WHERE THERE'S A WILL ...
It took Brian and me almost 40 years to get it done, but we did it! On my husband’s 65th birthday, no less, we got ourselves a signed, sealed, and witnessed last will and testament with all the trimmings. Who knew you needed that much paperwork that doesn’t even apply until ... then.
It’s not that we didn’t plan to do this a long time ago, 30-plus years to be exact. For most of those years, if not all, at least once a year one of us would say, “You know we really do need to get a will.”
We knew. It was the only responsible, adult thing to do; particularly with a baby turned little boy, then another baby turned little boy, and now two adult men as our offspring.
Age. Not only are we no longer spring chickens, we aren’t summer ones either. Tye Hill of Richmond, a woman who cuts to the chase with her frank observations, told me recently, “I’m in the winter of my life. You are probably in the fall of yours.”
Yes, the years pile high without us half realizing it until one day we wake up and the Medicare card is in my husband’s wallet and I’m not only admitting to be a senior myself but proudly declaring it at the drive-through window in order to claim a 5-percent discount.
We got right in to the attorney, and here we are, all legal. A weird way to spend Brian’s 65th birthday? Seems kind of appropriate, really.
I think of other milestone birthdays. The year Brian turned 40 I gave him a set of luggage. I remember him being too exhausted to react. Travel was not something on our radar just then beyond trips back and forth to our parents’ homes. GOOD GRIEF! Sam was in Little League then. Yet 40 seemed so ... adult. Shouldn't adults have matching luggage?
The year Brian was 50, we were at our friends’ house, Rick and Gay Kirkton’s. They had family there to mark the occasion of their son and our godson Thomas’ Lutheran Church confirmation. That Sunday Ben was playing in a baseball tournament and we got a phone call that Ben hit a walk-off home run for the tourney win. I think we floated home!
That was 15 years ago. I even remember what I wore that day. It sure doesn’t seem so long ago. I think of 15 years from now and while I certainly can’t count on seeing that date, as no one can, I would be 74 and Brian would be – 80!
The attorney suggested that we go ahead and make our funeral arrangements. I think we’ll give that one some more time.
DECORATING WITH THE HUBS
Originally published in Sunday's New Castle Courier-Times.
Some women complain that their husbands have no opinions when it comes to home decor. And their problem is?
When Mrs. Noah suggested a new wallcovering for her floatable abode, I imagine that Noah told her to go ahead and pick it out. Why rock the ark? he probably thought.
For most of our marriage, Brian has had what I consider a perfectly appropriate response when I ask for his preference in paint colors or carpeting textures. He says, “I don’t care, Honey. You decide.”
Now that he’s retired, however, Brian’s interest in all-things-home has taken a turn.
For the most part, this is good. I have no problem with his weekly vacuum-cleaning routine. He’s fond of showing me the canister containing the week’s collection of assorted lint and grime, similar to a cat bringing in a prize catch from the woods.
“Oh wow, Honey, that’s a lot of dirt,” I encourage. “Good job!”
I also don’t mind when he does laundry. “You do such a great job,” I tell him. I leave out the part where I hide my whites and delicates to do later on my own.
But his hands-on-household help has resulted in something to which I’m still trying to adjust: He has opinions on things; things he didn’t used to care about.
Recently I moved a large wreath from the bedroom to the living room. Before I could swap out something to replace the bare space in the bedroom, Brian swept in with his own offering: a circa 1980s print depicting an old-fashioned classroom. I must have bought it for his school office back in the day at one of the home-decor parties so popular then – and forgot about it. Then he retired and it returned home with him.
“I always liked that picture,” he said wistfully when he showed it off to me hanging in its new place of honor, no less than the first thing you see as you approach our bedroom.
I wanted to ask if he noticed that it was not only dated, but sun-faded, and inquire as to how the inside of the glass covering the print could have possibly gotten that peculiar odd blemish. But I didn’t. Instead, I closed my mouth and bit my tongue.
I’m also not a fan of the stuff he leaves on top of his dresser. Mine has only a jar filled with eucalyptus situated on a doily. I like the sparseness. He has a basket on his dresser that I put there as a hint to fill it with his dresser dressings. The idea is to round up all those vitamins, change, glasses cleaner, calendar, pen and other unrelated sundries and corral them in the basket.
He doesn’t see the point. I’ve even tried to move these things to the basket myself but that seemed to violate his personal space. He asked me to leave his belongings right where he left them and in exchange he'll do the same with mine.
Except, he generally leaves a T-shirt and pair of shorts on top of my dresser. Whaaaat?
He doesn’t like the pole lamp that I moved next to the bedroom recliner. I think it’s a huge upgrade from the low-light lamp on the table next to the chair.
I think his closet needs a makeover.
He doesn’t like the way I wear socks to bed only to kick them off in the night and leave them wadded at the foot of the bed.
True, we have our petty grievances.
Back when Oprah had a weekday talk show, whenever she had a counselor on the program, she seemed to always work in her viewpoint about relationships. Oprah would say that if a couple argues about “the socks,” it’s not really about “the socks.”
She’s right. It’s also about the pole lamp, the dresser clutter and the faded picture.
But then, marriage is also about knowing when to make allowances for each other’s preferences – and then carry on.
So we carry on. But I don’t think I’ll suggest any new decorating projects just now.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. She blogs twice a week and enjoys encouraging other women through programs for a variety of women's groups and organizations.
If you've heard my bucket-list program, you may remember some of the examples I share of women who do surprising things in surprising ways -- and yes, at surprising ages. Take Ima Coe Wirth, above. She became a cover girl for her magazine for women when she was 101 years old (almost 102, but who is counting?) I edit the quarterly magazine, published by the New Castle Courier-Times.
Fast forward to Thursday, when at 104 (and a half) Ima Coe did something else amazing.
This time, Ima Coe garnered a visit by the state head of the Order of Eastern Star, Cindy Skura of Griffith, the Indiana Worthy Grand Matron, shown at left, above, with Ima Coe. The occasion was the pinning ceremony and official recognition of Ima Coe as a 75-year-member of the New Castle Chapter of the organization.
Friends, family and Eastern Star sisters gathered at Glen Oaks Health Campus for the celebration. Close friend Betty Houser did the pinning, below, as shown on the front page of today's Courier-Times.
At 104 (and a half), Ima Coe remains sharp as a tack, witty, and spunky. A Kentucky native, she remarked that everyone from New Castle is from there. She asked if I remembered her answer when I interviewed her for the magazine and asked what brought her to New Castle. I didn't. But she had the punch line ready:
"A Model T!" she said.
A 1932 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School, Ima Coe attended Hanover College, worked at the Knightstown Children's Home, New Castle-Henry County Public Library, at an abstract company, and for 30 years for an insurance company. She and Roy had two kids, who survive, and Roy has been gone since 1989.
She had a big party at 100 and the family promises another at 105, but she said for them to "forget it."
"I have so many friends," she said for the magazine article. "They're so helpful to me." And they came out to share some love with their friend on Thursday.
An avid walker for many years around New Castle Fieldhouse, she also enjoys books on tape, church, friends and visiting. She also sees voting as an honor. "You ought to vote to change things you don't like," she said at 101. "I don't figure I'm going to change much but I'll do what I can."
Skura, the Worthy Grand Matron, said she has given out about ten 75-year pins in the past year, but Ima Coe is the senior of that group. She seemed charmed by the New Castle woman who had plenty to say. Ima Coe got some laughs over a frank comment about what it was like in the Depression. She said back then, you didn't have "Kleenex or Kotex."
Hope to see you again Ima Coe -- invite me to your next milestone.
Note: I wrote this story for Sunday's New Castle Courier-Times. Breast cancer survivor Kandi Rutledge remains so moved by attending a Casting for Recovery fishing retreat, an experience that changed her life. She pays it forward as a volunteer for the unique organization that helped her so much. She wants those with breast cancer at any stage to know that they may apply to attend these free retreats.
KNIGHTSTOWN — Kandi Rutledge remembers how touched she was by the warm cookies.
The memory of the unexpected treats brought to her at a 2005 retreat for breast cancer survivors reminds her of why she volunteers for Casting for Recovery, a national nonprofit organization that offers support and educational programs for breast-cancer survivors.
There are two annual two-and-a-half-day retreats each year in Indiana. “This is just like being in a unique world, a perfect world in a way,” Rutledge says of the retreats, which take place at Wooded Glen Retreat & Conference Center in Henryville.
Breast-cancer survivors at any age or stage can still apply for the Sept. 7-9 retreat. Applications are due by June 29. Fourteen are chosen randomly from submissions. To apply online, visit www.castingforrecovery.org.
Since she attended as a survivor, Rutledge has returned once since then as a team member to serve guests.
“To fish is hope,” says Rutledge. “Whether you catch, whether you fish, it’s being in nature and being with others who are survivors."
She says much of the retreat’s joy, in fact, is being with those who have been or are going through what you have. She had fished for years but had never fly-fished until the retreat. Fishing is a reason to get together, but it doesn’t have to be the main reason. In fact, it probably isn’t for most or many who attend.
‘Like a queen’
Rutledge talks about “being treated like queen,” and she mentions the lavish meals, comfortable rooms, bonfire, walks on the trails and yes, instruction in fly fishing, that were part of the weekend. There are also professionals such as psychologists and an oncology nurse or doctor there, and information about support groups and other aspects of the breast-cancer journey.
There are even reunions with the survivors you meet during the weekends. This is the 13th year for the Indiana retreats.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including individual, organization and corporate donors and grants. She mentions that at the retreats, there have been women as young as 28 and as old as 80, a mother-daughter duo and a woman who is blind.
Along with the emotional connection she finds with other survivors, Rutledge points to experiencing the newness of life in nature and the development of range-of-motion skills often needed by survivors, found with the motion of fly fishing.
If transportation there is a problem, Casting for Recovery will find them rides. She says if selected, it is important for the attendee to compile doctor clearance and the proper medical paperwork.
At age 72 now, Rutledge is a 21-year breast cancer survivor. “If that would give somebody hope, just seeing that someone is 21 years out, that’s what I can do,” she says.
Rutledge worked in the medical field and is now retired. Married to Don, they have a son, Matt, and two deceased daughters, Tami and Anneke. The couple also has nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
She says the good Lord has been with her in her struggles. “He’s been the anchor all the way through,” she says.
Stephanie Probst, also of Knightstown, attended the Henryville retreat last summer. Like Rutledge, she is doing well physically, four years out from HERS2 Stage 4 breast cancer.
She found out about the retreats from information in her doctor’s office.
What she likes best about the experience is having “14 brand-new lifelong friends.” She also loves to fish and has found that the motion involved in fly fishing has been helpful to her own arm movements.
“Fly fishing showed me I can work at it and get it back,” she says.
What she learned about fly fishing at the retreat has led to a new hobby which also serves as therapy. Probst, 55, works in quality control for Keihn in Greenfield. She is married to Jeffery and they have three sons: Bret, Anthony and Nick, along with two granddaughters.
“The retreat made me see how therapeutic fly fishing is; not only physically but it is very relaxing too.”
For more about Casting for Recovery, contact Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-465-5570. The national website is www.castingforrecovery.org.
'I'M SOLAR-POWERED,' SHE SAID
Like flipping a switch, dark to light, I saw central Indiana go from winter to spring yesterday. On a warm but windy day, I witnessed the change when I stopped at the grocery store after work.
I couldn’t get through the entrance without noticing the change. There, bringing color, refreshment and, yes, spring, were flats of annuals. Vibrant purples, reds, yellows and oranges abounded. After a winter and early spring of browns, grays with the occasional white dusting on top, this moment could have been inside a botanical garden, but no, it was only Kroger.
Still. I’ll take one of each. Oh wait, no I won’t. But I wanted to as the frail-looking, but deceptively hardy pansies danced in the breeze.
This morning I got up to go to Weight Watchers, sliding into my spongy flip flops until I got ready to leave. By then, I realized that yes, something had changed, and I could wear them out! Never mind that I haven’t gotten around to painting my toenails yet in 2018. I was in flip flops and not freezing. And I will continue wearing them until one October day when I realize that it’s time for socks and soles with leather uppers.
The sun shone, there was a loss on the scales (best news of the day) and I greeted a snowbird from my church who is back. We chatted about the day and the sunshine. I mentioned the wind. She wasn’t fazed, the sunshine overriding any such inconvenience. “I’m solar powered,” she beamed.
Also in the course of getting ready to leave the house this morning, I got a call on my cell phone from a reader with a story idea, and an instant message from another with information about a story idea of her own.
So it’s not just me. Midwesterners, tired of the late snows, the winter coats still on the racks by their doors rather than swathed in dry-cleaner bags for the summer, are coming back to life! As I type this, I hear roofers down the street working on a house. Last night as I pulled into our neighborhood, there was the delicious, distinctive scent of newly mown grass, an Irish green right now from all the moisture.
Sometimes spring comes late to these parts. But it’s here. It’s finally here.
The calendar has read "spring" for a while now, but only yesterday did I feel that familiar spring in my step that comes with the year's second season. The sun was shining, and those gathered at Senior Living at Forest Ridge formed an attentive audience for my program, Posted From Home Row.
This was the roll out of a new speaking program that isn't focused on my books, or their themes, but on an assortment of essays or blog posts chosen to fit the occasion or the interests of those to whom I am speaking.
My thanks to LauraLisa Stamper of Senior Living for inviting me a couple months ago to put yesterday on the calendar. Topics covered included a post about my mother's best advice -- to take typing my freshman year of high school, saying I'd always use it; one about my dad's best advice, not to wish time away (and a heavy dose of basketball included as the set up for his memorable comment) and a piece about shopping with my retired husband (who now likes to accompany me but still maintains that he's "not ready to solo."
We had a lively discussion following my reading the essays, and I look forward to the rest of my spring schedule of programs. Back in the saddle!
If you or your organization, club, church or book club need a program, you can find me here, email@example.com.
Today is sunny again, and Friday it's supposed to be in the 70s! Looking forward to warm days, sandals and all good things that the warmer months offer.
SNAIL MAIL, WRITE ON
Yesterday a letter (and pop-up card) arrived from a woman named June whom I have never met, but who saved newspaper clippings of my articles as well as copies of her magazine for women, to share with a friend of hers, Linda, who lives in Liberty, my hometown.
I should say lived in my hometown, because June's letter yesterday was to tell me that her friend passed away in February. June had told me that Linda had been to one of my signings, and asked if I would send her friend an encouraging note. I did just that a couple times, wishing her well in battling her illness. I am sorry to hear that she passed.
In this throw-away as well as often paperless society we live in, I'm touched to know that someone would actually take the time and effort to save articles that I write and that someone else would be happy to get them.
Yesterday's letter, which arrived in the bright green envelope above, is the latest in my stack of reader snail mail. This stack was started when my second book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, came out approaching two years ago. I filed away the mail that had arrived after the first book, up until summer 2016.
The envelope on top of the stack is what I mailed back to June. You'll notice a sticker of a bird. I like to put stickers on my mail because I like getting letters with stickers on them. I always tell them at work that when I get a handwritten envelope with a sticker on the back (or sometimes on the front in one or more corner), I know that person "comes in peace."
Often I'm asked if I'm working on a third book. I can't say it won't happen, or that it will. But I can promise you that not a day passes when I'm "not" writing one thing or another: features for the newspaper, emails to a variety of friends, upcoming programs and something new in recent months: Wednesday devotions for Ovid Community Church. I have the Wednesday slot and I'm trusting the Holy Spirit for continued inspiration. If you are interested in seeing them or other devotions and posts, let me know and I'd be happy to add you to the group. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Meanwhile, I invited June, and I'm inviting you too, to my free program at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10. There's a free brunch, then program and the promise of a "lively discussion." I'm bringing a door prize and yes, a few copies of my books, if anyone is interested in buying signed copies or visiting with me after.
If interested, give Senior Living a ring at 765-521-4740 and tell them you'd like to attend. If you don't know where it is, put 2800 Forest Ridge Parkway in your GPS. The program is for the monthly Social Society and community members are welcome.
Meanwhile, let me say I'm grateful to those who continue to read these posts, take The Courier-Times, read my books or inquire about what I'm working on. Read on and I'll write on, good Lord willing.
SANDALS IN THE ... SNOW?
So it's the February that won't end. But it's April, you say? Yes, that's pretty much my point. It's cold and snow is flurrying just beyond our central-Indiana windows as I write this.
Indeed, it's a perfect day to talk about summer shoes. I'd rather be walking in them, but since that isn't likely to happen until, oh, about August, the way things are going, let's at least talk about sandals.
Believe it or not, I'm not a shoe person. When it comes to feet coverings for fall, winter and early spring, my shoe wardrobe includes one brown pair, one black pair, one pair of sneakers and some boots. The irony is that I have no odd sizing issues, wearing either a 7.5 or an 8 M. There are tons of shoes to choose from on the market and I don't like any of them.
But sandals? The shoe's on the other foot. For one thing, my feet love summer. They particularly like thick, spongy flip flops and open air all around. Most of these models tend to come with bling on top, which I could do without, but I'll take them for their comfort and ease of wear. Even though the spongy ones are my comfort zone, my favorite personal pair of sandals are the black patent-leathers in the upper left-hand corner.
When I was a small girl, I had a pair of bright green patent leather sandals. I loved those shoes! Patent leather isn't the easiest shoe to find for an adult, but these remind me, somehow, of those shoes. Plus, they are amazingly comfortable. More so than a sneaker. I am not a sneaker person.
I like the red shoes. They make me feel stylish, but the color is limiting in what I can pair with them. The ones that get the most wear for church and work are the two neutral-toned pairs, platform-cork numbers that are pretty comfortable and make me feel of normal rather than short of stature.
The black ones, lower middle, are in a bit of a rough state. These will likely be my yard shoes this summer. They're comfortable but well-used.
My least favorite among the summer roster are the coppery-tone ones with the beads in the upper right-hand corner. I've had them two or three years -- maybe longer -- and I think I paid more for them than for any in the group. They aren't particularly comfortable. But they are well-made and I will probably still have them around a decade from now.
I put the sandals together for a photo not originally for this blog post. In fact, the photo inspired the blog post. The idea is to photograph the abundance of my summer shoe inventory so I'm not seduced by shoes I spot and don't need. This way I can call up the phone photo in the midst of temptation.
How about you? Are you a fan of summer sandals? Is an inventory of nine an obscene number? How many summer shoes are in your closet?