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?
In 1981, Brian and I started a new life chapter with a move to Fountain County, Indiana. We each were excited for different reasons. Brian would transition from school teacher to administrator. His new salary of $22,000, an enormous figure to us (even though he would be working insanely long hours), meant that I was headed to college full time to complete a journalism degree.
It didn’t take long that late summer and early fall to connect with one Gay Kirkton, English teacher and wife of football coach Rick Kirkton.
Plans were made to get together at our house on a Saturday night. Maybe I cooked supper for all four of us, but that I don’t remember. We didn’t play cards or games but instead, we talked and got to know each other. If memory serves, the sun was about to come up before the evening-turned-morning ended. We had that much to say and the conversation has not stopped since.
The clearest memory I have regarding that evening didn’t happen that night at all, however, but arrived in our mailbox a few days later. It was a handwritten card from Gay thanking us for having them over and saying what a lovely time she and Rick had enjoyed. They hoped, in fact, to get together again soon.
What? They liked us, they really liked us!
I’m certain that somewhere in my personal archives, I have that card, composed in perfect penmanship, a textbook example of the warmth, hospitality, and encouragement found in a budding friendship – and in a thank you note.
Years later, when writer Joyce Maynard asked us what we would do for a living if we could do anything we wanted, Gay had a quick answer: She would be the social secretary for a First Lady.
I had never heard her voice this before but it was perfect! She would be ideal for such a role in every way that I could imagine. I had evidence in the stash of flawless, handwritten notes received to mark numerous occasions.
She still sends them.
Gay’s not the only one, either. There’s a good chance that someone reading this post (and I know of one in particular to whom this applies for certain, Debbie) are modern women by any measure, but they still prefer instead of a quick email a lovely piece of stationery inserted into a coordinating envelope, sealed, stamped in the front right-hand corner, mailed, then delivered to the recipient via the U.S. Postal Service.
I know this because I get these beauties at work, and I get them at home. And each time, when the mail carrier delivers such a treat, I can’t wait long enough to find a proper letter opener, but instead, tear open the envelope and as fast as I can, read the words someone has cared enough to offer.
For years, I assembled the work notes into large, red scrapbooks which are still shelved alongside our books. For a couple of years now, I’ve papered the front of my work station divider with the notes and letters and cards that newspaper readers have been so kind to mail. This is the beauty of being a community columnist and feature writer: touching other people, connecting with them, and sharing their stories.
At home, I have a special tray in a bedroom that serves as a default book office. The tray holds the thank yous book readers are thoughtful to send when I have spoken to their group or banquet, or the letters they have written telling me about enjoying one of my books, or they share a particular story such as how a husband and wife read my second book together aloud daily until they were finished.
If I ever need a reason as to why I have spent my career at newspapers, or why I wrote two books, or why I am grateful that I have been given the opportunities I have, or presented the cast of characters that fill my life, all I have to do is look at what people have written by hand and sent in my direction.
Yep, those are going to the nursing home with me.
On the other hand ... I’m okay at sending greetings, but no better than okay. I don’t much care for doing up Christmas cards anymore and I failed miserably at that task last year.
Sometimes I remember that I need to select a special greeting card for an occasion, and mentally, lazily I groan at the effort involved. Other times I forget and the card or the note are never sent.
As are most, I’m prone to express my sentiments with emails or social media posts.
What I know is that what is least common is most appreciated. It used to be the rare thing to get a beautiful email or text message. Now what is rare is the hand-addressed envelope with a personal message tucked inside.
Long live thank yous, letters, greetings, and other assorted messages that arrive the hard way, take the long route, the way of ink and stamps and time spent securing their passage.
They are jewels in the world of correspondence, relics perhaps from an another era, their effort preserved by a determined few.
How about you? Do you send or receive cards, notes, or letters the old-fashioned way? Do tell.
Donna Cronk is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. They are available on Amazon in print or for Kindle, and from the author.
I have always had a thing for purses. Shoes, I can take or leave, and that means generally leave.
Still, I’m nothing if not optimistic. The other day I visited a major department store in Indy and walked through the shoe department thinking maybe I would find a pair of summer sandals to light up my spring and twinkle my toes.
There were a lot of shoes to choose from, and I hated them all.
They had chunky sandals with mile-high platforms, Elton John style. I’d fall off them and twist an ankle just trying them on.
There were stilettos. My body type perched atop stilettos? Umm, no. Plus, how does one walk in the real world where there are sidewalk cracks, gravel, and lots of standing or heaven forbid, hurrying, in heels with the density of a match stick?
There were flats. I can’t do those AT. ALL.
I couldn’t walk in any of these shoes! They all seemed like cartoon versions of footwear.
Where do they keep the shoes women really wear to walk in, I wondered. The nitty-gritty question is Where do they keep the shoes for 58-year-old, plump women with bad feet?
I guess that would be the orthopedics department, which is not found near the entrance of a fancy department store. And those shoes are just as ugly as the department store’s are impractical.
Whatever bad luck I have with shoe shopping, I more than make up for when it comes to handbags. I am extremely picky and have my own unique criteria depending on if the bag is for daily use or travel. Even with my particular standards, I still find plenty to adopt.
Still, I’ve only had one perfect travel purse. I found it, ironically, in a mega-shoe store three years ago. It was one of those moments when I knew I had to buy it although it wasn’t on my shopping list just then. But experience has taught that if I see exactly what I need or anticipate needing, I should get it if the cost is at all reasonable because when the time comes, it won’t be found anywhere.
On the day I spotted the ideal travel purse, I was six months out from my first overseas trip, and needed a purse that had these things going for it:
So I bought the perfect travel purse, black. I bought it for the trip and it was perfection on a strap. Its travel credentials include Israel, Michigan, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C. along with other smaller trips whenever I need free hands, ready access to my stash, and a secure means of carriage.
While the fashionable shoe department was a disappointment this week, the handbag department was not. I looked around for a possible summer version of my ideal travel bag. I knew I would know it when I saw it.
And just like that, there it was! A duplicate of my black travel bag – only in white for summer. It was also on sale.
I now have twin purses.
Oh, if only shoes were that easy.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU …
Shout out to the 100-year-old Valley Mills Friends Meeting Booklovers book club in Indianapolis. I received a surprise invitation yesterday from Merilee Gabriel to speak to the group next month. I invited Merilee and her friends to check out my blogs. I hope they stop by and I surely welcome them.
Here’s something fun. When I asked how in the world my book came on the club’s radar, Merilee said she got my name from someone who works at Earlham College. I don’t know anyone who works there. I love hearing stories like this. For indie authors, our publicity is grass roots. I’m grateful when word spreads.
And, I look forward to our time together in April.
Going into last weekend I wondered how I would get everything done. Ever have a few-days period like that? Everything planned was good, but it was all a matter of timing to pull off.
We couldn’t get together with our daughter-in-law Allison on her birthday, so we had a belated celebration. When Brian reminded me that his brother planned to spend Friday night with us as a stop en route to a convention, it seemed the perfect time to have the kids in and call it a dinner party!
We all looked forward to it.
I can’t remember the last time I baked a birthday cake. Usually we get one at the grocery store or maybe an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, but there was something nice about digging out the round cake pans and turning on the oven, going old school.
The party was fun, complete with a funny little game we made up (Brian and Steve helped me with the questions) called How Well Do You Know Allison? I learned that my DIL and I share our favorite color (blue) as well as our least favorite color (orange).
After Sam and Allison went home at 11, I went to bed, Steve went to bed, but Brian and Ben stayed up and watched basketball until 2 a.m. Takes me back to the days when we visited Brian’s folks in Rockville and Brian and his dad stayed up late after the rest of us called it a night.
Steve was up early Saturday to drink coffee with Brian before Steve left for his Kiwanis district meeting. I headed out soon after for the inaugural Alpha Tau Chapter of Tri Kappa’s Book & Author Luncheon.
Here’s my little secret. Because I felt the need to tweak and practice my 10-minute speech, I left the house early enough to pull over at my little "speech staging area" in a remote country church parking lot. I’ve stopped there, at Soul Harbor, a few times to quietly sit in the car and read a presentation aloud without prying eyes or people looking funny at the crazy woman talking to herself.
I find that having something on paper is quite different from speaking the words aloud, and so I try to run through speeches verbally several times before presenting them.
The day was, at least by all the accounts I heard, a huge hit! About 140 gathered for the fundraiser luncheon and to hear brief talks from each of the six local authors featured. I know that I left there inspired by what each had to say.
I was especially intrigued to hear local florist Teresa Southerland speak about how she has gotten gigs from The Smithsonian writing scientific copy for children’s booklets and pamphlets.
It’s encouraging to hear that unexpected opportunities abound out there beyond our own communities. She does a great job.
I did double duty, taking some photos at the event and then going back to the office to upload for the newspaper.
Sunday I had to be at church before the first service as it was my rotation to work the information desk. Our small life group also was tapped to prepare and serve the welcome lunch and we were invited to stay for the meal. It all went together so smoothly!
We were prepared to do clean up but told there was a crew for that so we got to leave and enjoy the afternoon before it was time to gather for our evening life group meeting. Brian and I even had time to get our weekly grocery shopping done, a surprise that I didn’t think we’d get done over the busy weekend.
It was a fulfilling three days to have so much planned but also to see it all unfold in positive ways. Missions accomplished!
TOP left: Chatting at the Alpha Tau Chapter of Tri Kappa luncheon.
TOP, right: Fruit-flavored water has appeal.
CENTER, left: The meal is served.
CENTER, right: Ruth Ann and Dick Willis look over some of Teresa Southerland's educational materials. She is a local florist and was commissioned by The Smithsonian.
BOTTOM, left: Citrus and floral water.
BOTTOM right: Our daughter-in-law Allison blowing out her birthday candles.
This morning I set out to make our daughter-in-law Allison a birthday cake for our little family gathering this evening. I asked if she wanted to go out, order in or I’d make a homemade meal of her choice.
She chose the homemade meal, so a chunk of today is spent in the kitchen where chicken and noodles, baked sour-cream mashed potatoes and green beans are on the menu. For dessert, it's confetti cake with choice of locally made Good’s vanilla or cookie dough ice cream.
I’m also putting together a game (with prizes), and we are all excited because along with the kids coming in, we have a special guest, Brian’s brother, Steve.
The kids adore their uncle and we are fortunate it all came together like this because he’s visiting in preparation for his day in Indy tomorrow at a Kiwanis conference.
So while using the hand mixer on the birthday cake, I realized that the mixer and the batter bowl were both wedding gifts going on 39 years ago.
In fact, it was Steve and Linda who bought us the mixer, and the yellow speckled bowl was a bridal-shower gift from the late Cleo Winters, a lady who was the matriarch of the Brownsville United Methodist Church in all my growing-up years. A couple of years ago I was stunned to see a bowl exactly like it for sale in a store -- an antiques store! Nothing makes a woman feel as old as seeing one of her wedding gifts in an antiques store.
I’ve thought for years that surely the little motor in that Harvest Gold-hued mixer will give out and I even thought of what color I’d replace it with if I found a sale on a KitchenAid. I suppose I could anyway, but the frugal side of me says, “Nope, not until the first one dies.”
I grew up in a family where you used it up, patched it up or made do without. The mixer works great as is! Now that it's been around this long, I'm pulling for it to go the distance.
If I follow my mother’s example, the wedding mixer will be the only one I ever need. Mom had a hand mixer that she got for a wedding gift herself.
I started thinking about other wedding gifts still in use around the Cronk home. There’s a set of measuring spoons that came with measuring cups on a little wooden holder from Barb Kaufman of Brownsville. The church ladies on the committee for my bridal shower gave me a beautiful silver-hued serving tray with a fitted glass dish and wooden handles. Still in use!
The sheets, towels, Corelle dishes and electric skillet are no longer around. I wish I hadn’t worn out the handmade braided rug from the late Vivian Clevenger, and I wish I could find the small painting by noted Union County painter the late Gladys Rude. Those are certainly irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind gifts created by fixtures in my home community.
How about you? What wedding gifts are still in use around your home many years later?
Of all the months, March is the one with the most mood swings.
Here in Indiana, the third month brings every kind of weather. There will be days with sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, and even summer-like temperatures. Those, however, may well be followed by a snowstorm. Tornadoes will carry warnings or watches, an ice storm may cripple trees and power wires. It will rain.
And that’s only day one.
Well, two, maybe.
If it’s been a particularly rough winter, which it hasn't been this year, March is that thing you point to, as in, “Once we get to March, it will turn around.”
I spent winter 1986 sick with morning sickness, although time of day had nothing to do with the constant nausea and overall exhaustion. The cold and dreariness offered no relief. I thought it would never end.
Then the calendar flipped to March and it was as though a light had flipped too. It was a Saturday on that first day of March. I went to Lafayette where I had lunch at Long John Silver’s and went shopping. As I ate fish, and gazed out at the bright day, I at last felt … good! I wasn’t sick, wasn’t tired, and I wanted to hug the month.
Little could I have imagined this: The baby girl that would marry the baby boy I carried would be born the next day.
In the years our boys were growing up, March meant baseball. In fact, baseball was a major part of our lives for nearly two decades, counting both boys’ years of participation. I associate March with delight that it was finally time, and weather good enough, for the boys to get out there and practice. Each new season meant new teammates and dynamics as well as new uniforms and new parents with whom to share bleacher time.
Baseball, and by association March, had a scent, a chilly, earthy, leathery scent. It had a sound. It was the snap of ball in glove, of crack of the aluminum bat against ball. March had an energy of hope for the season ahead. It was time to play ball, or at least practice it, and I couldn’t imagine it ending someday and being a baseball mom without boys and a team or two to follow.
Perspective is everything. Now I wonder how I found the time to get anything done besides baseball because boy, there was a lot of baseball. Now I wonder how I would ever fit baseball into my life. Yes, perspective.
Spring breaks always came in March and for a few, too few years, we had some fun times: Disney World, Busch Gardens, Historic Williamsburg, Virginia, Cleveland where we saw the Cavs play and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
There was the spring break we spent on college visits to Bloomington, Hanover, Terre Haute and Evansville, only for Sam to visit Muncie later and say that’s it, search over. He would be a Cardinal.
Along with daughter-in-law Allison’s March birthday, it's also son Ben’s.
March, for decades, meant time for my biggest work project of the year, the annual Courier-Times recipe contest. Then interest waned and we moved on to other projects.
I appreciate March most these days because we get to spring forward on Sunday. Say what you will about former Gov. Mitch Daniels but if I saw him I might give him a high five for Daylight Savings Time. I like it.
I also like March because once April arrives, I’m counting on spring, no more playing around, and I'll watch daily as green replaces brown landscape and sandals top newly bare feet.
What do you like or dislike about March? How do you feel about springing forward?
March, you are a fickle month, you devil. But you aren’t January and you aren’t February. And for those reasons, I welcome you with open, if sweater-clad, arms.
Late Friday afternoon, Brian and I were heading home on an eastbound Indiana highway. The sun shined brightly from the pretty blue sky, and our thoughts and small talk were on what to fix for supper, when to go grocery shopping on Saturday, just regular-life stuff.
Suddenly, after rounding a curve, there it was. A two-vehicle wreck appeared in front of us, spilling out of our lane into the ditch, both cars smoking heavily. Emergency personnel hadn’t arrived yet, but it appeared an off-duty police officer was on the scene, having exited an unmarked car with flashers. A driver in a pickup, the only vehicle in front of us, had pulled over and was also out checking out the scene.
We waited in our car, watching to see signs of life in the wreckage. Meanwhile, the vehicles were stacking in lines on both sides of the highway. It felt like forever, but wasn’t, before the welcome sound of sirens flooded the air, officers, firefighters and EMTs arriving to fill every inch in and around us.
Suddenly, hectic movement from those hovering around the vehicles, and the female front-seat passenger in the eastbound wrecked vehicle was removed to the ground and frantic CPR took place before our eyes.
I silently prayed for the woman and the unknown people in the accident. Sitting there with this incredibly odd perspective of a front-row seat to sudden tragedy, so many things filled my mind.
I thought of the difference three minutes makes. When we stood to leave our friend’s home that afternoon, Brian made the uncharacteristic announcement that he wasn’t sure if he should visit the bathroom or if he could “make it” home first. I said, “Why don’t you just go now to be sure?”
Did that three minutes mean it wasn’t us in that wreck? That it wasn’t the front-seat passenger on the ground we viewed but me in her place since I was in her position in our car?
It is the oddest mix of feelings: guilt that it was her and not me, gratitude and thankfulness for my own life, the somber evidence in front of us of how life can change or be gone in a split second, that there are no guarantees about our number of days or the way they will end. Someone can live a hundred years or be gone in an instant decades earlier.
We saw a news report that the woman didn’t survive. Neither did the driver of the other car. The news reported that he had had crossed into the eastbound lane, our lane, and hit the couple’s vehicle head on. The husband of the woman was hospitalized.
My thoughts and prayers continue with the two devastated families. I’m left to apply the lesson in the only way I know how:
Be ready and right with God and people.
Be grateful for His grace and mercy right this minute.
Treasure life. It is fleeting.
Job 14:5: You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. (New Living Translation)
Occasionally, someone shows up at my work desk or drops by my email in-box to ask if I would read his or her manuscript and offer feedback, presumably just for kicks.
They want to know if their work is any good, if commas are in the right places, how much it will cost to get their story between covers, and several other things besides. Because I know exactly where they’re coming from, I’m genuinely touched that they ask me to help with their treasured projects.
But there are problems.
If I agree to give someone’s work a read, it can get awkward fast. What if I don’t think the story is ready? Everyone wants an honest opinion until it’s not what they hoped to hear.
What if their work is full of mistakes?
What if the writing is pretty good? Then it would be hard to keep from marking up the copy, correcting issues we all have despite our best efforts: typos, transposition of words, overused phrases. Then I’d be hooked, feeling the need to explain my markings, discuss unclear sentences and yes, become a part of their publishing journey.
So what I do is politely say no.
I spend too many hours on the computer now – at the newspaper, at home spinning blogs and maintaining my writing platform, keeping up with friends via emails and Facebook. But I don’t spend as many hours as I could, or even long to – coming up with programs to supplement as well as encourage my own new territory, contacting possible program hosts, and on and on.
That’s not to mention that some nights I would like to turn on the tube and mindlessly sew my outdoor cushions, or pursue other things. Even clean the woodwork, just do regular-life stuff, you know?
Bottom line: If I’m caught up in other writers' projects, just for kicks, where’s the time for my own?
But that's not the end of the story ...
At the encouragement of a marketing professional who works with the public and with a library, last summer I put together a presentation about self-publishing. I gave it a pilot run at the Brookville library some months ago and things went well. Also, the librarian gave it her endorsement.
I’m not an expert, and I don't play one on TV. I don’t have all the answers. Those are the exact points. You don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers to get your beloved book into print. We live at a wondrous time when we can actually put our words and thoughts and heart and art out there and see where it ends up.
My program unpacks where and how to get started, aspects of this journey to consider that would-be authors perhaps haven’t thought about (such as the fact that with a book in print, bam! You own a business). I also absolutely recommend that if you publish a book, you plan to allow at least a year after publication to dote on and devote to your book in your spare time. After all, if you are going to go to all the effort and cost to get it out there, don’t you want to give it your best shot? And making back your expenses (and more) would be nice, would it not?
All that is to invite you to So You Want to Publish a Book, a free workshop at the Fishers Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. March 29, 5 Municipal Drive, Fishers, Indiana. The library asks that you register to attend at: hepl.lib.in.us or call 317-579-0307.
You see, I actually enjoy helping people with this journey. I just can't do it for everyone on a personal basis, or devote long periods of time to other people's book projects just for fun. So we're making an evening of it.
The first hour is a crash course in the process of self-publishing. Divisions include finding a company and how it works, becoming a business owner, thoughts on marketing, and rewards. Then we’ll allow an hour for questions and brainstorming. At the end, you’ll go home with a handout containing some of the resources we’ve discussed.
If you are anywhere near Fishers, and self-publishing interests you, maybe I’ll see you then. If you are in another part of Indiana and would be interested in the program, consider mentioning it to your librarian, writers' group, or other organization. I’d be happy to speak with your program chairs about coming in. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I anticipate we'll have a great evening together.
Women of this New Castle, Indiana philanthropic organization decided to do something new and different this year to benefit their favorite charities.
The resulting Book and Author Luncheon, hosted by Tri Kappa, is 11 am. Saturday. March 11 at First Baptist Family Life Center, 709 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Deadline for tickets is Friday, March 3. For tickets, email Amanda Ryan at email@example.com or contact Cara Taylor at FC Tucker/Crossroads Realty, phone 521-9464. Tickets are $20 each.
Along with a chicken-salad luncheon, the program consists of 10-minute talks from each of six local writers from a variety of genres and points of view. From western to a Smithsonian science project, to a memoir of a local immigrant to essays and women's fiction, a variety of perspectives are represented.
The authors' books will be available for purchase and signing following the program. I'm honored to be part of the event. A portion of this snowy, return-to-winter day will be spent working on my 10-minute presentation. My last book's editor, Steve Dicken, dropped by the office last week and seemed skeptical that I could limit myself to 10 minutes. That's a challenge, and yes, Steve, I'll stop on a dime.
Here's what The Courier-Times printed about each speaker:
• Annette Goggin teaches AP English at New Castle High School. Her new book is Home: Three Houses. Married to Mark, a farmer, school-bus driver, and her editor, they have two grown children: Christina (husband Jason) Howard and Gus (wife Stephanie) Goggin. The author plans to keep doing what she loves: teaching, writing and enjoying the people around her. Her book includes stories of love, laughter and life spent as a preacher’s kid, teacher and farmer’s wife.
• Terry Gray is a wife, mother, grandmother and part-time office administrator at Sulphur Springs Christian Church. Her book is Unsinkable, inspired by a relative she adored whose dream was to become a U.S. citizen. She is working on a second book. Married to Kim Gray, they live in a cabin on a small farm near Sulphur Springs. They are parents to four adult children and their spouses, and grandparents to eight. They raise honeybees and Terry enjoys travel and photography.
• Mark Herbkersman has always loved the old west, reinforced from living in Idaho. He is author of a western series, Henry Family Chronicles. His work has included counseling, seminar speaker, adjunct college faculty, pastor and hospice chaplain. Married with two daughters, his passion is encouraging young people to follow their dreams. Published books are: Prodigal’s Blood, Revenge on the Mountain, The Branding of Otis Henry and Gideon’s Redemption. He is working on a fifth book.
• Sean Slagle teaches English at New Castle High School and is author of three novels: A Dirge for the Malice, Young Dreams and The Vale of Eden; four plays: Poems of the Passion, A Primetime Christmas, Sleepy Hollow High School, The Most Blessed Inn of Bethlehem, numerous skits, short stories and non-fiction articles. Married to Brooke, they have four children. Slagle is working on a Christmas romance, Santa for a Season and a Christmas devotional, What Child is This?
• Teresa Southerland owns Every Good Thing, also known as Marilyn’s Flowers & Gifts. She has has completed several environmental education projects. Most notable is Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. She has always loved science and is married to Jim. Their children are: Adam (Sara) Hollars, Danielle Stigall, Cara (Robby) Taylor, Lindsey (Beau) Tipton, Brock (Chelsea) Southerland. They have five grandchildren. She plans to complete a devotional for young people inspired by her daughter Cara’s life.
• Donna Cronk is Neighbors editor at The Courier-Times where she also edits her magazine for women. Her books are Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. Married to Brian, they are parents of two grown sons: Sam (wife Allison) and Ben. Cronk plans to keep writing and giving inspirational programs whenever asked. She has developed a new program geared for library audiences called So You Want to Self-Publish a Book.
The New Castle Alpha Tau chapter has been around since 1911. Their charities include a $1,000 annual philanthropic community grant; scholarships for students at New Castle, Blue River Valley, Tri and Shenandoah; sponsoring the New Castle High School Art Show, Senior Nite Club, Special Olympics, United Fund Day of Caring, Pregnancy Care Center, YMCA youth memberships and blankets for Riley Hospital. Event chair is Rebecca Hawrot.
It’s no secret that one of my favorite places is on our back porch. Several years ago, I had an idea to create an old-fashioned porch complete with space enough to comfortably seat 10, to outfit with a table and chairs, a couple of thrift-shop wicker rockers painted black and – the must-have – an all-weather wicker sofa for lounging, dreaming, writing and yes, (Shush!) napping.
The porch would cover the “patio,” located out the back door of many suburban homes, including ours, and takes the form of a cement slab. Our slab was boring and completely non-welcoming. We spent zero time there.
After Brian thought over my proposal, complete with his version of a Congressional inquiry, (“Do you think you or we would really use it?”) the porch was confirmed by our committee of two and sent on to our fabulous handyman, Monty Foust and his House to Home business.
Monty created our back porch during one autumn, seeing to all the technical details such as roof pitch and labor while I dreamed of springtime hanging baskets and … finding the right all-weather sofa.
The project exceeded my expectations and officially debuted at Ben’s graduation party. Since then, it has been the backdrop to many gatherings. I’ve noticed in the two times since its installation when we’ve hosted family reunions, even though we also rent a tent for the yard, people prefer to gather on the porch, even in numbers exceeding 10.
But my favorite time on that porch, I have to admit, is when I’m there alone, the birds in peaceful harmony, the distant sound of kids playing in the neighborhood, and time to read, think or pound on the laptop.
If you have a copy of my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, you’ll see that the porch on the cover of the fictional B & B features the black wicker and the striped fabric cushions. There they are crisp and new. But unlike in a painting, the cushions have faded and have mildew stains. It’s time for new slipcovers.
Saturday Brian and I went to the fabric store in search of outdoor material for me to stitch into the slipcovers. We hit the jackpot because there were several bolts (Brian called them skeins) of beautiful, bright-colored fabric that would work well for the project and the big bonus: it was all 60-percent off.
While figuring out how much I needed at the checkout, a quilter in line watching offered her two cents: “Take it all, the whole bolt. You’ll never regret getting too much fabric. You’ll always regret getting too little.”
She’s right already. I have plenty to cover the six essential cushions, and enough left, it appears, to cover the seats of the two wicker chairs. It will all resemble a matching set.
A friend with whom I email regularly wrote yesterday wondering why she hasn’t heard much from me lately. I’m sewing! And, I’m dreaming of hanging baskets, birdsong and summer on our porch.