Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PIKS: People I Know Series 003: Brian

Our friend Brian agreed to write for my PIKS series.  I met Brian over 10 years ago when Mike introduced him as one of the band members.  One of my earliest memories of Brian was when I asked him to play one of my favorite Neil Young songs, and he picked up the guitar and played it flawlessly.  He is certainly one of the most talented guitar players I know.

Since I moved to Indy I've spent more time with Brian and his wife Stacy, and I've learned more about his caring, generous, thoughtful and spiritual nature.  He is a person of strong values and convictions, and these are apparent in how he lives life. 

And then there is a crazy side as well.  Brian is quick to crack a joke and find humor in the mundane.  And you never know what to expect when he shows up at our Halloween parties.  One of the most memorable times was when Stacy and Brian showed up as Sonny and Cher.  Our friends still talk about those costumes...

Cher and Sonny

1.     When and where were you born?

I was born in November 1956 in Marion, IN.

2.     What is your first, most vivid memory?

I remember watching my brother Robin (3 years my elder) walk home from kindergarten. We lived across the street from an elementary school and I was standing on the couch looking out through the picture window. He was wearing a red and black winter coat and hat and there was snow on the ground. I think he was carrying his books or a folder.

Brian and Robin
Relaxing at grandma's house

3.     What were you like as a child?  What did you do for fun? 

Very young I was quite mild, afraid of many things, and a momma’s boy. As I grew I loved to listen to music (all kinds) and play records, collect Hot Wheels cars, read comic books (ghost-story type, sci-fi, and Archie and his friends), use telescopes, microscopes and chemistry sets. I learned and became quite proficient on trombone and later guitar. I was quite a baseball pitcher in Little League and I learned to throw curve balls, sliders, (including an incredible drop ball due to my double-jointed wrist) and knucklers at an early age with the help of Robin. I loved shooting hoops, playing pool and spending a great deal of time with my neighbor, Steve .   Steve and I played lots of board games and made up our own games (and language - Terititilian) as well. We rode bikes, watched WAY TOO MUCH daytime game shows on TV (Dating Game, Newlywed Game, etc.) and loved listening to The Beatles, especially on Chuck’s (Steve’s oldest brother) Zenith Circle-of-Sound stereo.

             4.   Who is/was the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about them?)

My paternal grandfather, Raymond was born in 1892. He fought in the infantry in WWI and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained from mustard gas poisoning. He was a gentle man that worked very hard after the war at a foundry until he retired. He was a White Sox fan and had a great garden full of vegetables and flowers. He played cards, made homemade plum wine (very sweet), and loved English tea. He taught Robin and me how to play cribbage, which I still play to this day.
Grandma and Grandpa 

5.     Describe your parents.  What were they like? Where did they meet?
Mom came from a family of ten. Her father was a carpenter/mason, and her mother looked after the home. Mom's family didn't have running water in the house and their bathroom was an outhouse. Mom learned to cook, clean and wash, and care for infants when she was quite young. As the oldest daughter, she literally took care of her younger siblings. Even by the time she was a senior in high school, mom had very few clothes. Mom's family may have been monetarily poor, but they were quite rich with love. Mom passed her capacity for love to my Robin and me.

Conversely, dad was an only child. As stated above, his father was a handyman/laborer and a veteran of WWI. His mom was also a laborer (worked in a casting factory), so they both always worked. Dad was an outgoing (some would say wild) kid who enlisted in the Army Air Corps before Pearl Harbor. After the war, he took advantage of the GI bill and earned a B.S. degree in teaching. Later he would receive a M.S. degree in counseling from Notre Dame. My dad was a coach, a teacher, and a counselor and friend to thousands of kids during his long working career. My brother and I were both active in athletics due to our dad’s influence. Dad gave me the ability to see that everyone had a story worth hearing, and a need worth helping. He was constantly being stopped to chat by neighbors and friend at the store.

Mom and dad were both from Marion and dad was a friend with my mom’s older brothers, so they knew each other growing up. Both of my parents (like their parents before them) worked very hard but enjoyed living. They all taught me that there is absolutely no substitute for hard work, as long as it was good work. Finding the best work was considered a goal.
Mom and dad loved music, cookouts, sports, cards, board games, and an occasional cocktail with friends after one of dad’s basketball games. I remember being in a home filled with good food, friends, high school students, basketball players, and laughter.
Mom and Dad
6.     What was the best gift you remember as a child?

I received a lot of gifts that were wonderful, but the best had to be my first real guitar (my first was really bad!). I can’t remember what brand it was but it was an acoustic that was very hard to fret and wouldn’t stay in tune. I played it all the time until I traded up for one that I bought with money earned while teaching guitar in high school (a Yamaha 12-string). My folks bought me a Martin D-35 after my first year of college at Purdue. That was the best!
Brian playing his Martin D-35
7.     What did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut! But when I learned about the physical requirements (especially the rotating G-force machine that made you extremely dizzy; I suffered from motion sickness as a kid), I asked some questions. I was told that people who design and build the rockets were engineers. So I started to think about engineering. My neighbor Chuck was an engineering student at Purdue and that also influenced me, especially due to the work-study (Co-Op) program he participated in with Rockwell International in L.A. in the late 60s. I also knew engineers made good money!

8.     Describe your first job.  What did you do with your first paycheck?

My first jobs were mowing lawns. Then I moved on to mowing a large cemetery. When the mower broke down my boss would find me at the truck stop playing pinball! In high school I taught guitar and worked at a farm market. Not sure what I did with my pay (probably bought records or musical gear). My last two summers I convinced my parents that I needed to practice basketball, which I did with kids from all around LaPorte and Michigan City.

9.     What have you liked best about your life so far?  What is your happiest or proudest moment?

Not sure there is any single moment. I am very blessed to have come from such a loving family and I have navigated my way through some fairly ambivalent times, where I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, or what I wanted to do. I liked so many things, but didn’t have a strong passion for any of them. Music? Engineering? Nothing? Getting married to my first wife Martha and starting a family with three great kids was exhilarating and challenging.  And I have had some professional moments that were very rewarding. Creating, playing, and recording music has also been very fulfilling, too. Finding love again in Stacy Jo has been a Godsend, as well as taking my next steps in my walk with Christ.
Jordan, Anna and Kathleen
10. What has been the most frustrating thing or biggest challenge in your life

      I saw my divorce as a personal failure and it hurt terribly. Fortunately, Martha and I strived to put our children’s needs first after the separation. They prospered even though the marriage failed. We make it work regardless of the challenge.

1         11. What job did you do most of your life?  What did you like most about it?? Least?

I worked for Eli Lilly and Company for nearly 33 years and retired last year. I held several different positions in engineering, HR, manufacturing, and Elanco (their animal health division). What I most liked about Lilly were the people who helped mold me into who I am now and the variety of jobs one could perform. The company pays well, has great benefits, and invests in training and learning. If I had to say what I liked least it was that there was really no connection to music.

12. If we asked a relative or good friend about your best and worst qualities, what would they say?

Best qualities would be listening, understanding, helping, and problem solving. Worst qualities might be passivity, conflict avoidance, and ambivalence. Those closest to me might also say that I don’t routinely express my thoughts or opinions routinely.

13. What do you do for fun now?  Hobbies? Special Interests?

I love cooking, entertaining, playing golf, listening to music, playing instruments, traveling, spending time with family, and relaxing. I also like playing video poker and chess, and reading for pleasure. I am fascinated by history.
 Brian relaxing?

14. What one item in your life would you never give up?  Why?
Probably my Martin guitar, or my collection of Beatles LPs.

1           15.  What frightens you? Why?

Not too much, really, give that many things frightened me when I was young (the dark, bad storms, bugs). Today, I guess I am most frightened by sin and its devastating effect on all of us. My mind is very creative and I can think of horrific scenarios involving my family and friends that are too gruesome to describe.

16. What is the best advice your parents gave you?

Work and save. It’s not what you make but what you keep. Pretty simple advice but it can be quite uncommon with my peers.

17. What’s your best advice for living a good life?

Life is difficult so get used to it and carry on. Have faith in something greater than yourself. Focus on the needs of others and you will be fulfilled. Love is all you really need. Have fun and laugh.

You can read other PIKS articles here:  PIKS 001: Diane and PIKS 002: Mike.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer time fun

Feasting on a flower
Despite all the rain, we are enjoying the summer.

Empty Ritter's cup

First there was National Ice Cream Day, and we were forced to eat ice cream!

Does not contain real bacon, hence the "baconesque"

And then I read about the newest junk foods, and we were forced to try bacon flavored popcorn.  It was a little strange at first, but it quickly became addictive!

Summer means festival time, and we spent an afternoon at our church's annual festival.

It seemed strange to have carnival rides next to the church...

Kevin and Mike cooling off

And we finally got to enjoy our friends' pool on a hot summer day. It was hard to drag ourselves away.

Refinished side table

Mike and I have been busy with several small projects around the house.  Mike refinished some vintage stereo speakers and an antique table.
Refinished DCM Time Windows 

Table runner

And I was back in my little studio with sewing and jewelry projects.
Green heart

Ruth, Mike and Don at White River Gardens

My friend Ruth and her husband Don came to Indy for a visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed touring the city with them.

The weather cooperated, and we were able to wrap up each day on the screen porch with wine and great conversation.

Riding the Indianapolis Zoo Train with Don, Mike and Ruth

And cats enjoy summer too!  Blue Belle lazed away the day on the screen porch. And she LOVES the little cat perch that Mike constructed for her last summer!  
I hope you are enjoying a great summer!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rain, rain, go away!

We were racing back home as this storm approached

 9.5 inches of rain in less than a week is way too much!  And on two of those days we got over 3 inches of rain.  It's unbelievable really.  I'm sure we are on our way to some type of record rainfall for July in the Indy area.

The drying bench

We had a small problem with our sump pump which sprayed water over the basement for about 20 minutes.  Now, that doesn't sound like much unless you understand that Mike has lots of bins of electronic parts and screws and nuts and nails and other miscellaneous stuff.  Much of that got wet along with lots of electronic reference manuals.

He's had a very long week of drying out these parts.  He has a good system though.  He rigged up a screen on a frame and set this upon two saw horses.  He would blow them off with the air compressor hose and then let them dry in between rain drops.

I don't want to complain too much about our problems because there are many homes and yards with more serious damage.  The town of Speedway was particularly hard hit with high winds downing many, many trees, some of which fell on houses.  And there were two confirmed tornadoes in nearby towns. And the heavy rains damaged homes and flooded roads.

Wall cloud?  I was constantly watching the sky for tornadoes. 

And as I looked through my pictures this week, I realized that most captured the strange, scary and sometimes beautiful clouds.

Here's a glimpse of our week in the clouds...

More wall clouds?

Sunlight and blue skies peeking through
Neighborhood at sunset
Evening closes in
Skies reflected on flooded road
Beauty in water
Mike watching a strange sky

But the rain is a blessing for my little container garden...  My cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs are thriving.  

Have a great weekend and stay dry!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Variety is the spice of life!

Not sure why Batman was part of the weather...

There's a saying in Indiana, "if you don't like the weather, don't worry, it will change soon".

Seems like this also applies to life.  No time to get bored because there is a lot of variety and things inevitably change.

It's been almost 4 years since I retired, and I haven't been bored yet.

2015 seems to be a hamster-wheel of activity, and July is no exception. Busy.

Enjoying a lazy afternoon at Redemption Alewerks
We spent July 3rd with friends at a local microbrewery, Redemption Alewerks.  One of our friends  retired in January and recently became a part owner.

And you really can't go wrong with  fun, food, and great beer including Atonement and Salvation.

With Adam, Dane, Eric,Angie and Mike At Georgia Reese's

July 4th found us checking out a new restaurant in downtown Indy with my sister Angie and her family.

Georgia Reese's is known for Southern cuisine, and they fried chicken and waffles were a hit!

And of course I had to try Mike's shrimp and grits and  chocolate cake and an amazing whisky cocktail.  And yes, they were all fantastic!

We headed home after dinner to enjoy our town's fireworks from the front porch of our house.   We love sitting outside watching the activities without driving anywhere...

Over the neighbor's house

Adam and I on Segways

On July 5th we headed downtown for our first-ever Segway Tour... .

Yes, I am a self-avowed klutz.

And NO, I did not wipe out on the Segway.

We had a blast taking a tour of the downtown canal.
With Mike, Adam, Dane and Angie by the Canal

The Murat

Later that evening we went to dinner and a John Fogerty concert with our friends Brian and Stacy.

The concert was held at the Murat which is a beautiful historical venue.

John Fogerty looking young as ever playing "Centerfield", one of his solo works.

We thoroughly enjoyed rocking to John Fogerty's Creedence Clearwater Revival hits!  It was an amazing concert!

Next was the reality of a couple of doctor visits...

Yes, that's my hand.  And NO I did not fall off the Segway.

It's called arthritis at the base of the thumb and involves a splint and an excruciating cortisone shot.  And possibly surgery down the road.

 Never heard of it before last Monday, but the doctor said 50% of women over 50 get this type of arthritis. Who knew?

Ok, selfies are NOT my strong suit!

And my nephew Dane and I snuck a quick "selfie" at the Sleep Clinic while waiting for Mike's appointment.

We were playing Scrabble, and a few funny words sent us off into gales of laughter.

I'm surprised we did not get thrown out...

Andrew, Alice, Violet and Diane

Later in the week we had a wonderful visit with my niece Diane and her family.  

Chuck in the mirror

And I crashed a lunch that Mike was having with our friend Chuck at the Alley Cat in Broad Ripple...

And somehow I forgot to mention that Mike and spent 6 plus hours removing a basketball goal from the side of our driveway.

Since we don't play basketball, this goal has always been a hazard when you are backing up.

Lots of digging and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon proved too much for the basketball goal...

I got to drive the Jeep!  It was so much fun!

Pretty in pink
And as you might expect, I want to end with a quick glimpse into the beauty of Summer...

Harvesting my first green pepper!  

After the rain...

Have a great week!