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.