The following feature is reprinted from Sunday's Courier-Times. Congratulations go out to Blaise on the publication of his second cookbook, Blaise the Baker Celebrates! With his talent for recipe development, enthusiasm, and charm, I think The Food Network is missing the boat in not signing him for a cooking show.
By DONNA CRONK
If you’re familiar with Chew This! Columnist Blaise Doubman’s work, you’ll know that his mother, Darla, and two grandmothers, Deloris and Barbra, serve as his muses.
So it won’t be a surprise to learn that Blaise’s earliest cooking memory is helping Grandma Barbra in the kitchen while standing on an old, wooden chair.
“I also have an early memory of helping my Mom, Darla, in the kitchen baking a heart-shaped chocolate cake,” he recalls. “I was amazed at the process.”
Amazed is a constant state of being for Blaise. His writing brims with enthusiasm and unbridled joy about baking, cooking – and all-things food. Right now, he’s as busy with the business side of his spatula as he is with developing, testing, and tasting recipes.
His second cookbook, Blaise the Baker Celebrates! is newly released. It follows his 2016 debut, Blaise the Baker Dessert First.
“I guess in the back of my mind I always knew there would be a second cookbook,” the author says. “Once the first cookbook was published it wasn’t long after that I started gathering up recipes for a second and creating a vision for that one.”
The first volume outperformed expectations. “People just seemed to go crazy over it! I remember crying about how grateful I was that people seemed to enjoy it so much. I have had people email me and tell me that they have literally made every single recipe in the book and love them all.”
RECIPES THAT WORK
Blaise thinks people gravitate toward his recipes for one simple reason: the recipes work.
“So many cookbooks seem to throw recipes together without any form of testing. You have to make sure a recipe works.”
To that end, he explains his methods. First he considers recipes that he enjoys, then family recipes followed by foods he and his family often make, and then recipes that are popular which he wants to share. “I am not big into food trends or recipes that seem to be of the moment. I am more about sharing recipes that are timeless, that have been around 50, 60, 70 years and that people still enjoy today as much as they did years ago.
While he updates them, the recipe and processes remain about the same. But he also plays around with food, measurements, tastes and flavors “and luckily sometimes a delicious new recipe joins the others.”
Desserts were the focus of the first book (although lots of other recipes were included) but the second contains “some really, really strong main dishes and side dishes ...” The new cookbook is organized as is a typical cookbook in appropriate order of food courses.
Gratitude for readers pours from Blaise. “My second cookbook is also dedicated more to my fans and followers. It is because of them that I get the opportunity to do this again. It is a celebration in all definitions of the word. I am celebrating that I get to do this again, celebrating my thankfulness and just celebrating life.”
When asked to select a favorite recipe from the new book, Blaise finds the task difficult. One he mentions, however, is a quick chicken stir fry that is fried in Miracle Whip. Another fave features his new method of oven-roasting chicken that makes clean-up a breeze.
“One of my testers said it was ‘revolutionary!’”
As for mishaps while getting the book ready, Blaise wanted to develop a recipe for a pie baked into a cake. It didn’t go so well.
A Kennard native and resident, the Henry County town is near and dear to the author. One set of grandparents lived one block away from Blaise’s family in one direction, and the other set lived a block away in the other. And, his folks, Jamie and Darla Doubman, grew up as next-door neighbors.
“I tease them that they must have had a crush on each other in kindergarten,” says Blaise. “Whatever it was, it must have worked because they just recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.”
Blaise is in no hurry to leave his hometown. “I love Kennard and I love that I am surrounded by those that I love, so I guess if I do leave, it will not be very far away.”
A graduate of both Knightstown High School and Indiana University East, the author has written Chew This! for almost four years. Some of his other platforms include his blog, blaisethebaker.com where he writes extensively about various aspects of food. He recently partnered with White Cloud World Teas as a brand ambassador. Also check out his online Facebook group, Tasty Recipe Box and a cookbook-sharing group, Cookbooks, etc.
And, keep looking for the author / columnist every first and third Sunday in The Courier-Times Neighbors sections.
“Even to this day I get so excited to see my column and recipe in print – that feeling has never gotten old to me!” he says. “I am still just as excited today about it (as) I was on the first printing.”
He hopes readers enjoy the same things the did with the new cookbook as they did with the first: “That the recipes work, that they love the recipes and that they also enjoy the stories and family memories that I share with each recipe,” says Blaise.
“I really hope that they will feel a part of my family and feel like they were a part in the cookbook’s creation.”
For ordering information or connecting with Blaise, contact him at email@example.com.
You know what they say about true friends; how it doesn't matter how long it's been since you've seen each other because it always feels as though it were just yesterday, and you can pick up where you left off with no awkwardness between you.
That truth applies whenever we spend time with John and Debby Williams. We had the chance to do just that Saturday. And speaking for myself, we had a blast.
We have a history. In fact, we spent the 1980s with them! Brian and John came on board as assistant principal and principal, respectively, at Fountain Central Junior-Senior High School in 1981. Debby had been a principal but took time to be home with the couple's four children. Their twins were babies when the family arrived in Fountain County and they would have two more while living in Veedersburg.
About the time their final baby was born, I was expecting our first and Debby loaned me all her maternity clothes! Ah, the 1980s! So many things happened while we lived in Fountain County. The chart topper was baby Sam's arrival, but there are so many other memories: finishing my journalism degree at Indiana State; getting my first job at the Attica newspaper where my childhood friend Sue Barnhizer (now Anderson) just happened to be the editor! Then becoming the editor.
There was joining the Newtown Community Church, making friends for life, including John and Debby, as mentioned here, Rick and Gay Kirkton and Barb Clark, and so many others we spent time with while living in Fountain County. We've got to visit again with some of these folks as part of my book journey these past few years.
We rented two country farmhouses in our years in Fountain County -- for $200 a month each and no contract unless you count (and we do) the handshake agreement that went with both. Yes, our years in Fountain County were another place and time in many ways. Many good ways.
So that's the 1980s background. John and Debby and family and Brian, Sam and I left Veedersburg in 1989 for other pastures. It was bittersweet. There was much to miss about the life we had built in Fountain County.
But we met more friends and found new opportunities and blessings in the years to come. Chart toppers: our second son, Ben and our daughter-in-law, Allison.
Brian went on to become principal at Fishers Junior High and John went on to serve as schools superintendent at Rushville. Both are officially retired, but John remains busy in consulting work and Brian drives cars for an auction house. I know they would tell you they are having fun with both and when it's no longer fun, they will retire-retire.
Debby served as a principal at Connersville. That's the backyard of where I grew up, a farm kid between there and Liberty. It's still one of those "out-of-context" experiences to discuss with John and Debby the general area where I was born and raised, and the area where I work in Henry County. They have been in southeastern Indiana for quite a few years now!
So yesterday was a fun day of travels, food, fun and conversation. We piled into John's big, black pickup and off we went to Jungle Jim's at Cincinnati.
I've heard about Jungle Jim's for years. Here you can satisfy your foodie yearnings sourced from all over the world.
The choices are amazing, including more cheeses than you can possibly imagine. Same with ethnic breads and any number of other foods as well. You can even do your everyday shopping here, too. It was busy as this is as much a tourist attraction as a shopping experience.
Rest assured we left with an assortment of goodies. In my bags: some interesting chef-made crackers and a basil-tomato cheese that I'll serve with a fruit platter next weekend when we have company; a delicious watermelon, beautiful, tasty peaches, some peach bubble bath (there's a theme here) and some artisan dark-brown bread Brian selected.
The most unusual offering? Brian spotted some frozen python filets.
Onward to Milan, where we checked out the Milan '54 Hoosiers Museum, a charming little place packed with memorabilia from the Milan Miracle when this small school won the state in boys' basketball and went on to inspire one of the greatest sport movies of all time: "Hoosiers."
Museum Founder / Curator Roselyn McKittrick, can't get enough! In fact, she bought the vintage barber shop next door and held court discussing her favorite town and team with our foursome. In case you are wondering, the basketball museum has had visitors from 42 countries and has 2,000 people a year stream through the place. Next up: She's opening the barber shop as a museum.
On the wall is what Milan Coach's wife Mary Lou Wood said after the team won it all, in characteristic Hoosier humility: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Love it. Don't you?
We tore ourselves away from Roselyn, who, in her 80s, could have gone on the rest of the day, I'm convinced (and she is charming, by the way), we headed off to Oldenburg where we enjoyed dinner at another iconic landmark in southeast Indiana:
We wound our way back to Rushville enjoying the lush mid-summer landscape, and even more, the company of dear friends.
Let's do it again soon, guys!
My Sunday column in The Courier-Times:
by Donna Cronk
Moments ago, I cleaned out the last pending email from my work in-box. Yep, I either deleted or dealt with every email cyberspace threw at me in this latest round. For one shining moment, I stare at the clean space in front of me where emails tend to collect like dust bunnies in a vacuum-cleaner bag.
The joy I get from a cleared in-box is why I know that I am not cut out to be president.
Never mind all the other reasons – that I’m totally unqualified, not rich, nor an attorney, nor did I attend Harvard or Yale. No, it’s fine to simply stop with the in-box vetting process and go no further.
I cannot imagine how many emails Donald Trump gets, not to mention those that his staff of gatekeepers intercept first.
At least at The Courier-Times, I can on occasion empty the in-box, placing items in the newspaper of community interest and deleting those with no relevance locally such as fashion week on the East Coast or a lovely notice from some prince’s estate notifying me that he had me precisely in mind to inherit his fortune. If only I would share my bank account numbers, I'd be wealthy.
Of course the in-box fills back up at a steady pace, but at least no one is asking me for a billion dollars or summoning me to an international meeting that will affect no less than the future of the world.
But even more than my concerns over never-ending emails, I could never be president because I don’t have that kind of energy. I mean, who does?
On this issue I have to hand it to President Trump and in equal measure, to Hillary Clinton. I’ll see the President on TV at a rally one night, still going full speed in front of the crowd as I doze off to sleep. Before I can get out of bed the next morning, there he is on TV, in a blue rather than red tie maybe, at his day job back in D.C. or in a different city or country, dealing with the new day’s latest crisis or critic.
Hillary kept that kind of schedule, too, during the campaign. Then she wrote a book about it all and hit the road again explaining why she lost.
Some nights after a day at the paper, I can’t make it to the laundry room to gather dry towels, let alone fold and put them away.
I don’t mind that I lack the right stuff to be leader of the free world. I suppose that’s yet another reason why I won’t be nominated for anything by a cheering throng of supporters. And if I were, I’d have to decline. Who can think with the volume in these people's in-boxes? Besides that, too many speeches and glad-handing are required well past my bedtime.
I think no matter their qualifications, education and timing, it takes a different kind of personal drive than I could ever muster to be president. I’m made, simply put, of the wrong stuff.
But that’s OK. If only for the moment, and only a moment will it remain, you should see my clean inbox.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. The summer issue comes out Sunday, July 22. She welcomes reader comments and story ideas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian and his brother Steve's mom was one of nine kids born to Ralph and Hazel McClellan of Dugger, Indiana. The McClellans were a super close family. After the kids were grown and gone, spreading out across the state and beyond, and after sending three of their sons off to World War II and getting all three home again, the grandkids of Ralph and Hazel fondly remember summers back in southern Indiana and having a blast together at their grandparents' home place.
Then the years came where everyone gathered in Kokomo, or in Shelburn, Indiana on the weekend nearest the Fourth of July. For a few years, there were no such gatherings, but the cousins decided to resume them.
And for the past eight years now, the reunions have rotated among some of the cousins on the weekend nearest Independence Day. Today was the day, this year in Carmel, Indiana, at the lovely home of Kent and Teresa Williams and sons Jimmy and Joel.
Of the nine original McClellan siblings, there were born 20 offspring. So Brian and Steve have 18 McClellan cousins. Twelve were at today's reunion. And four represented the uncles and aunts, below.
There was fried chicken, green beans, baked beans, salads, chips and guac, an assortment of cheesy potatoes and several other dishes.
And desserts, especially pie, not to mention iced tea, laughter, conversation, and love.
Here's a shout out to Indiana artist Marilyn Witt of Straughn who received the Award of Excellence and $1,000 in prize money for her painting, A Bow to Summer’s End, a 24’x18” pastel, at the 40th annual Indiana Heritage Arts Exhibition and Sale. It is a juried fine art exhibit of Indiana artists. The paintings are displayed at the Brown County Art Gallery downtown Nashville, Indiana through Saturday.
According to the materials I received, this show has grown from a small, casual exhibition into one of the best art exhibitions of its kind in the country, with prize money rivaling any national show. Judge is Stapleton Kearns, a nationally-known artist, and due to having associated and studied with many of the past best artists, a vital link to America's fine art history.
He said that although about 300 paintings were submitted, there is only enough wall space for about 100 to be hung. Since two thirds of the submitted paintings had to be juried out, this was an extremely competitive show.
"As the juror, I tried to choose those works that were technically sound, well designed, and held together as a unified whole,” said Kearns. “I looked for paintings that made a strong visual statement, were confidently executed and were individual and original, even if they showed the influence of historical artists or were of familiar subjects. I am more concerned with how it is a picture of than what it is a picture of."
Marilyn says of her inspiration, “Growing up on a farm in Indiana has given me a love of nature and the beauty of the land. This has been the inspiration for many of my oil and pastel landscapes. The balance, rhythm, color and light of the seasons find their way into my paintings. I also enjoy figurative, urban, and garden scenes and subjects inspired by my travels to the southwest, the east coast, and Europe.”
Marilyn continues. “I hope to give the viewer a heightened awareness of the beauty of the world around us. The greatest compliment is when someone sees my painting and says, ‘I feel this place.”’
Marilyn has lived most of her life in Indiana, but has traveled extensively. She attended Indiana
University East and studied art under the instruction of Professor Tom Thomas. She continued her studies with Internationally known artists, Maggie Price, Kim Lordier, Richard McKinley, Kenn Backhaus, Scott Christensen, Barbara Jaenicke, Nancy Foureman, David Slonim and others.
She has painted professionally since 1999 and her paintings have been accepted in local, regional, and national juried shows and have won many awards in both oil and pastel. Her style is impressionistic with an emphasis on color and light. Marilyn’s paintings are included in collections in Indiana, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and India.
Marilyn’s work has been featured in a local women’s magazine and on the covers of three books: two novels and one children’s book.
Her work may be seen at Brown County Art Gallery, Nashville, Indiana; Hoosier Salon, Indianapolis and locally at ERA Integrity Real Estate, and The Artistry Annex in New Castle.
She is a regional ambassador for International Plein Air Painters and her memberships include Indiana Plein Air Painters, American Impressionist Society, Great Lakes Pastel Society, Hoosier Salon, Indiana Artists, Indiana Heritage Arts, Richmond Art Museum, Art Association of Henry County, and other local art associations.
Have a look at her work on her website - www.marilynwittart.com. Email her at email@example.com. Phone - 765-524-1339.
I'm so happy that when I asked Marilyn to do my covers, she said yes! She was fabulous to work with and I remain in awe of her talent as well as her class!
Selected juried exhibitions and awards include:
The day had been in the works since last summer. It happened Friday.
When friends Tom and Char Kuhn visited from northern Indiana last August, we went to Cincinnati for a Reds vs. Cubs game. The Kuhns are huge Cubs fans, but not only that. As we motored toward home on U.S. 40, Tom chatted about his beloved movie, Hoosiers.
If you grew up in Indiana, especially, chances are you've not only seen the film, but you've wiped a tear from your cheek when the Hickory Huskers "win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here."
But wait. Even if you aren't from Indiana, or if you are from any other state or Great Britain, Japan or some other location around the globe, you may have swiped your own tears as well. The movie is loved throughout the world. The Brits know it as Best Shot.
So back to August. We're rolling along talking about Hoosiers. As timing would have it, just ahead is Knightstown, Indiana, site of the Hoosier Gym where all the Huskers' home games were filmed. The 1921 building is the pride and joy of the town and open most days, 9-5. In fact, if you want to rent the place, it's just $30 an hour. But tour it? Free. It's in pristine shape and yes, you can shoot some hoops off a floor so shiny you could eat off it.
Tom wonders if we can possibly see it. Of course! We're one right turn off U.S. 40 away. We pull up to 355 North Washington St., and Tom, Char, and Brian get out and walk to the gym where they stare in the front doors. It's around midnight on a residential street. I stay with the getaway car in case a cop pulls up and wants to know if we're up to no good. Not vandals; just fans.
The trio couldn't see much in the dark. Thankfully, no porch lights flipped on at the houses all around us, so we pulled away with a vow to return.
ABOVE LEFT: locker room in the gym basement. We watched the movie Hoosiers the night before our visit and this scene looks the same as in the movie where Gene Hackman, who plays the head coach, uses those steps in the hall. ABOVE RIGHT: Volunteer Mervin Kilmer loves sharing stories about and giving a tour of this jewel.
Hoosier Gym volunteer Mervin Kilmer explains how the venue was found by Hollywood. Producers of Hoosiers, filmed in 1985, wanted an early 1900s gym in a small town, preferably one still in use. They had a list of around 65 locations.
They decided on the Waveland, Indiana gym. However, they were told they'd have to hurry because the place was slated for demolition and they had signed the contract for the work. So the movie brass kept looking and a story about the search appeared in a newspaper.
Knightstown Banner Owner Peg Mayhill said, according to Kilmer, "What they're looking for is what we have." When the producers came for a look, they agreed immediately that they had found their gym
The townspeople were excited and folks from throughout the region answered the call to appear in crowd scenes on the bleachers. Says Kilmer, "Can you imagine Hollywood coming to Knightstown, Indiana?"
Oh, they imagined all right, and donned their 1950s-era clothing and got their hair styled by the movie crew on site. Racks of '50s clothing were there for the extras to choose from.
While the entire movie was filmed in Indiana, only the home gym scenes were made in Knightstown. New Richmond, Indiana, in Montgomery County, was the main location for most other scenes.
A call went out for high school and college boys under 6'2" to try out for the Hickory Huskers' team and for other basketball scenes in the movie. Eight hundred showed up in the first round. Kilmer says that ironically, the shortest teammate, Ollie in the movie, was in real life the best player and had to be taught how to play poorly.
Screenplay writer Angelo Pizzo had his doubts, says Kilmer, that "it would ever amount to anything." The first critic said it was poorly written and too long. Pizzo went back to work on the script and the second critic -- who read it after a revision -- wept over the script and said it had to be be made into a movie.
The film is about more than hoops. It's about second chances. It's about succeeding even when the odds are against you.
Today, between 60,000 and 70,000 visit the Hoosier Gym each year. That includes teams and fans from all over the world, including basketball greats such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
And it includes great basketball fans such as Tom Kuhn who visited yesterday and has been busy rubbing away those goosebumps.
Before we visited the Hoosier Gym, we lunched at Hoosiers Home Court Cafe, 12 E. Main St. in Knightstown. I can recommend the chili burger, made by owner Kevin Richey. But Char had the classic Hoosier tenderloin. When in Rome ...
The morning started in New Castle at "The World's Largest and Finest" high school gym, New Castle Fieldhouse. Our thanks to the high school administration for allowing access. Of all the day's venues, Tom says the Fieldhouse is his favorite.
The Fieldhouse has hosted Hoosier hoops and the Trojans since 1959 and it is as beautiful as ever. As someone who has worked in and written about this area of the state for 29 years, I can tell you that basketball is as much a part of the air here as is oxygen.
Then it was on to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, within sight of the Fieldhouse. We all agree that the Hall is done beautifully, and there is so much to see and enjoy.
It was a day to remember; a special day in Henry County. And in our friendship.
Note: This feature appears today in the New Castle Courier-Times. I wanted to share it here because it is a tale of taking something old and seemingly beyond its prime and use -- an old school -- and out of it comes something new and wonderful! Affordable housing in a small Henry County town. A look inside the talents and imagination of George King.
Story and photos by Donna Cronk
KENNARD — Patsy Adkins graduated from the last class to use the old Kennard High School building in 1957. She loves the town and is excited to see Kennard Senior Living open. She appreciates the vision of co-owner George W. King of Greensboro.
King told her, "I want people to live here not because they have to but because they want to."
And he's working hard to create plenty of reasons that they would want to.
The complex, at 232 N. Vine St., is now open for tenants. The newly refurbished and re-envisioned complex is in the 40-year-old building known as Kennard Elementary School, which closed in 2015.
"You see so many schools that just fall in on themselves and I didn't want to see that happen," says King, who partnered with Eric Allen of Greenfield to purchase and re-do the property. The two men have done projects together for more than 30 years.
King, 70, radiates enthusiasm and energy for the project. "This came up," he said. "This is where my kids went to school. I thought: well, let's try it."
He says the building has good bones with construction designed to withstand an F-4 tornado, a new roof and heating and air systems in 2012. The new owners took possession in early 2016 and sought to create 18 units of living space: nine one-bedroom and nine efficiency apartments.
Each has a full kitchen, all-new appliances and ADA-approved shower. The units are all on the first floor with inside hallways and secured doors at the entrances.
There is a community room in what used to be the library, furnished with some exercise equipment, card and puzzle tables, billiards table and comfortable seating; onsite laundry room, picnic tables and grill, private family room with kitchenette (the former teachers' lounge) which can be reserved by residents to host family events, clubs or other gatherings. Each room is wired for service by Nine Star for internet and cable. There is well water and city sewer. There is an on-site manager there 24/7.
King, who is big on security of various kinds, says he spent more on a state-of-the-art fire alarm system for the building than for cost of the building.
"People could move in right now," says King.
While he's still finishing up work on the building, 11 units are ready to go right now. King says two former teachers in the building have expressed interest. He said one, who taught in the building for decades, hopes to live there and move into her former classroom, now an apartment.
More plans call for on-site storage units, at additional fees, as well as a barber shop. There's plenty of parking and if there is a demand for covered parking, he'll get it. Plans are in the works for opening The Old-School Cafe, which would be open to the public.
Housing is open to those age 55 or older but exceptions may be granted in special circumstances. The monthly rent is income-based, Section 8 housing. Or, for those who want to pay outright without the program, King quotes $650 a month as the rent.
Owners recently hosted an open house at the complex. King says he enjoys what he does.
"I think it's going to be very positive," he says of the venture.
For more about Kennard Senior Living, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-458-5757.
It’s an annual moment I wait 10 months to experience. After a long, cold winter, a finicky spring, and a Memorial Day weekend, the local pool finally opens for the season.
This year, as I made my way into the little kids’ end of the pool, the water on my feet, then ankles, then shins was cold to the point of nearly unbearable. It took all I could do not to turn around and leave, forfeiting the $2 discounted admission for evening-swim hours.
But I noticed the few other brave souls who had taken the plunge and not perished. And I thought of my literary mentor, Joyce Maynard, whose routine includes early-morning swims – naked – in deep, cold lakes in the New Hampshire woods each summer.
OK. I’ll stay.
To my surprise and amazement, once I just did it and dunked under, my body actually adjusted. A weird exchange is made: Suddenly it felt warmer in the water than out.
This year is different. There are no more morning water aerobics classes or evening YMCA-instructed work-out sessions offered. I should be happy the pool is even open, and I am. City pools seem to struggle for survival. The YMCA pool in a nearby city is no longer in operation. Our town pool went through some choppy waters to stay afloat and now carries a hospital sponsorship.
Pools take a lot of money to operate. Doesn’t help that they are only open two months a summer now because the kids return to school at the start of August. Always seems such a shame to see that shimmering pool on 100-degree August days, empty of patrons.
Water exercise is fins down my favorite. I detested running even when I was young and only a little fat. But in the water there is no sweating and I almost love it. So this summer I’m devising my own water workouts. A little running in place (no sweat); a couple minutes of rotating like a washing machine; some stretching on the wall, dog paddling forward, then back. The point is to just keep moving. And moving. I feel looser, more flexible almost instantly. And I sure sleep better too.
There are several times I can go. If I’m home, there’s the morning option, and I’m done for the day, plus a tad chilly for the rest of the day. I don’t go during the kids’ prime time in the day, but can also choose to go late in the afternoon for two bucks, or take the late option from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m., also cheap, but not my favorite hour as there are swim-team kids to work around in one area and some swim lessons going in others.
I’m just glad the pool is open and for two months, I’m in it often.
On our recent trip to Illinois with friends Rick and Gay Kirkton, our first stop was Dixon, Illinois, population 15,000. This is the hometown of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
We toured the restored and immaculately maintained home where the Reagan family of four lived from 1920-1923. It’s a classic, two-story American home built in 1891 on a tree-lined street. As American as apple pie.
The Reagan family, which consisted of parents Jack and Nelle, and sons Neil and little brother Ron, rented this and other homes in the area. There was no family wealth; Nelle was a homemaker and Jack sold shoes.
Ron lived in the home, sharing a room with his older brother, Neil, when Ron was 9-13.
The family attended the First Christian Church in town. Ron and his mother taught Sunday School there.
The home has few original furnishings, notably a quilt that belonged to Nelle is all that was pointed out, but is filled with period décor. The bathroom tub is original, as is the woodwork and other features.
The original fireplace and tile surround on the floor are present and come with a cool story. Apparently Ron knew there was a loose tile and would lift it to hide small amounts of change.
Ron, Nancy and Ron’s brother Neil visited the home in 1984 when Ron checked out the tile and placed a few pennies there.
At that time, he was President and it was decided in advance that the Reagans might enjoy a quiet meal in the dining room. The story goes that during a pre-visit security sweep, Secret Service noted a window with a clear view of the table in the small dining room. They didn’t want to draw attention to the space, yet didn’t like the security aspect of the situation. So, they arranged to plant new landscaping just outside the window.
The situation looked as though the house staff was simply fixing up the place for the visit, but in reality, the new plantings created a block. The trees were removed after the President’s visit.
Ron had a variety of jobs in town as a kid. He worked at the Dixon Golf Club and spent six summers as a lifeguard where he is credited with saving 77 swimmers.
Ron went on to Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology. He was hired by a radio station to announce University of Iowa games and worked as a sports broadcaster for a variety of stations before moving to Hollywood in 1937 From there, his public career, which included being a fairly famous actor, took off.
Ron served governor of California from 1967-75 and U.S. President from 1981-89. He left office with a 68 percent approval rating. Ron spent his final years battling Alzheimer's disease, dying in 2004 in California.
Upon his 1984 trip back to town, Ron said, “My heart is still here.”
SO … I have a new writing project this year. It wasn’t something I set out to do, but I’m happy that the project found me.
Isn’t that how life goes sometimes? I didn’t originally plan to write a book a few years ago when I started playing around with a story in the same way that a girl might play house.
What happened this time is that my church, Ovid Community, is featuring a devotion a day for 2018 about facing our fears on its Facebook page, Ovid Community Church (https://www.facebook.com/groups/45792486945/). Anyone can join the public group.
Daily through the year, you’ll see a short piece from a rotation of writers who pen devotions, including our Senior Pastor Keith Wooden.
Back in February, Keith asked me to write one. I’ve written press releases, speeches, eulogies, news and feature articles, columns, blog posts, essays, freelance magazine articles, contributed to one book, and, wrote two of my own. But I had never written a designated devotion.
Then I remembered something surprising that happened to me last year during Bible Study Fellowship. A member of our discussion group whom I admired and who shared numerous insights with the group, one day looked me in the eye and told me if I wrote a book about my life's God stories, she would read it.
Something about her comment prompted me to start compiling my own personal God stories, moments when He showed up in special ways in my ordinary life. These were longer than devotions, but similar in style. Because the Bible is the living Word of God, it has something to say about everything we humans go through. I found scriptures that related to my circumstances.
Then I shared these essays with my classmate. I didn’t even quite know why. Now I think God was preparing me for a go at writing devotions.
SO … back to this February. When Keith asked for one, I penned a short, devotional-style piece about how God worked when Sam was a baby and facing open-heart surgery.
I told Keith that the story was actually two parts, because I also wanted to share the unique way God comforted me leading up to Sam’s second open-heart surgery at age 19.
I think I may have even written a third, thinking that I was somehow doing extra credit, when Keith wrote back to say my regular day would now be Wednesdays.
Gulp! Looking ahead, that’s a lot of devotions. Would I have enough content? Maybe not me, certainly, but God never runs out of material. Immediately to mind came the Israelites who spent 40 years in the desert.
Each and every day, God sent them fresh manna to eat. They couldn’t hoard it, couldn’t scrape a bit up and tuck it away. No, they had to depend on God to provide it anew day by day. And of course, He did (along with plenty of quail. That’s a great story in itself. Look it up).
So I’m depending on the Lord to walk with me through these devotionals and open to my eyes to how He works and walks with me daily in life’s everyday circumstances, and in those unusual ones that get our attention in special and sometimes quite difficult ways.
This is a fascinating journey taking special notice and putting into words the way He works in, well, everything! And seeing how He has scripture that applies to us all as we walk and stumble, mumble and bumble, as well as renew and rejoice our way through this life.
If you’d like to read my Wednesday devotionals, either hit me up and I’ll add you to the Facebook page, or go on the page yourself. I hope you will enjoy not just my insights but those of other writers from our congregation.
To me, a devotional is simply sharing what God has shown you about your faith in a practical way. That’s it.
In the past couple of days, I’ve thought about developing a program on devotional writing. Some tips, some ideas, some sharing and everyone leaves with his or her own written devotional. What do you think? Wouldn't it be fun to have everyone share their devotion with a small group?
Meanwhile, here are a couple of mine, along with the dates they appeared on the Ovid page.
My thanks to Keith for inviting me to take this journey. And ultimately, to the Lord for His Presence in my everyday life.
A ROYAL INVITATION by Donna Cronk
Note: This ran May 16, a few days before the royal wedding.
Just imagine that some time ago, you received a personal invitation to attend the royal wedding of Prince Henry and Meghan Markle in England.
You knew that it was the invitation of a lifetime, so you bought a beautiful new outfit, thought of how wonderful it would be surrounded by the special guests, and view the royal couple up close. Oh, the wedding feast would be amazing, you knew.
So you flew to England and showed up at the appointed time to enter the wedding venue. But once you got to the gate, even with your invite in hand, when the gatekeeper checked the master list, your name was missing.
There must be a mistake! You had been invited! You were ready to enter that gate and take part in the festivities!
But there was no mistake. The gatekeeper said the problem was simple: “You never responded to the invite. You are not on the list. You cannot enter.”
This picture, inspired by a story told by Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader, Jodie Pyle, is one of what we will experience if we fail to respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe in and follow Him.
Jesus Christ offers each of us an invitation to the royal wedding of the Bridegroom (Jesus) and His Church (the bride). We’re on the invitation list. We’re invited. But it’s not enough to be invited and just show up at the gate. We must respond on this side of eternity.
Have you returned your RSVP to the invitation for eternal life sent to you from the Prince of Peace?
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” – John 10:9 (NIV)
FEAR OF INHERITED DISEASE by Donna Cronk
Note: This one appeared on June 6.
Both my parents had Alzheimer’s disease and lived with it for many years. The disease stole their minds, their dignity, their roles as parents and grandparents. I’ve often thought that it’s probably in my future.
Many of us likely have similar concerns because we don’t look far in our ancestry to find death. The particular diagnostic dread varies from the usual roster of cancer, heart disease and stroke to rarer diseases and tragic accidents.
Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s – or for death -- I have no desire to submit to tests that estimate my chances of getting this disease. If statistics were that I would likely get it, I’d be inclined to spend my time worrying over dying rather than enjoying living. Besides that, something else could take me long before the Alzheimer’s!
Both my parents had more than 75 healthy, good years before the disease hit them. The Bible says it’s appointed each person once to die. Why is it a news flash that we’re all going to die of something?
Before that happens, we must make sure we know where we’ll go once we do. Now is the time to make sure of our eternal security. Praise God for making a way. Have you trusted Him with not only your life, but your death?
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NIV): “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.