Monday, June 26, 2017

Sign of the Firefly

We just returned from our annual trip to New Mexico so I could attend the board meeting of The Cuyamungue Institute.  Last year I was greeted by a new structure (almost finished) that Paul had built with the money donated by Rae LeCompte's friends.  I wrote about this structure, Rae's Firefly last June.  This post will be the second part of the story.

If you had read the other post, you know that Rae's Firefly is a structure built for people to have a place to smoke.  This is the only place smoking is allowed at the institute as it is a desert area and at high risk for fires.  Rae would sit out at a table under a raggedy umbrella when she wanted a smoke. There was never enough shade to protect people sitting with her as the umbrella was usually hanging to one side never wanting to click into place.

 It was quite the pathetic area, and yet, that is where people gathered.  Rae was a people magnet and there were always vibrant conversations, colorful language and lots of laughter.  Too often though, the brutal sun caused short discussions during the day.  Once the sun set behind the Jemez Mountains the Firefly was the unofficial meeting place.

I was afraid that in a few years people might forget the story of Rae's Firefly and that it would become just a place where people could smoke.  What we needed was a sign.  This is where my two talented friends saved me.   April 28th is when I got the idea about a sign.  Who could help me make a sign?  Well, no....who could make the sign for me. Bambi and Pottsy!!  I sent them a text asking if they had time to do this.  Within a few minutes I received answers from both that they would love to make the sign and would donate it.

                  What kind of design would look right?  Here is a picture of the structure.

Paul and I playing guitars at Rae's Firefly
 The sign would have to fit the area.  Most of the pictures of fireflies that I found were either cartoon characters or pictures of actual firefly bugs.  I was getting frustrated until I discovered this picture.

 (I don't know who designed this and would love to give them credit but I can not find it now.)  It was perfect!  Rae always wore a Zuni bear necklace and also carried a small bear fetish.  There is also a bear statue at the institute where we often go for group pictures.

One side of Rae's necklace.

This is the side Rae always had showing.  If you
look carefully, you can see some of the stones
are missing.  

Bambi and Pottsy set to work.  I knew I had not given them much time, but they are miracle workers and soon called to set up a lunch date at Henry's in Kenton, OH where we often meet.  It is a halfway point for us.  After a fun lunch and getting updates on each of our lives, I finally got to see their creation!  Oh my, it was perfect!

Bambi, Pottsy and me holding Rae's Firefly sign.
 They also had a cute cartoon firefly on the back corner that said, "Snuff your butts."  They told me that coyote sneaked in when they were making the sign and "made" them put that little cartoon firefly on the back. (Coyote is known as the Trickster in many legends.)
This was just so cute I had to post it twice.

How fortunate am I to have two talented friends like this?  Of course, they knew Rae and loved her like so many of us do.  Thanks to Bambi and Pottsy, we now have a sign for Rae's Firefly.  I have to disagree about the Coyote energy though.  I think there was also a bit of Rae's energy guiding you to paint that cute little firefly on the back of the sign.  I can hear her gravelly laugh now as her spirit smiles at Rae's Firefly, happy to have a place where friends and students can gather to tell stories and share tobacco.

We are standing in front of the structure, Rae's Firefly.  Paul, Zac and I are holding the sign.  Zac was able to join us this summer, at the board meeting, to see the place his Grandma Rae loved.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Remembering Bobby on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day we honor those who have died in service to our country.  So why do I  post one of my mother's wedding pictures?  I know, it is blurry, but I do not have the energy to sort through all of the boxes of Mother's pictures to find a better one.  So, why do I use this picture for Memorial Day?  My parents were not married on Memorial Day and my father survived World War II.  You have probably figured it out by now.

The little boy, the ring bearer, was my mother's cousin.  He served in Vietnam and did not return.  I am posting a newspaper article about that state the facts.  The facts are secondary to the family, though.  I have to admit that Bobby and I only saw each other  a couple of times a year (if that) while I was growing up. It was a long six to seven hour drive to visit my mother's side of the family.  He was nine years older than I, so we really did not hang out together when we would visit.  I do remember that I had admired him.  He was always kind and put up with his little cousin.  I am sure, that at six years old I could be quite a pest. By the time I was ten, Bobby was in college and later got married.

My grandmother kept us informed about all of the aunts, uncles and cousins through letters that she sent us at least twice a week.  So, when we received a call from her on February evening in 1968, we knew it was bad news.  Bobby was missing in action.  Missing in action?  He was a pilot and his plane was shot down February 14th.  My grandmother told us that the same thing happened to her when my uncle was missing during WWII for a few days.  We all hoped that we would hear good news about Bobby, maybe he parachuted out of the plane and would soon be found.

Missing in action has not ending.  Each letter we received from my grandmother ended with these words, "Still no news about Bobby."  I often would open her letters before my parents got home and would just go to the last page hoping to see a different message.  But I knew that if there had been good news we would have gotten a phone call.

When the Viet Nam Memorial was built those who were missing in action were noted with a plus or cross sign (+) after their names.  Bobby's name is engraved on the wall, Panel 39 E, row 6.  A plus sign was next to his name...missing in action.  Year after year...missing in action.  When my grandfather died, Bobby was still missing in action.  My grandmother died and still....missing in action.  No end, no answer.  My father died, still no word. Was he alive?  Was in a prisoner of war?  If he was alive, what was happening to him?   No end,  no answer...missing in action.

I often wondered, "If I am feeling this way, how are Bobby's parents and brother and sister, and his wife feeling?"  I could not imagine the sadness.  When the war was over, Bobby did not return.  Bobby was not among the prisoners of war.  Bobby was....missing in action.  War is cruel and this is the cruelest.

Nearly twenty three years later, Bobby's parents received word that his remains had been recovered. On November 29, 1990, U.S. officials announced that remains repatriated in September, 1990, had been positively identified as those of Robert C McMahan. After 22 years, McMahan had come home.  Now the grief could begin.  No more wondering, no more hope.  But now the truth, no matter how sad.

When the remains of a Missing in Action soldier  are found, the plus sign on the Memorial Wall is filled in to  look like a diamond.  Now Bobby's name has a diamond shape after it.

On this Memorial Day, I honor my cousin, Bobby, and all of the other men and women who have died or are missing in action in the service of our country.  One death touches so many, not only immediate family members, but also pesty little cousins.

The article below tells the facts and also touches on the sadness of the family.

Here are some links with more information about Bobby.
The Military Honor Roll

Monday, July 18, 2016

In Mint Condition

A couple of weeks ago I offered to help my friend, Ann, prepare for her daughter's baby shower.  The shower was being planned by Ann's sister, Sharon and Sharon's daughter, Sarah.  It was decided to have the shower at Ann's place because it was more centrally located.  Sarah lives in Seattle and Sharon lives two and a half hours from Ann's, so Ann was helping with the preparation.  A few days before the shower Ann called me while she was searching for a few last minute items.

"Do you know where I can find some good mints for the shower?  I have looked everywhere and just can't find any that I like."

My ears perked up at the word "mints" and before I could stop myself, these words tumbled from my mouth, "Why don't we make them?  I have an old family recipe.  Linda and I made mints for Maggie's (my niece) wedding and everyone loved them!"

"You know how to make mints?  Is it difficult?  Do we have time?"  Ann had good reason to question our ability at making mints as we have had a few other adventures in creating interesting treats.

I assured her that we could do it and told her the ingredients that we would need. (Well, I had to get the recipe from my sister...the recipe that our mother, Maxine, sent to her thinking it would be a fun business for Linda and her friend Janie to have...way back in 1973.)  The business never started, but the recipe remained in Linda's library of cookbooks and recipes.

I arrived at Ann's early in the morning after stopping to pick up butter, powdered sugar and the "secret ingredient" (Kayro Syrup).  I brought my large Kitchen Aid Mixer because I remembered that the batter becomes really stiff and a hand mixer would not work.  The following pictures show our progress.

These are the ingredients we used.

The butter was not soft enough so I put it out on the patio table.  It was really hot outside so it did not take long for the butter to become soft.

We mixed the butter with the powdered sugar and then added the Kayro syrup.  It looks like I did not mix the butter and powdered sugar first, but dumped all the ingredients in at the same time.

 Even with the mistake of not mixing the powdered sugar and butter first, the batter worked out fine.

 This is what it looks like before adding the flavor and coloring.

The next few steps will be videos. 
In the first video I am mixing the lemon flavoring into the batter. Since Apple devices don't allow Flash videos, click on the YouTube links to see the videos. YouTube link for Mint Flavoring .


Ann will now show the proper way to add the coloring. :-) YouTube link for Mint Coloring . For some reason this video is upside down, but it doesn't hurt presentation.


We soon realized that we did not read the instructions carefully.
YouTube link to Reading Instructions Helps


The next video is short and blurry, but it explains why we decided to use the color we had. YouTube link for Coloring Mistake II


Of course, we do not know that dinosaurs are this color, but we had a choice of dinosaur molds or shell molds.  We had little square molds but they just looked like blobs of dark teal.  The next step is to put the batter or dough (not sure what to call it) into the molds.  We first....well, watch the video, it explains it much better...and Ray thinks it should be used on Saturday Night Live. YouTube link for Having a Ball


Here is the last step...rolling the balls in sugar and then placing them balls in the molds.
YouTube link to Molding Mints


The next two pictures show what our first mints, the dinosaurs looked like.  I have to stress that these really are dinosaurs...really...a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus.  Ray thinks one looks like a dancing Godzilla with a smile on its face.

 We tried a few more to see if we just needed practice or if we were going to have a bunch of mints that looked like mutated monsters.  You can see that the shells don't look too bad.  The square piece just had no personality so we decided not to use that mold.

After looking at our creations and gagging on the strong lemon scent we thought the taste would probably be too strong.  Tasting just a tiny corner of one of the mints we knew we could not serve them to anyone.  We had used too much flavoring and too much coloring.  Fortunately, we had plenty of ingredients to attempt another batch.  Since the shells were the only mold that made what actually looked like shells, we chose them.  

Here is the final creation!

The only problem with these was that the flavors did not match the colors.  We called them mystery mints. The green mints were lemon, the lavender were raspberry,  the teal were mint and the coral color was cinnamon flavored.

What we were missing was the orange flavor.  When Linda and I made mints for my niece's wedding we had an orange flavor that tasted like those Orange Creamsicles we used to get.  So, I made a few more mints so I could have the orange flavor.  I did not want to confuse people by making yellow mints be lemon (since the green ones were lemon) so the yellow ones were a caramel flavor.

I don't know if Ann and I will be making any more mints.  We had so many because each batch yields about 125-130.  It is a good thing we can freeze them.  Of course, I brought some home for Ray.  I am just glad that they turned out so pretty after our first disasters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Schooled :-)

My mother, Maxine, would have been 97 today, July 6, 2016.  I have written a number of Maxine stories and really need to write more.  She would always have people laughing with her as she told stories; partly because she would be laughing as she told the story, and partly because her delivery was...well, just funny.

Linda is our family genealogist and has traced our family lines back many generations.  She is able to check sites like to see if there are any articles about family members in the archives.  Recently, she found this, and I thought today is a perfect day to share it.  Linda and I remember this happening, but had no idea that a newspaper in Arizona would have an article about it.

Some of you who know that the roads were a lot safer when Maxine did not have a driver's license.  My father kept trying to get her to get her license so that she could at least go to the store on her own.  She did have her license for a few years when we lived out in the country in Indiana, but did not bother to get her Ohio license when we moved to Ohio.  Sad to say that after my father died at age 66, Maxine enrolled in driving school and got her license at age 67.

Here are a couple of posts I have written about Maxine's driving.  Check them out if you need a chuckle for today.

Maxine Overdrive

Maxine Overdrive Sequel

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Winner of the First Smile a Day Picture Caption Contest!!!

This is the smile picture that needed a fun caption.
A few days ago I posted a picture on Facebook for my Smile Project.  Each day I post a smile. When Your're Smiling  I usually add some sort of comment with it, but this picture needed a caption.  So, I asked for people to add their captions.  After reading a few of them, I decided to make it a contest.  I had not created a contest for ages, so now was the time!  This blog post will show how I determined the winner and announce who that winner is.  I know that everyone is waiting for this 'breaking news' so I will begin.

First, I printed the captions that my friends had written.  I cut them into individual strips.  My plan was to put them all in a hat and have someone pick out the winner. I removed my sister's and husband's captions.  All relatives must be disqualified in such a high stakes contest!

Strips of the Captions.

Next, I folded each strip.  The excitement was growing. Who will be the lucky winner?  How many times should I fold each strip?   I must do this properly.  I don't want anyone to think this was rigged.

Folded Captions

Now, I must find the perfect hat to use.  It did not take me long to find it.  This hat had fallen from its holder just that morning as if asking for me to choose it.  I love how everything was working with me, even the hat knew the importance of this contest.

Thank you, Flower Power Cruise hat for volunteering to take part in the contest.

I had thought that I would have Ray pick out the winning caption, but he was focused on his drone software (and it was not being cooperative). I know he would have taken a few seconds to pick a caption out of the hat...but right when I headed to his walks Ary.  Perfect!  Ary loves to pull things out of nooks and crannies and bat around his discoveries.  I set the hat in front of him and he just looks at me.  So I dump them on the floor next to him.

Oh so close!  Has he chosen the winner?

Expectations are way too high...he needs a break from the excitement.
Well, now what do I do?  I decided that Ray would have to be the one.  I deposited the slips back into the hat and stepped into Ray's office (which is also our spare bedroom).   Ary must have felt guilty for failing me.  He followed me and jumped on top of the bed, and began pawing at the hat.  (Ray told me that Ary was not feeling guilty, but that he was just being a cat,)

Ary to the rescue!
And....if you look closely you will see the winner!  Steve Warner, you are winner of the first Smile a Day Picture Caption Contest!  You now need to message me your address so that I can send you the prize!  I am sure you are overwhelmed with excitement.  And, for those of you who participated and did not win...don't worry.  I know there will be other Smile Caption Contests.

And the winner is.....Steve Warner!
Congratulations, Steve. I would have had this written yesterday, but as you can see, Ary wanted to help me type this, and I find it difficult to type with a cat sitting on the keyboard.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.  I really love doing these and it is fun when others join me.  Oh, and I almost forgot! (Thanks, Barb, for asking me.)  Here is Steve's caption.

Mom said to get a hair cut and get a real job... That's bull$#!+

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just Three Words....

Late Thursday night (or was it early Friday morning...) I received a text from my friend, Ann.  We have been friends since I moved to Toledo when I was in the 8th grade.  Her family welcomed me with open arms as did mine with Ann.  Her text was just three words, "Are you up?"  I was in bed, but still awake playing Words with Friends.  Reading those three words I could actually feel my heart skip a beat.

Ann, her sister, Sharon, and brother, Jim had driven to North Carolina to visit their uncle.  Their brother, Gary, would be joining them on Friday.  I knew this.  It is amazing how the mind travels so fast with all the scenarios that those late night words, "Are you up?" can create.  Were they in an accident?  Was their uncle okay?

For once my thumbs cooperated as I typed, "Yes," and sent the text.  I quickly sent another, "Are things okay?"  But, I knew things were not okay.  My hands were shaking, but still, my thumbs worked the letters with ease.


"Oh no...what is happening?"  I prepared myself for bad news.

"Please, just between you and Ray.  Ben died today"

Ben?  Sharon's son, Ben?  Ben.... who survived deployment in Afghanistan as a medic?  Ben... who was now living in Texas with his wife?  Ben...who was now in the New Mexico Guard?  I had just read on Facebook that he was in Albuquerque participating in summer training.  Again, my mind went into over drive... running the movie of memories of Ben... meeting him as a tiny little new born until this spring when he brought his wife to Ohio so we could all meet her.

Ben with his dog, Kelty

My heart wrenched.  I have no children of my own, but I have two stepchildren and nieces and nephews.  When I was a teacher I felt that my students were my children while they were in my classroom.  I loved each one of them.  The closest I have come to losing a child is when a student died.  Even now, remembering those times I feel tears rolling down my cheeks.  And I wonder...."If I feel this way, how do Sharon and Dan feel....Ben's parents?  How do the aunts, uncles and cousins feel?"  It must be ten times...or many more times what I am feeling.

The Harris Family, June 2015

Words sound so hollow now.  The pain is raw.  Any attempt by me to express my sorrow to Dan and Sharon sounds trite to me.  So, I turn to writing and even that is failing me.  I stare at the screen, seeing blurred letters through unfallen tears.  Maybe a few memories will help.

Here is a collage of Ben in his military uniform.  The upper left shows how children were drawn to him when he was deployed in Afghanistan.  The upper right center was taken when Ben surprised his mother at the school where she worked.  He had just returned home from Afghanistan.  The lower right picture is Ben escorting his mother at his sister's wedding last year.

I remember picking up Ben at the airport when he was returning from a trip to Alaska.  His whole family, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins took a cruise to Alaska, but he had to return a couple days early.  I am not sure why.  My memory is how excited about his experiences in Alaska.  He was so animated and told in detail all the adventures he had there.  He talked about taking pictures and maybe being a photojournalist would be an interesting career.  He mentioned about how cool it would be to be interviewed on NPR about his work.

Ben resting by a mountain stream.

I like this memory of Ben because it was just the two of us....and he did almost all of the talking.  He was at that age when many young guys would just sit in the car and give one word answers, but instead he gave me a gift by sharing with me some of his dreams.  I will always remember this.

Ben Harris That's a Napoleon smooth bore cannon, which is the same as the Ohio Statehouse guns. Antietam is still the single bloodiest day in American history. More men died that day than all the previous wars. Even the D-day invasion saw fewer casualties. (Ben's words and description)

"My first army training at Fort Schnelling Minnesota, I'm the little guy. My infantry regiment and battalion first formed there to serve in WWI. Their commander was Leonard Wood, for whom the fort was named where my basic training was conducted. Coincidence or destiny to be in 1-41. I don't think so.'
Ben's words

After graduating from The Ohio State University Ben seemed at a loss on what direction to take.  I think he was so talented and smart in so many things it was difficult to latch onto one thing.   He led tours through the State Capitol Building.  Ray and I were on one of Ben's tours and (being a teacher) I could just see Ben talking to young children and capturing their attention.  He had so much knowledge and shared it with enthusiasm.   Ben was a counselor at the Philmont Scout Ranch where I think he would take part in historical enactments for the scouts.  His knowledge of the Civil War and World War II could match Ray's.  I wish they had had the chance to get into discussions about this, but that can not happen now.

The masterful Sgt. Harris at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico

Another picture from Philmont Scout Ranch.  Looks like these guys took their roles quite seriously.

There is much more about Ben.  He loved to backpack in the mountains.  That probably started with early hiking trips with his parents in the Grand Tetons.  Ben followed the Columbus Crew Soccer Team and of course, The Ohio State University sports programs.  I think his Grandmother Luppens might have had some influence on this because she was always current on sporting events.

 I will always remember the last time I saw him when he introduced me to his wife, Cherilyn.  The smile on his face told it all....He was in LOVE.  Their plans were to live in Texas because Cherilyn was still in the Army.  Ben joined the New Mexico Guard.  Ben embraced Cherilyn's Navajo culture and they planned to settle in Arizona many years from now, after they had traveled and raised a family.  In fact, we found out a few weeks ago that they are expecting a baby January 9.

Cherilyn and Ben

Tears return as the circle of life can sometimes seem cruel and unfair.  Ben, your spirit will ride the wind.  It will ride the wind over the Southwest to comfort Cherilyn.  It will ride the wind over the Great Tetons where your family has such strong ties. It will ride over Afghanistan where your service  was a source of pride to your family.  And it will ride over Ohio where your family and friends will grieve as we try to celebrate your life.

Ben Harris....I might have to use this as one of my smiles that I post each day on Facebook.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rae's Firefly

Two weeks ago I went to New Mexico to attend the Cuyamungue Institute Board Meeting for this year.  Last year I wrote about the meeting because we had set aside time to honor our dear friend, Rae.  She had been the Vice President of the Institute and her death left us all feeling a need to something special in her memory.  Before I started to write this, I decided to read the post I wrote last year.  It told about how we honored Rae and what we planned to build for her.  If you want to read it, check out this link: Happy Birthday, Rae.

Rae had a special table where she would sit and smoke her American Spirit cigarettes.  This is the only place at Cuyamungue Institute where people are allowed to smoke.  It is outside with an umbrella to shade us from the sun.  The umbrella did not function well, though and sometimes would blow away when the wind spirits wanted to have a bit of fun.  So, we decided to have a structure build to replace the rickety umbrella.  It was to be called, Rae's Firefly because she called the smoking area, Firefly.

Here is the Firefly Table as it was a few years ago.

Another picture of the Firefly table....but where is the umbrella?
Looks like a tree captured the umbrella when it was blowing in the wind...
Many people donated money to Cuyamungue Institute in memory of Rae when she died.  We had about 75% of the money from donations that was needed to build this structure.  In April, Stephanie Stephens and I presented a short workshop hoping to earn enough money so we could build Rae's Firefly.  Our workshop was such a success that I knew we would be able to begin building.

People enjoyed the Firefly even if Rae was not there.

This was also where Rae did business transactions.

....and of course, a place for a quick hair cut.

Ray (my husband...we call him TR, not to be confused with Rae...Florida Rae) and I drove to New Mexico in May with a van full of items that needed to be stored at Cuyamungue.  I thought Paul (the President of the board) acted a bit strange when we arrived.  When I climbed out of the van, Paul came running out to greet me and ushered be toward the Student Building.  I saw him get his cell phone out but my attention was drawn toward the area of the smoking area.  There it was!  A structure built of wood and logs from the area.  A table with chairs seemed to invite us to step in and enjoy the shade.  Paul was taking a video of my surprised expression.

Here is Rae's Firefly!  We wanted it to be open on all sides to get the desert breeze.  I am so thankful that Paul took time to build this.  He did have some help from a local young man.

Here are some pictures of Rae's Firefly and a few more of Cuyamungue Institute.  It is a place I love, the Land is a refuge for animals....four legged and two legged.  I can feel Rae's spirit there, and hear her deep laugh as she tells stories.

Here are Paul, Ray and Dave making music in Rae's Firefly

What a wonderful place for us.  It is not quite finished yet, but I know it will be perfect.  We could sit there and enjoy the fresh desert air and not swelter under the sun.

And here are just a few more pictures of the Institute....just because I want to post them.

Here is a picture of our buildings.

This is the May Pole that was built this year.

I can't forget a picture of the labyrinth!
Here are some of the Board Members, plus Ray, our photographer.
Ray took some drone pictures that are amazing.  I hope to put a couple of those in my next post.