I had a celebration, of sorts, for spring this morning.
Actually, I had forgotten the season had changed, but found cheer when I saw that it had.
I celebrated this morning, when the sky was blue and the sun bright (for about 10 minutes, anyway) by hanging beautiful chimes outside on our back porch. Church friends got them for me in memory of my splendid brother, Tim, whose funeral was Tuesday.
Sixty-one-years-old and I’ve never had chimes before. These are large and loud as you handle them, but something remarkable happens once they are hung.
They know what to do. Once in place, they’re in their element and start bumping into each other softly, playing sweet, original tunes, directed by the wind. I immediately thought of how much I will enjoy them when I doze on the porch this summer. Already I like to hear them when seated in my house.
That’s not the end of the story, though. Within 10 minutes of their glorious prelude, the breeze turned to wind, the sky from blue to gray. Felt like a storm blowing in, a spring one.
The chimes got louder as the wind tossed them about, never wavering from their song. Their melodies continued new and strong, dancing in the wind, ever louder, still beautiful.
I’m hearing these chimes as a metaphor for what we’re to do in this storm that’s shared by all humanity right now. We are oddly standing together as we stand apart.
Speculations are varied and endless about how we’ll endure, what will happen, and when we can return to normal. No one knows what will happen or even what our new normal will look like. When you’re in the middle of a storm you have to ride it out.
But we'll be in this storm for a while. I have to turn off the news and do something.
Now being a Midwestern farm girl at heart, I’m all about the practical. So here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m now commuting to work in a new way, as are many of you. But hey, you can’t beat the gas mileage from my bedroom to my living room. And it doesn’t get any more casual Friday than PJs.
Everything in regular time is canceled now. So we’ll find creative ways to stay connected. Three groups I’m involved with – a life group of friends from my church, Weight Watchers and Bible Study Fellowship are working on virtual meetings to keep us connected. So we’ll all learn to set up and use a new skill.
How often do many of us say “If I only had time…” Well now we do! So we’ll find out if we really mean it that if we had the time we’d clean out cabinets, deep clean the house, make more home-cooked meals, allow ourselves little guilty pleasures such as binging on the streaming services we pay for anyway.
Maybe we'll write letters or help someone. Maybe we'll go through our stuff and donate the useful abundance to those who need it. We should absolutely pray that God will go with us through this storm and bring us out on the other side.
Historically speaking in my life, organizing and eliminating clutter have been soothing activities. There’s something about an organized closet, streamlined junk drawers and cabinets that make me feel accomplished on a primal level. I think it has to do with feeling in control of something when everything beyond those activities feels totally out of control.
And we need to laugh! Yesterday Brian called on his way home to see if I needed anything at the store. Well, that’s a funny question, but gets only funnier when I tell him we could use toilet paper! That’s the national joke and TP the product of the year. (But we could use some … I’m just saying.)
I said eggs, we could use eggs. When he got home he said, “Guess what I found?” As he made his way through the house, he handed me this a six pack--of eggs!
We had to laugh over the store-rationed half-carton of eggs. But you know what? THEY WERE ENOUGH! The small carton made me realize that it meant others didn't have to do without eggs all together. There would be more eggs the next day. Our need was met and guess what? We haven't even used them yet!
Also, we need to do something normal. Every year we do at least one fairly major home repair or upgrade. This year the goal is to paint our ceilings and three-quarters of our downstairs interior.
So instead of wringing our hands, we’re having a young man who owns his own painting business and who comes with sterling recommendations from two friends, give us an estimate. We're looking to refresh and update our décor, but it’s also about supporting a local business, and thus, the economy. OUR economy.
And I'm on a committee that will start making phone calls to church members, these, in my life group. The goal is to keep us connected to God, to one another, and to our spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
We can do this everyone. We can do what each of us can do. We cannot freak out. We have others who look to us to see how strong we’re staying; how sane of mind and firm of faith.
Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!"
And let the chimes do what they do. Chime loud and strong in the wind and the storm. Let's do the same.
Are you with me?
It was only fitting that I met up with my friend and writing colleague Janis Thornton of Tipton yesterday on "Spring Forward Day."
There's no writer I know with more energy, drive and spring in her step than Janis. She is inspirational.
Not only does she have a day job, she is a prolific author on her own time with a love for research. She has written a number of books, including her 2018 "Too Good a Girl: Remembering Olene Emberton and the Mystery of Her Death," relating to the still-unsolved death of her high school classmate.
On a special day at the Tipton Library in 2018 I had the pleasure of being the emcee for a standing-room-only crowd where the very law-enforcement professionals who worked the case in the late 1960 shared the mic with Janis to discuss the cold case. It was quite a day. The Indianapolis Star devoted a huge chunk of page one to the book and the case, along with a video with Janis showing readers around sites of the mystery.
She has also written or co-written local-history books, cozy mysteries and more.
In late 2019 I had the honor of reading her manuscript for the upcoming "No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest," published by Indiana University Press. The gripping stories inside the book take place, largely in Indiana, between 1869-1950. The book is described in a pre-release as "A modern retelling of 20 sensational true crimes."
I wrote a blurb for the book which Janis said is included in the book! How nice. It's available for pre-order now on Amazon.
Retirement is not on the radar nor even in the vocabulary of this talented author. She said she wouldn't want every day to be Saturday. In fact, she's yes, springing forward yet again in looking toward penning a sequel to the IU Press book.
Janis, thank you for always managing to stay in touch and including me on your ride. We share a mentor in the late, great newsman Ray Moscowitz. Ray discovered Janis and for a period, although we didn't know it nor know each other at the time, we both worked at sister newspapers, she the editor of The Frankfort Times, and me in New Castle.
We connected, oddly enough, in the gift-shop line at the Indiana Historical Society during its annual author fair in 2014. She's helped me out in numerous ways showing up twice at my author programs, designing this website five years ago, and sharing vendor booths together as well as being on panel discussions together at several venues.
Janis I admire your forward approach to your writing and life. Thank you for keeping us in contact. You are inspirational. Keep writing and mining for gold in those newspapers at newspapers.com.
Until next time ...
Seated in the heart of downtown New Castle in the newsroom of The Courier-Times, I hear pounding and machines, trucks and working men and women just beyond my windows.
It's the sound of progress.
It's a relatively new sound. I've sat in the newsroom most weekdays for the past 30 years and only in the recent ones has there been this sound.
I've always heard talk of a downtown renaissance. Those who remember the good old days of busy streets on a Saturday night, of bustling department stores and one-of-a kind housewares and clothing shops have often spoken of how great it all was and wondered why it couldn't be that way again.
I figured they were longing for something that could no longer be. After all, the past several decades the trends were toward fleeing downtown for the busiest street in town that took you north to Muncie or south to the interstate and Indy, and big malls were where it was at.
But something has happened. Things are swinging the other way. Some of the malls are dying. Dead is the Anderson Mounds Mall, for example.
And one by one, the unique shops run by entrepreneurs with a vision and love for this city are locating back downtown. Consider 1822 Vintage and Dance Studio, Unique Boutique, the classy Twin Lions, and more are coming. I see the 1400 Plaza with its entertainment venue and parking spaces. The healthy smoothie shop, an ice cream shop on the way.
It's exciting to see the young people claim downtown. It's pretty amazing and beautiful! They have become the community leaders who always pined for the way things could be. Only it's happening!
And part of the trend is found in Carmen and Scott Cash. This is their story. And I thank them for letting me tell it in a recent Courier-Times article, reprinted here.
The move of their business to downtown New Castle began three years ago this past October when Carmen Cash had something rare – a day all to herself with no plans.
The busy working wife and mother of four rarely gets such a thing.
On this one, while reflecting and praying, she heard this inside her spirit: “Go downtown and drive around.”
The impression was so clear that she did it. The New Castle resident hadn’t been downtown for a while, and hadn’t seen the transformation unfolding.
“It was almost like I was being introduced to a new city,” she recalls. Yet after driving around for a while, she still didn’t know why she was there.
Then she saw it.
A for-sale-by-owner sign. It was for the 1872 Keiser Building. Although the space at 1321-1323 Broad Street appeared run down and perhaps nearing demolition, Carmen had found her “why.”
She wanted to buy it and relocate her family’s hair salon, Colour’z, inside the vintage space.
“It was God,” Carmen says of the experience. “It was a Holy Spirit moment.”
Another surprise came at husband Scott’s reaction. Scott, a 20-year employee of Draper, Inc., tends to think things over carefully and avoid rash decisions. This time, his reaction was quick. He was on board.
In fact, he says he knew it was of God.
When they toured the property for the first time, Carmen didn’t see a tired, old building. “All I could see when I walked in was this completely restored building.”
She says, “I love seeing things built from the ground up and being restored.”
At the time, the property was owned by an individual, then taken over by the not-for-profit Preserve Henry County, and then restored by the non-profit down to its good bones and interesting features. Those features include rare artistic glass windows over the front entrance, a skylight, brick walls and a brick arch.
The Cash couple closed on the building one month ago. Now the emphasis is on refurbishing and decorating the interior to honor the past yet meet demands of a busy shop behind the 1321 Broad St. storefront. It will provide working space for nine stylists and other support staff.
Carmen’s dad Greg Davis founded Hairitage in 1976. He and his wife, Carmen’s stepmom, Martha, changed the name to Colour’z in 2008. The couple lives in Greenfield, formerly New Castle. Her mom and stepdad are Nancy and Jim McCullers of Lewisville.
Scott is the son of Jerry and Ladona Cash of Spiceland.
The couple plans to change the salon and spa’s name to Selah and open it this summer.
What they know for sure is they want Selah to live up to the word’s meaning, “to pause and to reflect.”
Their mantra is “Pause, reflect, renew.” The salon’s name comes from the Bible’s book of Psalms.
Carmen says, “We want to stop the craziness of life and give them a space to take a break, pause and to relax.”
The shop’s offerings include hair, massage, eyelash extensions and facials.
Says Scott, “We’re simply at peace in the whole process. I feel like He (God) has a heart for this city.”
And so do the Cashes.
Tri High School sweethearts, she is from Lewisville and he from Spiceland. Both went on to Ball State University where he studied sales and marketing and her major was dietetics.
While he went to work at Draper, Carmen became interested in her father’s second salon in Greenfield. After a successful career in Mary Kay leadership, Carmen attended cosmetology school and worked in the family business in Greenfield. Then she became a stay-at-home mom to Kiela, Grant, Caleb and Luke until they were in school.
Then it was back to work, this time at Colour’z in New Castle, where she has spent a number of years and bought the business. She had contemplated relocating the shop when she heard the instructions to visit downtown.
The couple are thankful for the support they have received from the community and downtown merchants. They say everyone has been encouraging.
In particular, they have special praise for Jeff Ray of Preserve Henry County and for Carrie Barrett of New Castle Downtown who supported their purchase of the downtown building.
The property was first owned by the building’s namesake, Swiss immigrant J.U. Keiser. A professional jeweler, he constructed the building in 1872 during a prosperous period in New Castle history. It was there he sold time pieces of various kinds along with musical instruments.
Later, the building housed Allen’s Young Fashions and Cliff Payne Clothing, Inc.
In a previous Courier-Times article, Jeff Ray described the importance of restoring and repurposing the building. He said, “It is part of the only complete block left in downtown New Castle.”
The Cashes are happy to be part of that repurpose.
“We’re very passionate about bringing our successful business downtown. We excited to bring our customers downtown,” Carmen says.
And, they want to be part of something bigger than their own endeavor.
Explains Scott, “We want to help the other businesses that are downtown. We want to help revitalize downtown.”
They see the importance of community doing business as a community. They recognize a trend toward shopping smaller and inside specialty shops rather than in massive malls.
“We just want to be a part of it,” Scott says of becoming downtown merchants.
Carmen adds that her customers and staff alike are excited about the move.
They have a lot of space, more than one might guess looking from the outside. They anticipate a possible community-venue area and have some additional ideas in mind they are still considering for the space behind the 1323 storefront.
The two say they’ve been on a journey. And it’s still unfolding. “We just want community to happen,” she says.
But there’s more. “We want to glorify Him more than anything,” Carmen says.
Painting by Deanna First, who will discuss how she creates illustrations and art as part of her devotional offerings at a free workshop on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Ovid Community Church, Anderson, Indiana. Deanna matched her painting with this scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Anyone interested in creating devotions through story, song, art, photography—or a combination of these mediums—is welcome to attend a free seminar from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 at Ovid Community Church, 793 East 600 South, Anderson, Indiana in the family-life center.
The workshop is facilitated by writers Donna Cronk and Debbie McCray. This is the second devotions workshop they have produced for the church. Donna is a member of the church, while Debbie attended Ovid when her family called Pendleton home before they relocated to Ohio.
Along with several speakers, there will be a break for refreshments and fellowship, along with door prizes. Senior Pastor Keith Wooden will speak briefly in “casting the vision” for the church Facebook page’s 2020 devotional theme of God Sightings: Finding God in Our Everyday Lives.
Those who can stay following the teaching sessions are welcome to visit informally with speakers and with one another about their own devotional writing and expressions.
RSVPs are requested to assess seating and refreshment needs. Direct those and questions to Donna Cronk at 317-224-7028 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the speakers:
JILL BROWN of Pendleton has been singing in church since age 3. In high school, a love of poetry started her writing verse, which has led to awards and the sale of some greeting cards. Jill wrote and performed a song for her high school graduation, but began song writing in earnest as a member of the band, First Light. Jill writes songs with her husband, Rick, which they record in their home recording studio.
The mom of two began writing devotions after attending the first Ovid devotions writing workshop in fall 2018. Because music is such an integral part of her life, she often integrates songs into her devotions.
In her session called “Note Worthy: Incorporating Songs in Devotions,” Jill will share some of her music and discuss how songs can be inspiration for, or be, devotions.
She performs regularly with the Ovid praise team.
DEBBIE McCRAY of Springboro, Ohio, keeps busy looking for and finding the God stories in her day-to-day life and volunteer commitment as ministry leader for Cancer Hope.
Over the past few years, Debbie and her husband, Tom, have been intentional in doing things on their bucket list. Those items involve travelling by car and hiking in God’s beautiful creation. Pictures from their 2019 trip to Maine will be shared in a devotional format.
DEANNA FIRST of Anderson is a nearly lifelong artist who draws and paints.
Self-taught, Deanna enjoys playing with different media. She began Bible-art journaling in 2015.
In 2018 she started writing devotions, combining them with art. She writes for the Ovid Community Church Facebook page and recently created her own Facebook page, Devotions and art from Deanna.
She will speak on “Devotions Through Art.” Deanna will show examples of the art she enjoys creating.
DONNA CRONK of Pendleton has been a professional writer most of her adult life with a career in community-newspaper journalism.
She is author of two women’s Christian fictional novels, “Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast,” and “That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.”
She is in her tenth year of Bible Study Fellowship and co-leads a life group at Ovid. Donna started writing devotions for the Ovid Facebook page two years ago and now considers looking for God stories a regular part of her faith walk. Her topic is “Devotions Through Story.”
Devotions Workshop Itinerary:
Saturday, Feb. 15:
9 a.m.: Welcome, introductions, prayer
9:10 a.m.: Casting the Vision for 2020 Ovid devotions …. Pastor Keith Wooden
9:20 a.m.: Note Worthy: Incorporating Songs in Devotions … Jill Brown
9:40 a.m. Devotions Through Photography … Debbie McCray
10:10 a.m.: Break: informal fellowship, refreshments.
10:30 a.m.: Devotions Through Art … Deanna First
10:40 a.m.: Devotions Through Story … Donna Cronk
10:55 a.m.: Door prizes.
10:57 a.m.: Benediction in song … Jill Brown
11 a.m.: Programming ends but everyone is invited to grab another cup of coffee and stay around for an informal time discussing devotions, chatting with presenters, and each other.
11:30 a.m.: Dismiss.
Want to attend the free workshop? Mark your calendars for 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 at Ovid Community Church Family Life Center, 793 East 600 South, Anderson, Indiana. Photo above: Workshop facilitators Debbie McCray, left, and Donna Cronk. to RSVP or for more information, email Donna at email@example.com or call 317-224-7028.
January is not an easy month.
I don't mean the weather, as it has been forgettable, at least when compared with past first months of various years.
Take 42 years ago today, the Blizzard of 1978. I worked in Connersville at the time at the little Western & Southern Insurance office as the clerk.
My job was to collect deposits and do the bookkeeping for all the agents' collections as well as wait on customers by collecting their money and taking deposits to the bank every day. It wasn't a great job but I was glad to have it.
It was a late Sunday afternoon or early evening when Brian called to tell me if I wanted to get out the next morning, I should come to Liberty and stay at my brother and sister-in-law Tim and Jeannie's home. A blizzard was on the way.
It seems I looked out not long after that only to see snow coming down hard. I took his advice, threw clothes in a suitcase and headed to Liberty. I think I spent the next two weeks on my brother's couch. Pretty sure I didn't make it to work for a day or two or more. But I made it a lot sooner than if I'd stayed out on the farm.
There have been other difficult Januarys; lots of them, in my years on this planet. When we lived in Fountain County in the 1980s the snow would get so deep and high that I had to go into Attica where I worked and stay for a week or more at a time with my boss / friend, Sue Barnhizer Anderson. I often have wondered what I would have done had she not been the boss. Would I have kept my job if I couldn't have gotten in for a week or more?
There was the worst January of my life, when Sam was diagnosed with a heart defect at Riley Hospital as a baby. And the year before that, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky, and I was home from work with morning sickness.
This January has been drab of weather, but but that same weather has not been threatening. There has been no piled snow and the snow shovel hasn't come out.
Things can change on a dime, and who knows what February will bring. I'm just grateful that the bulk of my January projects is behind me --a couple hundred or more calls or contacts for our annual community directory we call Answer Book; two large feature stories for our HOPE edition; her magazine wrapped up and off to the press.
Add to that training on new computer software, a family funeral, and some sad news from a friend, yes, all that going on in the nation's capitol, and I can tell you that this January isn't one I'll miss when the calendar flips.
Still, we press on.
I'll check back in soon with information about what I'm looking forward to about February, and how that concerns you! But for today, I'll leave it there.
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.
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.”
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!
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.