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Archive for the ‘Our Lives Beyond the Drugstore’ Category

Fall Means Football. By Our August Student Pharmacist, Katy Hoffman.


Football season is almost here and, not only does that mean the thrill of victory, but it also means the agony of defeat. I want to focus today’s blog on appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle the victories and defeats.

Appropriate ways to handle your team’s victory:

  • Staying out a bit later celebrating with other friends and fans.
  • Getting pizza or a celebratory meal.
  • Congratulating the other team on a hard fought game.

Inappropriate ways to handle your team’s victory:

  • Being mean to the opposing team or fans.
  • Mocking the opposing team or fans.
  • Spending all the money in your bank account celebrating the victory.

Appropriate ways to handle your team’s defeat:

  • Going to bed early.
  • Congratulating the other team on their victory.
  • Taking a nice warm bath.

Inappropriate ways to handle your team’s defeat:

  • Getting into a fight with an opposing player or fan.
  • Lashing out at anyone who tries to talk to you as if they are to blame for the loss.
  • Giving up or quitting on your team.

As football season approaches, I hope you find these tips helpful. Please be considerate of other fans and try to enjoy the games as much as possible. Always handle your victories and defeats appropriately and maintain excellent sportsmanship this football season. Happy watching!



Bob Converse will be Speaking at Serpent Mound on Saturday, June 22, During the Summer Solstice Celebration!

Joe and I love going to the Great Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio. We have been there at Winter Solstice in December for the “lighting of the snake.” Candles are lit and placed around the earthworks, which are formed in the shape of a snake with a round object (an egg, perhaps?) at the snake’s mouth–it looks as if the snake is getting ready to swallow the egg.

In June, for the Summer Solstice, the Friends of Serpent Mound will be holding a three day Summer Solstice Celebration from June 21-23. On Saturday, June 22, local Plain City author and archeologist, Bob Converse, will be speaking at 3 pm on Adena Culture. His talk will focus on cultural characteristics, artifacts, and other aspects of the Adena culture. He will also look at the relationship between the Adena and the Ohio Hopewell. This is a super chance to hear Bob speak.

Bob Converse, as many of you may know, is the editor for The Archeological Society of Ohio. He has also written numerous books and articles on archeology. You can purchase many of Bob’s books through The Archeological Society of Ohio’s store HERE.

To see the complete list of presenters and events occurring during the Summer Solstice Celebration, visit the Friends of Serpent Mound web site HERE.

You can also join the Friends of Serpent Mound group on Facebook HERE and then visit their events page HERE.

To find out more about the history of Serpent Mound, visit the Ohio Historical Society’s site HERE.

New Year’s Melancholy.

This is an article I wrote a few years ago as we rang in a New Year. I still get a twinge of sadness, however, with the passing of each old year.

For me, the arrival of a New Year is always tinged with melancholy.

Looking back at the year gone by, a year now filed in the annals of history, I am saddened by how quickly time seems to pass, by how many things change over the course of a year.

I didn’t always feel that way. When I was little, I couldn’t wait for a new year to begin.

Until I was ten or eleven, I used to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s at my grandma’s house in Hilliard.  I had a very important job to do during the week leading up to New Year’s Eve. I had to make confetti.

Positioned in front of a brown, paper grocery sack, I would sit for hours and cut up every newspaper and magazine in the house to make squares of confetti.

I don’t know where I got the idea that it was absolutely imperative to throw confetti at the stroke of midnight to usher in the New Year.  It was, however, a very important ritual for me. Since I didn’t know where you could actually buy confetti, I made my own.

My aunt hated the confetti.

“I was still picking confetti out of the couch last year in July.”

My aunt lived a few streets over from Grandma and we would go there to spend New Year’s Eve. Although she complained about the confetti, she always let me throw it. Then she would spend the New Year picking paper out of shoes and plants and from between chair cushions.

No matter how well I cleaned up, I always missed some of the confetti.

Grandma liked the confetti and she would toss a handful in the air with me, shouting, “Happy New Year,” along with all the revelers in Times Square on the television.

Besides the confetti, part of the thrill of New Year’s Eve was getting to stay up until midnight, a luxury I was not allowed the rest of the year.

Always afraid of the dark and the monsters I thought lurked in the veil of night, I was glad for any excuse to stay up with the grown ups in the safety of a lighted room.

I especially hated nights with full moons, even though they should have been better because they were not quite so dark.  I did not like the full moon nights because I thought I was going to turn into a werewolf.

I had read a book containing a poem that reportedly would cause the reader to become a werewolf if the poem was recited on the night of a full moon.  Naturally, I was so horrified at the prospect of growing fangs and hair all over my body that I reread the poem over and over in some type of fascinated disgust.  It was the same impulse that caused me to peel bandages back to look at bloodied knees and elbows.

After reading the poem so many times, I, of course, memorized it.  I discovered that the words were firmly embedded in my memory on the night of a full moon.  Playing outside with my cousins, I happened to look at the darkening sky.  There, just appearing on the horizon, was a newly rising full moon.  Of course, the werewolf poem raced into my mind.

I had to say the alphabet repeatedly to drown out the words from the poem.  I was successful at holding the poem at bay and never did become a werewolf.

I knew that when I got older I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark or of becoming a werewolf.  That was also why I liked the New Year.  With each New Year, I got to celebrate another birthday in March.  I got to be a year older.

I wanted to be ten (my first double digit birthday).  I wanted to be a teenager (so sophisticated). I wanted to be sixteen (driver’s license, here I come). I wanted to be eighteen (finally, no longer a little kid). And then suddenly, I was all grown up and I didn’t want time to speed by.  I didn’t want to get older and older and watch the people around me do the same.  I didn’t want those I loved to die and my life be irreversibly changed.

That is the crux of my melancholy at New Year’s.  With each year, there is always someone who is not around to ring in another January.  Grandparents. Uncles. Aunts. Friends. Always someone.

I think New Year’s also makes me sad because January first was Paul Carpenter’s birthday.  With Paul’s death in 2001, his birthday became a day that pointedly marked his absence from my life.

Paul, the pharmacy delivery driver and my dear, dear friend, always proclaimed himself a “New Year’s baby.”  He celebrated on New Year’s Day not only the birth of a new year, but his own birth, as well.

I spent this New Year’s Day celebrating Paul’s birthday, too.  While taking roses to the cemetery, Joe asked me how I thought Paul would make his presence known to me this year.  Because it seems that Paul always does send a message, a reminder of his love, to me each January first.

“I’m not going to look for Paul’s message,” I told Joe as we stood by Paul’s headstone.  “He’ll make me notice whatever it is he wants me to see.”

I went about the day, heeding my mom’s advice that however I spent New Year’s Day was how I’d spend the whole year; a warning I think Mom used on my sister and me when we were children to keep us from fighting and whining for one complete day (nevertheless, we went on to do those very things the rest of the year).

I ate sauerkraut for good luck, a bizarre tradition inherited from long forgotten German relatives.  I don’t eat sauerkraut any other day except on New Year’s Day and I only eat it then at my mom’s insistence.

“You HAVE to eat sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.  Just one bite, even.  You HAVE to.”

Then, as the afternoon lazily drifted away, I drove Mom and Dad home from our sauerkraut eating excursion.

Suddenly, ahead of us there were bright rainbows of color in the gray sky.  Two ultra-light aircrafts circled above us.  I thought of Paul’s headstone.

Etched on to the surface of the gravestone is the image of a man in an ultra-light.  Part machine, part cloth wings, ultra-lights combine the aeronautical engineering of a motor and of a kite.  They are a marriage of old aerodynamics and new.

Paul had been an avid ultra-light flyer when he was younger.  In fact, the card that was passed out at his funeral showed a photo of Paul in an ultra-light with the words, “Now he flies with angels,” written below the picture.

I knew those two radiant, whizzing machines were my New Year’s message from Paul.

Darting and whirling, the ultra-lights looked like exotic, colorful birds in the gloomy January sky.  With their giant wings casting shadows across the earth below, they looked like angels.

My New Year’s melancholy turned to joy.  If I’d had some confetti with me, I would have thrown it into the air in celebration.

May Celtic Angels Forever Walk Beside You.

I had been thinking a lot about the passing of old friends as the middle of December drew near. On December 15, 2001, our good friend and delivery driver, Paul Carpenter died. This year, 2011, was our 10th year without him.

Another good friend, Wally Cooper, was in the hospital as the anniversary of Paul’s death approached. Joe and I had been over to see him and he seemed to be recovering from a major surgery. But on December 14, we heard that Wally was not doing well and at 11 pm that evening, he also slipped into the realm of the angels.

I woke up on the day marking Paul’s passing to learn that another beloved friend was also gone.

When I first met Wally Cooper, shortly after moving to Plain City, I was sitting near the back of Saint Joseph’s Church with my sister, Bobbie. Wally had been helping with mass and as he walked down the aisle at the end of the service, he kept looking at Bobbie and me.

Before we could escape the church, Wally accosted us. The first words out of his mouth were, “You girls have the map of Ireland on your faces.”

That was the first time anyone recognized the Irish in me.

Wally was Irish and Scottish; a true Celt who bled tartan blood. He was one of the first people who was as crazy about Ireland and his heritage as I was. We took Wally and his wife, Beverly, to a great many Irish concerts, our favorite being The Chieftains. We traveled with them to Ireland in 2000 as part of a church trip. Bobbie and I met some of Wally’s Scottish relatives when we went there in 2002 (we had to promise we would track down his family).

Even before he kissed the Blarney Stone, “Mr. Kepper,” as we jokingly called him, had the knack for talking (the Blarney Stone smooch, when he finally did it, only enhanced his gift of gab).

We used to say there were “Six Degrees of Wally Cooper,” a reference to the “six degrees of separation” idea that says most people are six steps away, after introductions, from every other person on Earth. Somehow, once Wally started talking to a total stranger, he would keep inquiring until he found someone who they both knew either by way of a friend or relative. He often got to that connection well before six people. When he did, he would yell, “Beverly! Beverly! Come here. Do you know who this person is related to? Mother of God!”

He and Beverly often worked as a team to tell his stories. When Wally forgot the name of a person or place, Beverly was called in to supply the missing details. She always figured out what he was talking about even when his clues were cryptic.

“Beverly! Who was that woman? You know, she used to live on Main Street in that house with the shutters. And her boys played baseball with Pat and Matthew. What was her name?”

Beverly always knew.

Wally Cooper was many things–headstrong, loyal, stubborn, from a “kissy” family, comical, faithful, charming, and, above all else, human. He loved animals, especially his dogs, as much as many of the people in his life (Wally even dressed up as Santa one year for us to help raise money for Black and Orange). He was forever proud of his children, even prouder of his grandkids. He was devoted to his church and was often called “The Monsignor” at Saint Joseph’s.

More importantly than all of those things, however, Wally was my friend. I loved him and I will miss him.

In much the same way that ten years ago, I tried to imagine a world without Paul Carpenter, I find it nearly impossible to think of one without Wally Cooper.

Until we see each other again, good-bye, Mr. Kepper. I will never forget you.

I wrote two stories about Wally and Beverly a few years ago. They both highlight three of the strongest things in Wally’s life: his faith, his family, and his fierce love of Ireland.

The first was called “Psychic or Angel.”

Although the Coopers had been married several years and had not yet conceived a baby, Beverly Cooper was never worried about the lack of a child.

She always told her husband, Wally, “By the time I’m twenty-five, we’ll have a baby.”

Wally, for his part, prayed Novenas to Saint Gerard, the patron saint of mothers.

While working one afternoon as a salesperson in a local shoe department, Wally was approached by a customer.

“I’m a psychic,” she told Wally. “I’d like to tell you something important.”

To prove her veracity and psychic ability, the woman told Wally several details about him and Beverly that she could not have known:  they had a light out in a closet; they lived in an upstairs apartment; they did not yet have children.

She described two of Beverly’s dresses in detail.

Then she told Wally two astonishing things.

“Tell your wife to quit wearing her slippers.  I see blood at the bottom of the stairs.”

Beverly’s slippers were a pair of Wally’s that she often tripped in as she flopped up and down the stairs to their apartment.

Wally threw the slippers away.

Then the woman told Wally that Beverly would soon be pregnant and they would have a blonde haired, blue-eyed child.

Wally, upon telling Beverly of the conversation, was greeted with, “Don’t be ridiculous!  Do you really believe that? ”

Wally’s response:  “Even the Blessed Mother had to be told she was going to have a baby.”

Within a few weeks, Beverly discovered she was pregnant.

The following March, on Beverly’s 25th birthday, Gerard, the Cooper’s blonde haired, blue-eyed baby was born.  The couple went on to have seven other children, as well.

Who was it that came looking for shoes in Wally’s store?

The second story was “Christmas with the Coopers.”

For the Coopers, Christmas has always been about family—celebrating the family able to gather in their home; remembering and praying for the family missing from the festivities; carrying out honored family traditions and paying homage to Celtic roots.

The Christmas of 1978 brought a unique intertwining of family and Irish heritage for Wally and Beverly.

In 1978, the oldest Cooper child, Gerard, was twenty-four.  The youngest child, Kelly, was only six.  All eight of the children had worked together secretly to present their parents with a gift Wally and Beverly have never forgotten.

Following their normal routine of midnight mass and an early morning Christmas feast, the family was ready to open presents.

Wally and Beverly’s daughter, Bridget, who had orchestrated the logistics for the gift with her brothers and sisters, told her parents,“Come into the living room. There are two chairs for you. Get a cigarette and something to drink. We’ve got something special for you.”

Once seated, the children brought Wally and Beverly a large cardboard box to open.

“You go first, Dad,” Bridget said.

Inside the box, Wally found a letter from Gerard. Written in green ink, the letter hinted at something unimaginable.

“Now you, Mom.”

Beverly found another letter in the depths of the box. This letter was from Craig, their second oldest, and again the writing was in green and the words contained strange clues.

Trading off and on, Wally opened a letter; then Beverly opened one. Each letter was from a different child. Each letter followed the pattern of the others—green embellishments, odd hints.

The eighth and final letter was from their youngest child, Kelly. On the letter was pasted a photo of an airplane. This letter spelled out the details of the children’s gift: an all expenses paid trip to Ireland.

Both Wally and Beverly began to weep.

While Wally had been to Scotland as a young man in the Canadian Royal Navy, neither he nor Beverly had ever been to Ireland. They had never really been on many vacations after getting married. The financial responsibilities of children and a home did not leave much extra money for travel and frivolous things.

A trip to Ireland for Wally was the same as going to a family reunion. He would walk where his ancestors had walked.

A trip to Ireland for Beverly would bring days of leisure and relaxation. Someone else would cook her meals; someone else would make her bed.

For both, a trip to Ireland was almost like slipping past Saint Peter at the gate and catching a glimpse of heaven.

After years of sacrificing and saving for their children, Wally and Beverly were pleased to discover that their children had done the same for their Mum and Dad.

For the Coopers, a family’s love is the true gift of Christmas. However, they will never pass up a trip to Ireland if you’d like to get them a little something this holiday season.

This Christmas, Wally will be dancing again in heaven and I’ll bet paradise looks a lot like Ireland.

To read Wally’s Obituary, please go HERE.

To see more photos and add your own, go HERE.

Fall Along the Fencerows.

This was a column I wrote for the newspaper a few years ago. Whenever autumn arrives, these are the things I think about.

The caterpillars are on the move.

On my way home today, I almost ran over one of the brown, furry “woolly-worms” as it inched across the road in front of my car. I swerved to let it pass unharmed.

Dad and I used to hunt for caterpillars in the late summer when I was little.  We drove the country roads near our house looking for the fat, fuzzy “willy-worms,” as I mistakenly called them.  I held a large glass jar between my bare, shorts-clad legs, its metal lid punctured with knife holes that would allow air into the jar.

Dad drove very slowly, windows rolled down, the smell of earth and grass and fencerows wafting in the air around us. When we saw a caterpillar in the road, Dad stopped the car and I jumped out.  Holding tightly to my jar, I ran to catch the caterpillars as they slipped over the tarry, pebbled roads.

I picked up their brown or black or caramel colored bodies and watched in awe as they hastily curled into balls on the palm of my hand.  Then I carefully placed them in the jar and Dad and I continued our caterpillar journey.

When we got home with a full jar of wiggling, furry caterpillars, we searched for the perfect place to set them free. Picking a spot near the house, we took the lid off the jar and gently placed them on the grass.  Our intention was to have a yard filled with butterflies in the spring.  To do that, we needed a yard full of caterpillars in the fall.

I imagined walking across the yard one day the following spring and finding myself enshrouded in a cloud of butterflies.

Just as they did when I was little, the traveling caterpillars tell me that summer is almost over and autumn is waiting to make an appearance.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  That was not always the case. When I was still in school and had to worry about tests and classes and homework, I dreaded autumn, which represented only one thing to me then—the beginning of a new school year.

Grandma always said that it seemed like once the fourth of July arrived, summer was pretty much over.  She would make this announcement each year as we ran barefooted across the lawn, clutching sparklers that glowed like fairy lights in the hot, evening air, their brightness rivaled only by the fireflies swirling around us.

“School will be starting soon, girls.”

Bobbie and I would stop our firework dance and protest.

“Don’t say that.  Don’t say that,” we wailed.

But there were other signs, too, besides our grandmother’s maudlin prediction that told us summer was ending.

There were two commercials on television that almost made me weep when I saw them.  The commercials, one for Country Time Lemonade and the other for Cedar Point, played only seasonally in late July and throughout August.

The Country Time Lemonade advertisement featured kids riding bikes down country lanes and old people gathered on wide front porches with sleepy dogs at their feet.  A deep voiced announcer advised us to take one more afternoon bike trip going nowhere; to spend one more day doing nothing; to enjoy summer (and, of course, a big glass of lemonade) before it was gone.

The Cedar Point commercial juxtaposed roller coasters in summer with the same rides in winter.  Smiling, screaming children were shown flying around a roller coaster track, sun and blue skies behind them.  Then the screen would flash to the roller coaster covered in snow, sitting idly, hibernating and dreaming (we supposed) of June.

Bobbie and I hated those commercials as much as we did Grandma’s Fourth of July warnings.

There were other clues around us, though, in the fencerows and ditches that served as harbingers of summer’s passing.

When I was a child, there were still plenty of fencerows lining the back roads.  Wooden posts strung together with wire fencing served as the boundary between a farmer’s fields and the weed filled ditches lining the roads.  In those border areas between road and field, there would be young trees and wildflowers and animal homes.

It used to be common in the fall to see pheasants moving through the fencerows, where they had nests, to the fields where bits of grain lay scattered during harvest time.

Sometimes on moon-drenched nights red foxes would slip into view, their sharp, pointy faces staring out from the chicory and Queen Anne’s lace lining the ditches.

I gathered bouquets of brilliant blue chicory and the filmy Queen Anne’s lace, never realizing that they were weeds.  I thought they were beautiful.

Grandma used to read poetry to me from a book of children’s poems.  One poem that we both liked by Mary Leslie Newton was titled, “Queen Anne’s Lace.” Recalling the poem as I wandered the fields, I imagined all kinds of stories as I gathered the gossamer plant.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has washed her lace

(She chose a summer’s day)

And hung it in a grassy place

To whiten if it may.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has left it there,

And slept the dewy night;

Then waked, to find the sunshine fair,

And all the meadows white.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, is dead and gone

(She died a summer’s day),

But left her lace to whiten on

Each weed-entangled way!

There was one fencerow on the way to my Uncle Donnie’s house that we always watched for.  Perched atop a wooden pole was an old boot.  We wondered who put the boot there and why they left it.  I always wanted to wade into the ditch and retrieve the boot, but Dad would not let me.  He told me I’d have nothing to look for if the boot was gone. It would be transformed into just an old boot once it left the fence post.

One day when I was older, after Uncle Donnie had died, we drove that road and the boot was gone, too.

Sadly, like the disappearing boot, much of what used to be in fencerows has gone, too, as houses are built and farm fields disappear.  With the fencerows have gone the pheasants and the foxes.  City people want neat and tidy, bug-free roadsides.  The ditches get mowed and sprayed.  The wildflowers fade away.

Along the fencerows, in the autumn, we used to find bittersweet.  Dad knew certain places where the glossy orange-berried vine grew.  He would go and cut some for Grandma and she would hang it on the front door and around the house.

Dad can’t find bittersweet anymore in his old haunts.  The fences it used to wind around are gone.  The chemicals on the ground have destroyed its roots.

Grandma is no longer here to look pleased and amazed at Dad’s discovery.

Autumn seems bittersweet without trips to gather armfuls of the twisting vine for our matriarch.

And still autumn is the time of the year I look forward to the most.

Joe and I met in the fall and were married in September.  Just the thought of autumn makes Joe smile.

“We met then,” he always says, as if that explains everything.

I love the smell of burning fireplaces and the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.  I love to see scarlet and gold trees highlighted against a sky so blue you almost have to squint to shield your eyes from the vividness.

I also love the fact that I do not have my autumns interrupted by school any more.

A tree in the front yard is changing the color of its feather shaped leaves already.  Copper leaves drift down to the ground and lay like bright coins around my birdbath.  Floating on the water’s surface, the leaves, like pennies in a fountain, seem to represent wishes.  Perhaps the secret wishes of the birds.

Buses as orange as the falling leaves slip along country roads, picking up children still dressed in the shorts and sneakers of summer.

In all the excitement of football games and school activities and preparation for winter, some might not notice that summer has passed away.  As the cricket chirps die and the caterpillars disappear into cocoons, some might not realize that autumn has replaced her sister, summer, along the roads and lawns.

As I listen to the crickets’ songs, I will mourn summer’s passing even as I welcome autumn.  For like everyone, I only have a finite number of summers, a limited amount of Junes, Julys, and Augusts.

But, like the caterpillars, I have many roads to travel before my summers are ended.