So this was the scene in our driveway yesterday morning. That's seven yards of black mulch. Perhaps we misunderstood the measuring process. When they said we needed seven yards, well, did that mean enough to mulch seven yards in our neighborhood? No?
I've put down bagged mulch for decades. The sight of mulch bags stacked to the sky in parking lots of gas stations are one of the first signs of spring in central Indiana. Through the years I've hauled countless bags of the stuff, about 50 to get the job done every other summer.
I always wanted to get a truck load instead of driving back and forth to stores multiple times. But Brian balked at the bulk.
This year is different. We decided to take a DIY approach to updating our landscaping. We moved here 21 years ago. Things needed refreshing. A big old load of mulch, I convinced him, spread liberally over our landscaping next to the house and on the island out back, would be the finishing touch on our hard work.
And there it was, at the exact time it was due to arrive Friday morning, one mountain of mulch.
Brian took out nine shrubs, and our friend and professional tree man, Rob Tuttle, took out an additional bush, plus ground down all the bush stumps. He did such a great job, you would never know there had been a bush in any of the locations.
Since we had him on the grounds, we marked a dozen or so branches to take off our backyard trees.
Here Brian is after removing green from one of the largest shrubs that has needed removed for some time. Rob would take care of the stumps a few weeks after this scene, recorded earlier in the summer.
Back to yesterday, we got busy! Brian filled our wheelbarrow many times and dumped loads on sections of our landscaping. I spread the mulch to the suggested three-inch depth.
Our neighbor, Dusten, came over to chat about our mulch. He is an avid gardener and used to work as a landscaper. He said three inches deep is ideal because anything less and the weeds will come up; anything more and the mulch might mold underneath.
We were concerned what to do with any leftover mulch (there was little concern that we under-bought). So I asked Dusten if he could use our excess. He said yes! Problem solved!
We mulched everything in sight until we were mulched out, about 2:30 p.m. after starting at 9, and taking a break for lunch. We were both surprised that we got through it so quickly. We both thought it might be a job that would string out over the weekend into Monday.
Dusten said he'd have the remaining mulch out of the driveway by sundown. Brian helped and the task was done well under that goal time!
Another neighbor asked if we were moving. He said he thought maybe we were since we've been doing so much work around the place.
This spring we also got a new back door, this one a slider, as the other one went kaput. Our friend and home remodeling and handyman CEO Monty Foust installed it for us. Brian got a power washer and has been using it around the place, and we put the window air-conditioner in the upstairs study. Yes, guess we have been getting things done in recent months.
So today, we went to the grocery store and we're just chilling the rest of the day, celebrating the move of all that mulch, and the end result. Brian said he went 66 years having never moved a mountain of mulch. He said we can do it again in another 66 years.
I love how clean and neat the landscape looks and how every shrub and plant seems almost under a spotlight now. And I love it that we're done with our season of landscaping projects.
In our many years visiting friend Terri's place on the lake in southern Indiana, the Midlife Moms of Ovid Community Church enjoy a variety of activities that include boating and swimming, tubing, and eating, devotions on the boat. We pepper the time with lots of laughs and stories. Think slumber party without the preteen drama. It's a weekend of heaven on Earth.
Someone usually brings a craft for everyone to do. Just because.
We've outfitted terrariums from thrift-shop glass containers,, constructed paper flowers for a church event, scrapbooked, made bath bombs, embroidered bookmarks, seen who can make the most creative up-cycle from empty metal mint boxs and made Christmas ornaments.
This year I volunteered leading our craft time. We made hats out of newspapers. You can too. Read on.
Now that you have the hat custom-formed to one's head, you secure with masking encircling the outer newspaper and remove it from the head. Now it's time to figure out what type of hat you'll create. Interesting how all our hats were so unique.
Patty folds her pages to form a bill. Use a stapler to secure the paper.
Nice work there, Donna.
Sisters Phyllis and Karen are stylin' in their hats.
Donna's hat, left, includes a paper flower, and scrap ribbon decks out Sharon's creation.
What we've got here: The tweedy fabric on the bottom is our new sectional sofa. I LOVE this fabric! The lighter two pillows in the middle are of a fabric I selected in the furniture store to go on the couch pillows. The pillows were free with the sofa. The pillow in the center is the same as that on the room's "statement" chair.
So here's my decorating storyboard. Only, it's not a storyboard but the real deal. We've done over our family/living room within the past few years. The TV cabinet is the same golden-oak hue that matches the staircase, and there are some antiques and modern end tables in the room, but everything you can sit on is new or almost so.
Who can do everything at once? We can't --or don't choose to, anyway. The decisions are too overwhelming to make at one time. Each purchase requires the appropriate amount of fretting and revisiting and then feeling like you're going to throw up because you maybe made the wrong choice. (That's how I roll with redecorating! Yikes!)
Selecting carpeting is the hardest, followed closely by paint. We got new carpeting approaching four years ago. I wanted the slightly shaggy multi-hued browns-and-beige stuff. Brian didn't like that idea, thinking it would resemble our previous carpeting too much. It was a berber, though, and I thought of it as a cobblestone street. It was time to move on.
For sure he wanted brown. His reasoning? "Isn't all carpet brown?"
Well, no, it's not, but it seemed a good base color. I guess we can't help it. We're drawn to neutrals, and for us, we go to beiges and browns.
Here's a look at almost three-fourths of the living/family room. It's odd that the walls have a light greenish tint here because they don't in real life. I don't think they do anyway! The oak coffee table will stay as is. The boys love that table. It's very sentimental to them. The small reupholstered chair belonged to Brian's folks and we just had it recovered.
It hasn't always been that way. We began housekeeping 41 years ago with the purchase of a brand new house trailer. Carpeting was orange, kitchen wallboard was an orange and yellow print. Our Tupperware was orange. Hey, it was the '70s, people! If you didn't do that combo, it was avacado.
I dreamed of a blue kitchen and soon started collecting a popular line of dishes at the time in a light gray with blue motif. In fact, our houses for the next two decades were largely adorned in blue.
When we moved here, I was ready for some new color and I found it in our green and white ivy-wallpapered kitchen. I loved that room the most in this house. I never thought I'd get such beautiful cabinets -- honey oak. They matched my Seller's Cabinet. Walking into the south-facing room felt like entering a garden.
I never dreamed the day would come where people were painting over honey oak! But that's what they do, but I can't bring myself to do it.
The ivy is gone, and we have a wall color and tile in the kitchen now that is something like "Buckwheat" or some other appealing kind of name, even though I have no idea what real buckwheat looks like.
So now that we have a two-year-old (already!) statement chair in a very busy pattern that I fell in love with, and a second statement chair which is an old family chair handed down that we had recovered this spring in a triangle of cream, brown, beige and gray. We have an ultra comfy new sectional sofa in a soft beige and brown tweed, a faux-leather recliner for Brian and a beige recliner for me.
Well, we looked up and saw that there are some blackish streaks descending from the never-painted-by-us vaulted ceiling. We haven't painted this room in 14 years. FOURTEEN. I emphasize the number only because should we make it into the future that far, I will be pushing 75 and Brian already 80!
But I digress.
SO, here's the question for my dear reader friends, I KNOW a good many of you are very adept at decorating and I am friend-sourcing here. WHAT color would you paint our walls? Brian says, "We could do the same color."
I nominated white. I like white walls. And I've seen some magazine decor that indicates others do too. It's clean, it brightens everything. Brian said no.
Then I discovered on Pinterest that there's a buzz about a new palette (or new to me) called Greige. It's when your color isn't readily identifiable as either a gray or a beige. My dilemma is I want something new and in style in color. But a large sweep of color scares me. It's very expensive to have this large expansive room, halls and while we're at it, the master painted. I want to get it right.
So what do you think. You see the room and the furniture and the carpeting and all those things have to stay. Do you have a greige in your home? Or should I go with a cream, or what?
Weigh in please!
The Union County Courthouse tower, a constant in my life for these 60 years. I took this photo five years ago this weekend. Thirty years ago this weekend, we were ready to launch into a new era, one we're in today, still living in Madison County. This has been home half my life. But parts of my heart remain in both Fountain and Union counties.
Thirty years ago this week, Brian, nearly-three-year-old Sam and I left behind one era of life and set out on a new one. On July 3, 1989, I completed my last day as managing editor of a small newspaper in Attica, Indiana.
Brian had just wrapped up his nine years as a school administrator at Fountain Central Junior-Senior High School.
We would spend the rest of July transitioning to the new home we had bought in Madison County and by August, Brian would be working at his new administrative post in the Hamilton Southeastern School Corp.
The number of mixed feelings about this uncharted new territory was extraordinary. I was more than ready to leave my former job, but knew I would miss certain aspects of my work and I would miss my work peers. I won’t go into what I would not miss!
I would miss Fountain County friends, our wonderful babysitter and her family and our landlord—all who had become like family.
I would be happy to move to a town much closer to my folks who were still living on the farm, although my dad’s dementia was worsening. And it would be a welcome change not to drive 15 miles to a nice-sized grocery store or McDonald’s.
On a daily basis, I was excited about taking a brief time-out from the busy world of community journalism and spend my days with Sam playing, going to the park, pool, and just hanging out. I needed time to settle us into our new nest.
I hoped that a call would come from someone at the New Castle paper asking me if I wanted a job. It did, I did, and early this fall, I’ll celebrate 30 years with The Courier-Times.
Along the way, after a couple attempts, we found “our” church; a variety of friends in a variety of communities; we had a second baby, and now both boys are all grown up and long-since on their own. How can it be, I still ask-that we're empty nesters? I can’t even call Brian a “recent retiree” because he’s been that for four years already!
What I do know is the time passes with brea kneck speed. And we're no longer so inclined to put things off like we used to do for years or decades. Just yesterday I looked up and remarked that our living room could use a paint job. "Do it!" Brian said.
Madison County has been home for three decades. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other community in my entire life. In fact, I’ve spent exactly half of my life in Madison County, Indiana, and gone to work in New Castle!
I’m grateful to everyone who has touched our lives here, back in Fountain County, or back home in Union County. Some people touch our lives for reasons or seasons and many of you are in and out of it on a regular basis.
Where do we belong? It’s been said that home is where your heart is. I promise you that my heart is in all three locations at once! And I am grateful for so many people, places and things. Thank you most of all to the good Lord for this journey.
Which, Lord willing, and like a good story in a newspaper, is to be continued on another page. Hope you’ll stick with me as the page turns.
Where have YOU called home so far for your life's journey?
The following is my article reprinted from today's New Castle Courier-Times. I had the pleasure of seeing Ron Keaton's show and meeting him in Indy. It was well done on every level.
New Castle native and professional actor Ron Keaton is bringing his signature adaptation, “Churchill,” to Richmond for one show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29. It will benefit two theater groups that remain near and dear to the actor: Richmond Civic Theatre, venue of the performance, and Nettle Creek Players.
Nettle Creek Players Board President Jeff Dickey said proceeds from the $25 tickets will be split between both theater groups. Tickets are available at the RCT box office at 765-962-1816 or the RCT website at gorct.org.
“This production of ‘Churchill’ is Ron’s way of giving something of himself back to our organizations,” Dickey says. “All of us have been involved with the performing arts since those days with Nettle Creek Players.”
Keaton worked with both theaters in his early years, but the Chicago resident says that while he has been fortunate to work in front of many people, he hasn’t “worked back home since the mid ‘70s. Should be a lot of fun.”
Since its debut in August 2014, “Churchill” has been performed an estimated 350 times around the country.
When asked how he feels about bringing the production to his home turf, Keaton says, “Nervous. Excited. And ready as I can be.”
A 1972 New Castle graduate, where he served as class president, Keaton says he has been a full-time actor since performing with Nettle Creek Players in 1971, which amounts to his entire adult life.
Dickey says he is looking forward to having Keaton back in town for what he calls “an amazing production,” and also looks forward to spending time with old friends and reminiscing about the theater’s early days “under the tent” in Hagerstown.
“Plus, Ron will be meeting with our cast and crew for this season and talking with them about what the summer ‘under the tent’ will mean to them and the lessons and skills they will learn and develop during the season,” Dickey said.
In a file Courier-Times article about his career, Keaton says, “I mark my beginnings from the old Nettle Creek Players tent in Hagerstown, an organization that thrived there for 30 years. I was part of the first five years or so; it taught me so much about my own abilities.”
He wrote the solo “Churchill” play based on a teleplay by a Churchill scholar that played on PBS in the 1980s. “I also did endless research on my own of the man and feel like I know him well,” he told The Courier-Times in a file story.
Keaton remarked that Americans loved British Prime Minister Churchill and he returned that love. “He was half-American; his mother was from Brooklyn. His father was a hard man – politician, military man who raised Winston and his brother Jack with an iron hand,” the actor says.
When asked what he has to say to Courier-Times readers about attending the performance, Dickey says “they should come to see ‘Churchill’ to see what their hometown native has done with his art. Then come to see the Nettle Creek Players and enjoy the show. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
Says Keaton, “And to the hometown folks, I say what any good actor would say – come to the show! – and thank you for everything.”
For more about Nettle Creek Players and the summer schedule, visit nettlecreekplayers.com or call 765-312-2722.
Built into our garage ceiling is a set of pull-down attic stairs. When we moved into the house 21 years ago, stashing things up there that we don't routinely use sounded like a great idea.
Into the rafters went the boys' special baby clothes joined by my prom dresses and Brian's childhood accordion. It seemed an ideal spot for our Christmas decorations, not to mention other off-season decor of fall garlands and spring floral wreaths.
Once Brian's folks were no longer with us, his dad's fishing tackle and keepsakes went up the stairs along with old framed photos and painting prints that his mom hung on their walls.
There were my college papers, a set of dishes and related matching pieces that we bought in the 1970s and I added onto throughout the 1980s, but have been out of style since the early 2000s.
Like interest that accumulates on an investment, time compounded what went up, but rarely came down.
When we moved in, I was under 40. Now I'm over 60. I have no interest in hauling Christmas decorations down stairs, nor in hoisting them back up. I've decided that since I haven't used those dishes in 20 years, it's highly unlikely that I will start in the next 20.
Also, I'm re-evaluating some silly assumptions that caused me to keep certain things. I kept the prom dresses thinking future granddaughters might play dress up with them. Well, I've gotten a clue from friends who actually have granddaughters. Today's little girls like Disney princess dresses that fit—not 1970s attire that doesn't.
About those college papers. Surely a kernel of crazy made me keep them, thinking someone somewhere sometime might enjoy my 1981 essay about the national press covered Skylab. No line has formed. No one has asked to review the hard copy of my college degree.
We're making progress. The Christmas decorations have been sorted and relocated to an indoor closet. The empty, sturdy boxes we've saved that would alone qualify us for an episode of Hoarders are gone.
Yet the attic remains full of landmines. When I lift a lid of an unidentified tub, I might get my breath taken away. That happened the other day when I was met by tiny baby outfits and shoes not seen in a quarter century. The item that got me most was not the itty-bitty blue sweater but the preschool T-shirt. How was it that once the boys reached preschool I thought of them as "big boys" when now I look at that T-shirt and realize they were still so little. But wake up, Donna. The actual, real-life boys are men now.
I'm keeping that lid shut.
There's another tub I'm avoiding. It has a label indicating that it's full of correspondence. These date back decades. If I open that can of worms, as one might also call it, I could be there for days, perched at the top of those steps, lost in the pre-email years, rereading letters about a friend's toddler issues, cards wishing me a happy 30th birthday, or weekly letters from my mother about what was new on the farm, back before the Alzheimer's took her away.
I'm not going to deal with the boys' childhood things. What's there, from Batman memorabilia to special school papers and trophies, will keep until they are ready to decide the fate of their artifacts. Why move things Ben doesn't yet want to his apartment when the ones who will move them to his next place will likely be us? It would defeat the purpose of purging if I had to deal with those containers again and maybe again after that. They can stay where they are.
The attic is a work in progress. It's not a stairway to heaven. Yet for a sentimental fool like me, it has its moments.
This column by Donna Cronk appears in the June 15 New Castle Courier-Times. It is reprinted here.
It's amazing what one mom can accomplish--and then a community comes beside her. An update on the New Castle Miracle League, reprinted from this weekend's Courier-Times, Indiana Weekender.
by Donna Cronk
Eleven years ago, Cindy Brooks hoped to give her daughter, Hannah, a fun experience playing baseball. Hannah, now 26, couldn’t understand why her brothers got to play the game but she didn’t.
So the mom made a way, creating what is now a specialized league for children and adults ages 3 and up with cognitive and/or physical disabilities, where they play by T-ball rules, and have buddies helping them out on the field.
“I thought we’d just play that one year,” recalls Brooks.
But little did she know then that she had founded what is now a New Castle staple that last year served about 130 players, and 11 years later, is going strong. In fact, plans are under way to raise money for their own Miracle League baseball complex.
“It’s a lot of hard work ... but as soon as you see them, that joy and smile and high fives; it’s all worth it,” says Brooks, who is founder and league director.
League opening day is Saturday, July 27 with play on Friday nights and Saturdays for the seven-week season. Those wanting to sign up can do so on the website at miracleleagueofnewcastle.com. Buddies and other volunteers willing to assist a little or a lot can also sign up there. To register other ways or for information, contact Brooks at 765-524-5650 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is not a pay-to-play organization, but the league requests a $25 donation per player if possible to help with expenses.
The payoff is this. Says Brooks, “It’s like watching the winners of the World Series every time they play.”
Dreaming of a new field
While the league currently plays on the girls softball field at Baker Park, organizers are hoping for their own field of dreams. Brooks explains that it would have two synthetic turf ballfields, an all-assessable playground and restrooms, concessions and bleachers.
She’s talking to the city to see if there is any ground available. She said of the 300 Miracle League fields throughout the country, none had to pay for their land, but it was provided to the leagues free of charge in the different communities.
The local league pays a membership fee to the Miracle League headquarters, based in Conyers, Georgia. As part of their membership, building plans for a new complex would be provided for no extra charge. Cost of building it and materials, however, would need to be paid by either a corporate donor or the money raised to fund it. Or, it may be a combined effort.
Brooks said it would be possible to host competitive travel games or even host an All-Star game. Such a thing is not do-able now, for one reason – because the current field is not totally wheelchair accessible. “We can use it but there are barriers there that slow things down some,” Brooks says.
Fundraiser has begun
Fundraising for the goal of a new complex is underway now with a bench made by Jaron Baker, who while a junior at New Castle Career Center, built a bench and his family paid for it to be power coated. He is now a senior at Hagerstown High School.
The idea came from Steven Vitatoe, welding instructor at the career center, who found the league’s abandoned cash register last year after it had been stolen in a theft that amounted to a total $700 loss to the league.
He offered to make a bench and chose the word HOPE to place on it. Brooks was taken aback by the word in a positive way because she said the word HOPE is a league theme word.
Vitatoe says of Miracle League, “I really think it is important for everyone to have access to fun activities. After I heard about the break-in I was really upset and wanted to help out.”
He said Mary Logan came up with the idea of a HOPE bench, “and we all got to work.”
The bench was donated to the league and the public is welcome to place bids on it now through July 27. It will go to the to the highest bidder, and be announced at noon, Saturday, Aug. 3 at the ballpark.
Miracle League is a club within a club as part of the Breakfast Optimists. Brooks says that all three local Optimists clubs help sponsor the organization, along with an anonymous sponsor that helps with uniforms and hats.
To place a bid, use the email in this article or go to the Facebook page of Miracle League of New Castle and private message.
Brooks says the cost to create a Miracle League complex – which could be done in phases, and one that would include lighting and bleachers – would come in around $900,000.
She would love to see corporate sponsors help with such a large figure. She says the city is working well with the league. “I would like to partner with Special Olympics to build a complex that would include a track, soccer fields, basketball court ...” says Brooks.
Miracle League Co-Director Tammy Rains thinks getting the complex is do-able. In addition to her player son, Mike Cole, 38, several members of her family are involved in various ways from coaching to offering support as volunteers.
“It’s just a joy to interact with all the players,” says Rains, who has been involved all 11 years. “Just to see the joy on their faces, the fun they are having ...”
While it might take a miracle to get a complex built here – that is, after all, the name of the league.
Says Brooks, “... We are praying that we can find a great place for this park.”
A reprint of my Sunday feature in The Courier-Times.
by Donna Cronk
The public is invited to the first of four annual concerts sponsored by First Presbyterian Church in New Castle. The first one is an hour-long organ concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9 in the sanctuary at 1202 Church St.
Presenting the concert is Mary Ragna Yetter, the church’s new director of music, with a program called Summer Wind Pipes. A fellowship reception will follow.
Selections include such pieces as “The Emperor’s Fanfare,” by Antonio Soler; “Sonata II in C Minor,” by Felix Mendelssohn; “Prelude” by Louis Vierne, “Adagio in G Minor,” by Tomaso Albinoni and an offering written by former local resident Robert A. Hobby, “Glorious Things of You Are Spoken.”
A special treat will feature “Haydn Clockworks,” which are little pieces of music written for high-end 18th-century clocks.
For Yetter, her work is about “making music happen in this building.”
That includes directing the choir, playing the church’s massive pipe organ, and producing various special musical performances throughout the year.
Yetter anticipates that the upcoming organ concert’s musical selections will “show off the sounds of this instrument.” She said this organ has incredibly good sound.
First Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Rod Smith says that Yetter brings “years and years training and experience, both in the USA and internationally, to one of the finest pipe organs in the state. I think of it as a perfect match of refined skills, talent, love of craft, brought to an instrument that knowledgeable musicians crave to play.”
Originally from Oklahoma, Yetter has been interested in the organ since she was a small child. Her mother took lessons but had to give them up. The daughter then started taking them at about age 5 and has been at it ever since. She played throughout high school and assumed she would continue playing and learning about her instrument.
Majoring in organ performance was the natural next step and she earned a bacehlor’s degree from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, a certificate of advanced study from the Royal College of Music in London, England, and has a master of music degree from the University of Memphis.
Yetter also plays harpsichord and violin, and has performed with a variety of orchestras, chamber groups, choruses and in solo concerts.
Since moving to Anderson last summer, Yetter has served as Anderson University organist. Throughout her adult years, she has been a professional organist and choir director at various churches in several states and in Ireland. Her husband, Erich, is an assistant professor of dance at Anderson University. They reside in Anderson and are parents to three grown children.
“In the arts, you go to wherever the job is,” says the master organist.
Yetter has taught both organ and piano in the past and is open to continuing that in the future. When she isn’t involved with music, Yetter enjoys reading, cooking and their pet dog, Shiloh.
She’s delighted by the welcome she has received at the New Castle church.
“They really are wonderful people,” says Yetter. “They really want to be singing and they are so appreciative. They really have just welcomed me here.”
Smith says the church historically maintained a strong music program and that the new director has arrived at a crucial and exciting time.
She says, “They needed me at exactly the same time that I needed them.”
Adds Smith, “I can’t wait for Mary Ragna’s first public concert and for her to unveil the musicians who’ll play at the four we are planning for each calendar year.”
She invites everyone to come enjoy the program and fellowship. “I just want it to be joyful,” she says.
We moved into our house 21 years ago this month. It was the age of a preschooler at the time. The previous owners, who had it built, were relocating to another state. Everything was in wonderful shape. They had just invested a lot of money in the surrounding landscaping the year before.
There wasn't much we needed to do when we moved, but that would change over two decades. And while at the time, we felt as though we had a "new" house, yesterday Brian pointed out, as only Brian can, "It's not a new house, anymore. It's gotten old like us."
We've replaced flooring more than once; added an open-air back porch; a new roof; painted the whole house and bought a new water softener.
We've updated both bathrooms, but not fully remodeled them, and because tastes and time changes things, we removed the ivy wallpaper in the kitchen that I adored for the first decade or more than we lived here.
But the laundry room had received no attention. It's the last of the house's wallpaper, and the only revision it got was when laminate went in the hallways, kitchen and dining room. I wouldn't have chosen the wallpaper the previous owner had, but until recent years, there was nothing wrong with it, and I didn't hate it. Opposite the washer and dryer is a closed pantry that covers the entire wall.
While the room is only a pass-through from the garage into the house, it's served us well. But it was neglected and I cringed every time the boys brought friends through the house that way.
We've been meaning to redo it. But working in a small space and wrestling washer and dryer never made it to the top of our to-do list. Until this week.
I have been gathering supplies and spent two evenings removing the wallpaper. Yesterday I started painting at 5:30 a.m. and all the related work went into the evening. We had some drama when moving the washer back into place and there was a leak. Everything went on hold until the plumber could get here and finally pronounce the leak repaired.
As my friend Cheryl said, we dodged a bullet because there was talk of cutting a hole in my newly painted wall to get to the deeper plumbing issues. Whew!
You have to practically wrestle Brian to get him to agree (even while rolling his eyes) with plans to hang new things on walls. He has a real problem with holes in walls, particularly new ones. But I insisted that we decorate the space.
So a print from Meijer went over the appliances. I bought a big white C that I wanted on the left-hand wall but there was a stud issue, so the first-runner-up, a wreath I had on hand, took the Big C's place to make use of the one existing screw. Brian insists that nothing else go on the wall.
I reorganized the built-in pantry, letting go of things such as five old-fashioned wood-handled dusters that we inherited from our folks, I guess. I only know in all my 60 years I had never once used one of them, preferring the light-weight feather duster.
Some other things went as well, such as the clothesline taken down for Sam's high school open house in 2005. The supplies we kept and use are all contained now in clear, lidded and labeled containers. We had three laundry baskets full of "rags" in the garage and those were pared down and placed in the pantry.
I still have a little touch-up work to do on the white woodwork but for the most part, I'm no longer embarrassed for people to come into the house through that entrance. I'm even showing it to you!
Here's the updated look.
Note: The following feature story appeared in the Sunday, May 19, 2019 Courier-Times and Connersville News-Examiner. It is reprinted here.
by Donna Cronk
Chuck Avery never minded the idea of growing older.
If you're waiting for the punch line, there isn't one.
“When I was younger, I thought older people seemed respected and settled,” he says, adding that they are “not trying to impress anyone. Just trying to relax. It turned out like I thought.”
Avery, 84, spoke during a Tuesday brunch at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle. His topic concerned thoughts on aging.
The Hagerstown resident and Connersville native is well known regionally for his regular humor column that still runs in The Courier-Times and Connersville News-Examiner along with two other papers. At one time during his nearly 30-year side career as a general-and-humor columnist, his work appeared in nine newspapers.
Avery said he almost never knows in advance what he will write about in any given column. He credits former Hagerstown Exponent and Courier-Times Publisher Bob Hansen with giving him his start. He has no plans to quit writing the columns. But as for speaking gigs, he doesn’t do so many anymore.
He said last year, he spoke in Richmond. The person who invited him mentioned a stipend and told him to keep the talk to 15-20 minutes. Avery asked if he could have 25 minutes, and the person said no, 15 would be better. Avery responded, “If you’d raise my stipend, I won’t show up and we’d both be happy.”
Avery says it’s a true story, the kind readers have come to expect from the retired 27-year speech, drama, and literature teacher at Hagerstown High School. Youngest son Ian now teaches writing in Ohio. Chuck and wife Michelle have four grown kids, 10 grandchildren and two greats.
The couple became interested in each other while doing a play in Angola many years ago. She taught school for 31 years in Richmond before retiring.
Michelle says in their family, her husband is known for his storytelling abilities. She says he has the same personality at home that comes across in his columns. But, he says he wasn’t known for his wit while growing up.
Of his hundreds of columns, Avery says a personal favorite is about Christmas when he was a kid. A local organization sent the family some holiday gifts – and the Averys sent them back, requesting that the group give the presents to a family who needed them.
“We didn’t have anything but pride,” he recalls.
As a young man, he worked in Connersville factories where he found the jobs boring. Yet the experiences were significant because they motivated him to head to college and pursue something more interesting.
Along with his teaching career and sideline of column writing, producing books, and public radio commentaries, he and Michelle built two houses in rural Hagerstown. They still live in the second one, built a decade ago, which they designed and mostly built themselves. He still works on their property and cuts wood to heat the house.
These days his hobbies include learning to play classic guitar and improving his pool game. He works at both daily.
On Tuesday, Larry and Norma Meyer of New Castle were part of a packed house to hear Avery’s program. She worked at Hagerstown High School with Avery when he served as department head. She says he was witty back then.
Avery said once he finished talking in Richmond last year, the event host told the audience, “Next month, we’ll have a really good speaker.”
It’s all copy. And for Chuck Avery, it’s a good life.
Tips on aging well from Chuck Avery
During his Tuesday program, newspaper columnist Chuck Avery offered thoughts on how to avoid appearing old. He suggests that folks implement these tips as soon as they get their first AARP solicitation. He mentioned that for many at the luncheon, that invite came long ago. He shared:
1. Once you are invited to join AARP, start using rear-view mirrors when backing up. Receiving the invite means it won’t be long before the recipient can no longer use the arm-over-seat, turn-your-head-around-to-see method.
2. Begin parking in the same general area in big parking lots. Avoid trying to get into a parked car you haven’t owned for two years.
3. Commit to memorizing the make and model of your current car.
4. Make lists of every act you intend to do wherever you’re going. Avery deadpanned that he doesn’t get to a big city such as New Castle often but he had a list with two things on it for Tuesday. The list included go speak at Forest Ridge, then go to Kroger for a big ham.
5. Avoid abbreviations on your list. If you just put P and B on your list, you might end up with pork and beans.
6. Learn to address everyone as “neighbor.” That way you no longer have to memorize names.