As for leaf color, I can’t say this October – so far – is a ringer. But it’s been a beautiful week all the same. Brian and I usually fly pretty low-key with birthday and anniversary celebrations, but this week we’ve been extra blessed!
On Tuesday, my boss Katie surprised me with a cake, balloon, and card signed by everyone in the building, and a beautiful bouquet of seasonal flowers.
Here it is Saturday and the flowers are just as pretty today as they were several days ago.
Yesterday, Lisa Perry, our newspaper editor who preceded Katie, was in town for her annual community walk through New Castle highlighting such stories as that of the 104-year-old unsolved mystery of Catherine Winters, a little girl who famously has never been found, making her the oldest-known unsolved child disappearance in Indiana history, along with some other tales.
Lisa and her late mother, Charlene Perry, have published books and written extensively about Catherine. But before her annual stroll through town, she took time to have lunch with her cronies at the paper.
Last night, Sam and Allison hosted an anniversary dinner honoring her grandmother Jo, her parents, John and Carla, and Brian and me as well as themselves. ALL of us got married the same October weekend. Allison’s grandmother and late grandfather were married 66 years ago tomorrow, her parents 34 years tomorrow, and Sam and Allison will celebrate five years tomorrow – all married in the same downtown Indianapolis church! For Brian and me, today is our 39th wedding anniversary. My brother Tim and wife Jeannie got married 46 years ago yesterday.
Allison’s brother and his wife, Mike and Lauren, as well as Ben joined us and it was a most pleasant evening featuring a home-cooked meal by Sam and Allison and plenty of talking and watching the MLB playoffs.
Allison surprised me with a tiny birthday cake – a little bigger than cupcake-sized, and I wish I had taken a photo! It was adorable. And, they all sang “Happy Birthday.” A sweet night.
Do you ever have something random happen that makes you feel like “an adult in the room?” This week for me it’s new “adult” table lamps for our bedroom night stands.
For my birthday and our anniversary, Brian and I went shopping for night-stand lamps. In late spring we bought a new bedroom suit, our first since 1983. We thought it was time. Have you ever wondered why these sets only come with one night stand? I have! This time we bought an extra.
I didn’t mention that I would like matching new lights for the stands. I figured all summer that when Brian asked what I wanted for my birthday, I’d have that answer in my back pocket.
I don’t know what style they are, or what era. I just know that we agreed that we like them, they are large and give out good light. We both spend a lot of time in our bedroom watching TV, reading, or working on the computer or projects. They work!
So today, another beautiful day. The week ahead is supposed to be seasonably chilly and maybe blustery too. After we get our grocery shopping done, we’re going to put away the porch furniture and tidy things up for the fall. I’m going to cut down our ornamental grasses out front and toss the summer plants. If we had hatches, I’d batten them down.
As for this trio of trees in our back yard, I tend to view them as a seasonal barometer. I’ve photographed them when they were drenched with ice and snow, making a crystal winter-scape, and when they were drenched in white blossoms. But in all the 19 years we’ve lived here, these trees have never done what they are doing now. They are covered in red berries! They are serving as bird feeders to happy birds who come and go and enjoy these fruits. One large flock of birds even happily stopped by as though they were visiting a birdie Golden Coral. They ate and were in the air again.
Usually the leaves on these trees are long gone by now. Sometimes the leaves even fall in the summer. But this year, this …
What a beautiful October surprise.
It’s spring 1973. I’m in eighth-grade at Liberty Junior High School.
There was no high school-orientation night to plot our high school courses. I don’t remember signing up for freshman year other than my mother’s strong feelings about one thing.
She said I should take typing; that I would use it.
That fall I learned that everything in typing begins on home row, and soon our sweet business-skills teacher, Ethel Sharp, helped us expand our range to other rows on the keyboard.
My friend Cheryl Rodenburg also took typing that fall. One weekend, we decided to borrow her step-grandmother’s portable typewriter and practice our Typing I skills.
We thought it would be fun to create a weekly newspaper in Philomath, the farm community where she lived.
Philomath, in the northwest tip of Union County, Indiana, isn’t an incorporated town, and there are no businesses. But there was a street light outside the Rodenburg home (actually, a security light, no doubt billed to the family). There were several houses in the neighborhood and a lot of cars and tractors passing through the main drag. City life when compared to our much more isolated farm.
I felt so alive that weekend; in love with our newspaper project. Whereas three years earlier we spent weekends in marathon sessions playing with Barbies, this was a new era and I knew it.
I felt as though I could work on our little newspaper 24/7 and I would never tire of it, ever, ever. The power of the press had reached Philomath! And I knew that whatever stories we came up with about the neighborhood, the people would read them. They might have suggestions for more stories, and feel a sense of pride at being in print.
But with only home row under our belts that weekend, we weren’t yet skilled enough to pull off a weekly newspaper, or even one issue.
I ached with a desire to type fluently, stringing not just pecked-out words but sentences, and paragraphs together, to doing something I couldn’t quite verbalize the significance of, but it amounted to making that keyboard sing with the poetry of everyday people’s stories.
At home, there sat an ancient typewriter in the back of a closet. Mom unearthed it, but it was heavy as a Model T, and the keys had to be pushed hard into submission to gather enough ink off the old ribbon to leave a print.
Back in typing class, we kept getting better. Every beginner’s goal became the chance to move up from the manual typewriter to the modern IBM Selectric. I still recall the hum and slight vibration of the machine under my fingers, and the way the keys clicked so easily compared to the clack of non-electric keys. When my fingers sat on home row of that Selectric, I felt as a race horse must feel, itching to get out of the starting gate and move.
The sound of typing became music to my ears, a symphony when others typed at the same time. As the years rolled on, I joined the high school newspaper staff, became editor my senior year, and then studied journalism in college.
It was there I was introduced to video display terminals (VDTs) that we used in 1980s and 1990s newspapering.
What had not changed were the sounds and appeal of creating news stories, just as we had attempted as beginner typists that fall in Philomath. Only by the early 1980s, there was a screen and a curser and it felt so space-age to backspace and delete a stray character rather than attempt a neat job with the typewriter eraser or correction fluid.
Of course computers changed everything. The keyboards were connected to nothing short of the world and all its information in the form of the internet. But it also meant that everyone else was connected to the world. Would they still need local newspapers?
At some point, the clickity-clack of newsroom Associated Press bulletins and breaking news, as well as features and stock reports that printed out of that magical AP wire machine became obsolete. Computers silently transmitted all that copy to us.
As the years continued, many smaller papers stopped using their own presses and instead, printed at centralized locations.
At one time, a newspaper office was a noisy place. The press rolled, the keyboards of first typewriters, then VDTs, then computers clicked. The AP wire machine cranked out copy. People came and went in open-concept newsrooms and advertising departments.
You learned to concentrate in the midst of much noise and many disruptions. You didn’t think about it. Or if you did, you thought it was great to be a part of the pre-deadline mix; that it would all come together, somehow, as if by magic, into a printed newspaper. And it would all happen again the next day.
Most days now, someone comes by the newspaper office and says, “Sure is quiet in here.”
It’s true, too. Our Mac keyboards are so quiet that reporters with light touches can’t even be heard typing. The silence is deafening to where sometimes I think: Are we really making a paper? It's all happening so quietly.
At some point, I trashed my mother’s typewriter, that jet-black, heavy-as-a-Model-T number. As Brian would say, I was in one of my cleaning frenzies.
In the newspaper office, we were gifted with the typewriter that belonged to long-time owner Walter Chambers. It sits on his desk that his family also gave us. They thought his things should be at the newspaper.
The only other typewriter in the building rests above our old-time morgue, where old stories were clipped and stored for future reference. The typewriter typed the name of the topics of those stories on small envelopes. We never use that typewriter anymore. But no one is inclined to toss it out either.
I think back to October 1973 and the craving to know how to make a keyboard sing. I wanted to type fast and make newspapers.
It’s fall 2017. I’m in my thirty-fourth year as a paid community journalist. I still want to type fast and make newspapers.
Maybe some things don't change.
It's all about the new territory.
This week was a good one in the book-marketing department because the in-box brought details and posters from two large Indiana libraries affirming my acceptance as author at their fall fairs.
What that means is this. Potential new readers who might take an interest in my books will pass my table on two Saturdays in two separate cities. I might sell a couple, a few, or even a lot of books. But here's the real bait: if one of those readers happens to connect positively with what I write, that might generate an invite to a book club where all her friends have read it and want to discuss it.
Or it might mean that there isn't a peep until a winter's night when I get a call asking if I would be the speaker at her church's mother-daughter banquet come May. Or a beautiful hand-written letter arrives in the mail saying how much one of the books was enjoyed.
Or, nothing at all might result.
New territory. That's always the goal in author world.
When friends ask if I'm still selling books or doing anything with them, I see their surprise when I tell them yes. After all, they read the things a while ago, and in this super-fast-paced world, everything seems to be old news fast.
A book is like a homemade meal. Both take a lot of time to produce. There's all that ingredient-gathering, figuring out the recipes, having the right utensils, the cooking knowledge to prepare the dish properly, getting the right people to the table, and then, after such a long process to reach the end result, the book is read, the meal devoured.
Before the dishes are washed or the book widely distributed, the questions come: What's for dessert? (or) What are you doing next?
Well, if you're me or a whole bunch of other authors I know, what's next means looking for that new territory.
So along with the Fishers author fair, there's this one, which I heard through the author-vine, is a pretty terrific one, in Fort Wayne.
So what I know for now is that the author journey continues, and I am grateful to the Fishers / Hamilton County and the Fort Wayne / Allen County library staffs for selecting my books -- and me -- as a part of their author fairs.
If you or friends you know live in those areas, I'd love to visit with any of you on either of the first two Saturdays in November. The journey continues and as long as I can find new territory, I hope to remain on it.
AND, a bonus: My friend Sandy Moore, author of the children's chapter book, Sadie's Search for Home, and a new one coming out in December (which I'll let her announce more about when she's ready) also made the cut for these two author fairs. So we get to spend some time together. Any recommendations for a dinner spot in Fort Wayne?
In other news ...
Author Cathy Shouse of the Muncie branch of Pen Women sent this release along to The Courier-Times and I thought I’d share it here in full.
Cathy hosted me as a speaker last year and invited me to join the group. If there were more hours in the day, I would. If you’re looking for a group focused on the creative arts, Friday’s meeting would be a great way to check it out.
I met the guest speaker during a Tipton author fair two years ago and instantly liked her a lot. We’ve kept in touch and I’m happy to give her a plug, below.
Not only is this traditionally published author incredibly talented with art and words, she’s transparent and approachable. Here’s the info that Cathy sent:
Author and graphic designer Kelly O’Dell Stanley of Crawfordsville will speak at a luncheon program at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20 in Muncie. Her topic is: “How to Express Your Creativity in Unique Ways.”
O’Dell Stanley’s work has been included in design anthologies and PRINT Magazine’s Design Annual and she has received a variety of awards for her design.
The author discovered writing as a new way of practicing her creativity. In 2013, her essay won first place in the Writer’s Digest Competition in inspirational writing. She’s published two books with Tyndale since 2015; Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God and Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God.
Her original monthly calendars are downloaded by hundreds of people worldwide Visit her at (www.kellyostanley.com or on Facebook at Kelly O’Dell Stanley, Author)
The catered meeting is an outreach of the National League of American Pen Women’s Muncie branch at Westminster Villa’s Community Hall, 5600 Westminster Blvd., Muncie. The cost is $10. Space is limited. To attend call Barb Kehoe at 765-288-2098 or email email@example.com
Pen Women is a national, non-profit organization with headquarters in Washington D.C., whose members are artists, musicians and writers.
Today is one of those days when I'm celebrating the home fires -- even if the extent of the fire is the pumpkin-cinnamon candle above, and the stove when I put a supper casserole in later.
Today is a work day at home. If all goes as planned, I won't be driving anywhere, but rather doing some long-overdue, deeper-than-normal cleaning (the master bathroom for one), organizing, putting up the fall decorations, and chilling.
Sometimes it's the little things, the quiet days, that we celebrate in our own peaceful, low-key way. This is one of those kind of days. The candle above and the pretty fall ring with it were gifts from our friends Tom and Char when they visited in the summer. I told them I would be lighting up in the fall, and here we are.
Brian and I both enjoy burning scented candles in cool and cold weather. While it's not cool or cold today, it's fall and that's a good excuse to enjoy a new candle and think of our friends' thoughtfulness.
Speaking of sweet friends, yesterday this "thinking of you" card arrived from my dear friend Debbie in Ohio. Debbie used to live on Carriage Lane and our kids grew up together.
She's been blissfully busy being a new grandmother! And in the midst of it all, she thought of me with this homemade card and God-breathed scripture inside: Psalm 150:6: "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD."
I think the photo below summarizes this time of year, a period of transition. I'm still clinging to my summer sandals, but the brown nail polish indicates that it's fall (a color I don't wear much in other seasons).
OK, time to get busy and get some things done around the house! Happy Hump Day, everyone. Don't forget to celebrate life's quiet times and simple pleasures such as a clean house, a scented candle, and appreciation for our friends and loved ones.
Throughout the Newseum -- a museum dediciated to the five freedoms spelled out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there are what I think of as "pullout quotes." As for this one, I had to smile. I have known quite a few who perfectly fit this description. I have fit this description. And even though I'm no longer young, I hope I still do.
I promised at least one more post about our trip to Washington, D.C. I could do individual ones on so many related topics. Yes, our nation’s capital is endlessly interesting on many levels. This post will be a wrap with some photos and comments.
I’m saving back two topics for my Courier-Times columns. One runs Sunday about the most moving and memorable thing we saw. Another will run a week from tomorrow about some Hoosier influences in our capital.
My best tip for visiting the capital is to contact your Congressional representatives well in advance (a couple months out if possible) and ask what tickets they can provide. Phone or email works great as they are staffed to expect these calls. You'll provide your Social Security numbers, names and addresses. You tell them when you will be visiting and you'll be assigned dates and times during your stay.
In fact, if you want to go inside The White House, the Pentagon or the FBI Building, you must go through a member of Congress for specific timed tickets. We went through Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office and received tickets to all three as well as gallery passes to the House and Senate.
A Donnelly intern – from Muncie – gave us a personal tour of the U.S. Capitol, complete with a tunnel ride from the Ryan office building to the Capitol. It was entertaining and interesting to walk through an office building full of senators and one by one, pass their offices, as well as experience the tunnel trip – much shorter than walking. And since we had the intern all to ourselves, we learned about what that experience is like, the pecking order of Congressional aides, and what it's like for him to live and work in D.C. in this role.
Who were we to get these tickets? We were simply Americans who planned ahead.
As soon as we completed a thorough tour of the U.S. Capitol, we sat in on the House of Representatives in the gallery for a while. There was nothing dramatic going on in those moments that would make for press headlines but what we experienced was representatives doing the people's business.
There were short speeches about wild fires in North Dakota, an honor presented to a pastor from Louisiana, a California Congresswoman criticizing President Trump, and a voice of support for the President from Texas. 'Merica, folks. Democracy in action.
It was peaceful, respectful, and a look inside what it is like in the House on a daily basis. Many views and opinions, all representing the varied concerns of one nation, working out the messy business of democracy.
In Statuary Hall, in a wing off the Dome, each state provides two statues of figures from history they want most to recognize. They cannot be living to be honored there. Can you guess the two Hoosiers on display? How about author Gen. Lew Wallace from Brookville and Civil War Gov. Oliver P. Morton from Centerville?
Across the street from the Capitol is the Supreme Court. I think it's the most beautiful building in Washington, D.C. No admittance tickets are required here. You simply walk in and look around and there's much to see. The best part, however, you should note: Every hour, there is a half-hour lecture inside the Supreme Courtroom where you'll get an overview of how the court works, and learn about its history.
Two posts ago I did a lengthy piece on The White House, but here's two more photos I didn't include previously.
Here's the outside of the Newseum. If anyone has any doubt about the building's theme, it's spelled out. This was my number-one destination. It is a privately funded site, so there is a fee. But the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 exhibits here are worth the fee alone.
Another favorite stop is Ford's Theatre. The building was closed for more than a century. Today, however, it is restored inside the theatre to how it was when Lincoln was assassinated. The basement contains a wonderful museum with artifacts such as the gun that killed Lincoln and the top hat he wore that night along with the blood-stained pillow on which he died across the street.
Directly across the street from Ford's Theatre is the House Where Lincoln Died. Yes, that is what it was known as for many years. The mortally wounded president was brought in following being shot and there he passed. The property was much later purchased by the U.S. Upon Lincoln's death it was utteredin this room the famous phrase: "Now he belongs to the ages." Some think the actual quote was, "Now he belongs to the angels." Guess we'll never know for sure.
Very close to Ford's Theatre is the FBI Building. The public exhibit here has been closed since 9/11 until three months ago. We were fortunate to have tickets from our Congressman on the day we visited as we got to witness a group of FBI agents being tested for their shooting abilities. They are required to pass tests every three months to make sure their skills are sharp.
Fascinating displays are found here, including those relating to notorious bad guys such as John Dillinger and the Boston Marathon bomber. Long-time director J. Edgar Hoover's desk is on display. It's a wonderful tour.
We flew into D.C., having purchased an Expedia discount package months in advance. We decided to rely solely on the D.C. Metro system to get us around. Even so, expect a lot of walking. But it's an effective way to get around.
How do you find accommodations for D.C.? We went with a package several months ago through Expedia. We took an early Monday flight and returned to Indy around midnight Thursday night / Friday morning. It worked great.
We stayed at the George Washington University Inn near the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. Bonus: the stop is exactly at the GWU Hospital and steps inside the front door you'll find a Starbucks, cafeteria and public restroom. We opted for cafeteria coffee over Starbucks and even ate there a few times for convenience. The employees were super nice -- one even had a Noblesville connection.
Foggy Bottom is the GWU stop and we enjoyed seeing the students heading to and from classes. Our inn was a block and a half away on a residential street. It was perfectly serviceable but not particularly memorable otherwise, aside from the cold lemon-lime water in the lobby, quite welcome when returning hot and tired on a late afternoon.
Here's an elephant from the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. Big guy.
I also want to shout out to how helpful and friendly an untold number of people were -- strangers all -- of various races, heritages and economic realities. What we have in common as human beings is so much stronger than what separates us.
I think the national media fuels a fire that isn't always there, at least and certainly not in the peaceful daily lives of those we encounter and enjoy randomly throughout this great land of the United States of America.
We saw two protests -- IF you want to call them that. Inside the Capitol were some African Americans wearing shirts that read this: "Trump is not racist."
And, while resting in a park across from The White House, this fella slipped on the mask and walked past us. Waving.
'Merica, folks. All views welcome here.
I played hooky this morning, but in all the pageantry, I’m sure I wasn’t missed.
I received an invite to a press preview of the new Fishers IKEA store. And I didn’t go.
I’m sure many of my friends are aghast at the news. For years now, several of my home-girls have said we simply must make the trek to the Cincinnati store, the nearest to central Indiana--until now. But as quickly as the group got excited about the idea, we realized taking a van full would be pointless. We would simply want to buy too many things and there would be no space for any of it. It's akin to why be a kid in a candy store if you can't taste anything?
One of my friends has redecorated her house beautifully in recent years and whenever a particular cool furnishing or sparkling chandelier is pointed out in her home, it’s the same response: “IKEA!”
So why in the world would I pass on a press pass to this wonderland for home furnishings and clever storage ideas? Plus a complimentary Swedish breakfast buffet? Timing. It’s everything.
I’ve got evening obligations away from home three nights this week, including coordinating tonight’s her magazine for women holiday recipe contest at The Courier-Times. Tomorrow I’ll be late covering the Extension Homemakers County Club Night. I spent half of Sunday making noodles as a service project and Monday was work and Bible Study Fellowship that night. All good stuff, fun stuff, even. But an ultra busy week.
Driving to Indy for the morning, then to New Castle in the afternoon to prepare and oversee the contest put me over the top in scheduling. So I’ve spent the morning catching up on bill-paying and other household chores on hold since our vacation. There will be some errands this afternoon. It was a two-eggs-over-easy breakfast for me today instead of the interesting-sounding Swedish fare. Sigh.
Sometimes we need a break in the action, even if it comes at the cost of an interesting free meal, a sneak peek at the 45th IKEA store in the nation and the “I can’t believe you didn’t go” comments from my friends.
Even Brian says he’s got to see this place he's heard so much about! Meanwhile, IKEA marketing has put together some incentives for those who can’t wait to be first on the scene at the new store when it opens on Oct. 11. How long would you wait in line?
The opening-day, Wednesday, Oct. 11 ceremony includes State Rep. Todd Huston raising the U.S. flag, Hon. Swedish Vice Consul Anna Engstrom Patel raising the Swedish flag and State Sen. Victoria Spartz hoisting the Indiana state flag.
Store employees will sing the respective American and Swedish national anthems and America the Beautiful prior to opening remarks. Entertainment for customers waiting in line begins at 6 a.m.
Incentives, according to a Fishers store release:
-- The first 45 adults (18 & older) in IKEA Fishers on Oct. 11 will receive a free EKTORP three-seat sofa, honoring our 45th U.S. store.
-- The next 100 adults (18 & older) will receive a free POÄNG armchair.
-- The first 100 children (17 & younger) will receive a free FAMNIG heart-shaped soft toy.
-- The first 2,500 adults (18 & older) will receive a random prize envelope with IKEA Gift Cards ranging from $10 to $250, or a “Buy One, Get One Free” cinnamon bun, hotdog or soft-serve frozen yogurt voucher.
-- The first 100 adults (18 & older) bringing proof that their birthday is the same as the store’s will receive a gift card in the amount of $45, a tie-in corresponding to IKEA Fishers as the 45th U.S. IKEA store.
-- From Oct. 11-15, visitors may enter for a chance to win one of 20 $250 IKEA Gift Cards through the IKEA FAMILY loyalty program. IKEA is matching twice the amount of the prizes (a total of $10,000) with a donation of home furnishings to Dayspring Center, a local organization that meets the basic needs of homeless families seeking assistance and helps them realize their potential.
So what do you think? Do you plan to get there early to win a prize, or will you wait until later? What are your impressions of IKEA? Have you been to other IKEAs? Or, is IKEA not even on your radar?
With Brian’s background studying and teaching U.S. history and political science, and mine in journalism with a history minor, it’s no surprise that we love to visit Washington, D.C.
But much more than that, we both love our nation, and we relish learning about its heritage, as well as our rights and privileges as Americans.
All summer we’ve looked forward to this last week in September. We knew the best way to get ourselves inside the public tours of The White House, Pentagon, and FBI were to first contact our Congressional representatives weeks or even months in advance of our vacation.
Turns out, in this post-9/11 era, the only way for the general public to get inside those sites is with passes issued through Congressional offices.
While you can get into the Capitol without Congressional tickets, without them you won’t get a personal tour from a staff intern, complete with a tunnel ride from a Senate office building into the Capitol complex. We received our assigned appointments for all these tours, then built the rest of our itinerary around them.
We were a little surprised to learn that we had been issued credentials for all of our requests, but then, I also learned that the best months to visit D.C. to avoid crowds are September through November.
I was too excited to sleep much before we flew out early Monday morning. My number-one on the ticketed-tour list was The White House. This was my fifth trip to D.C. but only the first inside the home of every U.S. president minus George Washington.
About a White House tour, I've heard, “You don’t see much.” Others have memories of visiting as kids or on senior trips. I wonder how our tour stacks up to those from decades past – or even those prior to 9/11 when security in our nation’s capital – and our great country -- absolutely changed.
For those who might be disappointed, I don’t know what they expect – a nap in the Lincoln Bedroom? Tea poured by the First Lady on the second floor? Let’s get real. This is a home, and a real family lives here. What you’ll be seeing are about a dozen first-floor public rooms along with their priceless furnishings.
What I also know is that the current mostly self-guided tour, was much better, and included seeing more rooms, spaces, and décor than I had guessed. Rather than any disappointment, I'm surprised and delighted with all we saw, and with the fact that only for the past two years has the public been permitted and encouraged to take photos on the tour route. I'm glad we came when we did.
Not a good-hair day for me, but get a glimpse of that beautiful White House Library.
You know this woman, below. I'm stricken by how much (like, exactly) that Chelsea looks like her mom. I suppose Chelsea is about the age now that Hillary was when she stood for her official First Lady portrait.
I should have taken more photos of the first ladies, but I got a few of the official presidential portraits, below. The first ladies and presidential portraits are scattered throughout the floor. I learned that they do not remain in one spot but are rotated throughout the mansion.
The Vermeil Room was once the billiard room, now used for various functions. Portraits of a variety of recent First Ladies are displayed there along with a collection of gilded silver, or vermeil.
Here are a pair of presidential portraits from a hallway. You know these men.
Remember that a family has lived in The White House continuously since 1800 and along the way, these families make changes and leave their own touch on the property. Some things go, like the billiards room, and some stay, like The China Room designated in 1917 by Edith Wilson.
I was surprised by how small the official State Dining Room is, below.
Next to the State Dining Room is the Old Family Dining Room. Another visitor asked if we would like our photo taken there. Yes, please, below.
And now the rooms we know by color.
I took quite a few more photos but I'll close with this one. I asked a Secret Service agent stationed in the room about the stairway, below. Yes, indeed, he told me, the stairs do go to the second-floor private family quarters.
I'll be doing a Part II post on some aspect of our trip to D.C. What I really want to share with readers are some thoughts and photos from The Newseum on their 9/11 exhibit, and about the statues and other aspects of the trip that referenced people and places I know well from east-central Indiana, One or both of those topics will be in a Courier-Times column.
For now, let me ask you: Have you toured The White House? When and what were your impressions? I loved this tour and am crossing this off my bucket list. I am impressed with the security, traffic flow, and also the way guests are still ironically able to take their time touring this beautiful mansion. And, I'm delighted that photo-taking is encouraged.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on your White House experiences.
And for the record, I didn't break anything!
Joyce and Jim exchanged vows on Fourth of July weekend 2013 on a New Hampshire hilltop. In this moment, Joyce told everyone to get comfortable because she had something to read to Jim and it would take a while. We would have expected nothing less. What we didn't expect was that they wouldn't have long together before they battled the demon of cancer that took Jim.
I’ve been a fan of author Joyce Maynard for 30 years. When I discovered her, she was knee-deep in raising kids and tomatoes, making pies, and beautiful Christmases. In the midst of all that, life got messy, and she didn’t shy away from sharing those parts, either.
There came the illness, then death of her beloved mother, a painful divorce; dating and relationships. And who happened to be in New York City on 9/11? Joyce, of course, as though sent to chronicle another moment that we needed to see through her first-person lens.
I would learn that Joyce had gained national fame as a teen with a New York Times magazine-cover essay whereby she rocketed to the description of "the voice" of her generation, and that led to a relationship with a famous man, her first heartbreak.
But what interested me most was not the fame part, but the ordinary part of her life – the kids-and-tomatoes part.
Add that homey side to the community-columnist and small-town-newspaper-reporter side of me, and I was hooked on her writing – and let her know.
Joyce came off the page when she invited me to stay with her during her epic New Hampshire yard sale before her move to California in the late 1990s. Who could guess there would be a second invite to New Hampshire, this time to see her marry Jim, the eventual love of her life, the dashing California attorney? Yet there my friend Gay and I stood on a New Hampshire hilltop, watching the ceremony in July 2013.
What nationally-acclaimed author gets that personal with her readers?
While she has always detailed the life and times of her generation, as well as shared personal details from her life, as though each reader is really her close friend visiting over coffee, The Best of Us is one we all wish she didn’t have to write.
She lost her love too soon. She tells us everything; things we don’t want to hear, but know she must say, about cancer and what you do when the person you love most is dying. Or before you know he is dying and you are frantically trying to find what will save him, and save you. But her fans have been around a day or two. We’ve seen cancer, and death, and pain, and disappointments along with our own hilltop moments. We understand.
At the end of almost every chapter, there is a simple, but profoundly poignant point offered by Joyce, a takeaway even, for us all. For example, while addressing a frustration over an inconvenience due to her husband losing his car keys, she writes, “In the old days, I would have made some sharp remark. How could he? I didn’t do those things anymore. ‘If only,’ I often said, ‘you could learn the lessons of cancer without having cancer.’”
She writes with candor, her signature, of course, in ways that sometimes make you wince and want to look away from plenty of ugly situations, not only of the cancer journey that we know won’t end well, but of heart-rending situations before the two found each other. We’re reminded of our own, personal, look-away moments. We're prone to hide them away rather than put them out there.
The joy that sparkles in this book is that Joyce and Jim found each other, and got to experience travel and life and love in a condensed form that I would call blessings.
Joyce and I are two different women in more obvious ways than we are alike. Yet perhaps at the heart of our curious connection is this shared core belief: That it isn’t real until it’s written. And that we don’t get to choose our life stories. They choose us. Then we tell them.
She spent a year after Jim’s death writing this book, and now she’s touring with it, something she revels in, and finds energy from. Writing a book is necessarily a solo experience with quiet and isolation. Joyce recharges by meeting her readers, hearing how they identify with her words, and how she identifies with them.
She will survive this. Jim had said he only wanted to be her good husband. He regretted, perhaps more than anything, the burden he would say he became to her, the pain his pain caused her. The way she can honor him now, I believe, is to press on and have a wonderful life, find new love and joy and, (I would add, most of all) faith.
She told me once to “Keep telling stories.”
I will stay tuned to hear hers. There will be new ones to find and I know she will write about them all. I hope that the next chapter will be one that makes her heart sing. Life is full of so much. Love, laughter, people we love and lose, relationships, sadness, disappointment, and moments that surprise and soar. She’s not done, this woman who chronicles life for the Baby Boomer generation.
I still see the two of them, Joyce and Jim, on that New Hampshire hilltop four years ago. They had it all.
From them, let us remember that our days are likewise numbered. And to cherish each and every one we get.
Connect with her at www.joycemaynard.com. Her book is available in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and if you are fortunate enough to catch her on tour, from Joyce personally.
Career community journalist Donna Cronk is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
When we make our way through an airport, I marvel at the light-footed traveler who checks in nothing, sports a single, smallish carry-on, and somehow, is perfectly equipped for whatever journey is ahead.
I’m not her.
Every time we travel, I experiment with techniques said to streamline luggage. Put each outfit in its own plastic bag. Roll your clothes. Bring one pair of pants, several tops, and you’re done. Checked luggage is for novices.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I still end up with a large bag to check, usually one to roll through the airport, and a personal satchel and purse besides. After all, I'm sure I'd be the one who would spill something toxic and staining on my one spare pair of pants. I'd be the one whose check-in luggage was lost. I'd be the one without whatever it is I need. And what if it turns cold and I have no sweater? Or hot and I have only sweaters?
So I over pack, and I flash back to first grade.
It was my first field trip, and a big one for a child who had never been on a day trip with anyone who didn’t include her mom. It was exciting! We packed into a school bus and headed to the Cincinnati Zoo.
We were traveling light, and I had with me a small, plastic, snap-shut change purse which held enough money for whatever I would need. Cotton candy, maybe. A toy? The possibilities were endless to trade from the contents of that pocket-sized money holder.
I don't remember what we did about lunch. It sure seems as though we would have brought brown bags full of food. It could be, however, we bought lunch there. I don’t remember the animals or who I hung out with, if anyone.
I only remember what I didn't have. The one thing I have never forgotten is that I lost my change purse at the start of the trip and the resulting feeling was of being utterly without resources, the trip spoiled.
It’s not a subconscious feeling. It’s right there, in the front of my mind. The coping messages sound off: Take an extra pair of glasses: What if yours break or the lens falls out? Carry-on underwear, makeup, an extra outfit: What if your luggage is lost? Do you have enough cash with you? What if you lost your credit card? Pack an extra camera: You want pictures, above anything you buy.
The real question always comes back to that little girl who lost her money. If I lose what I need, what will I do?
I vented about all this to a close friend the other day, herself a seasoned traveler. Hardly a month or two passes but she is off to visit her children in other states or on a vacation in Hawaii or even Paris.
“How do you do it?” I asked her in confidence. “How do you travel light?” I wanted some additional secrets, maybe a few that worked better than the plastic bags and rolled outfits that don’t. Most importantly, I knew I could ask her and not be chided for my ignorance of knowing how to pack lighter, the gold standard, it seems.
Guess what she told me?
She takes extra glasses, outfits, and over packs too.
I think rather than thinking I’m crazy to be channeling my inner six-year-old, and berating myself for schlepping it all through the airport, I’ll just relax in my over-preparation -- and roll with it.
What about you? I’d like to hear about your packing methods and if you can go light or if you, too, take along the kitchen sink.
Don’t let anyone fool you. Brian is every bit as sentimental as I am. If you want proof, try getting rid of (um, I mean paring down and passing on) books of any kind.
Our book collection consumes a variety of venues throughout our home. There’s the glass-front antique secretary where choice volumes reside. There you’ll find author-signed editions, my assembly of Hoosier-themed books, special book gifts, the boys’ baby books, Sam and Allison’s wedding album.
In this household it’s hard to make the cut for inclusion behind that glass. One reason is that the books there are special and dear. Another reason, probably the main one, is there’s no more space on those shelves.
With the kids gone, our bonus room upstairs doesn’t get much action. There’s no TV there anymore, but the shelves brim as they always have. The three bookcases hold the majority of our collection, along with more than an entire row of photo albums and another row of scrapbooks. There are also school yearbooks dating to the 1960s continuing every year on through 2015, Brian’s last in education. The weight of that shelf alone may well warp the floor boards beneath it. If our house tilts a bit, that shelf is probably why.
In a corner is an antique cabinet that spent decades in Dad’s barn holding tools but then I bought it at the auction, had it refinished, and upgraded it to indoor house life.
When we moved here 19 years ago, it went upstairs to hold our third-string books. These consist of college textbooks and reading-list materials as well as a career worth of Brian’s textbooks that were “sampled” to him from publishers wanting to place their books in his classrooms and texts that he used in said classrooms, now outdated, some by a long shot.
Lately I’ve been on a mission to go through every volume and decide if we should keep it or find it another home. I need to catch Brian in just the right mood for the 15-minutes at a time that he can tolerate this evaluation process.
My method goes like this. I grab a stack of his books, some dating a full half century spent on one book shelf of his or another, and carry them downstairs. I hold each up and he tells me to keep it, get rid of it, or a third option: “That’s Steve’s.”
Yes, a news flash, just registering after 50 years of shuffling high school and college texts around: About 25 of them belong to Brian’s brother. Who knew? He will after reading this. Steve, they are coming your way. Or maybe I’ll send you photos and you can give me the yea, or nay, or maybe.
Brian has his own techniques in deciding which of his books to keep or pass on. But darned if I have any idea what they are. Two examples:
Of a college poetry anthology, Brian said, “I hated that book.” He had to do a paper on one poem in particular. All over that poem he has arrows and notes. The thing is nearly covered in blue ink. He got an F on the paper! This from a man from whom anything lower than an A or B was rare.
“Keep it,” he said, shocking me. “That’s one bad memory I want to keep.”
Another college text brought the opposite kind of memory, but proved equally retainable. “We all had to write a one-page paper in that class. He limited us to that. I blew him away. I got an A. Keep it.”
I’m the same, in my own way. There’s an oversized, tattered Mary Poppins movie storybook. Mary Poppins was the first movie I ever went to the movies to see. Mom and I went to a theater in downtown Richmond. I was enchanted.
I carried tomato soup and bacon sandwiches in a Mary Poppins lunch box all through elementary school. That tin is now in our attic where it holds every high school corsage I ever received. There weren’t that many.
For now, I’m keeping the picture book, the lunch box, and the corsages. Next question.
Today I’m scooping up a stack of mostly textbooks we are parting ways with and handing them off to the library for a future Friends book sale. My thought is the Friends probably don’t want them either, but it seems unkind, somehow, and certainly not green, to just toss them.
I suppose there’s a proper or a trendy technique for disposing of old textbooks and displaced volumes. Someone may email me and say “You should have contacted the (this) or packaged them up and mailed them to the (that).” But instead, I’m palming them off to the Friends for evaluation and disposal. I’m wretched.
As the aging process continues, for the books and for us, there will be more volumes and other things to part ways with. I’m noticing that with aging comes decreasing our belongings and the space we consume in this world a little at a time.
I often think of the lady who attended one of my “bucket list” programs. When asked what’s on the group members’ bucket lists, she provided the most curious answer I’ve heard from the hundreds who have participated in the exercise. She said, “To leave this world with no more than one bag of possessions.”
What would be in your bag? One thing that won’t be in mine is that poetry book of Brian’s with the bad memory attached to it. But I do see his point.
Sometimes a bad memory points to the fact that we work hard, do what we can, and still fail. But survive it we do, then press on.
Sometimes these old, unwanted books still provide lessons.
Talk to me: How do you manage your book collection?