A Tangible Sign Of Friendship

-1As everyone who reads the Webner House blog knows, we recently spent time on Peaks Island, Maine.  I was on this beautiful island four days before Bob and Russell joined me, so I had lots of ‘alone’ time, mostly spent walking, biking, reading and eating more lobster rolls than I care to admit.

On one of my trips walking the periphery of Peaks, I found this granite bench on the far, more remote back side of the island.  I was touched to think of the friendship that inspired this gesture — a lone bench, with this simple but moving message, with a beautiful and breathtaking view out toward the Casco Bay Islands and the Atlantic beyond.  I found myself thinking of the acts of friendship and loyalty that surely inspired this gesture, and how fortunate any one individual is to have made such a dear friend, or to have been the friend who inspired this special gift.

Here’s to Ric Rhodes, whoever you were, and to your friend who remembers you in such a special way.  May we all be fortunate enough to have such friendships of our own.



Recently, I was having lunch with a friend for whom I have great respect.  She expressed that she believes she possesses great tolerance — with the exception, she said, of those with a differing political opinion.

That statement was a great clarifying moment for me.  Here was this person, highly educated and intelligent, who is basically saying that she just can’t tolerate differing political opinions.  I think of that conversation as an “a-ha moment,” an epiphany of sorts, as to all that I find troubling in today’s political environment.

There is nothing original in saying this, but I must say it nonetheless:  I am sick, to the point of a primal scream, of this presidential contest, and of our political landscape in general.   I have reached the point where I can barely stand to watch television.   MSNBC or Fox — really, what’s the difference anymore?  Their viewpoints, sure.  But their rigid dogmas and rabid discourse?  It’s just different sides of the same coin.   I enjoyed every minute of watching the debates (as flawed as they are, the pureist thing yet in this election), but had to tune out as soon as the debates ended and segued into the talking heads and spin room.

Where is reason?   Where is intelligent, respectful discourse?  Where is objective reporting?   My j-school professor Marty Brian, God bless her, must be turning in her grave….  There is no presumption of good will or good intentions, no even slight extending of the benefit of the doubt.  They are bad; we are good.  They are wrong; we are right.  They are evil; we are honorable.

My friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances are about equally Republicans and Democrats (is that unusual these days?), and I know that it’s not that clear-cut.  I have a “D” after my name, but my friends of differing political opinions are good people — but also people whose life experiences and independence of thought (imagine!) have led them to reach different points of view from my own.   My Republican friends (my Republican-leaning husband included) don’t hate gays. They aren’t racist.  And my Democratic friends aren’t looking to create a welfare socialist state that redistributes all income and suppresses free enterprise.

Some will say I’m naive — and maybe I am.  I can see shades of gray (does that make me squishy?  I don’t think so).  But before you label me naive,  remember how inspired so many of us were, four years ago, by that gentleman who encouraged us to rise above dogma and reach across the aisle and try to get along?  Sadly, that particular experiment didn’t work out so well (there’s plenty of blame to spread around), and today those words seem almost provincial.

Of course I have my “line in the sand,” and I know there are extremist people out there who wish others ill will.   But in my humble opinion, the vast, vast majority of the people in this country, regardless of their political persuasion, have good intentions and aren’t the extremists we are led to believe.  We can’t reasonably assume that one’s party affiliation tells us the content of one’s character.

As I was writing this, I happened upon an interesting article addressing this same notion.  (In the spirit of keeping it non-partisan, I won’t credit the publication.)  It more artfully captures what I find so disappointing and divisive in today’s political environment.   Allow me to quote just a few passages….

“For the past generation or two, Washington has been the not so hallowed ground for a political war. This conflict resembles trench warfare, with fixed positions, hourly exchanges of fire, heavy casualties on both sides, and little territory gained or lost. The combatants wear red or blue, and their struggle is intensely ideological.

“Before the 1970s, most Republicans in official Washington accepted the institution of the welfare state,  and most Democrats agreed with the logic of the Cold War. Despite the passions over various issues, government functioned pretty well. Legislators routinely crossed party lines when they voted, and when they drank;  filibusters in the Senate were reserved for the biggest bills;  think tanks produced independent research, not partisan talking points. The “D” or “R” after a politician’s name did not tell you everything you thought about him.

“….The people Washington attracts now tend to be committed activists, who think of themselves as locked in an existential struggle over the fate of the country, and are unwilling to yield an inch of ground.

“…The War Between the Colors reflects a real divide in the country, the sorting of Americans into ideologically separate districts and lives.

” …the fighting never really stops.”

The Joys And Challenges Of Sprucing Things Up

Since retiring, my first order of business has been to spruce up things around the house.  Years of two boys and their friends and three dogs have resulted in lots of wear and tear.  Walls are marked and dented, kitchen cabinets are coming off their hinges, and sofa upholstery is paper thin and in some spots exposing cushions underneath.   So yes . . . we need to spruce things up!

I have one friend who finds decorating her home the ultimate in enjoyment. She sometimes uses commercial breaks on TV to do a quick room rearranging.  Alas, I find it nothing but angst-producing.  I know I don’t have OCD, but when it comes to making decisions such as these, I somehow feel I just might after all . . . .

Let’s start with paint colors.   I’m going with neutrals, nothing fancy.  But there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of shades of beige, white and grays (my “color theme”) at Benjamin Moore.  They all look ever-so-similar to me, yet I am advised by my decorator friend and the helpful Benjamin Moore gentleman that they differ greatly!  How did I miss that!?  Some have shades of blue, some a dollop of gray, others undertones of pink.  Pick the wrong one and I might have an unseemly battle of undertones/overtones going on in my very own living room.

So, I pull the color wheel out and break into a cold sweat.  I lean it against the wall, the carpeting, the sofa, the napping dogs.  It doesn’t matter:  the colors all look the same to me.

The only reasonable solution, of course,  is to rely on names.  What’s in a name?   For me, at the moment, everything.

But that brings on a whole new layer of angst.  I think I’ve found a good shade of gray, but the name is Bleecker Beige!  So, I leave Bleecker Beige in the dust to look for other color names.  Boothbay Gray — as you know, I love Maine, so that’s good, right?  Coastal Fog — I love what that evokes, but really not sure about the color itself.  Edgecomb Gray — what is Edgecomb?  I certainly need to know before I pick it.  Gunpowder Gray — I like it, but that’s way too NRA/political for me.  Creamy white — that sounds boring beyond belief, even for my neutral tastes.  Who comes up with these names?   I want to apply for that job.

And then, I’m told, there’s the “light.”  You have to look at the paint colors during different times of day to see what they’re doing.  I found myself waking up in the middle of the night and walking downstairs to see how Coastal Fog looks at 3 a.m.  (It looked beige.)

Argh!  These are decisions I will live with for years.  I know these problems aren’t so enormous that I should ask you to put me on your prayer chain or anything, but my head is about to explode right now.

After all is said and done, I know the outcome …. I will pick bland, boring choices.  I will love that heavily patterned sofa fabric but be terrified that once I see it on my own sofa, it will look like a bad ’70s nightmare.  Our house will look fine, perhaps lovely even, and my mind can move on to societal things that are far more important.  And, as even Martha Stewart might agree, “that’s a good thing.”

A former colleague once told me that home ownership, in all its variations, is the craft project that never ends.  That’s true, but I really am looking forward to this chapter, at least, drawing to a close.

Why I Love Maine

Effective July 1, I am retired (from full time work, at least), which allowed me to spend two wonderful weeks in Maine — my favorite of all places.

As my friends know, I love Maine. From the first time I visited, it beckoned, and it’s difficult for me to express in words why, precisely.  How do I love Maine?  Let me count the ways.

Clearly, Maine is beautiful, but it’s also full of surprises.  Every time you turn a corner, the vista takes on a totally different feel.  Turn this corner and you see the lobster boats on a charming bay, turn another corner and you’re seeing crashing surf, then go a bit farther and you’re suddenly on a rural road with no water visible — and how did that happen?  Maine has one of the longest coastlines in America, and its craggy shoreline has countless ins and outs — bays within coves within bays, separated by peninsulas and points and inlets.  Any walk or drive is likely to be one of discovery of a new favorite place.

I also love Maine for its “off the beaten path” feel.  Tourists come here, sure, but  I could count on one hand the times I’ve experienced tourist-claustrophia.  And, once you get back to your carefully selected cottage (having spent days on vrbo.com finding just the right place), the world seems far away.

I love Maine’s apparent lack of pretension.  Even the largest homes often have a certain ramshackle feel.  In fact, you really can’t even see many coastal homes in Maine.  They are down some dusty or gravelly winding path off the main rural road (usually with a name denoted by some handmade sign — another thing I love), and you can just imagine the places filled with Grandma’s castoffs and treasured family heirlooms.

I love the “unself-consciousness” of Maine.  Very few women wear makeup, which is liberating.  I love the authentically beautiful look of many Maine women — that patrician look, with naturally gray hair wrapped in a bun and the unadorned weathered face that tells the story of a life well-lived.   When I come to Maine, I feel freed from cosmetics, hair curlers, and “beauty” accessories.   (A friend calls this her “lake look.”)  It takes me about 10 minutes to pack for a trip to Maine –and that’s a good thing.

I love Maine because it’s cool.  I spent the two hottest weeks of the summer there without one day of air conditioning, and I was supremely comfortable every moment.  In Ohio, I would have been cranky beyond words.

I recently read a novel set in Maine, and the author wrote that “Maine is meant for quiet contemplation.”  How true.  When I come to Maine I don’t feel compelled to visit a list of places and museums.  I hang out, read, and enjoy the simplicity of spending time in a place with great views with none of the household or mental clutter of home and ‘to do’ lists. Maybe I’m a slug — but that’s the vacation I like best.

I’m not naive.  I’m sure many will think I’m glamorizing a location that has a robust season of three months tops (some say two) and rugged winters that likely would send me fleeing.  But for whatever reason, if you give me two weeks to spend anywhere in the United States, I’ll take Maine, hands down.

After all is said and done, we all are looking for a place that touches a chord within us, and when we find that place its imperfections become charming asides.  Places speak to people, and Maine speaks to me.

… Not Much To Say On A Sunday Afternoon …

Well, it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and Dad is pestering me to write a blog entry. I’ve told him I’m not nearly as fluid as he when it comes to this, but I’ll just check in with a quick entry. Last night we had dinner with our good friends Paul and Laura Williams, and today I’m hoping Dad will pick up a NY Sunday Times for me. I spent my usual Sunday morning watching the morning talk shows. Topic #1, of course, is the economy. We were talking last night about how even if one is not directly impacted yet (and never spit in the wind, as they say), it’s impossible not to be affected psychologically by what’s going on in our country right now. I, of course, remain eternally hopeful with our new president, while Dad maintains his (he would say healthy, I would say not) usual level of cynicism (particularly when he learned our own taxes will be increased soon).

Well, that’s it for now … will return soon.


Well, I have greatly disappointed Poppers with the fact that I have not posted a blog on the new Webner Family Blog, so consider this my inaugural blog.

First of all, I should say that Dad has greatly enjoyed the Webner Family Blog – great gift, Richard! He accesses it frequently, enjoys contributing, and enjoys (as do I) all of your and Russell’s entries. He’s been after me to post something quite nearly from its inception, but I find myself feeling inexplicably self-conscious — unlike Dad, who sits down and writes with great fluidity on a wide range of topics.

Anyhow, I think I will first write about Poppers. Since Penny returned, I’ve gotten a big kick out of the fact that she – while still clearly favoring me – now seems particularly fond of Poppers as well. She gladly goes on walks with him (sans me) comes to him when called, sits at his feet, is excited when he gets home for dinner, etc. Dad won’t admit it, but he clearly enjoys the apparent fondness Penny feels for him (although he still lets out those incredibly long sighs when Penny is doing something annoying and irritating, which is often. And I’m certain he believes life would be much easier without her.)

Anyhow, I told Dad I would make my first entry “Living with Poppers,” but I’m not sure I can sustain any one topic for any great length – but I’ll try. Actually, Dad is pretty easy to live with – and I’m certain I drive him nuts in a way he could never drive me. The biggest thing about Dad that became all the more apparent since you guys left the house is his proclivity toward routine. He always gets up at 5 am, takes his walk around the Yantes Loop, and always in the same direction. When I accompany him on the walks (which isn’t usually, I admit) I’ll suggest a different route – but I can always tell it kinds of unsettles him to deviate from his routine. Anyhow, once done with his walk, he comes home, plays solitaire on the ancient computer in the guest room, gets ready for work. Somewhere in between all those tasks he usually straightens up the house. He’s much neater than I (as you both know), and the various debris (chewed up plastic bags, toys, etc.) that Penny manages to leave everywhere drives him positively nuts, as do the many things (hosiery, wrappers, etc.) I leave scattered around.

When Poppers gets home in the evening, he changes, eats dinner and usually spends lots of time on the computer entering more songs onto his ipod, visiting the Webner family blog, etc. Sometimes we walk to the library. Lately we’ve started watching The Wire, which is a good television series about inner city Baltimore and the police department there. It’s very unusual; Dad said some people have called it the best television series ever; I think that’s hyperbole, but it is quite good.

Anyhow, back to routine …today we indulged in one of Popper’s more familiar routines – going to lunch at the Indian Oven (I didn’t have to work because of Presidents Day). The owner there really likes Dad, and they have their usual banter about whether Dad is going to order, once again, the Lamb Korma. Dad clearly enjoys the attention he gets there. The owner loves him – and why shouldn’t he? Between Dad and the various summer associates and other Vorys colleagues he takes there, he’s a darned good customer – one of the biggest “regulars,” I’m sure.

Anyhow, today Dad kept wishing everyone “Happy Presidents Day,” which elicited many strange looks in return.

Well, enough about Poppers …. All’s well here at home. Being an empty nester is very quiet. I can’t believe how quickly those years went by when both of you were home. It’s particularly strange to go into your bedrooms (not that I do that often, I promise). They pretty much look the same – that inimitable look of “perfect disorder” — but everything is sooooooo still and quiet.

Work, however, keeps me pretty busy. I work 7:30-4:30 pm. That 7:30 am remains a real challenge for me, but I’m managing. We’ve started ordering really good coffee (free trade, from Dean’s Beans/Amnesty International) at work, and so I look forward to a really good cup ‘o joe.

Anyhow, that’s about it for now. Maybe since I’ve done my first entry, the next one will come a bit more easily.