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When I was a kid, it seemed as if my parents were always doing something new to the house or yard. As I got older, I wondered if they’d ever stop. Would there ever come a time when all of … Continue reading

Tschantz-Pannabecker “Friendship Quilt” on display at Sonnenberg

Much as I hate to admit this, I guess I’ve inherited yet another trait from my parents –difficulty parting with “things”. Over the past few years, though, I’ve begun to whittle away at this extra stuff…piece by piece.

When my mom moved from her condo to an independent living apartment, she was forced to downsize her belongings. A few years earlier, she’d created a written inventory of what she owned, listing the provenance of antiques and other valuable items.

She provided us with the list and asked us to indicate which items we’d most like to have. Amazingly, between my four brothers and I, and our spouses, children and grands, there were no real arguments over who would get what. Each of the grandkids seemed to have a special affinity for specific items, often stemming from some childhood incident involving Grandma and/or Grandpa.

There were, of course, some family heirlooms, including some quilts, several of which most of us had rarely — if ever — seen, and some of which we didn’t know even existed.

One of the quilts had belonged to our paternal grandmother, Sylvia Tschantz Pannabecker, who taught school at Boone School in Wayne County, Ohio. The hand-embroidered “Friendship Quilt” was made by her students in the class of 1912-1914. In 1931, it was presented to my grandmother when she and Grandpa and their family returned to the United States while on furlough from their mission post in China.

About a year ago, a board member of the Kidron (Ohio) Sonnenberg Heritage Center, asked whether I would be willing to lend the quilt to them for one of their exhibits.

Like my dad, I don’t make decisions quickly or easily, and turning over something of such sentimental value brought out a part of me that I didn’t recognize. I needed to know whether it would be protected from harsh lighting, secure, and most of all, that it would someday be returned — intact — to my family.

Because truthfully, I didn’t see it as mine to give away. My grandmother had kept it safe for all those years before turning it over to my parents. Mother had eventually hung it for display so that others could enjoy it.

Turning it over to virtual strangers wasn’t easy. I consulted with my sister-in-law, director of Kauffman Museum in North Newton, Kansas, because she has expertise with similar exhibits and dealing with donors/lenders of family heirlooms.

Suddenly, I realized I was making this way too hard on myself. If a quilt wasn’t made to be used on a bed, then there must be another reason for its existence. Like a painting or sculpture, this quilt is a piece of art — one that deserves to be enjoyed by many.

And so today, my grandmother’s quilt, is hanging on display at the Sonnenberg. If you’re in the Kidron area, stop by to enjoy this piece of Tschantz-Pannabecker history.

Hand-painted eggs recall long-gone grandmother

Coloring eggs at Easter probably ranks up there in popularity with icing sugar cookies around Christmas time. When you color eggs with young children, it can get a little messy. I wonder how many dozen eggs my mom must have prepared when all five of her kids were determined to color an equal number of eggs.

Last year, I pilfered onion skins from the grocery store so I could dye my eggs in them. The woman checking us out looked at me kind of strangely when I she picked up a plastic bag with one onion surrounded by loose skins. I just smiled. She shrugged. Those turned out beautifully, especially when I did brown eggs — they looked like chocolate.

Here it is Saturday, the day before Easter, and we haven’t given much thought to Easter prep. No little girls around to sew new dresses for, no adult children home to color eggs with, no relatives to cook for. So feeling a little sad, I began rooting around for something I knew would brighten up the house.

The painted eggs. These are not just any old painted eggs. These eggs were painted by my husband’s grandmother, Bertha Hahn.


I should explain that I never knew her well; in fact my only personal conversation with her occurred when I was about eight years old and somehow my older brothers had bribed me to do their newspaper “collecting”. All I remember is that my mom sat in the car while I went to the door to collect Mrs. Hahn’s weekly payment. She came to the door with her dress unbuttoned, revealing a laced-up garment. I grabbed her money and ran to the car, completely perplexed. My mom explained the intricacies of the old-fashioned corset.

So, later in life, when I married my husband, I heard stories about his grandmother — most of which explained the corset. But I also learned that she was an artist. On our first Easter together, he pulled out the most beautifully painted tiny eggs I’d ever seen. These were nothing like the dyed eggs of my childhood.

Apparently, each year, she painted eggs for her grandchildren. She raised Bantams, so some of the eggs are very tiny. How she managed to do this without breaking them is beyond me. It had to have taken much patience. (I know this isn’t easy because one year my husband and daughters attempted this.)


According to my husband, she first inserted a needle in the egg, broke the yolk and then blew out the egg. She then painted each in a solid color. When they were dry, she used a tiny brush to paint flowers, bunnies, and crosses. Each egg includes the child’s name, the year, and often a Bible verse.

Maybe painting eggs like this was a local Swiss tradition. Whatever….while we may not be coloring eggs this year, we’ve got a bowlful of beautiful eggs that easily rival any Ukrainian pysanky.


A vision in periwinkle, her sidekick in blue

Formal photos have never been my idea of fun. Having to smile for a photographer telling me to say inane things like “Dad has stinky feet” only make me cringe. Next to me, my husband is wincing, his irritation obvious.

The result? Fake smiles.

But it was inevitable that the church directory would once again rear its ugly head. We’d suggested to my mom that the three of us have our photo taken together. That was really the best part of it. Well, that and the conversations that ensued while waiting for the shoot to begin.

Some of my favorite people were there, some coordinating the session, others waiting for their own photo.

One of them sat quietly in her wheelchair, waiting to be photographed with her husband. She was a white-haired vision in periwinkle. Long ago, Mary and I had worked together when she and her husband were trusted volunteers at the nonprofit retail store that I managed. Mary’s personal mix of kindness and humor made even my worst days manageable.

Sitting there in her wheelchair, looking down, she seemed not to sense the others around her, so I bent over, hugged her and told her she was as beautiful as ever. She looked up at me, smiled slightly and then I saw it. That twinkle in her eye. It was still there. Relief flooded my mind. She might not talk much, but she could still communicate with her eyes.

If she could sit through a canned photo session, then by golly, so could I. As Mary and her husband entered the temporary photo studio, I wondered how she would react to the photographer’s antics. Would she be willing to look at him? Would she understand his directions?

The protective part of me wanted to run in there and fill him in on her history…that she’d once been a music teacher. That she had a beautiful singing voice. That — even after years of marriage — she still laughed at her husband’s crazy jokes. That she wasn’t just a woman in a wheelchair. He needed to understand that this wasn’t just anyone and he needed to can his goofy phrases and instead give her the royal treatment that she so deserved.

But I didn’t say a word. I was pretty sure Mary didn’t need my help. After all, she had her Claude. And more than anyone, he would know how to engage her in their photo session. He probably whispered one of his silly jokes in her ear.

She in her periwinkle, he in his blue shirt…I’ll bet it turns out to be the perfect photo.




Constant practice makes a good loser

I lose things. Constantly. Sometimes I find them, sometimes not. Sometimes I replace the lost item and find the old one months later. I find some comfort in realizing that this is not a new (i.e. older-age) problem. It’s been ongoing since childhood.

My mom is still laughing over the memory of me diving into the Buckeye Quarry with my glasses on. Someday a giant trout will appear at the annual derby wearing a pair of tortoise shell glasses.

Periodically, one of my daughters will call and tell me she’s lost something. I suspect she is looking for sympathy but all I can do is laugh. It must be genetic. I wonder if my brothers lose things as often as I do? Of course, they’d never tell me so I might have to ask their wives. They’ll tell me.

Here’s the thing. When it’s something of little value or can easily be replaced/remade (i.e., a grocery list), there’s little angst involved. But since most of what I tend to lose is not so easily replaceable or something I need immediately (i.e., the car keys), well, you can imagine the scene.

This is when I start throwing things around, pulling things out of drawers, digging through pockets, searching under the seats of the cars, and generally causing havoc around the house. It isn’t pretty. Except maybe for my husband. He just ignores me and pretends to be immersed in some activity, probably smirking inwardly.

So…just for the record, I thought I’d list the things I’ve lost over the past month. If I can just remember…those little gray cells often fail me these days.

1.) Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap — last I saw it was on Feb.1 when I packed it in the duffle I was taking to Cincy. When we got ready to run, it was nowhere in sight. This is not a good thing when running on hills. Now, 10 days later, I still haven’t found it. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t already lost two of them. So…now another is on order.

2.) Cell phone — Okay, truthfully, I lose this at least once a day. Usually, it just involves tracking down my husband’s phone and calling myself. He loses his more often than I do, so he has a little more sympathy for me when this happens.

3.) The car. Yep. Again, this happens on a regular basis…usually in large parking lots that don’t have helpful numbered aisle markers. This week, this involved my rental — a silver Chevy Cruze. There seems to be an inordinate number of silver automobiles of this size. Of course, it was dark and the lot wasn’t well-lit so that didn’t help matters. I had to quell my rising panic that someone had stolen it, while I walked up and down the rows until I finally saw the telltale license plate frame of Stratton Auto.

4.) Debit card. I know…everyone loses those. But this was really bugging me. I’d used it the night before, so it had to be somewhere…which is what I say about everything I lose. Debit/credit cards are scarier, though, because of the frighteningly obvious concerns of them falling into the wrong hands. Usually, when this happens, you have to call the bank quickly and let them deal with it. This time, though, I finally remembered that I’d stuck it in the inside pocket of my coat…so I wouldn’t lose it. Of course.

5.) Two — not one, but two — diamond solitaires. Not the actual ring…just the stone. The first disappeared on a dark and stormy night on a gravel drive. The second disappeared about 25 years later on a bright, sunny day. Both involved calls to insurance companies. Learned my lesson. Gave up on diamonds and replaced it with a genuine peridot.

6.) Library book on CD. I have the final CD…just can’t find the other six and their box. This could be costly. And much as I love Stuart Woods, I can only listen to Stone Barrington’s fascinating conclusion  so many times.

7.) A student’s folder. This happens once in awhile, but  it’s not always my fault. Sometimes they get misfiled. But this usually happens when I have a meeting with said student in about 30 minutes.  Which, by the way, has already happened today.

I wonder if it’s bad luck to admit that I lose things? Probably not. It would probably happen just as often if I never told anyone. But I’d better quit while I’m ahead. Besides, I’ve got to head off to that meeting. Now….if I can just find that Prius smart key fob. Anyone seen this?


Finding some beauty in a dreary Ohio January

Ohio is experiencing yet another random January. Snow one day, rain  the next; 10 degrees one day, 50 the next. And so it goes. Typical Ohio weather.

Every year, people comment on how strange this winter is and the usual contention is that it is all the result of global warming — which is no doubt true. Those of us who are at least 40 years old will swear that we had a LOT more snow in our childhoods than our children have ever seen.

I distinctly remember clearly 29 years ago, just six years after New Jersey scientist Wally Broecker coined the term, “global warming”. It was early February, because daughter number one was just one month old. She and I ventured out for a walk on a sunny, balmy day — I wore shorts and a t-shirt, she in a light sleeper and tucked into the Snugli.

The truth is, Ohio winters can be very dreary. Sunny days are few and far between. SAD is a common phenomena, so the sale of “happy lights” increases in winter time. In fact, as I write this, my SunTouch is cranked up on high.

Surprisingly, I woke up this morning to sun shining in the window. Five hours later, it has disappeared behind a bank of clouds threatening us with some sort of precipitation. But for the few hours that the sun was out, it was glorious.

Sunday is a day off from running, so I opted for a walk through Motter Metropark, a small park on the edge of town. It’s about two miles in length, and rambles through former farmland and a small woods.

The higher parts of the trail are frozen but at the lower end, one has to walk carefully, hopping chunks of dirt to avoid wet feet — a thin layer of ice covers large areas of standing water.

It occurred to me that although we often view this time of year as dreary with little color dotting the landscape, it’s also good to remember that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” My friend, Joanne, commented that she has snowdrops blooming. Though I didn’t see any signs of those tiny white flowers, I decided to focus on what signs of beauty dot our landscape. Here are some examples:

An adventure in leaky pipes

This may be difficult to believe, but it appears I have proven my worth as a plumber. Because according to journalist and humorist Arthur “Bugs” Baer, “A plumber is an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source.”

And that folks, is exactly what I have done this week. If I have done nothing else of importance this week, I have indeed traced a leaky pipe to its source and wonder of wonders, I have conquered the leaky pipe…at least temporarily.

I really can’t take all the credit for this. After all, I wasn’t even aware that we had a leaking pipe until “Little-Miss-I’m-Trying-to-Avoid-Course-Planning” went on a reorganization/cleaning spree of our kitchen and laundry room during her Christmas break. It was she who discovered the leak.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Daughter number 1: “Mom, did you know that there is a leak in the laundry room?
Me: “Of course, I knew it. Cold air has been sneaking through the window seals since we bought the house.”
Daughter number 1: (Eye roll) “No, mom, not an air leak. There’s water on the floor.”

Oh. That. Well. Yes, I guess that would indicate a leak. Naturally, I did what any other homeowner would do: called in the big guns. As in THE PLUMBER. Unfortunately, since I couldn’t honestly classify it as an emergency, I had to settle for an appointment sometime in the next millenium. Actually, that’s an exaggeration. But a week away might as well be in the next millenium.

So as daughter number 1 headed off to her real world of researching her dissertation, she reminded me that we should probably find a temporary fix for the dreaded leaky pipe.

I tried to forget the problem but when my husband made the comment that “At least we know why the water bill is so high”, I realized it was time to do something. My Dick-Pannabecker-do-it-yourself genes kicked into full gear. Peering behind the washing machine, I found one hose dripping at the point where it connects to the washer. That was the easy part.

Armed with duct tape, a heavy strength two-gallon freezer bag, I went to work. The hubs cut strips of duct tape as I fit the freezer bag under and around the hoses and then taped them into place. (I may have to buy stock in duct tape after this week.)

Then I folded the  bag into a cone shape and added more duct tape. I placed a large wastebasket underneath the tip of the bag. Finally, I snipped a small hole at the point of the bag and water began streaming into the wastebasket.

Amazing what a little duct tape and ingenuity can do. Nine hours later, the wastebasket was half full of water. Too bad it isn’t gardening season — it would have been useful for watering the garden.

I’m trying to decide whether to make myself scarce or hang around when the plumber arrives. Maybe he’ll offer me a job. Probably not. I probably shouldn’t give up my day job…yet.

Tanked economy limits found currency

2011 wasn’t a good year for found money, at least in comparison to the last four years. Guess the tanked economy made people more careful about picking up coins when they dropped them on the street.

Ever since some friends admitted that they don’t allow themselves to end their daily walk until they’ve found at least one penny, we’ve adhered to the same rule. Most of the time, it works out. Sometimes, we have to give up and come home empty-handed.

This can be a dangerous practice because you spend a lot of time looking down, hoping to catch a glimpse of something shiny…and you tend to forget that other people are walking on the same sidewalk until you run into them…literally. It’s even more dangerous if the coin is in the street. Of course, this becomes even dicier if you’re riding a tandem and the front rider is the person who spends more time watching for money than oncoming cars. But let’s not go there…

So for the record, here’s the count of found money in the five years we’ve been doing this:

2007  $22.19
2008  $23.07
2009  $12.25
2010  $27.80
2011  $9.01

Also found this year, but not added to the count for obvious reasons were these three “coins”. We’re still puzzling over these:

A gold-colored coin the size of a dime that reads “Napoleon Empire”, a nickle-sized dirty coin that says “Ruhl’s Bakery” on one side and “Good for one loaf bread” on the other side, and finally, another nickle-sized pewter colored coin that bears a number “1” and reads “Missouri Sales Tax Receipt”. Your guess is as good as mine, but since the family numismatist hasn’t squirreled them away, their countenance is suspect.

So okay…our next dinner out will more likely be Wilson’s than Panera or the more electic Melt in Cincinnati’s Northside. But hey, it’s still a free dinner.

Bring on 2012 — perhaps a better year for finding loose coins and maybe some more paper currency.

Go ahead…outsource your resolutions…just don’t expect me to

A friend recently challenged everyone to admit what percentage of their 2011 resolutions they’d managed to meet. Problem was, I couldn’t even remember what I might have resolved, so I had to backtrack through my blogs until I found my answer. I didn’t make any. Well, technically, I didn’t make any although there was a short list of resolutions I’d have made if I were a resolution maker. Oddly, I actually fulfilled a few of those non-resolutions.

An article in the Dec. 27, 2011 Wall Street Journal suggested that we’re more likely to stick to our resolutions if we outsource them. No, not to Mexico. To a friend or relative. One woman and her son began doing this 10 years ago when he was 12. Apparently, they’ve had some success.

Here’s the problem. If I ask my husband to make my resolutions for me, I’m pretty sure they’ll be things I don’t want to do, like cut back on running, sleep in more often, quit worrying. You get the picture. On the other hand, if I were to make his resolutions, they’d probably be greeted with about as much enthusiasm. So I guess we’ll skip the outsourcing this year.

If you think about it, the best resolutions to make are ones that you’re pretty sure you can stick to. This is probably cheating, but hey, who cares? For example, resolve to eat more dark chocolate. This works especially well if you already love dark chocolate. It contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, which protect the body from aging caused by free radicals — the stuff that causes damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains something like eight times the number of antioxidants in strawberries. So…just in case you want to stock up now, I recommend Poco Dolce bittersweet chocolate bars with sea salt.

But as I said last year, I don’t make resolutions. But if I did, here’s what I would resolve:

1.) Keep a running journal to track how many miles I put in over 12 months. In more than 35 years of running, I’ve never done this. Truthfully, I’m not at all good at journaling, so this will be a tough one.

2.) Eat more dark chocolate. Hey, it sounds good to me.

3.) Write real letters. On paper. With a pen. And mail them. Just doing my part to support the U.S. Postal Service even as it threatens to yet again close another regional center.

Okay, that’s it. I’m stopping with three. I already know I’m going to get a good start on the mileage tracking since my New Year’s Eve plan is to join more than 300 other runners at the

Starting lineup at the 2008 Midnight Special

11th annual Midnight Special 5K in Whitehouse. All I have to do is figure out how far I have left to run at midnight and I’ll have my first mileage to record.

If I celebrate with some dark chocolate at the finish line, I’ll already have two resolutions already underway and it’ll only be 10 minutes into 2012. Good thing I didn’t resolve to get to bed earlier, because I’ll have blown that idea right away.

On losing things and diamond rings

Well, it’s happened again. I’ve lost another diamond. Okay, so I have a habit of losing things — earrings, socks, pens, chocolate (really), even a pair of running shoes (which I did find the next day 60 miles from home). But a diamond? Maybe others don’t find this so unusual, but I don’t know any other women who have lost the diamond out of their engagement ring….twice.

The first time this happened was about 25 years ago. It was a dark and stormy night, and we’d just arrived at our cabin in Port Clinton. With the girls tucked into their beds, Fred and I went back to unload the rest of the car. As I slammed the trunk of the car shut, my ring caught on the lock. No big deal, right? Wrong. We stumbled back through the rain and gravel into the cabin, where I discovered my ring intact on my finger, the prongs on the setting looking as though someone had pried them apart with pliers. No diamond.

Eight sleepless hours later, we began the search through the gravel parking area. Ever try to find a diamond in what seemed like a field of stones? Not even Lindsay –who at age 3 1/2 had the uncanny ability to find everything I’d ever hidden from her — was unable to spot it. We finally gave up, somewhat reassured by the reminder that our insurance would cover it. Three days later, we returned home, pulled out the insurance policy. No coverage. Technically, our insurance expert had failed to add the rider.

Disgusted, I turned down Fred’s offer to buy a new diamond. At that stage in life, I didn’t think it would be the same. Instead, I suggested we change insurance agents.

Over the years, we eyed rings in jewelry stores but always walked away with the thought that the money could be put to a better use. Then about eight years later, we both agreed it was time to get a new ring, so we spent time looking at options. In the end, we picked out one that was identical to the original — a simple solitaire. It was perfect.

About five years ago, we had the stone reset in a wider, comfort band with a better fit.

All was well…until a few days ago. The ring seemed to be scratching me, but I was busy and didn’t bother looking at it. Midday, walking through a parking lot, I happened to look down and thought something looked strange. I held my ring finger up to my face. I squinted, wondering if my eyes had gotten worse again. I touched my finger to the top of the prongs. Dang. No diamond. Gone again. I thought back to all the places I’d been that day — it could be anywhere, back home on the floor, in my office on campus, in my off-campus office in Findlay…in the middle of any of the parking lots I’d been in.

It wasn’t in the car. That I’m sure of. I remember sitting there, stunned, wondering how this could happen twice in 31 years. How is it my mom still has her original diamond ring, probably her original iron and toaster, and I’ve been through two diamonds and a zillion irons. But I digress.

This time, though, our insurance provider had us covered. In fact, today I received a call that a check would be in the mail.

Despite that, I’m not sure I want another diamond. Maybe another stone would stick around longer.

Ask me in five years.