Back in January 2007, Ovid Community Church had an experiment, of sorts. Everyone was encouraged to sign on with a life group that seemed to suit them and commit to just six weeks, no more. At the end of six weeks, those in the group decided if they wanted to continue to meet and continue “doing life” together.
Not only did our group continue, but (blessing of blessings) heading toward a decade together, we’re still at it. The group, which we named the Midlife Moms (MLMs for short) has changed as some have come, some have gone and many remained a part for all these years. Our current roster is 12.
The thing about church is this: if all you do is go and sit in a pew on Sunday, you won’t get to know others, develop relationships, or have personal support or encouragement in times you need them. A life group is a combination support group / Bible study / social group. A life group is a space to get to know one another and know them well. We humans have a deep desire to know and be known by both God and others.
We’ve done many interesting things through these years from put on church dinners to creating women's church retreats, hosting a garage sale and donating our proceeds, to enjoying many studies together. We’ve prayed and cried and giggled and been there for each other.
The journey continues.
And this weekend, it continued at our annual summer lake weekend at friend Terri’s place on Cordry Lake in Brown County. I can’t get over how easy it is to put together our lake weekends. An email goes out: What does everyone want to bring? The slots are filled quickly and on Sunday – we enjoy the best meal of the weekend with our leftover brunch where we clean out the fridge.
We usually do some sort of craft or creation on Saturday nights and this year we made bandana bracelets, courtesy of our friend Donna S.
The entertainment revolves around boating and swimming and deck sitting. Glorious!
We left Friday, came home today (Sunday) and still, the time is too short, the boat rides and swimming and giggles over too quickly.
So tonight, I am grateful. Grateful to God for the blessings of these women, for our church and for these lake weekends when we can refresh and renew. Thank you Terri for a great time.
I always loved girlfriend time growing up, having a slumber party in PJs with one friend or several.
It’s great news that girls our age can have this kind of fun too.
Captions: Upper left, only half of our gals could make it this time but we have a great time no matter the number. Upper right, a sampling from the leftover buffet -- our favorite meal of many for the weekend. Lower left, Donna S. supplied the craft this time: plastic piping rings wrapped with one-inch wide strips of bandana and glue-gunned together. Far right, a look at the wrists that wear the bracelets, in a "We are the World" kind of moment.
Brenda Asberry with the tablecloth her late mother, Beverly, crocheted for me several years ago. During the last 15 or so years, the tablecloth has rarely left my oak dining room table. That is, until the last couple of years when it has gone on the road with me as a backdrop for my books and related materials.
Several years ago, I interviewed Beverly Walcott of New Castle for a newspaper article. During our chat, I couldn’t take my eyes off her tablecloth. It was large, lacy, lovely. And, it was hand-crocheted by Beverly.
She offered to make one for me, so I commissioned her for the job, and figured within a few months it might be ready to cover my oak dining table. But no, it took Beverly all of about three weeks.
For all these years, it has rarely left my table. That also means that it has met with its share of spills. I use the delicate hand-wash machine setting and guess what? The piece holds up perfectly, then quickly air dries.
Its classic pineapple pattern, with an oval in the center and tiny crochet work throughout, make it beautiful and that beauty does not go unnoticed. It has garnered plenty of compliments.
In the last two years, the tablecloth has taken on a new role. It has hit the road with me as I peddle my books. Its lace graces everything from century-old library tables to rickety folding or card tables. People often comment about the tablecloth, eyeing it even though it is underneath a poster, stacks of books and business cards.
Several things set it apart from other table coverings. It’s large so that whatever the size or shape of the table of the day, it works. If there’s leftover cloth, it gracefully pools on the floor. And, it never wrinkles. I could leave it in a heap and it would unfold as nice as ever. I also like it that the tablecloth has such an open weave, perfect for windy days when dressing outdoor tables.
Beverly has been gone a few years now, but I like to remind her beloved daughter, Brenda Asberry, about my continued affection for her mother’s handiwork. Monday was special because Brenda had me in to speak at the annual Henry County Senior Center Thank You Lunch. She is activity director there. It was a full-circle moment when I brought along the tablecloth and asked her to pose with it.
Thank you, Brenda! And Beverly, thank you for making the world prettier with your thread, hooks and talent. I’m blessed to have a piece of your lovely handiwork and for now, to take it on the road.
For Donna’s schedule, see the CONTACT page and scroll down to WHAT’S NEXT. Need a speaker or have an idea for a venue for the tablecloth – and for her books? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAPTIONS: Donna holds the page with Katherine Sherwood's Date Swirls recipe and Pat Buell with her mother's Date Swirl Cookies. Katherine made the cookies for six decades. Lower left, the McClellan women's vegetable soup, and bottom right, old-fashioned macaroni salad. All these recipes are in That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
There is a trend throughout certain fictional novels to product-place the mention of recipes into story lines, followed by those recipes at the end of the chapters or of the books. I enjoy this approach because it adds another dimension to a story. The reader gets a taste, as well as is able to physically become a part of the action, by preparing and enjoying those recipes.
So while writing my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, it wasn’t long before I knew I would “season” my tale with special recipes. It was a natural fit for a book about a bed-and-breakfast. But what to include?
The three signature dishes in that book came from my mother and two of my best friends. My mom’s spice cake is probably a 150-year-old recipe, an old-fashioned eggless, milkless and butterless treat also known as a "Depression Cake" that hailed from her mother.
The cake was part of every special occasion during all the years my mother baked. Growing up, I knew that waking up on a Saturday morning to the distinctive scent of that cake baking, I knew a holiday or pitch-in or company were on tap.
The granola recipe was adapted from The Best granola I have ever eaten, which came from friend Gay Kirkton, and to Gay from her mother Betty Greenwood, and from Betty’s friend to her. That’s how recipes go, and they tend to evolve from person-to-person. The funny thing is that granola is a favorite of a particular group of my friends who think of it as Donna’s granola. I was delighted to get both Betty’s and Gay’s permission to reprint the recipe.
The sugar cookies, which were mentioned numerous times in the first book as Sweetland’s signature sweet, came from my friend Patti Broshar-Foust, who treasures that recipe from her Aunt Martha. Those cookies have been a big topic inside our friendship and were even baked by Patti and decorated by me for son and daughter-in-law Sam and Allison’s bridal shower.
So, having fictionally used three terrific recipes in the first book, the time came to decide what to serve up in That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. In a previous blog, we unpacked in detail food writer (as well as upcoming cookbook author) Blaise Doubman’s delicious Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie.
I also knew I wanted to use the recipe given to me by Brian’s Aunt Wilma for the vegetable-beef soup that all the McClellan women, including my late mother-in-law, made and I still enjoy serving in cold weather.
Included is my own Simple Chicken Salad – which people seem to like for its, well, simplicity, but would be easy to embellish with veggies and or grapes to suit more complex taste buds.
I also included my mother’s macaroni salad, which I have always thought was the best of its kind. Sure enough, at a book club discussion, where the food of book two was served, one of the readers made this dish and said her husband declared it the same.
But there was one more recipe that I really wanted to include. It was for a type of cookie that I have thought about my entire life, but, ironically, seldom actually tasted. It was the date-nut swirl cookies I remembered from my childhood.
The cookies came into my life from farm wife, family friend and neighbor Katherine Sherwood. I can still picture that sweet woman standing at the top of her long country lane handing off a plate of the goodies as a Christmas treat for my dad, who was a farmer-school bus driver.
They were delicious. All these years later, eve my brother, Tim, remembers them as tasty besides.
Turns out, so does everyone who knew Katherine. As with my mother and her spice cake, with Patti and her Aunt Martha’s Sugar Cookies, and as with Gay and Betty’s granola, the date-nut swirls were Katherine’s specialties.
I spotted the recipe in an old Brownsville United Methodist Church cookbook and with Katherine having passed on, the right thing to do would be contact her daughter, Pat, who is still active in the church and community. First, I wrote her a letter and asked for permission. Some weeks passed and the mail didn’t bring a response. I was nervous.
Finally, I summoned the courage to call her and Pat hadn’t realized she hadn’t mailed a response. SURE, she told me. Not only could I use the recipe but she said her mother would have been thrilled.
I was elated. The recipe is in the book, along with a “must-do” tip. Pat said no matter what, be sure to use black walnuts in the recipe. She recalled how her mother hand-gathered and hulled walnuts from their rural Indiana woods for the precious nut meats.
To use English walnuts in this recipe would be a sacrilege, Pat explained. She said these cookies have been all over the world as they made their way by mail from Katherine to servicemen abroad.
Fast forward to last Sunday. The Brownsville United Methodist Church invited me to give a book talk following a pitch-in lunch. I brought Blaise’s sugar cream pie (which is fabulous, I might add) and meatloaf the way mom made it (simply ground beef with oats, onion, eggs and ketchup). I hoped that Pat would do the very thing she did: bring the famous cookies.
Turns out it was only the second time she had made them as she said there was no way they could be as good as her mother’s.
They went like hotcakes.
Pat made them with candied cherries, which she recalls her mom adding for the holidays. Others at church Sunday commented that they didn’t remember them with the candied fruit. I don’t either.
But one thing I know for sure. These cookies taste exactly as I remember. They are fantastic. So if you make them, remember that tip to use the black walnuts. Those give them their distinctive flavor. The cookies are soft and chewy on the insight with a crispy crunch on the outside.
It’s fun to share these truly hometown, tried-and-true recipes with readers. In a novel way, of course.
Here comes a universal truth. Even though there are people from all eras of our lives that we would dearly love to see again, and there are old haunts we’d love to visit, we usually don’t.
We don’t want to bother people. We wonder if there would be anything to talk about, and we’d all end up disappointed. We shudder at the thought of being awkward or worse, unwelcome. So we say things like, “Who has the time? Maybe someday...”
One glorious thing my books do is give me a legit reason to see those people and visit those places. Sunday was one of those times. I was invited to the church that I grew up in, the Brownsville United Methodist Church in Union County.
We attended Sunday’s service, then the pitch-in, and then I gave a little program and sold some books.
I wasn’t even born the first time I was inside that church. And after that, my mother was visibly pregnant with me when my brother David got married there. I was probably all of two weeks old the first time I was hand-carried into the building. The thing I can’t get over is that quite a few of the women who were there then are there now such as Geneva, Barb, Charlotte and Pat. (More about Pat coming in my weekend post.)
There in that church I grew up, voted in my first presidential election at age 18, got married at 20. There I stood beside that church during my parents’ and my brother David’s and other loved ones’ graveside services. People who share my DNA and so much more are at rest on both sides of that building.
That church is home.
I could have spent all of Sunday there, alone, taking in the view from where my mother always sat, thinking, remembering, praying. Examining each panel of the gorgeous stained-glass windows. Peeking behind the curtain in the storage room where they kept (maybe even still keep) the beautiful angel costumes I couldn’t wait to become old enough to wear in the Christmas pageants. So they were made of white sheets and the halos of sparkly silver tinsel. That is the stuff of real angel attire, right?
I wanted to see if the little, round children’s table was still there and of course it was, in the former nursery, right where I sat when I was 2 or 3 or 4. The vintage Jesus pictures were still where they were supposed to be. Good. Charlotte Telker was still seated at the organ that Luva Cain bought for the church so many years ago. Yes.
Charlotte told me that she loved to hear my grandmother play the piano. That would have been before I was born when she was the church pianist. I don’t run into anyone who remembers my grandmother. What a treat to hear from someone who does.
I wanted to take in everything there in close-up, slow-motion detail, but instead, I got an overview.
The Methodist hymnals were still in their places on back of every pew. I listen to contemporary Christian music daily and I love my wonderful current church’s praise team and rocked-out tunes.
But oh how I treasure those old hymns, besides. The Old Rugged Cross. What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Blessed Assurance. It is Well with My Soul and a thousand more. (Speaking of thousand, O for a Thousand Tongues is a good one.)
Last night I went online and ordered myself a Methodist hymnal. I’m going to tuck it in the side pocket of my car and I’m going to use it every chance I get. If you see a random woman with the windows rolled up in a random parking lot belting out I Love to Tell the Story or Holy, Holy, Holy or A Mighty Fortress is Our God, think nothing of it. It’s just me, returning to my roots.
Yes, I am grateful for a reason to go back home Sunday, and I thank Pastor Shelley and the rest of those beautiful people from the bottom of my heart for inviting me, making me feel welcome, loved--for making me feel at home.
Because I was home. And I miss it already.
No spot is so dear.
We re-purposed Brian's childhood and teenage desk (he couldn't let me sell it in a garage sale; yes, he's quite sentimental at heart). It now collects gear associated with this season of my life. The books make up a sampling of volumes that were mostly self-published by people I know or know of. I've bought some, was given others. What about you? Is there a book in you? If so, maybe I can help you get started.
It happened again yesterday. Someone I don’t know called and wanted to talk about how to go about publishing a book. A second person private-messaged that she would like to take me to lunch to talk about how to get started writing. Recently a gentleman stopped by and asked what I would charge to edit his memoirs, and a lady emailed to ask if I would mentor her poet friend.
People have asked me these kinds of things since Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast came out in 2014 but I’ve had a real surge since May when That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland was printed.
“How do I publish a book?” is a loaded question, with an even more loaded answer. When someone poses the query, before I respond, I first have several questions for the one asking:
1. Do you mean self-publish a book or are you wondering how to get a traditional publishing contract and (here’s the cliché so many ask with a laugh) appear on The New York Times Bestseller List?
2. Are you competent with a computer in terms of uploading files, proofing online, and communicating your needs without ever seeing the human beings working on your book?
3. Do you need to sit down with a person and have that person walk you through everything?
4. What are your goals with the book: to say you have a book out and be happy if a few friends and family members read it, or are you seeking a broader audience?
5. If you expect a broader audience, are you willing to put yourself and some money out there – seeking venues such as author fairs, book clubs, speaking programs, blogs, media interviews – to sell your book for a season of your life?
6. Are you easily discouraged? Some venue organizers will invite you and treat you like a celebrity. Some won’t be great for you. Some, frankly, won't even book you. Can you deal with all that?
Oh, I have more questions besides, but the answers to those will tell me how to answer the person asking that one question.
There seems to be so much interest in self-publishing people’s memoirs, poems, family history or fiction that I decided to compile everything that I wanted to know when I asked that same single question – How do I go about publishing a book? -- and create a program that I can offer to libraries or other community groups that might have an interest.
My resulting program rolls out in Franklin County at two libraries on Wednesday, Aug. 3. At 11 a.m. I’ll speak and field questions at the Brookville Library and at 2 p.m. I’ll be at the Laurel Library. If you are interested, simply come on down to scenic Franklin County. You might say this is my pilot run to see how it goes.
I will tell you up front that I’m not an expert, and this isn’t a how-to guide to merging files or explaining why a 72 DPI-resolution photo will not work for a cover image. Those would be of interest, maybe, but would be another program.
The talk I’m offering is an overview of my experiences in deciding to self-publish, then what the process has been like and what to expect after the book is ready. I don’t think that enough self-published authors consider the after enough. They need a game plan.
I’m not representing any one company, but I can tell you the positive experience I’ve had with CreateSpace, the self-publishing wing of Amazon, and if you prefer working one-on-one with a publisher and need someone to help you in person, I have two people in Indiana whom I know personally, and whom I can recommend.
More than anything, my program provides a whole lot of questions to ask for those who aspire to see their books in print. Even if I don’t have the answers (and I do have quite a few of those) I have questions that writers will want to ask themselves before embarking on this interesting journey. You have to know the questions before you can get at the answers you really need.
If you are a librarian or simply a library frequent flier, consider booking or recommending me to give this program. And of course, I’m booking ladies groups in particular for my new program, “Bloom Before You Are Planted.” For would-be writers or authors, I also have a program called “Finding Your Voice and Audience.” I can also tweak a talk to your individual needs.
Contact me at: email@example.com or on Facebook on my author page at: Donna Cronk.
Brian and I spent a most pleasant last Saturday morning in downtown New Castle at the Henry County Farmers Market. He read a library book and enjoyed the weather while I chatted with passersby almost nonstop and moved some books.
“I know you,” one lady who stopped at our table told not me, but Brian.
“Me? I’ve never met you ma’am. How do you know me?” he asked.
Of course the answer is that in the nearly three decades I’ve worked at The Courier-Times I’ve written a column about life, and life of course includes family as a huge component. So she’s read about the guy.
The morning reminded me how much I continue to love Henry County and its people. They are home folks and I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful ones through the years. Saturday morning alone, a good sampling of people I’ve written about or worked with happened by my space as they gathered their supply of luscious and local fruits and vegetables or maybe a stellar baked good from Sheila Tieken.
It’s fun to have Brian along with me at some of the random places I go these days because now that he’s retired, he has time for such excursions. And, I love it when our various “worlds” meet and last week they did in two ways. Along with the Saturday market, two of his friends from his career with Hamilton Southeastern Schools invited me to lunch and we agreed we’d get together again soon and bring Brian.
In a busy career where he sometimes put in 70-hour work weeks, there wasn’t much time or occasion for him to visit Henry County, aka my neck of the woods.
For the past 27 years, we’ve met in the middle, halfway between our separate workaday worlds, in Pendleton, where we raised our boys and where we continue to live. Brian pointed the car southwest and I pointed mine southeast for 26 years as we headed to our separate towns to work. It’s how we’ve made ends meet, with three communities a daily a part of our lives. They still are.
But Fishers, New Castle and Pendleton aren’t our only stomping grounds. There’s Fountain County, where we spent the 1980s, Parke County, where Brian’s folks lived out their retirement, and Union County, a place we both see as our heart’s home in ways too complex for some to understand.
I dare say we’d be comfortable living out our days in any of those places.
One of my favorite life principles is, using an old cliché, finding a way to kill two birds with one stone, or to use a modern term for the same thing, to multitask.
At Saturday’s farmers market, in addition to having a good time, seeing lots of community friends and peddling my paper goods, I scoped out three different feature stories that I’ll be pursuing for the newspaper.
I call that a good day.
Henry County may not be my home in the property-deed sense, but one thing is absolutely certain: I’m at home in Henry County.
Note: The Henry County Farmers Market is open 8-noon Saturdays until October on the east side of the courthouse in downtown New Castle, Indiana. Lots of seasonal fruit, vegetables, beef, baked goods and homemade uniques. This Saturday, July 16, is Customer Appreciation Day. Free sloppy joe sandwiches made with fresh, local beef while supplies last.
As I travel around Indiana, I love hitting the back roads and scoping out interesting stops in small towns. This week I was reminded, however, that often we don’t know what we have in our own back yards.
I found this true Wednesday when a couple of Brian’s work-days pals, Sandy Burns and Lois Valasek, invited me to lunch in downtown Fortville.
We met at the Foxgardin and enjoyed a fabulous, affordable meal. Lois and I had the Fortville Tenderloin sandwich which was a party in a bun, with all the fixings. Sandy had a wonderful cheese soup and she ordered a sugar cream pie slice for the three of us to sample. I noticed some scrumptious-looking salads on the table next to us. The restaurant, at 215 S. Main St., defines itself as "Kitchen. Ale." And a slogan, "eat.drink.meet."
It was Wednesday. It was 1 p.m. The main floor was packed! We walked upstairs to look around in the old downtown building. There we found a comfortable and unique bar-lounge-type setting, cozy, with unique art on the walls and black comfortable chairs. Out back is a covered patio. I was elated because this is a great new place to meet friends or take guests. Who knew?
I was amazed at the downtown vibe which is, unexpectedly to me anyway, very Mass Ave. There were several funky home-décor and unique clothing boutiques as well as a tiny sewing shop (it wasn’t open but it’s where the PINK mailbox is downtown). After our visit, I walked around and snooped through the shops. I overheard one shop owner talk about how the town had a couple of nice Mexican restaurants too.
I didn’t even realize that Fortville had a downtown, on Main Street, just west of the main drag. Until now, I associated the town with its signature pink elephant on Ind. 67 and the Dairy Queen where both boys worked years ago for a time.
Fortville is just a stone’s throw from Pendleton. I’ll be back!
This month a beautiful Pendleton home graces the cover of Indianapolis Monthly as part of a cover story about small-town homes. Sometimes we take for granted what’s right here in our own back yards.
I found this rosy fabric liner for next to nothing at a garage sale and had to have it. But I had no idea why ... until I discovered it is perfect for wrapping my books for mailing. Have you ever bought something at a garage sale that turns out to perfectly meet a need you didn't know you had? Read on.
Yard sales are where we find things we didn’t know we were looking for.
That’s exactly why I enjoy them. Of course, that can mean we are hoarders. Or simply that we’re at the right place at the right time.
My favorite example happened in Attica, Indiana, in the late 1980s. For months prior to that summer day, I had my eye on what I considered my dream house – a circa-1900 Dutch Colonial-styled beauty in Veedersburg. I loved everything about it from the open foyer with the open staircase, the country kitchen that opened up into a formal dining room, the huge laundry room.
It was for sale. It was big and old and had been beautifully cared for. I loved that house. I dreamed about that house. I even stalked that house.
For months, the home remained for sale and Brian and I, along with baby Sam, looked at it several times. We made an offer, clearly too low-ball-ish to merit a counter-offer. Around Christmas, Brian made a prediction. "By spring we'll own it. They will come down. You'll see."
There was something deeper at stake than holding out for the right price. We knew that if we bought the home, we were in fact committing to staying in Fountain County, to raising Sam there, to becoming permanent Fountain Central Mustangs. I think my husband sensed that once I planted myself in that house, no one would be able to pry it out.
As long as we rented from our small but perfectly serviceable farmhouse from our adorable landlords, Howard and Fauneil Colson, we could remain free to leave, no strings attached. We hadn't even signed a contract with them! We just shook hands and promised $200 a month. It was the old-time farm way.
One day I drove by the dream house that spring, just to once again imagine what it would be like to live there, picture where I’d place the porch swing and what the Christmas tree would look like in the living room window. But I got more than I bargained for.
There was a moving truck out front! People were carrying furniture into “my” house. Only it would never be mine. There was a sold sign.
So, that was that. One dream deflated.
Still stinging from the loss of “my” house, at the Attica garage sale that summer, I spotted something I didn’t know I was looking for. It was a gorgeous Seller’s cabinet in my favorite honey-oak. It was $350. I wanted it.
Such cabinets sell in antiques shops (or at least they did then) for at least double or even triple that. It was at once a bargain and a lot of money to spend on the spur of the moment. I called Brian from the garage-sale residence. Could I buy it? I would get no pleasure out of such a purchase if it didn’t come with his blessing.
He didn’t even hesitate. He didn't tell me to offer less. He didn't tease me. Yes! Buy it!
We both know why he was so agreeable. He recognized my disappointment over not getting the house of my dreams, a house that could just have easily been ours.
I’ve never regretted getting that cabinet. It has been the focal point of all three kitchens it has adorned in our lives. And that’s not all of the story. Seller’s cabinets, as it turns out, were made in Madison County … the county that became our home after we left Fountain.
Oh, but there’s more. A few years ago I interviewed Nancy Hiller, a Bloomington high-end cabinet maker herself, who is also a writer. She wrote a book about Hoosier cabinets. When I told her my Seller’s cabinet story, she added a new layer of depth. She said the word cabinet means small cabin. So in effect, my cabin-et was the consolation prize for not getting the big cabin (house)!
In more recent years, I bought something that I had no use for, had no idea what I would do with it, and something completely unlike what I would normally purchase. It was 50 cents, maybe even a quarter.
I had to have it but didn’t know why.
It was a bolt of white fabric lining, thin and stiff, adorned with pink roses. I took it home, having no idea what I would do with it, and plopped it in the back corner of my closet. Later, after Sam left home and I claimed his former closet for Christmas and gift-wrapping storage, I moved the roll to the gift-wrap container. Only trouble was that the roll was fatter and taller than the paper goods and the lid would no longer fit as it should.
It took a few years but finally, the purpose for that awkwardly large roll of fabric liner was revealed! As it turned out, the liner is perfect for wrapping up books, a pretty padding for mail-ordered purchases. Since it was practically free, and there’s lots of it, cost is not a factor—unlike what it would be if I needed to buy padded envelopes, bubble-wrap or tissue paper and assess some portion of the cost per mailing.
After I swaddle a book in the liner, it takes on the appearance of a gift, but its true purpose is protection against whatever handling the package incurs inside its tightly taped manila envelope on the way to Kennard or Liberty, California, Tennessee or Florida (and yes, I’ve mailed books to all those places).
I also found the envelopes for a buck a package at a thrift store, making them a dime each. And I use the media-rate (and take careful precautions to meet the requirements). I wanted to charge as little as possible when mailing out the books and I think that $2.79 is about as good as I can get.
I’ve had feedback from more than a couple of readers on how they liked the “wrapping.” Mission accomplished.
Somehow, I knew that roll of liner would come in handy … serendipity coming to a mailbox near you.
One more thing: Look at the cover of the new book. You'll see a Hoosier-style (or Seller's-style) baker's cabinet. The cabinet is of no particular brand or make, but is the artist's rendition representing vintage cabinets once so popular in the Hoosier state ... and in my kitchen!
Another full-circle moment, somehow.
If you are interested in receiving a signed copy of either of my novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, or That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, wrapped in the rosy fabric liner, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send details.
First, a little dog history.
I always thought I was a cat person. Growing up we had both dogs and cats, and I loved our long-time English pointer, Penny. But, Penny and I had a much more distant relationship than I had with the cats. Penny liked to be petted OK, but she was an outdoor dog, and she spent a lot of time making the rounds on our farm or if there was a storm, heading over to my brother’s farm. We don’t know why. She came around for meals and was back at it. I’m not sure what it was, but she seemed to have her own quiet agenda, trotting around the place.
Fast forward to when our old house cat passed away when my boys were still at home. Ben, in fact, was only halfway grown. We decided if they were to ever have The Dog Experience, the time was right.
Enter the sweetest little dog known to man, our first Boston Terrier, Mookie. She was fun and so involved with whatever we were doing around the house. She was great at catching things in midair and quickly catching on to any silly new game we made up. We loved her for a dozen years until she was old and ill and had a terrible cough that wouldn’t go away.
Her death in summer 2014 left an audible void. I say audible because for a while it seemed I could hear her toenails clicking through the house at her familiar trot. Only she had become too old to trot as in her younger years. Only she was gone. The sound was only in my mind.
At the time of Mookie’s passing (let’s not dwell on the details, but we had to have her put down), I had quietly written eight chapters of That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. It wasn’t until then that I told Brian I was even writing a sequel. I had to know that I had a new story to tell and be a way into it, until there was no turning back, before I made the sequel official. And then, I went to Israel for 10 days, and back home, dug back into the novel, forever changed by my Holy Land experience.
But we were still dog-less. And before long, Christmas was coming, and Brian kept giving me mixed messages. He searched the Internet for Boston puppies in central Indiana, tempting me with his findings, all the while telling me that the logical thing to do would be wait to get a puppy until spring when the weather was better for potty-training. Of course he was right.
One day he reported there were puppies ready at Greenwood. Did I want to go, you know, to just look?
I think you know what happened next. I stuck a wad of cash in my purse and off we went to just look.
And logic went out the window. We came home with a puppy. Just before Christmas. My gift.
Sam said we had to call her Reggie, so named for the retiring Indianapolis Colt Reggie Wayne, a particular favorite of my boys.
As the winter unfolded, and potty training was awful, as Brian predicted it would be, I spent most of my free time at home doing two things: caring for the new puppy and writing the book, which was then, by the way, created under the working title, Sweet Spot.
Reggie consumed so much of my time that I wrote her into the book. If you haven’t read my novel but want to, no spoilers. Let’s just say that her role became more than comic relief (the bathtub scene and pin cushion incident are based on real situations with the real Reggie). Reggie became a major player in how my story unfolded. You might also notice that she doesn’t show up in the book until halfway through. And the real Reggie didn’t show up in our lives until I was halfway finished writing the book.
I wanted to name her Patriot in the novel. I thought the name would be a nice touch with the Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, the Boston Terrier breed and all, but Sam said NO WAY! If you know anything at all about the National Football League, you’ll probably know that the New England Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts’ arch enemies.
So, the fictional Reggie was born on paper, inspired for sure, by the real one which this very moment is stretched out next to me in my favorite writing chair.
Reggie is a fun dog. She is sweet, intuitive, smart, strong-willed, playful and a pistol.
And, she’s a cover girl! She doesn’t much care about that, though.