I was just thinking about how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many wonderful women. From family to close friends to women I work with and write about, attend church with, and speak to at their social and service clubs and events, I enjoy them in all their differences, talents, tastes and stories—always stories! That is the currency of a writer.
If you live in greater-east-central Indiana, consider picking up a copy of the Sunday, Jan. 31 issue of the New Castle Courier-Times. Inside will be a print bonus: the winter issue of Her Magazine for Women. On the cover is Cindy Oler, owner of Dance With Cindy – a business she founded as a child, and it continues to thrive 47 years later.
For decades I have had press releases from Cindy about recitals and even in those brief online encounters, found her to be charming, kind, and grateful. Sure enough, when I interviewed her for the cover piece (surprise! She didn’t know it would go on the cover) I found her to be all those things and more. And, I felt like we could be personal friends.
I liked her. A lot.
January was a worker-bee month for me both at work and at home. Along with getting the magazine out the door, the newsroom heated up the phone and Internet updating our annual Answer Book with corrected listings for all the social, service, government and leisure contact information helpful to those in and around Henry County, Indiana. We also had extra stories to produce for last Sunday’s HOPE edition, and our usual workload.
At home, we got two rooms of carpeting so juggled furniture back and forth before and after installation, bought two cars’ worth of sets of tires, got my book’s Indiana sales tax squared away, I had my inaugural colonoscopy, and the dishwasher died. Indeed it was an expensive month to be a Cronk. Oh, and Brian rolled out a new part-time job as a driver for an automotive auction house.
It was also the return to the Monday-night schedule of Bible Study Fellowship where hundreds of women come together for in-depth, non-denominational study. This year is the book of Revelation, and if you are free Monday nights, there’s a welcome class Monday, Feb. 1 at 6:55 p.m. Middletown Church of the Nazarene is the host church.
I’m happy that this month comes to a close with an all-church women’s retreat at Lake Placid near Hartford City. Starting tonight, about 60 Ovid Community Church women and friends will gather to laugh, learn, craft, worship, sing, snooze, eat, and visit. It’s the perfect way to end a January that I’m ready to place in the books.
Thank you, Lord, for the many bold, beautiful, interesting, entertaining and outrageous women in my life!
When I was a little girl, I used to marvel at my brother’s snack. He ate peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, washed down, as I recall, with glasses of milk.
Then I tried the combo. Pretty good!
The chief food oddity in my family has always been what remains today as a favorite of mine: Baked beans, hot, with a big slab of cold cottage cheese on top. The texture, along with the hot beans and cool dairy, makes for a delicious combination.
The dish is rather disgusting in my husband's eyes, and I can understand why. It’s odd.
My mother used to make mincemeat pies and while I was never fond of them, I did like the spicy way they smelled. When you think of it, beef, sugar, spices, raisins and apples make a rather odd combination. Yet one church in Spiceland churns jars of mincemeat out each fall as a fundraiser and sells out. Truth is, I now would gladly eat mincemeat pie if for no other reason than it would remind me so much of my mother, who would be 102, bless her soul.
My grandma liked pickled pigs feet that you bought in a glass jar. They looked to me like medical specimens. Yuk! Do they still sell those? Maybe with a dollop of cottage cheese though …
What strange food combinations or unusual foods do you enjoy in your family? What is the weirdest food you have ever tried?
Brian and I haven’t actively searched for work in decades—since the days before everyone had a computer and before there was even email. So when Brian decided to look around and see what he might like to do for a part-time retirement job, we learned how much the job-hunting process has changed.
He “subscribed” to online notifications of job openings that he might like. He went with some random ideas, things different from what he did in his years in education. Then if notifications came that interested him, he could decide to apply—online of course.
He found an opening that sounded interesting and completed his online application. He got a call and an on-the-spot brief phone interview. That led to an in-person interview. He was offered the job, subject to a background check and drug test.
Once those hurdles were cleared, he got a stack of forms to complete—via email downloads.
At last, he begins his part-time job very soon! He’ll be driving cars for a car auction house. He’s excited for this new adventure and I’m proud of his navigation of the online world to find it.
I’m reminded of how much job hunting has changed. My first real job was working for the Elder-Beerman department store part-time my senior year. I never interviewed for it, but was asked by my best friend’s mom, who was in administration there, if I wanted a job.
The next summer that same friend heard about a clerical opening at The Palladium-Item newspaper. I filled out an application, had an interview, and got that job for the summer.
The next job came by visiting the Connersville employment office at my mom’s suggestion because the head of it was a family friend. I didn’t talk to him but to a clerk who, if memory serves, rifled through a card catalog looking for jobs for which I might be qualified. That’s how I ended up working for an insurance company as a clerk for four years there and in the sister office in Richmond. I went to college at night for most of that time.
But it was when we moved to Fountain County – all the way across state – that the most bizarre thing happened that led to a job that determined the rest of my career.
One day I was looking at the free shopper newspaper that arrived in our mailbox and the byline of a reporter was that of Sue Barnhizer. This had to be the same Sue I grew up with, was in 4-H with, and lived a hop, skip and jump from me in the Union County boonies. Sure enough, it was. From there, Sue soon was promoted to editor and she needed a reporter – me. There was no interview or drug screening or background check. Sue knew everything she needed to know.
Once she moved on, I became the editor and part of the larger Nixon Newspaper chain / family of papers. Our publisher moved on to New Castle, a sister publication. So when Brian and I moved to Pendleton, what we considered a slower pace and more affordable town than Fishers, where he went to work, I was close enough to apply for a job in New Castle.
I didn’t fill out an application, but was interviewed by the editor who never asked me anything in the interview—just told me about the job. I’m working on my 27th year there.
Brian retired in June after 26 years with Hamilton Southeastern Schools.
I wonder what the job market will be like for young people in their 20s today. Will they stay with the same employers for decades and retire with them? Or will they change jobs several times—or more—during their lifetimes?
Brian’s new job, and the way he got it, is a far cry from knowing someone’s mother who works there or happening across a childhood friend in the right place at the right time. It has been an interesting process to watch as he has gone about pursuing his new adventure.
What about you? How many jobs have you had as an adult? Did you get your jobs in unusual or quirky ways? Or did you apply online? Tell me your best stories of how you got your jobs and perhaps how looking back, it seemed meant to be by The Man Upstairs.
The more I see, and certainly the more I reflect on my own life, I see patterns and connections and that none of it is random. It’s all connected and forms a unique tapestry that makes up my life—and I’m certain, makes up yours.
Here’s the thing about having a kitchen-gadget, skin-care, craft–or book—home business. It’s not just about the product.
Few things delight me more than moving around words on a blank page, signing every book that I am honored (and more than a little amazed) that someone wants to buy, or the adrenaline rush of when an unexpected email arrives issuing an invite to a women’s group. And for the record, I don’t care if there will be a handful or a hundred there. When two or more or are gathered …
I don’t even mind ordering “product” and recording the bookkeeping in my little one-dollar composition book.
But what I don’t like, what befuddles, and sometimes overwhelms me, is figuring out all the tax stuff.
I don’t want to launch you into a coma, in which state you would likely remain until I finish this post, so I will refrain from specific details of user fees, the difference between Indiana sales and Indiana state income and federal income taxes, what makes a deduction (a coworker suggested a press trip to California—somehow I don’t think that would be legit but thanks, Travis). Oh there is more, much more. (Oops, you are fading on me …)
At about this time last year, actually a little later because I didn’t realize that all Indiana sales tax must be paid for the previous year’s sales by Jan. 31, I was in a bit of a funk about getting it all straight. I thought I had learned enough to avoid a similar funk this year but no, it returned with the calendar and descended, hanging like a storm cloud over my writing chair. Only in January, it is my tax and accounting chair.
There are moments during tax season when I wonder if this business is worth it. But then, like childbirth, once I’m through, the pain subsides and guess what? I’m ready to do it all again.
And I tell myself: Don’t forget this about user fees or that about the retail merchants’ certificate.
Last year I muddled through the Indiana sales tax on my own. But this year, after figuring, refiguring and questioning not only the figures but my sanity, I got some help.
Today we went to see the tax lady. She knew how to help. And now, I can turn the page. The 2015 Indiana sales tax is in the books, thank you. And another lesson is learned: Next year, I’m taking the paperwork to her first and saving myself the stress.
There is a lot to be said for DIY projects. But for this one, there is a lot to be said for knowing a professional and realizing when hiring one is worth it on a variety of levels—sanity being chief among them.
To our new tax pro, Karen: thank you. Thank you very much. Next month, we’ll see you again. We still have the family state and federal returns to go.
What about you? Have you started working on taxing issues yet? Do you do your own or have a Karen of your own?
Note from Donna: One of the joys of writing is talking shop with other writers and authors. Mary T. Wilkinson is a retired elementary-school teacher from Rush County. She published her first novel, Call Me Lizzy, at about the same time my book came out in 2014. Our paths have crossed numerous times since then and we agreed to swap blog posts. Here's Mary on how God's timing for her career goals has been perfect.
by Mary T. Wilkinson
How does a small-town girl, one of 13 children, grow up to do anything worth writing about? Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t my plan, and I didn’t do it alone.
It’s not that I didn’t have plans. I did. I wanted to be a singer like my mother. She had studied opera at Indiana University for three years before becoming a wife and mother. The babies just kept coming and soon the opera part had been thrown out the window with the bath water.
Still, she didn’t give up on singing. I think everyone in town had my mother, and her equally talented sister, Rita, sing for their wedding or funeral. Besides that, she taught all of her children to sing and harmonize with her. We were one big musical family. So my first career plan was to be a singer, preferably on The Lawrence Welk Show.
My second plan came because my dad was a recovering alcoholic. My older sister, Sherry, and I had to babysit our siblings at least three nights a week so that Dad and Mom could go to AA and Al-Anon meetings to keep Dad sober and mom from going crazy. Sherry and I got the kids bathed and in their pajamas. Then I told them a whopper of a story I made up. After I had their attention, I’d finish with a big finale. Putting them to bed with a story was fun. I started thinking maybe I could be a writer. I really loved working with children and dreamed I would be a children’s book author.
My last plan was to get married and have a home and children of my own. That one wasn’t going so well, either. Sherry got all of the dates. I never really had a boyfriend. My father wanted all six of us girls to eventually marry and be in homes of our own. He felt that being a wife and mother was God’s greatest calling for a woman, but since I was not dating, he told me I definitely needed a job when I graduated to support myself.
I talked to my dad about my dreams; being a famous singer or an author, but he said I would never make any money in those two careers. I always wondered if I would have been dating someone at the time, if he might not have been OK with my aspirations. After all, I could sing and write and still be a wife and mother. I did pretty well in high school and my counselor told me I might want to consider being an elementary teacher.
I had one of those “Aha!” moments when she said that, even though I had no idea how I’d be able to pay for college. Dad hoped I would come home with a degree and a husband, which I did. I taught 5th and 6th graders for 29 years. I read my students stories I had written to encourage them to write. I sang songs I’d made up to make them laugh or to help them learn a particular lesson. I became a mom and wrote songs and stories for my children. In the summers I sent my stories out to publishers. In the winter of the year, I counted all of my rejection letters.
It seemed none of my plans were quite working out like I wanted, except for being a mom. That was the absolute best. I wondered if I should keep writing stories and songs when they took so much time and effort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had plans for me too, but He had a timeline that was different from mine.
Several years ago, our church started a praise band and they wanted someone to sing who could do harmony. They chose me and I was thrilled. I am still thrilled every Sunday that I get to sing in the Praise Band. Then just when I was wondering when to retire from teaching, a publisher called me out of the blue and wanted to publish my first novel, Call Me Lizzy. If I could put that whole book down into one sentence, it would be this: Never quit believing that God answers prayer.
Maybe your plan is not going how you want it to go either. Ask God to show you what His plan is, and be ready to wait for His perfect timing. In the meantime, use those talents any way you can. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” So sing, write, dance, draw, whatever inspires you and trust that God has the better plan. He’ll show it to you when the time is right and you are ready for it.
Mary lives in Rush County, Indiana. To contact her about her book or related events, email her at: email@example.com.
Among quite a few goals for January, three of them seemed lofty.
One was getting the carpet crew in to remove and replace two rooms’ full of the stuff. The hardest part was that Brian and I signed on to do all the heavy lifting of our Stonehenge-like furnishings. Moving things like a glass-front secretary, marble-top table, sectional sofa, two library tables, two TVs, a small entertainment center, bedroom suite, roll-top desk (again!) and several chairs might put us both in traction for a month and run up a hospital bill but we sure would save a few bucks on the installation. Shrewd, we are.
The second was getting my mathematical ducks in a row and paying the 2015 Indiana sales tax on my book biz. Last year that task took a ridiculous amount of time due to my inexperience with retail merchant certification, deadlines, and my own bookkeeping – all summed up in a composition notebook – while the tax filing and paying part of the job was all done online.
The third, and perhaps most daunting because it has been put on the household back burner for years now, was loading up all of Ben’s childhood and teen years’ relics from the closet in the room he had at home and hauling it all to the attic.
Oh, I can hear the critics now: “Why don’t you make him do it?” Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because at 24, he’s too old to care about any of that stuff right now, and too young to realize that one day he will. In the meantime, we’re the ones who will likely help him move heaven only knows how many times and we don’t want to haul around the dozen or so containers full of his vintage things.
That’s why we’ve kept the closet doors shut tight and ignored the trophies, photos, baseball cards, prom sashes, college notebooks, and texts.
If Brian had his way we’d just keep it all tucked away in that closet but I have developed a strong hankering for the active use of that closet. I want to move all my book-related stuff in there and spread out rather than it all sharing space with the Christmas tubs in Sam’s former closet.
Well, what a week! On Tuesday night and Wednesday day and night, we hauled furniture, got the new carpeting put down and put everything back into place before we hit the hay hard Wednesday night. The new carpeting is plush and soft and feels like walking on a warm, cozy blanket. Yes, it's brown, which seems to be our color of choice. Call us dull if you must. But it seems exactly right. We love it! No traction yet from Stonehenge, but sometimes back spasms take a few days to materialize. Holding out hope here.
This morning I got up and filed the state sales taxes. I had someone from the state hold my hand, cyber-style. But the tax is filed.
And this afternoon, I loaded Ben’s closet belongings and Brian hauled them to the attic. I have to hand it to him in that while it wasn’t a task on his list of new year’s hopes and dreams, he knew it was on mine, and so he did the heavy lifting with me in mind and very little complaining. I haven’t gotten around yet to filling that closet but it will be a beautiful thing: an organized closet devoted to the current book and the next one too without wreaths and angels falling into the fold. Oh, yes.
I can’t say I’m the least bit excited about Sunday and Monday’s plans. Yes, I have to prep and proceed with my first routine colonoscopy. I’ve put it off for a long time. But I know others who have a few or more years on me who haven’t had theirs, either. It’s a dreary thing, and I’m missing two meetings I hate to miss and a day of work in the process. But come Monday night, I will have another learning experience (ba-boom) behind me.
Attention readers of books and author friends. I want to brainstorm and “crowd-source” something with you. What is your view of book acknowledgments? This is the page or two in a book where agent, editors and loved ones are thanked, where sometimes we read about the author’s fears or joys in writing, and sometimes we get snippets into an author’s life.
Some acknowledgments are at the front of the book; other times they appear in the back.
One little trick I heard (but haven’t tried) at a conference or in a how-to book is that one way to find an agent is to read the acknowledgments in books in your genre. Authors always thank their agents. And they sure do.
I recently read an author’s acknowledgments page where she thanked her dog!
Another author thanked someone who convinced her she really could write when she had her doubts. (The woman is a household-name author).
One author revealed in her acknowledgments that her husband had given her a real health scare.
Still other authors barely say anything in their acknowledgments. That disappoints me.
How about you? Do you even read this section of a book? If you do, do you have strong views or observations? Have you ever read anything there memorable? Is it a place you go to first before deciding to buy a book?
I’m in the process of penning acknowledgments for the book I plan to release later this year. I personally love reading acknowledgments pages and just wondered if others feel that way – or if they even give this topic a thought. Input?
Two days into 2016 and I’m already wondering where the time has gone. The last of 2015 was spent as it always is, comfortingly, with our friends Rick and Gay Kirkton. This must be the 20th or more such new year we’ve seen in together. I hope we’re still maintaining that tradition 20 years from now.
A few observations for January:
-- Here in central Indiana, we haven’t yet had any snow accumulation or even a covering. Yesterday saw the first truly winter-like temperatures we’ve registered and those continue today, although softened by a bright, blue sky and full sun. The grass is, oddly, Irish green.
Brian thinks we’ll skip a cold winter. I say the jury is out and we could still get piles of the while stuff.
But, spring is, after all, month after next!
-- I still depend on a paper calendar / planner that I tote around to record appointments but Brian has largely switched to his iPhone for such things. He was pleasantly surprised to get a paper calendar in the mail Thursday from Kris Gaza at Fishers Junior High. The calendar bonus is that it is filled with photos of staffers of which Brian is so fond. The calendar is now in his “man attic” where he will reference it throughout the months ahead.
-- January is never a calm, quiet month after the holiday rush. I’ve got a Her magazine for women to put together, coming out as a print insert in The Courier-Times on Sunday, Jan. 31. And, we have our annual HOPE edition to print and gather special stories for in the next couple weeks in addition to the regular routine (if there is a regular routine in newspapering).
-- I have to pay the Indiana sales tax on my little business by the end of the month. This was a real learning experience for me last year, navigating a merchants’ certificate and paying tax. For some reason, I thought I could pay it along with our state and federal tax bill. Not. Hopefully the process will go smoother this year.
-- Speaking of taxes, our long-time tax lady has retired and we’ve got a new one. This will be another learning curve, not only working with a new tax preparer but seeing what’s what on Brian's retirement-related tax implications.
-- January is usually when we finalize our annual “major” household project. This year it’s carpet for the family and master bedrooms. The carpeting is in and now we’re waiting on the installer for a date. We’ll be shifting our Stonehenge-like furnishings back and forth as Brian and I are doing all the moving of objects. But it will be fun to have new carpeting after 12 years with the old.
-- Also this month I have a goal of finally (I know, this should have been done a long time back) moving all the STUFF out of Ben’s closet to the attic. Stored are things that at 24, he’s too old to want out (high school trophies, college-related mishmash) but too young to think he’ll care about again and thus assume possession of at his apartment. Besides, why drag it down there only to move it heaven only knows how many more times? So it will be loaded in totes and hauled to the attic.
The space will become my writing closet with books and newspaper-related storage.
-- At the end of the month, I’m getting away for a weekend with the lovely ladies of my church for a weekend all-women's retreat at Upland at the retreat center. It’s an affordable time of renewal and fellowship and assuming we’re not snowbound, a perfect time to get away.
-- Bible Study Fellowship as well as the Midlife Moms meetings resume this month. And, both will be distrupted next week when I get my first routine colonoscopy. Will be nice to have that behind me.
So now that I have a general plan for the rest of the month, I’d best get started, and that means it’s time for my daily walk around the neighborhood. It’s free. It's exercise. It's good.
What’s on your calendar?