Whitehall Cottages: a dandy boutique motel

Don’t let looks fool you. Driving by Whitehall Cottages when on Whitehall’s main drag, a person can easily take this place as an over the hill joint, and wonder if it’s even open for business.

Julie and I had plans to go home to Montague, Michigan, for the July 4th weekend. That meant getting a hotel. Fearing rooms would be booked solid quickly with so many of us experiencing post-lockdown ants in our pants, I began calling hotels in April.

I was finding them to cost way more than the last time I used one in the area, and the one known to be older and with not the finest of furnishings told me they have a marijuana odor problem. “But, you’re non-smoking,” I said. “The pot smokers don’t seem to care.” She informed me they were in the process of purchasing a cleaning system that would take care of the problem, but it would be too late for us.

I told Julie of the prices I was getting. They all felt too steep.

A few hours later, she told me about a place she found by searching Airbnb. It’s an old motel in Whitehall, which is Montague’s sister city—only a causeway over the White River, which immediately turns into White Lake, separates the towns. The motel had been recently renovated.

And the price was right, fully one half the cost of one of the chain hotels that are out by the freeway (except for the pot-smell-infected one). And those in Muskegon. And up in Hart.

I clicked the link, selected a room—number one of the ten—and completed the process. All communication was done via text and email. Indeed, every time I received a text, I got the same info via email. I appreciated the back-up system.

What’s a boutique motel?

Googing the quest, I found no entries for boutique motels. Only hotels. But, this place had never been a hotel, so I’m sticking with calling it a motel. Besides, Whitehall Cottages uses the term for themselves. Take that, internet!

According to the internet, “a boutique hotel is a small hotel which typically has between 10 and 100 rooms in settings with upscale accommodations and individualized unique selling points.”

Whitehall Cottages isn’t exactly upscale, but because it’s newly remodeled everything feels upscale compared to what one might otherwise expect. And each room is uniquely decorated. Plus, they’ve styled the rooms so that one feels he’s stepped back in time to when the motel was in its heyday. So, yeah, it fits the boutique term.

Note the wood paneling, reminiscent of a 1950s cottage. The mattress on the king-sized bed must be high quality, as it felt and slept as such.
The large, wall-mounted TV and roominess are two things many will appreciate.
We didn’t need the microwave, but made good use of the fridge and freezer.
Okay, one complaint (wink). The shower water took awhile to get warm. When it did, the spray was nice and the ample space appreciated.

From the outside, you’d not expect the fresh look inside. And, there’s no sign. Perhaps, that’s on purpose, since no staff persons are on site, and all transactions are handled via the internet.

My opinion? Get a sign, friends. Advertise this place to those using Whitehall’s main drag. It’s a great addition to the White Lake area. (Unless you don’t need to advertise because you’re always booked. It appeared to be full during our stay, but, hey, it was the 4th.)

“Where’s the sign? Is this place even in business? It sure doesn’t look like much.” Whitehall Cottages perfectly fits the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

So far, the reasons to stay at Whitehall Cottages are the attractive price, nice rooms, and convenient communication. But wait, there’s more: location, location, location.

Whitehall Cottages is one block from downtown, but restaurants and shopping continue for two miles out past the freeway. And it’s only a five minute walk to White Lake. And a two minute drive to Montague. And fifteen minutes to Lake Michigan. This place has the location thing nailed.

On the following map, you’ll see Whitehall Cottages almost dead center. Oh, and check out the photo Google is using: it’s mine! I’m dutiful about posting reviews and photos of you name it. Immediately after posting my review, Google featured my photo—and in less than a week it’s already been viewed over 2,000 times!

The next time we’re planning a trip to the White Lake area, Whitehall Cottages can count on my looking to be booking with them.

Thanks, folks, for reclaiming this old motel and creating an un-hidden gem—not to mention the No Smoking or Marijuana Use sign that’s prominent on the door.

A bittersweet 25th anniversary

St. John, Port Hope

I’m a mostly happy person these days. My children and grandchildren are well and thriving. I am healthy, and at age sixty-four can continue to do the physical things I enjoy, namely jogging, gardening, and yardwork. I am pleased to have become a writer, have published two books that have been received well, and have two more in the editing process, including my first novel. Oh, and I can’t forget that I’ve learned how to cook, and love, love, love it.

Best of all, I enjoy the faithful love of the Lord Jesus and the abiding love of my wife Julie.

I have a full, splendid, blessed life. So, no complaining here.

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June 23, 2021 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of my entrance into the holy ministry, when I was ordained at Trinity Lutheran Church in Guttenberg, Iowa, and then installed at St. Paul Lutheran Church in McGregor.

It was a sweet day. Lots of family and friends were able to be there. The congregations packed the churches. The folks extended the warmest of greetings. My little family and I immediately felt that we belonged.

Three years into my pastorate, I received calls to be pastor at other congregations. First, the Lutherans in Readlyn, Iowa, called me. My first wife Kim and I visited. We could easily have fit in there and loved it. Yet, I sensed I was to remain in place.

A few weeks later, the Lutherans in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, called me. We didn’t visit. It didn’t take long to realize that I was to remain in place. The very day I informed my two congregations I had returned that call, I received the third one, this to Hemlock, Michigan.

Because Hemlock is only two hours from my hometown of Montague, the members thought I was a goner. But, nope. After serious consideration, I was certain I was to remain in place.

That was 1999. In 2001, before I even had the call from St. John, Port Hope, Michigan, by the time I hung up the phone with the pastor who phoned to ask if I were available for a call I had the confident sense I would receive the call and take it.

I did and I did.

It’s wasn’t that I was ready to leave McGregor and Guttenberg, or that I was not happy there. It was purely the strong sense that I was to go.

I was pastor at St. John, Port Hope, for thirteen years, until my premature retirement in 2014. Until my health, due to the gender dysphoria that was crushing me, forced me to retire from the work I loved so that I could figure out how to get healthy. The gender dysphoria that forced me to leave the work I didn’t want to leave. And the people I didn’t want to leave. And the village and county I didn’t want to leave. Even the house and yard and garden I didn’t want to leave.

It was a health situation, as with more common things such as cancer and Parkinson’s, that happened to me—that no matter how hard I tried, how deep into talk therapy I plunged myself, and the medical means I used to ease my burden, I couldn’t lessen my pain so as to abide in my condition and remain in Port Hope—that forced the terrible decision upon me: I had to retire.

At the age of fifty-seven. When I was still going strong. When I still possessed the attitude I adopted soon after becoming a pastor at the age of thirty-nine: I wanted to be a full time minister for at least thirty years. And, thankfully, at a time, after thirteen years together, when the good people in Port Hope still wanted me there.

I set a retirement date. When asked if I would push it back two months, I easily agreed. And then I took a month’s sick leave, hoping to regain some sense of health, and upon return announced that I was trying to remain as pastor, to rescind my retirement. Ultimately, I should have known better. A few weeks later, I announced a third retirement date. This one stuck.

Today, June 23, 2021, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination, I am one week away from the seventh anniversary of my retirement. And it still hurts. At times, the wound is as fresh as it was the first year Julie and I were in Indianapolis. I continue to feel my work was unfairly taken away from me.

That last sentence might sound as if I am bitter about it. Really, I’m not. I’m sad. It hurts. And, yes, I find it unfair. But, hey, loads of things in life are unfair. I’m not unrealistic. I’m human.

Where would I be without the Lord’s and Julie’s love? And my family? And my renewed good health? And the writing, jogging, gardening and yardwork, and cooking, all which provide me with fulfilling work? And the numerous transgender persons I’ve gotten to know, many to whom I’ve been blessed to minister?

During the weeks preceding my retirement, I assured the folks in Port Hope I was not retiring to nothing, that I was confident the Lord had more work for me to do. “I know I will have a third career,” I said, “I just don’t know what it is going to be.” And, a third career I have cobbled together. I am pleased about the ministering I’ve been able to do and thankful to have been, and continue to be a useful person.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We all have things in life we wish we could have kept from happening. Paths on which we longed to continue to walk. I’m not unique in where I am, wishing I were still a pastor and not being able to be one.

So, no complaining. A heart filled with gratitude. Thankful for the eighteen years I was blessed to be a parish pastor. And, at the same time, sad that it ended so soon.

One of my all-time fave photos: as I depart after having been installed at St. John, Port Hope, my dad and I grab each other’s hand.

Vonna Leckband: a celebration of her life

My Julie’s mother died July 3, 2020. On June 5, 2021, nearly 200 family and friends gathered in the Ocheyedan, Iowa, town park to remember this woman of whom I wrote last year in this piece: Vonna Leckband: an extraordinary person. With that profile written, this piece will focus on Mom’s Celebration of Life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the festivities begin at 11:00, Dad catches a bit of the pictorial history of his beloved wife of 58 years. I just happened to snap this when a photo was onscreen from Julie’s and my wedding.

As the event was winding down, I asked Dad if there were some nice surprises, folks he didn’t expect to see. “Yes,” he said, “but I don’t remember who!”

Larry and Vonna’s daughters—Laurie, Sheri, Julie, and Amber—labored with love in hosting a marvelous party. Here’s Laurie (white pants), who was the creative mind behind many of the celebration’s features, with Mom’s friend, Becky.

In the next pic, I caught second daughter Sheri in a way that perfectly captures her gettin’ things done personality!

Julie next came into the world, then whirled into mine.

Though Amber came last, if you know her, you know she’s always in the middle of everything!

Besides great food, a video photo album, and more, we enjoyed a host of songs and jokes, poetry and storytelling. In this video, Dad tells us how he met Mom.

For eight more videos, search Vonna Leckband Celebration on https://www.youtube.com/

Laurie had wristbands made, with a twist on the familiar WWJD. These bands remind us What Would Vonna Do? Not one to stay put, or do the same old same old, one often heard her say,Change it up, kiddo.”

From the 100+ photos I took, here are a few more to demonstrate the grand day we enjoyed. Though we miss Mom terribly, we are grateful for all she was for us, all she modeled to us, and all she taught us. The large turnout of family and friends—from nearby towns in Iowa and Minnesota, to states as far away as Texas and Florida—demonstrated why I titled my tribute to her Vonna Leckband: an extraordinary person.

Finally, Vonna and Larry, together.

My week in Charles Town WV

Last week, I accompanied my son, Alex, and his fiancé, Chelsea, for a week’s visit with my son’s daughter, Violet!

Alex did his remote-work job during the day, while Chelsea took her online nursing-school classes. That meant Violet and I found good stuff to do together. Our first stop? Naturally, it was to the cemetery that’s behind our Airbnb!

Violet liked the crosses. Thus, when we found these three large ones it necessitated a photo.

I’m a jogger/walker, and I was hot to explore the town. Charles Town is not as large as I thought it would be—the population is around 6,000, and the newer chunk of it doesn’t have very hospitable conditions to be on foot. Thus, most of my miles were spend in the old part of town. I covered every inch, with some nice discoveries.

Charles Town was settled by Colonel Charles Washington. Yes, of those Washingtons. He was George’s youngest brother.

If you know American history, you might recall John Brown, who is noted on the sign, above. Brown led an insurrection in Harper’s Ferry, which is a few miles from Charles Town, in 1859, seeking to free slaves. Found guilty of treason, he was hanged in Charles Town.

When your granddaughter is six, and a pandemic isn’t quite eradicated, you stick with outdoor (and free!) activities. Besides, our entire week gave us mostly sunny skies and highs in the 80s.

We drove to nearby Harper’s Ferry, in search of a playground. We found it, and some Civil War history.

On my first day’s walk, I went by another cemetery. It was only two blocks from our Airbnb, and Violet was game, so to it we went.

I was hoping to find the grave of someone born before the revolution. I did better!

As we walked about the grounds, Violet said, “We’re walking all over people.” “Yup, we sure are.”

I thought it would be neat to find the grave of someone born 200 years before Violet. 1812 and 1817 were the closest. I snapped this pic of her next to a person born 100 years before her.

I’d never seen a monument such as this one:

Alex knew of a huge park in the town where he had lived. It was only a twenty-five minute drive to Martinsburg, so off we went.

After proper stops at each of the six playgrounds, we found a creek. Violet loved it the best. Here, she literally went on a wild goose chase!

The woman living above our Airbnb told me of a homemade ice cream parlor in Sharpsburg, Maryland. She noted that the Civil War battlefield, Antietam, was on the outskirts of town. Violet liked the sound of the ice cream, but where was this place? “How far is it, Gigi?” “The same as yesterday, when we went to Martinsburg.” “Okay.”

It was midafternoon and hot. We got our ice cream and went across the street, to sit under a tree. Sharpsburg is a town of 700, so I had no qualms with Violet and I plopping our behinds on the curb.

Our sweet tooths satisfied, we headed to Antietam, a full two minutes away.

The battle took place over hundreds of acres, which have been preserved. You can drive the entire thing. It is littered with sign boards, memorials, and statues. This monument is for President McKinley, who served as a sergeant for the North and fought here.

We saw this bridge, where a battle occurred, so we got out of our car.

This memorial tells of the battle on the bridge and the number lost and injured.

The following sign recites the events of the bridge battle. On the tour, sign after sign details the fighting. In all, nearly 23,000 were either killed, injured, or went missing on September 17, 1862. It remains the deadliest one-day battle in American military history.

Back in Charles Town for another jaunt about town. I decided that I love colonial architecture. The first word that comes to mind when viewing it is stately.

Several sections of sidewalk remain in their original state.

The town was established in the final decade of the 1700s. It should come as no surprise that a number of side streets are wide enough to accommodate people on horses, but not two cars encountering each other!

On one of these alley-like streets, I saw these neat telegraph boxes.

I was not aware that Charles and Mildred Washington’s home remained. I was pleased when I ran across it.

On our final day, Violet and I returned to the first cemetery. I was hoping to find the grave of a person born 200 years before her. Eureka!

That nicely sums up my week in Charles Town. I loved it for spending lots of time with my granddaughter and the historic sites I saw and things I learned.

#billandmelindagate

I remember my marriage vows so vividly:
For better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
as long as we are able to grow together as a couple.


When I made my marriage vow, I recall thinking this statement, “as long as we are able to grow together as a couple,” contradicted “for better or for worse.” I mean, what could be worse than no longer growing together as a couple? Certainly none of these:

  • you learn that your spouse has had a second family since before you were married to each other
  • your spouse is diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, all at the same time
  • your spouse announces he or she is transgender

No, certainly none of those rises to the level of a couple’s no longer being able to grow together. This realization finally allows me to grasp why Bill and Melinda Gates need to end their marriage.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For a long time, Bill Gates was nothing more to me than a curiosity—what he accomplished with software, how he was one of the world’s most successful businessmen. Wow! He came off as a geek, with his always-tousled hair and a voice that sounded as if he were stuck in the final months of puberty. When he married, I thought Melinda must be an amazing woman to take him on.

Then, I began listening to him. And two years ago watched the Netflix series, Inside Bill’s Brain, where I also got to know Melinda. And I heard another extensive interview with her. And both of them impressed me as smart and wise, kind and generous, thoughtful and nice.

I liked them. I thought it would be splendid to live next door to them, to hang with them, to work with them. I thought that we need to listen to them, to emulate them, to have a lot more rich Americans follow their lead in working on causes that affect the entire world, and to put their money where their concerns are.

I admired Bill and Melinda Gates. I do not admire this—this reason they’ve given for ending their marriage.

I do not understand this: “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives.” What on earth might either of them have in store for the next phase of her or his life that they cannot grow together in it? Is Bill intending to chuck everything he’s ever done and focus on his model train collection? Does Melinda have in mind to spend all of her time trying to find where pi finally begins repeating itself?

Is this it—that neither respects the life move the other is going to take, so they simply must part?

This reason for their ending a marriage that appeared to we Americans—okay, to this American—to be a union that was built on love and respect, sounds like two people who are not trying very hard. And these are people who’ve always shown me they try very hard.

Hey, Bill, if I’m not getting it, please explain. Melinda, I don’t mean to offend, but could you please provide some insight? I need more. So much more. Did you do a lousy job of explaining, so that I don’t get it? Or am I simply being dull about it?

I’m hurting over this. I am surprised at how deeply I am hurting over the end of the Gates’s marriage. If, after twenty-seven years, and a mountain range of success, this couple cannot make it till death parts them, what hope does the average American couple have?

If Bill and Melinda Gates can’t make it—this couple, who has every resource at their disposal, and a thousand times could purchase everything they need so that they might succeed and still have money left to buy ice cream for everyone—if they can’t make it, if they can’t find the strength, the savvy, the caring—the love—to stick it out, to show the rest of us what it means to vow for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and then to actually live the vow . . .

There are a lot of concerning things going on in our nation. For me, they all begin with people hunkering down and giving their all to each other—whether its fighting the pandemic, or making equitable laws, or respecting people of every color and creed and culture. If a rich and powerful couple cannot hunker down and give their all to each other . . .

Since we can’t give up, I guess we just have to show them. Let’s live the spirit of Todd Beamer on 9/11, who encouraged the others on the jet over Pennsylvania with “Let’s roll!” because it was better to die fighting than simply to die.

In 2013, when I presented my Julie with as big a thing as a couple will face, her reaction was to say, “Let’s roll!” Her actual words were, “We’ll figure this out.”

And we did. Together.

Together, Bill and Melinda, because that’s what “for better or for worse” means.

Sautéed veggie delight!

You know you should eat more vegetables. You want to eat more vegetables. Why don’t you eat more vegetables?

Is it because your veggie dishes are mundane? Some steamed broccoli here. A can of corn tossed into the microwave there. When you have time to fuss, a green bean casserole.

From my recent “Don’t fear lasagna!” post: the sautéed vegetables on my granddaughter’s plate. Note how there are as many veggies as there is lasagna. It’s because they’re so delicious!

Two years ago, I found myself scratching my head over how to use all of the green beans from my garden that I’d labored to clean and cut and freeze. I don’t want to wear out Julie and me with vegetable soup—and we love vegetable soup! While we enjoy steamed veggies—broccoli and cauliflower are our go-to’s—fresh-frozen green beans aren’t well served this way. And Julie isn’t much for green bean casserole.

I also roast vegetables—I add carrots to the ubiquitous broccoli and cauliflower—but wasn’t sure how frozen green beans would perform that way.

Finally, I did what we do in this house. I googed the quest. I found a recipe for sautéed green beans and corn, seasoned with basil. I was intrigued by the recipe calling for them to be cooked in a combination of equal parts butter and oil.

I already knew that it is problematic to fry only in butter, because it burns easily. I liked the idea of combining oil and butter. I was curious how this would go.

I use a non-stick pan, so I start and remain on low heat. We like veggies that will caramelize—think onions and carrots—and others to brown. That first time I made the beans and corn, it took an hour to get a good portion of them browned.

Non-stick pans are easily damaged by high heat. Start low and stay low. Does it take a bit longer to heat the pan? Yup, but only a few minutes. It’s worth the brief wait.

We loved the green beans and corn. The next time I made them, I added shaved onions and carrots. Another hit! Soon, I was sautéing whatever we had on hand. The following photos are from my most recent pan-fry: onions, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.

This plate of veggies . . .

We have a chipped dinner plate that we no longer use for eating, so I make use of it in when cooking. Covering it with veggies, I happened onto determining how many neatly fit our pan. It’s not exactly on the level of how super glue was created, but it sure stuck for me.

. . . nicely filled this pan.

Before getting that far, I get started with the items that will caramelize:

I grew and dried my own basil last year—not to mention parsley and oregano.

I give those about ten minutes, then toss on the rest of the vegetables. Because they heap in the pan, with many not touching the surface, I place a lid until the veggies soften.

Season them how you like. Sometimes, I use only basil. Often, I add salt and pepper. Occasionally, I’ll give a good sprinkling of garlic powder.

It takes perhaps fifteen minutes to soften the vegetables. I then remove the lid and stir everything. I continue stirring every five to ten minutes, striving to get most of the veggies onto the pan surface so they can brown.

The total time—from when I turn on the heat until the vegetables are done—takes at least an hour, and as much as ninety minutes.

Here’s the finished product of my latest batch:

If you look closely, some of the carrots and asparagus are extra crispy. I didn’t turn over the veggies quickly enough early on. Thankfully, they were still delicious!

With steaming vegetables, there is a narrow window of time when they are done just right. Leave them too long, and they turn to mush. Not so with sautéing them. There’s loads of leeway, so you can get them where you like them—from cooked but not brown, to nicely browned, to browned and caramelized and crunchy!

Bon veggietit!

Eilers Pizza: 6th anniversary

April 18, 2015: I was ten months into my retirement from the ministry. Itching to find my way to a new career, I began this blog. I loved writing and had lots of stories to tell. Before the blog was two weeks old, I would be telling my biggest story https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/who-am-i/, which opened the door to my being published in Indianapolis Monthly magazine (https://www.indianapolismonthly.com/longform/therealme) and then to my publishing my first two books: A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane and Ministering to Transgender Christians.

Here’s the post that started it all. It’s a favorite story from my youth, and the rare one where I wasn’t the kid causing the trouble.

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Burning down the dump

It was the mid-70s, probably the summer that my youngest brother, Mark, was twelve. One evening, he and his same-aged friend, Bruce Bellinger, headed to a preferred place for play: the dump.

The dump was one block over and one block down, in a field, at the end of a short two-track path. It was loaded with items that were dream-finds for any young boy—not to mention a good place for some deeply desired devilry.

D = dump. F = Flahive’s. E = our house. B = Bellinger’s.

Upon arriving as tandem riders on Bruce’s one-person bike, that evening’s mischief came in the form of a full pack of matches that someone left behind. With some dry leaves conveniently collected against the junk, the boys lit the entire pack at once in the leaves. Up into huge flames went the leaves, fulfilling their dream . . . then up went the dump, igniting their nightmare.

Scared, um, witless, they leaped onto Bruce’s bike and high-tailed it out of there. To their chagrin, Mr. Flahive, who lived across the street from the dump, was in his front lawn. He put the scenario together in a flash and headed inside to call the fire department, then to his car.

Mark and Bruce sped one block up and one block over, past our house and on to Bruce’s, which was one more block over. Stopping in the yard, they didn’t have time to hatch a plan before two things happened: Montague’s fire siren screamed and Mr. Flahive came driving by.

“You boys set the dump on fire!” he blared, and kept on driving. Mr. Flahive was a wise man, who knew our parents, and he likely figured that since the boys knew that he knew, they would confess to their folks. Mark and Bruce were not total nitwits; they headed out to do just that.

When Mark arrived home, Mom was across the street at her frequent haunt, Kathy Sobers. Dad was in his own frequent haunt, our garage. This arrangement of our parents might have saved Mark’s life.

Still scared, um, witless, Mark entered the garage. He mustered his confession: “Dad, those sirens going off? Bruce and I just burned down the dump.”

Who knows if it were the sincerity of his confession, or if Dad just wanted to get on with whatever project he was into, or the hand of God working a modern-day miracle, but Dad’s reaction was the answer to a frightened kid’s contrite cry: “Just don’t do it again.”

Just don’t do it again? Are you kidding, Dad? If Mom were home, it would have been, “You did what?” Whack! “What were you thinking?” Whack! “Didn’t I teach you not to play with matches?” Whack! Whack! “When are you going to start using your head, the way I taught you?” Whack! Whack! WHACK!

Mom was the one who meted out the punishment, who often said that Dad was too easy on us. Still, Mark heard Dad’s words and waited for more. No more was to come. He had avoided the noose. He quickly agreed with Dad’s summation, “Okay,” and ran for freedom.

What of Mom finding out? For the sake of Mark’s hide, she would not hear his confession until the statute of limitations on burning down dumps had expired, a decade later.

What of Bruce’s fate? The poor kid’s guardian angel must have still been at the dump, observing the dowsing of the fire fiasco, because Bruce received the more expected result: one month’s grounding.

Finally, what came of the dump? That land had the best ending of all. As city manager, Dad worked with his lifelong friend, Henry Roesler, who was the administrator for Lutheran Homes of Michigan, to get senior apartments for Montague. The dump was cleaned up and turned into the perfect spot for folks like our grandmother, Dad’s mom, to spend their latter years. As Dad would frequently make the walk, one block over and one block down, to see his mom, that piece of land wound up being a loved location for three generations of Eilers.

Mass shooting in Indianapolis

indystar.com is on top of this developing story.

And now it’s happened where I live.

On April 15, a man sprayed gunfire in the FedEx facility near the Indianapolis airport. So far, eight are dead. Others were injured. The suspected gunman is dead, presumably by suicide.

If he were ready to die, why didn’t he just do it to himself in his bedroom and leave others alone?

Seriously.

Hey, I don’t want anyone to die, and I surely don’t want anyone to kill himself. I want everyone to reach out and get the help they need, so they might be healthy and happy and productive. However, when the options are one person dies without taking the lives of others, without causing great anguish to the loved ones of those he killed, without placing a city into turmoil and our nation once again shaking its fists as it does nothing but argue about it, I’ll vote for suicide every time.

I want to know where the man got permission to take the lives of others, to throw into turmoil and grief the loved ones of those killed and injured, to put the citizens of yet another American city in fear of their safety when at work or play or shopping or worship?

I always want to know who gives these gunmen permission to carry out their despicable acts. How does that conversation take place in one’s mind? How long does it percolate? What arguments against it are defeated until the man finally says, “Game on!”

What has gotten into us Americans, that we have such a lofty level of privilege, which gives us the ability to say to ourselves, “They pissed this guy off one too many times. I’ll teach them!”?

How do people fall so far in their regard for human life that they can reach the decision to kill people? To play prosecutor and jury and judge, and deem others guilty so as to end their lives? To leave their homes and enter their workplace, or a store, or a place of worship, or wherever, and open fire against their fellow human beings?

How would these killers react if it were their child, their spouse, their parent gunned down for nothing more than being in the line of fire? Can you imagine them thinking, “It was the gunman’s right to open fire. My loved one deserved it. They should have watched their back”?

They would think none of those things. Indeed, the type of person to find it in himself to have permission to gun down others is likely the same person screaming at the top of his lungs before the TV cameras if it were to happen to his loved one.

Mass shootings get our attention, but homicides are going on all around us—all around my own home—all the time. In the first three months of 2021, Indianapolis saw 59 people die by homicide. That’s an average of two every three days.

When I visit the Indy Star website every morning, I don’t wonder whether I’ll see news of the latest homicide, I expect it. I look for it. Then, I look for this word—northeast—because that’s where I live. And, when I see northeast, I look for the address.

In the six years we’ve lived on the northeast side, I’ve lost track of how many homicides have occurred within the area in which I go jogging, which is roughly two miles to the east and west, one mile south, and a mile and a half north. I often run by the apartment complex on Emerson Avenue where a double-homicide took place last year, and the apartments on Arlington Avenue where one occurred this year. And I’ve hesitated returning to the block, on the furthest reaches to the east of where I run, because of the killing that happened last summer in the driveway in front of a house.

And then there is the nearest one: at the gas station I sometimes frequent and jog by most days, two blocks south of our house. Yes, the killing happened at night, as do most. During the day, it feels safe. It’s always quiet.

I bet it was quiet and it felt safe at the FedEx facility the night of April 15.

One assumes the homicides that happen in our neighborhoods are mostly among people who know each other. There’s a disagreement over something, a family issue, friends in dispute. An argument ensues. Someone pulls out a gun.

When it happens at work and in public places, it’s generally intentional: someone pulls out a gun they brought for this purpose.

Either way: someone pulls out a gun.

That’s the answer for too many people: pull out a gun.

What happened to kill them with kindness?

What possesses Americans to believe that violence and homicide are the better way to go?

I know, I know, it’s only a tiny fraction of the population doing these things. Yet, it’s a significant fraction they directly affect, directly harm, directly traumatize. And, it’s our entire country that’s driven again to anguish, to wringing our collective hands.

To arguing over what to do and then not doing a thing.

There is one thing we can do. One huge thing. Let’s teach our children to respect all people—to respect the rights and lives of all people—and let’s begin by showing our children how it’s done.

I’d like to see anyone shoot down that plan.

My interview on Protect Your Noggin

Julie and I Zoomed with Jeff and Stacie Mallinson for an hour-long conversation for their podcast, Protect Your Noggin. Listen here: https://www.protectyournoggin.org/podcast/no-regrets-the-wild-transgender-journey-of-greg-eilers

This is my fifth podcast and the second time Julie and I talked with Jeff. In 2016, Jeff and his friend Dan van Voorhis came to Indianapolis to chat with us for their podcast, Virtue in the Wasteland. We talked so long that we recorded in three parts, which they posted as two episodes:

Episode 1: http://www.virtueinthewasteland.com/episodes/2016/10/4/ep-196-the-trials-of-gina-eilers-part-1?rq=the%20trials%20of%20gina%20eilers

Episode 2: http://www.virtueinthewasteland.com/episodes/2016/10/4/ep-197-the-trials-of-gina-eilers-part-2

On the new podcast, Jeff talks about the trouble that brewed for his interviewing such a renegade as myself, and the openings it created for important conversations to take place.

He recently learned about my memoir. Emailing me his kind assessment, he asked Julie and me to appear on Protect Your Noggin. We spend most of the hour discussing key themes from the book.

You, too, can ride the Roller Coaster with me, either in print or as an ebook:

My favorite potato soup

“Don’t drain the fat off, this gives so much flavor!” This is the most important lesson I’ve ever been taught. Ever.

Yes, even more important than our mom’s plea to all of us kids: “Are you wearing clean underwear? If you’re in a car accident, you want to be wearing clean underwear!” Really, Mom? This was your biggest concern as we piled into the car, where no one wore a seat belt? And we wrestled in the back seat, falling into the front? And got the cigarette lighter hot, threatening to burn whoever looked at us wrong?

“Don’t drain the fat,” came from my sister, Sue. By way of our father. Regarding the bacon I would be cooking for potato soup, when I asked her for the recipe Dad made.

Sue emailed it to me. I copied it into a word document. It is clear to me that I didn’t edit Sue at all—she writes the way she talks—though I have underlined the wise advice:

Note the exacting detail. So precise in every aspect that even I, who had never before made potato soup, could follow it and produce a pot of goodness to taste exactly like our father’s.

Not. Even. Close.

I think I attempted it once. I needed precision. I searched recipes online. Finding one called Easy Potato Soup, I created a hybrid of that and Dad’s.

And I kept the key: don’t drain the fat off, this gives so much flavor! And I wrote down the exact measurements I came up with. And I always wear clean underwear when making it.

  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 lbs potatoes (5 to 7 potatoes)
  • 8 tbs butter
  • 8 tbs flour
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • Salt to taste (perhaps 2 tsp)
  • Pepper to taste (at least 1 tsp)

And here’s how I make it.

Cut the bacon into inch-long pieces. Chop the onion. Put it on for a slow fry.

Gather your spuds. Weigh them if you like, to ensure you have at least two pounds. Peel them. Cut them into bitesize pieces. Toss ’em into your big pot.

By this time, the bacon and onions are nicely underway. With the pan evenly hot from the large burner, I slide it over to a smaller one, where it will continue to cook just fine. Stir the bacon occasionally so that it cooks evenly. Boil the taters till tender.

Drain those spuds and set them aside in a bowl. Reduce the heat and get a stick of butter melting.

Melt it slowly enough so it doesn’t burn. Once melted, spoon in the flour. Whisk it smooth.

Begin adding the milk, perhaps two cups at a time. Cook it slowly, so as not to burn the bottom of the pan. Whisk often. As it thickens, add more milk.

When you are pleased with how thick it is, stir in the salt and pepper. Add the spuds.

Now, admire the pan of bacon and onions. Note that there is not that much grease. The onions have done their work, soaking up lots of it. Good job, onions! You will taste so marvelous!

As you now add to the soup this blessed pan of deliciousness, scrape every last bit of grease from the pan. You’ll thank me, later. And you’ll thank my sister, Sue. And you’ll bless the name of our father, John.

There’s no need for further cooking. Simply blend it all.

Remove the pot from the heat. I like to let it sit for a bit—30-60 minutes—to get it to a temperature that makes it just right for eating.

And eating.

And eating.

Bon soupetit!