Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Shared Life

The Shared Life


This past week I attended my high school reunion. How many years? Um…let’s say… “A lot.” Okay, I’ll fess up. It was my fiftieth. Actually, “fifty plus one” since we could not celebrate last year due to COVID. 


Because I was traveling from Ohio to Florida for the event, I thought this week’s blog would be all about reconnecting with my high school friends. 


Indeed, it is a post about reconnecting, but in more ways than I expected.


My mom came with me so she could see some of her friends in Florida as well. We stopped for the night in southern Kentucky where many folks on my mother’s side of the family still live. My cousin, Gerry, graciously opened her home to us to spend the night. Moreover, she let other family members know of our visit. We all shared a delicious home cooked meal made complete with vegetables from the garden. 


The food was wonderful, but the conversation lasting long into the shadows of the evening proved to be the real icing on the cake. Reunion.


We completed a much longer drive the next day (Saturday), arriving late that evening at the lake house where my husband grew up. Sunday morning we joined family and friends at Lutz First Baptist for an incredible hour of worship. My husband and I were married in that church and the last two winters of Tom’s life we spent worshiping with friends there. 


If you are a Believer, you have likely experienced those moments where you feel the Holy Spirit simply washing over you and filling every crevice of the room. If you aren’t a Believer, trust me, those moments breathe new life into you. Reunion.


After church, my family joined us at the lake house for the day. Tom’s brothers and sister and their families were there. They are my brothers and sister and family, too. I had the chance to play with the newest member of the clan, my great niece, Jaylen. 


I closed my eyes and absorbed the ebb and flow of family throughout the day. A memory I hope to hold forever. Reunion. 


On Tuesday, my high school friend, Nancy and her husband, Marty came to the lake house for a visit, bringing with them one of my favorite Florida foods, Cuban sandwiches. You know you are good friends when you pick up right where you left off as if years hadn’t passed between visits. It’s like that with Nancy and Marty. 


On Thursday, my mother and I headed to Rainbow River in Dunellon, Florida. The locals call the river “Blue Run.” It is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. We have family there as well. They aren’t family by birth or formal adoption. They are lifelong friends. 


Lifelong friends are the sort who rally around you in times of need and cheer for you even in the small victories of life. And you do the same for them. 


Quiet conversations with friends you’ve known most of your life. Reunion.


Saturday evening's High School Reunion arrived. Tampa has grown so much since I lived here I never would have found the place on my own. I rode to the event with my neighbor and friend Mike. 


Name tags were helpful in many cases because we were a class of over six hundred. But in truth, of the many ninety or so who showed up, I recognized my friends. I often witness pieces of their lives on Facebook. But what I loved is that I recognized so many others without looking at a name tag. We ate. We danced. We laughed. 


There is a spirit of friendship and joy and camaraderie planted in our hearts during those high school years that transcends graying hair, extra pounds, wrinkles, and glasses. Reunion.


I traveled to Florida for my high school reunion  but it was so much more. 


Reunion. It was a full week of coming together with family who are friends and friends are family. It was an opportunity to renew relationships and make new ones.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

There's No Place Like Home

 “There’s No Place Like Home”


We all know the famous lesson Dorothy learned in the Wizard of Oz. “There’s no place like home." It’s true.


This past week, I traveled to Florida for my high school reunion. “Is that where you’re from?” one of my Ohio friends asked.


“Yep, I lived in a small town just north of Tampa." 


Actually, I was born in Ohio and I’ve spent most of my life in Ohio. So why do I say I’m from Florida? I suppose it’s because those major events of life…those transitions an anthropologist would call “rites of passage” that catapult us from being a child to being an adult, took place in Florida.


·      I graduated from both high school and college in Florida

·      I got my drivers license and first car in Florida

·      I cast my first vote in Florida

·      I started dating in Florida

·      I was married in Florida

·     My first two children were born in Florida

·     My husband and I retired to Florida…to the house where he grew up


Quite simply, I have always considered myself  “a Florida girl.”


Tom and I moved to Ohio in 1978. The plan was to live here for a year or so while he completed his master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. We had two daughters when we moved into our temporary home. The next year I landed a teaching job at the elementary school of my choice. Though we still had our house in Florida, we bought a house in a friendly neighborhood in Fairfield, Ohio. Tom finished his master’s and started his doctoral program. Our third daughter was born in Ohio.


We built a life in southwestern Ohio. We had jobs we liked, a church family we loved, and my extended family nearby. Yet when people asked, we would refer to ourselves as being from Florida. 


If someone noticed our license plate when we were traveling they would say, “Oh, you’re from Ohio! I have a cousin there…” or something to that effect. We would respond with, “We live in Ohio now, but we’re from Florida.” 


We said that for years after our move from Florida. Even after we made the decision to sell our Florida home in the late eighty’s. Our identity was that place where we became adults.


This weekend I’ll gather with old friends from Chamberlain High School. We’ll share stories and remember strange details about our years together. We’ll laugh at our former selves. We’ll lie and tell each other things like, “You haven’t changed a bit!” We’ll share pictures of our children and grandchildren. And then we’ll all go home.


Me? I may be from Florida, but I finally realize my heart and home is in Ohio.

Where are you from? And where to you call home?

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

"Top Secret"

 “Top Secret”


Mention the name “Fernald” in the Cincinnati area and you will receive everything from shivers to perplexed stares.


And when you tell them what a great time you had exploring the center there, longtime residents are shocked. “At Fernald?” they ask. “Do you glow in the dark?”


Have I piqued your interest? 


From 1951 to 1989, Fernald operated as a uranium processing facility. It was one part of a nationwide Cold War weapons effort. 


In 1989, contaminants were found released in the
environment. Environmental remediation became the priority. Since the cleanup, the thousand plus acres have been converted into restored wetlands, prairies, and forests. There are seven miles of hiking trails where you can enjoy a variety of wildlife. On my first visit, I didn’t even leave the visitor center to watch a young deer loping across the grassland beyond the water.

Back in the day...Radium posed no threat.
In fact it was believed to improve health


I had an uncle who worked at Fernald. He was
a guard. All we knew was that if you landed a job at Fernald, you were lucky. Uncle Dan was a security officer for over thirty-six years, starting in 1951 and retiring a year before the plant’s shutdown. 

When as a child I heard he was a “guard,” I envisioned him standing at one of those little buildings at the gate to simply check people in or out. I now know there was much more to his job. The man was trained to secure and protect.

Security Guard's locker with 
Jacket, hat and protective eyewear.

The facility carried the obscure name Fernald Feed Materials Production Plant. It was an accurate name for what they did, but as the plant was located in a farming area, most people waved it off as a dog food plant. There were, after all, red and white checked water tanks on each end of the area similar to the Ralston-Purina symbol. I only recently learned those tanks are all over the country as an obstruction signal to low flying aircraft.


I’m pretty sure all of this falls in the “Never Too Old To Learn” category.


And speaking of learning…wow! The preserve’s Visitor Center offers one of the best accounts of the history of the Cold War available. The interactive displays are professionally done. The story of Fernald…from a rural crossroad community in southwest Ohio to a major player in the Cold War era is presented in a meaningful and powerful way. 


I’m old enough to remember air raid drills in school just as we now have fire drills, tornado or hurricane drills, and intruder drills in our education facilities and offices.


My friends may shiver or gawk when I tell them about visiting Fernald, but the people working at that facility, from the guards to the Mohawk iron workers constructing the seven story buildings to those working in each aspect of the nine individual plants, including the janitors and office workers were engaged in top-secret work they knew only to be “For the Greater Good.”


The facility that once fabricated uranium fuel cores for nuclear weapons is now a beautiful, tranquil nature preserve. Our guide, Angela, who is part of the Legacy Management team supported by the Department of Energy proved to be a wealth of knowledge.


If you visit Fernald you will not see any of the nine operations plants once there. But, if you’re lucky, you’ll see swans on the pond, birds in the trees and grasses, and a wide variety of four-footed furry creatures from big cats and wild bucks to the smallest of critters. 


And then there is the Visitor Center… It may not be “Top Secret” anymore, but the Fernald Preserve is one of the best-kept secrets of the Miami Valley in Ohio.





Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A Revisit to "RESET"

 A Revisit to “RESET”


Every year I choose a word for the year. I know many people who do this and it is always interesting to see how it plays out in our lives. Generally, in June or July I try to revisit the word and assess how it is working out for me at that point in time. Here it is August and I am only now getting to that place of self-evaluation.


My word for 2022 is RESET. (You can read the original post HERE.


The word had implications of changing, adapting, adjusting, revising, or redesigning my life. I wasn’t sure how I felt about doing that. I was happy. I wasn’t accomplishing all I want to do, but I wasn’t living with regrets, either. 


One thing I wasn’t doing was getting the books in my head down on paper. Or a disk. Or whatever. Oh, I finished a manuscript and sent it off. The publisher was interested but the book needed work. REVISING. Hmmm… I started the task, but started down a rabbit hole that took me through February and into March. And COVID.


The bottom line? For choosing to “Reset,” I wasn’t doing much in that direction. I certainly wasn’t doing the writing I expected of myself. I figured it would come in time. 


Then that word stared me down one day as I sat at my desk. 




“How can I press the reset button on my writing?”


I pulled out the ad for the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois I had tucked in my calendar. I registered.


I researched the classes and teachers. I read their books. I read their blogs.


And… I re-engaged in writing daily. I set a word count goal for each day.


I finished a sweet romance novel. 

I edited a book I wrote earlier.

I spent hours on the revision of my romantic suspense novel. (More to come.)

I’ve started a split-time short story for an anthology.


The RESET button for my writing has definitely engaged.


But “RESET” has come to mean more to me. 


It has been the opportunity to reevaluate other areas of my life:


RESET means setting aside my agenda to help a friend move.

RESET means overlooking an offense.

RESET means trying something new.

RESET means getting the rest I need.


RESET means taking stock of the many blessings God has poured over me. 


How are you doing with your word for the year?

A New Day...
A New Beginning


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Call Me Dory

 Just Call Me Dory

When I was a little girl, my mother would send me off to clean my room. After a while of “cleaning,” my mother would open the door and say “Becky, stop reading and clean your room.”


I would agree to do so saying, “As soon as I finish this chapter.”


I haven’t changed. If you’ve ever seen the movie Finding Nemo…I’m the real life Dory. I am easily distracted and I seem to have the memory of gnat.


Most people don’t believe me when I say that. I think it’s because I tend to get things done. I’ve always been active at church and work and in our community. I take on projects, write books, and when I was young, I managed to keep up with three busy daughters. 


Yet here I am typing a blog post late at night…okay it’s past midnight and my readers expect a post in their newsfeed in a few hours. I post on my blog every Wednesday. I maintain lists of ideas I want to write about. 


For example, I considered writing about my recent outing to the Fernald Reserve. It is one of Ohio’s best-kept secrets. Literally. Fernald was once home to a top-secret uranium processing facility during the Cold War. It is now home to protected wildlife and has a state of the art museum that is so interesting, I spent several hours there with a friend.


I digress. 


This post is about techniques I’ve used to compensate for being distracted. While I was still a young mother, I discovered the use of a day planner. Only by writing everything down and not relying on my memory am I able to stay focused. 


Here’s a picture of my July planner.



Church on Sunday.

Bible study on Tuesday mornings. 

Euchre on Tuesday evenings.

Pinochle every other Monday and every Friday.


Some activities happen every week so I’m pretty good about keeping up with them. If I remember what day it is…


In July, I had several activities that don’t happen on a regular basis:

I attended a baby shower, took my car in to the dealership for a new battery, took care of some household business and managed to squeeze in a week at the beach with my daughters.


There were a few unexpected elements, the biggest being that my air conditioner crashed on the hottest day of the year so I had to get that repaired. I was on a wait list so I was without cool air for four days. It was stinking hot out there so I moved to the basement to sleep!

I digress. Back to the day planner.


I use my planner to record everything I schedule or do. If you can’t read my scribbles, don’t worry. Sometimes I can’t even read what I wrote. 


I plan everything. I block times to write and include goals for my writing in my planner or I’d never write a word. In July, I also blocked time to research Harriet Beecher Stowe since my writing group was getting together for a tour of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House here in Cincinnati. 


That research was helpful, but now I’m digging even deeper. Our group is crafting stories linked to writers featured on the Ohio Literary Trail. I chose to write a short split-time story featuring Harriet Beecher Stowe. I’ve never written anything like it, but it is shaping up to be a fun project. 


A split time story is one where two characters living in different time periods follow a similar path and there is a connection between the two. They need not be related or do some kind of strange time travel. The connection could be an object or something. In this case, one element could be the house. My contemporary character visits Harriet’s house with her writing group. Sound familiar?


Oops, I promise not to digress again. 


As a matter of fact, it is time I post this and head off to bed. Or maybe…I'll read just one more chapter…