In my last blog post, I promised to show what I picked up at Lola + Company in Bloomington for the Writer Chicks. Here they are ... narrow silvery bangles. They are actually recycled guitar strings. The store owner wraps them in this charming recycled music-book paper. Sorry to spoil the surprise, Cathy. I'll bring yours next month.
It's time, much as I'll miss them, for the annual fern giveaway! I have four gorgeous ferns that need new homes or they'll be off to that great greenhouse in the sky. If you want one, all four, or any number in between, contact me. Messenger, text (317-224-7028) or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. First to claim them gets them. But don't call if you "might" want them, only if you do for sure and can come and get them. I don't deliver. These babies are HUGE! Frost isn't their friend and soon they'll be freezing their fronds off! So come get them!
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.
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.
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:
Every year, Brian and I try to do something fairly substantial to repair, upgrade, or improve our home. Some years, it's things you'd never notice unless they weren't there: a new roof, a heating-and-cooling system, even a painted laundry room (complete with tear-out of peach floral wallpaper).
This year we went big and we stayed home. Now for you, big may well be bigger, but this isn't a competition. It's an exercise in gratitude for something new, and nice, and, to my eyes, anyway, clean, crisp, and ... pretty. A BATHROOM REDO!
We updated this bathroom adjoining our bedroom about 10 years ago, changing the flooring, painting the walls a coordinating brown, and getting a new vanity top. I found a pair of oak mirrors in a thrift shop and they matched the double-sink vanity. Yes, it was an update, but it didn't address an aging and awkward-to-enter garden tub with one step up (to where, though?), shower, and worn-wooden vanity.
!The full renovation began as a "Wonder how much it would be." Or put another way, "What if?" Brian bemoaned his old shower, worn and lacking shelving space for both soap and shampoo. So he mentioned replacing it.
That's when I said, "I'd like to redo the whole bathroom." My tub was not only worn and awkward, but even though the room is a good size, there was inadequate storage space. I dreamed of something clean, and fresh, bright, and light.
I wondered about the big, beautiful showers that some are putting in these days. But to add one of those babies, unless I wanted to ax the tub (no chance!) it would mean rearranging the layout, moving the toilet, and thus, the plumbing for that, and likely for the vanity too. We had one company out but the guesstimate was up to more than DOUBLE what we ended up spending.
Our secret sauce was compromise, and the compromise was to not move where the new stuff went. Besides, turns out I'm the only one who thought a big shower with stadium seating might be nice. Brian said nope, just get him a new version of what he had--with more shelving.
"There are people who spend (insert dollar figure that shocks you) for a new bathroom," Brian said, as though he were delivering the Gettysburg Address. "We are not those people."
Well, I had to laugh. I agreed! It seemed ... lavish.
But first, well second, I pouted. We didn't know how to move forward. What if it really did cost that much no matter who did it or what they did?
A couple days passed, and I said I had an idea. Why don't we contract it out one upgrade at a time? Brian said that was just what he was thinking! So we went shower shopping at a big-box store. And left both underwhelmed--and overwhelmed at the same time, if that makes any sense.
One day a good friend asked if I'd like to go along with her to the flooring store. Sure! As it turns out, I had taken a photo of some flooring I liked. What are the chances this store would have something similar?
They did. I loved it. That was the floor I wanted! Affordable, too. Did they happen to know a good bathroom contractor? They sure did. A retired firefighter, Jim King. I was cautioned that Jim stays busy. In fact, the employee knew him pretty well and said he would call him first to tell him to expect my call.
To our surprise, Jim took the call and came out within days. He could do the whole thing. He listened to our wish list and told us what he suggested, and to go to Knapp Supply in Muncie and order everything. We did. It was the easiest buying trip we have ever made.
That was July. It would take 15 weeks for everything to arrive. At first, I wondered if there was a chance that the new bathroom would be done in time for Brian's aunts' and cousins' visit in October. When that didn't pan out, I thought perhaps by Thanksgiving. That wasn't it.
Ah, ha! Christmas. It will be done by Christmas! For a while there, I thought if it's finished by the end of January, we'd be lucky. But here we are, Dec. 10, and it's done! As of middle-afternoon yesterday! It all came in, was installed, painted, hooked up, and the punch list "punched."
We've initiated all the facilities, stocked the pull-out cabinet shelves, and we're enjoying our new and improved bath suite. Brian's a little concerned with keeping everything white. Guess it's incentive for me to ramp up my housekeeping skills.
Shout out to Knapp Supply Co., located in a big, old warehouse in downtown Muncie. The building served as a wagon-wheel shop before Knapp bought it over a century ago. The showrooms are sights to behold for those who are remodeling or redecorating! WOW!
Another big shout out to our contractor Jim King and his company, JJ King Builders, located in Alexandria. More appreciation goes out to Indiana Flooring in Anderson. Well done everyone!
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 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.
I anticipate this day all year long. It's my birthday. But that has nothing to do with the much-anticipated day. The birthday part is merely coincidental with the truly exciting thing that happened today. I found my paper planner-calendar for next year.
Of course, next year is no ordinary year. It's 2021! It has a lot going for it without lifting a finger. Mainly, it's not 2020!
2020 has been ... let's see, how do I put this? Memorable? And here is the good it has done inside me: It has made me tremendously grateful for the great memories, including the incredible vacations we've had in recent years to such places as Washington, D.C., Boston, Hyannis, Minneapolis, New York City, Houston, and amazing, unique experiences within them all.
It has made me treasure my family and friends as I miss and can't wait to see them.
It has made me anticipate such seemingly simple tasks as putting up a new Christmas tree this year and cleaning out our attic. My heart is grateful. But it's also doing something else. It's yearning for a fresh start called 2021.
I have several years' worth of well-thumbed calendars and no two of them are alike. Some years I choose a tiny version that will fit smartly in even the smallest of the purses I carry. Others are so large and in charge, they need to be hand-carried outside the purses as one might an Egyptian princess. When I'm good and tired of pampering the princess, the next year I'll go back to the mini.
Last year's calendar is more scribbled-out dates and appointments than it is anything. It's fairly pristine and if it weren't for all the dates being wrong, a slight problem with a calendar, I could carry it again next year.
Today while on my errands, I decided to swing into Office Depot and peruse the calendars. There was a nice selection in a variety of sizes but when I spotted this little number, it was game over. The cover is a flannel-like-texture in gray, with a leather-like brown binding and a sturdy ring binder. There are two ways to handle the dates inside; one with a quick jot, and another for more extensive notes and details. There's lots of space for contacts and in the very back, a clear plastic envelope built right in, in which to place paperwork. Oh yeah, mine all mine.
Why don't I get with the rest of humanity and use my cellphone calendar, you ask? The simple answer is that I do not travel lightly through life. I tend to carry a paper trail of scribbled notes on the fly about the person I'm to interview, flyers, coupons, you name it. I can have an event inked in and the planner put away while Brian is still asking me if that is 2 or 2:30 and, where again? -- to punch into his phone.
Here's to 2021! It will be a while before we flip the page, but when we do, I'm all set. More details to come ...
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?
We moved into our house 21 years ago this month. It was the age of a preschooler at the time. The previous owners, who had it built, were relocating to another state. Everything was in wonderful shape. They had just invested a lot of money in the surrounding landscaping the year before.
There wasn't much we needed to do when we moved, but that would change over two decades. And while at the time, we felt as though we had a "new" house, yesterday Brian pointed out, as only Brian can, "It's not a new house, anymore. It's gotten old like us."
We've replaced flooring more than once; added an open-air back porch; a new roof; painted the whole house and bought a new water softener.
We've updated both bathrooms, but not fully remodeled them, and because tastes and time changes things, we removed the ivy wallpaper in the kitchen that I adored for the first decade or more than we lived here.
But the laundry room had received no attention. It's the last of the house's wallpaper, and the only revision it got was when laminate went in the hallways, kitchen and dining room. I wouldn't have chosen the wallpaper the previous owner had, but until recent years, there was nothing wrong with it, and I didn't hate it. Opposite the washer and dryer is a closed pantry that covers the entire wall.
While the room is only a pass-through from the garage into the house, it's served us well. But it was neglected and I cringed every time the boys brought friends through the house that way.
We've been meaning to redo it. But working in a small space and wrestling washer and dryer never made it to the top of our to-do list. Until this week.
I have been gathering supplies and spent two evenings removing the wallpaper. Yesterday I started painting at 5:30 a.m. and all the related work went into the evening. We had some drama when moving the washer back into place and there was a leak. Everything went on hold until the plumber could get here and finally pronounce the leak repaired.
As my friend Cheryl said, we dodged a bullet because there was talk of cutting a hole in my newly painted wall to get to the deeper plumbing issues. Whew!
You have to practically wrestle Brian to get him to agree (even while rolling his eyes) with plans to hang new things on walls. He has a real problem with holes in walls, particularly new ones. But I insisted that we decorate the space.
So a print from Meijer went over the appliances. I bought a big white C that I wanted on the left-hand wall but there was a stud issue, so the first-runner-up, a wreath I had on hand, took the Big C's place to make use of the one existing screw. Brian insists that nothing else go on the wall.
I reorganized the built-in pantry, letting go of things such as five old-fashioned wood-handled dusters that we inherited from our folks, I guess. I only know in all my 60 years I had never once used one of them, preferring the light-weight feather duster.
Some other things went as well, such as the clothesline taken down for Sam's high school open house in 2005. The supplies we kept and use are all contained now in clear, lidded and labeled containers. We had three laundry baskets full of "rags" in the garage and those were pared down and placed in the pantry.
I still have a little touch-up work to do on the white woodwork but for the most part, I'm no longer embarrassed for people to come into the house through that entrance. I'm even showing it to you!
Here's the updated look.