Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"M"other's Day

I'm four weeks out from having a total knee replacement and I'm grateful for the surgery, albeit still quite sore. I'm 52 years old and this is the first major life event that I've had since my mom passed away in 2010. You would think at this age that I would be a seasoned professional at handling life's twists and turns. I'm a Christian, too, so I have faith in God, and in His strength and comfort.

Mom and my nephew, Matt, at a family dinner.
For some reason, this surgery was harder on me emotionally than it was probably physically. After all, they give you really good pain meds for the first week or two. What I didn't anticipate was having times after surgery where I would melt down into a puddle of tears, to the point where I felt like I couldn't breathe. The physical therapist and the doctor said this was "normal" after such a intense surgery and recovery period.

I attribute it to the realization, the finality that I don't have a living parent in my life. Don't get me wrong. My husband has been an angel during this time, attending to my every need, pain signal and ice request. He's been my rock and I could never have gotten through this without him. My sister-in-law recommended a terrific surgeon and my brother and she were at the hospital during my surgery. Joe's mother had both knees done and she has been a great encouragement and help to me. And, my boss at work, Sister Ann, has sent cards and also been wonderful. My friends have supported me with their prayers, phone calls and one "break-out-of-jail" trip into the country which included lunch.

Mother's Day has recently passed and that day, too, was hard. My mom may have had her bouts with depression and anger, but I loved her and miss her presence, especially since she was in Indiana with us her last four years. Having both my parents gone does force me to lean on God and those important people that He has put into my life. I am grateful and blessed to have such meaningful relationships, both near and far. My surgery has been a reminder that although scar tissue and healing can take many forms, there is a hole in my heart because of my parents' absence that will take many more years to heal, if ever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Living with cats: Is your cat on Instagram?

Tikey is one handsome cat! Who could he be connecting with
on Instagram? Skype?
I read this article, “Is Your Cat on Instagram,” and for a minute I thought, "I hope not!" If he or she is, I’m not aware of what they are posting. Then, this idea took me to Twitter, Facebook and of all things, Skyping. After all, my laptop does have a camera and mic. It would be quite easy for my cats to participate in any of these social media outlets. And, I would never know!

How do I ensure that my cats and dogs are safe on the Internet? That they are not being phished for or scammed? We as parents must have their user names and passwords so at any time we can see what they are doing. I’ve trained them to not share their kitty or puppy vaccination numbers or birthdates with strangers. The thought never crossed my mind that I need to talk to them about Internet safety, especially my younger pets.

As I read more of the article, I realized that there were a few steps that I could help my cats with, on Instagram. For one, they don’t have to always post selfies. With a little help from me, I can take photos of them in action, ensuring that they are quality photos with editing when needed.

I do see the need for the kitties to build community – have an outreach to others with similar group interests: Catnip Abusers Network (CAN), Meowy Christmas Baking or Initiating Play with your Persons.

Number 4 – Creating a killer profile page bothers me a bit, since I don’t want them sharing personal or private information. And it sounds violent.

I definitely can help them with using hashtags (#6), because without opposable thumbs, this can be hard to do.

Number 7 and 8 – utilizing the entire social media community and checking out other pet accounts – I’m sure that our cats can learn a lot by observing others who are successful on Instagram. Guess I’m going to need to get the unlimited data plan if I’m going to encourage the kitties to ramp up their social media presence!

P.S. Today I am having knee replacement surgery and I want to assure everyone that this post was written prior to today, and prior to any pain medication being taken. Just sayin'!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blogging A to Z: "K"-ittens

There is something special about kittens. Don't get me wrong. I like grown up cats and dogs, too. After all, eventually all kittens and puppies grow up. We have four cats and all but one were adopted as kittens. No matter how tall or round the cats get, I still see them as those fluffy, adorable, sweet kittens that like to jump on fuzz or feathers as they waft across the floor. Everything is new and interesting to them. And they are fearless. Raja, our most recent rescue kitten, was less than 2 pounds when she first made friends with our dog, Hershey, who was then 50 pounds.

Here's my ode to kitten-hood:
Oliver (aka Ollie) when he was allowed up on our comforter, at 3 months old.
Gracie was a stray that had had two litters before we caught
her so technically she's not a kitten. But she was young at heart
when we got her, at about a year old.
Tikey, at the vet with a horrible respiratory infection,
estimated to be about 8 weeks old. Talk about a "bad hair day."
Raja was a tiny kitten when she was rescued and
weighed less than 2 pounds. She now weighs a healthy
11 pounds and plays with 70-pound Hershey.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Blogging A to Z: "J"-asper, Indiana

My husband and his family are from Jasper, Indiana, a town founded in 1830, with a rich German, Catholic heritage. Today, Jasper has almost 15,000 residents and is the county seat for Dubois County. The area was originally inhabited by the Piankishaw/Shawnee Indian tribe and was covered by forest.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Jasper,
Indiana. Photo by Diane Weidenbenner.
Jasper's name comes from a Mrs. Enlow, whose family owned the town's first 120 acres. She read Revelation 21:19, which says, "And the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was Jasper ...," and the town's name was born. It's located 122 miles south of Indianapolis, covers 13.17 square miles and is bound by the Patoka River on the east.

There are several things that you'll notice when visiting Jasper. One is Courthouse Square, which includes the four-story, slightly elevated Dubois County Courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1910, was renovated in 1996, and boasts nicely preserved Renaissance Revivial-style architecture. There is a Riverfront Master Plan Development in the works which people hope will invigorate the square and make it more of a place to shop, eat and hang-out.

A large annual draw for Jasper is the five-day Strassenfest, a festival which celebrates the German heritage of Jasper and draws more than 30,000 visitors on the first weekend of August. This event is centered around the Courthouse Square, with booths for German food, children's games, a Bier Garten, lively bands with polka music, fireworks, etc., and includes a substantial parade. My husband's parents have been actively involved for years.

Another icon is Saint Joseph Catholic Church, founded in 1837 by Father Joseph Kundek, a missionary priest from Croatia. The current building was built beginning in 1867 and was completed and blessed in 1880. The church was renovated in 1954. Father Kundek had a large role in German immigrants migrating to the area because he spoke German, English and French, and encouraged the German residents to write their families about Jasper's promising future.

To get a feel for how Jasper and Dubois County came to be, you should visit the Dubois County Museum. It's an interesting place to learn more about the German heritage and how the area was settled through agriculture, woodworking and the effect of several wars. You'll learn more about the Buffalo Trace, which cut through the northern part of the county, and get up close and personal with a stuffed buffalo. There is also a miniature train exhibit which is fascinating for children and adults alike.

Your visit to Jasper wouldn't be complete without lunch or dinner at the Schnitzelbank German Restaurant which offers an amazing salad bar, wonderful fried chicken (and livers), and traditional German fare. You can even pick up a few German chotchkies in the gift shop or perhaps a genuine German cuckoo clock for your foyer.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blogging A to Z: "I"-n memory of ... good friends!

Bestie Sandy (left) and Becky, having a toast to something
wonderful, at St. Mary's Supper Club.
A good friend of mine passed away from lymphoma in April 25, 2013, and I miss her.

There are those people that you meet and you feel “right at home” with. Becky was that type of person. She had a wonderful sense of humor and many times we’d laugh until we were both in tears. She loved animals and rescuing them, she liked telling people’s stories (she was a journalist) and she had a big heart.

She’s a big reason that I have one of the loves of my life, my dog Hershey. And, I think about her when I see geese pass over – she thought they were a sign of God’s blessings.

Really true friends are God’s grace to us, and they are rare. I’ve been fortunate to have a handful of “best friends” in my 52 years of being. With each one, no matter how much time has passed, we always seem to pick up where we left off. We seem to know what the other person means even if we can’t find a way to verbalize it. Sometimes we can finish each others' sentences. I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like (some of them live hundreds of miles away). However, I still feel connected to them, and they are always in my prayers. Some I have known much of my life and some are more recent (say, the last 10 years or so).

It’s miraculous to me that God has a way of bringing people into our lives when we need them. With all the different genetic combinations, it’s a wonder that some people fit so nicely together as friends, like puzzle pieces with perfectly shaped edges. My husband, Joe, my family and these special friends are the most precious gifts in my life. They are a reward that I do not deserve and yet I’m blessed and made better because of them. Thank you, friends!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blogging A to Z: "H"-istory is awesome!

Photo by Diane Weidenbenner, 2015, Indiana.
Who remembers drive-in movies? I took this photo in Indiana on one of my country drives, and it brought back fun childhood memories of times spent at our favorite drive-in movie theater in Denver, Colorado.

The movie theater that we frequented was the Cinderella Twin Drive-In movie theater, which opened in 1973 near the Cinderella City mall (aerial view below). It had two screens, ran first-run, double feature movies, and could support 800 cars total (which translated into thousands of viewers). It was about 10 minutes from our house and when the weather was good, it was the place to be!

It operated March through October and was one of the last drive-ins to close in the Denver area, in 2007. It had FM radio audio speakers or window clip-on speakers. I remember always begging my parents to turn up the sound and it reverberated around the car, especially during action scenes. It was an entire evening event!

Cinderella Twin Drive-In, Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Drive-In54. CC license.
You think we have large screens today? There’s nothing quite like watching a movie from the flatbed of a pick-up truck or inside a Ford station wagon – talk about a big screen! It was also cost-effective for families and high school students because it was usually one price for a carload.

I remember arriving early and usually idling in our car for about an hour in line before getting into the theater. There was a time or two for a popular movie where we were turned away just several cars back from the entrance – it was very discouraging because of the excitement prior to arriving (making snacks to take, arranging who would sit where, ensuring everyone had blankets and pillows, deciding on which of the movies we wanted to see.)

We also had fun visiting the concession stand (with restrooms) in the middle area. We could also see what was showing on the “other side” (without sound, of course). Meeting up with boys that we liked was also fun, during intermission, if we didn’t all go together.

I would love to go to a drive-in movie today. I think a little bit of our history was lost when these closed down. I know today it’s easy to download a movie onto my laptop or iPad. But, there is nothing the excitement and fun of going to a double-feature movie at the Cinderella Twin Drive-In.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blogging A to Z: G-enes or "Who's your daddy...?"

Genes are a miraculous thing. I know for example that I received my green eyes and red hair from my dad's side of the family. And, I've got my love of learning and my bad temper from my mom's genetic pool. There are probably a lot more gene combinations in my make-up that I don't even realize.

Hershey, our 5-year-old puppy.
Take our adopted dog, Hershey, for example. He's a beautiful black and brown color with a touch of gray on his chest, tummy and chin (which you'd see if his tongue wasn't in the way). He's 70 pounds of pure muscle with a German Shepherd tail and what I think looks like Labrador Retriever ears.

When we got him, he was the only one of his litter with this coloring. His five sisters were cream colored like his mother, appropriately named Butters. She weighed about 45 pounds.

I'd love to see what his sisters look like fully grown, and if any of them are larger or have darker colored fur in certain spots. I have a feeling that since Hershey's color stayed true to form, that theirs probably did too. Butters was listed as an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler mix.
Butters, Hershey's biological mom.

Because of Hershey's astute "herding" skills, I think Butters' assessment is right on.

So, who is Hershey's daddy? He could be part Rottweiler, German Shepherd or Lab, which would account for his larger, more muscular size. He also has a somewhat wider snout than his mom.

It's possible to get dogs' genes tested with a kit that sells for about $60 at PetSmart. I'd have to acquire a drop of Hershey's blood and submit it by mail to a facility that would then tell us conclusively what breed of dog he is. I've almost bought this kit a dozen times.

I haven't because as he has grown up and matured, he has his own unique personality, behaviors and looks. There is a part of me that doesn't want to "box him in" by saying, "that's because he's part Labrador or Shepherd." I'm grateful to know what his mom looked like, because I remind him sometimes about her and it makes him feel like he has genetic family, other than my husband, me and our four kitties.

Actually, I see a little of my husband in him - his tendency towards cleanliness, his adherence to routine and his love of bacon and peanut butter. And, he takes after me because he wants a lot of attention, loves to nap and likes the Hallmark Channel.

Nature versus nurture? I don't think we'll ever know.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blogging A to Z: F-arms

It's happened. I've become one of those weekend drivers who likes to wander the countryside, aimlessly looking for something: an old barn; a herd of sheep; a cool flower garden; any type of unique farm animals (miniature horses, goats, etc.); tractors (the older the better). I happen to think farms are cool!

I drag my friend Sandy with me, along with my Canon Rebel, just in case there is a neat composition. It may be the silos or the worn wood of the barn that attracts me. It could be the Tootsie roll-shaped bales of hay. Or, it might be a rusted-out tractor in an overgrown field of grass. It really depends on my mood.

I've found a photographer in Pennsylvania, on Facebook, that likes to take similar rural photos - Bob Hancock. He of course is a professional, so he may not like being compared to me.

I imagine the stories of the families who have lived in these now-forgotten houses with weather-ravaged roofs, wooden plank walls that are caving in, and overgrown brush that protrudes from time-tested farm equipment. Colors and textures are the brushes and paint that cover the canvas. I can only capture a vague image of the true beauty of these landscapes with my camera.

I especially like the farms that are set back from the road. I think if I was going to have all that acreage, I might as well want my house, barn, variety of farm animals and windmill positioned away from the hustle and bustle of other farm equipment, weekend drivers or looky-loos... Wouldn't you agree?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Blogging A to Z: Eco versus Ego

I work for a Catholic organization that has as one of its ministries White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. It's goal is to help educate people to walk more softly on Earth by learning about the benefits of buying local foods, supporting ecological justice, organic agriculture and fiber arts.

No, this isn't a commercial for that ministry, but it is how I discovered the graphic to the left.

I've been a nature nut since I was a child. I love science and because I think God is too big to be put into a box, and limited to only what I can understand, I don't think that science and spirituality are mutually exclusive. God created all life and all life is to be treasured. I like this graphic a lot because it removes the hierarchy of man over all other creation, and puts life more in balance. We are all interdependent and each life form is amazing and incredible.

I also believe there are no accidents, so each plant, animal and human has a specific purpose in God's eyes. We are loved by an incredible Creator and we are to treat others with the same respect and concern.

With Earth Day right around the corner, what will you do to celebrate our incredible planet? The many blessings that we experience, with relation to plant, animal, human or our God? What are your favorite parts of nature? What animals do you think are amazing?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blogging A to Z: D-ovekeepers

Photo credit: CBS 2015
As an Easter treat, I wanted to watch CBS’ new two-night mini-series, the Dovekeepers, in one sitting this weekend. It was viewable “on demand” so I could watch it in its entirety. And, my husband was napping (too much romance for his taste)!

Executive Product Roma Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, bought the rights to New York Times best-selling author Alice Hoffman’s book, after traveling to Israel and visiting Masada. The female lead is played by Cote de Pablo, from NCIS fame, which caught my attention in the previews.

Dovekeepers tells the story of the Roman siege on 1,000 Jews who were hiding out on the desert-mountain, Masada. The story is both beautiful and tragic, and happened at the time of Passover over 2,000 years ago.

Since I haven’t yet read Hoffman’s book, I don’t have anything to compare the film to. I thought the character development was good and I was touched by the family relationships and the strong honor of the Jewish people. There is one point where de Pablo’s character, Shirah, is defending herself from an angry mob that thinks she is a witch. She cried out to Yahweh and said something like "our spirits are dry" and she prays for rain. The skies rumble and the crowd receives a shower lasting several minutes. Water is seen as life-giving, life-restoring.

There are four very strong women at the center of the story, which is unusual in Biblical times. The women work in the dovecote, which brings the women together spiritually as well physically. The doves represent purity and peace in the midst of war-torn Israel. Pragmatically, the doves are a source of food and their poo is used to fertilize their crops.

Spoiler alert: I was sad to learn that the Jewish men, women and children chose to be killed by their own people rather than surrender to the Romans who were about to penetrate the outer wall. In the Dovekeepers’ account, two women remained to tell the story.

I had many emotions after finishing the movie. I’m saddened that power corrupted the Romans to the extent that they wanted to wipe out the Jewish people. I’m not used to thinking about my faith from a militaristic viewpoint, something to be protected and fought over. I have the freedom to choose how I worship, which I take for granted. It also makes me grateful for my family and friends, and community of believers, who are with me on the journey.