I decided to make a full day of it on Saturday. New Castle English teacher, author, and friend Annette Goggin had an early-morning reading and book signing at the Spiceland, Indiana library, and invited me to attend.
I wanted to hear her speak and enjoy the company of those attending at this sweet little library so capably managed by Kathy Painter. The only problem was I had an early-evening banquet in Ohio, and the structure of the day would leave me with an odd amount of extra time, yet it didn't make sense to drive back home only to head in the opposite direction again so quickly.
So I decided to make a day of it, and meander my way to Ohio. And isn't extra time a beautiful and rare commodity, no matter the amount?
After Annette's enjoyable program, she and I enjoyed a nice catch-up lunch here, in Cambridge City.
As I looked around the cafe, moments before Annette arrived, I spotted her collection of life stories, Home: Three Houses, beautifully displayed (and for sale). And of course when she arrived, a photo was in order.
After a nice lunch and even nicer chat, Annette headed home to get some things done, and of course, grade papers. An AP high school English teacher's work is never done! But OH! How I love English teachers. Some of my favorite people are English teachers.
If you haven't been to Cambridge City in a while, you should go. The downtown is absolutely charming and thriving with an abundance of quality antiques and gift shops as well as places to eat and visit. The downtown was hopping Saturday.
With the luxury of time on my hands, I slipped next door to one of my favorite stores, Building 125, and browsed around at the lovely displays created by owner and town benefactor Norma Bertsch. Whether buying antiques, accessories, or gathering inspiration, I always find those things here. Saturday, I picked up some of my perennial favorites from this store: beautiful vintage-inspired dish towels.
And outside, at the entryway, are twin urns so beautifully styled...
By the time I left Building 125, we were solidly into the afternoon. I could do more shopping before traveling on to Ohio, but I had other things on my mind. While I didn't have stacks of English papers to grade, I did have a tote bag in the back seat loaded with projects.
So I did what I often do when I have a chunk of alone time. (And here is my little secret.) I found a quiet, sunny spot, preferably in a church parking lot somewhere, rolled down my windows, stretched out in my car's back seat, and (ahhhh!) got to work.
Here's why I like a quiet, remote spot. I prefer to revise my programs by reading them aloud. It's the best way to weed out wordiness. So I read and reworked the evening's program, Bloom Before You're Planted.
I had more work in that bag. There was the final lesson before summer break for Bible Study Fellowship, due Monday, and notes and photos that need condensed and placed in order for Wednesday's (6:30 a.m.!!) program to the New Castle Morning Optimists. This one is a debut of what it was like to cover the presidential inauguration. Unfortunately, time has a way of evaporating and I didn't get to those before I meandered on to ...
People think of Indiana as flat. Being from Union County, where it is suddenly not, I never thought of the Hoosier state that way until I moved farther west.
When you travel from non-flat Union County toward Brookville, and then southwest into Ohio, oh my! It is anything but flat. As per instructions from Judy Leary, who invited me to speak at the Macedonia Christian Church's spring women's banquet, I took the back roads to get to the Macedonia Christian Church.
There was no good place to pull over to capture the beautiful views, the ribbons of road, and the emerging green that filled my windshield, but I sure did enjoy the drive, with Judy's instructions through the back roads landing me perfectly here ...
And inside, the loveliness continued ...
And even a poster announcing my program ...
After a pitch-in meal featuring delicious soups, fresh vegetables, dips, and desserts, I presented my newly revised program to a wonderful group of attentive women with cheerful smiles and encouragement beaming from their faces.
Judy was in the front, and I watched her smiling face as I continued. They were all so kind and welcoming. In fact, a companion poster to the above, welcomed me personally! It was so much fun.
I left the church at 7 with the sun shining brightly as I enjoyed the peaceful evening drive back to Indiana, then northwest toward home. It was solidly dark by the time I rolled into home, dozed off during my evening bath, and was sleeping by 10.
Thank you Annette, Judy, and the Macedonia Church women for this scrapbook-look at the last Saturday in April. And thank you, Lord, for more memories to treasure from this season of life.
During this life season as a regional author, there is no greater treat than for a book club to feature one of mine and then invite me in for the wrap-up discussion.
This honor came last night at the Fishers United Methodist Church when its book club discussed That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland as the monthly pick.
It was beyond my pleasure to join the group members. They had read my first book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, a couple years ago, and I got to attend that discussion too.
It’s interesting how these opportunities present themselves. Since the bulk of Brian’s career was spent at Fishers Junior High, you’d think his connections created my link to this group. Or, maybe it had to do with our daughter-in-law, Allison, being from Fishers, or son Sam and Allison making their home there ...
But no, it all came about through a friend in New Castle, Mary Malone, who gifted my first book to her bestie, Rita. Rita in turn shared the book with her Fishers book club that consists of retired Fall Creek Elementary School teachers. One of the members, Kay, also shared the book with her second book club at church and the connection was made!
As with discussion of the first book, this group had an hour and a half of questions and comments, delving into plot, character, theme, and opinions. They “got” my books. One member shared how she laughed aloud at the chicken-coop-home-tour scene. Another said she thought Oh, don’t do it without consulting Sam! when Stan was offered a special opportunity.
One said his favorite character was Joy, the boarder. Another had a complaint. He said with a minor character, Krista, I switched back and forth from Kris to Krista, and he found it confusing. (I didn’t tell him that while I did that on purpose, and maybe shouldn’t have, I kept forgetting if the character’s name was Krista or Kristin!)
The same gentleman had an idea for a new series whereby I would write short stories about guests who come stay at the inn.
I thanked them for their thoughtful questions, their time caring about the books and the characters and the town as well as for their ideas. One lady gently said, “We care about your characters.”
Thank you to so many – to Mary, Rita, Kay, the facilitator Kim, and to everyone who took the time to read and comment and care about these books. It was a lovely evening.
A book club’s laser-like focus is a reminder of the privilege and the thrill of seeing one’s stories in print and living this dream and this season of wherever this journey takes me.
Last night’s stop was in Fishers, but the ride home was on Cloud Nine.
This is just the time of year that makes me antsy. Every day, the trees and shrubs have filled out significantly more than the day before. The grass looks like a lush, Irish-green shag carpet, and once again, the ash tree survives the nasty ash borer disease that has taken down many a beauty in recent years.
We have plenty of yard work needing done. Our side of the white vinyl fence behind our property needs washed, there is weeding, and pruning, and plenty more to do if we were ambitious about such things.
But what calls my name are the vacancies at the end of the black chains dangling on the back porch as well as on my topiary-styled pole on the front. I want to pick up a bridal veil for its designated spot by the front door (the most ideal spot for this plant that could possibly exist and I take full advantage of it yearly). And I want to fill the back porch with huge Boston ferns.
Those Bostons have been taunting me at a particular grocery store where I can get them cheaper than at several other locations. So I’m playing beat the clock. Will they be sold out by the time I feel sure the weather will cooperate with their outdoor digs?
I wish somebody would just say when, and I would know that the time had come.
“Have you got your ferns yet?” a friend asked a week or more ago. I don’t dare yet. I looked at the weather for the next week and it looks promising. But that takes me only to April 29 and then I remember my mother saying to hold off with outdoor annuals until May 10.
Others say May 1 or Mother’s Day. But my mother seemed to know best. True, the porch is covered. But still. I don’t want to buy them only to see them turn brown and ratty, and then go to the trouble and expense of having to replace them with the second, inferior wave of smaller Bostons.
Today, the neighbors and Brian played beat the clock and mowed and worked their yards, getting a jump on not only the weekend but the rain said to move in tomorrow. I did some landscape weeding.
The plastic bin resembled a salad bowl with green trimmings piled high. A couple weeks ago I bought tiny cone-shaped evergreens for the black urns in front of the garage doors. I like the greens in the urns but they tend not to last beyond a couple of years so I didn’t invest too much. For now they are growing like, well, weeds.
I’d rather have a sunny Saturday tomorrow than rain, as though I got to decide such things. But the rain is needed and will encourage the growth and nourish the soil.
So, I’ll wait patiently for the Bostons to take their places, for the bridal veil to welcome front-door guests, and for May 10 to hit the calendar, assuring me, as did my mother all those years, that the time has come.
That is, unless of course, I cave.
Last night’s stop took me to Centerville, Indiana, for an evening with the Opportunity Extension Homemakers Club. We met in the local senior center. It was an easy drive taking the back roads after work at the newspaper in New Castle.
The club’s president, the soft-spoken Peggy, allowed me a thoughtful courtesy, an offer to give my talk early in the meeting and then leave whenever I wished while club business unfolded.
The ladies were attentive and several picked up books, for which I’m grateful. It’s the second time I’ve given a program in this town where I don’t suppose I truly know anyone here anymore, but I know the place well. Consider:
There remains no family remnant of my own in the town where two branches of my family tree merged, but my grandparents are buried in the town’s large cemetery.
Whenever I go to Union County, I take the country road through Abington so I can pass the one-time farm home of my maternal grandfather. My mom often spoke of the threshing dinners, draft horses and fun she had staying with her grandparents there in the summer. Of course it’s been out of her family for decades, but I stare all the same.
So a trip to Centerville, a town my mother loved for her memories visiting grandparents on their farm, is also a trip down memory lane of another kind for me.
Once my part Thursday night was finished, the business meeting resumed and after a bit I decided to go ahead, pack up, and leave. I didn’t want to interrupt the women for photos so instead, I took these few on my way out of this town -- a town distinctive to me for roots – and for memories in the making.
Until next time ...
I'll be back soon to Centerville. Next time, it's a book signing during the spring open house at the beautiful Warm Glow Candle complex from 10-6 Friday, May 5. Stop by and say hi.
When my hairdresser moved my appointment from 10 to 11:30 this morning, I was happy. I thought I could fly through the day-off to-do list before settling into the chair.
Surely I’d have time to straighten the house (I am officially the messy one in this household); tinker with my script for tomorrow night's program about this writing journey; to whip up a blog (which I’m doing as we speak) and to squeeze in a couple of other chores such as finding a recipe online for an Easter dish my daughter-in-law requests I make, rescheduling a dental visit and starting my week’s Bible Study Fellowship lesson.
Clearly, I over-estimated what I could accomplish, and under-estimated the time it takes, as I tell Brian, “to be me.”
I seem to work best mornings, then get a new burst of morning energy at night. Today I’ve got to get busy this afternoon too because this morning won’t cut the must-do list, let alone the more ambitious want-to-do one.
I could scrap the blog post today, and who would care? As much as I enjoy having people tell me they read my blog or someone I would least expect will make a reference to a post, I suppose that the answer is, I would be the one who would care if I didn't post.
This is my twice-a-week sharing of randomness about what’s going on around these parts.
If you are a writer yourself, you’ve probably read articles or even books about what a writer or author should do to promote his or her work. The general name for this is “building a platform.” That means creating a place where your readers connect with your writing, get to know you, and hopefully, want more.
Blogging is a huge expectation within a platform, and a big no-no is to leave readers hanging. We are to be consistent in posting. So if you read this out of curiosity, are just stopping by for the first time, or have been reading my columns in the New Castle Courier-Times for years, welcome and please visit again.
If you want more information about the speaking programs I offer or where I’ll be on this promotional road (spring is by far my busiest season) check out the CONTACT tab above. Maybe we’ll connect along the way.
Until then – or until my next post – I’d best get busy and try to get at least one more thing done before these roots get covered!
By the way, if you are a blogger and read my posts, would you please take a moment and share your links and plug your own blogs and websites? I’d love sharing those with my readers and also check out your work for myself.
It’s been a cold, windy few days. But then, that’s part of the season. Still, spring cannot be held back.
I felt certain the wind would strip off the lavishly beautiful display on our backyard tree. Yet those blossoms are hanging on for dear life. I noticed a while ago the layers of color in the setting: the lovely green of the grass, the vibrant blue sky, the blossoms and white fence.
Yesterday Brian and Sam ran off to The Great American Ballpark to see the Cincinnati Reds play and win. I was concerned for them with the wind and possible rain but they weren’t complaining as they dressed for the occasion in layers and added rain gear on top. They had a good time.
Then last night, Bob Jenkins, whose career as an auto-racing broadcaster took him all over the world covering every kind of auto sport you can name, gave a charming presentation at the Henry County Historical Society. I wanted to go because Bob is from my hometown of Liberty, and so I covered it for our paper. When I was mentioned to him as from his hometown, he took a moment to connect the dots and mentioned that his brother and mine were best friends and to tell my brother, Tim, hi for him. It was a good night.
Even though I’m not an avid race fan, many in my family are, and it was fun to hear his stories and I was also reminded of the spectacular month of May in Indiana, which I associate with the Indy 500 and a great time of year to be a Hoosier.
Tomorrow Pendleton friends and family will say goodbye during the celebration of life for Tim Redmond at Ovid Community Church. Tim’s wife Patty is a member of my life group, The Midlife Moms, and we’ll be helping out with the dinner as well as attending the memorial service for a wonderful man.
For now, there are Friday chores to see to. The sun is shining, the dog is napping and we’re off to the grocery store. What are you and yours up to this weekend?
Just as the membership has done for 105 years straight, the ladies assembled Tuesday for the monthly meeting of the Book Lovers’ Club, located on the south side of Indianapolis. This month they met at the West Newton Friends Meeting.
I had recently been invited to speak by a newer member of this literary club, Valley Mills Friends Meeting Pastor Marilee Gabriel. (If you are thinking that is a tranquil-sounding name, I agree.)
Here’s how it went. Marilee is from California by way of Minnesota. She isn’t up on Hoosier women writers, this year’s club theme. So she called Earlham College and talked to someone who is, and that someone recommended me. How cool is that?
I don’t know either of them, but was more than delighted to rearrange my schedule and point the HHR toward Indy. Come to find out, West Newton Friends is the church where author Brent Bill is pastor. Bill is a former Henry County resident and close friend of my former boss, Bill Brooks. He used to appear almost daily in the newsroom to see Bill.
Why yes, it's a small world.
Once I met Marilee and got my book things set up in the fellowship hall, we were instructed to enjoy the day’s refreshments. You’ve got to love a place where they offer dessert first.
Next up were introductions and the reading of the club Collect from the program book.
They had me give my program before they saw to philanthropic and other club matters. Marilee thought the group would enjoy hearing about how and why I became a writer for a newspaper as well as of a couple of novels.
So I gave the group the 20-minute version (Brian says no one wants to hear anyone talk more than 20 minutes and I tend to agree). I told them about community journalism and how at 50, about the time the empty nest loomed large, and other midlife questions and issues emerged having to do with colonoscopies, retirement planning and nursing home insurance, I took it all out on my computer by inventing Samantha Jarrett and giving her a lot of issues to deal with, then sending her off to her hometown where I gave her even more.
I spoke of deeper themes in both of my books than what's happening on the surface, themes such as how God doesn't want us to get stuck at any particular age or stage or even at some "sweet spot" where we're all settled in. However, He promises to go with us through everything if we only invite Him to do so.
I told them about the second book's theme of blooming where we are planted, and having to decide where that planting will take place. In the second book, all the characters have to figure out where it is they belong and what they'll let God do with their lives.
We talked about aging and how the two sons in the first book represented the different viewpoints about how to approach age. One was all about change and challenge and taking chances. The other thought his mom should live in a safe senior condo and not have to fool with risk and upkeep of an old house and just enjoy life -- but it wasn't the life she wanted.
That all let to a discussion of bed and breakfasts and then, what was really fun, was that we had another guest! One of the ladies had invited Tom Gaunt. He and his wife own and operate Mansion on the Mile B & B in Lockerbie Square.
Well into their 60s, they are just getting started, and opened the B & B last summer. They have guests from all over the world stay with them and offer elegant Victorian breakfasts. A guest from China proclaimed their breakfasts "the best in the world."
I'm a bit awestruck with this couple's accomplishments, not the least of which is either adopting or fostering over 100 kids. Now with the nest empty, they plan to devote their time to the beautiful inn (they also have day jobs, mind you)!
According to a brochure from Tom, the inn is also known as the Historic Tate Mansion due to a couple of notorious residents! Warren Tate, in fact, is known for the murder inside the Marion County Courthouse over a dispute over the property where the inn sits today.
The lady who became his wife, Helen Daily, was arrested for running a house of "ill repute."
Neither were, however, convicted. The property was featured on the HGTV show, "If Walls Could Talk."
Tom bought both my books and plans to place them at the inn for guests to enjoy. And now, both of us are a part of the official minutes of this lovely little literary club, 105 years young and going strong.
Thank you Marilee and ladies for a delightful stop on this writing journey! And thank you, Tom, for the information about your beautiful B & B and your inspiring life stories.
For more about Mansion on The Mile B & B, visit www.mansiononthemile.com. The home is at 228 N. East St. Indy. Phone: 317-434-0000. The couple has also converted an old Sinclair Filling Station into a guest house, available for rental as well, next door.
As I told the more than 25 would-be authors who showed up Wednesday at the Fishers Library for my self-publishing workshop, creating books and a resulting small business are both business and hobby.
When it comes to profits, the payoffs are often found in the people and experience as much or more than in the bank account. A few such surprises were in store for me that evening.
I knew that my writing colleague and friend, former newspaper editor and current author Janis Thornton planned to attend, and there she was, ready to offer support, encouragement, and her photographic skills.
She took some nice pictures of the program and she even generously offered to share some additional publishing resources with attendees. She made good on the offer as those arrived in our emails this morning.
Susan Hoskins Miller, a librarian with the University of Indianapolis and a children’s book author, has been my Facebook friend for a while now, but we had never met until Wednesday at the library when she gave me a warm greeting – and I clumsily knocked over her water bottle in return! (Thank heavens she had it closed and it didn’t leak or break when it hit the floor.)
A married couple from New Castle, the town where I work at The Courier-Times, showed up. The wife had read both my books and the husband has a book in the works. Get this. After the free program, he put a $20 bill on the table before me. I asked what that was for. It was a tip for giving the program! He showed me the voluminous notes he took. How incredibly kind!
One attendee mentioned that her folks are from Union County. That would be my little home-place neck of the woods in east-central Indiana. Small world, even in Fishers, Indiana, population 89,000.
At the end of the evening, as the remaining attendees said their goodbyes, I looked up and into the conference room walked my son Sam and his wife Allision!
“We’re here to help you pack up your things,” they said. They brought me a hot tea from Starbuck’s and did all the heavy lifting! I am blessed!
Thank you to librarian Kirsten Edwards of the Fishers Library who booked me for the program. Thank you to everyone who attended. It was curiously exciting and relaxing as the presenter to see the eager faces, the fingers penning notes, and field the great questions during the sharing portion of the workshop.
It’s funny, because growing up I never once thought I would like to be a teacher, even though I have family and best friends who are. Yet I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving programs and sharing encouragement and whatever insights I might have. The whole of it is both a blessing and a surprise in this season of life.
I have to give God the praise because the books were responses to my dread of the empty nest and not knowing or particularly looking forward to the “what's next” after the kids left home.
In His abundance, the Lord provided a new season, one that includes this unique role.
Special thanks to Janis, Susan, the Greenes, and to my beloved Sam and Allison for their smiling faces and thoughtfulness.
Today’s post is a potpourri of topics.
Let’s start with spring.
It’s still March but the ornamental cherry tree in our back yard is rocking it out with blossoms. The white maple-tree leaves out front are red and healthy. Those can only mean that the wind and rain will knock the dickens out of them as they did last year! But then again, maybe not. Nature is rarely surprised by the calendar or weather.
The back-porch wicker sofa is now sporting its newly covered cushions. I promised I’d show a photo of the end result. I stitched the covers by hand and they took an entire evening apiece. But they are done and I’m happy with them.
The good news is I took the wise counsel of a quilter in line at the fabric store who told me to buy the whole bolt of fabric and I wouldn’t be sorry. She’s on point because I have enough to stitch up a couple chair pads and maybe even cover a couple toss pillows for nap time on the wicker sofa.
Speaking of spring, last weekend I told Brian I’d like to throw out our old, worn grill. To my surprise, he agreed and it’s gone. It’s amazing how good it feels to eliminate something that needs to go.
I’m going to hold off for quite a while on buying the porch ferns. Kroger in New Castle has some huge, lush babies but no, if I get them too soon they will not remain lush. The wind will beat them and the chills will damage them. So even if I have to bite my fingers, I’ll do it to keep from snagging a few of those before their time.
One of Liberty's finest
On Thursday, April 6, one of the few “famous” people who came from my hometown of Liberty, Indiana is speaking in New Castle and I volunteered to cover his talk.
He’s Bob Jenkins, retired long-time voice of the Indy 500 and NASCAR. I’m looking forward to meeting him, as my brother knows him, and of course I've been proud of him for decades.
Others famous from Liberty include Susan Wright, mother of the Wright brothers, Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside and James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie.” I know it’s a short list but hey, it’s a list!
Would love for you to join us at the museum, 606 S. 14th St., New Castle. To get your own seat on the pole, call the museum at 765-529-4028. Tickets are $15.
A visit with Blaise
Well, it was a treat.
And that's not counting the Elvis Brownies.
Reporter Travis Weik and I paid a little visit to Glen Oaks Health Campus Tuesday afternoon for "tea time" with The Courier-Times' home-grown food columnist, Blaise Doubman, to my left, above, his mom Darla, Grandma Deloris, in pink, and their friend Margaret, to the right.
You heard it here. One day Blaise will be a star on the national food scene. A brilliant recipe developer, cook, and baker, he is already author of a published cookbook and several social media connections. His column appears in The Courier-Times every first and third Sundays.
Blaise created the Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie that appears in my second book. The crust is so easy and perfect that I've vowed to never again buy a pre-made version.
Connect with him on his blog at Blaise the Baker (http://blaisethebaker.com). And if you want to sample his baked goodness, he's donating sweets to the 5-7 p.m. Saturday, April 1 Chili Cook-off fundraiser at Memorial Wesleyan Church in New Castle.
Blaise brought Elvis Brownies for us to share back at the office. Suffice it to say there are none left. Thank you Blaise and family for the visit! We had a great time.
Meanwhile, tonight, tonight ...
It's been on the books for some time, and tonight is the night. A reported 27 writers are signed up for my workshop, "So You Want to Self-Publish a Book," at the Fishers Library, 6-8 p.m. We'll talk about aspects of self-publishing you may not have thought about such as taxes, marketing, and a variety of resources.
If you're signed up, I look forward to our time together. If you aren't but would like to see a program such as this at YOUR library, let me know or let your local librarian know and maybe it can happen.
You’d be hard-pressed to find the color orange in my house decor or wardrobe. In a world filled with gorgeous color, it’s my least favorite.
My favorite hue is blue and to get right down to it, royal blue practically sings to me among the color’s various lovely shades.
One day I noticed something interesting. With a color wheel before me, I went to my favorite, royal blue. Can you guess its exact opposite? Orange! I wonder if the same formula is true of other people’s color picks? That their favorite and least favorite colors oppose one another on the color wheel. Check it out for yourself and see.
Next to royal blue, bright purple is my second favorite color, but there’s not a trace of it in my home. Then comes bright red, and I do have touches of that.
My dad was an amateur artist, and his favorite color – the only person I know with this as a fave – was brown. I have to say that I do like brown, and gray too. There isn’t much gray in my house but there is a ton of it in my wardrobe and brown is everywhere in my house and wardrobe.
I’m not much of a pink fan, and I have a complicated relationship with yellow. I love it in flowers and I have two rooms in my home painted yellow. I chose it in the southwest bedroom for the warmth might give on a cold winter’s day, and for how light-filled the room seems at dusk. There was a time when I thought I looked good in yellow. But I saw a photo of myself a year ago wearing it and thought it was about the worst color I could choose to wear.
While I’m not fond of orange, I’ve curiously sought orange things out this past winter in a few ways. I joined Weight Watchers in January and their new program allows “free” fruits and vegetables (within reason). Tangerines have been my saving grace all winter and I’m still waiting to get burned out on them moving through spring. I hope I never do.
And while for the longest time, Twinings Green Tea was my go-to evening beverage (I call it the Official Tea of Sweetland), for a couple of months now I have yearned for the crisp, smooth flavor of Bigelow’s Constant Comment. It’s the orange rind that makes it.
And why was I so drawn to Kelly Finch’s orange-studded wreath that I got for Christmas decorating and it still adorns the window over the kitchen sink, only now with Easter chicks and bunnies beneath it on the ledge?
And I can’t forget Reggie’s favorite toy, an orange rubber fellow.
I’m grateful for the amazing bounty of all of God’s beautiful colors, including the bright, cheery orange in all of its forms. I realize that orange has its own perfect place in this colorful world, and that all colors do their parts and play their roles in His creation.
What’s your favorite color? Your least favorite?