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.
"Where are the scissors?"
There's no excuse for why I can never seem to find a pair when I need them but it's always the case with office supplies in our house. The problem is that we have multiple depositories throughout our home for various kinds of tape, paper, writing utensils -- and scissors.
I did a quick scissors inventory and found myself surprised at the quantity--if not quality. Yet I know that if I kept looking, the number would double. There's a pair in a library table that, as my mother used to say, "Wouldn't cut hot butter." There's a pair in our vanity that despite terrible care and a layer of rust, is so sharp and efficient, they could probably double in brain surgeries.
The sewing basket contains a pair of pinking shears. I don't know when the last time was that I needed them, but pinking shears were precious to my mother, who sewed often. While Mom had few demands on her belongings, her instructions on the pinking shears were firm: They are only to be used on fabric.
One surprise is how many pairs of the boys' elementary-school scissors we have around the house. One is even engraved with "Ben Cronk." I'm impressed that some once-upon-a-time elementary school teacher was so organized and foresighted as to take the time to do the inscription. Who could toss an engraved pair of her boy's little-kid scissors? Not me.
The ones with the big, gray handles are kitchen shears which have come in quite handy and by some miracle, I've managed to keep them well-confined to the utensils drawer.
The rusty ones with the well-used black handle? They still work well, along with the metal ones. The red and orange blades are probably the most functional of the lot for the general functions of slicing and dicing through paper. I do that a lot.
So now that the blog is up, I'll spread out this army of knives throughout the house, placing them in "handy" spots. And then, when I need a pair ... I'll search.
What duplicate tools do you keep around your house that you still can't find when needed? Or, what organizational tips can you share with the rest of us who aspire to the ultimately organized home, but to date, fall short?
When I crash-landed on Friday after a hectic week, it appeared that the weekend’s agenda was blank.
It felt heavenly.
I could finally see to what had become a full-page to-do list.
There were weekly items to complete: my Bible Study Fellowship assignments, this week in the Book of 1 Samuel; the Friday chore of grocery shopping, and, facing the music on the Weight Watchers scales (not my best week).
Then I had to turn attention to some writing-related work. I had an offer to share a space the first weekend of December at the annual Minnetrista Luminaries Walk and needed to see how that meshes with another invite to do a signing at the Octagon House Christmas Walk the same weekend.
I needed to get a check in the mail to secure the 2019 opportunity to have my books available at Warm Glow Candle at the Centerville exit off Interstate 70 and catch up on some bookkeeping on the home front.
I am still finishing a new program I’m giving Thursday to a women’s literary club, this one about how in a writing career – and in life in general – there’s always something new. I’ll also detail this new adventure of writing devotions and share a few.
Then I had a big fish to fry: Securing a 2019 health insurance plan now that Brian is on Medicare. This project takes longer than the others combined but we made progress.
I had some more frivolous things on my "hope-to-accomplish" list. I’ve lost some weight this year and have had a goal of a new winter coat. I knew what I wanted: something incredibly warm (I’m that “always-cold” person you know); something black, weatherproof, and puffy without making me look like Mrs. Michelin. I also had a size goal and didn’t quite make it. Then there’s all that winter-clothing bulk under a coat to deal with.
I am a consignment-shop junkie but nothing was showing up in my favorite haunts that came close to what I looked for. What to do?
My bestie Gay sent a photo of the interior of Macy’s and wow! It was loaded with the black coats that interested me. So I did something rare when clothes shopping. I asked Brian to go with me to pick out a winter coat. He held my jacket and purse and did some looking while I slipped on candidates, ala' Goldilocks.
I found one that I liked a lot – but didn’t love. It was knee-length and I had thought more about thigh-length. Then Brian found one I like even better, still knee-length. It’s a big, bad, WARM coat. I’m ready for snow, wind and rain – at least in the coat department.
It’s Sunday now and there’s church and a run to the library along with a pot of chili I plan to make. There’s a few things still on the to-do list but there’s a whole bunch of them marked off with blue Highlighter lines.
Yes! I call this a successful weekend.
What are you reading this summer?
Just this morning I finished one of those books so delightful that I didn't want it to end. The title caught my eye while headed out of the library: Strangers tend to tell me things.
Hey, that's my story, I thought. As a writer, it's what happens; often they tell me lots of random things. Last week I sat next to a fairly recent resident of New Castle who transplanted from Nebraska while I covered a senior center luncheon for the paper. She unpacked her story so thoroughly and personally, and gave such a splendid shout-out to how much the local senior center means to her, her photo and comments became leads to my resulting story.
But what's interesting about Amy Dickinson's book, mentioned above, and subtitled: A memoir of love, loss, and coming home, is that while I figured that our writing careers would be what we had in common and why I would enjoy her memoir -- that's the least of what drew me in.
She is famous for her Ask Amy syndicated column and I am not famous for anything but, I imagined that she'd talk a lot about her career and life as a columnist.
Turned out though, that the writing experience is a minimal part of the book. We have so much more than writing in common such as our mutual core loves for our tiny hometowns. Hers is even smaller by a lot than mine. She was raised in the boonies of that town on a farm. I was raised in the boonies of my hometown on a farm. Consider even the names of our hometowns: Hers is Freeville. Mine is Liberty, or fictionally honoring the town, I call it Freedom in my novels.
We're both the youngest in our families of origin. We're about a year apart and as kids, had trouble sleeping, wanting our mothers near at night after our grandmothers died. We both grew up in small Methodist churches. We both get the utter goodness and whip-smart insights of rural folk.
Amy, who also works for NPR and appears on the show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," could live anywhere she wants but instead, settled back in her New York-state hometown as soon as she became an empty nester. Becoming an empty nester inspired the theme of returning to a woman's roots in my first novel.
In another oddly ironic moment, when I snooped around the internet for images of Amy, one popped up of her wearing a dress nearly identical to the one I chose for son Sam's wedding.
I also related to Amy's stories of coping with her mother's decline and death, and I swooned with her over her romance with -- get this, for real -- falling for the "boy next door" who had grown at midlife into the man of her dreams and she married him.
You can bet that I'll soon be reading Amy's first book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville.
My small group from church, the Midlife Moms, just finished our study of Priscilla Shirer's book, Fervent, and I'm placing it on the bookshelf today. The new one we'll start a week from tonight is Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible: And what we can learn from them.
This summer I read the proof copy of friend Janis Thornton's true-crime book, Too Good A Girl, now available from her or on amazon. And out of the blue, the church sent along Henry Cloud and John Townsend's book, Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know.
In a few weeks Bible Study Fellowship resumes and we'll start our journey with Joshua in the year's study, People of the Promised Land. Ovid Church is hosting a satellite group on what I hear will be Thursday mornings, an extension of the New Castle group that meets Tuesday mornings. I attend the Middletown group that meets Monday nights in Middletown. These are women's Bible studies and if you are interested in joining BSF, you are more than welcome to do just that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some summer porch reading to get to.
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.
We're having a little shindig at our house Saturday in honor of our daughter-in-law Allison's new master's degree. Then the Midlife Moms Bible study girls will be here Sunday night.
So I started in over the weekend getting things in order. You know how that goes. I bet you do it too when company's a comin.'
When the boys left home several years ago, and this mama hen knew I'd miss them like crazy, the only positive was that surely the house would forevermore practically clean itself. Clutter would cease. Floors would gleam. Peace, order, and an empty hamper would fill my days.
Why hasn't it quite worked out that way? There are just the two of us and our dog, Reggie, at home now. Yet things don't maintain themselves. I tend to form stacks and put off putting things away.
There was a time that within minutes I could put my hands on the title of any random college textbook Brian saved 40-some-odd years ago. If something mechanical broke, no worries, I located the file and retrieved model and serial numbers for replacement parts. Once I did this and the garage-door repairman was in awe.
But in recent years, I've lost my knack for that gold-grade level of organization. I could blame it on several years of concentration on one aspect or another of my book journey, but I don't know if that's truly the case. I've always had a lot of fish to fry in one way or another. So why do I pile instead of put away?
Still, I love an organized home. And company is the best excuse I've found for sprucing.
I've written before about the late Beverly Walcott's tablecloth. Many years ago I interviewed Beverly about her penchant for bargain hunting and stowing away her finds and freebies as Christmas gifts for her adult kids.
The kids got the mysterious bags of goodies at Christmas, a unique bonus gift each year. As we chatted for the article, I admired her tablecloth and she said, "I can make you one." So I ordered it, and she delivered. I've loved it ever since and most always, it graces our dining room table. Except, that is, when it's got a gig.
The tablecloth, hand-crocheted by Beverly, will not wrinkle no matter what you do to it, and it cleans in the washer like a dream. I can't begin to tell you the compliments it has generated, especially since it has gained a second life on the road.
That tablecloth has been to some 200 book-related events -- programs, author fairs, festivals, you name it. Wherever I take the books, I take the tablecloth because it will magically fit any table (the bottom simply drapes more or less according to the situation). On more than one occasion, a potential reader makes a beeline for my table at an event. But before I can get out my pen to sign a book, she touches the tablecloth and says, "This is beautiful! Did you make it? Where did you find it?"
So Sunday when I started cleaning, I began in the dining room and realized that Beverly's tablecloth hadn't appeared on the dining room table in months. It was time for it to come home. On the table it will remain until I take it on the road again.
Oh yes, no matter where I roam, there's no place like home, even for a tablecloth.
Speaking of the road, I still have some fall openings, and I'm taking bookings for 2018. If your book club, library, social or service club need a program, I offer several. Most are designed to encourage women to live their dreams and bloom where they are planted, but I also offer a children's literacy program, and a two-hour self-publishing workshop. If you would like more information, email me at email@example.com.
We have too many old-tech stereo systems in our house! Do you have outdated technology in yours?
I can accept that Brian is quite attached to his 1976 stereo system and his collection of vintage vinyl. But it doesn't stop there. He has a second stereo in the bedroom, and we have two additional stereos in the house which belonged to the boys.
I know. It's over the top. The boys use their cells and whatever other technology is up to date for their music collection. I use my laptop and cell, and in the car, I tend to prefer talk radio over music anyway.
So while Brian was gone fishin' this week with his brother, Steve, and their buddy Tom, I took the liberty of making a change. Since we never use the stereo system in Ben's old room, and it took up real estate on Brian's childhood desk that resides there, I decided to box up the system and stash it away in a closet.
I'm the only one who uses the desk for desk-type work, mainly as a staging area for book-related paperwork and a tray there catches cards, letters and notes readers are so kind to send.
So I pushed the room's bed against the wall in a different direction, freeing up some new space, then pulled the desk into the center of the room facing the room's door and tidied up the paperwork on top.
Then I pulled an occasional chair that's been in the living room and placed it in front of the desk to give it a "come-sit-in-my-office" (tee hee) look.
I propped Marilyn Witt's original painting that became my second book's cover on a table in a corner behind the desk. We can use the bed as a bed if needed, or I can spread out larger projects or stage materials for programs there without messing up other areas of the house.
The best part is that nothing was purchased for the new look, just simply repurposed or rearranged from that room or others in the house.
I like it! A lot! And when Brian got home today from his trip, he said of the room, "Wow!"
What does a century-old family photo, a cucumber and Abe Lincoln have in common? I'll be sharing at my children's talk tomorrow called "What's Your Clue?" It's becoming one of my favorite programs to give. Surprise me! Come to the program, and visit with me after at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 3 at Rehoboth Methodist Church, 3955 N. 1000 W, Parker City. I'll have a second program at 2:30. YOU are invited. Both are sponsored by the Farmland Public Library. Bonus: Hit up The Chocolate Moose in Farmland for lunch on the way).
If you've read my blog or other social media for a while, you know that I enjoy giving programs that relate to my books or other writing. I never know where the next "gig" will come from but wherever it does, I'm delighted.
KIDS' AND ADULT PROGRAMS SATURDAY, JUNE 3
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 3 is a first. I'm giving two separate programs in one place, and tucking a book signing around both. I was invited by Farmland Public Library Librarian Carrie Watson to help kick off the library's summer reading program with my children's program, "What's Your Clue?" tomorrow at 1 p.m.
I've given variations on this program twice before, and have rewritten it a bit for tomorrow's kiddos with some additional audience participation elements. What in the world could a 100-year-old original family photo, Abraham Lincoln, and a pickle have in common? Well, come to the free program tomorrow (or book me for your venue) and you'll find out.
Then at 2:30 p.m. a second free program geared toward adults, but totally family-friendly for all ages, gets under way. Again I have some audience participation and discussion involved as we unpack "What's On Your Bucket List?"
I think we'll have a good time with both programs. At least I know I will, and I'll do what I can to make sure you do too. I'm bringing a couple of door prizes for both venues. So do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya?
To accommodate more people, the programs are at the Rehoboth Methodist Church, 3955 N. 1000 W, Parker City.
COME TO THE MIDDLETOWN FAIR!
From 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 8, I'm joining two Henry County authors at the Middletown Lions Club Fair as we sign books and visit with folks at the fair. My thanks to Shenandoah School Corp. Librarian and author Colette Huxford for asking me to be a part of this gig. I'm delighted that our mutual friend Terry Gray will be there with her book too.
I'll head over to the fair after work at the paper. The fair is in Dietrich Park on the southeast side of Middletown. You'll find it. It will be a nice ending to my official "work" week. There's even fireworks that night! And rides, and fair food, and good old-fashioned fun.
JUST BECAUSE ...
When Brian was gone fishin' this week, Reggie got to "sleep over" in our room. When I woke up yesterday, I had to laugh at the way she was wrapped up in the sheet beside me. Crazy dog keeps us entertained.