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 email@example.com.
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.
It takes a village ... borrowed snowpeople of all shapes and sizes filled Ovid Community Church Saturday for the women's day retreat. Instead of spending money on decor, decorating chair Chrissy Quinn gathered snowpeople from committee members. The snowfolks took a field trip. When it was over, some of the snowpeople were seen peering out the backs of car windows heading home, still smiling. Willard looks a little uncertain, but cute all the same.
There are so many to thank for the day coming together so well, but Jill Brown is certainly one of them. She led worship songs, and gave her thoughts on "Perfect Harmony," as part of the morning session. She also led a make-it-take-it activity on making prayer journals, and make sure the techie stuff was covered. Special thanks to Ricky for his help with the technical end of everything, as well.
Grateful for all the speakers, which also included Delaine Wooden and Linda Mackey, as well as emcee Pauline Cox, and to everyone on the committee who took part to make it a great day. My favorite part of the retreat was sitting around a table in the atrium and hearing the happy buzz of women talking and sharing all around me, punctuated by laughter. The day, with the theme, "Where Friends Gather," served as an uplifting way to begin 2022 ... and to begin connecting and dreaming again ...
IT'S A WRAP ON THE SUNSHINE BOX
My paternal grandmother came to live with us when I was in second grade. I look back now and realize that the preparation for moving her out of her small-town home into our farmhouse had begun the previous year.
It was then that my folks added on a bedroom—the largest of three in the house—with a plan for me to share it with Grandma. That’s what happened for those last few years of her life.
About the time Grandma became my roomie, a package for her arrived from friends at church. It was called a sunshine box, and it was a thing so curious and beautiful to these then-young eyes that I never forgot it.
The sturdy standard-issue cardboard box had been hand-covered with a paper garden of flowers, pasted in a collage over the entire package. The pictures had no doubt been clipped from seed catalogs for creating this unique “container garden.”
Inside were practical and interesting items that a senior woman in her 70s might use. One was a shaker container of scented body powder called Cashmere Bouquet, if memory serves; another, a small devotional book of encouragement. I don’t remember what else was in there, probably some Peppermint chewing gum or the bright-pink mints she favored; maybe a box of all-occasion cards for sending. I was as or more excited than Grandma to watch her unpack such lovely small gifts.
A variation on the sunshine box concept resurfaced earlier this year during Brian’s illness when friends from his former workplace sent word that he would be getting a gift basket. The result was not one but three containers overflowing with crossword-puzzles, handpicked books, candles, candy, gift cards, and other thoughtful comforts of love and friendship.
I vowed to do better at sharing this kind of love with others.
With memories of the vintage sunshine box in mind, several weeks ago I made my first one. I wanted it to be as much as possible like the one Grandma had received in the 1960s.
A childhood church friend and I had decided that we would visit two ladies from our youth who still attend the same church we attended. One, in fact, just turned 101 in October, and the other one is decades' younger, recovering from a surgery.
The week before our outing, I thought my laundry-basket-sized box would be a breeze to cover. I didn’t have any seed catalogs, so I flipped through stacks of general-interest magazines a friend had given me and tore out flowers, pictures of people doing fun things, cute kittens, phrases such as “Highway to heaven,” and attached them to the box with Mod Podge. I found that cardboard soaks up a lot of glue, so I put it on heavy.
I still didn’t have enough pretty pictures to cover the box. So, I went through more magazines of my own, and supplemented the collage with some floral wrapping paper from the closet. Finally, it was finished; my first old-fashioned sunshine box! It looked pretty good, if I do say so myself.
The friend and I met for lunch on a Monday. She also provided a decorated sunshine box. We divided our contributions of gently used magazines, books, cards, notebooks, and snacks between the two boxes and signed cards to go with the goods. Then we visited our friends at their separate locations.
More meaningful than the boxes, we spent an hour or longer with each of our recipients talking and telling life stories, being in no hurry to run off. Time is, after all, the best gift. We all enjoyed the visit, of that I am certain.
When I explained to the then-nearly 101-year-old about the boxes, I realized something. She may well have been one of the friends who contributed to that sunshine box for my grandmother back in the 1960s!
“Yes, we used to send sunshine boxes in the WSCS,” she said matter-of-factly of the United Methodist Church women’s organization, called Women’s Society of Christian Service in that era.
This was a full-circle moment. Without memories of that box, I would never have thought to suggest it as a goodwill present a half-century later.
I find it interesting to reconnect with people from my youth and to know that while I’ve reached retirement status, there are still those alive who remember my grandparents and parents. It feels amazing, particularly, because I haven’t lived in my hometown area in 43 years. Even so, it feels as close as ever to my heart, and the sense of belonging runs deep.
Just months into this retirement gig, I’m finding that one of the general principles I like most is that there is now the time to do things like this; to hop in the car and go visit someone. It’s nice to take a little something along as a gift—or to take a sunshine box.
Fill it with recent-issue magazines, inexpensive packaged treats (or home-baked if you can), toiletries, maybe pass along the book you just read and enjoyed, some stamps, envelopes and paper or notecards. Then sign and write a note on a card of your own with a nice note to wrap up a lot of joy for the recipient to know, “I am thought of. I am cared about.”
Whether you call it a sunshine box, a care package, a gift basket, or something else, it doesn’t take much except effort to make someone else’s day. Giving it away will make your own in the process.
Retired New Castle Courier-Times Neighbors Editor Donna Cronk’s Next Chapter column appears the second and fourth Saturdays in The Courier-Times and The Shelbyville News. It runs the first and third Tuesdays in the Connersville News-Examiner. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 ...
The Union County Courthouse tower, a constant in my life for these 60 years. I took this photo five years ago this weekend. Thirty years ago this weekend, we were ready to launch into a new era, one we're in today, still living in Madison County. This has been home half my life. But parts of my heart remain in both Fountain and Union counties.
Thirty years ago this week, Brian, nearly-three-year-old Sam and I left behind one era of life and set out on a new one. On July 3, 1989, I completed my last day as managing editor of a small newspaper in Attica, Indiana.
Brian had just wrapped up his nine years as a school administrator at Fountain Central Junior-Senior High School.
We would spend the rest of July transitioning to the new home we had bought in Madison County and by August, Brian would be working at his new administrative post in the Hamilton Southeastern School Corp.
The number of mixed feelings about this uncharted new territory was extraordinary. I was more than ready to leave my former job, but knew I would miss certain aspects of my work and I would miss my work peers. I won’t go into what I would not miss!
I would miss Fountain County friends, our wonderful babysitter and her family and our landlord—all who had become like family.
I would be happy to move to a town much closer to my folks who were still living on the farm, although my dad’s dementia was worsening. And it would be a welcome change not to drive 15 miles to a nice-sized grocery store or McDonald’s.
On a daily basis, I was excited about taking a brief time-out from the busy world of community journalism and spend my days with Sam playing, going to the park, pool, and just hanging out. I needed time to settle us into our new nest.
I hoped that a call would come from someone at the New Castle paper asking me if I wanted a job. It did, I did, and early this fall, I’ll celebrate 30 years with The Courier-Times.
Along the way, after a couple attempts, we found “our” church; a variety of friends in a variety of communities; we had a second baby, and now both boys are all grown up and long-since on their own. How can it be, I still ask-that we're empty nesters? I can’t even call Brian a “recent retiree” because he’s been that for four years already!
What I do know is the time passes with brea kneck speed. And we're no longer so inclined to put things off like we used to do for years or decades. Just yesterday I looked up and remarked that our living room could use a paint job. "Do it!" Brian said.
Madison County has been home for three decades. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other community in my entire life. In fact, I’ve spent exactly half of my life in Madison County, Indiana, and gone to work in New Castle!
I’m grateful to everyone who has touched our lives here, back in Fountain County, or back home in Union County. Some people touch our lives for reasons or seasons and many of you are in and out of it on a regular basis.
Where do we belong? It’s been said that home is where your heart is. I promise you that my heart is in all three locations at once! And I am grateful for so many people, places and things. Thank you most of all to the good Lord for this journey.
Which, Lord willing, and like a good story in a newspaper, is to be continued on another page. Hope you’ll stick with me as the page turns.
Where have YOU called home so far for your life's journey?
GIRLS' WEEKEND ON CORDRY
So what if no one ever accused the Ovid Midlife Moms of traveling light? We need a few, ahem, supplies, for a weekend at Terri's lake house on Cordry Lake. And this is not counting what the eighth member of our weekend crew brought on Saturday morning.
We went Friday after everyone got off work. We couldn't wait to get there, gather the evening's menu offerings, and enjoy a picnic on the lake. We had eight of our 12 present.
Dinner onboard included Sharon's homemade ham salad sandwiches, Terri's pea salad, party mix, an assortment of fruit and I see some celery sticks in there. There were yummy, ooey-gooey chocolate bar cookies as well.
The weather was perfect and some of us headed back out on the boat shortly before bedtime to see God's moon show.
What a beautiful scene from the water. A cellphone camera doesn't do it justice, but yes, the moon was THAT bright.
Still, I was the first to bed around 10:30 p.m., and I slept well as I dozed off thankful for this weekend that so many of us look so forward to all year long.
That's why I couldn't believe it when I didn't get up until 9 the next morning!
When it's not your turn to cook, the scent is all the sweeter coming from the stove.
Delaine make the best egg casserole, and we enjoyed it with biscuits, fresh fruit and zuchinni bread by Patty. Delicious.
All but Karen, who came Saturday morning, are the gals who made it this summer weekend.
Such fun, including tubing, swimming, boating, moon-gazing, movie night watching "The Greatest Showman," and a beautiful Bible study on the boat Sunday morning, courtesy of Karen, taken from the book of Joel. Oh, and some crafts, including some bookmarks made from this and that.
Thank you Terri, for the wonderful, relaxing, laughter-filled weekend. And thank You, Lord, for your creation, your abundance, and for providing such sweet friends.
Gay captured Brian and me in Grant Park in Galena, Illinois Saturday. Here, we stand in front of the Galena River that runs through the heart of the town. Behind the river is downtown Galena. This is the adopted hometown of President and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The river feeds into the mighty Mississippi, just a few miles away.
Less than a year ago, Gay Kirkton and I took our annual summer girlfriend getaway to the unique and beautiful Galena, Illinois, situated in northwest Illinois, a hop and skip from both Wisconsin and Iowa. Next to Chicago, this is the most visited destination in the great state of Illinois, with Springfield third.
With a population of 3,800, this small city has more than 50 restaurants in its vibrant downtown alone, and several blocks packed with one-of-a-kind shops that sell everything from trendy housewares to kitchen goods, gourmet food, fashionable (and affordable) clothing, and costume jewelry.
So the shopping is certainly a draw -- let's be honest -- for women especially. The food? For everyone!
For the Cronks of Pendleton and our friends Rick and Gay Kirkton of Angola (but proud Illinois natives), history got us there.
When you think of Illinois and U.S. presidents, perhaps Abraham Lincoln comes first to mind. He certainly does for me. Springfield, Illinois boasts a number of tributes to his life and times that you can visit from his presidential library to the only home he ever owned, to a visit inside his law office, the cemetery where he was laid to rest, and more.
But don't forget the other presidents who called Illinois their home. Consider this one.
Do you remember that President, California Governor and actor Ronald Reagan came from Illinois and spent from age 9 to adulthood in Dixon, Illinois? Here we are in front of the home his family rented for a few years which is a tour-able landmark in the town.
I'll do a separate post later on the home, as it is worthy of its own essay. It was a fantastic stop, and glimpse into an iconic man of humble roots. Our fellas stand next to a life-size cardboard version of the 1980s president. It appears accurate in stature as President Reagan was 6'1" and our guys measure up to prove that about right.
After a stop in Dixon, it was on to Galena. The drive was exceedingly charming as we rode in Rick's comfortable pick-up truck chatting away the hours and looking out for miles and miles over tidy fields and farms in our friends' treasured home state.
You can have your majestic mountains, and while I love looking out over water, my personal eye candy consists of massive green fields of Midwestern crops. You've got the best view of those in Illinois and Iowa.
In Galena, it was like checking in with an old friend as Brierwreath Bed & Breakfast owner Joe Cook greeted us. His inn is perfectly located in this hilly city because it's an easy walk downhill to the downtown where we had our choice and then some of dining options. We went for a repeat of last year's trip as we sat outside at Vinny's for an Italian meal.
On Saturday at breakfast, that uncanny thing that always happens to Gay and me happened again. At the first of two fine breakfasts served by Joe, we met B & B guests with a connection to Gay. One worked in public relations for the community college where Gay's father serves as a trustee. The guest could not believe it! She knows Gay's dad and the two had a lot to discuss about the college and their connections.
Then it was on to catch our trolley where we got a splendid overview of Galena's history from a lead-mining and steamboat hub in the 1800s to the home of a future and then post-U.S. president in the form of U.S. Grant and family in the mid-to-late 1800s to a town that celebrates commerce, history and architecture in the city it is today.
We had a wonderful tour of the home of U.S. Grant and family, above. More than 90 percent of the home's contents are original. Grant had lived in Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri but after marrying a wealthy farmer's daughter and being gifted with land, Grant found that he was not cut out for farming.
He brought his family to Galena, Illinois where his family owned a tannery. It is there he worked, living in a small, humble home to suit his means until his true talents as a West Point-educated soldier were recognized and he became the key figure in saving the union and will forevermore be recognized in that remarkable way.
To thank him for his war contributions, some wealthy men in Galena gifted the Grants with this home. It never left the family until the Grant children gifted the home to the state of Illinois in the early 1900s as a permanent tribute to their parents.
We enjoyed lunch outside at Gobbie's and then it was back to our B & B to rest up in our rooms before heading out to dinner downtown at Fried Green Tomatoes. We had a lovely meal including Harvest salads, pesto and tomato brushetta and crab cakes.
When it was time to leave, we discovered a drenching rain outside the restaurant. We waited in the entryway for it to clear but before it did, the restaurant owner, Fred, graciously appeared and asked where we were staying. He sent for his personal vehicle to transport us to our doorstep at the inn! Talk about above and beyond!
I promised Fred (he said to think of his name as Fried without the i) that I would mention this in my blog. So this is for you, Fred! I also would recommend your food and staff to anyone!
Gay and I enjoy attending church services in the towns we visit. We took the United Methodist Church up on its offer, via a display board out front, to sit in Grant's pew. On Sunday morning we all went to church a short walk down the street from our B & B to the former Methodist Episcopal Church where the Grant family pew is distinctively and tastefully marked with a small American flag. We got the photo shortly after services.
A couple special moments for me from the weekend were during the meet-and-greet portion of the church service, turning around to shake hands with a woman who formerly lived in Shirley, Indiana. That's a tiny town in the circulation area of the newspaper where I work.
Also, in the Grant home, upstairs a framed picture depicts key figures in the Civil War and in the group photo is included one Gen Ambrose Burnside -- who happens to hail from my hometown of Liberty, Indiana.
When you think of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, remember that four U.S. presidents called this beautiful Midwestern state home -- Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Barack Obama.
We'll certainly never forget.
Donna Cronk is a blogger, newspaper journalist and author of two novels: Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, available from the author , at specialty venues and on Amazon.com.
MONDAY LUNCH AT SANDY'S
It's nice if you can have something special to look forward to on a Monday.
This week, it was special, all right. My friend Sandy cooked for me in her charming rural New Castle farmhouse!
For many years, Sandy sat across from me in The Courier-Times newsroom. Although she is retired, loving it, and busier than ever, Sandy's writing career is going strong. She is author of two children's chapter books, Sadie's Search for Home and Doodle's Search for Success. She also writes a regular column for her magazine for women.
Sandy is active with the DIVE program for kids in New Castle, with her husband, Mike, and more family, including her granddaughter Carly, numerous friends and caring for the Moore home and horses.
Sandy and I have more things in common than I can count from being farm girls at heart to Bible Study Fellowship, of course writing, and also we're both Weight Watchers! Sandy has been serious about it for a while and I just got serious again after, well, let's say a lapse.
So Monday, lunch included a four-point meal and boy was it delicious. While four points won't mean much to you if you aren't a Weight Watcher, it simply means that it was a very healthy and low-cal meal. We even had appetizers of shrimp cocktail.
Then we enjoyed chicken fajitas, vegetables and low-fat dip.
Then, strawberry dessert.
The meal was amazing but of course it's the friendship that is the bigger blessing.
Thank you, Sandy! What a refreshing time! I appreciate you more than you know.
GOODBYE, 2017; HAPPY NEW YEAR
It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at email@example.com.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
So today I feel overwhelmed by gratitude. That’s a good place to be. It's been such a fast-paced week, I'm only now getting this posted.
After last Saturday in Indy at the newspaper conference, Sunday it was off to Centerville where I visited with shoppers, colleagues and friends in the new Artisans and Java building at the Kids at Heart Publishing mini-bookstore.
Monday night was a speaking engagement at Fishers United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s Christmas gathering. I am grateful to Linda Shimer who served this year as co-president of the UMW and is also active in the church’s book club. I appreciate her support and encouragement so much.
She also wows me! In addition to her leadership role, she went and picked up and returned home a friend who couldn't get there on her own. In fact, she left so quickly following the program that I was unable to get a photo with her. Not only that but I found out that Linda and her husband MOVED last week!
Even though my connection to the church’s book club had nothing to do with my husband’s 26 years working in Fishers schools, ironically, Linda told me that several were coming who knew him. It was such a delight to see these wonderful former co-workers of Brian’s – and look up to find their smiling faces near the front of the sanctuary as I spoke.
I took their photos and texted them to Brian. He was pretty pumped about their attendance and when I got home, he took a trip down Fishers Memory Lane, reflecting on all the wonderful people he worked with during those years.
Last summer, a surprise invite came from town library director Carrie Watson to give the opening program to children in the summer reading program. I spoke on the topic, “What’s Your Clue?” about looking for our gifts and talents – even as young kids, and then later in the afternoon, I gave a second talk to the adults in a program on our bucket lists.
Carrie told me she would invite me back during the annual town Christmas walk and library open house. She even gave me the date but I didn’t put it on my calendar. I thought I should wait and see if the invite came through and guess what? It did!
I got there at 5 and enjoyed delicious hot soup samples prepared by members of the library board, and hot cocoa, served by Carrie’s adorable daughter, visited with many of the more than 100 people (probably closer to 150) who came through the library to warm up and chat with their neighbors. What a bunch of truly nice people with friendly smiles and were interested enough to stop and chat.
Carrie’s mentor, Iraida Davis, even visited the library! At age 90, it’s been a while since she directed the place but I found it touching when the two librarians posed together. Carrie says Iraida was her idol. I think she still is.
Carrie is a woman of many talents. Not only is she library director in Farmland, she is the Union Modoc library director and teaches Title 1 reading. She is a mom, a quilter, and – I kid you not – a drag racer who shows her skills all over the country.
I tried to think of how to describe Farmland, an artsy farm community with something special. The best I can do is to call out two old-time TV shows. I think Farmland is something of a blend of the two: Northern Exposure meets Mayberry.
Carrie agreed to let me write about her in a future issue of her magazine for women. Yippee!
On the ride home, the moon was huge and bright, showcasing the lovely, peaceful Hoosier farms I passed as I made my way south and west through Randolph County, then continued straight west through Henry County, and home to Madison County on U.S. 36 most of the way.
By 9:30 when I landed home, I was so tired I could hardly get from my favorite chair to draw my steaming-hot bath. But I did, then headed for bed.
It's supposed to snow this weekend; just a Christmas Chamber-of-Commerce type dusting of a couple inches.
I hope so.