We had plans for a cross-state day trip Friday. We probably should have canceled Thursday but we thought there was at least a 50/50 chance that the weather media was freaking out prematurely, and the bread shelves were barren needlessly.
Early Friday we decided that since there was ice on the ground and snow coming in, we wouldn't take the chance and rescheduled.
Once all the cancellations and rescheduling were finished, we had ourselves a snow day.
There's something cozy and comforting about a snow day. It feels as though you've been gifted a block of "free" time to spend however you want, within the boundary of your home or your farm.
I'm a new year's cliche -- back on Weight Watchers. After the act of slithering back in there, I quickly learned that WW embraces such creatures as myself and I'm back in the fold. This time, I was most pleasantly surprised to learn they recently rolled out a new program, and there are aspects that so far, are satisfying to my taste buds like no other program I've been on. Of course the test is if I feel that way writing here a year from now.
Around noon, we went to the grocery store with no problem, and came home with ingredients for WW-friendly mini pizzas, shown above. Not half bad. In fact, Brian liked them too! Boom! A new go-to recipe.
Along with cooking, I most enjoy cleaning on snow days. Yes, cleaning! I feel driven to make the house as cozy as I can and that begins with cleaning (at least on a snow day). So the kitchen got a good scrub, cabinets organized, 2017 papers to keep bundled up and put elsewhere, and more cooking: butternut squash sliced into spaghetti-like strips and flavored with spaghetti sauce. Crunchy, bulky, boom!
Next came straightening laundry-room shelves, bathroom storage and I even scrubbed under the kitchen sink.
Tonight, I'm grateful for a warm home, a cozy house and for a fresh start, and a pantry and fridge full of food. How did you spend your snow day or days?
There's a lot of flu and other illness going around these parts of central Indiana right now. And while I don't usually get sick too often, I'm one of those who when hit with the flu, it's lights out for a week. That said, guess what I didn't get in the fall and forgot about during the holidays?
So after work tonight, I stopped by the New Castle CVS and got my flu shot. Better late than never, right? Let's hope so. But it's not the injection I want to talk about. I want to speak of the pharmacist who administered it.
She is Molly Radford and I have known her since, well, since before she was born. The daughter of my former boss and forever friend, Darrel and his wife, Becky, Molly has never been without a broad smile. Of course I don't follow the Butler University grad around all the time to know that for a fact, but I can't think of a more perennially pleasant young woman than Molly Radford. I think Darrel would probably confirm that his girl came into the world smiling!
Through the years I've seen her in a variety of settings in real life and on Facebook. Always, that smile is present. And so it was today when she gave me a SHOT!
I'm happy not only that she is now a pharmacist, but is engaged to be married!
I remember the week she was due to be born. We were in a newsroom-staff meeting and somehow, Darrel's cup of water fell over, soaking the floor. I said, "Darrel! Your water broke!"
Well, it was funny at the time.
Earlier in the day, I had another similar moment to the Molly one. My boss, Katie Clontz, said something about her children. I said, "You know you're old when you remember when your boss was a little girl." Actually, Katie was a toddler when I showed up at The Courier-Times.
And now my boss and my pharmacist are all grown up and productive citizens and I can say I knew them when. I could feel sad that I'm old enough for such things or comment on time flying or some other cliche. The truth is, it's kind of exciting to see another generation serving as community leaders in a new way, in their hometown of New Castle, Indiana. Kind of like the world is in good hands and all that.
I wish both of them everything good. I know their parents. I know where they came from. They've done their folks and their community proud.
Homework! On the bottom is a planning notebook for her magazine articles and art; above the blue notebook are three composition books (including the green-covered one) to record sales and expenses for my books; above that is a pouch that holds a calendar, reporter's notebook and paperwork for upcoming stories, next is a book for Midlife Moms that we're reading and above that, a general notebook and mail and banking information for household bills.
Once when Ben was a kid, he said, "I'll be glad when I'm an adult and don't have homework." I laughed and told him that homework never ends, it only changes.
I'm reminded of that today as I stare down my own stack of must-dos on this brisk but sunny January Saturday morning.
You probably don't even want to ask what I have going this month. Unlike some fortunate folks who view this month as one of quiet and rest, easing into a new year after all the busyness of December, January is a hit-the-ground-running month in my world.
First up is calling hundreds of numbers for my share of verification of listings for social, service, governmental, church, and other services that will be listed in our newspaper's upcoming annual Answer Book. In addition, we have to round up a good number of photos fro
m the previous year that depict some of these community scenes and services. I've been working from home on this project because at work ...
I have to button up an early deadline for the winter issue of her magazine for women. The quarterly magazine started in summer 2011 by founder-publisher Tina West. Well, after five years away, Tina is back! And she'll contribute to the winter issue.
When Tina asked me to edit the magazine in 2011, it was a dream come true. I had always entertained the idea of working for a magazine, but with a home, family, lifestyle and no connections to speak of in national magazine publishing, it wasn't a realistic goal. I've done some freelancing through the years but with that, you are on an article-by-article basis with no promises of tomorrow.
Sometimes, though, a dream comes true through reframing it. A local women's magazine? Seriously! And here we are seven years later.
We have a special edition coming at the end of the month called HOPE. For one Sunday, there's only good news in the front section of the paper. (The bad news goes in the next section.) So that means some special feel-good stories and I have interviews for both under my January belt.
January also means my book Indiana Sales Tax is due. We're heading to our accountant next week to get that squared away.
There's the daily workload, the house, bill paying on today's agenda, and Monday night, Bible Study Fellowship resumes for 2018. A week from tomorrow, my church life group, the Midlife Moms, also resume and we're beginning a new study, the book Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer.
So a quiet January isn't part of my agenda. And today means delving into that stack of homework you see in the photo.
How about you? What kind of homework keeps you busy? Is January quiet and contemplative or do you have a lot going on too?
One of my favorite songs is that old John Denver tune, Back Home Again.
It's one of those songs that grabs me somewhere deep as only a beloved tune from our youth can do. It always reminds me of my childhood home, winter, and my mother's simple meals on the stove. I thought of it today as I had the day home alone.
The snow softly fell outside my window today adding maybe another inch to the solid covering we already have. Down came most remnants of Christmas around the house, and into the slow cooker went chili ingredients.
If something didn't get done for the holidays, it won't now. The page has turned and we're into a new year. I spent a couple more hours today on the phone and internet for a work project, proofed a column for her magazine that was so nicely written, I could do nothing as editor to improve it, even with an odd comma or a new paragraph.
I could have accomplished more today, but that would have meant getting out of my pajamas before 4 p.m. Now it's 6 p.m., Brian is eating supper, and I'm typing in my first blog post of 2018.
Night has fallen to cover the view out my window and I'm hoping to get to bed by 9:30. A good night's sleep is gold for the day ahead.
So there's little point to this post other than to wish you and yours a Happy 2018 and to remind you that when it comes to the simple joys of home, hearth, supper in the slow cooker, a hot bath in the works, and the lure of an early bedtime, hey, it's good. It's all good.
It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
Today is Boxing Day. It’s a British tradition dating to the 1830s when traditionally, employers give their servants “boxes” of holiday cheer – a day late – as the holiday takes place the first weekday following Christmas. It’s not a holiday you hear about in the U.S. but if you have a paper calendar, look at it. I bet it's listed just as prominently as Christmas or Easter.
I wonder if anyone states-side knows anyone who takes part in this tradition.
Of course in the U.S., Boxing Day takes on a completely different meaning for some of us non-blue bloods. Some gather the gifts they received yesterday that somehow fell short and box them up, heading back to the store or shipping company for refunds.
In our house this year, only one thing is going back to the store, and that’s a car phone charger Brian got me that doesn’t work for my phone. But I’m in no huge hurry and won’t get it done on Boxing Day.
What we might do is gather up the stacks of empty boxes around the house and garage and move them to the attic.
Brian and I are getting obsessive about collecting boxes. For years I accumulated shirt-style boxes but now, things are worse. We collect every decent box we can get our hands on. We're becoming our parents with the "Never know when you might need one" attitude about a variety of things. Boxes are at the top of that list.
I always thought the day would come where free boxes were no longer offered and I've been saving accordingly for years. Our attic is akin to a department store office. Only now you might be hard-pressed to get a free box in a department store. In fact, Brian tried to score a few this year to no avail. (I warned him this day would come.)
We also find that when you need a good box, you need it stat. So we gather up good boxes and save them. Particular prizes are big, lidded printer-paper boxes or lidded envelope boxes. Sturdy and free.
Whether Boxing Day is on your radar or not, wishing you a happy one.
Well, I was wrong.
I thought most of my loved ones were starting to think that Christmas cards were remnants of the past; that social media platforms and cell phone texts had taken the place of trips to the store to select cards, then to the post office to choose theme stamps and taking the time to look up addresses and mail off cards.
I thought this last year. So I quietly decided that instead of spending a month of Sundays getting cards ready, I vowed to send cards only to those who sent them to us first. For a while there, things were going as expected. There were a few die-hards, greetings from my kindergarten teacher Miss Kalter in Ohio and Brian's Aunt Janis in Louisiana. Probably the other regulars, though, had similar thoughts to mine. So, I continued to hold out. I put together cards for my Bible study friends and a card for a friend in Ohio whose hobby is card-making.
If mail call continued as expected, I'd finish my few cards and be done.
But as Christmas neared, the mailbox filled up daily. There were so many cards, some with long, detailed letters about accomplishments of everyone in the family, some written on beautiful holiday paper. The cards snowballed like a January snowstorm and with Christmas fast approaching on a Sunday, and prep needing done for the big day, I found myself out of time.
I briefly considered sending cards late, once everything settled down. But to me, a late Christmas card is like carving a pumpkin on Nov. 1 or getting a Christmas tree on Dec. 26. So I did what to some of you will find rude: I let it go.
This year I thought perhaps our friends and loved ones whose cards were not reciprocated last year would scratch us from their address books. But no! The cards are coming again. They come from a range of age groups from those in their early 30s all the way to those in their 80s.
It appears that rumors of the Christmas card's demise have been greatly exaggerated. I went out and bought a fresh box the other day. There's enough in there that will allow me to finish carding everyone who cards us first.
Perhaps next year I'll return to my old ways. In the old days, picking out the cards was a ritual. Then I I tucked them with Christmas stamps and the address book into a tote bag and worked on the addressing whenever I had a little time. Chilly Sunday afternoons and weeknight evenings found me working on cards with updates and greetings tailored to each family. My goal was to have them all mail-ready by Black Friday.
I have reached the conclusion that for the most part, my people are card-carrying people.
There's something sweet about that.
This is a reprint from Donna Cronk's column in the Christmas Eve 2017 New Castle Courier-Times. where she is Neighbors and Her magazine editor.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israel, located five miles from Jerusalem. The church was built centuries ago on top of the traditionally recognized site of where baby Jesus was born. Currently, between 25,000 and 35,000 (I've seen both figures) live in Bethlehem. One source said at the time of Christ's birth, 1,000 or fewer residents lived there.
As a little girl going to Christmas pageant practice at the Brownsville United Methodist Church, I saw the evening lights across the Whitewater River and imagined the town as what Bethlehem might be like. After all, this was the smallest "town" I knew. And in my childhood mind, I knew that Jesus was born in a little town.
O Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger were two of the most popular songs we’d learn for the pageant.
Never could I have imagined in a million years that I would one day visit Bethlehem, let alone see the very site where Jesus was born. Spoiler alert: Today it is not a manger scene.
You were expecting a manger? Well, the site that once held the best-known manger, baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph was honored by placement of a church over it in the 4th century. It’s a complicated story to explain centuries of conflict and destruction, not even to mention the three denominations that share the church: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.
Here’s one story though. Legend has it that invading Persians destroyed all Christian churches and monasteries in 614. But not this one. Why? A painting depicted the Nativity scene we would recognize today – complete with three wise men. The artist dressed the wise men in Persian clothing. The invaders honored the Persian-appearing wise men by preserving the church.
Following is my Dec. 3 New Castle Courier-Times column. I’m still thinking about ornaments today as I prepare a new Christmas program for tomorrow night's Lilac Literary Club in Hancock County. It’s about how our ornaments tell the stories of our lives.
Thirty-one years ago, I couldn’t wait to place baby Sam’s first ornament on our Christmas tree.
As the years passed, new ornaments were purchased annually first for Sam, then also for Ben when he came along. At first I did the choosing, picking out Disney and bear decorations, but as the boys got old enough to care, they got to choose their own.
It became a much-anticipated Christmas tradition to take them to the Hallmark store and select their ornaments. As the “senior” son, Sam got first dibs, and usually selected the year’s cool Batman or sports hero. Along the way came orbs depicting trends such as video games or the hot sports figure of the year.
There were athletes with staying power such as Peyton Manning, and ones who are forgotten footnotes in old box scores. There were action figures such as Spider-man and Lego creations such as a fireplace with Santa appearing to be made from them.
Several years ago, I stopped putting the collection on the big family Christmas tree. These were during the years that the boys were in their late teens and early 20s. The boys had lost their thrill of selecting new ornaments and moved on in their interests. It seemed the time for childhood ornaments had passed.
It’s funny what a few years out of circulation will do to a collection.
Our younger son, Ben, is 26 now, and this is the first Christmas he’s truly been out on his own without a roommate. On Thanksgiving, he was anxious to get back to his apartment and have Brian and I help him put up his own tree.
His lights worked great on the shimmering white tree that came intact from his small patio storage closet. But the problem was, he had no actual ornaments.
So, I offered up his childhood Hallmark ones. I don’t know which of us was more delighted – Ben over the idea of the nostalgic decorations, or me over seeing his delight.
That weekend he came home and went through the pile of Superheroes and athletes, cars and novelty items, all created with the special charm of Hallmark, in ornament form.
One by one we looked them over and he separated his stash from his brother’s and home he went with them. Later that evening, he sent us a photo and video of his decorated tree.
I had always wondered what would become of the boys’ ornaments and if they would ever want them.
I’m happy to see them enjoyed anew in their new home on their new tree – with their old boy.
Several weeks ago, this invite appeared on my desk at work.
It had nothing to do with a book program, or a feature story for the paper, and it was from someone I barely knew.
I met Irene last summer when she entered a drawing for a book giveaway celebrating women’s right to vote. She told me about how she and her husband are from the area but had moved to Florida many years ago. They moved back.
Then I did an article about Irene, and she also entered our holiday recipe contest.
With the date open, I put the tea party on my calendar. What a lovely afternoon at Irene’s sipping tea with her friends and tasting the delicious treats she kept producing from the kitchen.
We were to bring our own tea cups and Irene had us tell where we got them.
The first snow of the season brought a dusting, making the day even more festive.
Thank you, Irene, for inviting me to your authentic tea party.
I went home and made chili, wrapped gifts and watched It’s A Wonderful Life.
It is indeed.