Here's the latest Next Chapter newspaper column.
I don’t know about you, but for me, 2020-21 merges into a single chunk of time. And here we are in 2022 as COVID remains the lead story most days, regardless the media outlet we choose.
Recently I celebrated something peculiar: “That’s great,” I told Brian. “A viral throat infection!”
Only in the COVID era (yes, I think we're officially in an era) could anyone applaud a throat infection. Yet I did because it meant that it wasn’t COVID nor that other C word. He had been to the doctor, tested negative for the dreaded coronavirus and strep throat. No scripts were prescribed; just ibuprofen, rest, and fluids. We could do that.
As the illness lingered, and Brian worried about getting his voice back, I assured him that he would.
"But if you don’t,” I added, “in a show of solidarity, I will never speak again.”
Hmm, wondered how that would work out.
I told him that he needed to avoid talking for a while though, to heal. I encouraged him to communicate through other creative means such as sign language, pantomime, interpretive dance, or a voiceless skit. I’m still waiting to see that interpretive dance.
I’m now one week into my second year of retirement; no longer able to use the term, “new retiree.” Maybe I’m at the age where I’m not new at much of anything.
Still. I celebrate much about 2021. On that day Dec. 30, 2020 day when I walked out the back door for the last time at 201 S. 14th St., New Castle, my immediate goal consisted of making it to the car without tears. I cleared that objective, a reminder that when life is hard, we need to simply just get through the next thing; and the one after that.
When last January arrived, my time, emotions, and prayers went into seeing Brian through his health issues. There were dark days, and difficult moments; there were tears, and even sobs. There were weeks when I wondered what awaited us, and how or if he would get better.
But thank You God! He got better, and by the time we put up the 2021 Christmas tree, Brian asked, “What do you think about rearranging the living room and putting the tree up somewhere new?”
I looked at him as though he were an alien from not just Mars, but from another galaxy. Who was this man? And where did he get the kind of energy to ask me that question? I didn’t have it regarding a room redo—but it was almost worth it for no other reason than he apparently did.
The shero (that’s the female version of the word hero; you’re welcome) of the year came in the form of a nurse friend who provided one small tip that became an immediate game changer for Brian’s medical situation. An angel among us.
By late summer, Brian’s first post-surgical cat scan returned clean, and it felt as though we had won the lottery! Not just the lottery, and a ticket around the world, and a lake house, and whatever else you think might make your heart sing. But I can tell you that a singing heart isn’t about material things. It’s about good health. Suddenly, we could laugh, joke, and make plans again.
What’s amazing are the other blessings that piled high in 2021. I not only finished writing the book I spent the year working on, but am able to connect with some kindred spirit writers who formed a small monthly group. When we meet for four hours, it feels like four minutes.
One tip I got from one of the writers moved my book project forward in ways I couldn’t have imagined—through the suggestion of a book designer. I’m not just talking cover typography, but an interior designer. Yes, every book has a specific interior look, much as does a home.
There were other joys: the support in prayers and deeds of people who care about us; the gathering of Brian’s aunts and cousins in October; watching our gutted and rebuilt bathroom emerge from a five-month wait after ordering materials.
There’s the service group I joined at church; the projects our life group has worked on this year; the delight of meals shared with friends, and the feeling three times a week of water in a pool at my exercise location.
This newspaper, along with those in New Castle and Shelbyville, allowed me to reimagine a column similar to the one that I wrote in Henry County for three decades—only through this lens of being a little older. Well, a lot older. I started it at age 30 and here I am, somehow 63. (I can't even describe myself as in my early sixties now, can I?)
While I have no idea where the years went, I also affirm that there is life after one’s main career. Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have more to say this year. Thank you for reading. These days, my writing is done from a comfy recliner with a Boston terrier nestled beside me. Those too, are blessings.
Whatever unfolds for you in 2022, know that even in the hardest of times, blessings will show up.
Just ask the Good Lord to help you see them.
For many years at the newspaper, if I found myself in a computer pinch of any kind, I called for Dale.
From somewhere inside the building, it wasn’t long before he showed up at my desk. It was wonderful.
Dale never got rattled, and if he felt angry, I never saw it. Among his many other duties, he was That Guy who helped us all with whatever technical difficulty we had going.
Generally, it was something simple, resolved by the pressing of a computer key or two in combination with holding one’s facial expression precisely right.
Other times, it was more complex. If so, I’d offer Dale my chair and flee the scene while he performed his special kind of magic.
Even if things were complicated, it wouldn’t be long before my fingers were back on home row, the keys flying double-time toward deadline.
With Dale retired for several years now, the resident computer guru is Travis, who is also the managing editor. Like Dale, Travis doesn’t get uptight or mad when there’s a computer problem. He knows what to do.
How these people know what to do is beyond me. I just know how to write, and you may question that.
Through my decades in the news business, and probably those same decades in whatever business you are or were in, we experience periods of huge technology transitions.
In the 1990s, we got a new system company wide. Many of us were concerned, wondering if the new machines would be difficult to operate, and weren’t things going well the way they were? We were getting papers out on time, right? Why did things have to change?
Aw, yes, the universal question: Why do things have to change?
How often in life do we ask that about so much? Yet we know, down deep, that it’s how life works on most levels. And once we adjust to the new system, we’ll wonder how we got by with those older stone tablets… er, computers.
Word came during that particular upgrade that an employee at another paper had felt such anxiety about the transition to the new system, the person sought prayer at church. I don’t have a problem with seeking divine intervention for computer issues—in fact, I’m all for it—but mention it only because I feel that worker’s angst.
A couple of us voiced concern that we would have to spend part of Christmas day in the office that year, ushering in the new system. We were concerned the computers would cause us to miss family celebrations. For the record, the new computers did not ruin our holidays nor our lives.
I can’t count the number of computers or related programs we dealt with through my years on newspaper staffs. We made it through those sometimes-rocky periods, and we always, somehow, got the paper out on time.
While I worked as editor of a small paper in west-central Indiana before my New Castle years, one winter’s day, the staff traveled to a newspaper office in Illinois for training about a new computer system we were all getting. It was so confusing that I knew I’d never get the hang of it. The lesson notes I took amounted to gibberish. I felt doomed.
By the time I got home that night, I had chills, aches, and felt horrible. It wasn’t the computer training that brought me down that day. It was the flu! I wasn’t doomed after all regarding the training, and even managed to learn the new system once I recovered.
This week I’ve been thinking about those days, and about the helpful coworkers who were always able to figure out our computer issues and upgrades.
One downside of retirement is that it will be harder to keep up with changes in technology. I got a little taste of that this week when the only tech person to call was me and I was already there.
My website provider emailed that an automatic credit card payment for my monthly fee was rejected and if I didn’t get it resolved, it would be curtains. OK, they didn’t say curtains, but that was certainly my interpretation.
I imagined the problem was due to a hacked credit card that had to be voided and replaced earlier this year. I thought that had been straightened out. I went down that rabbit hole for a couple hours, talking to the credit card company and reading through too much information on my website host’s admin portal. Nope, it wasn’t the credit card. Nope, it wasn’t helpful to read the portal’s information.
After some significant fretting, worrying that my website and email were in danger, and moments which may or may not have included tears, there were a couple more hours of gloom.
After more dead ends and an inability to speak to a living person in tech world, I stumbled upon the problem. It had to do with a fundamental change in the host site’s operations. I can’t quite put into words how I found the problem and corrected it but at some point – even without Dale, Travis, or a trainer in Illinois – I got a message that my payment had been accepted.
Apparently I solved the computer problem. Record the date for the history books.
It may be too soon to celebrate, but the answer is, when these things happen in retirement, we have to hunker down and work the problem.
If I had to give you (and myself) advice about dealing with our personal computer issues, I would tell us to keep a notebook with all our current passcodes and log-in information, billing details, amounts due and when each month, and other pertinent facts relating to our computers and their specific programs.
Also, know where your owners’ manuals are kept and how to get to them quickly (OK smarty pants, know how to get to the online owners’ manuals). Get recommendations on a reputable tech-repair outlet or people who can become your very own version of Dale or Travis. Look for the helpers, I believe Mr. Rogers once said.
Above all else, locate your own kids or preschool grandchildren who might give you a hand. Add a cute dog if you wish. He may not be good with computers but he might lower your blood pressure as you work the problem.
The above Next Chapter column by Donna Cronk recently appeared in the New Castle, Shelbyville, and Connersville newspapers where Cronk pens twice-monthly columns with her thoughts on life as a retiree.
Brian and I were married in 1978, then started housekeeping in a furnished mobile home. Once my husband earned his school-administration credential, then landed his first related position, we moved to a new community and rented a farmhouse.
There, we gathered all the free furnishings we could: a well-used sofa from his folks; a table and chairs from his brother; my childhood four-poster bed sporting Grandma’s much-used mattress (the most comfortable one I ever slept on; wish we still had it) and a small, antique rocking chair from Mom. We didn’t have a lot but we had everything we needed. We were happy as ducks on a country pond.
The move meant I could commute to college full time. We paid cash tuition, leaving us with no college debt, but also with no funds for new furniture nor for much else besides food, rent, and utility bills. We didn’t mind one bit. We had a keen sense of building our future.
Once I finished college, we started feathering our nest with our own choices over what others handed down: a new sofa and matching chair; a new bedroom set the year after that; then in 1985, a new dining room table with two leaves and six chairs. It was pricey and in style.
Never mind that we had no dining room. I barely noticed nor cared about that minor detail. We had space in our rented farmhouse’s family room with its paneled walls and red-brick fireplace. Country-decorating magazines called these spaces “gathering rooms.” At least that’s what I called ours whenever I remembered the term.
When I looked at that dining room set, I saw the rest of our lives spread before us. As we sat down to the table when company came, I imagined all the meals and people who would gather there in the decades ahead. We sat there with baby Sam on his first birthday with his cake and Brian’s parents seated around the table.
Fast forward to that same table holding his high school graduation refreshments, and later, assembling there for holiday dinners and more birthdays with our now-adult sons. Last month, my church life group sat around two-leaves’ worth of table. Three days later, four writers spread out their paperwork and chatted there with one leaf in place.
The other day I thought about how our dining room table is dated now, not a style you see in furniture stores. It wouldn’t bring much at a garage sale. But it holds our history, and still serves us well.
Another realization occurred: that table played a large role in directing where we would live, what school our boys would attend, the friends and babysitter we would know. How is that even possible?
When we moved to this area of the state for Brian’s job, we looked at houses. We rejected the one we liked best for a single reason: no place to put our dining room table. Had we moved there, our sons would have gone to a different elementary school than they did, played with kids in another neighborhood, and been influenced by a different roster of people in classrooms and in community roles; all due, when you think about it, to a dining room table.
The table is a reminder that throughout life, we never know what ordinary, even trivial decisions we make, people we meet, or places we go, that change our lives in ways we can’t foresee or imagine. Several seemingly random circumstances resulted in me interviewing at The Courier-Times nearly 32 years ago to the day. I feel it was meant to be.
I think there’s a tendency to think that by the time we’ve reached the workaday finish line at retirement, our lives are set in stone. I found that concept a challenge to overcome as I approached retirement. I vowed, however, that no matter what happened, I would find new material, new experiences, and new purpose in these years.
My retirement began in a peculiar way: caring for an ill husband. No matter how badly he felt last winter, he insisted that I find ways to be around people, and enjoy life beyond our circumstances—even if it meant a trip no farther than to our study for a Zoom session or to lunch dates with friends at Café Royal.
Now, more than eight months into this new era, I’m finding that life is not set in stone! It continues to evolve. New things are happening; new goals emerging. This year alone I co-founded a small writers’ support group called Writer Chicks; became a new member of a church service group; joined a gym, and am working on a big project you’ll hear more about later.
No matter our age or situation in life, we need new connections, new material. No telling where the decisions we make now can lead into the future as we continue to explore this uncharted path called our lives – our next chapters.
On my agenda today? Picking up some flowers at roadside farm stand with an honor box. I’ll put the flowers in a Ball jar at the center of that aging dining room table. They’ll look great there, at least to my eyes.
Some things are worth keeping. Others are worth changing or starting or joining. God gave us such freedom to make interesting decisions throughout life.
This Next Chapter column recently appeared in the New Castle Courier-Times, Shelbyville News and Connersville News-Examiner. Continue the conversation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lawns, we’ve had a few.
As a kid growing up in the country, it was my paid job to mow the lawn. True, that pay amounted to a buck a week, and even that was seasonal, but hey, a dollar went further back then, right? And the lawn looked pretty afterward as I gulped a big glass of Lipton Instant Iced Tea, admiring my handiwork.
When Brian and I tied the knot, he became our primary lawn crew. I didn’t mind, and didn’t even need to pay him a dollar. That continued at the houses we rented, but once we bought our home, we shared mowing duties.
After our second son arrived, I worked part time, and Brian’s career typically required 60-hour weeks. A Friday “day off” might mean I would mow, clean house, make a grocery run, and prepare supper before before heading to someone’s Little League game. Full day but no big deal. Life.
I would have been in my 30s and 40s then. It feels so long ago when I think of it in lawn years and energy levels.
Before he retired, Brian assumed all the mowing-and-trimming work. It became a point of pride for him not to need a rider to get the job done. He didn’t even use a self-propelled model. In his 50s and through his middle 60s, Brian considered it exercise.
Before I ever gave spring grass cutting a thought during Brian’s chemo winter, the topic had appeared on his radar. He knew his energy level wouldn’t allow push mowing this summer.
We discussed hiring it done—words my fella finds more difficult to swallow than I do.
“They’d probably charge 50 bucks a week,” I said. “At that cost, we could have a chunk of a rider paid for in one season.”
In March, the John Deere rolled off the delivery truck. Son Ben was there for the occasion as the three of us gathered in the garage, all smiles, watching the green machine ride down the lift and roll into our lives.
Soon, when the grass did what grass does, Ben showed up again to launch mowing season. Brian and I sat on lawn chairs on the back porch, clad in winter attire, watching Ben lap the lawn and cheer him on each round, as though he were a rookie in the Indy 500.
I figured one or the other son would appear weekly and get the job done. But before that could happen, one day I looked up and what do you know? There was Brian, buzzing around the lawn on the new ride! He hadn’t nearly regained his strength, but there he sat, riding tall in the yellow saddle. I posted the special moment as my Facebook profile photo. A glimpse of normal felt amazing.
I kept telling Brian that he should teach me how to use the rider, and explain the meaning of each knob and pedal. Being the fully capable woman that I am, I would take over the task—that was my pitch, anyway. Besides, I knew I’d enjoy it.
For years I’ve heard friend Sandy Moore speak of how some of her best thinking, planning, and praying are done while lapping her large, farm lawn on the mower.
The good thing about being married almost 43 years is that Brian and I have lived a lot of life together. We know each other’s stories. But knowing each other’s stories has a down side.
I knew why my husband was hesitant to turn me loose with a riding lawn machine. He was fine with me driving a load of baseball kids to Arkansas, Michigan, or Ohio for tournaments back in the day, but mowing our lawn was a different animal.
He couldn’t quit thinking about an incident of 40 years ago.
I almost put my dad’s new three-wheeler into the farm pond. With me on it. And I mean, it was close.
Dad hadn’t given me enough instruction before letting me take his new toy for a spin. That, or I got foot-tied when I went roaring confidently through the barn lot, and forgot how to stop.
A mere few feet away from pulling an Eva Kineviel and taking it airborne before splashing down, I found the brake.
Guess you can’t unsee something like that.
One day Brian mowed in the backyard while I worked on the porch, minding my own business. He motioned me over.
“Wanna mowing lesson?” he asked.
“Are you serious?”
It was the senior version of, “Hey, baby, goin' my way?”
He walked me through it, even though I mentioned that there is a pond on the other side of our back fence. Just a moment of full disclosure.
Guess he figured it would take a lot of horsepower combined with very little horse sense for me to crash through the fence to get there.
Pleased that I didn’t destroy any property or christen the mower that first slow-motion outing, Brian believed I was ready for prime time. He had a plan.
“With you on the rider and me trimming, we can knock that yard out in 20 minutes,” he said, fairly beaming.
He’s said it more than once, as though we’re on a stopwatch, and that some kind of productivity boss is standing by with a clipboard and hardhat. I didn’t ask the question on my mind: Why does it matter how long it takes? We’re retired!
Sometimes it’s best not to say a word, other than to offer support.
“Yeah, I bet we can!” I responded.
The truth is, I think we make a pretty good team.
Donna Cronk’s Next Chapter column appears in the New Castle Courier-Times and Shelbyville News the second and fourth Saturdays each month. It runs in the Connersville News-Examiner the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Connect with her to continue the conversation via email: email@example.com.
GOING FOR THE GOLD THIS SUMMER: In my own backyard, that means marigold style. Mom used to grow them on the farm but only this spring did I realize how easy they are to grow and how low-maintenance and happy they stay all summer. Next spring I'll plant even more. They also offer quite a pop of color around the old farm bell and skirting the back porch. Retirement means time enough for many new pursuits, even simple ones such as this.
Note: Earlier this month my new column about adventures in and observations on retirement began. I've been asked if I would share it, so here goes the kick off to Next Chapter. I need to give the newspapers first dibs before I repost but once they have run, I will do so.
I'm grateful to newspaper readers who have reached out after this and my second column were published.
I'm enjoying this new era and confirming yet another life cliche to be true: I don't know how I had time to work! Mostly, I'm trying to live each day with complete gratitude. Each one is truly a treasure.
How to begin again, and a new column
In the 37 combined years I’d been on the payrolls of two newspapers, I saw a lot of people come and go in every department—typical of the news business. I’d also seen a good number come, go, and come back again. With this column, count me among those who return.
In my case, I’m back only as a columnist. For many years one aspect of my payroll job included regular slice-of-life columns. Writing the column felt like sitting down over coffee with readers at Café Royal. What I proposed is that kind of column, only with a theme about this new phase of life—retirement.
I don’t like goodbyes, and so today, I want to say hello again!
When I turned in my office key on the eve of last New Year’s Eve, what bothered me most about that day was anticipating that final walk out of the newsroom, into the back shop, and through the back door. The moment of leaving weighed on me.
So many memories were made in the newspaper office and throughout Henry County. Leaving felt like a cold-turkey way to give up something I loved. Would those memories overwhelm me as I left the building? If the tears came, at least no one would see “the ugly cry” once I climbed into my vehicle and hit Indiana 38 West.
The thing about that back door was that once it shut, there was both literally and figuratively no opening it again as the employee I had been for over three decades. Even if I freelanced, I had clocked out for good as regards my long-time payroll job. I didn’t stick around to contemplate the moment, and felt relief when my eyes somehow remained dry.
I turned 62 last year, old enough for Social Security, but young enough that just barely. Claiming it then would be something to discuss with our financial planner; just one of many things to learn about the new era ahead.
For much of my life, I had been the younger person in life settings: the youngest child in my immediate family (by a long shot); the younger daughter-in-law married to the younger son in Brian’s; the youngest among our best couple friends; and on occasion, the youngest where I worked, notably before coming to the C-T.
But “young” wasn’t what or who I was anymore and hadn’t been for a long time. “Young retiree” might work, but not really. I found that out in a hurry as I went about telling people my retirement plans. Not a single person said, “No! You’re far too young for that nonsense.”
Turns out I fit the part! How did I get there? Besides the obvious accumulation of years, 2020 had been tough in our household not only due to COVID in the pandemic sense, but with multiple personal losses of loved ones in various ways unrelated to the virus.
As the year unfolded, I became convinced that I should retire after clearing that 62nd birthday. I didn’t know what came next in any regard, only a personal whisper that it’s time for a new chapter.
Little could I have known when I told Travis one year ago about my plan, that days before I left the building, Brian would take his first chemo treatment for bladder cancer. After the chemo came surgery, and then dealing with complications from all of it. As I write this today, he’s doing well. I believe God knew that I needed to retire so that I could concentrate on caring for him during those difficult months.
I am deeply humbled and saddened to think of those who are unable to retire or leave work to be home with their loved ones who are going through hard things. I’m grateful for the privilege to do that, and now, I’m getting more than my feet wet in this retirement thing.
Already, I have a lot to say about it. I’m grateful to Travis for the go-ahead to put these thoughts on paper and share them with you. I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts about anticipating or living out this era of life, or just to say hello or continue the conversation.
I want to age with grace and gratitude—despite whatever circumstances I must face. The cliché is so true: aging is not for sissies. Also, I plan to share the joys and opportunities, insights and obstacles of this time and place.
We’re blessed if we’re able to get to this next chapter. Welcome to mine.
Continue the conversation by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orginally published in the New Castle Courier-Times.
By DONNA CRONK
KNIGHTSTOWN — It’s early Tuesday evening at Christ Fellowship Church, 4833 Ind. 109, north of Knightstown. Inside the building, lively Christmas music plays. Tables brim with school supplies and shoes, clothing and toys. Children and adult helpers are busily moving from one table to the next, filling plastic shoebox-size containers.
The reusable containers are destined for under-served children around the world in more than 100 countries who will open boxes loaded with small gifts.
The project is more than a random act of kindness, it’s an operation – Operation Christmas Child, (OCC) a ministry sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.
Late October through middle November is crunch time, as the boxes are collected from individuals and churches throughout the land, and dropped at 4,000 locations throughout the U.S. to go on to global distribution.
Leads the county
Last year, Christ Fellowship Church filled the most boxes of any Henry County church with 233. Pastor Matthew Norman said the project is led by volunteers; Hannah Cordle in particular.
“It’s Hannah’s heart do do this,” he said Tuesday night.
Cordle, a Shenandoah High School and Ball State University graduate who is a chef at Primrose Schools in Fishers, is a children’s leader at Christ Fellowship, a church that she has been a part of nearly all her life.
She’s taken part in OCC for a long time and has led the project for three years at her church. She didn’t realize that the church was the highest contributor in the county until The Courier-Times told her.
Her reason for believing in the OCC project is this. “It spreads the gospel to the countries, to the children,” says Cordle. “Gifts are fun and all that but it’s temporary. It’s about them knowing the Lord and feeling loved.”
The number of filled boxes this church provides has increased on Cordle’s watch. This year’s goal, despite the challenges provided by COVID-19, says Norman, is to fill 300 shoeboxes.
Cordle explains how each box ideally contains a wow item (a bigger toy, for example), smaller toys, school supplies and a personal note. The boxes are filled with items appropriate to a given child’s gender and age with the boxes labeled accordingly.
Christ Fellowship’s technique is to view the project as a year-round endeavor, not merely a seasonal fall project. Cordle and her friends collect quality items for the boxes year-round when they go on deep discount.
For example, she found a great buy on cute sandals at a buck a pair. She spent $35 and saved $500 on full retail for the shoes. Another example is finding a buy on nice shirts for $1 each.
Cordle says it’s important to her that the children receive quality items. That’s where buys on seasonal-clearance sales come in.
A year’s worth of finds are collected, then spread out on tables as they were Tuesday when the church’s kids and parents arrive to enjoy a packing party.
A couple of the kids there commented. Said Kristian Tompkins, “I like helping children who are in need.”
Said Jackson Smith, “I like how we get to give people gifts that can’t have gifts.”
Pastor Norman said of the project, “It’s a good cause. We’ve been to Africa. We’ve seen where these boxes go.”
He explained how he would see a child who had never seen a crayon try to eat it before being shown how to use it, for example.
There are two local drop-off sites for individuals or churches to deliver boxes.
Both churches have various hours from Monday, Nov. 16 through Monday, Nov. 23. Call the individual churches for those hours.
They are: First Baptist Church, 709 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle, phone 529-2687 and New Testament Church of Christ, 752 W. Main St. Hagerstown, phone 489-5762.
All boxes dropped off at any of the collection sites will be collected by helpers outside the facilities, as COVID precautions dictate.
...Pack another box
Area Coordinator of Operation Christmas Child is Sue Bousman, 84, of Yorktown. She’s been serving in this role for 26 years. It’s been a ministry she and her late husband, Bill, enjoyed together, and her son plans to take it over.
“It’s been a passion of mine and my husband’s, especially his,” she says. In fact, instead of flowers for his funeral, people were asked to bring shoeboxes.
Last year, in the East Central Indiana district alone, 12,000 boxes were processed. They fed into the 10.9 million boxes that were distributed to children in more than 100 countries.
Bousman family members got together this year to remember Bill a year after his passing by having a packing party for OCC. Sue said 39 family members including Bill’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came and packed 85 boxes.
Sue told her grandchildren, “Your grandpa would not want you to cry. He would want you to pack another box.”
It's Memorial Day and I'm thinking of the untold number of soldiers who died so that we could keep our beautiful country, families, friends, and communities living in freedom! This nation has its flaws and has always been filled with flawed leaders and policies, but it's the greatest nation ever known to mankind. I am thankful and grateful to be an American.
I'm thinking of my two favorite veterans today, both having passed on, and remembering how much I miss them. There's my father-in-law Ray, who served in major European-front WW II battles and survived -- he didn't think he would.
There's my brother, Tim, who passed in March. I still can't believe I'm writing that sentence ... Tim served in Vietnam.
I saw something about the history of our hometown on a Facebook page and thought instantly that I needed to talk to him about the cool post... I will miss him every day of the rest of my life.
His ashes were buried in my hometown graveyard, surrounded by plots containing our parents, my brother David, his wife Janet, and precious infants of nieces who have gone on before him. The day after Tim's service, we were told at the newspaper to go home and stay there, doing our jobs from home, due to the virus.
I didn't know if I could. Any success I would have with working from home depended on the kindness of people in the communities we cover. Would people work with me in returning calls to a phone number they didn't recognize? Would they take the time and energy from their own lives as either essential workers or while undergoing challenges of isolation to answer email questions for stories? What about take and send me photos to go with stories?
So tomorrow will be the first semi-normal day I've had since the day after Tim's burial. I'll be back in the office, assuming my normal part-time workweek schedule, although we are still to work via email and phone as much as possible for a while longer.
A couple weeks ago we visited my SIL Jeannie, Tim's wife. She handed us a plastic bag brimming with books. On the outside of the bag it read "To DONNA & BRIAN."
It was from Tim. Tim was an avid reader of all kinds of books, and he would make a selection from his vast library regularly and almost every time we saw him, we went home with a bag of books.
Tim had prepared a final bag of eclectic volumes for us at some point before he passed on ... it felt at once incredibly sad, and sweet -- bittersweet -- to take home those last books he wanted us to have. I'm saving the bag and took a photo of the selection so I would have it and remember Tim's thoughtfulness. Of course I will forever remember Tim. No photo is needed for that memory. But I have some to treasure.
It’s amazing what you can adjust
to when you have no other choice’
Second in a three-part series in the New Castle Courier-Times about local people who deal with special challenges during this time of quarantine. Their stories are about how they cope and hope not only now but routinely, and their advice for us. Tomorrow: Wanda Jones.
By DONNA CRONK
SPICELAND – In 1998, at age 31, Amie Thornburg was a young wife of Pat Thornburg and mother of their little girls, Emily, 6, and Lindsey, nearly 2.
The Tri graduate who attended both Purdue and Ball State also worked in exports for SMC Pneumatics in Indy. It was then that she was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“ALS basically causes your muscles to quit working. Eventually, all of your muscles,” Amie says, adding that she was able to work for several years after the diagnosis, as well as do many things because the disease has been slow to progress in her, “which is usually not the case,” she adds.
“Most people are told to expect to survive 2-5 years after diagnosis,” says Amy. There remains no cure.
For sure, Amie and family have had to adapt to her disability. Yet today, she continues to lead a full life where the name of her blog, “An incurably happy life,” says it all. (Visitors are welcome: https://incurablyhappylife.wordpress.com/).
The couple’s daughters are now 27 and 23, and the empty-nester couple even travels together via RV where the equipment Amie needs is easily accessible. Amie even has her own etsy shop where she enjoys selling vintage items in her store, called Zuzues Petals (at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZuzuesPetals).
“I type and am able to use my laptop through the use of a computer program and eye gaze system called Tobil,” says Amie. “I spend a lot of time on my laptop since I cannot physically do anything by myself.”
As normal as possible
Amie says she and her family live their lives as normally as possible. “Doing anything with a disability requires lots of extra time and lots of planning and extra work, but most things are doable,” she says.
Several years ago, she planned a family vacation to Ireland. “I was in a wheelchair then too, so it was tricky, but we did it and had an amazing trip,” Amie says. “My husband and I go on vacation, these days usually in our RV. We have started spending part of our winters in a warmer climate, like Florida, except this year, unfortunately.”
The RV makes travel easier with ready access to her wheelchair, BiPAP machine, shower chair and other supplies. While the trips are a welcome break, mostly, Amie is at home.
“Adapting to always being in my house, due to my disability, came slowly,” she says. “As I was able to do less and less on my own, I stayed in more and more. It didn’t happen overnight, luckily, unlike the COVID-19 virus, where everyone was suddenly told to stay home. Adapting is also easier when you have no choice. I can’t physically go out on my own, so, unless someone helps me, a lot, I don’t go anywhere…”
Amie is at higher risk when it comes to the pandemic, which includes a decreased lung function, “so if I got this virus or even any pneumonia, I don’t know that I would survive it. Likely not. This is serious stuff, yet I don’t think we can stop living our lives.”
She says she possibly feels a bit safer due to widespread caution. “I don’t know how I’ll feel once everyone is back to work, and living their normal lives, probably a bit nervous because it would be so serious if I were to get sick.”Amie and Pat have reduced contact with people as much as possible, including not having family in as per usual.
“My husband still has to go out fairly regularly just to get supplies for us and our animals,” Amie says. “He tries to be cautious. It’s tough because I do need help with every daily function and a patient life.”
She speaks of the effort and help required for every trip to the bathroom, bathing, dressing and eating. “I have to have someone else come over to help me when my husband isn’t available, virus or no virus.”
Amie says she is fortunate that sister-in-law Jennifer Wolski is nearby and usually helps when Pat can’t, as well as daughter Emily. Amie’s mom, Sharon Day, also helps out.
“So, I have to take some risks just to live,” Amie says. “I really don’t think about it that much. We all just have to take precautions and be cautious, but keep on keeping, on, as the saying goes.”
Doing the at-home thing
Amie says she has “been doing this stay-at-home thing” for a long time. “I have learned that we can get by with way less than we think we need, no matter what the situation. I would never have thought that I could stay in my house and not go out for literally months at a time, but I have found out that it is very doable.”
“I would have said 30 years ago that I couldn’t imagine living without being able to move my arms or walk around, but it’s amazing what you can adjust to when you have no other choice.”
Do it yourself: Amie says If you keep your mind and brain active, along with your body if able, you find that you don’t need to go out daily, “that’s just what you are used to doing.” She mentions things people are accustomed to such as various aspects of grooming and how people can do those things themselves. She suggests YouTube videos for how-tos.
Take a break: Amie has learned “that anyone will drive you completely nuts if you are around them too much, even the people you really like or love.” Her advice is to have your own space “to get away from everyone however often you need to.”
She says most homes have more than one room for more than one reason. “Take a break from whoever you live with and stay in different rooms (or garage and basement, etc.) for a little while every day…”
Gift of time: Amie agrees with those who think the virus has a purpose. “We’ve seen many horrible things with this pandemic, but there is a lot of good that’s come from it too.”
Says Amie, “I just hope people have used this gift of time to learn a few things about themselves and their lives. We can survive without many material things, but times like this make you realize what is really important in life.
“As we slowly return to our normal lives, I hope we can find a new more meaningful normal.”
First in a three-part series about local people with special challenges during the coronavirus quarantine. They share their stories of how they cope and hope at this time, and offer advice for you. Reprinted from the April 30, 2020 New Castle Courier-Times. Tomorrow's paper will feature Amie Thornburg of Spiceland.
By DONNA CRONK
Despite complications from cerebral palsy, and a prognosis that she would never see her fifth birthday, lifelong New Castle resident Lynda Alberson is 57 and due to the creativity of her friends, is in the process of “touring” the country.
One thing that doesn’t scare this virtual traveler is getting the coronavirus. Although at high risk due to asthma, Lynda says, “If I get it, I get it. I can’t spend my life worrying about dying. I was supposed to die before I was 5. I am now going to be 58 in November.”
What troubles Alberson is not what will happen to her, but she is concerned for others and that her loved ones will be OK and that small businesses will make it.
Reared on love
Raised in a family that loved her deeply, including her late parents Gene and Dayton Alberson, the daughter remains encouraged by her upbringing and the love of family and her community. She says if she dies, she feels it’s her time. She credits Granny for her outlook.
“I could not go outside and play like everybody else so I sat and talked to her,” recalls Lynda. “She talked to me like a person; told me when my time is up, it is up.” Granny told her granddaughter that she can either fret or live her life.
Lynda says she knows so-called “normal” people who are not as blessed as she is. “I have many, many people that care about me, plus when I was very young, my Granny told me I had a choice. I could be bitter, not have people like me and be unhappy – or, smile, laugh and always find the silver living. I picked B.”
In fact, Lynda enjoys laughter so much, and finding the humorous side to life, she says, “If not for my voice I would try my hand at stand-up comic – or in my case – sit down.”
The hometown woman claims two New Castle Chrysler High School classes as her own. As a proud member of the Class of 1981, Lynda looks forward to her 40th anniversary next year. She was originally to be in the class of 1982 but credits her teachers with getting her promoted a year early by having her work ahead in sixth grade and thus skip the perils of going to the seventh-grade building with no elevator.
Lynda’s teachers also encouraged her to stay positive with advice that yes, she does things differently, but she is still no different than “June, Steve or Cathy.” She credits many people for her positive outlook.
Chick on a stick
As for her hobby of travel, Lynda would love to see all of the nation’s 50 states. She came up with a way that just might let her meet that goal. She got the idea from someone on TV who had his or her photo taken out of state and emailed to a TV station.
“I thought ‘Hey, might be a way for me to say my head has been in 50 states.’” So she posted the idea on Facebook and her friends got on board. “My friend Judy jumped on it. She takes me everywhere,” says Lynda.
“Others like my friends Nancy and Liz ran with it. Had family take me to reunions. I so enjoy the creative way they do it,” Lynda continues. “Nancy walked up to people on the beach and said, ‘Hold my friend’s head, I am posting on Facebook. They said cool.’ Our mutual friend Liz got a race car driver to hold my head and sign it.”
Lynda goes on. “The joy I have got from one post, amazing. Guess it circles back to how I stay upbeat. How can I not with all the amazing people around me?”
Advice to others
Lynda has some thoughts on how others can get through tough times such as this period of extreme social distancing. She encourages people to set goals, to get up, dressed and know what day it is. “If you don’t, you fall in a dark well that even Lassie can’t save you (from),” says Lynda.
She encourages people to “Don’t visit your fears or judgments on others,” to maybe check on loved ones or keep busy for their health. She also says to be kind. Her comedic side suggests to not be the neighbor from (the old TV show) "Bewitched."
Adds Lynda, “Laugh every day, especially at yourself.” She says if she is dropped on her head, she doesn’t get mad, but laughs and says, “Retake.”
Lynda says that “Laughter is a gift. Use it often. Lastly, remember you are not (the) only one. Treat the ones helping you kindly. They don’t have to help.”
It was only fitting that I met up with my friend and writing colleague Janis Thornton of Tipton yesterday on "Spring Forward Day."
There's no writer I know with more energy, drive and spring in her step than Janis. She is inspirational.
Not only does she have a day job, she is a prolific author on her own time with a love for research. She has written a number of books, including her 2018 "Too Good a Girl: Remembering Olene Emberton and the Mystery of Her Death," relating to the still-unsolved death of her high school classmate.
On a special day at the Tipton Library in 2018 I had the pleasure of being the emcee for a standing-room-only crowd where the very law-enforcement professionals who worked the case in the late 1960 shared the mic with Janis to discuss the cold case. It was quite a day. The Indianapolis Star devoted a huge chunk of page one to the book and the case, along with a video with Janis showing readers around sites of the mystery.
She has also written or co-written local-history books, cozy mysteries and more.
In late 2019 I had the honor of reading her manuscript for the upcoming "No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest," published by Indiana University Press. The gripping stories inside the book take place, largely in Indiana, between 1869-1950. The book is described in a pre-release as "A modern retelling of 20 sensational true crimes."
I wrote a blurb for the book which Janis said is included in the book! How nice. It's available for pre-order now on Amazon.
Retirement is not on the radar nor even in the vocabulary of this talented author. She said she wouldn't want every day to be Saturday. In fact, she's yes, springing forward yet again in looking toward penning a sequel to the IU Press book.
Janis, thank you for always managing to stay in touch and including me on your ride. We share a mentor in the late, great newsman Ray Moscowitz. Ray discovered Janis and for a period, although we didn't know it nor know each other at the time, we both worked at sister newspapers, she the editor of The Frankfort Times, and me in New Castle.
We connected, oddly enough, in the gift-shop line at the Indiana Historical Society during its annual author fair in 2014. She's helped me out in numerous ways showing up twice at my author programs, designing this website five years ago, and sharing vendor booths together as well as being on panel discussions together at several venues.
Janis I admire your forward approach to your writing and life. Thank you for keeping us in contact. You are inspirational. Keep writing and mining for gold in those newspapers at newspapers.com.
Until next time ...