THE GREAT TAKE DOWN
SO, we planned to leave the Christmas decorations up for another week. There's no secret about how much we have enjoyed the tree lights as well as the entry and staircase garlands. The time has gone quickly since we put them up the day after Thanksgiving, partly because there was no extra week in November, a cushion between the two holidays.
Then I got up yesterday thinking about the incredibly busy January ahead that includes not one but several large work projects and extra assignments, and how my schedule will be altered this coming week with the second-straight Wednesday holiday, and then back to work on Thursday.
With nothing pressing on yesterday's agenda other than a trip to the grocery store, I thought that what I should do is go ahead and take down the decorations and be done with it. After all, next weekend, I might well not feel in the mood to deal with it.
Taking down Christmas makes me grumpy and meloncholy. Does it you?
But at the same time, I'm slow as a snail about it all because I want it put away just right. Call me OCD, but I get a ridiculous level of satisfaction in bubble-wrapping each heirloom bulb and bauble and store them by category in their stackable containers.
I also upped the game by placing the garlands in individual smaller containers, labeling where they go next Thanksgiving time, and the tree lights got their own large container, with appropriate extension cords stored with the lights.
We even beat the rain and took down the outdoor wreaths so they are dry when put away.
Now it's all packed away, and while the living room seemed dark and joyless when dusk moved in yesterday, it's done, and I don't have to spare the time next week.
I remembered my daughter-in-law's homemade Christmas gift. It's my favorite gift of the season! She took three Ball jars, covered them with doilies and frosted the glass. Inside, she placed battery-powered lights that look like real candles. There's even a little doily runner that goes with them. I placed the trio in our kitchen window where a lit garland had been.
I absolutely love it! Those cheerful lights will be our winter decor, shining against the gloom and gray of winter and matching the snows that will inevitably arrive in the coming weeks.
Thank you, Allison, for the lights! They are beautiful! And they are just what I needed with the decorations all put away for another 11 months.
THE LIGHT HAS COME!
Our nine-feet-tall Christmas tree, the photo taken just a few days ago at dusk, which comes at around 5:30 p.m. in central Indiana these days. Much as I admire theme Christmas trees, we stick with a family-memory tree each year containing ornaments we've collected through our 41 years of marriage, plus those our parents accumulated through the years, as well as keepsake ornaments from vacations, mainly historical sites.
Merry Christmas morning! As I write this at 9:15 a.m., I've been buzzing around the house since 6:11 a.m. I didn't have to get up that early this Christmas morn, but it's actually late for me, as I prefer rising between 5-6 a.m. daily.
I know; weird. But it is an unexpected gift of aging, I suppose, or better put, of this season of life. I look forward to the quiet time when I feel I can do anything I want in the peace. But what I want in the early hours are simple things: that first sip of black coffee, with a cup or two to follow; working on one of my Bible study lessons; or maybe looking with fresh eyes at a particular project I have going at any given moment, such as a program for a speaking engagement, or maybe a to-do list. I may tune into TV to catch the headlines or commentary.
This time of year, I turn on the Christmas lights and enjoy them. I don't tire of them one bit, and have found that this year with Thanksgiving coming at the latest time possible, I feel "shorted" that extra pre-Christmas week. It will be early again in 2020 so maybe I'll even break with our unspoken "house rule" of no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving and start in early. Why not?
Ben has the week off, and to our delight, arrived yesterday afternoon --even before I got home from work because yes, I worked on Christmas Eve. We had a great visit before he and Brian watched some NetFlix shows that didn't interest me, so I retreated to my hot bath, then turned in early. That is the flip side of getting up so early, tuckering out at a time night owls feel is early.
Sam is working at the hospital today, and he and Allison will spend time with her wonderful family when he gets off, and they'll be here for dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to the rest of the day! This is the kind of Christmas day I knew growing up and well into my adult years. I had older brothers who spent time with their wives' families or on their own early on Christmas days past, and then everyone assembled at my folks' farm later in the afternoon.
For me, it felt perfect. It made the anticipation of food, family and gifts last that much longer.
Brian and Ben are still sleeping. Once they wake up I've got some noisier tasks to get to.
For now, I thought I'd leave with you the devotion I wrote for my church's Facebook page this week. Wednesday is my day of the week for devotions and it's not up yet on the page. If you would like to be added to our church's Facebook page, where you can catch my weekly devotions and those of other folks, just let me know and I'll add you in a jif.
Another little preview announcement: I'm facilitating a devotions workshop at our church on Saturday, Feb. 15. It's free, it's fun, and YOU can come! Just let me know if you want more details as they become available. You don't have to belong to our church!
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! The Light has come! Here's the devotion:
SEASONS OF FAITH – WINTER’S CHILL
CHRISTMAS DAY 2019
THE LIGHT HAS COME! – Donna Cronk
When I was a girl, my folks turned on the Christmas-tree lights only at night. I
loved the moment when darkness parted like the Red Sea as well as when
we lit candles surrounding the nativity scene on top of our TV set.
All these decades later, Brian and I leave on the Christmas-tree lights during all
our waking hours. Even if we’re only going to be home for a short while before a
work day, the lights are on, shining against the darkness of early morning.
Light is beautiful. It illuminates all that it touches. It warms us and draws us to
remain in its presence. Especially in the darkest moments of our lives, light offers
hope and comfort.
This time of year when the daylight hours are short, Christmas lights are all the
Is it any wonder that Jesus refers to Himself as the Light of the World? On this day
we celebrate and rejoice that the long-awaited Savior has come! And He is Light!
May each of us reflect His Light in our own lives so that others may be drawn to
Merry Christmas to you, my friends! Shine on!
John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in
darkness, but will have the light of life.”
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AT THE HOUSTON ZOO
Donna Cronk photos // When our family travels for our annual away Indianapolis Colts long weekend, we make the most of it. This year's journey was to Houston. Along with the NASA sites, aquarium, museum of natural history, game and good eats, (and a few more stops!) we enjoyed an evening at the Houston Zoo strolling around looking at the Christmas lights. I'm so glad we did. So here's a little tour.
This weekend I'm putting the finishing touches on a program I'm giving at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle Tuesday morning, Dec. 10. Won't you join me?
I'll be going down memory lane, as I share some of my favorite characters and stories I've written in three decades at the New Castle Courier-Times. The program is at 10 a.m. which includes a free brunch. All you need to do is let LauraLisa Stamper know by noon Monday by calling 765-521-4740.
I'll bring along some free copies of the current issue of our her magazine for women and other specialty publications.
Hope to see you there!
TRIP TO HOUSTON IS A BLAST
When the NFL football schedule comes out each late spring, it's a big day for our family. All five of us mull it over, and come to agreement about how and where to continue our annual tradition of creating a mini-vacation built around an away game. Then we spend weeks researching our many options -- flights and hotels, sites to see, special places to eat, quirky requests (Bucc'ee's in Houston, for example).
Two years ago we braved 50-below wind chills to see our Indianapolis Colts defeat the Minnesota Vikings. Last year we lost to the New York Jets and this year, it was the Houston Texans that defeated us in a tight loss.
While the games get us there, they are merely a part of the overall trips. It's fun to experience the unique cultural climate of each stadium and fan base. There's Minnesota loyalists with their braided toboggan caps, uber-warm boots and Vikings Skol chants in a beautiful indoor stadium; New York Jets with former Gov. Chris Christy in the parking lot, sans any kind of enterage, a nondescript, working-class feeling to their basic outdoor stadium in New Jersey and less than creative food options, and The Texans with their LOVE for football, the electric feeling of the sturdy crowd, and their A-plus selection of Texas burgers, brisket, huge loaded baked potatoes and other yummo choices.
This year's game was special as we had the fortune of sitting among the family members of a Colts player, EJ Speed. We had our own little island of blue celebrating big moments in the game.
But the crown jewel of this trip was the next day's visit to NASA at Johnson Space Center. After looking around Space Center Houston, which is a museum loaded with NASA memorabilia, including authentic space suits, capsules, a tour of the Space Shuttle, orientation films and more, it's time to see our family's two highlights of the entire vacay.
You load up into an open-air tram and off you go down city streets to the working NASA campus, Johnson Space Center. The buildings are basic, appearing to have been built in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Bikes and deer
A couple cool observations unique to the campus: vintage Schwinn bicycles are all over the place. Many of these date back to the 1960s when the company donated them to NASA so the astronauts and engineers could ride them from one building to another. Schwinn company pays an annual visit to the campus to make sure the bikes remain in good repair.
Second, deer are free to run the grounds with no fence to keep them in, as a space-age, if you will, nature preserve. It's humorous to see them all over the place, and one wonders if they ever go out into the surrounding traffic and get hit! They look perfectly content in their surroundings and unaffected by the humans and trams going by.
My favorite stop of the entire trip to Houston was a visit to the Apollo Mission Control. The building is a National Historic Landmark inside this nondescript, functional building.
Inside, those able climb the 87 steps to Mission Control. A few needed to take the elevator -- which I overheard a guide point out is the original elevator.
We're ushered into an auditorium complete with original seating, including built-in ashtrays. We're behind a glass wall where on the other side is where top engineers sat at then state-of-the-art computers (now antiques) and worked their engineering magic with the equipment that landed men on the moon, including that first walk on the moon of Neil Armstrong 50 years ago in July 2019.
After some housekeeping announcements about cell phones and the like, we were told to sit tight as we are about to view 1969 straight before us and hear the voices of the engineers and astronauts who made history. The room is perfectly refurbished and preserved to what it was in 1969. And suddenly, magic:
Only it's not magic. It's rocket science. Screens light up, as do the boards in the front of the room. We hear tapes played of the engineers giving the "go" signs for the mission. Then we hear the voices of Neil and Buzz Aldrin, we see man walk on the moon. We relive history. Not just history for the ages where 100 years from now people will likely still be touring this space, but our personal history, as most of us in that audience were alive when it happened in real time.
I've been personally touched by the moon landing and walk this year. First, I remember with clarity how important it was in that my mom insisted I stay awake and watch Neil take that stroll on live TV. Then that fall, in Jeanne Sipahigil's fifth-grade classroom, I wrote an essay about how touched I was by the experience. And to think! Jeanne today is my Facebook friend.
Also this summer, in my job as a New Castle Courier-Times reporter, an email arrived from a man in his 90s, Earl Thompson. Earl grew up in New Castle, but lives in Florida. Florida, as it turns out, is where he made his living as an engineer working on all the Apollo projects, specifically working in communications areas on the lunar modules and rovers. He worked directly with the astronauts, knowing all of them.
Earl and I worked together via phone and emails in detail after detail for a week or more on the two stories I would put together in conjunction with the historic 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I even went out and chatted with his New Castle siblings! Here I am with them from this past summer:
It was surreal to meet with Earl's family in New Castle, shown with The Courier-Times from half a century ago. Little did editors or reporters know then that one of their own from the city helped engineer this successful mission. It only came to public light this summer and I had the privilege of telling the story.
I also love it that Earl gave a special shout out to his New Castle High School math teacher who nurtured his natural bent toward math. The story of America: Ordinary people from ordinary towns everywhere do extraordinary things -- both that math teacher and her pupil, Earl Thompson.
All these things passed through my mind while touring Mission Control.
Then it was back to Space Center and aboard another tram. This one took us to a nondescript building, one we Hoosiers would call a gigantic pole barn, where we would step inside and see the rocket that was ready to launch Apollo 18 to the moon. This one never made it as the program ran out of money but the rocket remains. Holy cow:
I'll say it again: HOLY COW!
Can you imagine the POWER generated? The fire descending from those babies?
It was a day out of this world.