In my last blog post, I promised to show what I picked up at Lola + Company in Bloomington for the Writer Chicks. Here they are ... narrow silvery bangles. They are actually recycled guitar strings. The store owner wraps them in this charming recycled music-book paper. Sorry to spoil the surprise, Cathy. I'll bring yours next month.
It's time, much as I'll miss them, for the annual fern giveaway! I have four gorgeous ferns that need new homes or they'll be off to that great greenhouse in the sky. If you want one, all four, or any number in between, contact me. Messenger, text (317-224-7028) or email, email@example.com. First to claim them gets them. But don't call if you "might" want them, only if you do for sure and can come and get them. I don't deliver. These babies are HUGE! Frost isn't their friend and soon they'll be freezing their fronds off! So come get them!
Those who know me well are probably familiar with my penchant for plans. I love circled dates on the calendar. I would be that girl who wants a ring and a date. In fact, at this juncture in life, skip the ring. I just want dates.
For a string of years before covid, our immediate family took annual long-weekend Colts away-game trips. The secret sauce began the spring before, when the date was set, and intensive planning began. By the time it was wheels-up, we had a basically hourly agenda with tickets, times, addresses, and confirmation numbers.
I appreciate that most prefer travels to sandy beaches and water. I'll take a place with lots to experience and an agenda to go with it.
Our planning led to almost flawless times in some of America’s major cities. And cities are not our natural habitat, so we’re extra proud of ourselves when our navigation works out. Securing tickets in July for an October visit to the Statue of Liberty, for example, yielded coveted upgrades into the crown.
But there’s always something to be said for a spontaneous call from friends to “come down tonight if you aren’t doing anything” or some semi-whim-ish plans.
That's what happened when friend, author Cathy Shouse (www.cathyshouse.com) asked if I might want to tag along and “hang out in Bloomington” during an overnight trip this summer. We could have a couple of long, uninterrupted chats to and from, plus separate rooms in an air bnb. She would spend Saturday at her conference on the Indiana University campus, and I could do … whatever!
Ah, ha! I knew exactly what the whatever would be, if my friend Cheryl were available.
Cheryl and I made fast friends 33 years ago about to date when I became Neighbors Editor at the New Castle Courier-Times. After she moved to Bloomington several years ago, we tended to get together annually but life gets busy, and it had been quite a while since we’d had face time.
Cheryl instantly agreed! We could spend a good chunk of Saturday together! I was pumped and told Cathy YES!
We stayed at Straw Bale Bungalow, hosted by Keith, in a neighborhood in the middle of Bloomington. It's a 1920s bungalow with a straw bale addition. So many pluses! He’s next door to Cathy’s writer friend, Jan.
And, we were even invited into Jan’s lovely home, but turns out it was Friday night, and Friday nights mean Keith hosts a neighborhood dinner on his open-air back porch. There neighbors gather and enjoy homemade pizzas and pass a huge crock full of salad. Some bring wine to share, and the feast and delightful chatter are on! We were guests as well.
I had the good fortune to sit next to a writer and author (pen name Lynn Romaine) who pulls her small trailer around the country during a portion of every year and writes about her adventures. When I got home, I looked up one of her books, Wander on amazon.com. It was quite an enjoyable read with a bonus of practical travel tips and ideas. I rated and reviewed it! I wonder if she saw.
Amazon reviews or simply ratings are important to authors. Particularly if you are indie-published, those reviews and/or ratings are treasured in today’s ratings-driven culture.
You can imagine, as we're even asked to tell the USPS how we liked our stamp-buying experience from our local postal clerk, or if the big box store greeter said hi!
Even though I didn’t realize it going into the weekend, there would be a definite book theme going on, both on the surface, and in the background.
Not only are Cathy and I writers, but so is Jan, and along with the Wander author, another neighbor at the far end of the table where I didn’t get to chat with her, is also a writer.
Small world that it is, when I asked Keith if by chance he knew an author and cabinetmaker—really, a Bloomington celebrity—Nancy Hiller, he seemed surprised with my question and offered a resounding “YES! She used to live one block in that direction.” He pointed in the direction, and added that when she left there, she gifted him a plant start that now thrives in his backyard.
I met Nancy after writing a feature story about a gorgeous IU Press book she wrote on the cultural history of the Hoosier cabinet. The cabinets were made in the early decades of the 1900s in New Castle. They are to stand-alone antique cabinets what Coke is to soda pop or Kleenex is to tissue. I have a Sellers cabinet, so similar to a Hoosier, and Nancy had a brilliant observation I’ll slip in as a side note at the end of this piece.
Anyway, I met Nancy at the Henry County Historical Society when her book launched several years ago, and we hit it off to the extent that Cheryl and I enjoyed a dinner with her on another Friday night in Bloomington once upon a time.
Then on Saturday of this trip, at Cheryl’s suggestion, I visited the used bookshop inside the Monroe County Public Library. It was fabulous, and as you can imagine in a book-intense city like Bloomington, was as large as a small library elsewhere. There, featured on a pedestal, was one of Nancy’s books, this one about beautiful homes, and the women owners’ stories. It was a buck fifty. It went home with me.
The irony of how Nancy-rich my time there was, is that Nancy passed away not long after that weekend…
Also on Saturday, Cheryl and I visited a favorite store of hers, Lola & Company, which offers home, gift and garden products. I will be posting on Facebook the small gifts I brought home to my Writer Chick Society friends but in case they read this first, I won’t say what they are. The store is at 114 N. Walnut St. and you can check it out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The owner and I had a sweet conversation as she uniquely gift-wrapped (free!) the little gifts. My Clydesdale book came up, and she said it sounds so interesting she is hopping on amazon and getting it pronto! I do hope she enjoyed it.
I enjoyed her shop, and this weekend in the one-and-only Bloomington, Indiana! Grateful to the entire cast and crew of the somewhat spontaneous summer weekend. It seemed longer than possible for only a 24-hour getaway. Thank you, Cathy, for asking me!
A LITTLE SIDE STORY ABOUT NANCY (if you have the time)
When Nancy and I discussed Hoosier cabinets several years back, I told her that I had dreamed of owning a Hoosier cabinet, and that a similar Sellers cabinet, also made in Indiana, came on my radar. I bought it!
I explained that the cabinet was a consolation prize. How so? In the late 1980s, I spent months pining for a 1905 house, fully restored, two-stories, and my dream, in a small town where we lived and rented a house at the time.
We low-balled an offer, which was rejected. Brian remained convinced that they would come down, and we might go up, and by spring, we’d have it. I stalked the property, driving by at a snail’s pace, visually decorating the porch, and filling the outdoor urns with geraniums and ivy. Would I paint the front door bright red or black?
Only one day, my daydreams were thwarted when I drove by, and spotted a moving truck unloading furniture. Someone else had bought it.
“My” house had sold. I was a little crushed.
Not long after, I visited a garage sale where this almost-perfect cabinet was for sale. Such cabinets brought six-or-seven hundo at the time. She wanted three-fifty for this one. I asked to call my husband.
Rather than say let’s think about it, or what will you do with it, or that’s too much, I knew what he was thinking: she didn’t get the house, but she can get this.
Nancy listened to my story, and said indeed, it was a consolation prize. She explained that the word cabinet means small cabin. I didn’t get the big house. I got the little cabin.
I’ll never forget that story, nor the generosity of Brian to go along with something that only I wanted or cared about. Because he loves me.
August, with its thirty-one days, is a long month. Yet it went by in a blur of activity. So much so that I am still saving back a separate story about friend Cathy's and my trip to Bloomington for another post.
With my other two books, summer months were quiet on the speaking circuit. I thought that meant that I could legitimately tell other would-be authors that you probably won't have much on your author calendar in June, July, and August. People take a break, but look out for fall and spring!
Ha! That wasn't the case for my summer this time around.
August sent four talks my way, with three of them in five days. The month meant writing four separate programs. Whenever I'm asked to speak somewhere, I think about the audience, the setting, and what the group has in common. How will they respond to my humor? Do they want hometown stories? Do they want how-to about heirloom organization and distribution ideas? Do they want stories from the book? Or a mix of all that?
One thing that feels humbling and amazing is how my two little great-great nieces have somehow taken a liking to attending my talks! They even made me drawings and Katie sent me a snail mail letter. Thank you Katie and Lexi! You are my youngest followers! Thank you to their Mammy, Marlene, my niece, for bringing them to a library gig last spring, and then to our hometown church one week ago. They even made cookies for the pitch-in.
I can only imagine the joy my mother, their great-great-grandmother, would experience in seeing them and having them at church sitting so close to where she sat on a pew almost every single Sunday for fifty years! And, their great-great-great grandmother Hazel! She played organ in the Brownsville United Methodist Church for twenty-five years.
Following the church pitch-in meal, I spoke about the book, with emphasis on the community and the memories that span every inch of our little country church. Then came a time of show and tell, with Connie Parks Call, left, showing her "Brownsville Lion" mascot from when the township school served all grades before consolidation. Her cousin Janice Parks Burk, right, showed her Grandpa Elliott's cup that always hung on the outdoor pump for all comers to pump their own drink of water from the well.
When we returned home Sunday afternoon from Brownsville, I unloaded the car with the props and materials I used for Brownsville, and reloaded I needed for the next day at the District VII Extension Homemakers Retreat at Placid Lake Retreat Center, near Hartford City.
I got there early to set up my book table. I saw several familiar faces among the women from several counties making up the area represented--including Madison, Henry, and Union counties, along with Randolph, Franklin and Blackford members.
Following lunch, it was time to move my goods over to a different building where I would present a breakout program billed as "Book Review." Instead of just reviewing what's in my memoir, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, I used the time to offer ideas on organizing, downsizing, bequeathing special legacy heirlooms, and even how to divide household goods among loved ones.
Then came my favorite part of these programs: When attendees show and tell about their special heirlooms. The participation was outstanding, as were the stories.
Two of the Homemakers' stories each had a ring to them, including LaVonne's, at left. Hers concerns her father's putting his hands on his late wife's (and LaVonne's mother's) diamond ring, long after it had been worn.
It hung on a nail inside a cabinet.
Stories shared by those attending center on not so much the actual objects, but the objects of their affections: the people they loved and love to whom the items belonged.
It's the nature of what we keep: things that remind us of memories and moments that have informed our lives and helped connect the threads of people and time into the people we are today. Thank you Homemakers for being a great audience and the stars of the session!
There are no bigger fans of Union County history than Steve and Vicky Logue. Steve grew up in perhaps THE most historic home in the county, one that helped usher one-time slaves to freedom as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Vicky is Union County historian, following in the footsteps of history lovers in her family including her late mother, Virginia, and her grandmother, Esther Cox. Her husband Steve's cousin, Nancy Huntington, who grew up on this road, provided gorgeous Ball jars brimming with summer blooms.
It was an honor to be asked to speak at the Union County Historical Society's annual dinner meeting in August. My talk emphasized recognizing and savoring the oral and written histories handed down in our families, and that we ourselves experience. The stories help make for a personal historical record of family and community for the generations that follow us.
In a delightful handmade basket were a variety of locally made products and whimsies, including this stitched heart. Liberty. My home, and my deep love and respect as an American citizen. This heart will go on our Christmas tree and when I gaze at the tree and this ornament on a snowy December night, I'll think of that delightful night back home again--in Liberty, Indiana.
One more for the road. This one is from Hamilton North Public Library in Cicero's program I did in early August. I'm grateful to my sister Writer Chick, Susan Sparks, for recommending me to the Friends of the Library. It was a fun evening.
If you need a program for something, let me know. Drop a line to email@example.com. We have a good time.
And as I just told someone a little while ago, I'm not the best at asking for reviews and ratings--or asking for anything, really (being a saleswoman doesn't come naturally)-- but if you've read the Clydesdale book and would feel so inclined, please post an honest Amazon or Goodreads rating or review. It helps get the book noticed in a big, beautiful world full of big, beautiful books of every kind.
Blessings. I'm outta here for now! I have a newspaper column to write.
A week ago, I had the pleasure of being guest speaker at the 62nd annual Hagerstown Rural Urban Banquet, sponsored by Western Wayne County organizations and businesses, along with Hagerstown Young Farmers and Optimists.
I’m comfortable attending events alone, as I spent 37 years covering such things for community newspapers and several years before that, writing for college newspapers.
This time, however, I was invited to bring guests. To my delight, younger son, Ben, and his girlfriend, Julie, were those guests. What a treat! Thank you, Rural Urban!
The evening went well, the food and conversation were great, and I got to visit with some folks I have met and written about from the Western Wayne area over a course of decades, including my former boss, Bob Hansen, and 50-year Dance with Cindy owner, Cindy Oler, who in retirement is a columnist for her magazine for women.
Backdrop was the beautiful Harley Hills Golf Course. After festivities ended, and the last opportunity to sell a book had passed, dusk settled in.
Someone helping at the banquet graciously asked to help transport my wagon to the car where I packed everything into assigned spaces and started to drive off into the beautiful sunset.
AND ... it's corn and tomato season in the heartland! Would you just look at these beautiful cherry tomatoes? YUM! They are delicious, too. I love them in contrast with this old blue bowl.
What's in your plans for this August weekend? I'm heading shortly to Bloomington with Writer Chick Cathy Shouse. She writes cowboy romance. She's got a conference there tomorrow, and I'm spending the day with New Castle-native Cheryl Bennett, hanging out in her adopted hometown of Bloomington.
Just a quick change-of-pace 28 hours or so. I hear it's Freshman Move-In Weekend! Yikes!
Photo property of Lori Knollman Schibley, used with permission // Union is a tiny county, but many contestants wanted to wear the crown of Miss Union County 1976 at the public contest, above. This was in the 4-H building back then, which was always full for this annual event. Lori, in yellow at the center of the runway, became queen moments after this photo was taken.
I don’t know how it is in other counties, but in the second smallest one in Indiana, Union, the 4-H fair queen pageant was a big deal in my growing-up years.
Many little girls dreamed of wearing the crown--then spending a week in a showring distributing ribbons to those who showed the top lambs, pigs, cattle, goats, cats, dogs, and horses.
The 1960s and ‘70s, when I came of age, were big years for national queen pageants on TV. On pageant night for Miss America, Miss USA, or Miss Universe, Mom and I watched every moment, cheering first for our state’s candidate, and then when she went out of the picture, we rooted for the young woman we liked the best, or whose state was nearest to ours.
Pageant night inside our own 4-H building was best of all, though, because we might have a girl from our own 4-H club participating, and of course we had to cheer for her. Or we knew the girls some other way such as through church or in one queen’s case, Kim Kaufman, she was our swim instructor that summer.
One year our own club’s Jeanette Cox took the crown! Another, Beth Barnhizer participated from our club. She sang "Blowin' in the Wind" for the talent category. I even got to go "back stage" with her sister Sue before she went "on." Aw yes, brushes with greatness!
Another year I watched one of the contestants, Chris Logue, go directly from wearing the formal she had made in the fashion review, to the queen contest that immediately followed. She won!
That was probably the night I decided, as an elementary schooler, that one day I would sew my own formal and if the stars lined up right—I would wear the gown to both my prom, and in the big show (the queen contest).
Finally, my opportunity came to participate as a contestant. I represented my club, and my best friend, Cheryl, was sponsored by another organization.
A few nights ago, the queen from that year, 1976, Lori Knollman Schibley, posted a photo of herself and her court after her crowning as a throwback photo in honor of the 4-H fair week. But she provided a second photo. The picture stunned me.
It was of all 16 girls who competed in that year’s contest. I'm in that photo in my homemade 4-H /prom/queen contest dress! I could hardly believe it!
My mother wasn’t much of a picture taker. The rare photos she snapped were on our farm in the back yard or pony lot. In nearly all of them, I’m holding a cat, fish, or riding a pony. The summer flower beds were usually (always) the background.
But here I am, on a stage in a formal in a 4-H queen contest. I simply never imagined that evidence existed that this happened.
I reached out to Lori and she graciously told me I could use the photo however I wished. (Thank you, Lori!)
It’s particularly interesting that of all years (46) that have passed since that photo was taken, it showed up on my Facebook feed this year--the same year that my memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, was published.
That dress (I’ll tell you which one I am at the end) and the light blue one I made the previous fair year, were toted around with me all over creation for 44 years! They were never once worn again following either the fair or the prom.
Besides the night of this photo, I slipped into that dress one other time, months later for the prom. After that, this dress, and the one I made the year before, were hung in closets, then folded into plastic bins, finally demoted to the attic.
I kept them with the notion that a daughter would want to wear them for dress-up play. No daughters. Then I kept them thinking that a granddaughter would like them for the same reason. No granddaughters; not yet, anyway.
When I cleaned out the attic in the 2020 covid spring, reality hit that no little girls would want these, and off they went to that great ballroom in the sky …
This particular dress got a blue ribbon for the dress revue and also in the construction judging, and it was selected for the Indiana State Fair. I had the privilege of seeing it on display at the state fair, and to my surprise and delight, it got a blue ribbon at that level. WHY I never thought of photographing it there that day, I’ll never know, either.
I guess nowadays, when we take photos of everything, and many versions of any particular image, on our cellphones, it’s hard to believe we didn’t take more in the old days.
A mere two years and three months after this photo was taken, I put on a wedding dress and got married. I no longer have that dress, either, but I have the man I wore it for. God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary this fall.
In fact, the shoes I wore in that fair photo were worn at our wedding.
Do you know which one I am? I’m in the green floral, between the girls in yellow gowns.
Could I name all the girls in this photo? I can name many on my own, but not all. I sure never thought, never dreamed, that this picture existed. But I’m grateful to see it.
In the community programs I present about cleaning out and paring down, I talk a lot about the memories and meanings behind objects saved in our families.
I often ask how many still have their prom dresses. A surprising number do. One lady of age 79 said that she does not, but her close friend does.
“She wants to be buried in it,” she explains.
When the time comes, I hope that someone sends the woman a corsage.
I’m approaching six months after the release of my memoir about cleaning house, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go (available on amazon.com, and from me).
I continue to spend a good amount of time crafting programs for a variety of speaking engagements throughout the region. By the end of summer, I will have had, good Lord willing, more than 25 opportunities to share observations about downsizing and organizing heirlooms, as well as stories behind them.
At many of the events, we get the treat of listening to attendees share about their heirlooms in a "show-and-tell” activity.
But for a couple weeks this month, I’ve had the chance to take a break from writing and road hopping to turning my attention from organizing and downsizing attic goods to the paper trail in our living-space archives.
Once, someone who worked at the Indiana Historical Society explained to me that the IHS is where historical papers are archived,” and the Indiana State Museum as “where objects are archived.”
With July's 90-plus degree temperatures in the Hoosier land (and much warmer than that inside attics), I’m spending no time there. My attention has turned to the paper goods in our living quarters, such as this 1898 large certificate belonging to my late grandfather, Roscoe Jobe.
Or this adorable Liberty Little League baseball team photo from 1957 of my late brother, Tim, second from right, and his team.
I am the archivist (not an official title but it’s more legit-sounding than sentimental hoarder) of family photos and papers in both Brian’s and my families on various sides. Some of the pictures and documents date back to 1830.
What does one do with all that? I mostly keep it tucked in a variety of woven baskets which are stacked out of the way in our study. I have taken an “I’ll deal with all that later” approach.
Problem is, I put off figuring out who some of the black-gowned ladies are in those photos for so long that there is no one living who could identify them.
My immediate family’s albums are full and stand in bottom rows of bookcases. I’m thinking of covering them with linen fabric in a neutral shade.
I figured out long ago that even if I live another 30 years, there are not enough days, nor a desire to take apart the yellowed pages and begin again with fresh scrapbooks or albums. But these are the photos that depict the ordinary and special events in our family, dating throughout my lifetime thus far.
Other keepsakes of a paper nature are scattered here and there but should be rounded up and stored together.
Finally, I hit upon an idea! I found black acid-free 12x12-inch storage boxes at Hobby Lobby. I plan to fill and label these boxes with things that tell complete stories. Below, left, a box is devoted to articles and other paper keepsakes from my years as a reporter and editor in Attica. The one on the right is filled with keepsakes from covering a presidential inauguration and the women's march in D.C.
I’m looking for a manageable approach to archiving all this stuff for our own enjoyment and accessibility, but also, maybe, hopefully, we’ll see, for a way for our kids and other family members to see the value in all (or some) of it.
I store my notes from a dozen years in Bible Study Fellowship in these binders in the top of my closet. Last year they switched to spiral-bound notes so I don't have a colorful, cool binder for those. The notebooks at right are notes from the lectures.
This is a project that will take ever-so-long to finish. But as I work on it, I enjoy seeing it all myself. Will it result in another book about heirloom organization? I don’t see that. But I will include some of what I’m doing now in future programs.
By the way, if you’re reading this and are interested in a program for your social or service organization, library, senior or community center, or a more informal one for your book club, let me know. We share some laughs, and take a trip or two down memory lane. We have a good time.
Indiana author and newspaper columnist Donna Cronk can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Friend her on Facebook on her author page, Donna Cronk.
WHEN YOU WRITE A BOOK, I promise that you have no idea beforehand who, what, when, and where you will meet up with unexpected friends, new opportunities, and all kinds of other things, besides.
The bulk of Brian's career was spent in Fishers, so it comes as a surprise that he had NOTHING to do with me landing wonderful gigs with all three books at Fishers United Methodist Church.
The latest of the three happened on Tuesday night when around 20 readers in the church book club showed up to talk about the book and show heirlooms.
I loved every moment of the evening, and I am grateful to several who made it possible.
First, to Mary of New Castle who told her friend Rita about the book and Rita invited me to the Creek Readers Book Club.
There I met Rita, who is responsible for me meeting Kay, and the book club members at Fishers UMC.
Since then, both those book clubs have featured my two additional books.
I'm grateful to them for bringing keepsakes to talk about and I think maybe some even picked up some good tips about WHAT to do with family china and silverware that the family doesn't want (what about an artisan who can transform it, or Replacements Limited?).
Also, one man talked about spending $400 on a clock repair that didn't last, and he then took matters into his own "hands" by purchasing a $20 modern clock kit and installing it into the heritage clock. Presto! It worked!
Some chapters that folks told me they particularly enjoyed were ones about saving boxes, getting rid of spices, corralling pens and toting around prom dresses! Yes, I am not the only one who saved her 4-H prom dresses.
So did Kim, the group's coordinator:
THANK YOU ALL FOR A GREAT EVENING. I sure do appreciate your interest in this and in all my books.
I'm enjoying three weeks before my next stop on the author journey. I plan to catch up on some things around the house, entertain some overnight guests, and just chill out and gear up for being the luncheon speaker for the annual Henry County Senior Center summer picnic; Writer Chicks the next day; and then I'm blessed to have been chosen to speak at the 63rd annual Rural Urban Dinner in Hagerstown.
Happy Independence Day weekend to you all. Blessings, peace, and have a wonderful summer.
P.S. Kim's prom dress is no worse for wear a few years down the road.
It was "old-home day" in the Franklin County Public Library in Brookville Saturday. I appreciate so much these Union County school days-friends, Melody and John, coming out to my program and bringing their spouses, besides.
They participated in the "What's in your attic?" show-and-tell part of the program, too.
John brought this pre-World War II pinball-type game that came from his Grandma Stella Estridge of Liberty. He told stories about his strong-willed, as well as physically strong grandmother.
Melody brought a small Stitchwell sewing machine that remains fully functional. The antique was made in Belvidere, Ill. (*That's the state abbreviation printed on it.) She recalls making an assortment of doll clothes on the machine as a girl, including fancy ones as she had scraps from a wedding gown her mother sewed for someone.
Interestingly enough, while I thought such machines were for children, Melody explains that they were actually salesmen samples so the sales staff didn't have to lug around the full-sized machines when trying to make a sale.
Someone created the small quilt frame that rests on display in Lee's home, a tribute to her grandmother, and a wonderful way to preserve a piece of a quilt.
Adult-Services Librarian Leah Turner provided a wonderful meal for those attending, consisting of chicken-salad sandwiches and a vegetable and cheese tray. Her food was delicious.
Brian and I didn't eat while we were there but Leah thoughtfully packaged up sandwiches, veggies and Diet Cokes and sent us off with this "moveable feast" as we made our way through the winding and hilly backroads of Franklin County, on through Rush County, and back home again to Pendleton.
Thank you, Leah, John, Melody, Dennis, Ruth, and Lee!
There's always a blessing when I take this little "show on the road," and you all were mine on Saturday.
This spring, when I had a book signing and program at the Union County Public Library in my hometown of Liberty, Indiana, a number of special guests surprised me by their attendance. Among them were my great-great nieces, Katie and Lexi. They attended with their grandmother, and my niece, Marlene.
This week I had a mail delivery that brought delight! It was from Katie! She had cut out a picture of me promoting that event from our hometown weekly newspaper. She addressed the envelope and everything. THANK YOU MISS KATIE! I love it!
A thank you note is in the mail to Miss Katie. Just when I thought that snail mail was largely a thing of the past, it arrived in our box from this young lady.
Tuesday was Flag Day, but I took this photo on Flag Day Plus One at the intersection of a county road and U.S. 36 in Henry County. As I drove through the back and main roads through Henry and Madison counties last night, I took in the bright beauty of a June evening.
This photo was taken at about 8 last night, with sundown coming at 9:13 p.m. Oh, how I love the long-lit days.
Tuesday was also our monthly meeting of Writer Chicks Society (WCS). This month I hosted, and as always we packed a lot of visitation and information into a more than three-hour meeting around our family's kitchen table.
It is a wonderful thing to have a group of like-minded writers with whom to unpack the joys, challenges, opportunities, and surprises of the writing/authoring/business sides of these experiences.
The picture below is of the Teachers in Travel Society book club in New Castle.
Last night I attended the book club's discussion as this lively group of mostly retired New Castle High School teachers featured my first book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, for the June selection. Ten of the dozen or so members attended at Primo's downtown. Thank you all for the meal and the conversation.
I appreciate that they humored me for a photo. It was a bit dark in there and I should have turned on the flash, but I'm happy for the picture--and always, to be back in New Castle, my home away from home.
My next "road show" is a trip to the Franklin County Public Library in downtown Brookville Saturday. I'll be giving a program at 1 p.m. called "What's in your attic?" Attendees are each encouraged to gather up a favorite keepsake or heirloom and briefly tell about it at the end of the talk. I'll also be signing and selling books but the program is free and certainly, no purchase is necessary!
The library is providing refreshments, I'll have a door prize, and in the words of the county news correspondents who used to put chicken-dinner news in hometown newspapers, hopefully "a good time will be had by all."
Reprinted from my Next Chapter newspaper column that appears in New Castle, Connersville, and Shelbyville newspapers twice monthly.
By Donna Cronk
With it commonplace for folks to pay with plastic instead of cash, I knew with this book, I needed to invest in a credit-and-debit-card reader. But what may seem an ordinary task to others threw me into a tailspin.
I decided to get one through my bank; to speak about it face-to-face with a human wearing business attire and a badge, seated in a leather chair behind a desk. News flash: these people still exist!
The task involved speaking with the correct banker who handles this, creating a particular business account, determining which reader best suits my needs, and signing the forms.
When the gadget arrived at my home, so did an email with links to videos about set up. I’d need to sync my phone with the reader, and complete related chores.
A banker checked in to see how it was going. It wasn’t. We made a phone appointment to get the reader launched. I dreaded our meeting and sent her an email that this all seems over my head. She asked for a chance to help, saying it with no a hint of condescension.
It took longer than a quick call; I was not a quick student. But we got it done. Story of my life: English is easy; math and tech not so much.
The day came for me to use the card reader on my own in real time. As I reached the venue early to prepare, butterflies swarmed in my gut—not about being the keynote speaker before a couple hundred people who were on their way—but if I would be capable of using this technology. What if I hit the wrong button and didn’t know how to correct it with potential customers viewing my ineptitude? What if I accidentally charged someone $1,500 instead of $15?
Mulling all this over, I pulled my book cart through the parking lot toward the venue.
“Excuse me,” came a woman’s voice. “Could you help me lift a crate from my car? I just had back surgery.”
I could. We introduced ourselves and started talking as though old friends. With her crate delivered to the kitchen, I found my bearings in the fellowship hall, and began assembling my book table. My new friend took a seat nearby and we continued chatting.
A retired nurse, she had a hobby-business that involved creating and selling jewelry, just as I have one creating and selling books. Once my table display was in place, she waved her credit card, saying she would like three of my books.
“Oh, wow! This is the first time I’ve used a card reader and I’m nervous,” I confessed. “I think God sent you to be my angel for a trial run,” I told her. Or something close to those words.
She said it wouldn’t be hard, adding, “I have one. I’ll help you.”
I fumbled the small gadget into position and turned it on. Out came my phone for its part of the process.
Success! It felt like a miracle—not that the tech worked, even, but that someone came along to put me at ease just when I needed her.
“If you want, I’ll sit with you at your table and help,” she offered, and did.
To my amazement, she took off and gave me her necklace that I had admired.
Since that night, I’ve used the reader numerous times with flawless results. Such irony! Someone now might mistake me for an old pro. Or at least for old.
I sent an email to the supervisor of the banker who helped me launch the reader. I told the boss that her employee is kind, patient, and helpful. I figure the best way to thank someone is to praise them to their supervisor.
Recently in another parking lot, I looked down to see a debit card on the pavement. I picked it up and headed to a nearby store’s service desk. There was a line, so I went back to the car, called the number on the card, then pressed the correct prompt. Voice mail.
I decided to drive the card to a bank branch that bore its name. I looked it up and one wasn’t far. Handing it to the teller, I explained how I found it and she vowed to call the card owner. She didn’t ask my name. I was glad. I didn’t want credit; only to help.
As Fred Rogers’ mother famously told him, “Always look for the helpers.”
They’re everywhere, even in parking lots.
We can each be one.
Union County native Donna Cronk writes a column for several Indiana newspapers. She’ll be giving a program and book signing at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at the Franklin County Public Library. Everyone is invited. Feel free to bring an heirloom for a show and tell activity. Her new book is There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Connect via email: email@example.com.