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.
CATCHING UP WITH CHUCK AVERY
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.
MY TEA CUP RUNNETH OVER
Note: This column appears in today's New Castle Courier-Times. A much shorter version appeared on Ovid Community Church's Facebook page as a Wednesday devotion. Times and seasons of life change. #Feelinggrateful.
By Donna Cronk
The first mother-daughter banquet I remember was at about age 4 in the basement of our little Methodist Church. It was also my first experience with favors, those pretty or useful “little somethings” appearing at each place setting – keepsakes to remember an event. Oh, I remember. I can still envision the plastic red roses. I thought they were gorgeous.
Through the years I looked forward to attending these spring affairs with my mother. Each was a chance to dress up, have a fancy (for us) meal, be entertained by a singer or speaker, maybe play a game or win a door prize. Most of all, it was a night out with Mom.
Then I grew up and moved far from my hometown. It no longer seemed feasible to make it back, about 160 miles, for the Mother’s Day banquet tradition. Still, I mentally sighed, wishing I could be no other place.
Even though I loved these banquets that celebrated mothers and daughters, we never attended one together in my adult years. When I think of the many do-overs I wish I had in life, this is one of them. I should have taken time off work and gone.
But when you’re 30, it seems a hassle for something so minor. It isn’t until you reach 60 that you know it wasn’t minor to spend a special night with your mom and to recognize what I would give for one more.
Then came the years of her Alzheimer’s disease, while at the same time Brian and I were raising two sons and working at our careers. These were years when a mother-daughter banquet seemed an alien concept. With my mother unable to attend, and having no daughters, not to mention no sisters, nor cousins to accompany me, I figured I’d never again attend such a sweet evening.
I didn’t feel I had a place at the table.
Who could guess the turns – I would call them blessings – that life can take? My Sam married a girl who not only relishes mother-daughter banquets, but Allison and her mother have often planned them at her Indianapolis church. It turns out I would be included each year on the guest list!
But there’s more. Once I published my novels, I started getting invitations to speak at mother-daughter banquets. Banquet season is when I’m asked to speak most. I’ve spoken twice each at my church and at Allison’s church in recent years. Not only did I have a seat at the table, but also a son in the kitchen helping with the meal and a husband serving food off rolling carts!
This season, I’ve spoken at two banquets and attended two more as a guest. My tea cup runneth over.
Mother’s Day isn’t all sunshine and flowers to every mother or daughter but you probably don’t know that because they tend to keep quiet this time of year. It can be painful to those who no longer have their mothers around on such a sentimental, emotionally charged day.
I like how my church started calling theirs Daughters of the King banquets. What a brilliant way to get around the high emotions of “mother-daughter.” We’re all daughters of the King! That means we each have a seat at the table.
If this day is hard on you for any reason, and you don’t feel you have a seat at a table, as I felt many years about mother-daughter banquets, ask the Lord to restore that seat to you – at whatever table it is that pains your heart. God is in the business of restoration and He can make things happen in ways we could not, even on our most creative days.
I’m thinking of that beautiful scripture of Joel 2:25 (NIV): “I will repay you for the years that the locust has eaten ...”
This restoration of mother-daughter banquets into my life may sound like a small thing. But it is not. Those banquets with my mother meant a lot. Now they mean a lot in a new way I – a way I had never imagined possible.
Courier-Times Neighbors Editor Donna Cronk also edits the quarterly her magazine for women. She is currently looking for essays from local women about great vacations they have taken, along with photos, for the next issue. Deadline is June 1.
MAY BANQUETS AND MORE
When Judy Booe of Veedersburg surprised me with an invite to speak at the First Christian Church's Spring Fling mother-daughter banquet, I was delighted to say yes! The evening proved a trip down memory lane and a chance to reminisce with friends from the 1980s spent in Fountain County.
Following the lovely banquet, those with Fountain Central ties enjoyed gathering at Tom and Judy Booe's home to reminisce and laugh about the good old days. The joy of my book journey continues to be the memories made in renewing contact with so many wonderful people we've known throughout our lives. I didn't want the evening to end ...
And sure enough, it was about 12:30 a.m. before we rolled in back at home.
Then up and off for me to New Castle to attend the confirmation into St. James Episcopal Church of my friend and writing colleague, Stacey Torres. She was confirmed by The Right Rev. Jennifer Basketville-Burrows, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis -- the first African-American woman elected a diocesan bishop!
Then home ... and off again to the Mother-Daughter Banquet at my daughter-in-law's home church, Zion Evangelical Church of Christ in downtown Indy.
It's been a FULL but fully satisfying weekend. My gratitude to all involved.