I'm not much of a gardener, but I have one trick up my sleeve. It's not even a trick, but a quirk of nature: ferns love our open-air back porch. People ask my secret (I have no secret); what I feed them (I don't) and how much I water them (on days I'm not lazy and they're thirsty).
Yet they thrive.
So I run with them every spring when I drag home four ferns to hang out back, and one for a fake-vintage urn next to our front door. It's one of my personal annual holidays--the bright, sunny, late-spring day, perfect for the hanging of the ferns.
But come September, it's time to decide how to let them go. They would not do well inside our house, I don't want to mess with them in a crawl space and figure out when to bring them out again. No, I just throw out a Facebook pitch: who wants my ferns? They're free.
They're also heavy, messy, and depending on where you put them, they may or not play well with others. They love their east-facing open-air porch, lots of water, and to be left alone. They aren't for everyone.
Yet each year, I'm fascinated by where they go. Once someone in a town I rarely visit said she would love to have them--if I'd bring them to her. Nope. Come and get them is my only stipulation.
One year a local friend came and hauled them away. She never told me what happened after that. But she's never asked for any since.
Another year, a friend from New Castle came over and got them.
It's not an adoption where I'll be doing well-fern checks or asking how it's going. Once they are yours, they're not mine.
But this year, the Great Fern Giveaway turned into a surprise blessing. I posted the picture above on a whim one day this week and within minutes, an acquaintance from another town private messaged that she would like to have them as gifts for a relative. She came that day and as she loaded them in her vehicle, she unpacked her story of how this relative had randomly told her recently that she would love to have some ferns.
Ferns? the younger gal wondered. And then, although she says she is rarely on Facebook, there she was just in time to notice my post. The long story short is she came that day and took the ferns to their new recipient. The person was elated and blessed to receive them. I got to tell her how blessed I was that she was blessed. Blessings all around!
Isn't it interesting how the Lord can use heavy, messy objects like ferns for a special blessing? Yes it is.
I give programs relating to my book about lessons from cleaning out our attic. My book (on Amazon) is called There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
The program I give to community organizations is called What We Keep: Fun with Heirlooms. The program continues to change as life offers new stories and updates. The latest one is the blessing of the ferns.
The program includes ways to not only keep and enjoy our stuff but to pass on to kids and grands, to donate, and to recycle and upcycle our stuff. I'm having a ball with it.
Consider my latest little twist:
This tiny vase belonged to my in-laws, and they kept it full of toothpicks. Perfect, but we aren't really toothpicks people. BUT, doesn't it make the sweetest little vase? It's going on the road with me tomorrow to an event where I'm the luncheon speaker. It's LifeStream's Fall Festival in Dunlapsville. I'm looking forward to it.
I've also used the vase as a Q-Tips holder.
My bigger point than this little vase, is that there are ways to upcycle our heirlooms in clever, useful ways that work for our livestyles. You can try this (and the concept) at home. I have ideas on how! If you need a program for your group, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, I'm the guest blogger for bestselling author Liz Flaherty's website on Saturday. My post goes live at 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Maybe you'll check it out. Here's the adorable promotional graphic the talented author created.
As it has for 84 years now, the Mooreland Free Fair took place earlier this month. I like to call it the Mooreland World's Fair, a curiosity in this small, remote town in northeastern Henry County. Here, I'm in line for the world's best ham and beans. Don't believe me? You haven't had them, have you?
There are many wonderful things about August in Indiana.
Trouble is, they take place in August in Indiana.
It's generally so hot that that your own sweat puts a damper on the Indiana State Fair and even, on the Mooreland Free Fair.
But this is no ordinary August in Indiana. One week ago, I spent the day in jeans and a long-sleeve flannel shirt. That shirt felt right good too. We've had more rain this month than is anything close to the norm.
Generally, August grass is a yellowed beige, and so dormant that you can't imagine any green returning before the following April. But this August, the grass is emerald, and my marigolds look absolutely giddy about how things are going. They reward me with crazed vibrance. If you lean in, I'm sure you'd hear them giggle.
July ended with the glorious sendoff into retirement of our long-time pastor and wife, Keith and Delaine. My life group had a lot to do with the planning and implementing of the day, and if there was a glitch, I've yet to hear about it.
Then five days later, some church friends helped prep and serve food for the wedding of the church's student ministry director. Both events took place in the church gym, and it looked beautiful--transformed--both times.
Then onto the Mooreland Fair, where my longtime colleague, Mooreland native, and keeper of too many other community roles for me to list, here, Darrel Radford, had asked me months ago to give my heirloom program.
I shared a collection of ideas for enjoying, sorting, letting go of, and passing on heirlooms. I'll be giving the program three more times this year, and have given it a dozen times already since 2023 rolled in. We have a good time. If you need a program for something, hit me up at email@example.com.
Best thing about the Mooreland Fair is not the ham and beans (although they are exquisite), it's the feeling that you've stepped back in time as you admire the beribboned sunflowers and the tasty cookies and the garden produce, newly judged and shining their fresh, rural beauty. The old farmers sit on the benches and watch the fairgoers as kiddos swirl on the rides, and neighbors gather freebies in the commercial tent.
If not for the generally dreadful August heat, all's right with the world within those fairgrounds.
I was told I could pull into the reserved parking places on the grounds since I had a lot of props and such to carry in.
As I pulled up, three senior fellas were sitting like parade generals, side by side, in charge of who got in and who didn't. I told them who I was and my business there. "Have you got pies?" one of them asked.
I laughed! Was that the admission price?
It might sound like an odd question, and would be, if you weren't at the Mooreland Fair on an August afternoon. I said I didn't but next time I come, I''ll be sure to bring one. They laughed. I laughed and rolled onto the grounds.
Last week our small writing group, Writer Chicks Society (WCS) met. We talked a blue streak for closer to four hours than the designated three. Lots of reviewing various writing conferences we'd all been to. Our own Cathy Shouse was faculty at the Taylor University Writing Conference.
The month isn't over yet. Thursday my friend Delaine and I are going to a genealogy workshop sponsored by a Henry County-based Daughters of American Revolution Chapter. Saturday we'll celebrate Sam's birthday with brunch out.
And in a bit, I'm going to hop on the John Deere and mow. Hot or not. The heat goes on.
The nearly century-old magazine had been inside my closet in a stack of other "keepable" periodicals for quite a while. I don't even recall when it was that Brian's Aunt Mary Jo gave me the August 1924 issue, but there it was--rediscovered recently.
We redid the bathroom off our bedroom a couple years ago with a blue-and-white theme, and grayish walls. I knew the flooring I wanted the moment I spotted it. The cabinetry, tub, tile, shower, and elevated potty (who even knew how much more comfortable they are for old knees and hips?) are all white.
I needed some things for the walls to add color and interest. But oddly enough, I couldn't find anything that filled the bill in all this time for one particular space over the tub. I didn't want to pay a lot; I didn't want something real heavy.
The adorable little cover girl sports a navy swimsuit and bright orange cap with what appears to be a lake in the background on a summer's day. That's it! That's what I want on the tub wall!
Off to the crafts store I went with the entire magazine and in moments I found a simple black frame that perfectly fits the magazine. I left the publication intact. I had my unique art for $12.99 plus tax.
And best of all, maybe, is the wording on the cover of this 99-year-old magazine:
All I can say is: #whatwekeep. #shopyourhouse
The calendar doesn't quite agree just yet, but the heat says that yes, it's summer here in Indiana. I finished a busy speaking season with twelve gigs around the state. Next up is joining my decades-long friend and writing colleague, Darrel Radford, on the lawn of the Henry County Historical Society in New Castle, Indiana, from 11 to 3 Saturday, June 10. It's the annual ice cream social.
Darrel and I would love for you to drop by our booth and chat. Always love seeing friends from my career years at The Courier-Times. I've been lazy about posting on here and missed the whole month of April. Here's a short catch up.
I accepted an invite from Typewriter Creative Co. to share insights into my self-publishing journey. Check it out here:
The spring season has taken me throughout the state for opportunities to present my signature program for this year called "Fun with Heirlooms." I have collected a number of ideas for caring for your heirlooms and even getting your kids and grands interested. It's always fun with others bring their treasures and share about them. Need a program for a women's program? Club? Banquet? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's also fun to connect with other creatives. Author friend Cathy Shouse and I had dinner with the talented professional organizer Mendi Funk Consulting LLC. Check out her website at mendifunkconsulting.com.
If you are interested in the cowboy romance genre, check out Cathy's titles on Amazon.
Talk about inspiration, shout out to my husband, Brian, for taking the outside while I took the inside and we washed windows!
For now, I'm thinking about getting together with some friends and family and enjoying some summer fun and laughter--as well as completing a few projects on the old list. Happy summer to you and yours, whatever the calendar says.
Greetings friends, readers and friendly readers. I'm Donna Cronk, author of three books:
I'm a veteran newspaper columnist and author, as well as a lifelong Indiana resident. I live in a quaint little Hoosier town with my husband Brian, a required public-school administrator. We have two grown sons.
My hobby is presenting inspirational and humorous programs to groups of all sizes from a handful of book-club members to a banquet for hundreds.
I enjoy writing and talking about a variety of subjects ranging from faith, home, family, the empty nest, and aging. Feel free to roam around my website. I lead with blogs, and from them, you may get a feel for my interests and values. Reach out at email@example.com.
Billie from A Dozen of Us book club in Connersville, has fun with some ear muffs from her childhood. She recalls how well-made and warm they remain. Everyone brought heirlooms to the March meeting and told about them as an activity to go with my talk about "There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go."
There’s something about winter that makes me want to clean out closets and cabinets, drawers and shelves. Sometimes the focus is micro, such as going through a drawer in the Sellers Cabinet and purging cookie cutters.
I used to make sugar cookies quite a bit. In fact, it was a fairly regular activity shared with my friend Patti F. One of her signature recipes is her Aunt Martha’s Sugar cookies. Many times she’s asked me to come help decorate them for special occasions. I don’t have all the fabulous tools and I’m not that great at the decorations, but it’s fun to solve the world’s political problems with Patti. If we disagree on something, we don’t get mad.
We don’t do that so much anymore, and while I think some of my cookie cutters are fabulous and we will keep them, there are others, such as in this photo, that I could let go because either I never really used them or I have duplicates.
Another big thing I do in early winter is put together the tally on my books’ sales Indiana Sales Tax and have our accountant submit it. Done. Then I start in on gathering all the proper paperwork for our state and federal taxes.
These winter trips to the pool for exercise leave me feeling chilled to my core. I want to come home and take a really hot bath to get my temperature back up to normal, or at least that’s how it feels. But instead, this winter I’ve developed a bad habit!
I remembered that Ben bought me an electric throw on Christmas, so I got it out and leave it plugged in. Reggie and I love it! In fact, it’s so warm and soft, and it relaxes me so much as I ease myself into the inviting warmth, I end up taking naps on the regular! Reggie certainly doesn’t mind.
But times, they are a changin.’ When I get this posted, I will head for the dining room where I need to empty the china cabinet and pie safe. On Tuesday, Saunders Flooring of New Castle will descend on the house and begin removing old and installing new flooring throughout most of the downstairs. This requires us getting the “smalls” out of the way. Trust me, there are smalls galore. All you must do is open a drawer or cabinet and there they are.
Things are going to look a lot different around here in a week. Wish us your best as we navigate the chaos in between! As Monti Foust once told us, “You’ve got to break an egg to make an omelet.”
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What kinds of specialty winter homefront chores do you have going?
If you’re familiar with my novels—about a small-town bed and breakfast and the woman who owns it; my memoir—on heirlooms, organizing, and nostalgia; or newspaper columns about home, family, and the challenges of getting older, you might gather that I’m a bit old-fashioned. I say that with joy and no apologies.
Can you relate? If so, you might enjoy the traditional pleasures of hearth and home and seek out encouraging books and people.
At heart, I identify as a Hoosier farmgirl, several decades removed.
Maybe one day I’ll have a high-tech newsletter, but for now I’ll make do with a homemade version. If you’d like this second issue you're reading here delivered to your email, let me know and I’ll send it your way, as well as the spring issue when it comes out in March. Reach out in the comments or let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I finished 2022 with a combined thirty-five programs and/or events relating to my memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. For 2023, at present I’ve booked nine on the topic of Fun with Heirlooms. Here’s what Linda Davis, interim director of the Knightstown, Indiana Library says of my program:
“I’ve been telling everyone what a lovely program that you gave and what a sweet person you are. It was a joy to have you. You have inspired our staff to come up with some sort of monthly gathering for older patrons to just talk and tell their stories. It was so interesting to listen to the amazing things that have happened in each person’s life. And how eager they were to share! A wonderful way to spend an evening.”
While a part of me would love to spend winter hunkering down with early-morning mugs of coffee and more time to read or listen to audiobooks, iron antique linens I’ve culled from too many I've stored in my Sellers cabinet, work on Bible Study Fellowship lessons and listen to favorite podcasts, there are other things on my mind too.
Our house will soon be chaotic, only in a good way. We’ve got new flooring coming in for most of the downstairs, ordered from a wonderful longtime retailer in New Castle, Indiana. We’re expected to have all the “smalls” moved out of the way for the installers. If you aren’t shrieking, you have no idea how many “smalls” there are around here! It’s also a good opportunity to do some deeper cleaning and organizing.
While the Clydesdale book is about cleaning out, organizing, and reflecting on objects in our storage spaces, getting new flooring is about all those objects that are not in storage! HELP!
On the heels of new flooring comes a busy February: my first book-related program of the year, for a group of Methodist women right here in Madison County, Indiana; a loved one’s hip replacement later that month, and I’ll celebrate the one-year release of the Clydesdale book and the whirlwind time I’ve had with it. Then in March, things take off with three programs on my calendar. Oh, and there's our annual tax appointment, and, well ... life!
Winter is when committees plan spring banquets for their clubs, organizations, and mother-daughter banquets. I’ve been the keynote speaker at many such events and would be happy to tailor a program to your group. Give me a call or shoot an email and we can discuss.
Fun with Heirlooms is my signature program, but we can talk about other themes that might be compatible with your events. I’m all about encouraging messages.
I’ve spoken to groups of all sizes from state-and-regional conferences and annual programs to small book clubs where a few of us sit around a dining room table or out on a warm deck and talk over the life themes in my books.
The three books include inspirational novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, the sequel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, and the memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
All three are available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats, and I have them in stock if you prefer a signed copy. Let’s connect via email: email@example.com, or call 317-224-7028. Website is donnacronk.com. Or, visit on Facebook on the author page Donna Cronk.
Meanwhile, here are some things readers are saying:
“I love to read but reserve my limited amount of free time for those books that are able to grab my attention within the first chapter. I'm thrilled to report that I'm on chapter 8 already. As I've read this book, memories started coming to mind and had me visiting some of my own collections. The author puts such a great spin on the art of decluttering. As I clean out my own collections, this book has inspired me to not go through them in a hurry, but to celebrate the memories they conjure. I now look forward to my journey down memory lane as I once again try to downsize …” –Amazon post with five-star rating from Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana.
“You will find that the author knows just how to take you on an adventure in her attic and in her memories. We all find ourselves in that very place at some time in our life. Sorting through "stuff" brings back memories that hug our heart. Donna Cronk knows how to take you on a fascinating trip down our own memory lane. Deciding whether to keep the Clydesdale in the attic is our biggest challenge. We aren't getting rid of just "stuff" but a bit of our own story. Very enjoyable read!” -
Amazon post with five-star rating from author Janet Leonard, Noblesville, Indiana.
“Donna Cronk has the gift of finding the compelling twist of everyday things in life, the compelling detail, and then presenting that in a delectable format for the reader. - Advance praise from career journalist/author Lisa Perry
A career community journalist, I live in central Indiana with Brian, my husband of 44 years. I write books, related programs, and a newspaper column for three Indiana newspapers. I’m active in church, study with Bible Study Fellowship nine months a year, and am cofounder of a writing support group, Writer Chicks.
I enjoy home, family, and providing encouraging programs on a variety of topics for book clubs, luncheons, and banquets.
This winter arrangement was designed by Liberty friend Kelly Finch. I bought it several years ago and look forward to getting it out every winter.
It isn't how I thought I would spend my Monday morning-stringing lights on our stairway. After all, lights and ribbons have been there since Thanksgiving weekend when I knock myself out decorating for Christmas.
For the last couple years, Brian and I have found that we enjoy the lights so much that even when we take down the tree and gather the rest of the trimmings, we leave the stairway and entryway swags alone. Suddenly that red ribbon becomes not Christmas red but Valentines red.
Early this morning, as I sipped coffee in the dark--perhaps my favorite few moments of the day--with the computer screen glowing and nothing else bright but the swags, I noticed a sudden burst of darkness. I looked up to find dark where the mini white lights had been. What to do? Last thing I had planned for today was to redecorate for Christmas! Aw, but I quickly reframed the moment into decorating for Valentines day. It's all how you look at things.
So I removed the ribbons and dead lights and found another strand up on my Christmas shelf in the closet. I plugged them in: dead. I went to my third strand and they worked. The ribbons still have some fluffing to do (the camera doesn't lie), but I even upped my game.
I remembered the handmade hearts and doves decorations I made about this time two years ago as Brian endured chemo and I needed to stay busy. Light--including scented candles burning from morning until bedtime (thank you friends)--felt especially warm and welcome. I thought the little decorations might be pleasant, and they were.
I dug them out and put them up just now. We aren't big Valentines people in the card, candy, and flowers sense. But there's no doubt we're still each other's Valentines in the long-game department.
We got engaged 45 years ago this coming Valentine's Day.
Carry on. Back to my regular programming.
Last night was a first: we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I had the day to prep, and it reminded me of those growing-up years on the farm. Since my brothers, now passed on, are quite a bit older than I am, Christmas family gatherings were later in the day on Christmas so they could be with their kids or other extended families first.
It's what I grew up with, and I enjoyed the way we eased into the holiday. I opened gifts from Santa / my parents, and then we had a few hours to get ready for the rest of the family to join us for the big meal, gifts, and fun.
This approach worked out equally well after I got married because we could gather at Brian's folks on Christmas Eve, then have Christmas morning with them before heading east to be with my folks and extended family for a dusk celebration.
I loved those moments on the curvy, ribbony-hilled back roads of northwestern Union County, Indiana as we approached the farm in late afternoon, knowing all the fun ahead.
Yesterday as Brian and I got the house and food ready, I put the finishing touches on a white elephant exchange to do for laughs. There was even a dog category with three family dogs in attendance.
The fun took me back to 1981, our first Christmas in Fountain County. That summer Brian had accepted his first school administrative job at Fountain Central. We couldn't sell our trailer back in Richmond, Indiana and didn't know how or when that would happen. So we continued to pay on it and the lot rent, as well as the most reasonable rent on the spacious country home we rented.
My job was to attend college full time in person and take every extra short course or correspondence course I could to get my journalism degree and begin the career I dreamed of as a community journalist. With Brian's pay raise, it was possible, but without me contributing any money to the cause and these added expenses, we had little left for extras. There would be no new furniture, clothes, or other indulgences.
Yet we were happy as clams. Our dreams were coming true. We had each other. We had lots of plans.
That Christmas season, we went to an all-staff dinner party at the home of school secretary Barb Clark. Barb was all things to all people--and turning her family's basement into a party room with food and decorations fit for royalty was one of her endless talents. Barb could do anything well--backward in heels.
I was relieved that instead of spending money on "real" presents, we were to bring a gag gift for an exchange. Since those can be anything, and I had a silly fringe-laden top that I never wore and think I surely got in another silly exchange, it was wrapped and gifted. Done.
When I opened my designated gag gift, it was a Mennen Speed Stick. You would have thought it was the Hope Diamond. I don't recall our exact words but I know that we carried on about it as though we had hit pay dirt!
We looked at each other with delight: something we could use! Something namebrand even! Something we didn't have to spend money on! We held our deodorant close. I don't remember much else about the evening, other than the glow we had between us knowing that our underarms would be covered for a good while and live rent free on our bodies. Yippee!
Later, Barb was told the story and she recalled her version of a similar one: the Christmas that she and her beloved husband Hersh, were pressed for money and he bought her a potato masher. She was delighted!
As we gathered with our kids, and Ben's wonderful girlfriend, Julie, yesterday, (hugs to Sam's girlfriend Ashley, who was unable to join us with her beautiful daughters), we had the luxury of not only gag gifts (dish sponges and soy sauce, anyone?) but real gifts that cost considerably more.
The real Gift of Christmas is the Reason for the season: The Word who was made flesh and came to dwell among us ... (John 1:14).
Feeling grateful for life, health, peace, family, friends, and for His gift, according to God's perfect plan.
May your Christmases be bright, and all your gag gifts be useful.