Today I welcome guest blogger, author, and journalist Christina Ryan Claypool of Ohio. Above, she reads a portion of her new work of fiction, "Secrets of the Pastor's Wife: A Novel," available on Amazon, where excellent reviews are coming in. I added mine to the mix, giving it five stars. Maybe you'll check it out. It would make a lovely Christmas gift. Please also check out her website, listed at the end of this post.
The two of us met a few years ago waiting in line for coffee at a writing conference. We connected instantly, as we discussed so many things in common: our work in newswriting, fiction, and that both our husbands' careers are in public school administration. (Mine is now retired, hers is a school superintendent). Anyway, here's Christina.
By Christina Ryan Claypool
It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and
knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet, because she was only in her early forties
and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore.
Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you
would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a pot of piping hot flavored tea, and set the
dining room table with the good china, candles, and prepared a lunch feast, even though there
would only be the two of us.
Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my
home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said
grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a
Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend, I have you. This thought
raced through my mind denying the reality, she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was
Those of you who have also lost a close friend, empathize with how painful this loss can
be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to
experience intimate friendship.
But is friendship becoming extinct? One of the reason’s I wrote my new book, “Secrets
of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might
soon be as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit
deserving most of the blame.
To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving,
and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably
listening to music, texting, or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This,
instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.
Having a social media connection isn’t like having a faithful friend. A recent article on
www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like,
heart, and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for
offline friendships?” The article’s writer Jennifer Chesak appears to believe we might be,
“…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”
“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the
Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better,
especially as we get older.”
That’s why my recently released novel is about the friendship between an early 40s
pastor’s wife and a sixty-something widowed coffee shop owner. I chose to make the main
character a fictional minister’s mate, because there’s often an unrealistic stereotype for this
supporting ministry role, even within Christian circles.
I empathize with the difficulty these precious women can have when trying to find a
confidential friend to share their current issues or even past heartbreak. Since often we place
ministerial families under a microscopic lens of scrutiny, and have the unrealistic expectation
their lives should be perfect. Quite frequently, the needs and even existence of a pastor's wife can
also be overlooked, especially if her husband is an in-demand dynamic leader.
Plus, during my years working in broadcasting, I was asked to host a TV special, where
pastors' wives shared about their lives. One ministerial spouse was concerned about me
interviewing her, apprehensive over my understanding of her situation, so only minutes before
the show was to be recorded for broadcast, she anxiously asked what my husband did.
He's a public school administrator, I answered nervously, unsure of how she would view
But instantly, she visibly relaxed, smiled a wide smile, and teasingly joked that it's the same thing.
This wise lady understood whenever you are married to a man in any kind of leadership role,
it can be isolating and most challenging to find a trustworthy confidant, fearing you could
jeopardize your mate's position simply by being a flawed human being.
If we’re truthful, all of us are flawed, and burying our pain and problems forces us to
wear a societal mask. And masks can become a type of prison that morph into a lifestyle of
pretending everything’s perfect when everything’s a hot mess.
The bottom line of what “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is about is the desire
most women carry deep within to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship that
allows us to take our mask off, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea, and pour our
worries out to someone who won’t judge us, and to be a listening ear in return.
Of course, if we’re married, our spouse should be our best friend, but as women we need
other females who will walk this crazy journey of daily living with us. We don’t require
hundreds of friends, not like on Facebook where friendship is created by clicking “confirm.”
Instead we need someone with skin on to put their arm around us or to pick up their phone at 2
am to be present in our time of crisis or heartbreak, and we should be there in return.
A friend like Kimberly was to me or like Katie in my novel. The widowed coffee shop
owner is a trustworthy confidant for Cassie, the pastor’s wife. I hope the book is an entertaining read. Yet at the end of the day, my desire is for this novel to provide comfort and encouragement
for everyone who needs emotional or spiritual healing or support, the kind of support friendship
provides. After all, that’s what friends do, they let us know, whatever we’re going through, we
are never alone.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an Inspirational speaker. Her
book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018. Her website is
This story was a joy to report. From today's New Castle Courier-Times.
By Donna Cronk
Melody Sutherland Ruth grew up in New Castle and while her folks have since passed on and she rarely returns, she wanted to do something for her hometown.
Ruth, a Hockessin, Delaware resident, was chatting with her New Castle Chrysler High School Class of 1975 classmate, Deb Ferrell, and learned about the Guest House men’s shelter where currently 28 men reside.
Ruth decided to knit 30 hats for the men in a variety of colors out of thick yarn.
She isn’t sure how long it took to assemble the hats because due to the portable nature of knitting projects, she often takes them along wherever she goes and knits in 10- and 15-minute sessions while waiting for appointments and such. She sent the finished hats to Ferrell last week and she delivered the full box to Guest House Executive Director Bruce Aaron.
“It warms your heart ...” Aaron said of the donation. He planned to hand them out right away.
Aaron said that while the shelter gets donations of money, clothing and toiletries, these gifts were personal and touching.
“It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away,” he said. “It’s humbling.”
For the knitter, the project is inspired by her late mother, Irma Sutherland, who would now be 102 and passed away in 1999.
“My mom did a lot of charity work,” Ruth said. “I think Mom would like that (the knitted hats).”
She said her New Castle mother was known for homemade noodles that were in demand from friends. She didn’t want to be paid for them but decided that if noodle-recipients wanted to put some money in her jar, she would use it to buy coats for kids at the Christian Love Help Center.
Ruth’s father, Paul, has been gone for more than 40 years.
She said her mother didn’t have a lot of money, but she could always come up with funds to help others. The daughter’s takeaway is that it doesn’t cost a lot to be able to do something for people in homeless shelters.
“I wanted them to know that somebody took the time to make them something,” Ruth said.
Ferrell is impressed with her friend’s follow-through on the project, not merely paying it lip service as people often do.
“It was born out of her compassion for people in her hometown,” Ferrell said.
The Guest House, 1407 Walnut St., is more than five years old and has sheltered between 400 and 500 men in that time. This year alone, more than 100 have lived there.
Ruth, now retired, has worked as a special educator, group-home director and fraud analyst for a major credit card company. She has knitted for 10 years. Her hope is that her effort will inspire someone else.
"It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away. It's humbling."
Following is my preview of the Octagon House Christmas Tree Walk in Shirley, Indiana from the New Castle Courier-Times. I'll be there signing books from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. My gratitude to organizers for the invitation.
SHIRLEY — From around 25 fully decorated Christmas trees in a variety of themes to steaming-hot homemade meals (and homemade desserts) enjoyed around farmhouse tables throughout an antique-filled setting, the Octagon House is ready to entertain the public during two upcoming weekends.
The unique home, located at 400 South Railroad St., Shirley, is open 4-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and Dec. 7-8. The actual walk is free but donations welcome to support upkeep of the historic building.
Homemade meals are served both weekends for $10 a person, and there’s a discount for children’s meals. During the first weekend, the menu includes chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, homemade dessert and beverages. For the second weekend, served will be homemade vegetable soup or chili, a sandwich, dessert and beverage.
Board member Cheryl Wright said that generally around 180 people per weekend show up for the walk. “We want it to have a farmhouse feel,” she says of the two weekends. She encourages folks to sit down, eat their meals, relax and tour the trees. The board hopes the evening puts guests into the Christmas spirit.
She suggests that folks even consider gifting the evening out as a Christmas present – giving folks “a memory that they will remember.”
The home is fully furnished in antiques and is beautifully maintained. It is also available to rent out and anyone wanting information about cost and requirements may call board members Cheryl Wright at 765-737-6856, Virginia Harrell at 765-738-6736 or Dennis Westrich at 765-738-6415.
Wright says the most unusual tree this year is called “I’m a beautician, not a magician!, created by Step Ahead Family Hair Care Stylist and Owner Katrina Sturgill-Inman of Greenfield.
A variety of tree sponsors include families, businesses and even memoriums to loved ones.
The front door of the home is sponsored by the Door Store in Shirley. The entrance parlor contains a recently acquired chandelier – with eight arms – found in Nest in New Castle.
There is a massive snowman-themed tree from one woman’s lifetime collection. Cheryl and John Wright sponsor some trees upstairs in an elegant Victorian-hued bedroom. On the bed is a donated vintage mourning cape and some 1895 local historical correspondence about the Shirley-Wilkinson Railroad that was found in the old Wilkinson depot by Roger Roy and donated by Roger and Gary Roy.
Another bedroom is now also fully furnished and decorated, sponsored by the White family. Other themes include Happy New Year and an upstairs music room.
About the walk, Wright says, “Everybody seems to really enjoy it.”
One of the many specially-themed trees.
Vintage mourning cape on display in a lavishly adorned upstairs bedroom.
I’m grateful that we live in a democracy for many reasons; not the least of which is that the Holiday Police Department won’t arrive to arrest me today. Yes, I’ve broken a personal rule to which I’ve held dear for 60 years; one that many would find worthy of detaching me from my tinsel.
I have pumpkins mingling with Christmas trees; strands of Christmas lights competing with a Thanksgiving-themed candle.
Who am I?
I know that Hobby Lobby puts fully adorned trees up when it’s a consistent 90 degrees outside and my favorite mail-order stationery company unveils their Christmas cards and wrapping paper about the time the front of my house is sporting its Independence Day miniature flags. But I’ve always remained firmly in the NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THE THANKSGIVING DRESSING IS GONE camp.
This year’s approach is a little different. I’m holding off putting the tree up until after Thanksgiving only because my spouse would grumble too much if I forged ahead with that one. But I make no promises about transforming the rest of the house before the bird is cold.
It started with yesterday’s Sunday afternoon when I found myself somewhat caught up on my to-do list. Friday I had picked up new red ribbons to replace the faded ones on the wreaths I put up each year on all our outdoor windows. So, I watched the Colts game and took my time fluffing the wreaths and changing out the ribbons. I thought of the years that in a hurry to get everything in place and move on to my other work during a busy Thanksgiving weekend I forgo the fluffing and hang the greens anyway.
So with the wreaths fluffed and be-ribboned, I went ahead and put them up. The pumpkins in their urns with autumn garlands around them then bothered me. A lot. So they were taken down too and the urns changed out with greenery that should be fine to leave up on through winter.
I decided to go ahead and re-do the wagon on the porch, adding greenery and pine cones and hang the front-door wreath. The exterior of our house is dressed for the season – umm, the Christmas one
I woke up this morning to a pretty first snow on our central Indiana landscape. It’s beautiful and makes me want to dive in and do more. The weeks ahead are busy, every weekend booked with a variety of good things. Wouldn’t it be nice to see to the decorating before it all begins?
With a blissful Monday off today, things may get real Christmassy, real fast. I’m diving in.
Why not? Tomorrow I'm doing another preview on a Christmas Walk for the newspaper and I'll come home motivated to deck the halls.
So I'm getting a jump at home. And looking forward to it. When do you put up your Christmas decorations?
When I crash-landed on Friday after a hectic week, it appeared that the weekend’s agenda was blank.
It felt heavenly.
I could finally see to what had become a full-page to-do list.
There were weekly items to complete: my Bible Study Fellowship assignments, this week in the Book of 1 Samuel; the Friday chore of grocery shopping, and, facing the music on the Weight Watchers scales (not my best week).
Then I had to turn attention to some writing-related work. I had an offer to share a space the first weekend of December at the annual Minnetrista Luminaries Walk and needed to see how that meshes with another invite to do a signing at the Octagon House Christmas Walk the same weekend.
I needed to get a check in the mail to secure the 2019 opportunity to have my books available at Warm Glow Candle at the Centerville exit off Interstate 70 and catch up on some bookkeeping on the home front.
I am still finishing a new program I’m giving Thursday to a women’s literary club, this one about how in a writing career – and in life in general – there’s always something new. I’ll also detail this new adventure of writing devotions and share a few.
Then I had a big fish to fry: Securing a 2019 health insurance plan now that Brian is on Medicare. This project takes longer than the others combined but we made progress.
I had some more frivolous things on my "hope-to-accomplish" list. I’ve lost some weight this year and have had a goal of a new winter coat. I knew what I wanted: something incredibly warm (I’m that “always-cold” person you know); something black, weatherproof, and puffy without making me look like Mrs. Michelin. I also had a size goal and didn’t quite make it. Then there’s all that winter-clothing bulk under a coat to deal with.
I am a consignment-shop junkie but nothing was showing up in my favorite haunts that came close to what I looked for. What to do?
My bestie Gay sent a photo of the interior of Macy’s and wow! It was loaded with the black coats that interested me. So I did something rare when clothes shopping. I asked Brian to go with me to pick out a winter coat. He held my jacket and purse and did some looking while I slipped on candidates, ala' Goldilocks.
I found one that I liked a lot – but didn’t love. It was knee-length and I had thought more about thigh-length. Then Brian found one I like even better, still knee-length. It’s a big, bad, WARM coat. I’m ready for snow, wind and rain – at least in the coat department.
It’s Sunday now and there’s church and a run to the library along with a pot of chili I plan to make. There’s a few things still on the to-do list but there’s a whole bunch of them marked off with blue Highlighter lines.
Yes! I call this a successful weekend.
Before the calendar flips at midnight to November, I've been assessing what's new in my writing adventures for the 11th month just ahead.
The New Castle-Henry County Public Library sent along this nifty poster about the upcoming author fair. I was pleased to be invited to participate, and am especially interested in hearing Phillip Gulley speak. Whenever I want a relaxing, well-written read, I pick up one of his Harmony Series books and delve in. Such a talented writer.
And hey! I know all these local writers who are also participating. In fact, at one time or another, I've written about all of them. It will be fun to spend the afternoon in their company.
As my own little sales incentive for the afternoon, I'm providing free gift wrapping and of course signing and inscriptions with the purchase of any of my books. Let me help you with your Christmas shopping for your aunt, sister, cousin, mom ... or for yourself.
But before the author fair, two other writing-related events are happening. Next Thursday afternoon, I'm taking a late lunch to speak to a local women's group. I'll be talking about how God always has something new for us, and address my new interest this year in writing devotions — of looking for God stories in my daily life. I'll read a few samples
Then on Saturday, Nov. 10 is Part II of the Devotions Workshop I co-facilitated with writer Debbie McCray at my church, Ovid Community.
hose who attended the workshop got an assignment to come up with their own devotion or devotions and be ready to read up to three of them, or as the case may be, showcase their devotional artwork or even song with others in the group. I'm looking forward to a morning of sharing starting at 9 a.m.
The next day, Sunday, Nov. 11, the fall issue of the magazine I edit, her magazine for women, comes out inside the New Castle Courier-Times. We always have extra copies at the plant if anyone is interested in picking them up.
The magazine went off to the printer late yesterday. Wahoo! Here's the cover:
SO, that's all what I've been up to, and will be up to in the next few weeks. How about you?
It’s a question I ask travelers upon their return from anywhere: What was your favorite part? When I ask myself this regarding NYC, I’m at a loss for an answer.
I loved it all.
I’m at the stage of life where I don’t need “things.” What I would rather have are experiences. And as a writer, everything is material. There’s something to be said for the challenge of figuring out a trip’s navigation and overcoming whatever obstacles we run into.
So what I loved most about NYC was not one specific location. It was being able to share these special days together with Brian and all three of our kids. Team Cronk. The memories made are irreplaceable.
As a confirmed rural / small-town girl, I’ve always enjoyed trips to cities. I don’t want to live in them but I want to understand them and get a feel for what they are about and their history. Plus, see what they have to offer. Brian has always felt the same, and this is why we’ve visited Boston, Philadelphia, D.C. multiple times (and we're going back soon), Minneapolis and now, NYC.
My top tip for visiting a city is to have a plan. We started with our wish list, then popped into the schedule the events that have non-negotiable times such as the Colts/Jets game and the Broadway show. Then we filled in with our other plans and restaurants. We had some “maybes” if there’s time, such as a stroll down Wall Street and photo ops with the Raging Bull. I can’t imagine just showing up and figuring it all out.
SO, for our final full day, we began the day with another great breakfast next door to Hotel Edison at Danny’s. Then we headed out on the Subway, destined for Battery Park where we caught a ferry in New York Harbor, bound for The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These are two separate islands.
We learned in advance that Statue Cruises is the only company that takes you to these sites. Months earlier, we booked our cruises, which take about 15 minutes out to the Statue on Liberty Island, along with upgrades to go into the crown at 1:30 p.m. If you’ve seen the Liberty Mutual Insurance commercials on TV where the actors are in New York Harbor with the Statue behind them, those are no doubt filmed at Battery Park.
The ferries run continuously throughout the day and our timing from getting there around 11, I guess, was perfect, as headsets with an informative walking tour around the island are not to be skipped if you have time. Factoid: One might assume the statue’s star-shaped base is a nod to the stars and stripes. Not true! It’s designed to deflect cannonballs firing on it as they deflect due to the star shape rather than destroy in direct hits.
The gift shop is attached to the pedestal so you must walk through it to get to the pedestal and lower-level museum. In the pedestal, you can walk outside and enjoy views of the city, Ellis Island and the Harbor.
There’s an elevator to the pedestal but not to the crown. It’s around 350 steps round-trip up and down circular, very narrow stairway to the crown from the pedestal. The space in the crown is very small, allowing room for around six guests, and a couple of National Park Service rangers. But my crew agrees they will never see the statue in the same way having been inside it in such an extraordinary way.
The cruise takes you to the Liberty Island first and then you hop a boat to Ellis Island. Once you leave Liberty Island, you can’t return (unless of course you book another cruise).
Ellis Island is not to be missed. The museum is wonderful and you could spend the whole day there if your schedule allowed. You’ll see through films, displays and experience from walking around the main building where footsteps of millions of European immigrants walked from 1892 to 1954 – hoping to become Americans.
It’s a touching place to visit, as is The Statue, and to envision oneself arriving in this beautiful, precious land we are so blessed to call home – America.
I also must say right here that there are so many sound bites reflecting “hatred” among people on the news channels. Don't you believe for a second that this is the norm! We spent all or part of five days in NYC in the midst of people of all races, colors, creeds and stations in life.
We were treated beautifully. We saw nothing to reflect division or hated, we witnessed no anger. We simply were all in the same boat – quite literally as we journeyed in and out of New York Harbor. The news exaggerates and inflames the hatred a few feel. This is my opinion. This is what I see when living real life.
Most of us are simply humans with so much more in common than in what separates us. We felt this intensely in the midst of people from everywhere than in the perceived irreconcilable differences we see over and over on the national news.
Once you are finished looking around Ellis Island, you catch the next ferry back to Battery Park.
From there, it was late afternoon. We had one thing left on our agenda: Katz’s Deli in Queens. This was on Sam’s wish list as he had heard about this iconic restaurant on TV shows based in NYC.
We made our way via the subway to Queens and followed directions. One obstacle about NYC is that your Google GPS is very spotty, due, we suppose, to all the skyscrapers blocking signals.
We hoofed it through regular neighborhoods in this borough, passing inner-city schools, apartment complexes and businesses. It was awesome to get a quick feel for how regular people live their regular lives, apart from the tourist crowd.
Soon we saw the Katz’s deli sign looming ahead and when we entered, were given “tickets” where the prices of what we bought were written and we paid at the end with the clerk ringing up the amounts on the tickets.
I had corned beef on rye, only because it sounded so very “NYC deli” to me. I added slaw which was the best slaw I’ve ever had. I only wonder what the chili was like because chili is about my favorite food. Sam had Matzah ball soup and pastrami. The place was hopping and the walls loaded with photos of celebrities who had visited this deli with a slogan of “Send your boy in the army a Katz salami.”
That concludes my series on NYC, a trip will live in my heart forever. Thanks for sharing the trip with me.
Each of our days in The Big Apple is indeed a brand new start. Sunday began with donning our Colts attire and hoofing it to Junior’s, a restaurant with terrific breakfasts, a spot known for cheesecake (the server claimed it’s best in the country). Thanks to Marilyn for the recommendation.
Inside was a table of Colts fans with Hoosier roots. One was from Summitville, not far! We helped them with the how-tos on getting to the game. Our concierge gave us clear instructions which took us straight down the street a few blocks from the hotel.
We were to ride a game bus at the New York Port Authority, which wasn’t hard to find. We just followed the Jets fans. MetLife Stadium is only eight miles from Manhattan, located in New Jersey. Our ride was about 20 minutes.
There wasn’t a lot to cheer about as the game progressed, and the score wasn’t what we had hoped, but the fans were great and no one seemed to mind when we cheered for our guys, nor did they gloat when theirs were winning.
At halftime, there was a celebration for the 50th anniversary season when the Jets won the Super Bowl and Jo Namath addressed the crowd at half time. One of the Colts fans on the bus (with a few distant friend-of-friend connections to our gang) even got a photo in the parking lot of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy! He didn’t even have “people” around him but was by himself, our new friend reported.
The ride back to Manhattan was longer, probably a half-hour wait to board one of the buses, and another hour’s ride back, as opposed to 20 minutes out Sunday morning.
Back at the Port Authority, we started to walk back toward the hotel, but son Ben spotted something special and told me to look. Behind me stood none other than The Gray Lady – The New York Times.
Next up was dinner and it was off to Melt, a sandwich shop with the accent on the melted cheeses and tomato soup. Just one of the endless, unique eateries in this city. Then Ben took off to see a band he likes, Nine Inch Nails at Radio City Music Hall.
It was a clear, lovely evening so the rest of us went to Rockefeller Center and took in the atmosphere, including ice skaters on the rink. We also stepped inside St. Patrick's Cathedral and walked around the two-story M & M store.
Series conclusion still to come: Day 4: LADY LIBERTY AND KATZ'S DELI.
It was hard to say which day we looked forward to the most; each had its own rewards. We took Marilyn’s advice and got not only our morning coffee but our breakfast at Danny’s Gourmet next door to our hotel.
We could get made-to-order meals or grab ready-made sandwiches right there The fresh-fruit bar was glorious. We ate upstairs there and were ready to head out on foot for the Empire State Building.
As with all landmarks in this city, we could see it so far ahead that it didn’t seem as though it would be far. We passed a busy shopping district featuring the Macy’s mother ship, the largest retail store in the world. Brian and I stopped in for a look-see after the Empire State Building. The cosmetics section alone spanned what appeared to be the entire street level. The purses went on forever in the second floor and I didn’t trust myself.
At the Empire State Building, the early arrival at 9:30 meant we could walk right in and hitch rides to the main exhibits of this building that was tallest in the world from its beginnings in 1931 to 1970 when the North Tower of the World Trade Center surpassed it. It’s now the 28th tallest in the world and fifth in the U.S.
Think King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle. There’s a great exhibit explaining its building and history. The elevator ride to the observation deck has a sweet surprise. As cables whisk you higher, look up and a TV screen in the top of the elevator shows a mini movie of builders working their way up as you go along with them and feel as though you are on an amusement ride ready to burst through the top of the building into the clouds.
There’s plenty of time to visit. The building is open until 2 a.m. This was one of Brian’s top picks for the trip and it did not disappoint.
We had delicious pizza left from the night before and a microwave to warm it. It tasted just as great the second day back in our room. Brian dozed; I relaxed and then took a long hot bath and washed my hair, prepping for our fancy night on the town.
To our surprise, the kids showed back up rather than meet us at the elegant Butter restaurant. They all took naps and by 4:30, we were ready to venture to Butter.
The meal was compliments of Sam and Allison and is the most elegant meal I’ve ever had. The restaurant's executive chef and chef is Food Network and Iron Chef America star Alex Guarnaschelli and the kids picked up her cookbook, The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart, at the festival earlier in the day.
I wanted to know how the restaurant got its name and the story behind the eclectic mix of dishware.
Our server was happy to answer that the late founder used to have a saying to describe something he loved. He would say “That’s butter.” And so Butter became the restaurant’s name. As for the dishes, Alex has a passion for all kinds of dishes so she collects them and they are used to compliment the food creations.
Then it was on to the Gershwin Theatre to see our first Broadway show! Wicked did not disappoint, and I still marvel at the swift set changes and staging that appeared instantly as if by magic.
And before we knew it, we had our second day and fancy night out under our belts.
Next: NYC Experience, Part 3: BRAND NEW START OF IT.
One of my (many) fave photos from the trip: Ben, left, and Sam with the Charging Bull on Wall Street in the financial district. It appears that the bull is trying to photo bomb, but reality is the iconic sculpture draws a large crowd and the boys had only a moment for me to capture the image. YES, there are crowds everywhere but without a single exception, everyone we encountered was polite, kind and cooperative.
Not only is a trip to New York City big, it’s too big to summarize in one small blog post. It's downright BIGLY! So let’s do this in four parts.
Some background. Over the past few years, some combination of our immediate family members have attended Indianapolis Colts away games to see match-ups with the Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings. So when the season schedule came out this summer, Brian asked our crew where they wanted to go. The kids said New York City.
And if we’re doing The Big Apple, let’s do it right. But how do you narrow a NYC wish list? We started with what we wanted to see and do most. Everyone had a say: Colts and Jets on Sunday was the starting point. Then came Ground Zero with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum; a Broadway show; Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and Ellis Island; Empire State Building and Katz’s Deli in Queens.
Nice start. Now, where to stay? I knew that the Art Association of Henry County folks take an annual Broadway tour every summer and always stay in Hotel Edison steps from Times Square. My friend and book-cover designer Marilyn Witt confirmed that it’s ideal. Done.
Of course this wasn’t just any old trip. This after all was THE BIG APPLE! It would also be a way to do up big my 60th birthday and Brian and my 40th wedding anniversary along with Sam and Allison’s sixth wedding anniversary.
So the process began of piecing together an agenda. We started early in the summer with reservations at Hotel Edison, a 1931 Art Deco establishment with modern amenities but the feel of old NYC. None other than Thomas Edison turned on the lights to open the place! We chose a family suite which worked out well for our tribe of five.
Sam got online and ordered our Sunday Colts/Jets tickets. We voted on seeing Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre on Saturday night, doing the Statue and Ellis Island Monday, 9/11 sites on Friday and Empire State Building Saturday morning. That was close to the order in which we secured reservations and tickets online. Word to the wise: Early! Get your tickets early as there are sellouts if you wait.
With our top picks secured, we filled in the schedule over the next few months. For example, our kids discovered that the New York Wine and Food Festival is the Saturday we’re there and they wanted to go. Sam and Allison enjoy cooking and learning about food culture so they planned our meal stops. Allison researched our logistics -- which helped like crazy.
We’re happy for a solid agenda. There’s so much to see and do with distractions every step of the way that a plan is essential to get in what you want most and still experience surprises along the way.
We took an early flight (two hours) and landed at LaGuardia. We went to the cab line only to be told there was a long delay. Ben hopped on his Uber app and we had a ride within minutes. We were headed for Manhattan.
Less than an hour later we arrived at Hotel Edison in Midtown and stashed our bags in holding as our room wasn't ready. First stop: lunch at O’Hara’s Pub. The restaurant is at Ground Zero, steps from a fire station. After 9/11, this small eatery became a spontaneous tribute site where first responders from all over not only the U.S. but the world arrive and place their patches on the walls and doors in a unique show of solidarity with their brothers and sisters who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001. It is an inspiring tribute.
After our meal we toured the memorial, which is in two parts – one for each tower that went down that day. Water falls into big square holes in the center. Around the edges are engraved names of those who perished in those towers. Each name, a life.
Steps away we entered the museum. It was packed with people and all around, as with everywhere you go in NYC, you hear people of every race and nation speaking in their native tongues as they go about their business. You realize that you are in an international, not only a national city. It's an awesome experience just to look and listen.
The museum holds displays of emergency vehicles from that day, artifacts of everyday life found on the street, snippets of messages left on answering machines from people in the towers from that morning, photos, news clips and art. One major piece of art is a wall of blue squares depicting the blues of the perfect sky that day. There is this quote in the midst of the blue: NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME. This is a translation of the original Latin of "The Aeneid."
It occurs that not only is this museum packed on the random day we visited, but every day, and you hear people talking about where they were when they heard of the horrific attacks. Fifty or perhaps 100 years from now, this museum shall still be packed with people as the people who remember the day are few, then none, but time’s memory remains.
From there, we hoofed it to Wall Street where the boys were able to squeeze in long enough for a photo with the iconic Charging Bull, in "pasture" there only since 1989, which surprised me.
Brian and Ben paused for a shot of them at Federal Hall, the site where the colonial Stamp Act Congress met to draft a message to King George III protesting “taxation without representation.” The building isn’t original but the lower Manhattan location is, overseen now by a statue of George Washington.
Then it was a Subway ride back to our hotel. As if on cue, we arrived at complimentary cocktail-and- appetizer hour in the lobby where live music performed – you guessed it – New York, New York.
After seeing our rooms and claiming our beds, everyone was in the mood for pizza so we found Pazeria Family & Friends Italian Restaurant & Bar and enjoyed a couple of authentic NYC pies. Leftovers would serve Brian and me well for Saturday lunch while the kids hit up the wine and food festival.
By the time we hit the sheets, we had walked 9.6 miles.
Next: Day 2: CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.