Following is my Dec. 3 New Castle Courier-Times column. I’m still thinking about ornaments today as I prepare a new Christmas program for tomorrow night's Lilac Literary Club in Hancock County. It’s about how our ornaments tell the stories of our lives.
Thirty-one years ago, I couldn’t wait to place baby Sam’s first ornament on our Christmas tree.
As the years passed, new ornaments were purchased annually first for Sam, then also for Ben when he came along. At first I did the choosing, picking out Disney and bear decorations, but as the boys got old enough to care, they got to choose their own.
It became a much-anticipated Christmas tradition to take them to the Hallmark store and select their ornaments. As the “senior” son, Sam got first dibs, and usually selected the year’s cool Batman or sports hero. Along the way came orbs depicting trends such as video games or the hot sports figure of the year.
There were athletes with staying power such as Peyton Manning, and ones who are forgotten footnotes in old box scores. There were action figures such as Spider-man and Lego creations such as a fireplace with Santa appearing to be made from them.
Several years ago, I stopped putting the collection on the big family Christmas tree. These were during the years that the boys were in their late teens and early 20s. The boys had lost their thrill of selecting new ornaments and moved on in their interests. It seemed the time for childhood ornaments had passed.
It’s funny what a few years out of circulation will do to a collection.
Our younger son, Ben, is 26 now, and this is the first Christmas he’s truly been out on his own without a roommate. On Thanksgiving, he was anxious to get back to his apartment and have Brian and I help him put up his own tree.
His lights worked great on the shimmering white tree that came intact from his small patio storage closet. But the problem was, he had no actual ornaments.
So, I offered up his childhood Hallmark ones. I don’t know which of us was more delighted – Ben over the idea of the nostalgic decorations, or me over seeing his delight.
That weekend he came home and went through the pile of Superheroes and athletes, cars and novelty items, all created with the special charm of Hallmark, in ornament form.
One by one we looked them over and he separated his stash from his brother’s and home he went with them. Later that evening, he sent us a photo and video of his decorated tree.
I had always wondered what would become of the boys’ ornaments and if they would ever want them.
I’m happy to see them enjoyed anew in their new home on their new tree – with their old boy.
Several weeks ago, this invite appeared on my desk at work.
It had nothing to do with a book program, or a feature story for the paper, and it was from someone I barely knew.
I met Irene last summer when she entered a drawing for a book giveaway celebrating women’s right to vote. She told me about how she and her husband are from the area but had moved to Florida many years ago. They moved back.
Then I did an article about Irene, and she also entered our holiday recipe contest.
With the date open, I put the tea party on my calendar. What a lovely afternoon at Irene’s sipping tea with her friends and tasting the delicious treats she kept producing from the kitchen.
We were to bring our own tea cups and Irene had us tell where we got them.
The first snow of the season brought a dusting, making the day even more festive.
Thank you, Irene, for inviting me to your authentic tea party.
I went home and made chili, wrapped gifts and watched It’s A Wonderful Life.
It is indeed.
So today I feel overwhelmed by gratitude. That’s a good place to be. It's been such a fast-paced week, I'm only now getting this posted.
After last Saturday in Indy at the newspaper conference, Sunday it was off to Centerville where I visited with shoppers, colleagues and friends in the new Artisans and Java building at the Kids at Heart Publishing mini-bookstore.
Monday night was a speaking engagement at Fishers United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s Christmas gathering. I am grateful to Linda Shimer who served this year as co-president of the UMW and is also active in the church’s book club. I appreciate her support and encouragement so much.
She also wows me! In addition to her leadership role, she went and picked up and returned home a friend who couldn't get there on her own. In fact, she left so quickly following the program that I was unable to get a photo with her. Not only that but I found out that Linda and her husband MOVED last week!
Even though my connection to the church’s book club had nothing to do with my husband’s 26 years working in Fishers schools, ironically, Linda told me that several were coming who knew him. It was such a delight to see these wonderful former co-workers of Brian’s – and look up to find their smiling faces near the front of the sanctuary as I spoke.
I took their photos and texted them to Brian. He was pretty pumped about their attendance and when I got home, he took a trip down Fishers Memory Lane, reflecting on all the wonderful people he worked with during those years.
Last summer, a surprise invite came from town library director Carrie Watson to give the opening program to children in the summer reading program. I spoke on the topic, “What’s Your Clue?” about looking for our gifts and talents – even as young kids, and then later in the afternoon, I gave a second talk to the adults in a program on our bucket lists.
Carrie told me she would invite me back during the annual town Christmas walk and library open house. She even gave me the date but I didn’t put it on my calendar. I thought I should wait and see if the invite came through and guess what? It did!
I got there at 5 and enjoyed delicious hot soup samples prepared by members of the library board, and hot cocoa, served by Carrie’s adorable daughter, visited with many of the more than 100 people (probably closer to 150) who came through the library to warm up and chat with their neighbors. What a bunch of truly nice people with friendly smiles and were interested enough to stop and chat.
Carrie’s mentor, Iraida Davis, even visited the library! At age 90, it’s been a while since she directed the place but I found it touching when the two librarians posed together. Carrie says Iraida was her idol. I think she still is.
Carrie is a woman of many talents. Not only is she library director in Farmland, she is the Union Modoc library director and teaches Title 1 reading. She is a mom, a quilter, and – I kid you not – a drag racer who shows her skills all over the country.
I tried to think of how to describe Farmland, an artsy farm community with something special. The best I can do is to call out two old-time TV shows. I think Farmland is something of a blend of the two: Northern Exposure meets Mayberry.
Carrie agreed to let me write about her in a future issue of her magazine for women. Yippee!
On the ride home, the moon was huge and bright, showcasing the lovely, peaceful Hoosier farms I passed as I made my way south and west through Randolph County, then continued straight west through Henry County, and home to Madison County on U.S. 36 most of the way.
By 9:30 when I landed home, I was so tired I could hardly get from my favorite chair to draw my steaming-hot bath. But I did, then headed for bed.
It's supposed to snow this weekend; just a Christmas Chamber-of-Commerce type dusting of a couple inches.
I hope so.
December is starting with a whirlwind of activity. I am grateful for every opportunity. I just hope I can keep my schedule straight. And keep up!
Today is my last catch-up day for a while, so we hit the grocery store this morning and enjoyed the sunny, mild day. This afternoon I’m working on some surprise goodies to share with my newsroom friends tomorrow on “HSPA Day,” and make some dishes ahead for the fridge.
Tomorrow is the day Hoosier newspaper folk look forward to all year long with a morning full of Hoosier State Press Association seminars, then the awards banquet when reporters’ best work is recognized.
No matter what the paper or I do or don’t win, being there is my annual booster shot reminder that I’m part of a profession much bigger than my own band of newsies, and I reflect on the numerous first Saturdays in December I’ve shared with many in this profession. I always leave the convention hall renewed and ready to get busy – well, except that time I felt myself becoming ill as we sat through the awards session, and by the time I got home, I had full-blown flu!
I have a bit of exciting news to share, and it’s that my books are now available at Warm Glow Candle Co. in the newly opened Artisans & Java building on the property. The new concept replaces the former Watering Can gardening store. I’m privileged to share space with the Kids at Heart Publishing, LLC crew and I want to thank both the publisher, Shelley Davis, and Warm Glow Founder and Owner Jackie Carberry for this opportunity.
If you’ve never been to Warm Glow, it’s at the Centerville exit on Interstate 70 in Wayne County, Indiana, and it’s a magical place! It was the vision of business woman Jackie Carberry, who first crafted candles in her Richmond home to use as decorations in an antiques shop. However, the candles seemed to sell like hot cakes and she knew she was onto something.
I wrote about her for the cover story in her magazine for women five years ago.
From her small beginnings came the tourist attraction that is now Warm Glow. It’s so much more than candles, but also quality gifts of so many kinds.
The candles are made in Centerville – yes, made in the U.S.A. and shipped all over the country. The Centerville story at the I-70 exit is the mother ship.
What’s more, the customers are from literally everywhere! There is a new flow of traffic – heading east and west nonstop at all hours of the day and night, plus, of course, locals or regionals who make their way to this store complex.
I’ve long dreamed about having the Warm Glow sticker on my books and now I do! This weekend is the annual Christmas open house and as part of the festivities, I’ll be there Sunday from noon to 3:30 p.m. Stop and see me in the Artisans & Java building. I’m looking forward to seeing other artists’, crafters’ and authors’ merchandise too.
Monday night, I’ll be speaking during the Fishers United Methodist Women’s Christmas dessert event. I have to thank Linda Shimer for so kindly inviting me to do this several months ago. The church’s book club members read both of my books and had me in for the two discussions. I was so impressed with how thoroughly they read the books and the insightful questions they had. I look forward to Monday.
Then Tuesday after work, it's onward to Farmland where another friend I met this year, Farmland Librarian Carrie, invited me to have a table in the library where they are doing a meal and expect a couple hundred locals to pass through. The whole town is hosting an open house that evening. I’ll be there from 5-9 p.m.
After this stretch, only one more official book event remains in 2017.
Meanwhile, I plan to savor every moment and enjoy visiting with everyone I can – old and new friends alike. Whatever you’re doing this weekend, enjoy it.