It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at email@example.com.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
I finally finished my winter's project of covering everything in sight, well, on our back porch anyway, with new outdoor fabric, including the wicker chair and sofa pads. There's lots of yard work, and of course always housework needing done, but I want to celebrate the beautify of my own back yard and all that May greenery out there.
It's been something of a surprise, I suppose, but of the three years I've been on this book journey, this spring has been the busiest period of all. I enjoy it all so much, and look forward to every stop on the calendar.
For today, however, I'm jumping for joy at the prospect of a day with nothing on my calendar! Yes, I've found myself a free day! I'm almost giddy with the idea of nothing planned, no obligations, and no pressure to put together a program or scurry off to an appointment of any kind.
I have some organizing to do, but I want to get out into the sunshine and soft breeze and relish May at its finest. May and June are my two favorite months. I savor the lengthy, light-filled evenings, the sometimes-perfect temperatures, and the carpet of green grass in my own back yard.
I took this photo on the way into church Sunday. Pansies are among the cheeriest of flowers, don't you agree?
My sweet daughter-in-law Allison brought two hanging baskets of red geraniums on Sunday (and a pretty Vera Bradley apron). I'm going to put those baskets on the back porch, and move a couple of ferns to hanging positions on the front.
Yes, I'll be working in the yard today, and doing whatever else that strikes my fancy on this day in May. I may even find some time for a little snooze this afternoon, here, in one of my favorite spots in the known universe.
Enjoy your day! Savor May! Yes, that's my foot. I'm practicing.
When my hairdresser moved my appointment from 10 to 11:30 this morning, I was happy. I thought I could fly through the day-off to-do list before settling into the chair.
Surely I’d have time to straighten the house (I am officially the messy one in this household); tinker with my script for tomorrow night's program about this writing journey; to whip up a blog (which I’m doing as we speak) and to squeeze in a couple of other chores such as finding a recipe online for an Easter dish my daughter-in-law requests I make, rescheduling a dental visit and starting my week’s Bible Study Fellowship lesson.
Clearly, I over-estimated what I could accomplish, and under-estimated the time it takes, as I tell Brian, “to be me.”
I seem to work best mornings, then get a new burst of morning energy at night. Today I’ve got to get busy this afternoon too because this morning won’t cut the must-do list, let alone the more ambitious want-to-do one.
I could scrap the blog post today, and who would care? As much as I enjoy having people tell me they read my blog or someone I would least expect will make a reference to a post, I suppose that the answer is, I would be the one who would care if I didn't post.
This is my twice-a-week sharing of randomness about what’s going on around these parts.
If you are a writer yourself, you’ve probably read articles or even books about what a writer or author should do to promote his or her work. The general name for this is “building a platform.” That means creating a place where your readers connect with your writing, get to know you, and hopefully, want more.
Blogging is a huge expectation within a platform, and a big no-no is to leave readers hanging. We are to be consistent in posting. So if you read this out of curiosity, are just stopping by for the first time, or have been reading my columns in the New Castle Courier-Times for years, welcome and please visit again.
If you want more information about the speaking programs I offer or where I’ll be on this promotional road (spring is by far my busiest season) check out the CONTACT tab above. Maybe we’ll connect along the way.
Until then – or until my next post – I’d best get busy and try to get at least one more thing done before these roots get covered!
By the way, if you are a blogger and read my posts, would you please take a moment and share your links and plug your own blogs and websites? I’d love sharing those with my readers and also check out your work for myself.
Today’s post is a potpourri of topics.
Let’s start with spring.
It’s still March but the ornamental cherry tree in our back yard is rocking it out with blossoms. The white maple-tree leaves out front are red and healthy. Those can only mean that the wind and rain will knock the dickens out of them as they did last year! But then again, maybe not. Nature is rarely surprised by the calendar or weather.
The back-porch wicker sofa is now sporting its newly covered cushions. I promised I’d show a photo of the end result. I stitched the covers by hand and they took an entire evening apiece. But they are done and I’m happy with them.
The good news is I took the wise counsel of a quilter in line at the fabric store who told me to buy the whole bolt of fabric and I wouldn’t be sorry. She’s on point because I have enough to stitch up a couple chair pads and maybe even cover a couple toss pillows for nap time on the wicker sofa.
Speaking of spring, last weekend I told Brian I’d like to throw out our old, worn grill. To my surprise, he agreed and it’s gone. It’s amazing how good it feels to eliminate something that needs to go.
I’m going to hold off for quite a while on buying the porch ferns. Kroger in New Castle has some huge, lush babies but no, if I get them too soon they will not remain lush. The wind will beat them and the chills will damage them. So even if I have to bite my fingers, I’ll do it to keep from snagging a few of those before their time.
One of Liberty's finest
On Thursday, April 6, one of the few “famous” people who came from my hometown of Liberty, Indiana is speaking in New Castle and I volunteered to cover his talk.
He’s Bob Jenkins, retired long-time voice of the Indy 500 and NASCAR. I’m looking forward to meeting him, as my brother knows him, and of course I've been proud of him for decades.
Others famous from Liberty include Susan Wright, mother of the Wright brothers, Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside and James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie.” I know it’s a short list but hey, it’s a list!
Would love for you to join us at the museum, 606 S. 14th St., New Castle. To get your own seat on the pole, call the museum at 765-529-4028. Tickets are $15.
A visit with Blaise
Well, it was a treat.
And that's not counting the Elvis Brownies.
Reporter Travis Weik and I paid a little visit to Glen Oaks Health Campus Tuesday afternoon for "tea time" with The Courier-Times' home-grown food columnist, Blaise Doubman, to my left, above, his mom Darla, Grandma Deloris, in pink, and their friend Margaret, to the right.
You heard it here. One day Blaise will be a star on the national food scene. A brilliant recipe developer, cook, and baker, he is already author of a published cookbook and several social media connections. His column appears in The Courier-Times every first and third Sundays.
Blaise created the Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie that appears in my second book. The crust is so easy and perfect that I've vowed to never again buy a pre-made version.
Connect with him on his blog at Blaise the Baker (http://blaisethebaker.com). And if you want to sample his baked goodness, he's donating sweets to the 5-7 p.m. Saturday, April 1 Chili Cook-off fundraiser at Memorial Wesleyan Church in New Castle.
Blaise brought Elvis Brownies for us to share back at the office. Suffice it to say there are none left. Thank you Blaise and family for the visit! We had a great time.
Meanwhile, tonight, tonight ...
It's been on the books for some time, and tonight is the night. A reported 27 writers are signed up for my workshop, "So You Want to Self-Publish a Book," at the Fishers Library, 6-8 p.m. We'll talk about aspects of self-publishing you may not have thought about such as taxes, marketing, and a variety of resources.
If you're signed up, I look forward to our time together. If you aren't but would like to see a program such as this at YOUR library, let me know or let your local librarian know and maybe it can happen.
You’d be hard-pressed to find the color orange in my house decor or wardrobe. In a world filled with gorgeous color, it’s my least favorite.
My favorite hue is blue and to get right down to it, royal blue practically sings to me among the color’s various lovely shades.
One day I noticed something interesting. With a color wheel before me, I went to my favorite, royal blue. Can you guess its exact opposite? Orange! I wonder if the same formula is true of other people’s color picks? That their favorite and least favorite colors oppose one another on the color wheel. Check it out for yourself and see.
Next to royal blue, bright purple is my second favorite color, but there’s not a trace of it in my home. Then comes bright red, and I do have touches of that.
My dad was an amateur artist, and his favorite color – the only person I know with this as a fave – was brown. I have to say that I do like brown, and gray too. There isn’t much gray in my house but there is a ton of it in my wardrobe and brown is everywhere in my house and wardrobe.
I’m not much of a pink fan, and I have a complicated relationship with yellow. I love it in flowers and I have two rooms in my home painted yellow. I chose it in the southwest bedroom for the warmth might give on a cold winter’s day, and for how light-filled the room seems at dusk. There was a time when I thought I looked good in yellow. But I saw a photo of myself a year ago wearing it and thought it was about the worst color I could choose to wear.
While I’m not fond of orange, I’ve curiously sought orange things out this past winter in a few ways. I joined Weight Watchers in January and their new program allows “free” fruits and vegetables (within reason). Tangerines have been my saving grace all winter and I’m still waiting to get burned out on them moving through spring. I hope I never do.
And while for the longest time, Twinings Green Tea was my go-to evening beverage (I call it the Official Tea of Sweetland), for a couple of months now I have yearned for the crisp, smooth flavor of Bigelow’s Constant Comment. It’s the orange rind that makes it.
And why was I so drawn to Kelly Finch’s orange-studded wreath that I got for Christmas decorating and it still adorns the window over the kitchen sink, only now with Easter chicks and bunnies beneath it on the ledge?
And I can’t forget Reggie’s favorite toy, an orange rubber fellow.
I’m grateful for the amazing bounty of all of God’s beautiful colors, including the bright, cheery orange in all of its forms. I realize that orange has its own perfect place in this colorful world, and that all colors do their parts and play their roles in His creation.
What’s your favorite color? Your least favorite?
Going into last weekend I wondered how I would get everything done. Ever have a few-days period like that? Everything planned was good, but it was all a matter of timing to pull off.
We couldn’t get together with our daughter-in-law Allison on her birthday, so we had a belated celebration. When Brian reminded me that his brother planned to spend Friday night with us as a stop en route to a convention, it seemed the perfect time to have the kids in and call it a dinner party!
We all looked forward to it.
I can’t remember the last time I baked a birthday cake. Usually we get one at the grocery store or maybe an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, but there was something nice about digging out the round cake pans and turning on the oven, going old school.
The party was fun, complete with a funny little game we made up (Brian and Steve helped me with the questions) called How Well Do You Know Allison? I learned that my DIL and I share our favorite color (blue) as well as our least favorite color (orange).
After Sam and Allison went home at 11, I went to bed, Steve went to bed, but Brian and Ben stayed up and watched basketball until 2 a.m. Takes me back to the days when we visited Brian’s folks in Rockville and Brian and his dad stayed up late after the rest of us called it a night.
Steve was up early Saturday to drink coffee with Brian before Steve left for his Kiwanis district meeting. I headed out soon after for the inaugural Alpha Tau Chapter of Tri Kappa’s Book & Author Luncheon.
Here’s my little secret. Because I felt the need to tweak and practice my 10-minute speech, I left the house early enough to pull over at my little "speech staging area" in a remote country church parking lot. I’ve stopped there, at Soul Harbor, a few times to quietly sit in the car and read a presentation aloud without prying eyes or people looking funny at the crazy woman talking to herself.
I find that having something on paper is quite different from speaking the words aloud, and so I try to run through speeches verbally several times before presenting them.
The day was, at least by all the accounts I heard, a huge hit! About 140 gathered for the fundraiser luncheon and to hear brief talks from each of the six local authors featured. I know that I left there inspired by what each had to say.
I was especially intrigued to hear local florist Teresa Southerland speak about how she has gotten gigs from The Smithsonian writing scientific copy for children’s booklets and pamphlets.
It’s encouraging to hear that unexpected opportunities abound out there beyond our own communities. She does a great job.
I did double duty, taking some photos at the event and then going back to the office to upload for the newspaper.
Sunday I had to be at church before the first service as it was my rotation to work the information desk. Our small life group also was tapped to prepare and serve the welcome lunch and we were invited to stay for the meal. It all went together so smoothly!
We were prepared to do clean up but told there was a crew for that so we got to leave and enjoy the afternoon before it was time to gather for our evening life group meeting. Brian and I even had time to get our weekly grocery shopping done, a surprise that I didn’t think we’d get done over the busy weekend.
It was a fulfilling three days to have so much planned but also to see it all unfold in positive ways. Missions accomplished!
TOP left: Chatting at the Alpha Tau Chapter of Tri Kappa luncheon.
TOP, right: Fruit-flavored water has appeal.
CENTER, left: The meal is served.
CENTER, right: Ruth Ann and Dick Willis look over some of Teresa Southerland's educational materials. She is a local florist and was commissioned by The Smithsonian.
BOTTOM, left: Citrus and floral water.
BOTTOM right: Our daughter-in-law Allison blowing out her birthday candles.
It’s no secret that one of my favorite places is on our back porch. Several years ago, I had an idea to create an old-fashioned porch complete with space enough to comfortably seat 10, to outfit with a table and chairs, a couple of thrift-shop wicker rockers painted black and – the must-have – an all-weather wicker sofa for lounging, dreaming, writing and yes, (Shush!) napping.
The porch would cover the “patio,” located out the back door of many suburban homes, including ours, and takes the form of a cement slab. Our slab was boring and completely non-welcoming. We spent zero time there.
After Brian thought over my proposal, complete with his version of a Congressional inquiry, (“Do you think you or we would really use it?”) the porch was confirmed by our committee of two and sent on to our fabulous handyman, Monty Foust and his House to Home business.
Monty created our back porch during one autumn, seeing to all the technical details such as roof pitch and labor while I dreamed of springtime hanging baskets and … finding the right all-weather sofa.
The project exceeded my expectations and officially debuted at Ben’s graduation party. Since then, it has been the backdrop to many gatherings. I’ve noticed in the two times since its installation when we’ve hosted family reunions, even though we also rent a tent for the yard, people prefer to gather on the porch, even in numbers exceeding 10.
But my favorite time on that porch, I have to admit, is when I’m there alone, the birds in peaceful harmony, the distant sound of kids playing in the neighborhood, and time to read, think or pound on the laptop.
If you have a copy of my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, you’ll see that the porch on the cover of the fictional B & B features the black wicker and the striped fabric cushions. There they are crisp and new. But unlike in a painting, the cushions have faded and have mildew stains. It’s time for new slipcovers.
Saturday Brian and I went to the fabric store in search of outdoor material for me to stitch into the slipcovers. We hit the jackpot because there were several bolts (Brian called them skeins) of beautiful, bright-colored fabric that would work well for the project and the big bonus: it was all 60-percent off.
While figuring out how much I needed at the checkout, a quilter in line watching offered her two cents: “Take it all, the whole bolt. You’ll never regret getting too much fabric. You’ll always regret getting too little.”
She’s right already. I have plenty to cover the six essential cushions, and enough left, it appears, to cover the seats of the two wicker chairs. It will all resemble a matching set.
A friend with whom I email regularly wrote yesterday wondering why she hasn’t heard much from me lately. I’m sewing! And, I’m dreaming of hanging baskets, birdsong and summer on our porch.
The other day I left the house bound for the grocery store. Less than two miles from home, I felt a wave of minor panic. Oh no! I forgot my cellphone!
What if I had a flat? What if someone at work needed me? What if I saw something funny and needed to text Brian? I thought of tapping the brakes and turning around. Then I thought of how life has changed, I'm being silly, and how I had spent most of my years without a phone in my purse and I've made it this far.
When I consider my personal history with cellphones, one image comes to mind. It’s not ancient history, either, but may seem that way, given how far our phones have come.
The image is a scene at the Babe Ruth baseball diamond in Pendleton. That narrows down the time to about 16-17 years ago because that’s when Sam played Babe Ruth and that is the only reason we were seated on the bleachers in that setting.
In the scene, a Babe Ruth dad walks by, cellphone plastered to his ear, a man so engrossed in a call that he isn’t watching the action on the diamond. Pitiful, we judged.
Brian and I commented to each other with disdain. “Who is that busy that he has to take calls at the ball diamond? Leave it at the office! C’mom!”
We were genuinely offended by the dad’s self-importance.
Fast forward just a few years and we are the ones with the phones against our ears, as is everyone else around us.
We were slow to get cellphones at our house. The first was a school-issue one for Brian, that went mostly unused. I think Ben, an eighth-grader, was the first to get a cellphone aside from Brian’s school cell.
Ben’s was a birthday gift and it may be his favorite present, ever, because he said he didn’t dream we’d actually get him one.
I never got the hang of texting when you had to hit number keys repeatedly to get letters. I am a lightning-fast typist, and I’ve been told I’m pretty quick with the pen and pad too, but texting? I was pitiful and I’m still not the best although my auto-corrects can be amusing.
The early cellphone photos were poor and as recently as a couple of years ago, our editor had a policy against using them for newspaper photos. My, but they have come along and the DPI and general quality are quite good now.
During my D.C. coverage last month, I relied on my cell camera and used my independent camera for back up.
Brian uses his phone’s GPS daily in his part-time job and he’s as adept as anyone in looking up airline flights or checking to see if Milburn Stone (Doc Adams on Gunsmoke) could possibly still be alive.
When I visited Israel in 2014, Brian and I spoke a few times and the connection was instant and as clear as if we were sitting next to each other on top of Masada. Growing up, the long-distance call to Connersville, about 10 miles away, sounded as though we were speaking half way around the world. The irony.
I try not to be annoying with my cellphone but the other day I forgot to turn it off and it rang during a meeting. I got a dirty look and I deserved it.
It’s a new world, for sure, and cellphones keep us connected in ways we wouldn’t have imagined just a couple handful of years ago.
Basically, I feel naked without one.
And no, Milburn Stone could not possibly still be alive.