This is all commentaries on WVPE including Friday's Michiana Chronicles Feature and occasional one-time contributors.

Andrew Kreider

There’s an old country song by Dan Hicks, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”  To me, that’s 2020 in a nutshell.

Heather Curlee-Novak

The thing I want all of you to know is there was one time I nailed this stay at home mama deal. Sure, it was just that once, but since I left my job in August, I am here for the small wins!  In one day the house was kind of tidy, the kids got haircuts, we researched the past owners of our hundred year old house and I voted.  I also laid out a tray of hot cocoa and fresh oil popped popcorn for a pal and her brood. It was a socially-distanced-bonfire-and-whatever-you-find-in-the-garage playdate. Then I put dinner on the table.  I kind of impressed myself. This ONE day.

Mike Roemer / AP File Photo

I’ve always been a football fan. I’ve played football. I collected football trading cards. My brothers and I once received Christmas gifts of football helmets and shoulder pads. So it may surprise you to hear that I’ve launched a movement to change the culture of American football. My idea is simple: teams should cooperate.

Elaine Thompson / AP File Photo

“Jeanette, you’re just a glutton for punishment,” my Mother would say to me when I had doggedly persisted in what she perceived as self-destructive behavior. That pronouncement came back to me as I, possibly once again in self-destructive mode, watched all eight nights of the political conventions in August. Not only were the “festivities” long, but I was compelled to stay up for the post-game commentary as well. Sometimes, like when you pass an accident on the highway, there’s no looking away. And, since these bug-eyed binges were cocktail fueled, my sleep-deprivation was compounded.

Ken Smith

For about twenty years my office has been behind the last door at the east end of a very long hallway located on the third floor of a university building in South Bend. The hallway walls are more or less white, and the many office doors are a pale wood grain. There’s not much art to speak of there, and when office doors are closed no natural light enters the space for many, many, many yards. There’s no window in the east section of the hallway, no window in the central section, and just the one large window at the end of the west section.

Ken Smith

We have something a little different for this episode. April Lidinsky has a conversation with Kathy Burnette, founder and owner of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, about how they developed their lifelong love of books and reading.

Music: Hamilton – “Wrote My Way Out” (Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc)

Justin Hicks / WVPE

It’s just a coincidence, right?

One man’s good fortune and another man’s misfortune play out within minutes of one another in the same town, less than two miles apart, a 40 minute walk.

And it’s just a sad coincidence, no dots to connect here, right?

Michiana Chronicles: Leave The Fire

Sep 4, 2020
Anne Magnan-Park

Distance has been the longest-running theme in my life. I don’t look for it, but, somehow, distance manages to find me. Long-distance marriage, long-distance relationships with my extended family across continents, long-distance connection with my first language of expression and culture, and now, like many of us, socially-distant relationships with our geographically not-so distant, local friends and co-workers.

Michiana Chronicles: A Pennsylvania Farm Boy In Elkhart

Aug 28, 2020
Andrew Kreider

Paul Gingrich was for many years my neighbor here in Elkhart.  He and his wife Anne were world-travelers with vast experience and influence in places all across North America and around the world.  But in spite of all that, to me Paul was always still a farm boy from Pennsylvania with simple tastes and a huge heart.  Paul loved nothing more than to go out for breakfast at McDonalds – I could not tell you how many Egg McMuffins I saw that man eat.  And never was there a happier day than when Paul discovered that Dairy Queen had invented a new drink. 

Heather Curlee Novak

Unless you live under the proverbial rock, what I am about to say should spark recognition: “Nailed it!!”  Do you know it?  This current standard in our ‘Pinworthy’ You Tube Social Media World should make you cringe or smile.  “Nailed it!” is the recognition that what we see, what we attempt, and what we actually create….do not match.  (Google the phrase when you need a belly laugh.)  If you were a gymnast, “nailing it” would indicate mastery and perfection.  Shall we imagine together that it originated in carpentry? 


I recall shopping at my local grocery store back in late March when the seriousness of the coronavirus was first becoming obvious to everyone. I pushed my cart into the paper products aisle to discover: no toilet paper! Another shopper was already surveying the empty shelves. He looked at me and asked, in disbelief, “What does toilet paper have to do with the pandemic?”

Paul Costello

“Hey, y'all, watch this!” When you hear someone yell that at a gathering, you can be pretty sure that an ambulance soon will be needed. Julia Reed wrote that and it’s that kind of Southern humor that makes me laugh aloud and look forward to more of her observations. While reading a recent issue of Garden and Gun magazine—OK, calm yourself, that is a real magazine and probably is not at all what you imagine—there was an article, as there often is, by Julia Reed.

Michiana Chronicles: Cicada Days

Jul 30, 2020
Ken Smith

In our neighborhood, the cicadas are back, buzzing on the high branches in the evening, sliding out the slit backs of their exoskeletons when nobody’s looking, and then hanging on the side of the house all green and black and shiny in their fresh jackets. The exoskeletons remain on a tree trunk for ages, ghostly reminders of the oddest, most unlikely renewal. The new wings are finely drawn, a shiny metallic green near the body but clear further down, something so fabulous a king would have paid a master artist a stack of golden coins for one in days gone by.

April Lidinsky

In a stay-at-home summer, it’s easy to run out of topics during social Zooming. So, I offer you a prompt, inspired by the June 17th New York Times “Food” section, in which a baker’s half-dozen of writers share memories of  “restaurant magic.”  Sure, we can still get takeout, and perhaps eat nervously out-of-doors, but these writers remind us that restaurant dining can be so much “More than a Meal.”

I woke up at 3:00 last Friday morning thinking about a scene in a movie we’d watched the night before. One of the main characters, a police detective, had been called to the local secondary school to fetch her son who’d run afoul, himself, of the law of the blackboard jungle. After the conference, she wormed her way through a packed hallway of students walking the other way toward an exit.

Michiana Chronicles: The Bugler In Me

Jul 9, 2020
(AP Photo/Brad C Bower)

I was looking for a good deal on my heart's desire at the Salvation Army, when I spotted a bag of old comic books on a high shelf behind the register. Bingo! I've got grandchildren the same age as I was when I spent hours and hours reading those cheap, floppy, innocent and uncomplicated rags. Maybe it was just wistful thinking, but I was sure they'd love to lift their eyes from the screens of "those devices" - to discover the likes of Archie and Jughead and GI Joe. So, I bought the whole stack.

Michiana Chronicles: Rocking Chair

Jul 2, 2020
Marilyn Thompson

In our house is a rocking chair. It is all wood, with no padding, and it has no arm rests. It squeaks when you use it, and you don’t have to look too closely to see that its base is held together by wire, fashioned by a farmer who took whatever was handy to fix a split in the wood.

The rocking chair shows its age, but it is one of the most precious items in our house, because it belonged to my grandfather—a grandfather I rarely saw.

Andrew Kreider

It was twenty-five years ago.  Pastor Duane Beck of Belmont Mennonite Church had just done a funeral for a young man in the neighborhood who had died from a gunshot wound.  At the service, Pastor Duane told the young man’s friends: If you would like to do something to bring meaning and change from this death, then I’ll help you organize yourselves.  Out of that offer, a local movement began – it was entirely youth led, and it called itself Drop Your Guns.  Over the next number of months, DYG organized themselves into a hopeful force in Elkhart.  They spoke to local businesses, to churches,

Heather Curlee-Novak

What in the world is going on in the world?

Michiana Chronicles: Listening

Jun 11, 2020
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It’s 2 am and I wake from the depths of my dreams. I am startled awake and I listen. Is there someone else awake? Did I hear something outside? I sit. I listen. The silence slowly fills with subtle anxieties of my day. Did a bill get paid, are my kids doing well, did I remember to turn off the basement lights? After the mundane anxieties are exhausted, I think about my life. Twenty years ago I should have sold my belongings and traveled the country selling scarves. I should have taken the time to read Moby Dick. I should have learned my geography, studied my history.

Michiana Chronicles: My Online Social Hour

Jun 4, 2020
Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images

In this strange new world, it can be challenging to maintain a social life. Some people want to be relieved of social pressures, but many of us feel isolated. Along come the French with a solution: the virtual apéro, the coronavirus-internet version of the traditional late-afternoon social drink at a café. After reading about this trend, I emailed a Parisian friend to ask her about it. "Yes," she said. "My friends and I do this. We have a drink. We talk. Sometimes we have dance parties.

Jeanette Saddler-Taylor

“Once you’ve bought a novel in your pajamas, there’s no turning back.” So says a character in the novel “The Overstory,” as he drives a forklift in a fulfillment center. Well, in this time of social distancing, that ship sailed weeks ago. Sadly, sitting on the couch, in front of the television, sometimes, well often, in my pajamas, things have been ordered that amaze me.

Monday, June 8, 2020 at 9 PM

Popular public radio hosts, past and present, read short eulogies to just some of the tens of thousands lost to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in the months of March, April and May, 2020.Produced by public radio veteran producer Paul Ingles and featuring the voices of Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, Liane Hansen, Maria Martin, Al Letson, Neal Conan, Glynn Washington and others.

Michiana Chronicles: COVID-19 Stress Dream

May 21, 2020
Ken Smith

These days, the dogs that pass by out there on the sidewalk look trim and happy. They’re getting a lot of exercise with their work-from-home humans. They sniff out little mysteries and tag bushes and never glance up to ask their masters, “Why are you home so much? Why so many walks?” The dogs are not having bad dreams. Two neighborhood friends who are both biologists walk by wearing sleek, face-fitting masks. I could call from the door to ask how their dreams are going, but I don’t have to. These two know exactly how microorganisms like to boogie.

Ken Smith

Here’s another one from the English Major files: Synecdoche. Think like a Greek so the spelling doesn’t bedevil you. A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole. “Hands” is the classic example, as in “all hands on deck” (in which the presumption is that bodies are still attached).

Sid Shroyer

I miss my retired teacher friends. We meet once a month for breakfast to tell war stories, solve the problems of the world, and revel in our good fortune at having gotten out alive. We met last on March 6, right before the pandemic began to hit home.

Two months later, someone who looks like my wife, but with longer hair, flips channels between The Price is Right and the governor of New York. Andrew Cuomo seems like maybe he’d be a good teacher. Drew Carey, not so much.

I try to stay calm.

Maybe that’s a mistake.        

Michiana Chronicles: Learning To Livestream

Apr 30, 2020
Andrew Kreider

Downtown is deserted.  You could imagine tumbleweeds blowing down Main Street past the theater’s façade.  I pull into the truck dock, where another vehicle is already parked.   It’s Derek.  We’ve worked together a couple times before, and we exchange a happy long-distance high five through our car windows.   We are about to begin a dance which will continue all night.  Like kids at a middle school social being cautioned to “leave room for Jesus” for the next three hours we will maintain a distance of six feet from each other at all times.  To this end, I enter the building first and turn of

Heather Curlee-Novak

You know how your parents or grandparents are too…old…to understand technology?  How you can explain it slowly, simply but still no comprende?  They cannot learn this crucial technology fast enough, and they need your help all the time.  Technology matters to our daily lives.   (Especially under quarantine lockdown where the only thing between most of us and a complete psychotic break is a little glowing screen.)  I know not all of the boomer-plus set are lost when it comes to tech…many folks are savvy.  My family runs the gamut from “Me Text You Long Time” with texts so long they should b

Michiana Chronicles: Coronavirus Days

Apr 9, 2020

Like a lot of people, I’ve spent many hours reading and worrying about the coronavirus. It’s hard to know what more to say about it, but it’s difficult to think about anything else. In looking for the good in all of this, I focus on the way our busy world of getting and spending has ground to a halt. This disaster is also a time out—a forced pause in the headlong rush of modern life.

Joyous greetings! Seems like a strange sentiment in these troubled times, but it also seemed odd when expressed by women in France, Germany, England and yes, the United States as they wrote letters to one another in the mid-1800’s. They communicated and offered support as they labored, sometimes from prisons, for human rights for women, enfranchisement among their issues. So again, “joyous greetings,” because thanks to them, we have the vote.