Last night was a first: we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I had the day to prep, and it reminded me of those growing-up years on the farm. Since my brothers, now passed on, are quite a bit older than I am, Christmas family gatherings were later in the day on Christmas so they could be with their kids or other extended families first.
It's what I grew up with, and I enjoyed the way we eased into the holiday. I opened gifts from Santa / my parents, and then we had a few hours to get ready for the rest of the family to join us for the big meal, gifts, and fun.
This approach worked out equally well after I got married because we could gather at Brian's folks on Christmas Eve, then have Christmas morning with them before heading east to be with my folks and extended family for a dusk celebration.
I loved those moments on the curvy, ribbony-hilled back roads of northwestern Union County, Indiana as we approached the farm in late afternoon, knowing all the fun ahead.
Yesterday as Brian and I got the house and food ready, I put the finishing touches on a white elephant exchange to do for laughs. There was even a dog category with three family dogs in attendance.
The fun took me back to 1981, our first Christmas in Fountain County. That summer Brian had accepted his first school administrative job at Fountain Central. We couldn't sell our trailer back in Richmond, Indiana and didn't know how or when that would happen. So we continued to pay on it and the lot rent, as well as the most reasonable rent on the spacious country home we rented.
My job was to attend college full time in person and take every extra short course or correspondence course I could to get my journalism degree and begin the career I dreamed of as a community journalist. With Brian's pay raise, it was possible, but without me contributing any money to the cause and these added expenses, we had little left for extras. There would be no new furniture, clothes, or other indulgences.
Yet we were happy as clams. Our dreams were coming true. We had each other. We had lots of plans.
That Christmas season, we went to an all-staff dinner party at the home of school secretary Barb Clark. Barb was all things to all people--and turning her family's basement into a party room with food and decorations fit for royalty was one of her endless talents. Barb could do anything well--backward in heels.
I was relieved that instead of spending money on "real" presents, we were to bring a gag gift for an exchange. Since those can be anything, and I had a silly fringe-laden top that I never wore and think I surely got in another silly exchange, it was wrapped and gifted. Done.
When I opened my designated gag gift, it was a Mennen Speed Stick. You would have thought it was the Hope Diamond. I don't recall our exact words but I know that we carried on about it as though we had hit pay dirt!
We looked at each other with delight: something we could use! Something namebrand even! Something we didn't have to spend money on! We held our deodorant close. I don't remember much else about the evening, other than the glow we had between us knowing that our underarms would be covered for a good while and live rent free on our bodies. Yippee!
Later, Barb was told the story and she recalled her version of a similar one: the Christmas that she and her beloved husband Hersh, were pressed for money and he bought her a potato masher. She was delighted!
As we gathered with our kids, and Ben's wonderful girlfriend, Julie, yesterday, (hugs to Sam's girlfriend Ashley, who was unable to join us with her beautiful daughters), we had the luxury of not only gag gifts (dish sponges and soy sauce, anyone?) but real gifts that cost considerably more.
The real Gift of Christmas is the Reason for the season: The Word who was made flesh and came to dwell among us ... (John 1:14).
Feeling grateful for life, health, peace, family, friends, and for His gift, according to God's perfect plan.
May your Christmases be bright, and all your gag gifts be useful.
Connecting the dots: This Julie Jolliff photo was taken during my talk on Saturday at the Union County Public Library in the community room where the original library had the checkout desk and books when I was a kid. I used the entrance you see at left, center, for my first-ever visit--and library card.
I remember the day.
I may have been 10, accompanying the neighboring Chapman kids and their mom to Liberty. I suppose their mother was grocery shopping at Woodruff’s, close to the Union County Public Library, and we girls were killing time.
We walked through the lower-level library doors. I had never been there before. The Chapman girls had library cards. They said I should get one. So, I did –my first library card!
It was a defining moment, although I can’t tell you what or if I checked anything out that day. I never dreamed then of the places a library card would take me, including cyberspace, and being able to read checked out books on my telephone!
Who could have imagined that more than half a century later, I’d be in that room we entered through those side doors, standing at a lectern, giving a talk about the day I got the library card—and about my third book? Yet there I stood Saturday, with some family, some childhood friends, and some community folks listening.
Library Director Julie Jolliff wasn’t even born when my library card was issued. I think I surprised her by having it.
That’s a pack rat for you—and for that I make no apologies. That library card is a passport to not only stories I read in books, but to memories.
I told some stories from There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, that relate to growing up in Union County at Rural Route 1, Brownsville. There was talk, following the book signing, of some other venues I might speak at locally.
My personal “drop the mic” moment came when an audience member, Janice, told a story about my grandma! The story even related to some artifacts I displayed that day. When you get to be in your sixties and come across someone who remembers your grandma, who was born in 1892? Priceless.
If only for a couple hours that day, I felt as though I had never left home; had remained a part of the community. It's called roots.
Julie filled me in on the many ways the library serves the community. I follow the UCPL page on Facebook and in local media where I read about the ways it serves all the population from toddlers to the most senior members of the community.
It’s not “just” a library. Not that any library is that—as a library introduces us to a world, at our fingertips—through books written over millennia as well as the most current bestsellers, periodicals, and other forms of modern media. Yet those are only a small part of what modern libraries do in and for their communities.
Libraries provide programming for young and old alike, offer services such as meals and daycares, gathering spaces, a clearinghouse for family and local history, answers to questions and how-to information. Libraries are community centers for activities, conversations, meetings, and life.
I am inspired and delighted by Julie’s enthusiasm for her job, and by her love for the community that I too love. I thank her, as well as Cindy Morgan, for inviting me into their world, just as the Chapman girls invited me with them into the library so many years ago.
Through the years, and in particular, during the last nine on my author journey, I’ve been in many libraries, large and small, in a variety of cities and towns and settings from A to Z—Attica to Zionsville. Each library and its personnel and patrons come with a distinct vibe and personality. I love how they are not all the same, but rather, quite the opposite of the same!
It is a blessing to see that the first library I ever entered remains in good hands.
I think the good people of Ukraine are showing us all regardless of our political stripe, that it is good to love your homeland, good to feel a link with a place and a people. Good to value your roots.
I’ve always felt those things about my little slice of the sweet land of Union County, Indiana. A little farm community? You betcha: the permanent address of my heart.
And ... where I'll be on Sunday:
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 ...
For the last two decades we kept two inexpensive, plastic Adirondack-styled chairs on our front porch, centered under the picture window. The chairs are the color of our house trim and garage doors, which is good, but their seats are too low for old knees, making them more for show than for sitting.
In the winter, the wind blows them around the porch or they tumble into the landscaping. Short on garage space, I tend to stack them unattractively in a porch corner to weight them down until the spring winds subside and they resume their warmer-weather placement.
Last spring I decided this is ridiculous! We are in our sixties! If we’re not worthy of proper porch furnishings now, then when? What we need, I decreed, is a pair of functional chairs. Black ones, to match our outdoor sconces. Sturdy ones, that we can leave out come hail or high water. Rocking ones, that will remain in an upright stance.
I had my eye on just the pair, but first needed to run it by the house appropriations committee. The committee co-chair said get them. No quiz, no commentary, no asking the price even. My kind of yes.
Upon close inspection, the chairs are even better than I had imagined. They are made here in Indiana of a composite all-weather material, and they each come with a 20-year guarantee.
“They’ll last longer than I will,” Brian deadpanned, noting that he would be all of 87 when the warranty expires. I save that warranty in its own folder alongside other important papers in their respective files.
How surprised the store clerk will be if a chair breaks at age 19 and I show up for a refund. I can’t say they were inexpensive, but for once, that wasn’t the priority.
Once they were lifted off son Sam’s truck and onto the porch, they looked as perfect as I had anticipated. I dreamt of the years ahead, sitting in one of the chairs with Brian in the other as we rocked and watched the neighbors and their dogs stroll up and down our street against a backdrop of colorful sunsets.
I’ve always loved a good rocking chair, and these seats fit my backside with space to spare. The armrests are likewise substantial, able to balance a glass of iced tea with ease as I rock. And our knees have no issues.
Brian was in no hurry to try out the chairs, but I kept prodding him until he joined me for a trial rock. I awaited his compliments regarding my shopping skills. He didn’t offer those, nor any comment right away. Later he told me that they didn’t fit him all that well. I felt disappointed.
As spring gave way to summer, I rocked out on the porch every time I got the chance.
Meanwhile, I added cushions to soften the seats. A friend from Fairmount emailed, “I’d like to come sit on your porch and rock a while.”
I loved that comment. I would drive a distance to rock and talk, myself; especially now that I'm retired. There’s no question about that, but to know that someone else would do the same delighted me.
As the summer continued, Brian began to get his strength back from his winter ordeal, and I felt delighted when he felt able to walk first a half mile, then longer around our neighborhood in the cool of a summer’s eve at the start of golden dusk.
Then, it happened. One day I sat on the porch rocking while Brian walked. When he finished, he sat down in the chair beside me and we talked for a while. Then it happened again. And again.
Before long, as July gave way to August, he would say, “I’m going to go walk.” It seemed my cue to turn off the TV or close the computer and go sit on the porch, warming up my rocker, enjoying the peace of that time a day, anticipating his return.
I might even sweep the porch or water my plants, pull a weed or two, grateful beyond measure to watch for his familiar outline a way down the street, before I assumed my rocking spot on the porch. Night after summer’s night, he sat down in the companion chair.
For about 15 minutes, Brian and I chat about plans, news of the day, the kids, whatever we had to say in the moment. It has been my favorite time of day in recent months.
One evening Brian walked and I didn’t make it out to the porch. When he returned to the house he said, “You didn’t come out and wait for me.”
Touched that he apparently likes these appointments too, I’ve been sure to keep them ever since.
I came to notice that like clockwork, moments before dark, a gaggle of geese from a nearby pond takes flight in perfect formation over our house, heading west. I would love to know where they go, and if this is their bedtime ritual. Maybe they were wondering why we sit on the porch, a formation of two humans never leaving the ground.
When you endure a loved one's illness, you treasure simple moments in a whole new way. I’m grateful for daily life to the point where each and every day feels like a gift to unwrap. I can’t possibly get everything in that I would like to pack into a given 24 hours. So much remains to be done in this life! How is it that time seems to race?
Brian hasn’t mentioned again the chairs being uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the cushions. I like to think it's the company.
Now that it’s fall, the evenings grow increasingly cool and crisp. Comfortable rocking sessions on the porch at dusk will become fewer as this month progresses, and let's face it, pretty much disappear with November frosts. Soon I’ll remove the cushions and the rocking chairs will be more decoration than function for a few months. It will be time to come off my rocker until those warm days return.
But first, I’ll throw on a sweatshirt and wait for Brian’s return from his walk, counting my blessings.
Donna Cronk is the retired New Castle Courier-Times Neighbors Editor. Her columns appear the first and third Tuesdays each month in the Connersville News-Examiner and on the second and third Saturdays in The New Castle and Shelbyville papers. Connect with her via email at email@example.com.
In the pony lot on our farm, (formerly known as the chicken yard for previous livestock residents), I'm with my beloved Ginger, her foal, Frisky, and my nieces' pony, Snowball. Dad built our trash burner (in the background), and placed my handprint in the cement. The photo is well over a half-century old.
If a picture speaks volumes, the one I'm about to show you below is the library of my childhood.
Recently my niece, Marlene, told me about finding old pictures of our farm, and of her family’s farm. She sent the business link: https://vintageaerial.com.
The company’s mission is “collecting and presenting aerial photos of rural America in a way that evokes personal, family, and community memories and encourages the sharing of our common history.”
The total collection encompasses 16,562,569 photos taken of U.S. farms and homesteads from the air from the 1960s through early 2000s. In Indiana alone, there are 1,124,058 photos.
Even though the archived collection is huge, modern technology makes finding a property that interests you easy. GIS technology identifies where the photos were taken, and places them in the proper time frame. I went to Union County, Indiana on the website and used a map to point to the area where our farm is located.
And there it was.
I consumed every inch of the landscape.
For starters, I looked east of the house, at one of our smaller fields bordered by an east-west county road. On winter nights when the trees were bare, I gazed out beyond that road coming home toward our house to see if I could see a light on the back porch or in a window. Whenever I hear “Back Home Again in Indiana,” when the song speaks of “The gleaming candlelight still shining bright through the sycamores for me,” the tears stream and my throat locks with emotion. I picture that road. It’s personal.
But for the grace of God, I came close to dying in that small field. My hands still break out in a sweat when I think about it too hard. Two springs after this picture was photographed, I rode along with another teenager while he plowed that field. He drove too fast over the bumpy land and I went airborne toward the blades of the plow. It happened fast, as accidents do.
I saw the blades coming toward my face but somehow, and I can only credit divine intervention, I landed on the ground, unharmed, except for the shock of what could have been, and purple bruises that dramatically covered the width of my thighs before they turned the colors in a Mood ring in the weeks that followed. (Try explaining THAT to your gym teacher.)
When I see our home, where my paternal grandparents lived before us, I think first of my late mother who would be 107 now. It is a strange feeling to think of one’s parent being on the brink of too old to any longer even be alive statistically, and to have zero remaining age peers.
Home and my mother are one and the same. And again, it’s the music that gets me, this time from “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.” Only for us, the farm bordered the banks of the Whitewater River, nearby.
I try to look through the photo's house windows, into the kitchen and living room. I’m sure she’s in there, but I don’t see her…
My focus then goes to the barn where I fell out of that haymow once, but again, angels were watching over me … I broke nothing.
So many memories there, of feeding the cattle in the barn stalls on winter afternoons after school, of heirlooms in the attic, now dispersed throughout the family; of Dad spending so much time there, and the glow of the barn light on the pond when he worked inside the barn after dark.
I think of him welding at his work bench, and how small farmers had to be jacks of all trades. My father was that.
Outside the barn is that Hoosier classic, a basketball rim where my father and his younger farmhands would shoot a few hoops. Dad was a Brownsville Lion basketball player and he and I loved to discuss his glory days of old.
Still. It’s the slightly opened barn door that gets me. Dad never left the barn yard with the doors open, so I knew: he was there, inside. Seeing this picture 49 years later, something in me wanted to jump out of today and into yesterday; into that 1972 barn yard and see my dad.
But it wasn’t until the larger picture arrived, that I got a real surprise, one you can’t see in the online proof, and you have to look hard to find it in the large print.
As my eyes fell carefully on the old Ford tractor, I realized that between the tractor and plows stands a person. He’s almost more stick figure than man unless you know who you’re looking for and I was looking for my dad.
It’s him! My father is looking up at the plane flying low and slow over his farm. Did he know its purpose was for a photographer on board to take photos? I doubt it. Could he have even dreamt that nearly half a century later, his only daughter would be looking down at him, inside a photo captured against all odds in that moment? Of course not.
While my mother was the heart of our home, my dad was the heart of our farm, and the irony doesn’t escape me that he is shown at nearly the center of this landscape, his domain, inside our shared world.
Indeed, it was my world. I know every inch of that space, from the grain bin where in the fall I’d climb the ladder with my nieces and nephew and then descend inside where we used rakes to even out the mountains of corn to better help it dry.
I think of that practice, and surely how dangerous it must have been without any of us thinking of it then. What if we had fallen into an air pocket and suffocated? More sweaty palms.
And the pond. There Dad taught me to swim and my friends and family members had endless summer afternoons on that country body of water where we tucked ourselves into innertubes and floated around or dove off the diving board on our little pier. Both were no doubt made by my dad.
There’s more, so much more, from the summer kitchen behind the house that served as our storage shed to Dad’s school bus parked out front, to the driveway to the barn lot where once I rode on the back of a friend’s bicycle and we went flying down that drive, not realizing there was an electric fence straight ahead to keep the cattle corralled. Yes, we plowed right into it and my whole body got quite the jolt as indeed, the electricity was turned on!
You’ll never define domestic bliss as a home with a white picket fence if you’ve ever painted one, as I did ours. There’s a glimpse of our front sidewalk and porch where my nieces and I put on “shows” for the neighbor kids featuring singing, tap dancing, and crowning annual queens!
We had names for all kinds of parts of our farm. There was the North Farm, some acreage Dad bought in the 1960s to add to his parents’ original purchase. There was the chicken yard, later defined as the pony lot, where the outhouse is shown. There was the croquet yard, south of the house.
See the tree at the south end of the open space? I fell out of that one a couple years before this photo was taken. I’m sure it resulted in a concussion because I was briefly blinded, or remember it that way, until the sight returned while I still sat on the ground.
The country road on the west part of the picture bears our family name.
Brian asked where I’ll display the enlarged picture. I can’t decide. But I made him promise to one day hang it inside my nursing home room.
Note: The photo is used with permission of Vintage Aerial. Find your own farm roots at the website, https://vintageaerial.com. I’d love to hear about the surprises you find.
It's Memorial Day and I'm thinking of the untold number of soldiers who died so that we could keep our beautiful country, families, friends, and communities living in freedom! This nation has its flaws and has always been filled with flawed leaders and policies, but it's the greatest nation ever known to mankind. I am thankful and grateful to be an American.
I'm thinking of my two favorite veterans today, both having passed on, and remembering how much I miss them. There's my father-in-law Ray, who served in major European-front WW II battles and survived -- he didn't think he would.
There's my brother, Tim, who passed in March. I still can't believe I'm writing that sentence ... Tim served in Vietnam.
I saw something about the history of our hometown on a Facebook page and thought instantly that I needed to talk to him about the cool post... I will miss him every day of the rest of my life.
His ashes were buried in my hometown graveyard, surrounded by plots containing our parents, my brother David, his wife Janet, and precious infants of nieces who have gone on before him. The day after Tim's service, we were told at the newspaper to go home and stay there, doing our jobs from home, due to the virus.
I didn't know if I could. Any success I would have with working from home depended on the kindness of people in the communities we cover. Would people work with me in returning calls to a phone number they didn't recognize? Would they take the time and energy from their own lives as either essential workers or while undergoing challenges of isolation to answer email questions for stories? What about take and send me photos to go with stories?
So tomorrow will be the first semi-normal day I've had since the day after Tim's burial. I'll be back in the office, assuming my normal part-time workweek schedule, although we are still to work via email and phone as much as possible for a while longer.
A couple weeks ago we visited my SIL Jeannie, Tim's wife. She handed us a plastic bag brimming with books. On the outside of the bag it read "To DONNA & BRIAN."
It was from Tim. Tim was an avid reader of all kinds of books, and he would make a selection from his vast library regularly and almost every time we saw him, we went home with a bag of books.
Tim had prepared a final bag of eclectic volumes for us at some point before he passed on ... it felt at once incredibly sad, and sweet -- bittersweet -- to take home those last books he wanted us to have. I'm saving the bag and took a photo of the selection so I would have it and remember Tim's thoughtfulness. Of course I will forever remember Tim. No photo is needed for that memory. But I have some to treasure.
It’s amazing what you can adjust
to when you have no other choice’
Second in a three-part series in the New Castle Courier-Times about local people who deal with special challenges during this time of quarantine. Their stories are about how they cope and hope not only now but routinely, and their advice for us. Tomorrow: Wanda Jones.
By DONNA CRONK
SPICELAND – In 1998, at age 31, Amie Thornburg was a young wife of Pat Thornburg and mother of their little girls, Emily, 6, and Lindsey, nearly 2.
The Tri graduate who attended both Purdue and Ball State also worked in exports for SMC Pneumatics in Indy. It was then that she was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“ALS basically causes your muscles to quit working. Eventually, all of your muscles,” Amie says, adding that she was able to work for several years after the diagnosis, as well as do many things because the disease has been slow to progress in her, “which is usually not the case,” she adds.
“Most people are told to expect to survive 2-5 years after diagnosis,” says Amy. There remains no cure.
For sure, Amie and family have had to adapt to her disability. Yet today, she continues to lead a full life where the name of her blog, “An incurably happy life,” says it all. (Visitors are welcome: https://incurablyhappylife.wordpress.com/).
The couple’s daughters are now 27 and 23, and the empty-nester couple even travels together via RV where the equipment Amie needs is easily accessible. Amie even has her own etsy shop where she enjoys selling vintage items in her store, called Zuzues Petals (at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZuzuesPetals).
“I type and am able to use my laptop through the use of a computer program and eye gaze system called Tobil,” says Amie. “I spend a lot of time on my laptop since I cannot physically do anything by myself.”
As normal as possible
Amie says she and her family live their lives as normally as possible. “Doing anything with a disability requires lots of extra time and lots of planning and extra work, but most things are doable,” she says.
Several years ago, she planned a family vacation to Ireland. “I was in a wheelchair then too, so it was tricky, but we did it and had an amazing trip,” Amie says. “My husband and I go on vacation, these days usually in our RV. We have started spending part of our winters in a warmer climate, like Florida, except this year, unfortunately.”
The RV makes travel easier with ready access to her wheelchair, BiPAP machine, shower chair and other supplies. While the trips are a welcome break, mostly, Amie is at home.
“Adapting to always being in my house, due to my disability, came slowly,” she says. “As I was able to do less and less on my own, I stayed in more and more. It didn’t happen overnight, luckily, unlike the COVID-19 virus, where everyone was suddenly told to stay home. Adapting is also easier when you have no choice. I can’t physically go out on my own, so, unless someone helps me, a lot, I don’t go anywhere…”
Amie is at higher risk when it comes to the pandemic, which includes a decreased lung function, “so if I got this virus or even any pneumonia, I don’t know that I would survive it. Likely not. This is serious stuff, yet I don’t think we can stop living our lives.”
She says she possibly feels a bit safer due to widespread caution. “I don’t know how I’ll feel once everyone is back to work, and living their normal lives, probably a bit nervous because it would be so serious if I were to get sick.”Amie and Pat have reduced contact with people as much as possible, including not having family in as per usual.
“My husband still has to go out fairly regularly just to get supplies for us and our animals,” Amie says. “He tries to be cautious. It’s tough because I do need help with every daily function and a patient life.”
She speaks of the effort and help required for every trip to the bathroom, bathing, dressing and eating. “I have to have someone else come over to help me when my husband isn’t available, virus or no virus.”
Amie says she is fortunate that sister-in-law Jennifer Wolski is nearby and usually helps when Pat can’t, as well as daughter Emily. Amie’s mom, Sharon Day, also helps out.
“So, I have to take some risks just to live,” Amie says. “I really don’t think about it that much. We all just have to take precautions and be cautious, but keep on keeping, on, as the saying goes.”
Doing the at-home thing
Amie says she has “been doing this stay-at-home thing” for a long time. “I have learned that we can get by with way less than we think we need, no matter what the situation. I would never have thought that I could stay in my house and not go out for literally months at a time, but I have found out that it is very doable.”
“I would have said 30 years ago that I couldn’t imagine living without being able to move my arms or walk around, but it’s amazing what you can adjust to when you have no other choice.”
Do it yourself: Amie says If you keep your mind and brain active, along with your body if able, you find that you don’t need to go out daily, “that’s just what you are used to doing.” She mentions things people are accustomed to such as various aspects of grooming and how people can do those things themselves. She suggests YouTube videos for how-tos.
Take a break: Amie has learned “that anyone will drive you completely nuts if you are around them too much, even the people you really like or love.” Her advice is to have your own space “to get away from everyone however often you need to.”
She says most homes have more than one room for more than one reason. “Take a break from whoever you live with and stay in different rooms (or garage and basement, etc.) for a little while every day…”
Gift of time: Amie agrees with those who think the virus has a purpose. “We’ve seen many horrible things with this pandemic, but there is a lot of good that’s come from it too.”
Says Amie, “I just hope people have used this gift of time to learn a few things about themselves and their lives. We can survive without many material things, but times like this make you realize what is really important in life.
“As we slowly return to our normal lives, I hope we can find a new more meaningful normal.”
First in a three-part series about local people with special challenges during the coronavirus quarantine. They share their stories of how they cope and hope at this time, and offer advice for you. Reprinted from the April 30, 2020 New Castle Courier-Times. Tomorrow's paper will feature Amie Thornburg of Spiceland.
By DONNA CRONK
Despite complications from cerebral palsy, and a prognosis that she would never see her fifth birthday, lifelong New Castle resident Lynda Alberson is 57 and due to the creativity of her friends, is in the process of “touring” the country.
One thing that doesn’t scare this virtual traveler is getting the coronavirus. Although at high risk due to asthma, Lynda says, “If I get it, I get it. I can’t spend my life worrying about dying. I was supposed to die before I was 5. I am now going to be 58 in November.”
What troubles Alberson is not what will happen to her, but she is concerned for others and that her loved ones will be OK and that small businesses will make it.
Reared on love
Raised in a family that loved her deeply, including her late parents Gene and Dayton Alberson, the daughter remains encouraged by her upbringing and the love of family and her community. She says if she dies, she feels it’s her time. She credits Granny for her outlook.
“I could not go outside and play like everybody else so I sat and talked to her,” recalls Lynda. “She talked to me like a person; told me when my time is up, it is up.” Granny told her granddaughter that she can either fret or live her life.
Lynda says she knows so-called “normal” people who are not as blessed as she is. “I have many, many people that care about me, plus when I was very young, my Granny told me I had a choice. I could be bitter, not have people like me and be unhappy – or, smile, laugh and always find the silver living. I picked B.”
In fact, Lynda enjoys laughter so much, and finding the humorous side to life, she says, “If not for my voice I would try my hand at stand-up comic – or in my case – sit down.”
The hometown woman claims two New Castle Chrysler High School classes as her own. As a proud member of the Class of 1981, Lynda looks forward to her 40th anniversary next year. She was originally to be in the class of 1982 but credits her teachers with getting her promoted a year early by having her work ahead in sixth grade and thus skip the perils of going to the seventh-grade building with no elevator.
Lynda’s teachers also encouraged her to stay positive with advice that yes, she does things differently, but she is still no different than “June, Steve or Cathy.” She credits many people for her positive outlook.
Chick on a stick
As for her hobby of travel, Lynda would love to see all of the nation’s 50 states. She came up with a way that just might let her meet that goal. She got the idea from someone on TV who had his or her photo taken out of state and emailed to a TV station.
“I thought ‘Hey, might be a way for me to say my head has been in 50 states.’” So she posted the idea on Facebook and her friends got on board. “My friend Judy jumped on it. She takes me everywhere,” says Lynda.
“Others like my friends Nancy and Liz ran with it. Had family take me to reunions. I so enjoy the creative way they do it,” Lynda continues. “Nancy walked up to people on the beach and said, ‘Hold my friend’s head, I am posting on Facebook. They said cool.’ Our mutual friend Liz got a race car driver to hold my head and sign it.”
Lynda goes on. “The joy I have got from one post, amazing. Guess it circles back to how I stay upbeat. How can I not with all the amazing people around me?”
Advice to others
Lynda has some thoughts on how others can get through tough times such as this period of extreme social distancing. She encourages people to set goals, to get up, dressed and know what day it is. “If you don’t, you fall in a dark well that even Lassie can’t save you (from),” says Lynda.
She encourages people to “Don’t visit your fears or judgments on others,” to maybe check on loved ones or keep busy for their health. She also says to be kind. Her comedic side suggests to not be the neighbor from (the old TV show) "Bewitched."
Adds Lynda, “Laugh every day, especially at yourself.” She says if she is dropped on her head, she doesn’t get mad, but laughs and says, “Retake.”
Lynda says that “Laughter is a gift. Use it often. Lastly, remember you are not (the) only one. Treat the ones helping you kindly. They don’t have to help.”
Miracle credited with saving Bob Pierce's life
From today's New Castle Courier-Times. This is one of those stories where I float home from the interview. This is why it's my honor to be a community journalist.
Story and photos by Donna Cronk for The Courier-Times.
STRAUGHN — A week ago Saturday, Bob Pierce of rural Straughn decided to work on his lawn mower in the family's detached garage.
He wouldn't recall the events that happened next until a few days later when he woke up in St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis and at first, wondered why he was there.
When he went to the garage on Saturday, Kathy, his wife of more than 38 years, and their granddaughter, Ruby Pierce, 5, stayed inside the house. Ruby asked her grandmother, "Can I just go see my Papaw?" Ruby got ready and walked the few steps outside to the garage.
She came right back and reported to her grandmother, "He's sleeping and he's snoring."
Kathy knew something was wrong. She went to the garage and saw that Bob was breathing and called 911 and family members. "I figured he had a heart attack or a stroke," says Kathy, a New Castle school bus driver.
Seven minutes later the Lewisville and Straughn fire departments arrived. New Castle medics also showed up. "They thought they smelled something," Kathy says, adding that they suspected carbon monoxide.
Bob recalls that he had been getting his mower ready for spring by greasing it, then preparing to change the oil. So he started it and let it run in a closed garage for around 20 minutes.
"I had signs," he says. "I see them now. I didn't see them then."
He recalls thinking, "I just feel so bad," as he prepared to add the oil. His legs buckled, then he locked them and they buckled again. "The next thing I remember was being at St. Vincent Monday at 11 o'clock." But he had no idea why he was there.
First responders tried inserting a tube down his throat when they reached the garage, but his throat had swollen so much they were unsuccessful. Oxygen was not getting to his body as it should. He was taken to Henry Community Health where they forced oxygen into him. It was determined to transfer him to St. Vincent by ambulance at 1 a.m. Sunday.
He was on 100-percent oxygen, then slowly decreased it. They were able to insert a child's ventilator because his throat was swollen so much.
Bob was given some chilling news. "If I'd been in there (the closed garage) two more minutes, I wouldn't have made it," he recalls being told. "The doctor said it's a miracle how well I responded."
He was dismissed on Tuesday, and it is believed he will have a full recovery. "I got well as quickly as I got ill," Bob says.
Described by Kathy as very organized, disciplined and well trained, Bob expresses disappointment in himself because he knows better than to put himself in such a situation as what happened in his garage.
"Something good will come from it," Bob says. "I'm disappointed that I put my family through this."
When asked about his granddaughter saving his life by going out to see him at the exact right time before he was gone, Papaw is emotional searching for the words. Kathy fills in. "He's proud of her," she says. "He knows if she hadn't wanted to see him it would have been over."
Adds Bob, "I hated it that she had to find me like that but I'm glad she did."
Kathy asks Ruby why she wanted to go see Papaw in the garage. She answers, "Cause I love him."
The daughter of Bob and Kathy's son, Brandon and wife Brooke Pierce of New Castle, Ruby attends Kidding Around Daycare in New Castle. She likes spending time with her grandparents. She enjoys drawing pictures and letters, and shows a groundhog she made at daycare. She also enjoys her hoverboard, Barbie Dreamhouse, LOLs and watching SpongeBob with her Papaw.
She wants to someday be a ballerina—and a teacher.
When asked why she loves Papaw she is quick with an answer. "He's the best thing ever." The two of them agree that she's Papaw's girl.
The Pierces have another son, Aaron, and another granddaughter, Addyson, 9. Bob says he's blessed to be from a big, extended, close family, A 1974 graduate of Tri High School, he says he's "a Lewisville Bear by heart."
Bob says he's been blessed with a career working in the family business, a salvage yard in New Paris, Ohio, with extended family and his sons.
When asked how the incident affected his faith, Bob says, "We've always been Christian family. We are very faithful Christians." He points to Romans 8:28:
Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV): "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose."
Adds Bob, "I always believe no matter how bad things get even in a bad situation good will come from it." The family attends Southside Church of Christ in New Castle.
Says Bob, "I've just been blessed so much and I knew it before."
As for Ruby, people are telling her she's a hero. She giggles at the idea.
And gives her Papaw frequent hugs.
It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.