her) phone, read a book, or wait for a friend.

Blog 3

It seems like the semester started only yesterday, but I.U. has already had three football games and students are preparing papers and studying for exams. Bike racks are full, especially when classes are in session.


And bulletin boards are covered with announcements of activities, performances, and other services. This one is very neat. Somehow I don’t think it will look this orderly later in the semester.

After I left the Auditorium Box Office, I passed by the Lilly Library, which as the poster declares, is one of the world’s great libraries. Currently, they have an exhibit on Frankenstein. Across the way, we can see philanthropy at work in the renovation of the Eskenazi Museum of Art. It’s supposed to reopen by fall 2019, and I can’t wait to see the improvements.

Blog 6

When passing by the lawn near Woodburn Hall,  I saw a preacher surrounded by a group of students. This is not an uncommon site. Today, as on other occasions, the dialogue sounded confrontational, so I didn’t venture very close.

Blog 7

Instead, I prefer scenes of solitude, like this one of a young woman sitting near the Bryan House and the Conrad Prebys Ampitheater. Perhaps she’s deep in conversation, but it also would be an ideal place to read and, of course, listen to concerts.

Blog 8

Indiana University has such a beautiful campus, with amazing details carved into its limestone buildings. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to campus.

Posted in Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University, Libraries