With Brian’s background studying and teaching U.S. history and political science, and mine in journalism with a history minor, it’s no surprise that we love to visit Washington, D.C.
But much more than that, we both love our nation, and we relish learning about its heritage, as well as our rights and privileges as Americans.
All summer we’ve looked forward to this last week in September. We knew the best way to get ourselves inside the public tours of The White House, Pentagon, and FBI were to first contact our Congressional representatives weeks or even months in advance of our vacation.
Turns out, in this post-9/11 era, the only way for the general public to get inside those sites is with passes issued through Congressional offices.
While you can get into the Capitol without Congressional tickets, without them you won’t get a personal tour from a staff intern, complete with a tunnel ride from a Senate office building into the Capitol complex. We received our assigned appointments for all these tours, then built the rest of our itinerary around them.
We were a little surprised to learn that we had been issued credentials for all of our requests, but then, I also learned that the best months to visit D.C. to avoid crowds are September through November.
I was too excited to sleep much before we flew out early Monday morning. My number-one on the ticketed-tour list was The White House. This was my fifth trip to D.C. but only the first inside the home of every U.S. president minus George Washington.
About a White House tour, I've heard, “You don’t see much.” Others have memories of visiting as kids or on senior trips. I wonder how our tour stacks up to those from decades past – or even those prior to 9/11 when security in our nation’s capital – and our great country -- absolutely changed.
For those who might be disappointed, I don’t know what they expect – a nap in the Lincoln Bedroom? Tea poured by the First Lady on the second floor? Let’s get real. This is a home, and a real family lives here. What you’ll be seeing are about a dozen first-floor public rooms along with their priceless furnishings.
What I also know is that the current mostly self-guided tour, was much better, and included seeing more rooms, spaces, and décor than I had guessed. Rather than any disappointment, I'm surprised and delighted with all we saw, and with the fact that only for the past two years has the public been permitted and encouraged to take photos on the tour route. I'm glad we came when we did.
Not a good-hair day for me, but get a glimpse of that beautiful White House Library.
You know this woman, below. I'm stricken by how much (like, exactly) that Chelsea looks like her mom. I suppose Chelsea is about the age now that Hillary was when she stood for her official First Lady portrait.
I should have taken more photos of the first ladies, but I got a few of the official presidential portraits, below. The first ladies and presidential portraits are scattered throughout the floor. I learned that they do not remain in one spot but are rotated throughout the mansion.
The Vermeil Room was once the billiard room, now used for various functions. Portraits of a variety of recent First Ladies are displayed there along with a collection of gilded silver, or vermeil.
Here are a pair of presidential portraits from a hallway. You know these men.
Remember that a family has lived in The White House continuously since 1800 and along the way, these families make changes and leave their own touch on the property. Some things go, like the billiards room, and some stay, like The China Room designated in 1917 by Edith Wilson.
I was surprised by how small the official State Dining Room is, below.
Next to the State Dining Room is the Old Family Dining Room. Another visitor asked if we would like our photo taken there. Yes, please, below.
And now the rooms we know by color.
I took quite a few more photos but I'll close with this one. I asked a Secret Service agent stationed in the room about the stairway, below. Yes, indeed, he told me, the stairs do go to the second-floor private family quarters.
I'll be doing a Part II post on some aspect of our trip to D.C. What I really want to share with readers are some thoughts and photos from The Newseum on their 9/11 exhibit, and about the statues and other aspects of the trip that referenced people and places I know well from east-central Indiana, One or both of those topics will be in a Courier-Times column.
For now, let me ask you: Have you toured The White House? When and what were your impressions? I loved this tour and am crossing this off my bucket list. I am impressed with the security, traffic flow, and also the way guests are still ironically able to take their time touring this beautiful mansion. And, I'm delighted that photo-taking is encouraged.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on your White House experiences.
And for the record, I didn't break anything!
Joyce and Jim exchanged vows on Fourth of July weekend 2013 on a New Hampshire hilltop. In this moment, Joyce told everyone to get comfortable because she had something to read to Jim and it would take a while. We would have expected nothing less. What we didn't expect was that they wouldn't have long together before they battled the demon of cancer that took Jim.
I’ve been a fan of author Joyce Maynard for 30 years. When I discovered her, she was knee-deep in raising kids and tomatoes, making pies, and beautiful Christmases. In the midst of all that, life got messy, and she didn’t shy away from sharing those parts, either.
There came the illness, then death of her beloved mother, a painful divorce; dating and relationships. And who happened to be in New York City on 9/11? Joyce, of course, as though sent to chronicle another moment that we needed to see through her first-person lens.
I would learn that Joyce had gained national fame as a teen with a New York Times magazine-cover essay whereby she rocketed to the description of "the voice" of her generation, and that led to a relationship with a famous man, her first heartbreak.
But what interested me most was not the fame part, but the ordinary part of her life – the kids-and-tomatoes part.
Add that homey side to the community-columnist and small-town-newspaper-reporter side of me, and I was hooked on her writing – and let her know.
Joyce came off the page when she invited me to stay with her during her epic New Hampshire yard sale before her move to California in the late 1990s. Who could guess there would be a second invite to New Hampshire, this time to see her marry Jim, the eventual love of her life, the dashing California attorney? Yet there my friend Gay and I stood on a New Hampshire hilltop, watching the ceremony in July 2013.
What nationally-acclaimed author gets that personal with her readers?
While she has always detailed the life and times of her generation, as well as shared personal details from her life, as though each reader is really her close friend visiting over coffee, The Best of Us is one we all wish she didn’t have to write.
She lost her love too soon. She tells us everything; things we don’t want to hear, but know she must say, about cancer and what you do when the person you love most is dying. Or before you know he is dying and you are frantically trying to find what will save him, and save you. But her fans have been around a day or two. We’ve seen cancer, and death, and pain, and disappointments along with our own hilltop moments. We understand.
At the end of almost every chapter, there is a simple, but profoundly poignant point offered by Joyce, a takeaway even, for us all. For example, while addressing a frustration over an inconvenience due to her husband losing his car keys, she writes, “In the old days, I would have made some sharp remark. How could he? I didn’t do those things anymore. ‘If only,’ I often said, ‘you could learn the lessons of cancer without having cancer.’”
She writes with candor, her signature, of course, in ways that sometimes make you wince and want to look away from plenty of ugly situations, not only of the cancer journey that we know won’t end well, but of heart-rending situations before the two found each other. We’re reminded of our own, personal, look-away moments. We're prone to hide them away rather than put them out there.
The joy that sparkles in this book is that Joyce and Jim found each other, and got to experience travel and life and love in a condensed form that I would call blessings.
Joyce and I are two different women in more obvious ways than we are alike. Yet perhaps at the heart of our curious connection is this shared core belief: That it isn’t real until it’s written. And that we don’t get to choose our life stories. They choose us. Then we tell them.
She spent a year after Jim’s death writing this book, and now she’s touring with it, something she revels in, and finds energy from. Writing a book is necessarily a solo experience with quiet and isolation. Joyce recharges by meeting her readers, hearing how they identify with her words, and how she identifies with them.
She will survive this. Jim had said he only wanted to be her good husband. He regretted, perhaps more than anything, the burden he would say he became to her, the pain his pain caused her. The way she can honor him now, I believe, is to press on and have a wonderful life, find new love and joy and, (I would add, most of all) faith.
She told me once to “Keep telling stories.”
I will stay tuned to hear hers. There will be new ones to find and I know she will write about them all. I hope that the next chapter will be one that makes her heart sing. Life is full of so much. Love, laughter, people we love and lose, relationships, sadness, disappointment, and moments that surprise and soar. She’s not done, this woman who chronicles life for the Baby Boomer generation.
I still see the two of them, Joyce and Jim, on that New Hampshire hilltop four years ago. They had it all.
From them, let us remember that our days are likewise numbered. And to cherish each and every one we get.
Connect with her at www.joycemaynard.com. Her book is available in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and if you are fortunate enough to catch her on tour, from Joyce personally.
Career community journalist Donna Cronk is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
When we make our way through an airport, I marvel at the light-footed traveler who checks in nothing, sports a single, smallish carry-on, and somehow, is perfectly equipped for whatever journey is ahead.
I’m not her.
Every time we travel, I experiment with techniques said to streamline luggage. Put each outfit in its own plastic bag. Roll your clothes. Bring one pair of pants, several tops, and you’re done. Checked luggage is for novices.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I still end up with a large bag to check, usually one to roll through the airport, and a personal satchel and purse besides. After all, I'm sure I'd be the one who would spill something toxic and staining on my one spare pair of pants. I'd be the one whose check-in luggage was lost. I'd be the one without whatever it is I need. And what if it turns cold and I have no sweater? Or hot and I have only sweaters?
So I over pack, and I flash back to first grade.
It was my first field trip, and a big one for a child who had never been on a day trip with anyone who didn’t include her mom. It was exciting! We packed into a school bus and headed to the Cincinnati Zoo.
We were traveling light, and I had with me a small, plastic, snap-shut change purse which held enough money for whatever I would need. Cotton candy, maybe. A toy? The possibilities were endless to trade from the contents of that pocket-sized money holder.
I don't remember what we did about lunch. It sure seems as though we would have brought brown bags full of food. It could be, however, we bought lunch there. I don’t remember the animals or who I hung out with, if anyone.
I only remember what I didn't have. The one thing I have never forgotten is that I lost my change purse at the start of the trip and the resulting feeling was of being utterly without resources, the trip spoiled.
It’s not a subconscious feeling. It’s right there, in the front of my mind. The coping messages sound off: Take an extra pair of glasses: What if yours break or the lens falls out? Carry-on underwear, makeup, an extra outfit: What if your luggage is lost? Do you have enough cash with you? What if you lost your credit card? Pack an extra camera: You want pictures, above anything you buy.
The real question always comes back to that little girl who lost her money. If I lose what I need, what will I do?
I vented about all this to a close friend the other day, herself a seasoned traveler. Hardly a month or two passes but she is off to visit her children in other states or on a vacation in Hawaii or even Paris.
“How do you do it?” I asked her in confidence. “How do you travel light?” I wanted some additional secrets, maybe a few that worked better than the plastic bags and rolled outfits that don’t. Most importantly, I knew I could ask her and not be chided for my ignorance of knowing how to pack lighter, the gold standard, it seems.
Guess what she told me?
She takes extra glasses, outfits, and over packs too.
I think rather than thinking I’m crazy to be channeling my inner six-year-old, and berating myself for schlepping it all through the airport, I’ll just relax in my over-preparation -- and roll with it.
What about you? I’d like to hear about your packing methods and if you can go light or if you, too, take along the kitchen sink.
Don’t let anyone fool you. Brian is every bit as sentimental as I am. If you want proof, try getting rid of (um, I mean paring down and passing on) books of any kind.
Our book collection consumes a variety of venues throughout our home. There’s the glass-front antique secretary where choice volumes reside. There you’ll find author-signed editions, my assembly of Hoosier-themed books, special book gifts, the boys’ baby books, ours and Sam and Allison’s wedding albums.
In this household it’s hard to make the cut for inclusion behind that glass. One reason is that the books there are special and dear. Another reason, probably the main one, is there’s no more space on those shelves.
With the kids gone, our bonus room upstairs doesn’t get much action. There’s no TV there anymore, but the shelves brim as they always have. The three bookcases hold the majority of our collection, along with more than an entire row of photo albums and another row of scrapbooks. There are also school yearbooks dating to the 1960s continuing every year on through 2015, Brian’s last in education. The weight of that shelf alone may well warp the floor boards beneath it. If our house tilts a bit, that shelf is probably why.
In a corner is an antique cabinet that spent decades in Dad’s barn holding tools but then I bought it at the auction, had it refinished, and upgraded it to indoor life.
When we moved here 19 years ago, it went upstairs to hold our third-string books. These consist of college textbooks and reading-list materials as well as a career worth of Brian’s textbooks that were “sampled” to him from publishers wanting to place their books in his classrooms and texts that he used in said classrooms, now outdated, some by a long shot.
Lately I’ve been on a mission to go through every volume and decide if we should keep it or find it another home. I need to catch Brian in just the right mood for the 15-minutes at a time that he can tolerate this evaluation process.
My method goes like this. I grab a stack of his books, some dating a full half century spent on a shelf, and carry them downstairs. I hold each up and he tells me to keep it, get rid of it, or a third option: “That’s Steve’s.”
Yes, a news flash, just registering after 50 years of shuffling high school and college texts around: About 25 of them belong to Brian’s brother. Who knew? He will after reading this. Steve, they are coming your way. Or maybe I’ll send you photos and you can give me the yea, nay, or maybe.
Brian has his own techniques in deciding which of his books to keep or pass on. But darned if I have any idea what they are. Two examples:
Of a college poetry anthology, Brian said, “I hated that book.” He had to do a paper on one poem in particular. All over that poem he has arrows and notes. The thing is nearly covered in blue ink. He got an F on the paper! This from a man from whom anything lower than an A or B was rare.
“Keep it,” he said, shocking me. “That’s one bad memory I want to keep.”
Another college text brought the opposite kind of memory, but proved equally retainable. “We all had to write a one-page paper in that class. He limited us to that. I blew him away. I got an A. Keep it.”
I’m the same, in my own way. There’s an oversized, tattered Mary Poppins movie storybook. Mary Poppins was the first movie I ever went to the movies to see. Mom and I went to a theater in downtown Richmond. I was enchanted.
I carried tomato soup and bacon and mustard sandwiches in a Mary Poppins lunch box all through elementary school. That tin is now in our attic where it holds every high school corsage I ever received. There weren’t that many.
For now, I’m keeping the picture book, the lunch box, and the corsages. Next question.
Today I’m scooping up a stack of mostly textbooks we are parting ways with and handing them off to the library for a future Friends book sale. My thought is the Friends probably don’t want them either, but it seems unkind, somehow, and certainly not green, to just toss them.
I suppose there’s a proper technique for disposing of old textbooks and displaced volumes. Someone may email and say “You should have contacted the (this) or packaged them up and mailed them to the (that).” But instead, I’m palming them off to the Friends for evaluation and disposal. I’m wretched.
As the aging process continues, for the books and for us, there will be more volumes and other things to part ways with. I’m noticing that with aging comes decreasing our belongings and the space we consume in this world, a little at a time.
I often think of the lady who attended one of my “bucket list” programs. When asked what’s on the group members’ bucket lists, she provided the most curious answer I’ve heard from the hundreds who have participated in the exercise. She said, “To leave this world with no more than one bag of possessions.”
What would be in your bag? One thing that won’t be in mine is that poetry book of Brian’s with the bad memory attached to it. But I do see his point. Sometimes a bad memory points to the fact that we work hard, do what we can, and still fail. But survive it we do, then press on.
Sometimes these old, unwanted books still provide lessons.
Talk to me: How do you manage your book collection?
Whew! It's Wednesday and things have been busy for quite a few days on end. I have also been gone the last three nights with one thing or another so I welcome today to play catch up.
I'll start with a big thank you to Phyllis Slavens for inviting me several months ago to present the "Bloom" program to her Chapter H P.E.O Sisters at Thursday's dessert meeting at Sarah Bowman's beautiful home. It was my first time with the group and I thank each one there for such a kind and enthusiastic reception.
For years, club news about P.E.O. has crossed my desk for placement in the newspaper, but I had never attended one of the meetings. Phyllis filled me in on the club's purpose, beginning with what P.E.O. stands for. Turns out it is Philanthropic Educational Organization, serving women in the U.S. and Canada.
It dates to Iowa in 1869 and New Castle alone has three chapters. Chapter H is the oldest of the three, dating to 1922.
The main focus, Phyllis said, is "supporting women's education through various scholarships and we actually sponsor Cottey College in Nevada, MO, an all-women's college."
If you'd like to learn more about P.E.O. check out www.peointernational.org and www.peoindiana.org.
My thanks again, ladies! What a great way to spend a long lunch hour -- giving a program to such a receptive, interesting group.
Saturday was a day I had looked forward to for quite a while. It was Founders Day in my hometown of Liberty, Indiana, and I had the pleasure of presenting four mini-programs on hometown folks past and present.
The thrill of the day came first thing during my talk on Civil War General Ambrose Burnside who was born and raised in Liberty. West Point educated, a top general in the Civil War, eventual governor of Rhode Island, he is also known for inventing an upgraded rifle, the Burnside Carbine. It was shorter, easier, and quicker to load and use, and the U.S. War Department commissioned the guns to outfit soldiers from Burnside.
A gentleman from the Union County Historical Society showed up, at the request of festival chair Steve Logue, with an original Burnside Carbine! What a thrill.
I need to thank several people who helped me with Founders Day. First, to Kelly Finch and the Founders Day Committee for including me in the festivities. It is always my honor to return home, and to be asked to take part is a treat.
I also want to thank Joni McMechan Checchia and Bob Jenkins for their help in putting together mini-programs about them and their lives today. Both have fond memories of our hometown and what growing up in Union County still means to them. I thank them, as well, for sending the autographed photos that I gave away on Saturday. Thank you both so much.
Also, I wanted to clarify something. The Liberty Herald ran a nice article previewing Founders Day. However, it stated that I was one of the paid entertainers. I was not and do not wish to be paid for being there! It was surely my honor.
Thank you to Rita Teeters for loaning her Raggedy Ann doll for my display, and to my brother Tim and husband Brian for keeping me company Saturday. It was nice visiting with so many from my hometown. You all make me homesick! My heart's home is always Union County ... no matter how far I roam!
Next up: From 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, I'll be joining authors Colette Huxford, Kevin Harry and Sandy Moore at a signing in the Middletown-Fall Creek Library, 780 High St. during the Middletown (Indiana) Fall Fun Fest.
Lots of small-town fun going on there Saturday. Stop by the library and say hi if you are in town. My thanks to Colette for inviting me, and to the library for hosting us.
OK! Cross the midweek blog post off the to-do list. Now I've got to get busy with the rest of it. Happy mid-week and mid-September, everyone.
From childhood Sunday school on through midlife, both formally and informally, I attended studies having to do with the Bible.
At the Brownsville United Methodist Church, the children's teachers read Bible stories, illustrating them with paper biblical figures clinging to felt boards.
When I got older there were groups where attendees breathlessly shared their biblical views, sometimes without, it seemed, the actual input of scripture.
My bookshelves have a number of volumes by authors who offered spiritual thoughts and interpretations.
Although a Christian believer, I found that none of these books or studies offered the kind of direct biblical study I longed for. They centered more on contemporary people's views and ideas, not necessarily those formed from a direct, deep look into the Word of God. I wanted to hear from Him.
I realized, shamefully, that I was biblically illiterate.
Eight years ago, my friend Terri, a member of my church life group, sent an email asking if friends were interested in attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I'm pretty sure she had asked the year before, and maybe even the year before that, but for some reason, the term "BSF" had never registered with me. Now I think it's because for whatever reason, I wasn't ready for it.
But that year, I was ready. I have remained so ever since. In fact, BSF resumes for a new year of study on Monday night and I feel as I did when I was a schoolgirl looking forward to meeting my class for the first time in elementary school. I bought a fresh notebook and binder and am ready to get started!
While BSF is an international study, with more than 2,000 classes and groups in more than 40 countries, where I live we are fortunate to have two classes nearby. There's a day class in New Castle, and an evening one in Middletown. Terri and friends attend the evening class in Middletown, and that is what works for me too. But if you prefer day, there's one Tuesday in New Castle.
In the first year I enrolled, we studied the book of Isaiah.
Since that first year, which runs September through the first week of May, with several weeks off around Christmas and a week's spring break, our studies have been: Acts of the Apostles (the book of Acts); Genesis; Matthew; The Life of Moses (Exodus); Revelation and John. On Monday, we'll be in Romans.
Just because we are officially studying a single book of the Bible for the curriculum year, don't think that's the end of it. Each study takes us to cross-references and the harmony of the Gospel all over the New and Old Testaments.
Here's how it works, in a nutshell. The total attendance (a few hundred women on Monday nights in Middletown) are divided into small groups and each group has a group leader.
The group leader reads the questions from the lesson that the group members completed on their own during the course of the previous week. Members are encouraged to share the answers they found in the Bible. The discussion is fast-paced. Thoughts are condensed and there is no time to get off-subject.
Group members are encouraged to share prayer requests. Each group leader handles this differently from going around the room and verbally sharing to requests submitted in advance and summarized and distributed for the week. We pray, then head off to the evening lecture, joining all the small groups.
Now armed with the lesson we worked on individually the previous week, and after listening to our group members' thoughts on the lesson, we hear our Teaching Leader Jodie Pyle, lecture on the same material. As we leave for the evening, each is given a new lesson. This lesson contains notes and summary on thoughts and varying scholarly views of BSF biblical consultants on what we just studied, and a new lesson to complete over the week's new material. And so it goes, on through our year's material.
While I had a hunger to study God's Word in a more direct, methodical way going into BSF eight years ago, I can tell you that the more I study, the more I hunger for His Word and His message for my life.
The Bible is everything! It is the history of the story of man, and of the continuous mess mankind gets himself into. It's the living Word of God, and of how He planned from before the creation of the world to solve this mess personally in each of our lives through His Son, the Savior Jesus Christ, and corporately, also through Christ, for all eternity. It's also wisdom, peace, challenge, grace, prophecy, and so much more.
It's all quite a story.
Yes indeed, it's a page-turner.
This year we'll be in the book of Romans. In my area, here's how you can get involved. There are also BSF classes regionally in Richmond and Marion, Indiana. Check the website, www.bsfinternational.org to learn about opportunities elsewhere.
If you have any questions I could answer as a now long-term BSFer (how quickly these years have progressed from novice!) please ask and I'd be happy to answer to the best of my ability. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
What better use of your time, and mine, than to study the love letter, instruction book, life manual and the afterlife benefits sent to us from the God of the Universe? I can't think of one. Join us.
In Middletown, Indiana:
Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) women's Bible study begins at 6:55 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11 at the Middletown Church of the Nazarene, 698 N. 5th St. With the exception of the first night, weekly meetings end at 8:25 p.m. Anyone wishing to sign up can register that night in a welcome class. Register any school-age children as well. For information, contact Celeste Bramlett at 765-524-2326.
In New Castle, Indiana:
In New Castle, BSF starts at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 at First Baptist Church, 709 S. Memorial Drive. Women may register that morning, as well. For information, contact Iris Pederson, 765-533-3374 or email email@example.com.
BSF is an international, non-denominational Bible study. There is no charge to participate. #wearebsf.
Please join me this Saturday, Sept. 9, on the Union County courthouse square for four mini-presentations on Four Famous Folks From Liberty. At 10 a.m. I'll profile Civil War General Ambrose Burnside; 12:30 p.m. is the real "Little Orphant Annie," Mary Alice "Allie" Smith Gray; 1:45 p.m. will be Voice of the 500 Bob Jenkins, and at 2:45 p.m. is our own Miss Indiana 1988, Joni McMechan Checchia.
This weekend, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 9-10, Union County, Indiana, honors its past at the annual Founder’s Days on the courthouse lawn in Liberty.
Last year I took part in the programming by reading some Hoosier poetry. The committee invited me back this year, but I decided to personalize the program with Union County history. And since local history—or any history, for that matter--is always more interesting when it speaks of people (his story = the story of people), I thought it would be fun to create profiles on some Union County natives whose stories go far beyond the small county’s borders.
While brainstorming, it occurred that when we think of a pioneer, we generally associate the term with Conestoga wagons heading west. But pioneers are also those who explore new territories in ways in addition to homesteading and community-building. I chose to highlight four.
A Civil War General
Liberty native General Ambrose Burnside was a national figure in a troubled time. He was the first person to come to mind when developing this program.
As Civil War Commander of the Grand Army of the Potomac, an entire seminar could be done on his service in that sobering war where 620,000 Americans died on our own soil. What I didn’t realize were his additional contributions to American life.
On a lighter note, for example, his name is still associated in pop culture for his unique facial hair, whereby his very name created the term “sideburns.” He invented an upgraded rifle from previous models – the Burnside Carbine – and was co-founder and first president of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
He went on to become a three-term governor of Rhode Island, a foreign-war mediator, a U.S. Senator, and – a fascinating side note – he was sitting under President Lincoln’s balcony in Ford’s Theater when the great president was slain.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, I’ll unpack more of Burnside’s story in the first of four 15-minute presentations on the courthouse lawn.
An orphan who inspired the Raggedy Ann doll
Specific details about her childhood are unclear. After all, the year was 1850 and there was no reason to think that the Liberty farm girl, Mary Alice “Allie” Smith, would in any way be associated with fame or legacy.
It is known, however, that the girl became homeless, an “orphan child” and as was the custom of the day, she was sent to “earn her board and keep” with a family that needed a “servant girl” to help around the house.
She found a home with a benevolent family in Greenfield, Indiana, whose home can be toured today as a museum. It was the childhood home of the man who would become The Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley. Little Jim was fond of “Allie” and the girl inspired his most famous work, “Little Orphant Annie.”
The story behind the poem, as well as the legs that the poem took in inspiring adaptive works – books, a movie musical, and of course the ever-popular play, “Annie,” not to mention one of the world’s most recognized dolls, Raggedy Ann.
And to think, the true orphan child is from Liberty, Indiana. The presentation about her is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
An auto sport broadcaster
Veteran auto sport broadcaster, ESPN and other national-media talent, radio and track Voice of the 500, and even though he is retired, current track voice each May, Bob Jenkins was raised on Main Street in Liberty.
It was in our town that his international career covering auto racing around the globe was nurtured. He became enamored with watching small-town racer Levi Dunaway get his car ready for a Richmond run on Friday nights, and as a kid, Bob’s own raceway was the “oval” behind Miles-Richmond, where his dad worked.
Yet despite his successes around the world through his broadcasting and movie work, Jenkins reveals that he has thought about writing a book – one largely about growing up in a small town.
I had the privilege of writing about Bob in March when he gave a talk at a historical society fundraiser in New Castle, and we have emailed each other since with updates for this talk.
I’ll speak about Bob at 1:45 p.m. Saturday and have some autographed photos for those attending to win as door prizes.
Miss Indiana 1988 is former Liberty farm girl Joni McMechan Checchia. Today, Joni lives in Houston, Texas with her family, Paul, a doctor, and son Andrew, 16.
A Northwestern University graduate, Joni is an interior designer whose clients are located throughout the country, and she does volunteer work in her community. (By the way, her home was spared by Hurricane Harvey but many friends there felt the brunt of it).
Joni provides insights into the significance of growing up on the family farm, unpacks some special Miss Indiana memories such as touring with the Miss America USO program throughout the world, and sharing what it was like to be Miss Indiana and represent the Miss America scholarship program internationally.
She sent some autographed photos from her reign as Miss Indiana that will be given as door prizes during the 2:45 p.m. presentation.
If you are interested in these Union County legends, I hope you’ll come see me on the courthouse square Saturday. I’ll have a table set up with some memorabilia that might surprise you – from photos of the four I’m featuring to a children’s book I found that’s written about Ambrose Burnside.
Well, hello there, ninth month.
There are two months each year that more than any other scream New Beginnings! Those, for me anyway, are January and September. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Our church pastor has said that those two months are when people are most likely to start something new, such as church or perhaps joining a life group.
January is, of course, the launch of a new calendar year. But September, I suppose, takes us all back to that excited little-kid feeling of a new school year, which always meant a new beginning and the eternal hope of maybe finally being good at algebra or of meeting a new bestie.
Even though there’s three more weeks of summer on the calendar, for me, it’s over when September arrives. This is the fourth summer that I’ve had a book in print, and summers mean that the book-related activity calendar is lean. During each of the four summers, I’ve thought that maybe my own personal literary journey is winding down. But then …
Enter September. When it arrives, things change.
I felt this yesterday, on August’s last day, when these things happened within a six-hour period:
* Email arrived from The Liberty Herald asking for comments and information about my four mini-programs profiling four famous folks from Liberty, coming up on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Founder’s Day. (More about that in an upcoming post.) Can you guess who they are? They are a diverse group! There's a general, a doll, a TV / radio broadcaster and a queen.
* I recently agreed to edit a children’s book! The manuscript was hand-delivered to my work desk yesterday. I started last night and will have it ready for Tuesday pick up.
* Confirmation came that I’m a participant in the Middletown Library Author Fair from 1-3 on Saturday, Sept. 16.
* I was asked about possibly giving a program for an area book club in December. The invite isn’t locked in, but I presented a pitch, and now I’ll see if the official invite comes.
Really? All that in one day? And the last day of August at that? After a summer that contained exactly one book-related public activity? Yep, it’s the start of a new season. And even without the new stuff on the horizon, I’ve got some dates on there anyway, and some new leads to chase.
August was one busy month! We helped son Ben find and move into new digs. There was my 40th high school reunion, overnight-weekday company and a Reds game, a wedding, and the return of our wonderful editor Katie from maternity leave.
September brings its own packed calendar starting with breakfast with the kids tomorrow, a program for a local PEO club Thursday, Founder’s Day next Saturday in Liberty, dinner out with the MLMs next Sunday, then a community-wide musical program, Bible Study Fellowship starting in again Monday, Sept. 11, a trip, and a couple of book signings. Whew! I’m tired already.
I like the visual of the September calendar as a fresh start.
Maybe we no longer have new boxes of crayons to create with, nor crisp notebooks of back-to-school paper. But all the same, this is a great month to try something new. If you would like to know more about Bible Study Fellowship, an international, non-denominational study that is likely to change your life, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I plan to do a special post, but I will tell you that we’re in Romans for the study year, which runs through early May. You can Google Bible Study Fellowship and learn about classes offered throughout the U.S. and world, but if you want to know about those offered in Middletown on Monday nights or in New Castle on Tuesday mornings, I’ll give you exact details.
I’ll also be reading the new memoir by my friend, author Joyce Maynard, The Best of Us, which debuts Tuesday. It is a true love story; one that ended too quickly with the passing of her beloved Jim, from cancer, following their too-brief marriage.
Welcome, ninth month! I’m coming to get you.
I kicked off September with a bowl of autumn apples arraged in my mother's vintage wooden bowl, centered on the dining room table. Recipes for our magazine's recipe contest are being collected now through noon, Monday, Sept. 11.
Rules are simple: One recipe a person with no known copyright on the recipe, and the ability to prepare it and bring it to the final judging at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 in New Castle if contacted to participate. We'll have a blast! And someone will go home with $100! Submit /questions: email@example.com.