I had a celebration, of sorts, for spring this morning.
Actually, I had forgotten the season had changed, but found cheer when I saw that it had.
I celebrated this morning, when the sky was blue and the sun bright (for about 10 minutes, anyway) by hanging beautiful chimes outside on our back porch. Church friends got them for me in memory of my splendid brother, Tim, whose funeral was Tuesday.
Sixty-one-years-old and I’ve never had chimes before. These are large and loud as you handle them, but something remarkable happens once they are hung.
They know what to do. Once in place, they’re in their element and start bumping into each other softly, playing sweet, original tunes, directed by the wind. I immediately thought of how much I will enjoy them when I doze on the porch this summer. Already I like to hear them when seated in my house.
That’s not the end of the story, though. Within 10 minutes of their glorious prelude, the breeze turned to wind, the sky from blue to gray. Felt like a storm blowing in, a spring one.
The chimes got louder as the wind tossed them about, never wavering from their song. Their melodies continued new and strong, dancing in the wind, ever louder, still beautiful.
I’m hearing these chimes as a metaphor for what we’re to do in this storm that’s shared by all humanity right now. We are oddly standing together as we stand apart.
Speculations are varied and endless about how we’ll endure, what will happen, and when we can return to normal. No one knows what will happen or even what our new normal will look like. When you’re in the middle of a storm you have to ride it out.
But we'll be in this storm for a while. I have to turn off the news and do something.
Now being a Midwestern farm girl at heart, I’m all about the practical. So here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m now commuting to work in a new way, as are many of you. But hey, you can’t beat the gas mileage from my bedroom to my living room. And it doesn’t get any more casual Friday than PJs.
Everything in regular time is canceled now. So we’ll find creative ways to stay connected. Three groups I’m involved with – a life group of friends from my church, Weight Watchers and Bible Study Fellowship are working on virtual meetings to keep us connected. So we’ll all learn to set up and use a new skill.
How often do many of us say “If I only had time…” Well now we do! So we’ll find out if we really mean it that if we had the time we’d clean out cabinets, deep clean the house, make more home-cooked meals, allow ourselves little guilty pleasures such as binging on the streaming services we pay for anyway.
Maybe we'll write letters or help someone. Maybe we'll go through our stuff and donate the useful abundance to those who need it. We should absolutely pray that God will go with us through this storm and bring us out on the other side.
Historically speaking in my life, organizing and eliminating clutter have been soothing activities. There’s something about an organized closet, streamlined junk drawers and cabinets that make me feel accomplished on a primal level. I think it has to do with feeling in control of something when everything beyond those activities feels totally out of control.
And we need to laugh! Yesterday Brian called on his way home to see if I needed anything at the store. Well, that’s a funny question, but gets only funnier when I tell him we could use toilet paper! That’s the national joke and TP the product of the year. (But we could use some … I’m just saying.)
I said eggs, we could use eggs. When he got home he said, “Guess what I found?” As he made his way through the house, he handed me this a six pack--of eggs!
We had to laugh over the store-rationed half-carton of eggs. But you know what? THEY WERE ENOUGH! The small carton made me realize that it meant others didn't have to do without eggs all together. There would be more eggs the next day. Our need was met and guess what? We haven't even used them yet!
Also, we need to do something normal. Every year we do at least one fairly major home repair or upgrade. This year the goal is to paint our ceilings and three-quarters of our downstairs interior.
So instead of wringing our hands, we’re having a young man who owns his own painting business and who comes with sterling recommendations from two friends, give us an estimate. We're looking to refresh and update our décor, but it’s also about supporting a local business, and thus, the economy. OUR economy.
And I'm on a committee that will start making phone calls to church members, these, in my life group. The goal is to keep us connected to God, to one another, and to our spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
We can do this everyone. We can do what each of us can do. We cannot freak out. We have others who look to us to see how strong we’re staying; how sane of mind and firm of faith.
Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!"
And let the chimes do what they do. Chime loud and strong in the wind and the storm. Let's do the same.
Are you with me?
It was only fitting that I met up with my friend and writing colleague Janis Thornton of Tipton yesterday on "Spring Forward Day."
There's no writer I know with more energy, drive and spring in her step than Janis. She is inspirational.
Not only does she have a day job, she is a prolific author on her own time with a love for research. She has written a number of books, including her 2018 "Too Good a Girl: Remembering Olene Emberton and the Mystery of Her Death," relating to the still-unsolved death of her high school classmate.
On a special day at the Tipton Library in 2018 I had the pleasure of being the emcee for a standing-room-only crowd where the very law-enforcement professionals who worked the case in the late 1960 shared the mic with Janis to discuss the cold case. It was quite a day. The Indianapolis Star devoted a huge chunk of page one to the book and the case, along with a video with Janis showing readers around sites of the mystery.
She has also written or co-written local-history books, cozy mysteries and more.
In late 2019 I had the honor of reading her manuscript for the upcoming "No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest," published by Indiana University Press. The gripping stories inside the book take place, largely in Indiana, between 1869-1950. The book is described in a pre-release as "A modern retelling of 20 sensational true crimes."
I wrote a blurb for the book which Janis said is included in the book! How nice. It's available for pre-order now on Amazon.
Retirement is not on the radar nor even in the vocabulary of this talented author. She said she wouldn't want every day to be Saturday. In fact, she's yes, springing forward yet again in looking toward penning a sequel to the IU Press book.
Janis, thank you for always managing to stay in touch and including me on your ride. We share a mentor in the late, great newsman Ray Moscowitz. Ray discovered Janis and for a period, although we didn't know it nor know each other at the time, we both worked at sister newspapers, she the editor of The Frankfort Times, and me in New Castle.
We connected, oddly enough, in the gift-shop line at the Indiana Historical Society during its annual author fair in 2014. She's helped me out in numerous ways showing up twice at my author programs, designing this website five years ago, and sharing vendor booths together as well as being on panel discussions together at several venues.
Janis I admire your forward approach to your writing and life. Thank you for keeping us in contact. You are inspirational. Keep writing and mining for gold in those newspapers at newspapers.com.
Until next time ...