31 December 2010

I Predict for 2011

There's a certain local celebrity who has been invited to do predictions for the new year for maybe close to a decade now. I've borne the brunt of some of those predictions-mostly positive if I recall correctly. His latest were released this week which put me in the mood to participate in this divination of prophesying. So, here's my Nostradomus attempt-all in good fun:

Tea Party Poopers
While the teapot may have come to a boil in 2010, I think that 2011 will see the Tea Party run out of steam. It’s like a good guy film-if there’s no villain or bloodshed, then it’s really not a guy film, it’s a chick-flick. Without Pelosi, the Tea Party has become a chick-flick.

Exploratory Candidate-Elect
Run or not to run. After Hoosiers realize they’ve been drinking from the punch bowl and are suffering from a severe hang-over, Mitch's popularity will tank as Indiana’s economic “rebound” once again puts us even farther behind the rest of the country. It will be the rest of the nation that ultimately has to tell the emperor he has no clothes as they say in unison “not my man Mitch”.

Election Year?
River City elections will be a sleeper. No, more like comatose. Some will view it as a landslide; others will see it as a lost cause. Just like in 1982 when the little town took on Goliath in basketball and the whole city left for Indianapolis, I think it’s safe to say again “last one out, turn off the lights”.

Wastimulus
Believing that Democrats shouldn’t create all the waste in government spending, Republicans in Indiana are plowing new ground with all of the road construction projects underway. One would think this a good thing-a sign of progress….until you realize that county officials are spending close to $10 million per minute saved in getting around River City with a new “beltway”. Running out of former elected heroes’ names ironically the new $20 million beltway will be named for the most conservative official to have ever served in the county. Problem is, she’s a Democrat. I propose to you “Konya Highway”. Ultimately she’ll decline the honor because lettering on the sign would cost more than simply “7th”.

It's the Economy Stupid
Speaking of pork barrel spending, Republicans will bring it to a halt once they arrive on the Hill. Then they’ll realize that waste was paving their roads and paying for their police. The economy will bump ever so slowly upward-some will say it is the result of the continuing Bush-era tax cuts, which is why the economy is in such a robust state today, others will say it is because of stimulus spending, and still others will say there is no recovery. This prediction’s accuracy depends on where you get your information. If it is from Mitch and Obama-we’re doing great, if it is from the Tea Party, Mitch's Budget Office, and Republicans on Capitol Hill-we need change.

Byways-Sideways
Both the Lincoln Highway and Historic Michigan Road will gain state byway status this year, not only bringing new economic opportunities to more than 50 Indiana communities, but for the first time bringing this heritage tourism tool to the northern half of the state. In the same breath I think it is safe to predict that one metropolitan planning organization will have mucho egg on their face for being the only group to not endorse the byways, proving that their purview of “regional initiatives” is nothing but lip service and road blocks.

The Great Reformation
More weight will be given to the Kernan-Shepard report as Indiana legislators and the Governor attempt to streamline government by consolidating power doing away with unnecessary democracy. As a GOP vs. GOP battle ensues the realization will be that we shouldn’t stop with doing away with township government and portions of county government, but we can probably do away with a fair amount of state government. It reminds me of “first they came for the trustees, but I didn’t care, I wasn’t a trustee, then they came for the commissioners, but I didn’t care, I wasn’t a commissioner, then they came for me and I looked around and there was no one to defend me”.

Indiana's E(ab)d(i)ucation System
Anytime I hear some form of education reform rolled out I think our kids get a little dumber. Can someone tell me why with all of the reform of the last 20 years our kids continue to fall further and further behind? Can someone explain why teachers spend more time being tested than teaching? Indiana will finally figure out they need to let teachers teach-a true epiphany. Any principal or administrator worth their salt will know if a teacher is failing in the classroom-but they can’t do that if teachers aren’t able to spend time actually teaching.

I hope that you have a spectacular 2011, that God enriches all of your lives whether or not we see eye to eye politically, and that someday division is only found in math books.

Christmas at Sycamore Hill


It seems strange to discuss the wonderful white Christmas we had for our first here on the Hill when the house is currently being enveloped by fog after thunder and lightning just this morning. But this is Indiana.

My kids were genuinely concerned that Santa might have a hard time finding them this year since we changed addresses. Particularly concerning to them was the fact that we had no fireplace here like we did in town. I tried to relieve those fears by saying "we still have a chimney" and I suppose Santa participates in the USPS forwarding program-so we should be good. But just in case my daughter insisted we leave the little door built into the cabinet under the chimney in our living room wide open. Easy enough.


This first Christmas here needed to have a spectacular tree. Reeling from the sticker shock I have already circled a selection of Balsam Firs in the new tree/seed catalogs that came out. 20 trees for $40 in 10 years when the first is ready to harvest would be much cheaper than the $80 a tree they will be costing at that time.

We drive to Lafayette each Christmas Eve to spend the day with my wife's mother's side who hail from that area. On the way back we had our traditional Christmas Eve supper at McDonalds in Rochester. I built up the anticipation around a special event that evening which I insist will become a new tradition for the family. When we returned home the kids grabbed their flashlights and I my Coleman lantern and together the family climbed the hill at the back of the farm and sang Silent Night. I asked if there were requests for other carols and there was a resounding NO. But I think they had fun regardless.


Christmas day the kids were up bright and early as would be expected. Santa didn't disappoint. A camera and ice skates for my daughter and a football, football game, and football cards for my son. I received a Carhart jacket. My wife's favorite gift was a cheap antique ring I picked up the week before. Then off to my folks for brunch. Last night was the last of our Christmases as we celebrated with my wife's family. The perfect gift-tickets to see Garrison Keillor-was wrapped waiting for me. That seemed to round out a perfect Christmas season.

30 December 2010

Out with the Old-In with the New


This post is dedicated to Aunt Pat.

OK-I have no idea who actually reads this blog anymore....but I have had a few complaints in the last several weeks due to my lack of blogging. It's not that I don't have some posts rattling around in my head-there is plenty of fodder out there. It's just that I feel so completely uninspired.

So when I mentioned that to Aunt Pat on Christmas Eve, she said to allow her to be my inspiration. So here goes it....

2010 was a bummer of a year for me. I make no bones about it. I'm not sure what led to that, or why it felt so pronounced, but this lack of inspiration has come from an absolute loss of passion...about much of anything. I feel like I'm living in paradise here on the Hill, but there's this overwhelming feeling of disillusionment that I just can't shake. As if I'm a race horse in my prime that's been prohibited to run any races-just sit on the sidelines and watch the old gray mares make a mess of things. How appropriate I'm surrounded by pastures....to be "put out".

So-try I will to shake the funk in the new year....which has led to at least this one resolution. I resolve to blog, more. I'm anxious to get 2010 behind me, though it did lead to a few good things which would be wrong if I didn't acknowledge them:

We moved to this great farm "Sycamore Hill"
God continued to bless with new work &
the Historic Michigan Road State Byway nomination was officially submitted last week.

Those were the highlights. 2011 looks very promising as the state should officially adopt the byway, we plan to finish interior work on the farmhouse, and contracts for 2011 already equal half of the contracts I received for 2010. We have SIX weddings in 2011. Does that seem crazy?

Another thing I plan to do in 2011 is to go back to a few things I was passionate about 20 years ago, and reframe some of my thinking around those and develop those as a way to move forward. They were things that were valuable outlets for me that I put aside when my focus became "outward". And as wrong as this may sound, I'd kinda like to do some things for myself for a change.

Sorry if this post seems rambly-it's the nature of breaking through writer's block. I have a 2011 predictions list rambling around in my head that I hope to get to soon....I think that you'll enjoy it.

Incidently, from our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving (yes it has been that long), Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

13 November 2010

Loss of the last true Public Servant

My great aunt, center, on the night she received the Sagamore from
First Lady Maggie Kernan, on the left


The elections last week and the republican, or tea party, hysteria surrounding them provided a huge win to liberals locally.

Liberals you ask? HR, what are you smokin'...it was the ultra-right that were voted in last week! True. With one huge exception. The absolutely MOST FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE elected official I have ever known was voted out of office. Why? Because she happened to have a D after her name. With almost 50 years experience she was replaced by someone that has been alive for only 20 of those 50 years and who has promised to spend our tax dollars. You see, lack of experience or fiscal prudence means nothing so long as you have an R after your name. Something we know all too well here in Republicania County.

In 1962 my great aunt began serving the people of our township as deputy trustee; since 1970, elected as their trustee. She has consistently worked to maintain the lowest tax rate of any township in the county (remarkably, we are the only Democratic hold out in a Republican county-how's that work?). Regardless, at 89, it is probably time for her to enjoy retirement. She represents a different kind of politician...she represents what we used to refer to as a public servant. Honestly, I don't know many elected officials that can claim that attribute and certainly not to the standard my aunt can.

In 2001 the Governor awarded her the high honor of the Sagamore of the Wabash. I've seen this awarded to individuals for political purposes; in this instance it was an overdue payment for a life of service. Few people embody the words written by the prophet Micah in chapter 6 and verse 8: You know what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly before your God. My aunt is just and merciful and humble beyond belief. She is a firm believer in self-reliance, but would be the first to lend a hand in practice of the Golden Rule.

My aunt has forever left a mark on the people of the township she has called home all her life, as a friend and neighbor in the truest meaning of the word. No better public servant has walked this Hoosier soil.

11 November 2010

Dribble

Today was a tough day.

Veterans Day rolls around each year and it takes me to a point in my life four years ago that normally I don't mind being reminded of. This year it bothered me.

I understand that there are times in our Christian walk that God chooses to be silent. I understand that there are times when we are to just wait. I get that. But I think the difficult thing to is understand where He has led you to and then seemingly leaves you to fade away.

I suppose any number of stories from the Old Testament would seem an appropriate parallel. I had someone throw the "wandering the desert" line. It is difficult to see that from here.

What I wish for more than anything these days, maybe more accurately what I am frustrated with God over, is what I understand that I wish I didn't. My life would be so, so much easier if I didn't see through the crap....if I were just the average white evangelical republican sitting in my big comfy church. If I could just blindly follow and not know any different.

But instead I am stuck with what I know and it has paralyzed me.

I relayed the story of my "epiphany" four years ago to an old friend this morning. It still sounded right.....but it didn't feel like it was my story anymore. I felt like I was talking about someone I knew a long time ago. For me it seems like the stories have all been written and we know how each one will end....so there is very little use in the pursuit. Yet my friends were pushing pursuit.

There are times when I feel like taking a stand-kicking some backside. But I wait...religiously, I wait. Ideally I would just not care about the community circles I am a part of-because I don't see the possibility for change.

I don't know what the big guy is trying to teach me, but I am more than willing to listen. I am His bound servant...but the chains are wearing on me.

05 November 2010

The day we found Home

This was the conversation at the coffee shop exactly one year ago today:
"you really need to go look at this farm for sale"
"Dan, we JUST finished our house...we are not moving!"
"seriously-if for no other reason-you need to take a look at the awesome barn...follow me out there"
"mmm...ok, I guess"

Can anyone guess what happened? I'm still not exactly sure myself. Here's the thing about Sycamore Hill...and I don't know that I can convey it correctly in words...but I'll try. You see, I always wanted to have a cabin out in the woods somewhere far outside of town. It seemed that it would balance our living in town if I could just have that little get-away. Fact of the matter is that it was one of three main "dreams" in my life that I had boiled down after going through this great book about dreaming and living. I had three that I wanted to accomplish in no particular order: 1) go out on my own with my own business focused on historic preservation (check), 2) have that little retreat cabin in the woods and 3) transform politics as we know it. I'm counting moving to Sycamore Hill as #2, though last weekend I had scoped out a great place for a cabin on our property near the creek. Dream #3 seems like a pretty crazy-far out goal, but I also can't believe that within 4 years God would have accomplished the first two.

So I followed my buddy Dan out to this place he kept telling me about over coffee that Thursday morning. Something about the place settled deep in my spirit not more than a few minutes on the property. I went home and told my wife as she was standing in the bathroom that I thought I had found "our place in the country" (it was in the exact same location she told me she was pregnant-I just realized that as I was typing). She asked if we could move right in and I said I thought so, and I wanted to take the kids to see it after school. She was concerned enough to sneak out to the farm with a friend and peer in the windows. She came home that afternoon and said that unless something was seriously wrong....let's do it.


So the kids got off the school bus and we headed out to "the hill". The rest was captured in photos from that afternoon. My wife snapped this picture with the sun shining down on me and I often wonder if I look lost or found in it. Two weeks later our offer was accepted and a week later our house went on the market and a week after that we had sold our house in town. This became a pretty major shift in how we saw our future. No looking back.

Several years back I told my wife I had come up with the perfect name for our place in the country-wherever that would be. I've been so inspired over the years in traveling across the Hoosier state and seeing grand old sycamore trees standing sentry along our waterways. I love those trees with their white bark catching the sun. I told my wife if we ever had a place we would call it Sycamore Hill and if it didn't have a sycamore tree...I would just plant one. So imagine the connection that I immediately felt when I saw this ancient sycamore standing vigil on the hill by the pasture, and many of its offspring lining the creek. It felt like God was saying welcome home.

Of course, not everything has gone as planned. There is still a great deal of work to be done, even from the list of work I had planned for the interior of the house in its first year. But we've had a great deal of fun growing into the place. Another interesting aspect is that the man who built the house came to this county in 1834 to build the Michigan Road. Now, 175 years later, I'm working to establish the Michigan Road Byway.

This morning during our regularly scheduled coffee time I mentioned that it was the one year anniversary and Dan asked...."so, how do you feel about it?" I think a lot of that depends on my mood....but even now as I see the snow falling over this piece of natural serenity I don't see how it could be anything but good.

16 October 2010

the sun also rises...


Given the general position of our place in the country, we've been witness to a number of spectacular sunrises. This morning's was exceptional. The fog, diffused light, and silhouettes worked in perfect harmony to make this one blog-worthy. I'm just not sure the photo does it justice. At times I get disappointed we don't have the best seats in the house for similar drama to sunsets, but I'll take the life metaphor to sunrise vs. sunset any day of the week....particularly since I add another year to my life tomorrow.

15 October 2010

maybe I've got it all wrong...

I just viewed a short clip of Jackie Walorski stumping on the campaign trail and a brief interview with her after her speech. I sent the link to a friend, more because of its references to Gary, Indiana than because of the campaign rhetoric. And then I found myself typing these words that proved to sum up one of the great internal struggles nagging at me lately:

maybe i've got this political thing all wrong....maybe i should have shot my mouth off throwing in the words america and constitution more often for no apparent reason. maybe i shouldn't have let faith and conscience get in the way of my pursuits. maybe my anger and bitterness should have been turned to something more productive like winning elections

How many more days do we have before this election? And I'm convinced we've not seen the worse yet. I'd like to believe that there is a day in America's future where decent people are elected to office with a heart to serve their fellow man and not their party. Where the words spoken aren't empty clangings spun to win elections or fan flames of hate. Where the church in America has finally broken the political bondage it has entrapped itself in negating its usefulness to reach a dying world.

I guess this is why I am called idealistic.

06 October 2010

testing the theory


I found the need to be in Tipton today over the lunch hour. So, having always wanted to stop here......I did. And I sat at the counter and ordered a huge bowl of some pretty awesome chili. I recommend this stop to all my readers out there.

And yes, I know, I need to get back at this blogging thing.

28 September 2010

stinging words from 1985


We are still sorting through boxes that were quickly stacked in our rush to move this past January. That led me to the basement over the weekend to sort through a few odds and ends that seemed to be better off at Goodwill than our basement. But then there were a few items that seemed better to be packed into my "trunk" which is a virtual time capsule of my high school and college days.

Now-where did I put the trunk? I just found that while cleaning out the closet. So this morning I pulled out the trunk and once I opened it, realized that everything became a jumbled mess in the move. So I began to pull out the relics, and ruins, from my past and came across something I wrote in October of 1985....25 years ago when I was a naive 17 year old.

"only when I live my life at its very best will it be a benefit to others, only a life lived to benefit others is a life worth living"

The words stung.

Then I came across the picture above (that's PNW on the right) and remembered who it was that wrote those words. I think that helped reset my compass so to speak.

25 September 2010

Summer's Last Snapshots


Going through our photo files from the summer I realized, with the exception of a few storms, life was pretty quiet around here. The new place offered some pretty amazing snapshots from sunrises to storms. While it was a common occurrence to have coffee in the barn on Thursday mornings with some buddies, I had wanted to dine at least once with the family before the weather turned cold. We managed that last week.....and just in time....they were talking "windchill" this morning!

19 September 2010

Open letter to Jackie & Joe:

Health Insurance Companies are the Devil.

I felt that I needed to get that off my chest before going into our latest saga with health insurance. Two years ago I wrote about how Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield accepted the other members of my family but rejected me because I had been to a chiropractor for a pulled muscle I got while working out. Finally after appeals and even paying for a month of insurance when they had refused to insure me, they finally took me as "high risk".

Last year we were informed that our insurance was going up 12% (keep in mind here that this is considered catastrophic coverage and that we have never made a claim). This year (after having the insurance for only 2 years!), our coverage was going up an additional 20%. 32% in two years. So, we went looking elsewhere....

Golden Rule, after spending hours on the phone, finally sent us a package (after demanding we pay in advance 1 month). This time I was considered "preferred" (amazing what can happen in 2 years) but our 10 year old, perfectly healthy, son was rejected. The reason? He has sensory issues-which means he doesn't like certain foods and is agitated by bright lights. They said "we don't cover children with any kinds of issues."

Anyone out there that doesn't believe that we need health insurance reform in this country is an imbecile and doesn't have a clue what it is doing to our economy. The Republicans, after sweeping elections in 1994, fought back against health reform in this country. For 14 years the problem grew worse and when Democrats finally were the first to have the guts to do something, they fell short of any kind of meaningful insurance reforms. And now the Republicans are stoking the fire so that they can take over and go back to the way things were.

So, Jackie & Joe......what are you going to do about it? Reform has fallen short of a true remedy to the problem and if the answer is to go back to the way things were it clearly shows you don't understand the issues at hand and aren't qualified to be in Congress.

My answer? End employer provided health insurance. Then EVERYONE will be mad as heck and demand reform. Until then the voter will just go with whichever numskull seems to say what we want to hear-not what is needed.

16 September 2010

the wrong kind of settling


Looking at my buddy's barn a few weeks ago, I offered my thoughts on what might be wrong:

"well.......it's settling"
I have a profound knowledge of the obvious

Then I started to laugh and he said "Reborn! Don't be laughin' at my barn!"

I told him that I needed to come back with a camera...that it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen in the biz.

Now, there is plenty of good settling. Seriously. In all things be content the scriptures say....and I think that the two are fairly interchangeable. But I think that there is plenty of bad settling too. It's characteristic of our lazy society to "settle". Right now we settle for half-truths spouted out by politicians rather than do the hard work of thinking. And we settle for second best-constantly.....second best in our expectations of what life could be, of what our communities could be. And as we settle for second-best, all of a sudden what we have settled for has slipped to third, then fourth place. And the sad fact of the matter is that we don't see it.

Kind of like that overgrown patch of mess growing behind my garage that has covered the aluminum canopies that once graced our front windows, but were removed within a week of living here. At first I thought "I'll just stick these back here until I can take them to the salvage yard" and before I knew it, spring had sprung and slowly the pile was covered by summer vegetation. And now I don't even notice it.

Seriously? You don't notice it? Everyone that visits Sycamore Hill notices it.

This is the wrong kind of settling. And so is allowing things to numb us to the point that we've lost our passion for the things we once cared so deeply about. I've been experiencing that numbness I never thought was possible and I can't decide if it is settling, or if it is contentment. I've had conversations with two people in the last week and both recognized a sort of passion when I talked about historic preservation or a Christian's role in local social justice issues.

It seems though as quickly as the eyes light up something else shuts down. I think it may be an insular response. It may be my way of accepting the wrong kind of settling. I like to blame God for this one-at least I'm honest here. Sometimes I have this image of God and me standing 100' apart, both with our arms folded waiting for the other to make the first move. And I think, geesh, I've moved a lot in the last four years. Time for You to move big guy.

I played my kids in checkers and chess last night. Both were checkmated. I'm ruthless, I know. One of us is in checkmate and I'm not sure who it is.

The Last Supper in the Dunes


If there is one thing that I have most enjoyed about doing whatever it is I do for a living, it is meeting some really fascinating folks, who have become fast friends or maybe in them I've found some sort of kindred spirit. Such was the case in my meeting Herb and Charlotte Read at their home in the Indiana Dunes. And I was reminded of this, and my purpose in meeting them, again today when I received an invitation to "The Last Supper".

I was contacted about a year ago to visit with the Reads regarding the eligibility of their house for the National Register of Historic Places. I pulled into the driveway and was immediately skeptical. The house seemed like a fairly ordinary ranch house. Then a remarkable story began to unfold.

Herb and Charlotte, both in their mid-80s have lived in the house since Herb's parents passed away. Herb, an architect from Chicago, designed the house to be integrated with the dunes-scape....something he achieved with perfection. It was Herb's long-standing passion for the Indiana Dunes that allowed such a marriage of a man & nature carved creation. It was Herb's continual vigilance in protecting and preserving the dunes that has led to this "Last Supper".



Herb is the third generation of his family who have advocated for the protection of the dunes, their family's involvement has stretched back to the early 1900s when Herb's father, Philo, began hiking the dunes with the group from Chicago known as the Saturday Walking Club. Jens Jensen was the most notable member of the club and the Reads met Jensen in 1908. From that time forward the family pushed and pushed for conservation of this most remarkable landscape. The Reads lobbied for the creation of the dunes state park and for the creation of a national park that would ensure the protection of the fragile ecosystem.

The fight went on for decades and the small house nestled in the dunes became the staging ground for the battle that would go from shoreline to Indianapolis, and finally catch the attention of President Kennedy when the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created. The fight against the steel mills and refineries would see significant losses to the area's most treasured resources; however, the fact that there is anything left of the dunes should be credited in large part to the Reads. Herb's tenacity as an activist shaped by his in-depth understanding of both engineering and environment made him a formidable foe in refuting false information that was being heard on Capitol Hill. Herb became the Mr. Smith who went to Washington.

My favorite story recalled by Herb was the gala affair that brought mayors and the governor to a ground breaking of a new steel mill on the most pristine dunes recently leveled. While the conservationists charged that massive contamination was occurring in Lake Michigan from the mill, authorities refuted it. So Herb's crew placed fine linens across a table at the event and appeared to be offering refreshing water by a bikini-wearing server. As the news reporters and camera men drew closer it was discovered that sludge was being poured out of the pitcher and being offered to guests.....sludge that came from the lake near the mill.

There is more to this story than could possibly be written about here, but you probably are wondering why "the Last Supper". In order to create the national lakeshore Herb convinced neighbors during the 1960s to give a life lease to the federal government to create a critical block of land for the park. Many years later the life lease was changed to a termination date....that happens to be the end of September, 2010. No latitude is being shown for the handful of folks who are in their 80s-the vacate notice has been served and the homes are to be demolished. Hence, the Reads "Last Supper" with friends and conservationists with whom they have fought the good fight. I'm incredibly honored to be among the guests-I assume there are more than 13 at this supper.


The Read Dunes House is certainly eligible for the National Register. The appropriate documents were created and the state historic preservation office made the determination. However, it goes against the will of the lakeshore to save the house and so there is a bit of a stalemate in what happens next. I don't think that it looks promising. There home is currently preserved as a testament to the conservation of the dunes.....the inside of their home is as close to a museum for such as could ever be created.

It seems a sad commentary on the national lakeshore to do away with the last vestige of those who maintained the "continual vigilance" in preserving what has been described as the most complex ecosystem in the United States second only to Yellowstone National Park. We Americans often fall short in honoring those whose broad shoulders have held back the waves that would destroy either the beauty of our country or people without a voice. The Reads have some of the broadest shoulders I have seen to date.

11 September 2010

9 Fractured 1 America 1


I don't know that I have written much about September 11th on this blog. There is some sanctity that it should be afforded and Hoosier Happenings I guess never seemed the venue for writing about it. But here it is. The 9th anniversary of the horror.

So, where were you? I remember distinctly the events of that morning. I drove to work, stopping by the local chamber of commerce office to have some paperwork signed on the way. Then sat down and within about 15 minutes had pulled up the news on-line. From then through the rest of the day I don't remember much except being fixed on the trauma unfolding in front of my eyes. I remember driving back home for lunch and meeting another car at a four-way intersection...there was just this sort of dazed stare coming from the other driver, and probably from me. A silver lining is that my son took his first steps that day-which has become the easy way to do the math in my head on how old he was when he took those steps.

People said we would never be the same again. I think that lasted about a year.

I believe it is important to understand what drove the events of that day. It is important for us to understand that we were so hated by extremists, and still are, because of who we are, what we look like, what we stand for, where we live....and no doubt "Christian" probably plays into this. That sounds a bit racist, right? Intolerant, right? Singled out?

So, this is what's been going through my mind: our response to a mosque near Ground Zero and the evangelical pastor in Florida wanting to burn Korans. And I'm trying to figure out if there is any less hate involved in either of these. Do I think building a mosque near Ground Zero is a good idea? Of course not, but it doesn't mean that we get to pick and choose whose rights we protect and whose we don't. And in my life I have always been careful to not criticize any pastor but I'm going to say this....if a Christian is one who models Christ, regardless of this "pastor's" profession of faith, in my book the guy is a wolf in sheep's clothing. If he honestly believes God was telling him to act out in such a way, his god is not the same God I serve.

My pastor recently was asking me about some of the history of our community, since he is new here and all. He asked about some specific issues and I said that racism is a huge problem. Then later I thought to myself, is that right? Or am I overly sensitive to responses I've witnessed with the Latino population? It took only two days later to understand that no, indeed, the hatred we have for others who don't look like us is alive and well here in river city. My wife and I were standing in line at Marbucks when we overhead an employee talking with a customer...

yeah, Obamacare is going to take care of me you know...
right....you know what I think? they oughta let the guys in white sheets take care of him...

I was mortified. But honestly, based on all the crap I hear, and am forwarded-I guess this wasn't that much of a leap. I have to believe that at least 50% of the ill-feelings toward the president are generated out of bigotry....at least from the comments I hear. I guess maybe our hatred isn't driving us to aim planes at tall buildings but it continues to eat away at our civilization, whether black, Latino, or middle-eastern. And we call ourselves a Christian nation? I don't get for the life of me how we are modeling Christ-it certainly isn't through Glen Beck (he's not unlike the wolf above). I see it so rarely that as much as Christians like to think we are.....we might want to take a look in the mirror to see if it is the lamb, or wolf.

09 September 2010

Last Splash of the Summer

Anyone who has kids will undoubtedly understand the feeling you get when you catch your child in play and completely oblivious to you and the world around him. Such was the case while visiting Holiday World last month when I caught my son running from fountain to fountain in the kiddy section at the amusement park. Perfect for the last splash of the summer.




06 September 2010

Wander a Wonder

The 8th Wonder of the World that is. Remember the old Indiana Tourism mantra "wander Indiana, wander Indiana, wander Indiana"? It received a lot of criticism in its day-but it did the trick for me...I still can't get that ditty out of my head.


So, wander we did, on our way back from Holiday World we wandered Indiana which landed us on the doorstep of what some called the 8th wonder of the world: the West Baden Springs Hotel. Built in 1902 in West Baden-just down the road from French Lick-the hotel was falling into utter disrepair before the Cook Family stepped in and set out to rescue it. Price tag for restoration? Just a measly $500 million or so, but who's keeping track?

Having my hand on the pulse of preservation in Indiana I have been watching this story, and architectural wonder, emerge to become probably the greatest "save" in Indiana history. The building has a central atrium 200' across and more than 6 stories high. Quite a feat for 1902.


Once we drove past the restored French Lick Hotel the car just naturally got the nudge to ease its way onto the grounds of West Baden. We parked the car and walked indoors. Holy cow! And usually the kids and wife aren't impressed with my sick indulgent detours.....but they liked this one.




Just a few days ago my wife was going through some old photographs and came across this post card from the French Lick Springs Hotel and pictures of her grandparents at West Baden in 1932. Pretty cool. If you've never been, you should make the trip....it's worth the wander.

04 September 2010

Cabin or gas station?

Marion County's only original log cabin, and the only known log cabin along the historic Michigan Road is in jeopardy of being demolished to build a gas station/convenience store in the following days. Yes, we do need yet another gas station....in a residential area......to take the place of one of the most important landmarks along Indiana's most important historical road. I mean, what could the cabin offer that BP couldn't? Besides gas and big gulps?Evidently rumors and a 2005 article in the Indianapolis Business Journal of the building's covered structure wasn't enough to put the building at 51st and Michigan on Indianapolis' radar for protection of the historic structure. Nor did it make it to the Historic Sites and Structures list for Marion County-which in my experience is the all too often fallible record by which the state and communities gauge the importance of historic structures.

But there is no denying the building's historic structure now as a photo shot from outside the building clearly shows its log construction. The cabin was estimated to be built ca. 1830. Based on the development of Marion County and the founding of the new state capital of Indianapolis, the cabin could easily date to the 1820s.

The owner of the property has pulled permits and has a $400k land contract agreement with the future gas station's owners. Crews plan to be on-site next week to pull down this last bit of Hoosier roots.

27 August 2010

What puts the "rad" in Radnor?


There's a sleepy little town in Carroll County somewhere between Flora and Delphi whose main street turns to gravel upon exiting the town. Have you ever heard of Radnor? Population: 60...maybe? Radnor was established in 1883 along the Monon railroad. I think the intersection above is way overdue for a traffic light.
Radnor Church of God?

My wife's grandfather recently passed away which took us on a trip back to her roots where the good folks of the Randor United Methodist Church fed the family some real down-home cooking. A guy like me is always intrigued to learn how these little towns came to be and I never shy from turning off the main highway to see these little burgs.



My boy was getting restless at the dinner so after things started to break up I said, "c'mon, let's go walk around Radnor". The town has about four blocks with some homes on the periphery. The Methodist church appeared to be the only non-residential building in town, although it appeared Radnor once hosted a Church of God too (nice brickwork!). As we walked we counted 24 houses. That's about double the size of Linkville-but that's for another day. There was a small creek on the west side of town. I assumed there was a school at one time, but I didn't get a sense of where it would have been located. I noted one particularly nice old house that seemed to fit with the architectural styling of a handsome old carriage house so I assume that they were probably part of the same parcel, and maybe it was the farm on which the town was platted since it appeared older than 1883?.....and maybe it belonged to a Mr. Radnor? That's usually how it works. These are pictures of the home & barn below:


At any rate-while the circumstances were unfortunate-I appreciated having my kids experience their roots. Their great grandpa Porter helped move the Radnor Church to its current location about 60 years ago. From where...I'm not sure. It didn't appear that there was much suburban sprawl affecting land prices. Although based on a sign stapled to a fence post the internet had found its way here. Radnor Methodist was also where my wife's parents were married-50 years ago TOMORROW! Happy Anniversary!

16 August 2010

Garden-variety insanity


Of course everything in the garden ripened just days before we left on vacation. That left us scrambling to find people to take fresh produce off our hands and to come pick while we were gone all last week.

From 3 hills of watermelon plants we have/had 16 large, amazingly tasty watermelons. From the same number of cantaloupe plants we had 17 juicy melons. We picked our third wheel barrel load of cucumbers that we unloaded at church (the one in the picture was as long as my knee to the ground). We picked corn and beans like there was no tomorrow and tomatoes are coming out our ears.

The last measurement taken of the largest sunflower stands at 12' and it hasn't stopped growing. One stalk of Indian corn has 7 ears on it. There's no doubt with all the heat and rain-this was a good year for gardening!

06 August 2010

Woof & Weal in a poem on the Michigan Road


We are working tediously to create a Historic Michigan Road Byway application that will knock the knickers off of anyone who bothers to read it. One of our partners in Carroll County keeps coming up with great old sources of information on the Michigan Road. In one source a copy of a poem appeared that ran in the South Bend Tribune in 1929 when the road was turning 100 years old.



Do these guys know what they're talking about? They better since they're speaking about the Michigan Road at the Old Settlers' Meeting in Delphi on the 14th!

I admit I had to look up a couple of terms in the poem. Woof: a knitting term that refers to the area crossed by threads in the knit. Weal: the spirit or will of a people. Robin Adair? I'm still not quite sure, but evidently it was a ballad popular during the 1860s. You can even listen to it on this link: www.guitarnut.com/folktablature/the101bestsongs/robinadair.html

Despite the no longer politically correct term "redskin", this poem is pretty special:


The Michigan Road

by Esther Kathleen O'Keefe

A poem appearing in the South Bend Tribune, December 8, 1929


The Michigan Road; Oh the Michigan Road!
For more than a century romance has flowed
The length of this highway whose prairie and brake
Link sinuous river and glorified lake.

I wonder what secrets Lake Michigan's breeze,
I wonder what legends the whispering trees
Told redskins who beat down a trail unaware
That they marked the course of a great thoroughfare?

From Madison north on the Michigan Road,
The pioneer guided his oxen drawn load
Of mother and child on the perilous quest
That visioned a home in the unbroken west.

And later the towns that took root by the way,
Found old and young cheering one golden fall day
As boys who were dark-eyed and boys who were fair,
Marched south to the music of "Robin Adair".

Oh I never travel the Michigan Road,
But something of charm the past has bestowed
On each happy mile of this highway that bends
Intrigues me as laughter of long absent friends.

And so I could wish for the weal of my state
Triumphant in folk song, in history great,
No gift half as precious as this simple theme
Which colored the woof of the pioneer dream;
The neighborly spirit that crowned each abode
That Hoosiers called "home" on the Michigan Road.

03 August 2010

2 Years Down, 26 to Go

Bremen Depot Relocation & Restoration

Sunday marked the second anniversary from my professional exodus. It was an interesting time in my life because while I didn't know what was ahead I knew it had to be better than where I was. So, I quit my job of 12 years on Friday, August 1, 2008 and on Monday I woke up to a new day......the first day truly of the rest of my life. And not an idea about what I would do next.

My very first project, on Lake Max in Culver

Over those 12 years I learned much. Much about honesty and integrity, politics, relationships, work ethic, frustration and occasionally reward. When I spoke to the third graders at my son's school this spring they asked "how many buildings have you designed?" That was a good question....I can't say I had ever thought about it until that time. I said, "well, maybe 70?" "wow" was the response. Is that wow? Why don't I feel like it's wow?



Heminger House, home for women & children in crisis

There were a handful of projects that were truly rewarding over those years. If I learned anything over the 12 years I certainly learned that we Hoosiers aren't particularly interested in good architecture and often times aren't even interested in sound design. We like cheap and fast.



My in-laws agri-based headquarters

So on the occasion that I could "do it right" I became particularly fond of both the client and project. And there were times when it wasn't so much the building that made the project, but rather the client. That could be just as rewarding as good design. Regardless, the photos are of a few projects I designed from the first 12 years.


the Historic Crossroads Center-my very last project

Life has had its ups and downs in the last 2 years with my shingle hanging off the house. Mostly ups I have to keep reminding myself lately. And despite what has been rumored in river city, and I think I know the source, ain't no one paying the bills but me...just wanted to clear that up! Maybe the next post will be on some of the projects from the first two years.

31 July 2010

Sounds of Summer Birding

The count for the week, as of right now, is 39. That's 39 different species of birds that we've seen this week alone. Pretty remarkable since our "record" living in town was around 30 I think. So I thought I would share some pictures (no, I didn't take these-except for the flycatcher) of the more interesting ones we've seen, or heard. These include the screech owl, yellow throated warbler, great crested flycatcher, and pileated woodpecker.



Heard. For well over a month now we've had a breeding pair of barn owls camped out here on the Hill. One night we actually got to witness the two sitting side by side in an old tree at the end of our lane. That was pretty cool. What's not cool is that they don't have a soothing "hoo hoo" sound, no, the sound is more like a yelling squawk....that goes on for hours in intervals of about 20 seconds between the two. That gets a little tiring while sleeping with the windows open.