AmyAdmin

Nov 252015
 

Re-Published from “The Newburgh Magazine” December/January 2016, pages 34-37.

Jul 072015
 

Notre Dame de Paris – 2015

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Jul 042014
 

Como, Italy – 2012
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May 272014
 

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Published November 2013 in the “Day Tripper” column of the Knox County Boomer magazine.

May 272014
 

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Published November 2013 in the “Day Tripper” column of the Knox County Boomer magazine.

May 272014
 

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Published February 2014 in the “Day Tripper” column of the Knox County Boomer magazine.

May 272014
 

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Published April 2014 in the “Day Tripper” column of the Knox County Boomer magazine.

Apr 262014
 

Southern Indiana is at the peak of spring blooming, and it is glorious. My Japanese maple has leafed out with vibrant dark red leaves. Our dogwood offered a spiritual nudge by blooming cross-marked leaves on Easter morning. The fragile pear trees punctuate almost every neighborhood along with tulip trees and bushes in pastel shades. Everywhere there is renewal, rebirth, and the reminders that spring means hope.

I’ve lived in Indiana all but six years in Florida and summer in Wisconsin. To me, one of our state’s joys is the regularity of the four seasons.

During my first autumn in Florida, my Fort Wayne friend Doris sent me a yellow mailing envelope full of crusty October leaves. When I opened the envelope, I was overcome by the wonderful smells of an Indiana autumn.

I’ve observed. while there is much beauty in our seasons, there are some things I could live without. I also notice a regional difference between the seasons.

For the past few years in southwestern Indiana, we’ve had four seasons. I call them Ugh, Sneezing, Humidity, and Fall Festival.

Ugh is the season of black ice. While last winter brought a record amount of snow, our area is usually cold and gray and icy. We have sleet, freezing rain, drizzle and something called snizzle, and black ice. The sidewalk may appear clear, safe, and ready for customers, but one wrong step on black ice and you are done for. While I’m grateful that southwestern Indiana is often spared some of the fiercer weather of the balance of Indiana, black ice is a danger.

The next season is Sneezing.

This morning my husband and I drove to breakfast, and he sneezed from our house to Cracker Barrel. After breakfast, he wiped his eyes from the tears. Were they tears of joy from hearing that twangy cover of “Folsom Prison Blues?”

No, it was just the overwhelming, mind-numbing, sinus-sucking, everyday life in southern Indiana during allergy season. Almost every year, we turn the heat off the same day we turn the air conditioning on. So much for spring.

The end of Sneezing brings us to our longest season in southwestern Indiana, Humidity.

From the first week of May to the early part of October, we will be regaled with Mother Nature’s sweat glands. I moved to the Evansville area from Tampa Bay, Florida.

Having grown up in northern Indiana, I was thrilled to come home and be away from Florida’s pervasive humidity. I was stunned to learn that humidity is markedly worse along the Ohio River than it was in Florida. A possible explanation may be the sea breezes or the evening thunderstorms or our valley geography and all the plants spewing out along the river.

The final season between Humidity and Black Ice is Fall Festival.

Only one week in October, thousands of people will gather every day and night for a week along Franklin Street in Evansville for one of the nation’s largest and oldest street fairs. Humidity sometimes makes an appearance, which can be an ugly surprise for those already volunteering in a food booth over a hot fryer. For many of us, Fall Festival is a favorite season with our favorite goodies, ranging from fried candy bars to sausage burgers.

Indiana is a very long state; weather in The Region (far northwestern corner) can be vastly different from that in Muncie or Madison on any given day. When I went to college at Ball State, my parents west of Fort Wayne often had completely different weather, especially in the winter.

Today there’s usually six to ten degree temperature difference in winter and summer between West Lafayette (where my father lives) to our little southwestern Indiana town.

We share one season throughout the state, road construction season. I moved to Florida in 1982, and as we drove out of the state, Interstate 65 was being improved. It was still being improved when we moved back. That continuous quality improvement thing is happening today on many parts of I-65.

Two Valparaiso men recently started a Facebook campaign to change the state bird from the cardinal to the white-breasted nuthatch. I’ll have none of that. Perhaps the Indiana state bird should be the orange traffic cone.

Mar 122014
 

Since my son was diagnosed with autism in 1992, I’ve been involved with those who serve individuals with intellectual disabilities. I often read books by parents of children on the spectrum, the occasional clinical study, and many media articles on the subject.

What sometimes bugs me about articles I read about autism is they sometimes lack any basis in reality from what my family or others I’ve known have experienced.

Being a parent is a difficult task in today’s complicated world.  Being a parent of a child with special needs is also difficult, in a different way.

Several weeks ago, I received a copy of the book “Not Different Enough:  A Thirty Year Journey with Autism, Asperger’s and Intellectual Disabilities” written by Gloria Doty.  I chewed through this book like someone finishing a cherished desert, because the content was so rich and relevant to anyone who loves a child or adult with special needs.

Doty, who lives in Fort Wayne, was one of my church youth league sponsors in the 1970s in Whitley County. We reconnected through mutual church friends on Facebook and she shared her wonderful book with me.

She is the mother of five adult children, and her youngest, Kalisha, is the subject of the book.

Kalisha is now thirty and lives with Doty in Fort Wayne.

In her book, Doty relives in total reality some of the most difficult times and struggles of raising a child with an intellectual disability.  What is so compelling about this book is that she doesn’t hide anything from the reader.  She owns up to some of her own mistakes, which any parent – who is honest – can fully understand.

“I wanted to write a book for parents about things they probably cannot learn in a doctor’s office,” she said.  “Every child is different but there are some things that connect the dots.”

Doty explained that her daughter lives in two worlds, an adult world in which she can plan her own birthday party and deal with vendors, and a world in which she has a childlike interest in going to Build-a-Bear and stuffing a toy animal.

Doty started writing a blog (gettingitright-occasionally.blogspot.com) and now contributes regularly to moms.fortwayne.com, part of the Fort Wayne newspapers group.

Friends suggested she write a book, because she always had a million Kalisha stories.  The book covers many personal issues that parents may be afraid to talk about, as well as dealing with the pressures of being a teenager with autism. One of Doty’s final chapters deals with her daughter being held captive in a bad situation for several days. She is a courageous writer to share these difficult details of a frightening situation her daughter experienced.

Though Doty is now her daughter’s legal guardian, she asked Kalisha if she wanted to read the book, and Kalisha responded with her usual stoicism that she did not, but wanted her story told.

Anyone involved with a person who is on the autism spectrum will tear through this book, because of its realistic, ground-level retelling of Kalisha’s life, both struggles and triumphs.

Her mom is proud of her and has every right to be. When Kalisha planned her thirtieth birthday party in February.  She handled all the invitations, arranged for Johnny, the Tin Cups’ mascot to attend, and selected the food.  She welcomed more than 100 guests, including her very first teacher from the Blue School, other teachers, relatives from out of state and Indianapolis, and many other friends.

But what made her mother really proud is that Kalisha didn’t want gifts and asked that her guests bring items for two organizations close to her heart, the Hope Center and Animal Care and Control.  The room was filled with baby things as well as many pet products.

Gloria Doty is so real in her writing of this book, and one of the stories she told made a huge impression on me, and I believe, is at the heart of describing a person who truly lives in two worlds.

When Kalisha’s beloved grandmother, Gloria’s mother, passed away, Kalisha was nine. Gloria was advised not to take Kalisha to the wake as it might upset the child too much.

Doty felt differently and took her youngest child up to the casket.  Kalisha asked why her grandmother was wearing glasses.  She said, “She’s not going to need them in heaven, y’know.”

The book continues, “Quite typically, she (Kalisha) was saddened but didn’t shed any tears.  However, she did ask if Grandma was going to help Jesus hang the stars in the sky every night. I thought that was so sweet until she continued, “I want that to be my job when I die and go to heaven. I don’t want Grandma to get my job.”  I assured her there were enough stars to go around.”

Buy her book here: www.amazon.com/Not-Different-Enough-Intellectual-Disabilities/dp/1491855096/

Feb 212014
 

Imagine if someone gave you a five-year block  and said, “You can do whatever you want.” What would you do?

I’m moving into a new phase of my life, having completed five years during which I did whatever I wanted to do, including running my own consulting business, community volunteering, and the occasional mid-afternoon nap. Next week I start a new full-time job with a wonderful health provider.

Five years ago, I could not have imagined what I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve had a bucket list of items before the term “bucket list” existed. The summer before college, three high school friends and I camped at the Indiana Dunes. We had deep conversations on hot July evenings about where our futures might lead.

My list included a smart husband, many children, and a home with Japanese maples, meaningful work involving writing, and travel all over the world.

The smart husband has been hanging around for thirty years (he calls it the “best 18 years of his life”); we have an adult son (naturally the smartest, best-looking young adult ever.)

My vintage 1970s home has two beautiful Japanese maples in the front. I’ve written in every job since 1971, and I’ve been to a few European countries and the Indiana State Fair for vanilla taffy and lemon shake-ups.

Things I couldn’t have imagined when I was eighteen showed up on my bucket list five years ago when I started this journey.

My mother died two years ago last week. Because I worked on contract for many health organizations, I was able to help my father in some caregiving duties during the last three years of her life. My brother, who lives near my dad, assisted my parents and now my father on a regular basis. Living 200 miles away I cannot be there all the time. I was able to be present more than if working a full-time job.

During this time, I took my parents on several trips. I took Mom back to her beloved Indiana University campus six months before she died. We walked through the Indiana Memorial Union, and I could see her wheels turning. She was smiling and happy; Dad pointed out things she might remember. Did she remember Sycamore Hall, once her 1950s dorm, now offices? What resonated with my mother was the little campus Lutheran Church she attended.

We flew to Washington D.C. and worshipped at the National Cathedral, where mom thoroughly enjoyed the grand music of the pipe organ. We  stood in the lobby of Union Station where my father stood in 1949 on his Camden High School senior trip.

We visited Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we took a spring garden tour and a boat ride on the lake.

We stayed at McCormick’s Creek State Park during a Harley-Davidson Convention. Every night on our evening walk, all the men flirted with Mom and asked her to go on a ride! She laughed, but didn’t go but enjoyed her talks about the motorcycles. She unexpectedly held a two-foot black snake during a presentation by the Nature Center.

After my mother’s death, my father traveled with us several times.

At eighteen, traveling with my parents was not on my dream list. Now I treasure those trips.

Since age fourteen, I worked on and off in journalism; in my dream I wanted to write for newspapers again.

At eighteen, I thought “The New Yorker” might be calling any day. That didn’t happen.

However, during the past five years, my voice came out loud and clear. Once I stopped emulating others, my own voice developed. That voice has nothing to do with – nor do I have the literary acumen – for a national magazine. However, I found my voice hidden in the people and places of Indiana, and now my newspaper column runs in a dozen communities and several online sites. I will write as long as I have the gift of my senses, and pen and paper or a computer.

During this half-decade, my husband and I also did some travel that wasn’t possible when I had more limited vacation. One of our tours was to Italy where our organized tour director kept us on schedule so we could see everything planned. When people asked why there were only two photo stops on the way to some Tuscan city instead of four, the tour director said, “All the time we have, is all the time we have.”

I move forward with no regrets. All the time we have is all the time we have.

Published on BlogHer.

Feb 122014
 

I write for multiple organizations in the health field, as a journalist and as a ghostwriter.  Below are links to some of my recent by-lined work for multiple clients.

Surviving a Health Crisis as an Advocate

Moving from Oral Meds to Insulin

Feb 052014
 
The Hoard Girls

The Hoard Girls

By default, I’m the keeper of family junk that nobody else wants—boxes of  Kodak Brownie snapshots from my grandparent’s 1938 driving trip to Colorado, 35 mm slides of my brother and I everywhere from Yellowstone to Cape Cod, hundreds of photos of our own child, and stacks of fading portraits from different generations.

 Since the mid-nineteenth century, we’ve collected these precious treasures that capture a moment in time. Today photography is different.  Studios like CPI, a St. Louis-based company that ran Sears Photo Studios, are closed and Olan Mills, whose traditional 1950s black and white  or sepia-toned photographs grace Baby Boomer walls, downsized in 2012.

Baby Boomers will remember standing like stair steps with siblings in a studio or a church basement, posing for a that slice-of-life family portrait.

 Today, portrait studios can’t compete with an army of citizen photographers with increasingly sophisticated digital cameras. Those who stay in the business and succeed learn the tricks of the digital trade – the high school graduating picture is no longer a solitary head shot. If you can imagine it, a talented person with a good camera and good computer software can make it happen.

While the family treasures take up space, I’m glad to have them. The photos, even those printed on cheap, thin paper, all tell a story.

When our only child arrived, like other mothers I only saw his beauty and not the splotchy red mark above his nose.

I took the baby to the Sears Portrait Studio, where the clerk propped him up like an overripe melon against a tan backdrop.  He wore a baby blue sailor suit with a yellow bow tie and a knitted, lemon-yellow jacket passed down from Uncle Tony. (It is the kind of photo no adult wants his mother to put on Facebook years later.)

 Twenty-plus year ago proofs took days to arrive.   Finally, this anxious new mother previewed the pictures.  The clerk lined up all the pictures, six views, already printed on very cheap paper and in a variety of sizes.

 The pictures were terrible.  The baby’s head tilted awkwardly to the side, and his clothes were slightly wrinkled and askew. This new mother had not quite learned to dress her child.

 “How much for all of them?” I said as I reached into my purse for the Sears “charge-a-plate” (which was what my mother called hers in the 1960s.)

 I bought them all, and it cost nearly two hundred dollars.  Included in the package were four 11 x 14s. that were almost lifesize and a little frightening.

Not even this precious baby’s adoring grandparents wanted a photo that large of him.

When I run across one of these photos, I laugh, and I remember the nervous young mother who thought – and still does – her child was the most beautiful baby ever born. I remember the excitement of mailing them to friends and relatives near and far, all of whom probably have stacks of similar pictures from their own families.

 Today these Sears pictures fade in the closet along with those photographs and portraits I inherited when both grandmothers and my mother  passed away.

Enzclanin1890s

George Enz Family 1890

I have pictures back to the Matthew Brady era – tintypes of unknown Civil War soldiers from my father’s side of the family.  I have wedding and military and confirmation and prom pictures from my immediate family history,  I’ve organized them in black-lined cardboard boxes, and labeled them by decade.

 Will this matter to anyone in the future?

What will our children keep?  Will they cherish their SmartPhones or external hard drives full of pictures, CDs, DVDs or whatever media is popular at the time?  An earpiece that hangs off Google glasses that contain all of their children’s school pictures?  A Dick Tracy-style watch with 10,000 digital wedding pictures?

Maybe I’m getting daft in my mid-to-late fifties, but I suspect somewhere along the line there will be a descendant who appreciates all that is saved.

The two photos in this story are: my grandmother, LeNore Hoard Enz (the baby), with her sisters Sara Mae and Zoe Trucia around 1910.

The second photo is the Georg Enz family in Reynolds, Indiana around 1890.  My great grandfather Charles Enz is the oldest as well as the tallest of the boys and is in the back row.

Feb 052014
 

MoreBirdsGerontology025As a child, winter is about Snow Days and sledding with the family.  Children don’t think about who shovels the snow or deals with the problems caused by weather.

Even as a homeowner in my thirties, I was not too concerned about logistics.

So when we purchased our second home when we were in our late thirties, we didn’t think about snow and ice or trees falling down or wild animals from the woods.  We saw a beautiful home in a hilly, wooded setting.

Now almost two decades later we’ve watched about ten of our lovely trees die, fall down, get hit by lightning, almost anything but being removed by aliens. We’ve survived snow and ice storms, including the great big pre-Christmas story of 2004.  Two feet of snow came so fast we hardly knew what hit us.

Believe me, our next home is going to be a windowless hut on a flat surface surrounded by nothingness with a hole in the top for the U.S. Mail. And hopefully it will be located in Bora Bora.

This latest storm has really, really, really put me in a nasty mood.

Yesterday I had a meeting at the Newburgh library, about two miles from our home.  When I went to the meeting, it was chilly but nothing was happening (despite the Armageddon-like predictions of the local weather prognosticators)

I went outside about two hours after I came in, and I could barely see my hands in front of my face, let alone find my car in the parking lot.  White-out conditions, they call it.

I drove directly home, even though I needed to pick up some prescriptions and a few things from the grocery.

By the time I got home our driveway was covered with something resembling snow, except that it was loud and crunchy when you drove over it.  Our driveway goes up a hill and then makes a ninety degree turn onto a steeper hill, and if you are lucky, you’ll end up in the garage.  Three years ago we put in a new driveway and decreased the incline and removed a stone garden pit that was four feet lower than the driveway.  (Not driving into the pit was always a special winter challenge.)

But you cannot entirely remove the incline.  Newburgh is an Ohio River town, and we’re a village of hills.

I could not make it into the garage; I barely made it up the first slight incline to park on the pad that sits next to the walkout entrance.

I drive a small SUV, and it is a little top heavy and I haven’t mastered the art of actually getting it in the garage if there’s ice on the driveway.

My car sat out last night. Today I went out and ran the car for about an hour, and chipped the ice off the windows.  I was fearful of breaking the windows, but the three-quarter inch slabs of ice weren’t coming off any other way.

I chiseled my way into the back of the car because that’s where most of the good scrapers are. I was terrified to shut the big back door, for fear the sound would bring two down very large limbs that have been swaying perilously above the car since last night. There is very little wind, and these two limbs slowly move from side to side.  That doesn’t seem to be a good sign for their continued vitality.

With my oversized blue parka on and my warm black boots, I collected  two days’ worth of mail (neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, blah, blah, blah) and retrieved the garbage can.

I decided to try again to put the car in the garage. I backed up and immediately slid off into the side yard, nearly taking out the mailbox.

I guess I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.  I have a nice chicken dinner in the slow cooker, and I’m going to mellow by watching the birds at the frozen feeders. My husband will be home in a few hours. His employer is one of the few that did not close today, perhaps because hell is only partially frozen over.

And I’m also considering why the heck we left Florida for Indiana in January 1988.  Seems like a dumb decision today.

Jan 312014
 
Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon

Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon

When I was growing up, everything seemed to be coming up roses for women.  “The Pill”, those fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, Gloria Steinem getting out of her bunny suit and into tailored Chanel.

We, as women, had more choices than any generation before us.  We were raised by the Silent Majority and the “Greatest Generation” of women, many of whom worked as Rosie the Riveter and then came home to raise their children in homogenized suburban developments.

Everyone told me and my fellow Baby Boomers we could have it all.

I have been blessed and lucky enough to have most of it some of the time, just not all at once.  Five years ago, I lost my job. Not just any job, but the big job.  The one that paid a lot of money and provided my family with a great life. We rebounded; we did not lose our house like others we knew. We were very fortunate.  But, I know how close to the edge we came.

I’m also old enough to know that had I made different choices, my life might have been very different.  For better or worse?  That’s a question that cannot be answered. But many women of my era and today’s era have not had the choices and blessings I’ve had, and certainly have not had it all.  Or much of it.

Many women today are in serious financial trouble, in poverty, and on the edge. And the discussions of why never seem to quite settle down.  Two years ago  Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial Atlantic cover “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” stirred the pot again. Pundits like to throw this topic around, but most of the time it’s all the rage between Those Who Have and Those Who Have More.  Amy Chua’s obnoxious opinion piece about her believe that certain ethnic groups have a better shot at success in Sunday’s New York Times is a good example.

Another look down from the high horse was the lovely Republican response by an attractive Congresswoman.  Ironic that just a few days after Gov. Mike Huckabee’s rant on women’s libido and hours after the House passed anti-abortion legislation that the Republican response was given by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the most senior Republican woman in the House of Representatives.

In case you missed it, here’s what Huckabee said at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee:

“And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Yup.  The Grand Old Party sent out a woman to shape their brand, tell their story, grease their wheels just days after this verbal pile of garbage was strewn before the true believers.  No, calling it garbage is too nice. I’ll borrow a phrase from my father’s fraternity days.  Let’s call it condensed owl feces.

None of these folks from Anne-Marie Slaughters to Mike Huckabee to Cathy McMorris Rodgers understand what is happening in the real world.

This cavalier attitude  just makes me mad.  Really mad.  And I’m mad for a number of reasons. I’m mad because women in the same job still make less than males in the same position. If they are lucky enough to have a job. According to College Times:

“Women account for 46% of the labor force, but 59% of workers making less than $8 an hour. What does it mean? It means that many women are taking on jobs that pay well under a living wage. With nearly 16% of U.S. households having women who are divorced, widowed or never married as the sole providers, this leaves many women at a distinct disadvantage and struggling to make ends meet as they dominate jobs in low paying fields.”

I’m mad that we’re still fighting over maternity leave.  This week The Diane Rehm Show featured how far behind America is compared to other Western countries when providing for maternal and paternal leave for childbirth or caring for an ailing child or parent.  In Sweden, men not taking the paternity leave can risk losing the whole thing for their partners if they don’t use their time.

I’m mad that we are fighting about birth control in 2014.  Birth control, people.  I’m not talking about late-term abortions. I believe as Hillary Clinton does that “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”  I’m not fighting the anti-abortion people; but the fact that some equate birth control with abortion is beyond the pale.

I have a dog in this fight because early in my career I sold an injectable birth control product.  Going to clinics that frequently saw junior high girls as patients made this issue a passion for me.  One day at a clinic in rural southern Illinois, a physician shared with me he had just delivered the baby of an 11-year-old girl. At eleven, you are supposed to be worried about slumber parties, not pumping your breasts.

I’m mad that the unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed have not been extended; and I’m very mad about the arrogant, superior attitude some politicians have about how easy it is to get a job. The sheer number of people who have stopped looking for employment has to indicate that something is up.

The state of our union isn’t, as President Obama proclaimed, strong. The state of our union is, well, weird.

I’ve said this to friends before, and I’ll say it again here.  I think the work world changed dramatically when The Great Recession hit in 2007.  History made even record it as a depression, but it is too soon to know.

What can we as women do?  We can speak up about the real issues, the hunger, the poverty, the unemployment, the lack of living wages to those who represent us in Congress. And we can also express our displeasure over the time spent on issues that seem to only polarize our country more.

Published January 31, 2014 at The Broad Side. Please comment there.