Sunday, March 17, 2024


 In my blog post titled A New Chapter, I mentioned my eagerness to dip our toes in all things urban, once we moved to Cleveland.  This month has seen us pop in & out of the Cleveland city limits, juggling the end of our Kansas Chapter, all the while starting anew, up here on the Lake Erie shore of Ohio.

This afternoon, we are in Cleveland, and I mentioned to that Spouse o' Mine that, given it is Lent, lots of churches and parishes, along with local organizations and pubs in Cleveland, all serve Friday fish fries.  That Spouse o' Mine, hailing from Australia, has gotten our entire family to calling it "Fish & Chips".   

"Should we seek out Fish & Chips tonight?", I asked.  But I already knew his answer.  Affirmative!

We looked over the offerings near our new neighborhood, and settled on:
The Slovenian National Home, "serving Fish Fry Dinners every Friday through Lent."

I Googled Slovenia before we headed out.  We now live in an urban neighborhood that is not "Fifth Generation Kansan,", or "DAR member owing to family member in Revolutionary War".  It's a neighborhood rich in families who are from, either recently or from a few generations, the Balkans and Eastern European descent.  Think pierogis and polkas.

I donned a warm pair of fleece-lined hiking pants and a flannel shirt.  Warm hiking boots.  I told that Spouse o' Mine: "It's a FISH FRY!"  He got it.

And off we went, with Google Maps leading the way to downtown Cleveland.  The neighborhood was grey and... really empty.  We parked alongside a couple of other cars, but this didn't seem like a gathering of any sort.  We got out of the car, went to the front of the Slovenian National Home, and pulled on the doors.  Locked.  Then the other set of doors.  Locked.  And finally, the third set of doors.  Locked.


Let's walk around the corner, I said.  And so we proceeded.

Nothing.  But a stronger scent of goodness.  And so we turned yet another corner of the building (and block), and tried some more doors.  Locked, and locked.  One more corner, and we were in an alley darkening with the sunset, with no door to be seen.  But a feminine voice behind us asked, "Are you looking for the fish fry?"

Slovenian Saints be praised!  She told us to go around the next corner, through an opening, past a green car, down a short path, and around THAT corner, and we would see a sign.  (I have to say here, that our olfactory sense was on strong alert anyway; I think we could have eventually made it.)

We found a door leading down quiet stairs to a sort of basement fellowship hall.  Eerily, it felt like we were entering an early 1900 speakeasy, for when we opened the door... was FILLED with people.  Happy people!  Happy Slovenians!  Happy Clevelander-non-Slovenians!  Lots of Slovenian conversations going on.  And English.  And a Slovenian band playing polkas and singing folk songs.

Wowza.  If this is Lent in Slovenia, then I am all in!

We had to purchase membership cards!  We are card-carrying members of "Friends of Slovenian National Home".

And then we asked many of the people milling about, "Where is the line?"  "Where do we go?"  "How do we order?"  

There was no line, no one knew any better than us where to go, and no one knew how to order - but the food kept coming out of the kitchen and arrived at tables, every minute of every polka beat.  We were shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone in that hall.  I moved towards the bar and asked a lady, "How do we order?"  "You just tell me what you want," she answered.  As if I knew what the offerings were.  "Fried fish, baked fish, or fried shrimp," she laughed.  I ordered, and asked where to pick up the food, and when.  "Oh!  I will find you!" she laughed in her accented English. 

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so talking to the folks with whom we were rubbing shoulders - and this was probably the 17th Century sense of literally rubbing shoulders; we were so close to each other in this joy-filled, Friday night Lenten Fish Fry.  At some point I turned to the bar, and there she was: my order-taker, ready to hand me our Take-Home "fish & chips".

Our Friday Night Lenten Fish & Chips "take-home' included:
Fried Cod
Home Fries (awesome potatoes with lots of onions and garlic.)
Cole Slaw
Clam Chowder

There may have been more?  I was just totally into the Slovakian music and happy people.  Seriously a fun and happy time, one of our first Cleveland experiences in our New Chapter.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

A New Chapter

The hottest summers, the coldest winters.  The most amazing, clearest star-gazing anyone will ever experience.  The warmest cycling community.  Twenty years with our church family at First Lutheran.  So many books read with Wabaunsee Book Club!  Coffee at The Shamrock Cafe.  Experiencing real Americana at the Kniebel/Downey Ranches' annual bull sales.  Meetings with the Wabaunsee Township Fire Department volunteers - we could not survive without them.  Halloween Doughnuts with our rural community, back then, at June and George Crenshaw's Shamrock Farms.  The Little Free Library at the southwest corner of the Armstrong pasture.  My painting and Paul's hanging our 8'x8' barn quilt on our ca. 1887 mortis & tenon barn.  Our horses, our ducks, the peacocks, and chickens.  Grasshoppers: whoa!  (Biblical proportions, some years.)  

Our annual Resolution Ride and Brunch!  Crewing for our kids in the DK200.  Twenty+ years of Saturday Pancake Rides. 

So many vibrant Kansas sunrises, and so many Kansas watercolor sunsets.  

We came to Kansas in the tail-end of one of our life chapters: raising our kids. After a few brief years in Wabaunsee, those three were well on their own ways, to college and beyond.  The empty nest took some adjusting to, but just like sand in an hourglass, life re-filled the space left behind, and we two embraced our new chapter.  Work, travel, fun trips, wonderful home life.  All good.    

And now, here we are, twenty years later: leaning forward, gazing toward another exciting dance in this thing we call life.  
Some days are filled with methodical plans and actions.  Other days, it feels like we're plummeting down the Log Ride at some amusement park, arms raised overhead and shrieking as we meet the steeper drops.   

Did our parents tell us about this?  I don't recall.  I don't think so.  Mine didn't.  They had no need to: they lived the entirety of their lives from kid #5 till death did them part, in the same town and home where they arrived, some 58 years earlier.  Paul's parents took on more of the Log Ride approach to life: selling their farm in South Dakota, loading things on a ship, and sailing for weeks to Australia, where they spent the rest of their lives. 

And we two?  We are headed right into our next chapter.  Smiling, mostly.  And, some Log Riding...

We two are bound for the shores of Lake Erie, in Cleveland, Ohio.  We've not experienced city living for decades, and are eager to dip our toes into all that urban Cleveland has to offer.  Too, we see some Lake Erie islands to explore, certainly some trails to be cycling about.  There's some mention of some giant waterfalls...Niagara? a few hours away.  We can see the lights of Canada across the night-time Lake Erie. 

Let's call this Paul & Tricia's Next Big Adventure.  (We've enjoyed many.)  We welcome all our family and friends to join us to explore our new haunts.  We hear there's music to be heard, some museums, and - whoa! Circumnavigating Lake Erie by bike!  Surely that's on our To-Do list?

Mere words cannot ever describe the emotions we two have, leaving the velvety comfort of our Kansas community and friends.  It would take a scroll fifty football fields long to name each friend, acquaintance, and humanitarian that has been in our lives and those who have blessed us simply by being part of our community.  And that is a sign of a really good life.  

Please raise your glass and cheer us on to our next destination in all that is life and adventure.

(And come visit; we have a room with your name on it.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Blind Teddy

 It seems a lifetime ago.  

We had said goodbye to our Bouvier dog, Biserka, whom we had brought home and loved after her years at what, in retrospect, was probably a breeding bitch for a puppy mill.  She was not an easy keeper, she was neurotic, she was beautiful, and we worked with all her manic insecurities.  We loved her.  Most of the time.      

I told that Spouse o' Mine: 
"No more dogs: no more heartache."
I didn't want any more sadness of losing our amazing canine companions.  
No more heartache.

We live in a really rural setting.  Less than three months after burying noisy and rambunctious Biserka, and experiencing more and more visits closer to our house than we appreciated by raccoons, possums, and coyotes, that Spouse o' Mine said to me:

"You need to start thinking about getting another dog."

Well, that's all it took as encouragement.  Just nine words, and I was out of the starting gate.  It took a few months, but I happened onto an ad from a city SPCA group to adopt two senior dogs, a "bonded pair", one of whom was blind.

What's not to love????

I went to meet them.  I adored them from the get-go.  That Spouse o' Mine was all-in.

They were delivered to us here in rural Kansas, by two volunteers driving a really small car.  Lucy & Teddy were really large dogs.  Large Breed Dogs.  It was like a Shriner Circus Car full of canine hyperactivity!  The two elderly pups were so exuberant upon their arrival, they jumped in the front seat on top of the two SPCA volunteers and just could not contain their excitement.  I still laugh at this memory.  The two piled out of the car and immediately began exploring all our acreage.  Blind Teddy followed his Seeing Eye Dog, Lucy.  Late that evening, after dark, I heard a haunting howl emanating from our front porch.  I scrambled outside to see what was happening.  The two new members of our household were both howling, echoing  to the coyotes down a quarter-mile in the creek.  So haunting, yet so perfect.  

Six years have come and gone.  We lost Blind Teddy just a few years ago, on his own accord. 
I had gone out early one sultry summer morning, hoping to get our lawn mowed before the heat set it.  It was barely sun-up.  I looked around the yard for Blind Teddy, so that I would not startle him while I mowed.  I walked down our drive, and saw a fresh poop on the gravel.  Hmm..., I thought.  Blind Teddy was nowhere to be found, so I moved on to the barn area.  Not in the barn aisle, not in any of the stalls.  But then I saw him: asleep in what we call the Dog Yard.  It's a small fence-in area for those rare times (company's coming!) when we want the large dogs contained.  There Blind Teddy lay, fast asleep.  I walked over to give him a pat.  Pat-pat.  But...
Blind Teddy wasn't snoozing.  Blind Teddy was dead.  

How does that work?  He did a final poop on our drive, walked his blind self into the barn, through one stall, and into the Dog Yard, and then he lay down and took his final snooze.

I was so pleased that this is how Teddy's last day was.  I hope he felt as happy. 


Monday, May 22, 2023





All the same.  A big deal, in a large gymnasium or football field, to embrace and then send off the graduates.  Those young adults are commencin' to become!  

High school graduation holds hopes for students looking at their immediate future in their community, be it college life, or retail, mechanical, electrical, agricultural.  These young adults are commencing to embark on a new chapter - hopefully, something that they will fondly remember some decades from now.  And hopefully, these new chapters will involve us, the community, and how we need and appreciate our new members of Manhattan society.   

I graduated from Oklahoma State University with two degrees, with grad school at UConn, none of which I followed, and yet, I flourished, somehow, through a wealth and a dearth of gainful employment.  The career path was never clear to me.  I have friends who went right from Uni to their chosen accounting corporations, never to waiver from that frame.  I have friends and family who took their diplomas and returned to their homeland, the generations-rich farms that they wholly embraced as their next chapter.  Omigoodness, all my friends and family who took their education degrees, and the bits in their mouths, and made such a difference in so many young lives.  I have friends who saw that rainbow at the end of nursing school, and med school, and have followed their path for decades. 

 And the rest of us, that seemingly meandered through education as if it were a buffet (me), who tested the waters of every potential employment creek and river.  So many of us, mainly mothers, opted for the SAHM acronym, and in my experience and opinion, WHAT A GREAT DECISION.  I have never looked back at my decision.

Too, self-employment has served many of us very well.    

It does "take a village".  Our communities, and within the boundaries, come all the wants and needs of which we expect.  I have a good physician.  I have an amazing (and patient) electrician.  I really love our librarians.  I really, REALLY appreciate our trash men.  Really.  Our farrier, our pastor, our veterinarian, our tire people, omigoodness: THE GROCERY STORE EMPLOYEES.  Our hay man!  The horticultural folks every spring, summer and fall.    

And so, commencement is here, and now.  Let's usher in all the newly grads from high school and colleges. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

January Morning

 My winter morning involves an outdoor temperature well below the frozen mark, and a fuchsia sky of pre-dawn.  A smattering of snow.  So nice.

The cacophony of snow geese on the Kansas River can be heard in the dark.  After sunrise, they will rise up in a swirling vortex, to dip and land and rise up again, from one cornfield to another, for most of the day.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of migrating geese, and not one air traffic controller.  I never, ever tire of watching them swoop and swirl in concert.  And what are they all honking about, I wonder?

There are all sorts of animal tracks out in the snow: big ol' coyote paw prints, a smaller set - most likely a fox.  The deer have made a thoroughfare through our pasture, as evidenced by the multiple hooves going back and forth from the road down to our creek.  The brush pile is trimmed with bunny tracks: hop, hop, hop! in the snow.  I think the brush pile is a warren: no burning of brush this winter!  And near every tree and bush are teeny, tiny little prints of hardy birds, scavenging for seeds and thistles for sustenance.

The north wind!  There is a Scottish term - "the wind is lazy", which means the wind will go straight through you; it is too lazy to go around.  On our north porch is a wind chime, and its one rod is very large, so that the clapper sound is much like the gong from a clock tower.  We don't hear it often; most of our wind emanates from the south or the west.  What I have been hearing the past two days, in duet with the snow geese, is the perpetual gong reminding me that the north wind is strong, and lazy, and very cold.

(An aside:  When we first moved to rural Kansas we had a standard-issue wind chime.  In a normal environment, its gentle tinkling sound could be enjoyed now and then, as a slight breeze might go past.  After I hung it outdoors in our new digs, it only took a couple of hours of constant jangling, shattering, dinging, before I took it down.  It was AWFUL.  When I found the giant wind chime, I knew it was bound for our Kansas home on the Tall Grass Prairie.)  

And so, my winter morning begins.  Time to pull on my winter gear and head out for a walk.

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