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!
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 email@example.com. 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.
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."
I'm delighted to share an awning with my longtime colleague and friend Darrel Radford on the grounds of the Henry County Historical Museum tomorrow, Saturday, June 11. We'll be there from 11 to 5 where Darrel will have these 100-page keepsakes available for $10. Proceeds benefit the historical society and its projects.
Here's what else is up tomorrow, from a Facebook Henry County Historical Society post: They're here!!! The 100-page bicentennial booklet created by Darrel Radford will be available for the first time at Saturday's Henry County Historical Society Ice Cream Social.
The event is planned from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gen. William Grose home and grounds, 606 S. 14th St., New Castle.
The booklet features a historical tidbit for each day of the calendar year. Then, the booklet shows how “Henry County has made history from A-Z,” an alphabetical look at key local historical people, places and moments.
More than 500 photos are included in the booklet, thanks to the collections of Doug Magers and the late Mike Bertram along with archives from The Courier-Times, Henry County News Republican and New Castle-Henry County Public Library. Priced at just $10, the booklet is sure to be a keepsake All proceeds from sale of the booklet will be shared with the Henry County 529 Legacy college fund for county students and the Henry County Historical Society and its museum, housed in Gen. William Grose's New Castle home. The local historical society is the oldest, continuously operating group of its kind in the state of Indiana.
Only 500 copies of the booklet were printed, so make sure you get yours soon. After Saturday, they will be available at the museum, which is open by appointment. Call 529-4028. Or, starting Monday, you can also pick one up at the Chamber of Commerce office in downtown New Castle.
In other news, I had waited nine months for Tuesday to get here. And the day did not disappoint. I had been recommended and invited to speak at this year's Indiana Extension Homemakers Association state conference at the Embassy Suites in Noblesville.
I provided a program called "You Should Write a Book," where I spoke of my authoring journey and told would-be writers how they might delve into self-publishing. The committee was kind enough to give me a wonderful location and I sold a lot of books! Special thanks to my friend and sister author, Janet Hart Leonard. Janet launched her book on Sunday at a beautiful event at Ginger's Cafe in Noblesville. Janet is a columnist for the Noblesville paper. Her new book, available from her or on Amazon, is When the Hart Speaks: Whimsy and Wisdom From the Little House on the Alley. The memoir is a delightful story about how God has a plan, even when we don't see it. Janet tells the stories of her life in a powerful, sweet, and inspiring way.
Are you as random as I am about little chores and re-dos around the house? This morning I dove into our coat closet by the front door.
We keep too many coats and jackets in there, along with an assortment of stocking caps, ball caps, gloves and scarves. Since we aren't ready to part with the contents, I decided to free up some space by replacing the bulky hangers with streamlined ones that skinny up the required space.
They replace the wooden ones that I have collected here and there for decades, saving them from our folks' closets, and from who knows where--probably purchases of men's suits.
Yes, I know there is some interesting advertising on some of them. I don't care. They are being donated very soon. If you want them and can come and get them, let me know fast. They are free for the taking. You just need to reach me before they are donated. (hurry ! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
To my great surprise, when I got to the gloves section, they all matched! Normally that never happens. Gloves are like socks, they tend to stray off the beaten path, or shelf, as the case may be. This time, they were all there. I think I know why.
Now that we are retired and don't go here, there and everywhere on a daily basis, or the boys aren't around to grab gloves, these pieces of outerwear don't get the use they once did.
I'm fascinated by two sets of gloves. They are vintage, and I've never lost a mate. The black ones were either my mother's or more likely, my Grandmother Jobe's. The blue ones date back to at least my grandmother, or some other long-ago relative who was born in the 1800s as was Grandma Jobe.
I used to play dress up with these gloves, and here they are, completely useful. I like these pairs because they are lightweight, somewhat dressy "spring" gloves. And I like the color navy, so they are my favorite gloves! They are unusual, vintage, and they have remained paired like a couple of elderly lovebirds that we find completely charming.
So that's my Saturday morning! Hope you are doing something fun, interesting, or useful.
Carry on! Oh, and here's the finished closet. (**Please note that the three jackets to the right are mine. The rest are *someone else's whose name I won't mention but who lives here.**) Just teasing though, because he uses most all of these jackets and coats.
I don't know when he last wore the trench coat, however, but he's all set for a winter formal occasion or if he's asked to become a CIA agent.
I recently spoke to the Laughing Liberty Ladies Red Hat Society on location in Richmond. Being with these ladies is as easy as being at home! There's my friends Lois and Shirley, and other ladies who have been in my hometown for decades. One, Dorothy, even recalls buying a refrigerator from my dad in the 1940s!
Jenny Pugh is a colleague who writes for Western Wayne News. One of these ladies is not from Union County but came to live there in recent years, inspired by visiting the local boating and camping venues and she now adores her new hometown!
A couple other ladies travel to be with this bunch monthly from Cincinnati.
Thank you, Liberty ladies, for having me as your speaker!
I survived! Going into this past week, I had two personal meetings and four author-oriented gigs. It would be a fun week, a blessed and rare-air period of days, even, but it would involve a lot of programs and making sure I had the correct amount of everything (script, props, books) ready to go with the specific event.
Monday was Writer Chicks Society at Janet’s in Noblesville, and as always, we had a lot to say, and numerous updates on our projects. We didn’t even finish early, despite missing our member, Susan, who was off having fun on a family trip.
That evening found me in Middletown with a fellowship session, and then the highlight of the 2021-22 year of Bible Study Fellowship, our annual share night, where participants are welcome at an open mic to share their personal takeaways and insights from the study. This year's was Matthew.
Tuesday night took me down I-69 and other routes south to Greenwood at the Greenwood Christian Church where about 220 filled the fellowship hall for a mother-daughter banquet. Although I grew up in a tiny church, this banquet took me back to those years and how much I adored those banquets!
I only wish I had taken photos! Two key people among many wonderful ones made my night. One of the coordinators, Stellamae Carley, invited me to give the 2020 program, which covid ruined, as it did in 2021, and I was delighted to be remembered for the 2022 edition.
I broke out my new card reader to use for credit and debit payments and I felt nervous to use it for the first time. God sent me an angel named Elaine in the parking lot! We chatted there and some more inside and when she asked to purchase books with her card before everyone got there.
I told her she was my Guinea pig. I felt so grateful to process her payment while there wasn’t a group around waiting on my fumbles--and all went great. She even helped at my table as the night went on. And she gave me her necklace!
Wednesday night it was off to Fishers where Creek Readers and I discussed my book, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. I can’t begin to express to hostess Kay how much I appreciate her selecting my book and how much fun it was to see how the book affected the club members.
They brought heirlooms to discuss and share with the group ranging from Mary Jo’s father’s poem to Ellen’s majorette uniform and other delights! Kay told me it was one of the best meetings the group has ever had! I’m humbled and grateful.
When Thursday arrived, I did a first. I sat down and on the spot, that day, wrote a program for the evening’s gig, in my beloved New Castle for the Young Moderns Home Ec Club. They were hosting their annual guest night with about 40 slated to attend.
I had put off writing their program because I wasn’t sure which direction to go with it. I decided to go with a shorter, more personal program about how I came to write the book and what our family went through during both 2020 and 2021 and how cleaning out the attic and writing the book helped get me through some tough times.
I ended on a personal note about how we all made it! We survived a worldwide pandemic and it’s something to celebrate!
Oh, but I'm not done ...
Saturday's road took me east to another mother-daughter banquet, this one at Hagerstown’s New Testament Church of Christ. The Friendship Circle outdid themselves in décor and attention to detail, along with delicious food. They even surprised me with inviting my cover artist Marilyn Witt to join us! It was lovely. Just lovely.
As I continue the spring tour of ladies banquets, libraries, and other stops, I found myself over the weekend at two venues. Saturday was a brunch in Selma at the Christ United Methodist Church. I was invited by Anita Price.
It turns out that this church is the "home" church--if not now, in their childhoods or other previous years--to several women I know. Jackie, a retired teacher from my sons' elementary school, was on hand as this is her hometown childhood church!
So often, anywhere I go in Indiana feels like home. Connections abound!
Attending were some Bible Study Fellowship mentors, including with Anita, our long-time teaching leader Jodie, and group leader, Brenda, along with at least a couple others who were there. The committee provided fun decorations and a lovely brunch. Thank you Anita, for taking a chance on someone you have never heard speak before to provide the program.
Friday night found me in my home-away-from-home, Henry County, where Debbie from the Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church invited me to be the banquet speaker with a theme of "Garden Party." When I walked into their gym/multipurpose room, this bouquet was my welcome, and now greets me when I walk into our dining room:
The committee worked hard to carry out the spring floral theme, but also decorated the stage in keeping with the theme of my 2022 book, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
A nice crowd filled the space and enjoyed a meal of a baked potato and taco salad bar, and dessert. There was a Garden Party photo booth, door prizes and fun.
Grateful for these lovely gigs, when I got home Saturday afternoon, I felt relieved that I didn't conflate the two gatherings! I had never been to either of these venues, and since they were hours apart, I hoped I didn't talk about gardens where trips were the theme, and vice versa.
And I was tired! That was my third program for the week. Tuesday's was at the Knightstown Public Library, and we had a wonderful time with my signature "What's in Your Attic?" program. Several attendees brought their heirlooms.
Today I have been working hard my to-do list; tonight is the last BSF of the 2021-22 year with our Share Night next Monday, and then we're off for the summer. I think I'll take the next hour off before it's time to get ready to leave. It's a busy season. But busy in a fulfilling kind of way. Hope your week is a good one.
I suppose you could call it a book tour, indie style.
Or the busy, spring season right after your book comes out.
Or you might just call it hitting the road again.
It's a fun week after a great Easter Sunday. I'm heading out to the Fairmount Public Library in a few hours where Director Linda Magers graciously invited me in to give a "What's in Your Attic?" audience-participation program tonight. We will have fun!
Big thanks to our mutual friend, Cathy Shouse, for introducing us, and for using her fine journalism skills to spread the word in area newspapers, including the Marion Chronicle-Tribune.
Tomorrow, I'm speaking at the Henry County Extension Homemakers' annual Achievement Day. It will be a happy time with a good number signed up to attend. They haven't gotten to have this annual time together since April 2019.
I look forward to seeing what the Homemakers bring as they will provide centerpieces and decor with heirlooms they will also share in a show-and-tell activity at the end of my program. Another fun day when the sun rises tomorrow.
A couple fun things to check out. I was interviewed for this podcast on April 10.
This looks quite interesting. Who knew?
And finally, here's my most recent column for the newspapers I write for. Enjoy the rest of the week whether you're wearing your heavy-duty winter coat like I did last night, or sandals, which I hope to sport on Saturday ... at my third gig of the week.
Goal: Do better than ‘light’ housekeeping
If you’re amped up on spring cleaning, ready to blend that perfect mix of vinegar and water to make the windows shine, if you can’t wait to tidy up the landscaping, or clean your woodwork, you have my admiration.
It’s my second spring as a retiree, and our house could use some sparkle, our landscaping some tidying, our woodwork some scrubbing.
I’ve allowed light housekeeping to become a permanent state. In fact, using the word “light” as a descriptor is more aspirational than actual.
This isn’t what I thought this era would be. I figured with all this time at home, and the kids out of the house for some years now, our house would resemble a bed-and-breakfast lobby, but somehow, I’ve found other priorities than making that happen.
Such as routinely hanging out in my pajamas until noon.
It’s not that I can’t clean in my PJs. I’m just lazy. But also, morning is when my mind is as nimble as it gets. It’s when I catch up on email, work on book programing and publicity, and come up with my best ideas—the ones that seem less than outstanding by afternoon.
Since his retirement seven years ago, Brian has taken over the vacuuming and most laundry except for what I call “specialty” loads. This is the clothing with tricky fabrics and icky stains that need the kind of TLC Brian won’t provide. He prefers gathering all dirty clothes and stuffing the lot into the machine.
He's the Bobby Knight of laundry. No matter the fabric, the stains, nor the colors, the dirty clothes are all expected to pull their weight. Then he turns up the heat in the dryer.
Brian is gruff with our laundry, and doesn’t make exceptions for fabrics that need a little more encouragement to come clean than, say, poly-blends. It’s as though he’s lecturing the sweatshirts and dress pants, the church clothes and underwear. “You’ll all get along. That goes for you lightweights. And for you with special instructions on your tags—dream on. No one is a VIP in this load, got it?”
So that’s why I pull some things out before he gets to them. You know, the delicates and hand-washables that need a little boost. Some of us require more hands-on support than others. Call me the laundry good cop to his bad.
But dusting? Brian doesn’t dust. I’m not big on bed-making unless someone is coming over. If that’s the case, it’s game on, complete with stacks of dressy pillows, meant to glamorize ordinary beds.
Today I surprised myself. I took a chunk of my usual morning writing time to thoroughly clean out the refrigerator and freezer, along with relining fridge shelves with plastic to pretty-up the aging surfaces.
Martha Stewart would be horrified to see what I had in there to throw out. It amounted to a kitchen garbage bag full of bulky containers and leftover-too-long food remnants. But the end result is a thing of beauty: pretty bowls of oranges and apples; the cheeses lined in a row in their drawer with the cheese sticks separated thoughtfully from their perforations for easy grabs.
Even the potatoes are reclining comfortably single-file in their mesh bag with a suite, uh, drawer to themselves.
We can even see what’s in the freezer over looking at jigsaw-puzzle-esque pieces of partial bags of fries and tater tots, blurs of frozen strawberries, and cartons of low-cal freezer meals.
When I finished, I needed a nap. It was 9 a.m.
But I need to sweep and clean the floors, dress the kitchen and dining room tables with tablecloths and centerpieces. After all, the church ladies are coming over for a supper meeting tomorrow.
I keep opening and closing the refrigerator door for inspiration, and as a reminder that I can do this! What happened to the lady who wanted to open a B & B nine years ago when she wrote her first book?
I don’t know why I’ve become so, shall we say, relaxed about housekeeping. I always figured I would accomplish many things if I only had the time. But 15 months into retirement, I now know that it’s not about time. There are just other things I’d rather be doing.
Such as writing this column.
It’s time to get back at it and knock out that kitchen. Then, I need to make sure I have everything put away from Christmas.
After all, Easter is over.