LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
After Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast was published, Brian told me that he would like for George Clooney to play him in the movie. He said it as casually as though he was ordering eggs with a side of bacon.
The funny thing is that Brian isn’t in the book. Still, Roger Jarrett is, and Roger is Samantha’s late husband. And yes, Roger is in fact Brian’s middle name.
Even though Roger has passed on by the time the book begins, there are plenty of opportunities for flashbacks and screen time for George. I looked him up; he was born in 1961. George is 54. The Roger character died at 48. It’s do-able. I like it.
Now. Who would I cast as Samantha? She needs to be vulnerable, young enough to tackle starting over in a fairly large way with a move and new way of life along with a new business, but at the start of the book, she’s 50. My original thought was to make Samantha 60 but the most successful novelist I know, Joyce Maynard, told me that I needed to make her 50.
That’s only a problem for the woman I see as Samantha. My choice in the role, hands down, is Sally Field. A 50-year-old Sally would be perfection in the role. But the reality is that she is 69 and 69 is not 50 no matter how you slice it.
Some actresses keep playing the same age forever. Take Meryl Streep. She’s 66. I can only wish that reality was that timeless. When we see them on TV or on screen, we tend to freeze our favorite actors at the age in which they appeared as the characters we enjoyed them portray the most.
I suppose I should adjust my preference for Sally Field as my heroine to an actor of a more appropriate age. Sandra Bullock would work pretty well. Age wise, she’s perfect at 51. She’s even appeared with George before as her leading man. OK then, done! And it's a good thing because I probably can't even name actresses a whole lot younger.
If you were casting your own script – be it pages from a book or a look at your own life – who would you select? Let’s say your choices can be any actor frozen in any time period? It doesn’t have add up right on a calendar.
I’m quite obviously not casting myself here by any means whatsoever but I do think the most beautiful that a female actor ever looked on screen was Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Giant. It was the scene where she came downstairs to breakfast in that powder-blue dress with Rock Hudson waiting in the dining room. Lovely. Not just lovely but gorgeous.
My vote for most handsome moment on screen by a leading man was when Brad Pitt was fly-fishing in the movie A River Runs Through It. You only saw him from behind and then, wham, he turned around and lit up the screen in a close-up. It was the first time I had really noticed the guy and boy, did I notice him then!
So let’s hear it. Who would play you? Who would play your leading man?
And no, Hollywood has not come calling for a screenplay. Just dreaming here. Cut!
MAKE NEW FRIENDS BUT KEEP THE OLD
Yesterday Brian and I went to western Indiana to visit our dear friend, Barbara. Barb was the school secretary for decades. (Yes, they called them secretaries then.) She knew everything about the school, the county and the area, and knew everyone living there.
She freely shared her knowledge in 1981 with a young assistant principal named Brian. Her help made his transition to a new county and school so much easier.
Along the way, they became close friends. They laughed at the same things; shared life stories; worked crossword puzzles together.
I was grafted into their friendship and Barb’s wise advice, insights and prompts have been invaluable in my life—and in writing both of my books.
This spring, I asked Barb to serve as one of three editors for my sequel. As an avid reader, woman of faith, and someone meticulous in her own communication skills (and in everything else), she was priceless. I rewrote the lead and swapped two chapters as a result of her thoughts. There were other changes, all designed to make the work better when it is in print. I cannot imagine that a professional editor sitting in a New York City skyscraper could have had better ideas to improve various aspects of these novels.
I am so grateful and blessed. But gracious woman that she is, Barb conveyed that the pleasure was hers!
When we were expecting Sam 29 years ago, Barb hosted a beautiful baby shower in her home, the same lovely house where she still lives. Interesting that a few weeks ago when she was in the waiting room of St. Vincent Hospital where Sam works, he found her and they had lunch together.
We always see Barb in the summer. We drive over and have a great talk openly, sans spin, covering topics that you can’t with many people. Religion, politics, even funerals and thoughts on big life changes are not off limits and are spoken in a “safe place” with Barb.
We discuss the old days, yes, but to a lesser degree, really, than the current topics. This, I have decided, is how you know you are someone’s lifelong friend rather than an ally of circumstance. If all you have to discuss is the one thing that originally brought you together in time and space, it’s probably not a friendship you will go out of your way to nurture into the future.
When we visit Barb, we must go to The Beef House, located with a Covington, Ind. address but close to the border of Illinois, just steps off of Interstate 74. It’s our favorite restaurant, quite simply.
Not only does it have the best salad bar anywhere, not to mention the best yeast rolls, iced tea and cream of broccoli soup, well, I haven’t even mentioned the beef, which is the main event.
That comfortable, spacious restaurant also has special memories. There was the banquet where I laughed so hard at Brian that I nearly needed an EMT. He was stuck in tight quarters over a heat vent and couldn’t move as he melted like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz and the Purdue Glee Club kept on singing. Yes, it was hilarious.
It was the scene of numerous newspaper Christmas parties, and a great reunion with my sweet former coworkers a year and a half ago. It was that “great place to eat” that you took family and friends when they visited us in our very rural county.
The hand-carved wooden bowls on the checkout area were crafted by the late Bill Day of West Lebanon – a wonderful fella whom I did an article on for the paper. I love seeing his handiwork still there.
We plan to see Barb more now that Brian is retired. She isn’t just our friend from the 1980s. She is our dear friend in the here and now. And she always will be.
She is, simply, the best.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. When Brian and I started listing our goals for the summer, one included a big garage sale. We haven't had one in years. This one would be the ultimate garage sale, we said. We would ruthlessly attack the video and cassette tapes. We would divide and conquer our drawers and closets. We would purge the entire house of excess.
Oh, but we wouldn't stop there. This time we would do what neither of us has done before, ever. We would climb the awkward pull-down ladder in the garage and enter that space in the sky known as the attic to the general public, and a hoarder's paradise to us.
Yes, sir, we would hunt and gather and stage and screen all of these belongings. After taking June and July off from any kind of duty related to this venture, we decided that with the clock ticking away the fine August days, it was time to march like Sherman through that attic.
Brian said first we needed to clean out the actual garage to create our staging area.
"What about this?" Brian asked of my childhood slate from the long-defunct Brownsville school. My dad bought the building slates when the school corporation auctioned the contents decades ago. Those slates have always been a topic in our home. My brother in Liberty has been kind enough to store a couple of them away. The small one is in our garage.
"Nope, that stays," I said, ending that subject.
Meanwhile, I had my eye on the wobbly miniature table / bench / stool (I'm not sure which) that Brian crafted in eighth-grade shop class.
Before I could ask, Brian said "I need to fix the leg on that." I guess that was code for "it's not going anywhere." Sure enough, it got an upgrade to the house.
I wondered if he was ready to let go of the century-old wooden wheelbarrow that is far too heavy and squeaky for use by modern standards. Today's practical versions are made of sturdy plastic with rubber wheels. The old model fits nicely for storage absolutely nowhere. So can we sell it? "I'll never get rid of that," Brian said.
He stashed some garage things in the attic after our cleaning of the floors. Yes, things went up instead of coming down. While up there, he looked over my inventory of junior-varsity-level Christmas decorations. The first-string decorations, and too many of them at that, are downstairs in a closet.
"Do these stay?" he asked of the JV squad.
"Nope, they go," I said, taking a bold stand.
"There are a lot of Christmas wreaths up here," he added. I had forgotten.
"Except for those. They stay," I amended the previous bold statement.
I'm not sure how we're going to pull this off. I'm considered the family hoarder but I doubt that Brian can part with his grandfather's coal-mining helmet, his own childhood accordion or his 30-year-old running T-shirts no more than I am ready to let go of the boys' childhood action figures, Legos or stuffed animals, not to mention my old dolls.
I might consider trashing my college notes and term papers, though.
I think I'll tell Brian, "I will if you will."
This post originally appeared in The New Castle, Indiana Courier-Times on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015 in Donna Cronk's Neighbors column.
Inside my cedar chest, buried under layers of special artifacts from later periods of life, is a container full of purple, lavender, blue, red, and white ribbons, some certificates, and a few trophies. The container represents a decade of my 4-H life, from 8 to 18.
I took photography, sewing, cooking, flowers, cat, personality, forestry, photography and crafts. We gave demonstrations on our projects, wrote scripts and performed in talent contests, entered an essay contest, modeled sewing in the dress review, went to 4-H Camp and Purdue Round-Up.
It was while watching my nieces show their dogs in the show ring when I was 16 that I knew, suddenly, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. The concept hit me like a ray of streaming sunshine while watching a young reporter cover the show. I look back now and see that so much of my 4-H work was prep for a paid job. Designing a 4-H poster is not so different from a page.
The highlight, every summer, was the big show: The Indiana State Fair. The goal was for one or more 4-H project at the county level to be selected good enough for statewide competition. It was a thrill to arrive at the state fairgrounds, rush to find my projects, and see how they placed.
Summer chores and babysitting the neighbor kids took on new meaning because they meant saving my earnings for a day at the fair. We didn’t take summer vacations. I thought of the state fair as a vacation in a day. We got up while it was still dark and pulled out of the drive while the sun was coming up.
When we got there, Dad went his way and Mom and I ours. I loved the day with my mother where we enjoyed the softer side of the fair in the home and family arts, 4-H exhibits, the commercial building with the freebies, entries for more freebies (and our names on mailing lists), and the unusual (back then) products that you didn’t see elsewhere like the bow maker and the colorful, endless spools of pretty ribbon we could buy to make the bows. I was fascinated by the little shells with paper flowers inside. You sunk the shells in bowls of water and gradually, they opened to reveal the flowers. We loved the Old Hook’s Drug Store, the Farm Bureau Building, corn dogs, people-watching on the tractor trams around the grounds. We loved it all. Simple, old-fashioned fun.
As an adult, I’ve been to the state fair many times. There, I’ve seen The Beach Boys and David Cassidy and watched my son Sam participate and place twice in the annual High School Band Day. I’ve toured the Midway with younger son Ben and his pal. I’ve sat through one of those incredibly long live commercials for cookware just for the “free” one-dollar knife.
Tomorrow, Ben and I are going to the fair for a while. It won’t be a dawn-to-dark affair like it was growing up when the state fair was the event of my summer. But everywhere I’ll look, I’ll see the ghosts of those years, of my parents, of 4-H projects and friends from childhood. I love it that it’s so the same. At my age most things aren’t as I remember. The state fair is.
Sometimes I hear people say they are quitting Facebook. Their reasons range from it being a time waster, to some sort of nastiness going on there, to being tired of seeing people present only their well-edited best sides and leaving out some of their tougher, all-around real parts of life.
We all have our reasons and our rights. I just happen to be a Facebook fan. Facebook is sort of like fast food. Everyone complains about the big chains and says the food isn’t healthy, they don’t like it, they never go there. All I know is that when I’m in line at the Golden Arches (yes, I admit it) the drive-through is packed. Someone is certainly going there. In fact, a whole lot of somebodies are going there.
I keep hearing that Facebook is in decline, that it’s uncool for young people to be on the social media site because too many parents and grandparents are there, making it uncool. I keep hearing that people go elsewhere to other more trendy sites.
Yet as a newspaper reporter, I have found time and again that if I want to reach someone fast, hitting them up on Facebook is generally the most effective means over email or phone options.
In my personal life, I really do think of my Facebook friends as my community. I can see what’s new with community leaders I know, cousins who live afar, friends from childhood and church and every place I’ve ever worked. It’s instant access. I've been a part of a pop-up party. (Let's meet for dinner!) and met a cousin I didn't know I had due to our age and location differences.
It’s not a perfect cyber-world, for sure. I’ve had my share of Facebook disappointments. I’ve tried to friend someone with whom I had a rocky childhood relationship, thinking that bygones should be bygones now that we’re adults by a long shot. But then the person whose friendship I requested *disappeared* from existence. In social media terms that can only mean one thing: I’ve been blocked.
Sometimes other Facebook friends have disappeared, people with whom I had what I thought was decent relationships. Yep, blocked for some reason. Was it something I said?
When I created a book page and built up a following in the hundreds as I journaled the process and aftermath of writing my little book on my Facebook page, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast by Donna Cronk, I didn’t realize that Facebook would permit it to a point and then let me know that it wasn’t allowing many people to see my post. But I could change that if I wanted to pay for boosts.
Bummer, but no reason to drop out. I am getting a lot for free out of their service. It’s their world. I just blog and visit and post pictures in it.
I have a Twitter account but I’ve never gotten the hang of it or built a following with the clever use of the #hashtagtopicofthemoment. Besides, posting on Twitter flat out bores me. Yet at the same time, I know that young adults, like my son Ben, much prefer the Twittersphrere than Facebooking. When I do look in there, I find that I am in awe of my younger son’s entertaining comments compressed into so few words.
There are so many other social media sites. My friends are wild for Pinterest and while it is clever and amazing, I spend too much time on this machine as it is so I try to stay away from that yummy website or I might never sleep or boil water.
Sometimes I forget how we can find out anything, just anything at all, online. I just wrote an article on a lady who is an amazing counted cross-stitcher. The lady was disappointed that her favorite pattern creator hadn’t had anything new out in a while and that led to no longer buying patterns. I had the creator’s name and for the heck of it, Googled her. I learned that the lady died three years ago!
I called my local subject and she was genuinely surprised and disappointed.
It’s a small world, smaller than it’s ever been.
Given that, I’ll probably see you around Facebook.
If not, I’ll catch you in line at the drive-through. Just don’t block me at either site, OK?
Just one year and one week ago tomorrow, a bunch of Courier-Times friends got together at retired photographer John Guglielmi’s home to send retiring sports editor John Hodge off into retirement.
In the photo, John is the second from the left, the one proudly wearing the dorky RETIREE badge, the kind of thing he loved. It was a great day, followed by another, when the newspaper hosted an open house for him and the traffic and laughter were nonstop. In came coaches, former employees, former athletes John had covered in his 27-year tenure at the paper, mostly as sports editor. Even State Rep. Tom Saunders personally showed up to present John with the Distinguished Hoosier Award.
I remember watching that week on the last day of his career as John strode off through the front door at his usual fast clip, old-school briefcase in hand. He was retired. We gave him a great send off. It felt satisfying.
He had exactly, to the day, one year of retirement when without warning, he dropped over dead on a golf course on a gorgeous July day in the month of his 66th year.
For the past week, I have thought a lot about John and our friendship. Perhaps it was an unlikely bond we shared, a sports editor and a lifestyle editor. What could we have in common? As it turns out, more things than I can count. We both took our first breaths at Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond. We both loved our hometowns, his of Richmond and mine of Liberty, and our transplanted ones of New Castle. We had the same offbeat sense of humor. We were both corny as heck.
We shared woes of caring for and loving aging parents, including the heartbreak involved, including the humorous moments. We were newsroomies. We talked a lot.
So today, just hours before John’s funeral and his last ride to his original hometown where he has some fine real estate in one of the prettiest cemeteries anywhere, Earlham, I want to pick up the phone. I want to call John!
No one loved a social gathering more than that guy. I want to tell him that Craig and Bethany Mauger, two of his favorite reporters in a long line of them, are coming from Michigan; that Bill Brooks, our first shared managing editor, the guy who hired us both, now of Indy, is attending. I want him to know that people like basketball legends Steve Alford and Kent Benson send unsolicited, spontaneous tributes; that James Pindell, a Boston Globe reporter who has the national stage often on TV as a political expert, calls John out as his mentor.
I know that John would enjoy the plans for today. He’d like it that some of us are meeting early to visit and share special memories of our one-of-a-kind favorite sports editor, then going to honor him officially, then seeing him back to Richmond properly, and that it doesn’t end there. His Kiwanis buddies are hosting a reception back in New Castle after all of that.
He’d like it that one of his many best friends, Jeremy Hines, is telling stories on him at the service today. I can hear John’s distinctive laugh now, just thinking about all of this; thinking of how we loved him.
But then, I’m sure he knows.
In one of the programs I give relating to my novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, the focus is on women’s bucket lists. At a recent program, the hostess cautioned that I might have trouble getting the ladies to share what’s on their lists. In fact, she didn’t think any of them would open up.
It was a group of a dozen and we were in a living room. So I said we would go around the room and casually share. “If anyone doesn’t want to, just wave yourself off and we’ll go on to the next. No big deal.”
Sure enough, the first lady said she didn’t really have anything to offer. Great, I thought. What if the hostess was right? But in a setting like that, you just have to keep moving. If things went badly, and the discussion was poor, well, I’d be home before dark.
But then, an interesting thing happened. The next woman up said that she’s always wanted to take a trip to Europe but she doesn’t have anyone to go with. No one in her life wanted to join her.
“I’ll go with you,” the hostess piped up.
“I’d like to go too,” came a voice from the other side of the room. The three of them took a moment to briefly discuss it before we moved on.
There were more hopes and wishes shared as the activity continued, but I couldn’t quit thinking about what had just happened.
At least three women there wanted the same big thing and they could make it happen. Before that evening, apparently none of them knew that the others had this same heart’s desire.
The evening progressed and as I signed some books following the program, I heard the women chatting. It sounded for all the world like they were in the beginning stages of making trip plans. To Europe. As I left the house, they were still talking about this.
I hope someday to hear that they really did make the trip.
Hopes and dreams take many forms in life. In 2014, I had two unusual dreams take shape and come true. I published a book. I went to Israel. I still think daily about both and praise God for these unique opportunities.
Now, my bucket list’s target is publishing a sequel in 2016. Things are progressing but it’s still far enough away that I don’t want to get too deep into that topic on this blog just yet. I’ll certainly be unpacking it in detail next year.
This year, the old bucket list’s focus has been the joy of seeing Brian reach that milestone of retirement and finding a happier, more relaxed husband where I used to see a man out the door at 5:30 a.m. and grading papers until bedtime.
It’s also been the year of finishing my sequel and ushering it into the hands of three trusted people who either have or are currently editing it.
I don’t have a list to check off for my own pending retirement in a few years. I have some ideas, though, and a belief that at the right time, more ideas will take shape.
One thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 19—my first summer out of 4-H when I found myself missing it, is to one day be a 4-H judge. I’d like to take the class required to one day do this.
I would also be honored to serve as a Bible Study Fellowship discussion-group leader.
But while I’m still knee-deep in my day job, I can’t take on either of those. Someday.
Recently, I was asked, quite out of the blue, to judge a festival parade in Shirley and the other day, the phone rang and I was invited to judge the baked goods at the Mooreland Free Fair.
For years I watched as judges evaluated foods in the annual Courier-Times recipe contest. I coordinated it, not judged it.
One year I judged the Knightstown Jubilee Days’ Queen Contest but that was by default when Janet Helms (their first choice) couldn’t make it. I once judged a hospital Christmas decoration door contest and another year the Christmas trees at the Wilbur Wright Birthplace.
The Supreme Court isn’t going to come calling, but I’m pleased and honored to be asked! I love small towns and simple, small-town activities.
If your women’s group ever needs a program, hit me up. I make house calls. Just like the Tupperware lady only with books and a door prize. Who knows? Maybe you’ll connect the dots toward your own dream.