Back in the winter, (don't you like using the word winter in the past tense?), LauraLisa out at Senior Living at Forest Ridge invited me to speak to the April brunch of the Social Society. It's free to any retiree who would like to come by. Just call to let them know you are coming so they will have enough food.
I decided to switch things up and do a new program for those attending. I've selected three posts from right here on my Home Row blog, and tweaked them for a "live audience." I'll be talking about basketball, newspapering and grocery shopping with the husband. There's time for questions about these or other topics, and yes, I'm bringing along a door prize. Best of all, it's free! So come on out to beautiful Senior Living at Forest Ridge, the place I tell folks that I'd like to be put in layaway.
While I'm plugging an upcoming program, here's a run down of some places I'll be speaking this busy spring. As I've said before, I could never have guessed that the "tour" continues, but it does, and it takes on new aspects. Maybe I'll see you on the road. We have a good time.
Note: I wrote the following for today's New Castle Courier-Times. I've seen these adorable tiny libraries in Hagerstown, Knightstown, and Irvington but this is New Castle's first, we believe.
New Castle's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Matt Masko says his challenge is not so much how to get people inside the church, but how to get the people inside the church to go outside it in service to their neighbors.
“The church exists for the sake of the neighbor,” he says. “We gather in worship to be sent into the world.”
A new project along those lines is the church’s new Little Free Library, located outside the front of the church at 535 S. 14th St., New Castle. It is open to one and all. The wee library is stocked by members with Bibles, study guides and other wholesome books, all available 24/7 for folks to borrow – or even keep if they wish.
The library opened Thursday, March 15.
“I was quite pleased with the donations we’ve gotten,” says Marti Allen, chair of the church’s evangelism committee that put the project together.
Committee member Callie Yanos said everyone is welcome to use it.
The committee members believe this to be New Castle’s first Little Free Library. Funds were acquired through a grant from Thrivent Financial. Church member Ron Kaufman designed and built the two library boxes. Once installed, the boxes were blessed after worship by Masko. All materials were donated by members.
Along with the Bibles and study guides are Christian materials, good literature for both adults and children, fiction and nonfiction books.
According to information from the Little Free Library organization, there have been more than 65,000 of the libraries installed around the world.
Have you ever heard of a sunshine box?
More than 50 years ago, sometime after Grandma Jobe came to live with us, the ladies from her church, probably the WSCS group (Women’s Society of Christian Service, predecessor of the United Methodist Women) sent her a sunshine box.
The tall cardboard box appeared wrapped on the outside with a collage of paper flowers but the top of the box was open. I’m thinking they made the collage with pages from seed catalogs. As a little girl, I thought it was beautiful.
Inside were a variety of personal-care products Grandma could use. I’m picturing a pink container of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, for example. There was a devotional book – and I have it today on my bookshelf and a variety of other small gifts that Grandma could use or enjoy – such as the bright pink peppermint discs she always kept in her candy jar.
Of course being a little girl I was very interested in these gifts to Grandma.
But the takeaway was and is that I thought it was wonderful that they thought of Grandma in this way. More than the gifts, it was the thought that a group of friends thought about my grandma and cared for her. Each individual gift wasn’t costly or all that significant. But when gathered in that pretty box, they made an impact that I remember half a century later.
Last week I assembled a sunshine box for a friend who has a long-term illness and won’t get to return to her home for a while.
I gathered some books from my own collection that I thought she would enjoy reading and that I don’t need back, some envelopes, postage stamps, a clipboard with a notepad, some hand sanitizer, and small packets of tissues, some of my favorite teas and a new product I recently found and love.
Then I wrapped most of them singularly, just for drama. I gave her a choice to open the packages all at once or to open one a day. She chose to open one a day to stretch out the fun. A little something to look forward to.
One can’t have too much sunshine, can she? My friend lives in another part of the state and I can’t get over to see her much. But through these small tokens, she’ll see that I care. And that I’m sending her sunshine.
Have you ever heard of a sunshine box? Or received one?
The mission, should we accept it, was for everyone to be ready to leave for a surprise dinner honoring Sam. Our daughter-in-law Allison, in the gray and white stripes, would text everyone with the good news.
The good news we all wanted to hear would include one word: PASSED! If that word wasn't in the message, well, celebration canceled. But it happened! Our son Sam took and passed a very long, difficult test yesterday. Once he finished, the computer generated the results to the proctor: PASSED!
Sam is now a Certified Surgical First Assistant at St. Vincent Hospital in Indy. Yes, the big one.
He's been a Certified Surgical Tech for several years now, working in surgeries of every kind that you can possibly imagine and many that you can't. We are so proud of our boy. He's also the Robotics Coordinator there.
I have to give God all the praise how He has had his hand on this boy who has had more obstacles than computerized tests to overcome. How about open-heart surgery at 11 months, and again at age 19. But still, he perseveres. And we can't be more thankful for his wife Allison, and for her supportive, wonderful family. Blessings.
The newly certified Surgical First Assistant, (CSFA) Sam, left, and little bro, Ben, last night.
Also surprising Sam last night was his good buddy, also a CSFA at St. V., Jas Sharp.
We all met up at the Castleton MCL. Jas leads the pack, then Sam chatting with his sister-in-law, Lauren, who is a nurse practitioner at Riley Hospital, then his father-in-law, John, and Brian behind him. The rest of the group had already gotten their food.
When we visit Terri's lake house on Cordry Lake near Nineveh, we pass through Franklin. You probably know the town for Franklin College, but you may not know that Franklin has a vibrant downtown with a number of sweet little gift and antique shops, along with plenty of what-nots, just waiting to be upcycled.
We stopped in Sunday on our way home with only two shops open, but they were well worth our stopping. There was this one, where I found the mug mats. Far more absorbent than the stone variety.
Then we went to the next shop, next door, I believe, Salvage Sisters. And no, the gals in the photo are not the salvage sisters but we do like to salvage!
When two or more of the 12 Midlife Moms gather, there will usually be crafts ... at least there will be on those weekends when we head south to Terri Fredericks' place on Cordry Lake in Brown County.
For this cozy, late-winter weekend away, MLM Karen Carr brought the fixings for us to make bath bombs and other scented goodies such as shower scents and salts. In the photo above, Karen photographs the bombs and to the left, the shower scents, still in their molds.
It was a relaxing weekend from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, and while there were just five of us this time, we enjoyed conversation, crafts, a movie, HGTV, and food. But we ate healthy (for the most part).
Donna Shields crafted a tote bag from a T-shirt she was ready to re-purpose.
I brought fruit and veggies and we all brought along various reading materials from herbal and oil guides to a Kindle novel to our Bible Study Fellowship and MLM lessons. Since getting serious about Weight Watchers in January (yeah, once again), this was my first weekend away. I not only made it, but stuck to program! Here's a brunch plate for me Sunday: leftover salad, low-cal ranch dressing, more veggies -- and an egg. YUMMO!
We had to get some group shots before we hit the road.
Then, it was time to hit the road for a stop in Franklin. They have some great shops that we enjoy. Only a couple were open but they were fun.
Donna Cronk / New Castle Courier-Times photo // Karen and Eric Haler are interviewed by CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland in their New Castle home Tuesday. The 700 Club is doing extensive interviews for an upcoming segment on the Halers' son, Joel, and what is credited as nothing less than a miracle that he is walking.
Note: I wrote the following article on deadline for the New Castle Courier-Times Tuesday. It appears in today's newspaper.
The C-T has previously written about Joel's sudden healing. This time, I was invited into the home of his parents, Eric and Karen Haler, to watch the taping by the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club program which airs internationally.
It was a treat to sit a few feet away from the taping and take notes on what unfolded in the interview. It's a much simpler process than one might imagine.
From CBN were the producer / interviewer Shannon Woodland and two technical professionals who handled lighting and sound. A few large lights were placed in the room as what you might find in a professional photography studio. Sound equipment was put in place, including small microphones on the Halers. The technical twosome stood in the back of the room with cameras.
Shannon, wearing casual jeans, boots and sweater, and holding a coffee cup throughout the segment, sat in front of the Halers, who were seated on chairs from their home in the middle of the living room.
The producer had no problem with me covering the session, I just couldn't take photos during the interview. I took them during equipment checks moments before the taping.
CBN had been in Indy Monday as the producer vetted the story, and had been to interview Joel, who now lives in California. Today Shannon is interviewing the young boy mentioned in the story.
Meanwhile, I had an email out to Joel with a list of questions for the story, and got some photos from his folks to use right before deadline. You never know when you put together a story if there will be space for one, two or several photos so you have to be ready, complete with captions.
The CBN staff and the Halers were all great to work with and I am grateful for the experience with "big-platform" faith-based media. Shannon wanted to read my story when it was printed and I had an email from her first thing this morning that she thought it was well done.
As a small-town reporter / editor, you never know what stories might fall into your lap. It's one reason I have always loved what I do.
Halers recall 'day of great joy'
By DONNA CRONK
As a college athlete, 2012 New Castle High School graduate Joel Haler was in great physical shape. Yet he suddenly found his legs totally paralyzed one October day in 2013.
Doctors and rounds of testing yielded no apparent medical reason for the paralysis. True, he has degenerative disc disease, diagnosed at age 14, and heard a pop in his back before the paralysis. But those things did not explain to medical professionals why he suddenly could not move or feel his legs.
Yet three months later, on Jan. 23, he woke up, felt excruciating pain run through his legs, and then, he could walk again.
Joel’s story has been told in The Courier-Times as well as in big-media platforms such as Inside Edition and Guideposts magazine. On Tuesday, the internationally-viewed Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) arrived in New Castle to unpack the story with Joel’s parents, Karen and Eric Haler, and his brother, Abraham. A sister, Rebekah, was unable to be there.
CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland interviewed Joel separately as he is pursuing a master’s degree in divinity at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California.
Joel offered an update on how he's doing. These days, he’s feeling “perfectly normal and thriving.” When asked how his sudden ability to walk again changed him, Joel said, “It has shaped my worldview into the reality that Jesus is the center of it all. He wants to heal people today and he’s looking for ordinary people to take a risk for him. It has catapulted me into full-time ministry to see his kingdom here.”
Tuesday morning, the CBN producer and two technical professionals set up a remote-location studio in the Halers’ New Castle living room and taped the family’s story. The Halers were asked to speak about Joel’s life before the ordeal. They detailed how their son was never “the best” basketball player, but he had a strong work ethic and drive to always get better. In fact, he holds the state’s third-place all-time record for best 3-point percentage.
At 14, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and often had back pain but worked through it. A scholarship took him to Hope College in Michigan and things were going well until the family got a call that October day of his sophomore year.
Joel told his father that he had heard a loud pop while exercising . Then came tingling toes and leg pain. An MRI found nothing wrong. But the next morning, his legs were completely paralyzed.
A physical therapist friend expressed real concern for Joel. Eric decided to go get his boy. When Joel’s friends placed his wheelchair in the truck for the ride back to New Castle, Eric recalled with tears, “His legs were dangling. That’s when it hit hard for me.”
Joel spent 11 days in the hospital where doctors had no explanation for why he couldn’t walk. But Eric recalls his son’s faith that he would walk again. He left college and moved back in with his folks, dependent on a wheelchair. His mother could see he was not himself.
“I could just tell it was eating at him,” she said.
The producer said Joel told her in an interview, '“He just gave it to God. Jesus came in and really did a major work.”'
“His faith was going to a whole new level,” Eric added.
Karen said she always believed her son would walk again, but didn’t want his expectations to be shattered. “We’ve seen prayers answered the way we would not want them to be answered,” she said.
Then some mysterious things happened. Joel had a dream that involved a calendar with J23 on it. A little boy at New Covenant Church where Eric is pastor, told Joel on a Sunday morning he would walk on a Thursday. Eric dreamed that he was on the phone getting Joel admitted to a rehab center when in the dream, Joel walked out of his bedroom.
Then, in the early morning of Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, Joel woke up to severe pain in his legs. Moments later, he was able to walk. Just like that. He got up, made coffee and went to stand in the doorway of his parents’ bedroom. His mother thought it was his brother Abraham, but got a surprise when she heard, “It’s me, Joel.”
The family members burst out of their beds and started hugging, celebrating and crying in awe.
“That was a day of great joy,” Eric said.
Joel has walked ever since.
“There are many people that have reached out to me explaining to me that my story has brought them hope, filled them with joy and allowed them to be touched by the love of Jesus,” Joel said.
He was able to return to college and graduated in 2017 with a major in communications and minor in leadership.
Eric said the healing has demonstrated God’s goodness, adding, "God is still alive and he does great things.”
The 700 Club piece, which will air at an undetermined time within weeks, is the latest in the media attention and speaking opportunities Joel’s experience has generated. He said it has been thrilling to see God move through his story and see people healed, find hope, “and experience a joy that only comes from him.”
Every now and then, I throw out a question on Facebook. Then I sit back and see what my friends have to say. What I enjoy about the viewpoints is how varied they are, how reasonable their assessments, and how they make points I hadn’t thought of. Sometimes, I may flat out disagree, but I can still respect their right to their views.
Recently my question concerned how to handle Facebook friends who have passed away. Should we block them? Unfriend? Leave them there? Consider their pages places for tributes or places to reflect on our relationships?
So many different answers and views! I can’t say that I find anything “wrong” with what any of those who responded had to say. Sometimes, there is no black or white answer, only shades of gray.
I had mentioned that I find it a bit creepy to see my late friends' faces pop up when they are no longer alive. One person said it’s not in the least creepy to her but rather a pleasant reminder of people she loves. Another said – and I sure hadn’t thought of this – that she had a close friend die several years ago. When the friend’s husband posts photos of their children or updates, he tags his deceased wife. My Facebook friend said this way, she gets to see her late friend’s children as they grow up.
I was surprised how few delete, in some fashion, their late friends. I think it’s true that Facebook has become the modern equivalent of a tombstone for loved ones who have passed on, and you can go to the page and leave verbal bouquets and tributes.
I think it would be great if we could all show the same tolerance and respect for opinions of others when it comes to politics. There is so much divisiveness. Perhaps we select our news stations to match our personal world views. A conservative prefers FOX. A liberal, CNN or MSNBC.
I flip around and watch a variety of these networks and the way things are or are not reported, or presented often makes me think I live in two countries.
I encourage us all to listen to the views of others, understand where they are coming from, and consider that maybe no matter what we think, if we’re saturated in our own echo chambers, there’s little space for considering that just because someone disagrees with us, that person is not an idiot or crazy. And just maybe, there's room for compromise.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
My last post flashed back 40 years. We were young, and didn't even realize how young at the time ... me still a teenager at 19, and Brian hanging onto his early 20s.
I wasn't even a full year into paying from a full-time job into Social Security and Medicare benefits. Brian was only a few years into those deductions.
In fact, those far-off benefits were so much a part of the distant future that they merited zero thought or discussion; just numbers that lessened our pay.
It may have been four decades ago, but still, it's just like that, and one of us is all signed up for both now.
After months of letters and packets from insurance companies wooing Brian with their Medicare-enhancement products, months of wondering when to get busy on this topic, months of wondering about the complexity of the process, just like that, after 20 minutes with our local Social Security office rep, he's signed up with his own ID number.
Perhaps we should celebrate. If that seems a bit odd, you're probably too young to relate to this post. After all, aren't Medicare and Social Security topics that our parents or grandparents should be talking about, you say? Old-people stuff?
But we found that a funny thing happens on the way to 65, something that begins surfacing at about age 62. You (or your better half) start to anticipate the day when these two retirement components kick in. There's no two ways about it here: the money is a release from the considerably higher cost of health insurance premiums . The Social Security payments help from delving so deeply into our retirement savings. These are the safety measures against "running out" of money.
The points I'm trying to make are these: Americans are blessed to live in a country with these programs. Some will say, "But you paid into them." But I'll say it again: it's a blessing. The same with Social Security. You don't see people lining up to leave this country. These programs are two of countless reasons why.
I didn't anticipate, I suppose, how emotional I feel to have Brian all signed up. But emotional in a good way. I feel as though congratulations are in order.
Also, if you are getting close to this age and stage, a few things we didn't know until recently: You do pay some money monthly to be on Medicare:
1. For us anyway (and I imagine for you, too), it is a huge savings over previous health premiums. Your Medicare payments can be withheld from your Social Security checks.
2. Talk to a health insurance professional about your options for a supplemental or "Advantage" plan for your Medicare. They will explain it. I won't attempt. It may or may not cost a thing. And you can change your mind or your plans. It's not one and done forever.
3. You need to decide if or how much you want for tax withholding.
4. I thought that Social Security payments came into everyone's accounts the same day each month. They do not.
5. If someone randomly calls from "Social Security" or "Medicare" asking for your Social Security number or other personal information, tell them you will call them back. Immediately then call your local Social Society office. If these entities are trying to reach you, they will send information via U.S. mail -- not through random phone calls. Fraud alert here!
6. The process isn't so bad after all. Don't let the piles of mail intimidate you.
Brian just left the house, bound for his gym. I'm going to the grocery store.
It's not a party we're having here, exactly, but more a feeling of quiet satisfaction, this day. Besides, Brian can now whip out the line, "I'm on a fixed income."
It's the new way we roll.
Forty years ago today, Brian and I were officially engaged!
In the winter of the Blizzard of ’78, this day was cold with plenty of snow on the ground. For several weeks that season, I slept nights on the living room sofa of my brother and SIL Tim and Jeannie in Liberty.
Brian and I had been talking about marriage for a while, and were privately engaged. The ring was selected after Christmas. It needed sized, and what better time to make things official than with a Valentine's Day debut!
After work that day, I arrived at the home on East Seminary Street in Liberty where Brian rented a spacious apartment in the upstairs of landlady Mary Snyder. He was visiting downstairs with Mary.
“Your ring’s upstairs,” he said when I arrived. I went up, found the box, and brought it back down for the two of them to admire.
There was no band, no knee proposal, no asking my dad for my hand. But I knew that we loved each other and all these years later, there's no one I would rather come home to.
Forty years ago it was official, and soon came the engagement photo in the newspaper, obligatory back in that era.
Come October, God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. But on that February day so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the double-digit anniversary numbers that we have today. It was simply too far into the future to even imagine. I couldn’t anticipate that four decades from that day, on our mind would be Brian’s signing up for Medicare and Social Security this week and I’d be wrapping my mind around the idea of turning 60 this year.
Last night I helped friend Patti decorate Valentine cookies that she planned to put out as a surprise for her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge today. By the time I got to her house, she and her little niece had decorated most of the hearts in bright colors. I added a few to the stack. Life is full of pattern and color and the unexpected—like those cookies that are no doubt by now gone!
On Monday, my Bible Study Fellowship group leader had old-fashioned Valentines for all of us. Not only Valentines, but red suckers attached. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone gave me that combo. The little card took me back to the fun we had in elementary school on this day.
Whether your Valentine’s Day comes with candy, hearts, a diamond engagement ring, or not, may the day remind us all of special loves, past, present and sometimes, those that are one and the same.