Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thanksgiving goes out in a Blaze

Okay, I’m going to set myself up for the “eyeroll” award by saying what happened to Thanksgiving?  But hey, really, doesn’t it seem as if Thanksgiving gets buried in the omnipresent Black Friday? It’s as if people have to stuff themselves to the gills, not because they’re thankful for the food but in a version of carb-loading for the big event. Apparently, it fuels them to fight the crowds for the Christmas present free-for-all.

I’ll let you in on a secret that I know from past retail experience and one which my retail sources will agree with: Those bargains you’ve just got to have? They’re going to be around for the next three weeks. Better bargains will be had.

But hey, who am I to criticize those who enjoy the day that is ALMOST as popular as the OSU/UM game? Almost.

So anyway, Thanksgiving was quiet this year…at least in my house. We tucked the Luginbill Farms turkey in the freezer for Christmas since there were only three of us, and instead had a Luginbill Farms chicken. I might be a bit biased, but those chickens are the best. So are the turkeys.

The highlight of the day was when my mother walked in the door with cranberry salad in one had and the ominous paper sack in the other hand. I think her eyes were glinting when she said, “I’ve decided it’s time to start getting rid of things.” (BTW, Mother, I’ll be reminding you of this statement.)

Inside her magic bag were six seed-pod turkeys, circa 1950, that had graced our Thanksgiving table throughout my childhood. Oddly, I’d never heard the story behind the turkeys. Turns out way back in the early years of my dad’s employment at Bluffton University, the faculty and staff were treated to Thanksgiving dinner. One year, my mom was in charge of decorations. Someone gave her a sack full of these seedpods that came from a tree (and she knows EXACTLY where the tree stood), so she and my two oldest brothers spent a day making these turkeys. Apparently, she thought I needed them now, but since I don’t want my brothers to feel left out, they’re each getting one for Christmas. Whoops, let that little surprise out of the bag. Oh well, they never read this.

On to Black Friday, which really didn’t exist in my world except for the fact that daughter number two texted me somewhere along the way to tell me that she’d completed her early morning shift…still alive and well. She actually volunteers to work at 6 a.m. Volunteers to work on Black Friday? Who does that?

I, on the other hand, honored Small Business Saturday one day early by shopping downtown Bluffton. Just the way I love it. Quiet. No crowds. No lines.

Then Saturday arrived. If you’re familiar with Bluffton’s Blaze of Lights, you know that this is the day that the population soars as parade-goers line the streets for our version of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. No giant cartoon characters and only one band, but it’s less about the actual parade entries than it is about the EVENT THAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PARADE. This is when the light switch is thrown and all the lights surrounding the Presbyterian Church lawn and the Christmas display come to life. Hence, THE BLAZE.

Okay, here’s my version of Saturday. Since my husband is the local Chamber CEO, he is in motion from about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. , making sure that everything happens as it should. Except for a 15-minute nap at 3 p.m., I don’t think he sat still for more than five minutes. Well, that’s not true. We did eat supper at the Senior Citizen’s Center in about 10 minutes. My only job was to make flags and earwarmers for the three recumbent trikes in our (Bluffton Icon) parade entry.

From left, Mary Steiner, Levi, Joseph and Lily Schumacher, Carrie Phillips, Mary Edmison

Well, that and make sure that I was wearing enough layers to offset the frigid air. You try riding a bike in four layers. It’s not easy.

And so Thanksgiving ended in a chilly Blaze. But wait until next year. The three of us tricyclists have big plans for our expanded participation in the Icon parade entry. Don’t miss it.


The cat who would be Queen

Peaches the cat, AKA The Queen, has done it again. At nearly 20 years of age, she has successfully proven that she still has the upper hand. Or the upper mouth, to be more specific.

Over the years, she has done a fairly decent job of being a cat, despite her tendency toward suggesting she is, in fact, human. Periodically, she chases down birds and rabbits, and deposits them like peace offerings on the front porch. On those days, she stands guard over her catch, meowing loudly to announce that she has done her catly duty.

Her first rabbit offering sent first one, then another, and finally a third, female gagging and stumbling onto the couch, at which time a certain male was summoned to dispose of her catch. She seemed a bit irked by our refusal to place a crown on her head, but dutifully went about formulating her next plan of attack.

Peaches in a rare mellow mood

Just for the record, I’d like to once more make it clear that I do not particularly like cats. Kittens, yes. If only they’d stay kittens. And again, I’m going to blame the addition of Peaches to the household on the Elder Daughter. Soon after we moved into this house almost 20 years ago, the cat showed up and we found Lindsay surreptitiously offering Kitty a bowl of milk. We all know what happens when one does that. So okay, the cat stayed and she’s still with us. She’s had more than her share of nine lives.

Anyway, a few years ago, she began showing signs of anxiety — in the form of loud, mournful howls. She’d stand outside the front door, bellowing until someone would let her in. Instead of hightailing it for the basement, her inside home, she would stalk through the house releasing an increasingly loud howl.

Off she went to the vet, who pronounced her in perfect health except for a bit of anxiety and/or dementia. Hence the howling. Little pink pills (dubbed “Kitty Prozac” by a certain family member) were dispensed. One a day should do the job. Easier said than done. We probably went through five pills before one finally went down her extremely angry throat. And yes, we’ve tried everything…hidden it in cheese and/or peanut butter, begged, cajoled, and… my personal favorite, one person to hold the cat still while the other risk life and limb to shove the pill to the back of her throat while blowing in her face to make her swallow. Here’s the problem. She has extremely sharp teeth and very strong jaws. It’s just not a pretty picture.

But eventually, we gave her a pill three days in a row, at which time she went into mellow mode and the howling ceased. For awhile. Not a long while, but awhile. Periodically, we yank out the pills and begin the routine over again.

So…last night the howling began. Here’s how loud it is. We can see the neighbors peering out their windows to see who is being persecuted. Then they call to see if she is okay. Read: Please tell your cat to shut up.

We tried. We really tried. We ended up with scratches on our hands and a very hairy pink pill clinging to a tiny bit of peanut butter. She managed to eat the rest of the PB. But guess what? She quit howling. It seems all we have to do now is dangle the pink pills in front of her and she gets the picture.

Good kitty. Good Queen Kitty.





A letter to The Queen

Dear Queen Liz,

Quite honestly, I’m not sure you’ll ever see this request, but maybe it will somehow work its way up through the ranks to your level. Maybe the consort to the consort to the consort of your consort’s consort will just happen upon my blog and send it your way. Who knows?

I know you’re a busy woman, what with choosing your bonnet for the day, celebrating Prince Wills’ recent engagement, and choosing which British subject to bestow with the title of knight. Which, by the way, brings me to my subject. Knightdom. Or Damedom. Or more specifically, “those who should be knighted or be named a dame”.

According to my sources, knights and dames are typically so named in recognition for “services rendered to society”. Apparently, those services are no longer necessarily martial in nature (i.e. the Sirs Elton John and Paul McCartney, and the Dames Judi Dench and Julie Andrews — my personal favorite, but that’s neither here nor there). What I can’t figure out is how and when you decide someone is deserving of such an honor and/or if your British subjects may submit nominees to such awards.

I am, of course, not British, although I have to say I adore British mysteries (P.D., Agatha, Dorothy, etc.). Just a side comment, there. Anyway, on the outside chance you have run out of folks to knight or dame, I’ve compiled my own list of nominees. This list took some careful consideration — usually during those morning runs when my mind was not preoccupied by the local black-bellied whistling duck and/or American Bald Eagle. Sorry to drop that reference to “American” but I don’t know if you Brits have your own eagle.

So here’s my short list, in no order of preference. Yes, I realize these folks are not British but let’s not quibble over formalities, and yes, some of these would be awarded — pardon the phrase — “post-mortem”.

*Lew Wallace (the inventor behind the snooze button)
*Corrine Boehr (just because she makes everyone feel they’re the most important person in the world)
*Meryl Streep (you know who she is — c’mon, you HAVE to have seen “Mamma Mia” since all those Brits danced and sang alongside her)
*M.C. Beaton (hey, she’s Scottish, and yes, I know that’s her pseudonym)
*Dr. Timothy Noakes (author of “The Lore of Running” — maybe you’re not a runner, but if you are, get a copy)
*Jeff Kantner (he owns our local hardware and can fix almost anything — including our staple gun)
*Gilda Radner (remember Roseanne Roseannadanna of SNL fame — surely she made even you crack a smile?)
*Tony Shalhoub, AKA Adrian Monk (if you knight him, I’ll convince JP and Tim to invite you to our Monk party)
*Maureen Dowd (read the NY Times — she proves just how far a degree in English lit can take you)
*John “The Penguin” Bingham, (for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his current status as national spokesperson for Team In Training

Please note that I’ve provided some live links to some of the nominees….just in case you need to check them out. So, I’ll leave it at that — don’t want to be a bore — but if you need more specifics and/or other suggestions, just give me a jingle.

Tally ho…’ta…cheerio,

Mary Pannabecker Steiner




On waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Here’s how my morning went. On my one day off from early morning aerobic activity, I woke up bright and early thanks to the fact that my body has not yet adjusted to the time change. So I fiddled around on the computer for awhile, baked some bread, and took Ike out for his morning constitutional.

At 9:15 a.m., I left Bluffton with my mom to meet with her surgeon. The appointment was scheduled for 9:50 a.m. Having been to this doc previously, as well as several others in the same practice, I was prepared for a wait. A long wait. But whoops…I forgot to warn Mother.

By 9:45 a.m., we were hunkered down in one of the 800 chairs in the largest waiting room in the world, completing at least 15 forms. Halfway through, we were summoned back to the reception desk, where the cheery woman reviewed what we had completed and hustled us off to waiting room number 2. Aha, I thought. Perhaps I was wrong and today there would be no wait.

Well. One can always hope. One hour later, I had finished two transcript evaluations, read through all of the course materials for my next round of teaching, and skimmed yet another article about Prince Wills and his new fiance — including the obligatory debate over the tackiness (or not) of giving her Lady Di’s engagement ring. Which, by the way, he lugged around in his “rucksack” for at least three weeks.

Beside me, Mother was engrossed in Sudoku. By contrast to our relative relaxed moods, the tension in the room was palpable, as the others compared what time their appointments were and who’d been waiting longest. Two hours and 32 ounces of water later, I’d made four trips to the restroom, one to the car, and was beginning to eye the vending machines.

Then I took a nap. Mother took a nap. Oddly, the two of us were more relaxed that anyone else.  One guy stood up and said “I’m going to take care of this,” headed for the door to the inner sanctum, but was quickly ushered back by an irritated staff member. So much for taking care of it. Finally, the room began to thin out as one person came out and the next went in.

When they finally called us, we were both so startled we didn’t respond immediately. When we entered the examining room, the poor med assistant eyed us warily and asked if we planned to yell at her, too. Apparently, she’d already gone several rounds with irate patients. Lucky for her, we had nowhere to be — other than work — so I assured her I didn’t plan on yelling.

Couldn’t speak for my mom. I learned long ago not to speak for her. She’s pretty good at doing that by herself. Oddly, she too must have been feeling mellow, because her only comment was that she hoped the wait wasn’t indicative of how long she’d have to wait for surgery. Gotta say, it was a well-aimed bit of sarcasm but didn’t quite hit its mark.I think the woman was more than eager to turn us over to her boss.

Waiting is one thing. Pain is another thing, and it’s rarely acceptable. After all, at 88, a quilter, pianist, computer buff, and genealogist with a lot of paperwork waiting, my mom has little patience for the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. Which, of course, she made perfectly clear to the surgeon. He assured her he’d rid her of the pain. When?

Well, there’s the rub. She’ll have to wait her turn. Again.


Two girls, a boy and three dogs = happy chaos

Chaos reigns once again in the Steiner abode. Well, actually chaos really only reigns when three dogs are in one room at the same time. And it’s a good chaos, unless you’re worried that one dog will take a bit out of the other. Which, I’ve been told, will happen if one particular dog is without her muzzle.

Hence, we have one dog with muzzle and two muzzle-free. Here’s just a brief visual of how this is working out….or not.

Yesterday morning daughter #1 and her guy, Eric, arrived with both of their dogs, Harvey and Luna. An odd cross between a black lab and a dachshund, Harvey is happy galoot who cheerfully tolerates nearly everything, including being chewed on by a 14-pound Schnauzer. He actually used to live here, so this is really his second home.

Luna, on the other hand, isn’t so cheerful. But that might be because she’s been holed up in the bedroom most of the weekend. Luna is a gangly, three-year-old yellow lab mix, with a certain amount of what Eric’s dad terms “paranoia”. I think he might be right. Actually, she’s a sweet thing until she spies the 14-pound Schnauzer. Ike thinks Luna is just another dog to play with, so he becomes a quivering mass of excitement. This is when the muzzle comes in handy.

So today, Ike gets to go visit Grandma P., where he will be thoroughly spoiled. This will allow Luna to roam our house freely for awhile, and all of us can breathe equally freely. No one will have to run through the house yelling for one or the other dog to stay put.

When daughter #2 arrives tonight, Ike will happily hunker down with her. He’s still a bit miffed that he had to sleep with us (as usual) rather than spending the night with Lindsay, Eric and the other dogs. How do you explain to a dog that one girl, one boy, and three dogs don’t fit on a futon? Actually, I’m not sure how that works with two dogs.

At the moment, all is quiet. Harvey has settled in for a snooze in a sunny spot in the family room, where Eric is reading. Ike is sleeping (don’t tell Grandma) on his new favorite spot…the settee. Lindsay and Luna are sequestered in the bedroom where one is (purportedly) grading papers, and the other is probably sleeping.

Where’s Fred in all this? Where else? In his basement office…maybe working. More likely, he’s using that as a ruse to avoid the fray upstairs.

Now. All. Is. Quiet. What worries me is that saying…something about the “quiet before the storm”.


Amazing voices: Duck whistles and gospel singing

This week I’ve heard two amazing voices. Each voice is unique and beautiful.

I heard the first one during my Monday morning run in the dark. As I ran around the Buckeye, I heard a bird whistle that was completely unfamiliar. Oddly, I thought the bird was on the water rather than in a nearby tree. Puzzled over that all the way home. I told my husband about the new bird I’d heard. His response? “Oh, that’s the duck!” A duck? Sometimes my husband tells me “stories” (read: lies) so I was skeptical.

But this time he was telling the truth. Somehow I’d missed the article on our news site, The Bluffton Icon, where Linda Houshower had reported seeing a black bellied whistling duck. According to Linda, this duck has only been seen in the state four or five times. It usually lives in Texas, Florida and Louisiana., but somehow it must have blown off course and ended up in Bluffton, Ohio. It’s tiny by comparison to the other ducks and geese nearby, and has a distinctive orange bill. And if you’re lucky, it’ll whistle for you. My husband videotaped it (see the video on the righthand column of the Icon), but the duck must have been tired of whistling. If you listen to the video carefully, you can hear tiny squeaks every now and then. We went back down the next day and he whistled for us. Seems to be happy hanging out with the big ducks and geese.

Last night, a second voice caught my attention. Actually, when Dr. Crystal Sellers sings, everyone listens — even young children. Crystal, a music prof at Bluffton University, was the featured entertainment during the intergenerational program at First Mennonite’s weekly First Night. Not only can Crystal sing, she’s also pretty good as a stand-up comedienne. She began the evening singing a few traditional hymns, then explained out she “found my voice”.

She grew up singing gospel music in a Pentecostal church. Her dad was the pastor and also a gospel singer. During high school, she discovered classical music and at the suggestion of her music teacher headed to Bowling Green State University to study classical voice. She explained her ongoing struggle with being told she had to choose between classical and gospel.

When her dad died, she put gospel singing on the back burner, saying that was her way of dealing with his death. She focused on classical, but somehow the pull of gospel music was too strong so she secretly joined the BG gospel choir. It wasn’t a secret for long, because she appeared on the front page of the BG News with the gospel choir. Again, she was told she had to choose between gospel and classical. When she entered graduate school, she decided that was it. Gospel was out. Classical was in. And that was that. Until the day a graduate prof suggested she embrace both classical and gospel — a novel idea, thought Sellers.

And that, as she says, is “How I found my voice.” Her voice is well-suited to both styles, as she proved by finishing the night’s entertainment with an old gospel favorite.

This morning, as I passed by the Buckeye again, I listened carefully for the whistle of the little duck. He must have been sleeping along with the rest of the ducks. Not a whistle or a quack or a honk.

I wonder what would happen if Crystal stood near the little whistling duck and introduced him to her gospel/classical voice. Would they end up singing together?

Note: If you want to hear Crystal sing, don’t miss the Bluffton University Gospel Choir concert Saturday, Nov. 13; her brother will be playing drums.