Monday, July 13, 2015

"W"here did the summer go?

Can you believe it's July?!

Where did the summer go? I had knee replacement surgery in April, recuperated in May,  fell twice and began recuperation again in June. I've noticed the seasons change and have been outside some to enjoy it. We've had a lot of rain, too, so it's made the corn tall, the rivers full and the greenery lush.

Before we know it, it will be August, then September, then fall, my favorite time of year. I know, for a lot of people in the midwest, they prefer summer to other seasons so I'm trying not to look too far ahead.

I thought I'd list my 10 favorite summer blessings, in no particular order:

This is "Woody," our woodchuck. Haven't seen him this
year so I hope the foxes haven't eaten him. He's been
around since we moved here in 2005! Photo by Diane.
1.  Birds - we have so many different kinds that visit our feeder, which my husband, Joe, is gracious enough to keep filled. And, if I'd get off my bottom to set up the hummingbird feeder, they'd visit regularly also. They almost knocked on my window and pointed to the feeder. Helloooooo!

2.  Beautiful plants - roses, lilies, butterfly bushes, apple trees, Rose of Sharon, etc. Everything is either blooming, or is getting ready to bloom. It's like a little garden art gallery in our yard. And, we haven't even replaced the plants that didn't make it through the winter.

3.  Warm weather. Okay, I hate the humidity, especially when I'm getting ready for work in the morning and my make-up slides off my face as quickly as I apply it. However, I also enjoy the warm blanket that envelopes me when I leave work, where the air conditioning is freezing cold. Don't tell my husband because he thinks I hate all humidity!

4.  Garage sales - I haven't been able to visit any in our area but the signs even cheer me up.

5.  Ice cream. There is something about an ice cream sundae or hot fudge, marshmallow malt that brightens my day. I have to watch my sugar but, oh, that ice cream is awesome!

6.  Exercising in the pool. My husband and I are able to swim (please interpret that loosely for me) in the Indiana State University pool which is fun and awesome and much appreciated by my knee and other body parts. Joe really swims. I "exercise".

My friend Sandy and I go on summer drives around the
country. Here are some French geese (I think) that we saw
on one of our jaunts. Cool, right? Photo by Diane.
7.  Wildlife. We have all kinds of visitors in the summer - foxes, squirrels, birds, a woodchuck, raccoons, opossums, deer, coyote, turtles. You name it, we probably have seen it in our yard. AWESOME!

8.  Photography opportunities. They abound. I need to spend more time outdoors!

9.  Fresh produce. Berries, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, kale (yes, I said kale), and other delicacies that are available at the Farmer's Market. Yum!

10.  Longer days. Having the sun shine until 9 p.m. gives me energy, although it's been a bit scarcer this season because of my knee surgery recuperation. My kitties and puppy enjoy the longer days also because they can hunt birds, squirrels and foxes later than ever before. Not a fan of the barking, however.

What are your favorite parts of summer?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"V"agabond or victor?

Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
There is something romantic and mysterious about old barns.

It's amazing to me that many of them are still standing after time and weather have taken their toll. They were built by human hands and simple materials. Their designs are unique and functional. And, they housed prized possessions at one time - whether it be livestock, hay or equipment.

No two are the same. No two stand up to the test of time in the same way. Some are painted while others exhibit the natural beauty of the wood grain. Oh, what stories those wooden walls could weave!

I'd like to think that these stately warriors are victors who have served their families well, and whose walls would echo triumphant tales of a simpler time. This particular barn looks like it is still in use and is not being crowded out by tall grasses and weeds. No matter what the surrounding area looks like, these barns have earned their place in history and remain beautiful.

"U"nsung heroes

Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
Why is it that all the carefully plotted, planted beauties get all the glory? Rose bushes and Geraniums are majestic! Zinnias and Hydrangea have character, color and class.

However, it is sometimes the unsung heroes of the field that give us pleasure as we drive by on a Sunday jaunt, like the frothy blanket of yellow against a green, leafy background. Is it a wild mustard plant or rapeseed? I'm never quite sure.

It's more prevalent in some fields over others. And, it seems to grow, and multiply without a lot of human effort or forethought. In doing a bit of research on the Internet, it seems that Canola, a type of rapeseed, is a member of the mustard family and can reach 3-to-5 feet, with bright yellow flowers in the spring. It does indeed grow in Indiana. The seed is known to contain 40 percent oil with a residual animal feed meal of up to 38 percent crude protein.

My question is, it seems to grow so randomly and without gentle care - is this true? Or is it a carefully cultivated crop like corn or soybeans and counted on by farmers for a healthy harvest and annual revenue?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


It's been raining a lot in the Midwest! And, we're not unique. There has been flooding throughout the United States this season.

There is actually an area of Terre Haute that floods regularly when it rains heavily. People live near the Wabash River and their houses are on stilts.

When the street floods leading up to their neighborhood, and their homes, they actually have to park on a nearby street and take a boat the rest of the way home.

I'm wondering how the "For Sale" description reads for these houses! "During periods of heavy rain, house is accessible by boat. However, no fishing license required."

I've actually driven down the road to see what types of houses are located in this area and many of them are nice - they are just on stilts. Some of the resident families have dogs and I also wonder how they exercise and potty them when the road floods.

I took a photo of the flooded roadway (see above), so you can visualize the situation. Do you see the telephone poles? And the nearby boats? The road leading to the housing development is between those poles and the thick trees to the left. When it's not flooded, the road is dirt and on either side are fields with tall grasses and trees. You'd never know it from this photo!

At the far end of the photo is a barely visible white house. That's the beginning of the housing development. See the dirt in the foreground of the photo? That's where the cars and trucks will park in the evening, when folks take the boats back to their houses.

People learn to adapt to many different situations and I supposed this is just one of them. Not sure if I could hike my skirt up, to get in and out of the boat, into the truck, to go into work. Perhaps this situation would qualify for telecommuting?!

Monday, June 29, 2015

"S"ycamore tree

Sycamore tree in winter. Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
This winter, while walking beside Big Raccoon Creek near the Bridgeton Grist Mill in Bridgeton, Indiana, my friend and I noticed this beautiful, notty white-barked tree.

It's leaves were long gone but hanging from the tree were one-inch woody balls attached by small branches. Upon research with Google, we discovered this beautiful tree was a Sycamore, and the balls were actually the fruit of the tree that ripened in October and broke up into many small seeds throughout season.

Sycamore "fruit". Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
There were still very large leaves gathered at the bottom of the tree, along with fallen fruit. Although Sycamore trees may look dead in winter (no leaves, bark peeling and falling off), the trees can actually live over 500 years, preferring deep river-bottom soils.

The trees are so prominent in Indiana, and the Wabash Valley, that you'll notice everything from apartment buildings and streets to the Indiana State Sycamores (the NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic team) sporting the name.

After discovering these beauties on my own, I did a little Google search for the tree in Indiana. For example, Sycamore trees are known for getting quite large and the biggest big tree in the DNR 2010 Register was a 136-foot tall Sycamore in Johnson County with a trunk more than 25-feet around.

There's a page on the Internet that talks about "Indiana's largest tree - the old Sycamore." The decayed tree was located in Greene County until a storm destroyed it in 1925. The age of the tree in 1915 was estimated to be 500 years old and it reached a height of 150 feet. There is a sign erected in front of the last limb at Worthington Park, where the smaller branch of the tree remains, on public display.

The website lists Indiana as home to the "world's largest Sycamore Stump", located in Kokomo. It is 57 feet in circumference and 12 feet high. The tree was nearly 800 years old before storms tore it down. The stump has been displayed in Highland Park since 1916.

Who knew we had located such a stalwart tree, when we found the fallen fruit and "resting" trunk, next to the rushing waters of Big Raccoon Creek? Winter is such an important time for plants as they ready themselves for another green, moist promising spring in Indiana. I'd like to visit the tree again now, to see it in all its leafy glory.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
My husband looks longingly at our cats and our dog, when they sleep. He says, "Wouldn't it be great to be that relaxed?!" It's like they abandon all striving and let their kittie/puppy dream states take over. Once in awhile you'll see them twitch or whimper - I think one of them is having a bad dream but he or she could just as easily be chasing the bird/squirrel of their choice.

I recently had a knee replacement and this meant that I had to sleep on my back, with my leg elevated on a pillow, above my heart. Talk about uncomfortable! It's hard enough to get to sleep after such a surgery without having to sleep in an awkward position.

At one point, Ollie, the orange and white cat seen in the above photo, came into the bedroom, came up on the bed and snuggled under my arm. His fur was so soft and warm, and his purring was comforting. It wasn't long before I realized that Ollie was my good luck charm in the sleep department. Go figure - that it would be a wonderful pet blessing after surgery that led to a peaceful night's sleep! Instead of heavy narcotics, I think doctors should prescribe furry pets as antidotes after surgery or during illnesses. I can see the Walgreen's pharmacists' faces now!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Long Beach, California. Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
There is something magical about those places that we go, where there is peace and quiet. Our minds can sift through the day's worries, list of "to do's" and "what if's" and settle on meaningful silence. I experienced that recently on a trip to California when I visited the beach.

It was after a very hectic week spent at a trade show with 40,000 people in attendance.

I arrived at the beach as the surf boarders and families playing in the sand were packing up to head home. By the time the sun tipped onto the ocean, there was just a couple holding hands on the beach, me and this seagull. What a perfect moment!

The sound of the waves were reassuring that life has a rhythm, a purpose beyond what we can comprehend. We only experience life a day at a time because if we knew too much of the future, we couldn't live in the moment, appreciate our family and friends, and take time to learn about God, his great love and blessings.

We'd be too busy looking ahead to notice those important things right at our feet, like the lines in the sand made by the movement of the ocean's waves or the seagull searching for a tasty morsel. We wouldn't notice the kindness of strangers, the clean smell of the forest after a rain or the dense, soft fur of our cats as they snuggle into the bed's covers. We'd forget to be grateful for all that we are, all that we have.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Hawthorn Park is beautiful in the spring, summer and fall. It can even be
peaceful in the winter, with new fallen snow. Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
One benefit of living in Indiana is the abundance of natural parks and wetland refuges within a short driving distance from towns and cities. It's not uncommon to drive 15-30 minutes or up to one hour to reach parks, rivers, lakes and other such beautiful natural settings to relieve stress and enjoy time away.

I live in Terre Haute and in a 15-30 minute drive from my house, I have access to Hawthorn Park, as an example, which is on 250-plus acres and includes a lake that spans more than 68 acres. It was established in 1980 and was named after the Hawthorn tree, a plethora of which are located on the property.

They have both primitive and modern campground sites. A friend of mine was moving from one house to the next and had a two-week span in-between. She and her husband camped out at Hawthorn Park during that time and both were still able to go to work each day, having spent restful nights at the park. They utilized the shower houses as well! Another friend used to walk her dog after work, finding the park a peaceful place to work out the day's problems.

There are picnic shelters, playgrounds, restrooms, a boat launch, fishing docks an archery range and trails. It's a birdwatcher's paradise and a fisherman's dream. It hosts the Kenneth E. Smith Memorial Labyrinth, which was finished in 2003, and based on the Chartres Labyrinth in France.

There are a number of such parks close-by. Fowler Park (complete with pioneer village and seasonal activities) and Prairie Creek Park (with baseball diamond, tennis court and basketball courts and s sugar house for maple syrup production) are just south of Terre Haute, on U.S. 41.

There are also quite a few National Parks that include waterfalls and challenging hiking trails, as well as orienteering venues. With so many activities and places to choose from, it's not hard to stay entertained most of the year without traveling very far.

What areas are your peaceful respites, near your home? What do you find especially appealing to your area?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


My dad, Sterling, and my nephew Matt.
A person's "origin" can mean several things. It can be a place/location where I was born (Denver, Colo.), it can be a culture from where my ancestors originated or it can be my very beginning, which I consider to be in God's image/likeness.

My brother, sister-in-law and I took a trip to Pennsylvania last year, to meet some first cousins that we'd never met before. My dad was from Allentown and we discovered cousins on my dad's sister's side of the family. It was so much fun to see the physical similarities and commonalities, even though we'd never met each other before.

During this visit I discovered that we were Scotch-Irish, along with our German/Pennsylvania Dutch heritage (which we'd known). My grandmother's side of the family were English and Swedish, so I have those roots in my genes as well.

I was born and raised in Denver. And, until 10 years ago, when I moved to Indiana, I had lived and thrived in Denver. When I first moved, people would ask me where I was from and I'd say, "I'm originally from Denver but I moved here six months ago." Now I tell people I'm from Indiana.

If I think about the author and creator of life, I think of God. I am made in His likeness and being, so even though I have my mother and father's genes, God breathed life into me. At least that's what I believe.

So, origin can mean a variety of things, which I guess is still the spice of life!

Monday, June 8, 2015


Mama fox and one of her kits. A fallen tree is their habitat so
we can't clear it away. Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
 My husband and I have .7 of an acre on the north side of a small town in Indiana. It's an older neighborhood and one that isn't "hip" anymore. All the chain restaurants, the Walmart, and the mall with Macy's and Carson's is located on the south side.

We enjoy less traffic up north, and an Applebee's was built shortly before we arrived. People would ask where we moved to and the follow-up comment was "They just built an Applebee's up there, ya know!" Yes, we've heard!

Our house is uphill from Lost Creek and we have quite a few wildlife visitors, especially in the warmer months. It's really fascinating at sunrise and sunset around our house. The groundhog comes out for breakfast and dinner, as does the fox. We had a box turtle in our yard larger than the size of a dinner plate. Our dog, Hershey, saw him before I did, which is amazing because with his head pulled into his shell, he looked like a rock.

One of our mama's kits. She's fluffy and her ears are too big for
the rest of her body. Super playful! Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
We also know by experience that we have many raccoon and opossum in our midst. And, we've had deer and coyotes visit as well, of course not at the same time.

Our house and the house next door used to be the only ones built into several acres of field. A California land developer bought up the remaining land, connected 12th street, north to south, and built rental homes in front of ours. So, we have a little rock road that connects our two houses to the main road. While I'm not thrilled that the houses in front of ours are rentals, once I arrive home, it's easy to shut out the rest of the world and just enjoy the nature which is our backyard.

We really do enjoy country charm but live in town. Several local restaurants have opened up near us and I'd much rather support their efforts over the chains. We even have an ice cream and coffee shop, although it's a bit hard to find parking, since you have to park in back of an old building and walk to the front. Just have to plan an extra few minutes in my schedule, which isn't a problem because I make them up by not having to fight traffic to work. When I lived in Denver, it would take me at least 45 minutes to drive to work. My current "commute" is 12 minutes and I get the scenic route no matter which way I drive. I don't have to go very far to enjoy nature - just take a few steps out the front (or back) door.