A Letter to the Past

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Today’s assignment is to write a post in the form of a letter. I am writing to my maternal grandmother, Hilda Hagen Hahn (1892–1957).

tea party 1

My Dear Nana,

You chose to end your life in 1957. I was 10, old enough to understand some of it, but not as much as I do now. Craig was 7 and has only vague memories.

Though it was 60 years ago, I remember our phone ringing early in the morning. Your next-door neighbor kept an eye on you because you lived alone. She was calling Mom, worried that lights were on in your house when she woke up very early. Mom and Dad rushed Craig and me off to school and then went to check on you. I worried about you all day at school.

When I got home and asked Mom if you were okay, she looked rattled and said, “Why do you ask?” Then she and Dad sat Craig and me down and told us that you had died. I don’t remember her specific words, but by the time she finished, I knew that they had found two notes from you on your kitchen table. The one on top looked like it had been scribbled in desperation. It read, Don’t go down to the basement. How do I know that? They showed me the note. I saw it.

Mom and Dad told us that sometime during the night, you had hanged yourself in the basement. When I asked why, I learned for the first time that you were not feeling well and had been tested for cancer. Mom was going to take you to the doctor to learn the test results that day.

Even at 10, I knew that didn’t make a lot of sense. Why kill yourself if you weren’t even sure you had cancer? Mom and Dad didn’t know. It was then that Mom read me the second note. All I remember is the way you repeated the words I don’t want to be a burden on you. You didn’t talk about your fears of pain and death. You made it sound like you killed yourself to spare us from the difficult job of caring for you while you became sicker and then died.

What you apparently didn’t consider was the aftermath of your suicide. It would have long-ranging effects on your family. Your funeral was the first one Craig and I ever attended. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry. Mom showed your suicide notes to the pastor who performed the service. He cried too.

One day shortly after, I came across Mom crying as she sorted through your jewelry box. She wiped her eyes and told me that one day I would do the same for her. Thinking of Mom dying too scared me so much. Luckily, it was 59 more years before that time came.

But here’s the thing. After a couple of months, Mom stopped talking about you entirely. A small photo of you stayed on a table in the living room, but you were not mentioned. Dad, Craig, and I didn’t say your name because we thought the memories would hurt her. Later Mom rewrote the story of your death. She told anyone who asked that you had died of cancer. Maybe she had convinced herself.

Following Mom’s example, I didn’t talk about you either. I didn’t have to. I was carrying you with me, buried as unfinished business in my head and my heart, though I didn’t realize that until much later. I had learned your unintentional lesson all too well. I interpreted your suicide as a sacrifice for your family — I don’t want to be a burden to you. Your example showed me that you have to sacrifice yourself for anyone you really, truly love. Otherwise, you don’t really love them.

If literally laying down your life wasn’t required, other huge portions of your time and your happiness might be. And I wasn’t willing to do that. I had my entire life ahead of me. I wanted to live it, to enjoy it. I knew feeling that way made me terribly selfish, but I couldn’t change.

I believed the only way to avoid giving up large parts of myself for others was to avoid taking on loved ones. I would do my duty to my parents when they needed me, but that was all. The rest of my life would be for me. Never did I consider the possibilities of compromise, of two people both willing to give up a lot for each other, so that things balance out to the benefit of both.

If you had lived, you might have been able to teach me that. But you didn’t. I don’t mean to blame you for my not having a husband and family. It’s more complicated than that. And I have had a good life. But I can’t help thinking it might have turned out better, or at least very differently, if you had chosen to live.

Rest in peace. I love you.

Brushing Up My Shakespeare

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Note to my readers: I’m finding that creating a post worthy of publishing every day is more time-consuming that I expected. So I am going to spread out the assignments and take some days off. Today I’m going to take another liberty and combine yesterday’s topic, which was to write about a photo, with today’s, which is to write about a quote.



You are looking at an original copy of the First Folio of the plays of William Shakespeare, printed in 1623. Scholars consider it one of the most influential books published in the English language; I think of it with a reverence second only to the Bible.

Last year, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. toured some of its First Folios for display in all 50 U.S. states. I was able to see this book in a small display located less than an hour from home, in a park in Wauconda, IL.

The First Folio was amazingly approachable. There was a short line to stand before the book in its clear protective display case. I was allowed to photograph it, though without a flash.  I was only inches away, close enough to read these pages from Hamlet. The book was open to Act III, including one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”

I love the poetry of this passage. And I like way the reader feels Hamlet’s painful place in life, that he is desperate enough to consider taking his own life. I like it even more when he makes the courageous choice to live rather than die. In the end, he does die, but bravely, on his own terms, and not by his own hand.

“Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

The View from 70

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 To my readers: I’m continuing my blogging class with today’s assignment of writing a list.

Things I like about being 70

At 70, when I meet someone new, I no longer get suspicious glances when I tell them I’m retired. That was not always the case when I retired at 55. If I uttered the R-word 15 years ago, faces looked at me with a combination of surprise, envy, and resentment of my good fortune. Or at least, I imagined they did. Then if people found out that I was a retired teacher, their smiles disappeared completely as they realized that their taxes were helping support me while I enjoyed my leisure. This leads to my next point…

At 70, I no longer care as much what others think of me. I would like to say I no longer care at all, but that isn’t exactly true. It’s just that I waste  less time agonizing over whether something I say or do will annoy and alienate others. I can’t spare the time or energy on such worries.

At 70, my age is a built-in excuse for not doing many things that I don’t want to do. Want me to bring 4 dozen home-made, hand-decorated cookies for a holiday exchange? Gosh, I’m sorry, but my (insert any real or imaginary ailment here) won’t let me do things like that any more. Nor can I drive you to the airport during rush hour, clean your house when you’re sick, go garage-sailing all day long, walk your dog in snowy/icy weather, or anything else that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s not that I’m not willing to. No, certainly not that; it’s that I’m too old to.

At 70, I also have a selective memory. I may forget to do things that I don’t want to do. But let someone casually offer me a glass of wine, and I’ll show up at their front door, maybe even months later, to collect.

At 70, I get to do things at my own pace. I’ll decide when I get the Christmas cards in the mail, if at all; I’ll drive any speed at which I feel safe, though I promise to stay in the right lane; I’ll sleep as late as I want; then I may waste the rest of the morning drinking coffee, checking Facebook and Twitter, and petting my cats.

At 70, I will cheerfully agree that I am old. But I’m not totally ancient yet, and that thought consoles me. So does this poster, which is the desktop picture on my computer.


Why I Write

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To my readers: I am beginning the new year by taking a class on blogging. For the next three weeks, I will be writing responses to daily assignments. This WordPress icon will identify posts that are part of my coursework. Today’s topic: Why I write.


I write because I like the challenge of pulling an intangible thought from my brain and recording it in tangible form, whether on paper or a screen.

I write because I enjoy wrangling words into sentences. I like all of the steps: first, capturing the idea in any written form; then, editing and improving my sentences to make them say what I mean; finally, of grinding away the rough edges to make the words flow in a pleasing manner.

I write because I value communication. I believe it is key to solving the problems that we as individuals and societies face. Talking to each other is good, but writing down thoughts can be better because it is more intentional. Writing forces us to refine our ideas and emotions.

I write because I love to read. Hasn’t everyone who adores books at some time wanted to write one? The process can be long and arduous, not always fun at all. But there is no greater satisfaction than holding a book in your hand, knowing that you created it.

I write because I enjoy receiving feedback on content I have shared. I love it when a reader offers a comment, or better, begins a conversation.

I write because the process clarifies my confusion, eases my pain, and teaches me what it means to be human.



Now For Some Shameless Self-Promotion

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Coverbk2You are invited to a Book Signing for my new novel, TEACHING MYSTERIES 201: THE STRIKE. This coming Sunday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 3 pm, I will be talking about the book and signing copies at Read Between the Lynes on the Woodstock Square.

This is a busy time of year, but if you have a few minutes and care to stop by, I’d love to see you. If you can’t make it Sunday but would like to read the book, it will remain on sale at the bookstore. It is also available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.

Want to know more about it? Here’s the summary that appears on the back cover:

In this sequel to Teaching Mysteries 101, we return to Hancock High School, where the 1972-73 school year is beginning under the threat of a teachers’ strike. Third-year English teacher Andrea Jackson ultimately decides to risk her job by participating in the unpopular strike. Then in the midst of the chaos, a murder takes place.

Is the death connected to the strike? Will Andrea succeed in clearing a friend who is suspected of the crime? Will her sleuthing spell an end to a promising romance?

Find the answers in this novel set in a small Midwestern town during the tumultuous early ‘70s, a time of mini-skirts, peace symbols, rock music, and the anti-war movement.

And here’s a little more info: Last month I posted about the process of writing the book. If you’d like to read that again, you will find it here.

Thank you, everyone, for your interest in this project.

Remembering My Dad, A Would-be Veteran

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Holidays / Mostly Musings

Editor’s note: I usually don’t believe in rerunning posts. Perhaps I should say, it’s fine for others, but I prefer to come up with something new for my own blog. But… it’s Veteran’s Day, and I want to acknowledge it.  Because I haven’t come up with anything I like better, here is the post that I published four years ago today. I hope you’ll like it.


My father, Carl Dierksen, tried very hard to become a veteran. And I guess he technically would qualify as one, though he never claimed the honor.

He was 22 when he and my mother married in 1940. The following year, during World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, both to serve his country and to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

mom & dad young

Dad reported to a base in Florida, where he had completed several weeks of basic training when he received the news that Mom’s father had died. As bad as that was, it got worse. Mom was an only child, and with her father gone, there was no one to operate the family farm outside of Davenport, Iowa.

Dad was given no choice. His commanding officer told him that his country needed him to be a farmer more than it needed him to be a soldier. He was given an honorable discharge and sent home.

So Dad, who grew up in town as the son of a house painter, became an instant farmer—without the benefit of any basic training. He would spend the next 30 years of his life as a farmer and a family man. He was good at both.


Dad was a humble man. He knew that a few weeks of training had not earned him any recognition on Veterans Day.

flagIf he were still alive, Dad would be flying the flag today. He would be the first to shake a veteran’s hand and thank him or her. Dad might still be wondering if his life would have been different if he had been allowed to stay in the Air Corps.

He never forgot his dream of flying airplanes. When he was in his 50s, he earned his private pilot’s license. A few years later, he bought his own small plane.

Dad lived his last seven years in Woodstock, where he and Mom were my neighbors. I wish he had lived to see my Abbey and Maples at the Sonatas. He would have liked helping me move and doing projects around the house. And he would have always wanted to walk down the street to the place where you can still see a farm in the distance.

My New Novel

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Maybe 7 is a lucky number after all.

It was 7 years ago that I moved into my new Abbey, which eventually led me to begin this blog.

It was also 7 years ago that I began the first draft of a new novel that I expected to be quick and easy to write. After all, it is a sequel. I already had developed most of the main characters, the setting, the genre (cozy mystery). I already knew the steps in the procedure: write, write, write, revise, revise, revise.

My second biggest surprise is that it took so very long to reach this point. And where is this point? Almost to the finish line.

My biggest surprise is that I finished the book at all. There were so many times that I put the project aside, only to resume work after months away from it.

Yet here is the awesome cover, created by Mark Lobo, the genius designer that I worked with at The Woodstock Independent and, later, at Indepth Graphics and Printing.


The cover is ready to go, and very soon the interior of the book will be too. My genius editor, Kelly McNees, is finishing the copyediting this week.

From there, the manuscript goes back to Mark for interior design and then off to be printed. I’m hoping the book will be available for readers before the end of the year.


If you are on Facebook and you’d like updates on my novel, visit the book’s page, Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike.



Watch Us Grow!

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Construction / Growth/Sales / Pictures

This isn’t the end, but you can see it from here. Work has begun on Phase 4, the final phase, of Maples at the Sonatas.

I know it’s too soon to get all nostalgic about this. So I will spare you those posts until later in the journey. For now, I’ll just share a visual progress report.

Here we are—Maples at the Sonatas—from the air. Three pictures taken from three small airplanes in three different years. All of the photos were provided by homeowners.

First, we have this photo, taken by Barb’s son-in-law in 2011.



And here we are in 2014, in a picture taken by a friend of Tom D.



Finally, here is a picture taken this past weekend by our resident photographer Ken.


The empty area in the red box is all the space we have left. If you are hoping to join us, keep this in mind.

It has been an amazing transformation from an empty plot of land to the beautiful community that more than 110 of us now call home.

Words That Jangle in Your Head

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Blogging / Mostly Musings

Where do you get the ideas you write about?

Readers sometimes ask me this question. More often, though, I ask it of myself. Where did that idea even come from? And where can I find more of them?

It’s a good question because it doesn’t have a simple, clear cut answer. Sometimes, my topic comes from a reader’s suggestion. Other times, I stumble into a situation and  realize it would be fun to write about.

But all too often, I sit down to write a post and nothing comes to mind. When that happens, I may turn to a blogging resource called “The Daily Prompt.” Every morning it emails me a different blogging topic. The trick? The prompt is almost always one single word.

I love the free association that results from this. The topic is so open-ended that hundreds of bloggers could write about it, and every single one of them would have something different to say.

Here’s what I found in my inbox one morning last week: Daily Prompt: Jangle.

It took less than a second for my mind to come up with a connection. And it came in the form of a line of lyrics from “The Windmills of Your Mind,” a song written for the 1968 film, The Thomas Crown Affair.

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head

Jangle. I love the image of words jangling around in my head. It’s a great description of the writing process—at least, as it works for me. Words and phrases get stuck in my mind, much like a song can. They keep flying around until they fall into a proper order, then travel to my fingertips, and spill out on the keyboard. I am frequently surprised by the finished product.

At the moment, I have my subconscious mind working on four possible topics for this blog. If I could take a picture of the inside of my head, it might look like this.

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 11.24.29 AM

There’s a problem with words jangling in my head, though. They sometimes go rogue, spinning off where ever they want. As I was writing this post, I kept remembering fragments of other lyrics from “The Windmills of Your Mind.”

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Pictures hanging in a hallway
or the fragment of a song,

Half-remembered names and faces
but to whom do they belong?

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.

So I looked up the lyrics to the entire song. While I was doing that, I kept stumbling onto more interesting details I wanted to share with you. But I was straying too far from the subject of this post.

That was when I thought of my friend and fellow blogger, Joe. In his blog, Life Out of Tunes, Joe writes with knowledge and humor about the music that has shaped his life. It wasn’t too difficult to get him interested in sharing his thoughts about “The Windmills of Your Mind.”

I hope that now you’ll jump over to Joe’s blog to read more about the song. But before you leave, you might want to watch this video of the glider scene in the 1968 version of “The Thomas Crown Affair.” You will hear the song performed by Noel Harrison, as the original audience did. Listen closely to the words. Tomorrow you may find a few of them jangling in your head.

A Wine Lovers’ Haven

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Home Elements/Decorating

My neighbor, Sue, is too modest to allow me to call her a wine expert. So let’s just say, she has pursued an interest in the field for quite a few years and has learned a lot along the way. She and her husband, Mike, have a large collection of wines and a large library of books related to it.

When they began planning their new home here at Maples at the Sonatas, they knew they wanted to include an area dedicated to all things wine. Fortunately, our Epcon homes offer the flexibility to accommodate all kinds of hobbies and interests. Sue and Mike found the Promenade model perfect for their needs.

When you enter the home from the garage, there is a small storage room on one side of the hallway and a closet on the other. The area is marked in red on the diagram below.


Sue and Mike asked that the doors of the closet not be installed. That left a space for Mike’s talented brother to convert into this wine area:


Across the hall, the other half of their wine setup looks like this:



This past week, Sue invited members of the Maples book club to her home after our meeting. In the photo below, Sue (on the left) shares a toast with Maureen, who leads the club.


We sipped wonderful wine, enjoyed tasty snacks, and enjoyed each other’s company. What a welcome addition Sue and Mike are to our community!

Party Central

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Holidays / Social Life

Downsizing. It is one of the most common reasons people give for buying a home in Maples at the Sonatas. Once the children are on their own, many find there is no longer a need for as much living space.

And then there is maintenance. Our buyers also come looking for less upkeep, both inside and outside the home. After they settle in, they realize they are living comfortably — luxuriously even — in less square footage that is used more efficiently.

But what about those once- or twice-a-year, larger gatherings? Where is there room to host a holiday meal for the extended family? Where can you throw a graduation party? A milestone birthday party? A family reunion?

The best place to hold social events that do not fit comfortably in a home is the large party room in our clubhouse. Homeowners can reserve and rent this space for a reasonable fee and the obligation of cleaning up afterward.

Over the past few years, our clubhouse has served as a location for family dinners, holiday parties, wedding showers, baby showers, graduation parties, and birthday parties. It also has been used for a wedding reception and a celebration of life. The space is versatile enough to work for almost any gathering.

Let’s take a peek at a recent event to see how this space works. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor, Bonnie, rented the party room for a bridal shower for her grandson’s fiancée. Bonnie was gracious enough to let me take a few photos during the shower; I was gracious enough to stay on the sidelines and not interrupt. This is how she and her family utilized the space.

First, they decorated the room.


Our kitchen gave them ample space to serve food and beverages.


The guests look comfortable as they watch the bride open her gifts.


Before the shower ended, there was time to get this 4-generation photo of Bonnie, her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson. Sweet memories of a wonderful family gathering.


Marjorie, Margerie, and a Dream Fulfilled

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Mostly Musings

It was over a year ago that my brother, Craig, and his wife, Rosie, came to visit to help celebrate Mom’s 95th birthday. Mom (Marjorie) was living in memory care but was doing fairly well, considering. During that visit, we three “kids” began to talk in general terms about some day taking a cruise to Alaska maybe. The idea was planted but needed time to grow.

On future visits for Mother’s Day and Mom’s 96th birthday, we got serious about such a trip. Craig researched online while I picked the brains of my neighbors who had taken cruises to Alaska. But while our plans were progressing, Mom was beginning to fail.

Shortly after Craig and Rosie returned for her memorial service in September, we made reservations for the cruise. She would have wanted us to do this, we said. And not only did Marjorie want us to enjoy this trip, she left us more than enough money to pay for it. It was like it was meant to be.

And so we have been cruising this week, along with my niece, Tina, and her husband, Scott. But there was one more surprise coming our way—a very meaningful one. We spent the third day of the trip in Glacier Bay National Park. The highlight of the day was our close approach to a glacier that just happened to be named Margerie. Yes, the spelling is different, but that hardly matters. It was too much to be a coincidence. This was a definite case of life coming full circle. 

Here we are, Marjorie’s two children, posing for a photo with Margerie behind us. Our hearts and memories were filled with Marjorie’s presence. May she rest in peace as life continues in its intricate circles.


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Construction / Nature

One of my favorite parts of spring is all of its new beginnings. Flowers reappear from the soil and bloom again. Or they are planted for the first time, sharing color and fragrance from their very beginning. Baby animals come into the world. Trees begin another year by putting on their loveliest blossoms. Like this one.


And it’s not only nature celebrating new beginnings. The Maples is all about new beginnings too. For as long as we remain a community under construction, we will offer folks new beginnings, whether it’s a new home or a new home in a new town.

If you are looking for a do-over in your life, you can find that here. Choose a brand new, never-been-lived-in-before home, perhaps for your first time ever. Come surround yourself with people who know nothing about who or what you have been. Then reveal as much or as little as you want as you make friends.

There is a beauty in new construction. It’s not exactly like trees or flowers or puppies. It’s more about angles and symmetry and rising profiles. It is a fleeting beauty because most of it will be covered up during the building process. But it is to be enjoyed in its brief moment, much like the blossoms in the photo above.



Oh, yes, the lumber smells great too! It’s an aroma that will last for months after you move in.


Breathe deeply. This is the smell of home.

The Turnover

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Growth/Sales / Mostly Musings / Neighbors

Tomorrow will be a red-letter day here at Maples at the Sonatas. Actually, make that a red-box day, according to my calendar. But however you highlight it, the day will be significant.




Tomorrow is Turnover Day, the moment when our community takes its next step toward completion. At a meeting tomorrow, our builder, Jamie Wilcox, will officially turn over the homeowners association to us, the homeowners.

As is customary with construction, the builder remains in charge of the HOA until the community is approximately 75 percent built out. We have reached that point, and now some of the responsibility shifts from the builder to the homeowners.

The first step in our new independence will be meeting tomorrow to elect five people to serve on our first Board of Directors. The board will assume responsibility for overseeing our finances, making and enforcing community rules, maintaining our property, and more. But they will not have free rein. The community will still be bound by our declaration, which, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is similar to a constitution.

So, yes, tomorrow will be a landmark day. But no one should expect to wake up Tuesday and find a whole different Maples. If it snows (highly unlikely this winter), our streets, driveways, and sidewalks will still be plowed. Other services overseen by our property management company will continue uninterrupted. We will still pay association dues. Our social activities will go on as usual. Wilcox will continue building and selling homes until the community is finished.


I guess this is a time to celebrate, but, honestly, I don’t much feel like it. What I do feel is….

Nostalgic. I keep replaying six and a half years of memories and get…

Nostalgic. I remember how there were only 25 or so of us when I moved here. And now we have grown to 125 residents. But I remember those we lost through death and those who, for various reasons, moved to other cities or states. And I miss them and I’m…

Nostalgic. I remember how, at the time I signed my contract, I believed there was only one thing that kept the Maples from being perfect. I would miss the property management company and our rep, Suzanne, from my former community. And then, at my first meeting here, before I even closed, Jamie announced that he had hired that same company to manage here. And it was great, except soon Suzanne retired, and I missed her and felt…

Nostalgic. And then, because of my past experience on a board and with the management company, Jamie asked me to be Resident Trustee for the Maples. And then I asked him if we could form an advisory committee so it wouldn’t be just me. And it was fun for quite a while, but then I burned out and stepped down. But looking back, I get…

Nostalgic. And I have about 50 more examples, but I am going to spare you from any more of my ramblings. I’ll go to the meeting tomorrow, and I’ll appreciate it for the milestone that it is, and I’ll smile, but inside I’ll be wondering why life can’t ever stay the same. Yes, I’ll be…










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Animals / Pictures


Shadow is a seeker of light and of heat. During the daytime, I often find her napping in a pool of sunlight on a bed or a rug. On cold winter nights, she will sit quietly in front of the dark fireplace, waiting for me to turn it on. She understands what it means when I walk over and flip the switch.

The word ambience is not in her small cat vocabulary. She doesn’t know or care that ambience means the atmosphere of one’s surrounding environment. All she cares about is the intensity of the flames. There is no such thing as too hot or too bright. Sometimes she will stand on her hind legs and stretch her body up against the screen to get as close as possible.

I sniff the air, hoping not to find the smell of singeing whiskers, and I don’t. I push my chair closer to the fireplace, joining her in that atmosphere of peace and comfort. She purrs… and I wish I could too.

via Photo Challenge: Ambience

What Bandit Saw

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Animals / Mostly Musings

Fable: A short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters.


Bandit and Angie meet for the first time.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Joe and Sylvia adopted their sweet dog, Bandit, a loving, trusting soul. I already had Angie, an outgoing cat who loved to play. We decided to introduce them, hoping that a friendship would develop.

In the beginning, it looked like we would get our wish. The two were curious about each other, cautious, but more comfortable together with each visit. Bandit would tug on his leash as he and his humans walked by my place to let them know he wanted to come in. After checking out the cat food and cat toys, he and Angie would settle in my sun room along with the rest of us. Their eyes never left each other. They would inch closer together.

Then I brought another cat into my home. As I explained it to my spoiled, possessive Angie, I had no choice. Shadow had lost her home and her human when Mom moved to the nursing home. Of course, I didn’t mention to Angie that I loved Shadow too. But she figured that out.

The next time Bandit came over, the dynamics began to shift. Shadow, who had been described to me as afraid of dogs, hung back a bit, but not so far that she couldn’t watch Bandit from another room. It took several more visits before she ventured into the sun room to join the rest of us.

Now Angie had no intention of sharing the spotlight with her meek stepsister. She stomped up to Shadow, raised one of her front paws, and smacked her in the face. I watched Bandit as he watched this unfold. His eyes showed surprise, then disappointment, then trepidation. When Angie approached him, he backed away from her. She tried again, and he circled behind her and moved closer to Joe and Sylvia.

Poor Bandit was disillusioned. What he thought was a friendly cat had turned into a mean cat. Angie had done nothing to him, but he had seen how she treated Shadow. To be safe, he would have to avoid Angie.

Bandit, Joe, and Sylvia then went on a trip. When they next visited us a couple of months later, Angie acted like nothing had happened. Bandit was less apprehensive, but it was clear that he still remembered what he had seen. For now, their friendship is on hold.

Moral of the story:

A mean cat cannot be trusted. If she will smack someone else in the face without provocation, who is to say she won’t do the same to you or to another innocent creature? It is best to keep your distance from this type of person, regardless of its species.


Connections, Maples Style

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Holidays / Neighbors / Social Life

There’s no better time of year to celebrate connections than the holiday season. Physical connections, social connections, historical connections—all seem to carry more significance as we approach Christmas. And here at Maples at the Sonatas, we have our share of celebrating to do this year.

Physical connections first.

Our growing community is now connected in a new way: Our last street, Verdi, has joined Handel and Schumann as officially completed streets. The view, which not too long ago was this…


… is now this. (except for a lot of snow)


Social connections continue to grow.

Our hard-working social committee plans events to entertain us as well as to draw new residents into the group. Recently we have decorated our clubhouse, experienced our first paint ‘n’ sip, dined and shopped at Ladies Night Out on the Square, and welcomed the Woodstock North High School madrigal singers to perform. Below are just a few of the many photos Julie took at these events.


Historical connections matter too.

Here at the Maples, we are fortunate to be a new community within the confines of the historical town of Woodstock. Christmas lights draw us to visit our town square.


photo courtesy of Real Woodstock

And once there, we are reminded of our history. Our soon-to-be neighbor, Ken, took this shot of a more peaceful Square on Sunday.


This morning the Woodstock Public Library shared this 1860s photo of the Square.


It’s a lovely time of year to visit the Maples and Woodstock. Why not come and connect with us?

My Cubs Story

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Mostly Musings

For the past two months, I have wanted only to think or speak or write about two things: my mother’s death and the Chicago Cubs. I have talked a lot, maybe incessantly, about the Cubs, mainly because it’s easier on me and those around me to think about winning than dying.

In the quiet places of my heart, though, I will remember the summer-turned-fall of 2016 as the time that Mom slowly, painfully failed, while the Cubs surprisingly, joyously succeeded. I will look back on afternoons sitting by her side at the nursing home, torn between wanting to hold on to her and, for her own good, wanting to let her go. Those were the toughest afternoons of my life.

But then came the quiet evenings at home, when I would turn on the TV, pour a glass of wine, and watch the Cubs find another entertaining way to win a baseball game. And I would sip and breathe, breathe and sip as my pain eased.

It appears that I am far from alone in my mixed feelings. When Bryant fielded the ball and threw to Rizzo for the last out of game 7, euphoria ensued. But almost immediately, emotional fans were speaking of loved ones who had not lived to see the Cubs as world champions.

During the five days since the final game, many have returned to Wrigley Field to celebrate and to remember. Some of them recorded thoughts in chalk on the brick walls of the ballpark.


Others wrote stories and memories and tributes on social media. Facebook created a place called My Cubs Story for people to share their own experiences and read those of others. They are a poignant mix of happiness, sorrow, love, and, yes, death.


It was here that I found, in one sentence, everything I spent this entire post trying to say:

“If it wasn’t for my Cubs, I don’t think I would have made it. Phil DeNapoli

Tom’s Trail

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Nature / Neighbors / Pictures

My neighbor Tom prefers living off the beaten path—taking the road less traveled, if you will. Sometimes that even means constructing the trail himself. And that is fine with him.

He and Brenda moved into their Portico a year ago. Their Phase 3 lot nestles along the treeline at the edge of the Maples. A few steps beyond their courtyard is a low stone wall marking the line between our property and undeveloped land owned by the county. It is here that Tom built their own private pathway into nature.

On a recent sunny day, Tom invited me to walk his trail with him. I had no idea where the path led, how long it was, or where it would end. But this is where it begins, at the end of the wall.


With Tom leading the way, we walked the path that he had cleared himself. The first part looks like this.


Later you come out of the trees into this landscape.


Tom’s Great Dane, Tak, frolicked along with us.


The peace and beauty of the location made me feel like I was on away on vacation. In actual distance, though, we were never far from our community. This is the only glimpse I caught of the Maples, or of any inhabited land.


The trail ends here, with an invitation to sit and think.


After pausing to take in the view and to soak up some of nature’s beauty, we started back down the trail. This time I noticed that the views looking upward were as lovely as those looking straight ahead.


I caught this shot of Tom and Brenda’s home as we neared the end of the trail.


Then we were back, except for taking a minute to enjoy the flowers that Tom planted along the wall.


He is generous with his invitations to come walk his pathway. And fall is the perfect season to do it. Next time we have a sunny day, you might want to take a mini-vacation on Tom’s trail.