"Where are the scissors?"
There's no excuse for why I can never seem to find a pair when I need them but it's always the case with office supplies in our house. The problem is that we have multiple depositories throughout our home for various kinds of tape, paper, writing utensils -- and scissors.
I did a quick scissors inventory and found myself surprised at the quantity--if not quality. Yet I know that if I kept looking, the number would double. There's a pair in a library table that, as my mother used to say, "Wouldn't cut hot butter." There's a pair in our vanity that despite terrible care and a layer of rust, is so sharp and efficient, they could probably double in brain surgeries.
The sewing basket contains a pair of pinking shears. I don't know when the last time was that I needed them, but pinking shears were precious to my mother, who sewed often. While Mom had few demands on her belongings, her instructions on the pinking shears were firm: They are only to be used on fabric.
One surprise is how many pairs of the boys' elementary-school scissors we have around the house. One is even engraved with "Ben Cronk." I'm impressed that some once-upon-a-time elementary school teacher was so organized and foresighted as to take the time to do the inscription. Who could toss an engraved pair of her boy's little-kid scissors? Not me.
The ones with the big, gray handles are kitchen shears which have come in quite handy and by some miracle, I've managed to keep them well-confined to the utensils drawer.
The rusty ones with the well-used black handle? They still work well, along with the metal ones. The red and orange blades are probably the most functional of the lot for the general functions of slicing and dicing through paper. I do that a lot.
So now that the blog is up, I'll spread out this army of knives throughout the house, placing them in "handy" spots. And then, when I need a pair ... I'll search.
What duplicate tools do you keep around your house that you still can't find when needed? Or, what organizational tips can you share with the rest of us who aspire to the ultimately organized home, but to date, fall short?
With the first full shortest day of the year's arrival, Brian and I had a much-welcome low-key day enjoying some of life's simple pre-Christmas pleasures. We decided with winter's arrival, we should change out the sheets to flannel.
Of course Reggie had to check out the process. Brian washed the regular sheets and as he put them in the linen closet, said, "They're ready for spring." Spring? On the first day of winter, spring seems almost mythological in concept. Yet, time seems to speed up with each passing year, and it will be in shorter order than we imagine that Easter will be here.
I know this: the soft, warm sheets felt heavenly last night.
When I was a kid, I didn't care a bit for cranberries. They weren't something we had much, and I have no memory of Mom doing anything with the actual produce. Somewhere along the way, I discovered cranberries in a new way, and while they aren't something I think about apart from the holidays, that might be changing.
You might know that I've been on Weight Watchers in a serious way since Jan. 5. I love the current program, and it's working! I'm always looking for something new that works well with my program and this week, I got a hankering for cranberries.
So without a recipe, I decided to "lighten up" homemade cranberry sauce. What I came up with is zero points for the whole big bowl full. I bought a bag of raw cranberries and boiled them in a saucepan with one cup of water and several individual packets of sweetener.
It wasn't long before they were boiling and the berries popping. I turned off the heat and with the boil still going, quickly added one regular-sized box of sugar-free, instant cherry gelatin. I stirred and added a cup of cold water. I poured the mixture into a serving bowl and added some orange slices and chopped celery. Nuts would go well, but I avoided them for the calories involved.
Into the fridge it went and wow! I ate my fill.
Let's just say today I'm making it again. You're welcome.
I turned on some Christmas programs and finished wrapping gifts in the afternoon. Here they are, ready for Christmas day.
Some years I do paper themes or otherwise coordinate. This year's theme was that there wasn't one. I used this-and-that leftover wrapping paper from previous years, gift bags and bows recycled from previous use. And I still have paper left over for next year.
It was a good first day of winter. Hope yours was the same. Go Colts!
Donna Cronk photo // What does a camel have to do with presidential history? George Washington kept a camel on his Mount Vernon estate --presumably as a novelty. This camel is also something of a novelty, as well as a celebrity, and yes, lives at Mount Vernon. It's the Geico Insurance "Hump Day" camel! "Hey Mikey, Mikey, Mikey! What day is it?" I think the commercial is my favorite of all time. I have to laugh every time I see it or find it on YouTube.
This concludes my two-part column series on a historic Christmas tour I took with my husband, our close friends Tom and Char, and about 120 other Hoosiers, organized by Tom and Sue Saunders to Washington, D.C. and Virginia. This piece appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 New Castle Courier-Times and is reprinted as follows.
By Donna Cronk
As a modern motor coach dropped 120 Hoosiers off at the homes of three Founding Fathers' estates earlier this month, we were transported 242 years into the past.
First stop on our initial Virginia leg of the journey was to Montpelier, home of President James Madison and his wife, Dolley. We learned how the wealthy William and Annie DuPont family purchased the home in 1901 and had it until 1984 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation took it over.
It was the will of the DuPont family that the estate of the nation's fourth president be opened to the public. It was renovated and restored to 1820 decor and appearance after a 2003-08 redo.
Madison composed the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as well as oversaw the Louisiana Purchase.
When he and Dolley owned the estate, 100 enslaved people lived on the grounds. Slave quarters are located on the property and today, their roles are recognized in a public way as "Slavery-Madison's worst regret."
Other areas explored in a tour include Madison the man, The Constitution and Bill of Rights and America's First Lady Dolley Madison, who insisted that White House staff save the portrait of George Washington on the wall before the mansion was burned by the British in the War of 1812.
We were then able to see the painting in the East Room of the White House later in the week, below.
After lunch at Michie Tavern, an 1784 18th-century inn, which several of us agree was the best meal of many delicious ones on the trip, we headed to Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson.
We had the unique experience of seeing the mansion at night, beautifully decorated for Christmas. Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a national treasure that reveals much about the third U.S. President and his brilliance — as well as his complexities.
We were told that the second floor is rarely open to the public but we got to see its bedrooms and the large Dome Room which gives Monticello its iconic look from the outside.
Ironically, Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, died on the property on July 4, 1826. Also on that date, another Founding Father President, John Adams, also died.
There is also a tour, Slavery at Monticello, available to the public.
Father of our Country
At Mount Vernon, the estate of George and Martha Washington, we learned about the architecture and how the wooden home is sided to resemble stone.
Most of the rooms' furnishings are original, and the house has been restored to how it was when the Washingtons lived there. It may come as a surprise to see what may be considered the "back" of the house has a nice veranda furnished with chairs overlooking the Potomac River where fishing was a source of estate revenue.
The Washingtons are buried in above-ground vaults in an outbuilding on the property. The orientation film was excellent in the visitors' center, and talked about Washington's roles in American history as a general in the Revolution as well as being first President and Father of our country.I
The following column is reposted from the Sunday, Dec. 16 issue of The Courier-Times of New Castle, Indiana. Part II appears in tomorrow's issue and I will repost as well after it is printed.
By Donna Cronk
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Tom and Sue Saunders of Lewisville planned a historic group Christmas tour of Washington, D.C. and key Virginia sites, Brian and I wanted to join the fun and included our pals, Tom and Char Kuhn.
Among the 120 Hoosiers who filled two charter buses earlier this month were a number of Henry County residents, ready for adventures that included visits to the homes of four U.S. presidents, including the White House; attending an evening production of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre; a talk and book signing by Jackie Kennedy’s White House personal secretary; a tour inside Vice President Mike Pence’s ceremonial office – and – a surprise appearance by him.
Apparently December is a great time to visit these historical sites because there were no huge crowds nor long lines. But then, these cities know how to handle tourists, along with the fact that Tom and Sue have coordinated historical-themed tours for years and are adept at securing advance tickets as well as one-of-a-kind surprises.
The top surprise came after the group filed into the gorgeous Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the Vice President’s ceremonial office is located. It was the day of late President George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Houston and many or even most among us speculated that Pence was in Texas.
Shortly after spotting (and Brian speaking to) Indiana University graduate and billionaire Mark Cuban outside the building, we cleared security and walked down the hallway, passing such offices as the National Security Council. We were escorted into a conference room where we listened to Hoosiers with federal jobs talk about their work.
As one of them fielded a question from a Noblesville junior-high student, a collective murmur swept through our group. I looked up to see Pence strolling into the room. Many burst into applause and stood to greet the Vice President.
He seemed touched and delighted to recognize many familiar faces and appeared happy to share comments about his job. I had no notebook in which to cover his remarks. We had come from a White House tour where we were unable to take bags of any kind.
Pence spent a relaxed half an hour with his Hoosier guests, inviting folks to ask whatever they wanted about his job or family. He was asked about wife, Karen, and he said she is doing very well, as is the rest of his immediate family.
He said that daily, President Donald Trump gets up, asking him what they are going to accomplish that day. The Vice President was told by one in the group that she has campaigned for him in all his elections and wonders if there will be another chance to do so, alluding to the office of President. Pence didn’t commit, but said he’ll see what happens after the next six years.
Although I was there as a tourist, not as a news reporter, I felt unrestrained in moving about the room looking for photo opportunities and despite Secret Service there, was able to freely approach, shake hands with and speak to Pence.
Once he left, the group was able to continue this unique experience by visiting his ceremonial office, and get photos taken behind his desk upon which personal memorabilia was neatly arranged. We walked around the room and onto his private balcony with the White House within shouting distance, gaining an interesting perspective.
The People’s House at Christmas
Earlier in the day, we went through several security checks, just as we did at the Eisenhower Building, to make our way inside The White House to see the home of every U.S. President minus George Washington, adorned for the season. We walked among the forest of red-berried trees in a breezeway-type area adjoining the White House and examined the elaborately festooned 57 real evergreens that hail from throughout the nation.
Touring the White House’s first-floor public rooms is self-guided but, Secret Service personnel are stationed in each room, prepared to answer questions. Guests may take as long they wish examining the home and decor, as well as taking photos, but once they leave, they are unable to re-enter.
The China Room sported a special display of china, glassware and vermeil table settings selected from three state dinners hosted by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt in 1901; John Kennedy in 1961 and Donald Trump this year.
The East Room is the top entertainment space at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Room theme is the nation’s architecture and design as shown in mantelpieces and on the 14-foot Noble fir trees. The Green Room includes American-grown produce throughout its decor and features a portrait of Indiana’s only U.S. President, Benjamin Harrison.
The official White House Christmas tree, a soaring 18-feet-high Fraser fir, centers the Blue Room. This is the tree that received horse-drawn-carriage delivery to the First Family. Blue-velvet ribbons spell out each state and territory name, hand-blown glass ornaments cover the tree and gold accents everything, matching the room’s permanent furnishings.
The Red Room is decorated to highlight various ways that children may excel in their own ways. The decor includes influences of First Lady Melania Trump’s BE BEST initiative.
The State Dining Room sparkles with an abundance of national symbols as the theme. Guests are encouraged to look for such symbols as bald eagles, bison, roses and oak leaves. This is also where the annual gingerbread house is displayed – incorporating a cityscape of Washington, D.C. into its 225 pounds of gingerbread dough, 110 pounds of pastillage dough, 25 pounds of chocolate and 20 pounds of royal icing.
In the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall, an assortment of lit trees are adorned simply in white lights and red Christmas balls. Presidential and First Lady portraits abound in The People’s House, with a special place of prominence for the black-draped portrait of President George H.W. Bush, who was laid to rest in Houston the day we visited.‘
A Christmas Carol’ in Ford’s Theatre
If direct contact with a U.S. Vice President and a tour of the Presidential mansion are not enough for one day, there was more: taking in A Christmas Carol in Ford’s Theatre. The performance was brilliantly done, just as good in my humble opinion as the Broadway show we caught earlier this year (the Broadway show, by the way, was considerably pricier).
As we viewed the performance, which featured interesting special effects, including flying, I found myself looking often toward the presidential box, adorned as it was that fateful night of April 14, 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated there by actor John Wilkes Booth who then jumped onto the stage where a play was being performed.
Although I fought nodding off in the dark, warm theatre due to getting up before 5 a.m. that day and fitting in so much, I couldn’t get enough of the experience of being in that historic setting.
Up on the hill
Friday we headed to Capitol Hill where we toured our nation’s Capitol, then lunched at the Capitol Hill Club. Much of the group then went to Georgetown to visit some key Kennedy sites and shops.
Our foursome, however, decided this was our chance to experience the most-wanted-to-do list item on our friend Tom’s bucket list: a trip to the National Archives to view The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, among other priceless documents.
It proved an ideal afternoon to do so with no waiting in line. We spent the evening on a tour of top outdoor monuments along with the National Mall Christmas tree.
Off to Mount Vernon, by George
The next day we enjoyed our breakfast in The Mayflower Hotel, then boarded the bus for yet another treat: a trip to George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia where we toured the home he and Martha shared, and our group got to lay a wreath at their tombs, evident on the property.
The house tour did not disappoint as we learned about the Washingtons’ lives on the estate, and heard interesting commentary such as that green was a popular color to paint rooms of the day as it represented wealth – a color still evidenced today in paper money.
Life with Jackie Kennedy
Then it was on to a buffet at the Mt. Vernon Inn where we were joined by author Mary Barelli Gallagher, who was a secretary to John Fitzgerald Kennedy and then the personal White House secretary to First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Donna Cronk photo // Indiana State Rep. and friend Tom Saunders, left, with Mary Gallagher at the Mount Vernon Inn where we had lunch and Mary, age 91, spoke and had a book signing. She was a personal secretary for first. JFK, then Jackie Kennedy in the White House. Her book is a fascinating insider's look inside that period of time with the family.
At age 91, she delivered an insightful speech about what it was like to work for the Kennedy family. Not only did she handle the family’s personal bookkeeping and correspondence but had such a close family-type working relationship that Caroline and her mother visited the Gallagher home where Caroline played with Gallagher’s sons. Kennedy pets were sent to stay at Gallagher’s home.
Gallagher also had copies of her book, “My Life with Jacqueline Kennedy,” originally published in 1969 and reprinted, available for purchase. Following her talk, she took questions. I asked her about that terrible day in Dallas when JFK was assassinated. The author took about 15 minutes to answer in detail.
She accompanied the Kennedys to Dallas that day and selected the gloves Jackie wore. She recalls seeing them later that day, blood-stained, lying across a newspaper with a now-chilling headline about how Dallas welcomes the president.
Gallagher was asked by a key hospital figure to stand by Jackie to offer support when the First Lady was told that the President had passed. She was there, in fact, when Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in. I later found a photo of her in the group present during that historic moment.
Just as she was counted on for honest opinions on how Jackie looked in her clothes, she says she compiled the book as a historical record depicting the First Lady as a real person, wife, mother and seeker of perfection in art and life. She is asked what Jackie was really like, and answers that she was a real human being with many facets to her life.
“My purpose in writing a book was for history,” Gallagher said. Many autographed copies of her book were sold to members of our group who got to meet and greet the author. I’m reading it now and can hardly put it down.
Today I welcome guest blogger, author, and journalist Christina Ryan Claypool of Ohio. Above, she reads a portion of her new work of fiction, "Secrets of the Pastor's Wife: A Novel," available on Amazon, where excellent reviews are coming in. I added mine to the mix, giving it five stars. Maybe you'll check it out. It would make a lovely Christmas gift. Please also check out her website, listed at the end of this post.
The two of us met a few years ago waiting in line for coffee at a writing conference. We connected instantly, as we discussed so many things in common: our work in newswriting, fiction, and that both our husbands' careers are in public school administration. (Mine is now retired, hers is a school superintendent). Anyway, here's Christina.
By Christina Ryan Claypool
It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and
knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet, because she was only in her early forties
and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore.
Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you
would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a pot of piping hot flavored tea, and set the
dining room table with the good china, candles, and prepared a lunch feast, even though there
would only be the two of us.
Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my
home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said
grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a
Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend, I have you. This thought
raced through my mind denying the reality, she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was
Those of you who have also lost a close friend, empathize with how painful this loss can
be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to
experience intimate friendship.
But is friendship becoming extinct? One of the reason’s I wrote my new book, “Secrets
of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might
soon be as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit
deserving most of the blame.
To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving,
and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably
listening to music, texting, or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This,
instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.
Having a social media connection isn’t like having a faithful friend. A recent article on
www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like,
heart, and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for
offline friendships?” The article’s writer Jennifer Chesak appears to believe we might be,
“…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”
“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the
Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better,
especially as we get older.”
That’s why my recently released novel is about the friendship between an early 40s
pastor’s wife and a sixty-something widowed coffee shop owner. I chose to make the main
character a fictional minister’s mate, because there’s often an unrealistic stereotype for this
supporting ministry role, even within Christian circles.
I empathize with the difficulty these precious women can have when trying to find a
confidential friend to share their current issues or even past heartbreak. Since often we place
ministerial families under a microscopic lens of scrutiny, and have the unrealistic expectation
their lives should be perfect. Quite frequently, the needs and even existence of a pastor's wife can
also be overlooked, especially if her husband is an in-demand dynamic leader.
Plus, during my years working in broadcasting, I was asked to host a TV special, where
pastors' wives shared about their lives. One ministerial spouse was concerned about me
interviewing her, apprehensive over my understanding of her situation, so only minutes before
the show was to be recorded for broadcast, she anxiously asked what my husband did.
He's a public school administrator, I answered nervously, unsure of how she would view
But instantly, she visibly relaxed, smiled a wide smile, and teasingly joked that it's the same thing.
This wise lady understood whenever you are married to a man in any kind of leadership role,
it can be isolating and most challenging to find a trustworthy confidant, fearing you could
jeopardize your mate's position simply by being a flawed human being.
If we’re truthful, all of us are flawed, and burying our pain and problems forces us to
wear a societal mask. And masks can become a type of prison that morph into a lifestyle of
pretending everything’s perfect when everything’s a hot mess.
The bottom line of what “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is about is the desire
most women carry deep within to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship that
allows us to take our mask off, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea, and pour our
worries out to someone who won’t judge us, and to be a listening ear in return.
Of course, if we’re married, our spouse should be our best friend, but as women we need
other females who will walk this crazy journey of daily living with us. We don’t require
hundreds of friends, not like on Facebook where friendship is created by clicking “confirm.”
Instead we need someone with skin on to put their arm around us or to pick up their phone at 2
am to be present in our time of crisis or heartbreak, and we should be there in return.
A friend like Kimberly was to me or like Katie in my novel. The widowed coffee shop
owner is a trustworthy confidant for Cassie, the pastor’s wife. I hope the book is an entertaining read. Yet at the end of the day, my desire is for this novel to provide comfort and encouragement
for everyone who needs emotional or spiritual healing or support, the kind of support friendship
provides. After all, that’s what friends do, they let us know, whatever we’re going through, we
are never alone.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an Inspirational speaker. Her
book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018. Her website is