This photo of from left, Rick and Gay Kirkton, myself and Brian in front of the Ford museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a typical case in point of how we roll. Much to Brian's chagrin, I'm always ready for a photo op of one kind or another. I have never said, "Oh, we can get that picture later." I have too near 40 years' experience in newspapers to know that the "later" shot often never happens. You get it when you can.
So of course I say, "Let's get a photo of all four of us in front," before we walk in. And who should appear out of nowhere? A professional photographer who said sure, he'd be glad to capture it. He was passing through for an assignment on the grounds.
There's a serendipity to travel. Not just the photo; not by a long shot. When we were anticipating our couples trip with the Kirktons to Michigan to visit the Ford landmark, I tried to remember back to the 38th President's time in office.
I was a teenager, and recalled something about an assassination attempt (there were two), and that Ford pardoned Nixon, and that his daughter, Susan, had her prom in the White House (she is the exact same age, to the day and year, by the way, as Gay).
But I didn't recall all there was to say about the long-time Congressman-turned President from Michigan. Not even close. So what clever turn of phrase would go on T-shirts in the gift shop of his presidential library and museum?
I asked Brian this a couple weeks before we went and he nailed it!
And with that, I had to pick him up the shirt!
Ford made the statement after being sworn in as vice president in December 1973. The full quote: "I am a Ford, not a Lincoln. My addresses will never be as eloquent as Mr. Lincoln's. But I will do my very best to equal his brevity and his plain speaking."
We spent four-and-a-half hours in the museum, learning about how Jerry Ford wasn't born Jerry Ford. His father was abusive to his mother and she left him. When she later remarried a kind man in Michigan, her oldest son was renamed after his new stepfather.
Jerry went on to become an Eagle Scout, popular football player and one handsome fella, I'll tell you! He coached football at Yale, became an attorney back in his hometown of Grand Rapids, then a Congressman serving a quarter century, later veep for Richard Nixon, then becoming President when Nixon resigned.
He had much to deal with, as does anyone who becomes U.S. President, including the energy crisis, the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the decision (which many fervently disagreed with) to pardon Nixon and allow the country to heal and move forward. It is clear from the bi-partisan testimonies found throughout the building that President Ford had the respect of most everyone, and was considered a good, honest, fair man.
Brian said, "We need Gerald Ford now."
And while he was dealing with the nation's business, he was no doubt experiencing tough times with concern for his wife, Betty, who battled breast cancer and would famously go on to found The Betty Ford Center to help those with addictions. She also survived breast cancer to live several more decades.
Here's a few photos from our trip to the museum.
On our recent trip to Illinois with friends Rick and Gay Kirkton, our first stop was Dixon, Illinois, population 15,000. This is the hometown of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
We toured the restored and immaculately maintained home where the Reagan family of four lived from 1920-1923. It’s a classic, two-story American home built in 1891 on a tree-lined street. As American as apple pie.
The Reagan family, which consisted of parents Jack and Nelle, and sons Neil and little brother Ron, rented this and other homes in the area. There was no family wealth; Nelle was a homemaker and Jack sold shoes.
Ron lived in the home, sharing a room with his older brother, Neil, when Ron was 9-13.
The family attended the First Christian Church in town. Ron and his mother taught Sunday School there.
The home has few original furnishings, notably a quilt that belonged to Nelle is all that was pointed out, but is filled with period décor. The bathroom tub is original, as is the woodwork and other features.
The original fireplace and tile surround on the floor are present and come with a cool story. Apparently Ron knew there was a loose tile and would lift it to hide small amounts of change.
Ron, Nancy and Ron’s brother Neil visited the home in 1984 when Ron checked out the tile and placed a few pennies there.
At that time, he was President and it was decided in advance that the Reagans might enjoy a quiet meal in the dining room. The story goes that during a pre-visit security sweep, Secret Service noted a window with a clear view of the table in the small dining room. They didn’t want to draw attention to the space, yet didn’t like the security aspect of the situation. So, they arranged to plant new landscaping just outside the window.
The situation looked as though the house staff was simply fixing up the place for the visit, but in reality, the new plantings created a block. The trees were removed after the President’s visit.
Ron had a variety of jobs in town as a kid. He worked at the Dixon Golf Club and spent six summers as a lifeguard where he is credited with saving 77 swimmers.
Ron went on to Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology. He was hired by a radio station to announce University of Iowa games and worked as a sports broadcaster for a variety of stations before moving to Hollywood in 1937 From there, his public career, which included being a fairly famous actor, took off.
Ron served governor of California from 1967-75 and U.S. President from 1981-89. He left office with a 68 percent approval rating. Ron spent his final years battling Alzheimer's disease, dying in 2004 in California.
Upon his 1984 trip back to town, Ron said, “My heart is still here.”
Gay captured Brian and me in Grant Park in Galena, Illinois Saturday. Here, we stand in front of the Galena River that runs through the heart of the town. Behind the river is downtown Galena. This is the adopted hometown of President and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The river feeds into the mighty Mississippi, just a few miles away.
Less than a year ago, Gay Kirkton and I took our annual summer girlfriend getaway to the unique and beautiful Galena, Illinois, situated in northwest Illinois, a hop and skip from both Wisconsin and Iowa. Next to Chicago, this is the most visited destination in the great state of Illinois, with Springfield third.
With a population of 3,800, this small city has more than 50 restaurants in its vibrant downtown alone, and several blocks packed with one-of-a-kind shops that sell everything from trendy housewares to kitchen goods, gourmet food, fashionable (and affordable) clothing, and costume jewelry.
So the shopping is certainly a draw -- let's be honest -- for women especially. The food? For everyone!
For the Cronks of Pendleton and our friends Rick and Gay Kirkton of Angola (but proud Illinois natives), history got us there.
When you think of Illinois and U.S. presidents, perhaps Abraham Lincoln comes first to mind. He certainly does for me. Springfield, Illinois boasts a number of tributes to his life and times that you can visit from his presidential library to the only home he ever owned, to a visit inside his law office, the cemetery where he was laid to rest, and more.
But don't forget the other presidents who called Illinois their home. Consider this one.
Do you remember that President, California Governor and actor Ronald Reagan came from Illinois and spent from age 9 to adulthood in Dixon, Illinois? Here we are in front of the home his family rented for a few years which is a tour-able landmark in the town.
I'll do a separate post later on the home, as it is worthy of its own essay. It was a fantastic stop, and glimpse into an iconic man of humble roots. Our fellas stand next to a life-size cardboard version of the 1980s president. It appears accurate in stature as President Reagan was 6'1" and our guys measure up to prove that about right.
After a stop in Dixon, it was on to Galena. The drive was exceedingly charming as we rode in Rick's comfortable pick-up truck chatting away the hours and looking out for miles and miles over tidy fields and farms in our friends' treasured home state.
You can have your majestic mountains, and while I love looking out over water, my personal eye candy consists of massive green fields of Midwestern crops. You've got the best view of those in Illinois and Iowa.
In Galena, it was like checking in with an old friend as Brierwreath Bed & Breakfast owner Joe Cook greeted us. His inn is perfectly located in this hilly city because it's an easy walk downhill to the downtown where we had our choice and then some of dining options. We went for a repeat of last year's trip as we sat outside at Vinny's for an Italian meal.
On Saturday at breakfast, that uncanny thing that always happens to Gay and me happened again. At the first of two fine breakfasts served by Joe, we met B & B guests with a connection to Gay. One worked in public relations for the community college where Gay's father serves as a trustee. The guest could not believe it! She knows Gay's dad and the two had a lot to discuss about the college and their connections.
Then it was on to catch our trolley where we got a splendid overview of Galena's history from a lead-mining and steamboat hub in the 1800s to the home of a future and then post-U.S. president in the form of U.S. Grant and family in the mid-to-late 1800s to a town that celebrates commerce, history and architecture in the city it is today.
We had a wonderful tour of the home of U.S. Grant and family, above. More than 90 percent of the home's contents are original. Grant had lived in Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri but after marrying a wealthy farmer's daughter and being gifted with land, Grant found that he was not cut out for farming.
He brought his family to Galena, Illinois where his family owned a tannery. It is there he worked, living in a small, humble home to suit his means until his true talents as a West Point-educated soldier were recognized and he became the key figure in saving the union and will forevermore be recognized in that remarkable way.
To thank him for his war contributions, some wealthy men in Galena gifted the Grants with this home. It never left the family until the Grant children gifted the home to the state of Illinois in the early 1900s as a permanent tribute to their parents.
We enjoyed lunch outside at Gobbie's and then it was back to our B & B to rest up in our rooms before heading out to dinner downtown at Fried Green Tomatoes. We had a lovely meal including Harvest salads, pesto and tomato brushetta and crab cakes.
When it was time to leave, we discovered a drenching rain outside the restaurant. We waited in the entryway for it to clear but before it did, the restaurant owner, Fred, graciously appeared and asked where we were staying. He sent for his personal vehicle to transport us to our doorstep at the inn! Talk about above and beyond!
I promised Fred (he said to think of his name as Fried without the i) that I would mention this in my blog. So this is for you, Fred! I also would recommend your food and staff to anyone!
Gay and I enjoy attending church services in the towns we visit. We took the United Methodist Church up on its offer, via a display board out front, to sit in Grant's pew. On Sunday morning we all went to church a short walk down the street from our B & B to the former Methodist Episcopal Church where the Grant family pew is distinctively and tastefully marked with a small American flag. We got the photo shortly after services.
A couple special moments for me from the weekend were during the meet-and-greet portion of the church service, turning around to shake hands with a woman who formerly lived in Shirley, Indiana. That's a tiny town in the circulation area of the newspaper where I work.
Also, in the Grant home, upstairs a framed picture depicts key figures in the Civil War and in the group photo is included one Gen Ambrose Burnside -- who happens to hail from my hometown of Liberty, Indiana.
When you think of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, remember that four U.S. presidents called this beautiful Midwestern state home -- Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Barack Obama.
We'll certainly never forget.
Donna Cronk is a blogger, newspaper journalist and author of two novels: Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, available from the author , at specialty venues and on Amazon.com.
In fall of 2014 I had the thrill of spending 10 days in Israel. I have never been the same since. I will never be the same in the future.
Today, Israel is on my mind and in my heart in a special way. It's the 70th anniversary today in terms of world governments and recognition. But it is the eternal city of God. And today, the U.S. Embassy is newly located in Israel's capital, Jerusalem.
So many moments, images, sights and sites, sounds and sound bites come to mind when I think of this most unique country of Israel and its Holy City and capital of Jerusalem. Here's one moment. Our group, about 35 of us with my Ovid Community Church, walked along together toward our next stop in Jerusalem. In the opposite direction some Jewish men walked by. One man's eyes met mine and with neither of us stopping or even slowing down, he called out, "Where you from?" I said "U.S.A." His response?
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
And that is where we are in a special way today.
We don't get too far into the Bible before we read this in Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." NIV
Indeed, Jesus came through the Jewish people ... the whole earth blessed by Him.
Is there any place on planet earth more important to so many as this spot? It is calledThe Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount. This wall is part of the mount, or platform, that once held two Jewish Temples before they were destroyed. Jews pray here and leave notes in the wall. See the temporary fence at left with the women looking over it? This is where many Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah.
Psalms 132:13-14: For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it." NIV.
Israel is the size of New Jersey. Everywhere (EVERY-WHERE) you step, you are walking on history. In fact, I best describe this experience as one where someone dropped me into a Bible and allowed me to walk around there. Events of both Old and New Testaments merge and mingle.
Whereas the Bible was once in black and white, it is now in living color.
Psalm 122:6: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May those who love you be secure. (NIV).
As the man said in the crowd in the heart of Jerusalem,
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
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.
This column ran Sunday in the New Castle Courier-Times.
By DONNA CRONK
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier this fall, Brian and I visited Washington, D.C. One of my just-for-fun objectives was to look for Hoosier symbols wherever we went. They are, in fact, everywhere.
Consider the federal monuments and buildings alone. Indiana limestone and other stone went into these, along with many others not mentioned: The Lincoln Memorial, the interior dome of the Jefferson Memorial, the National Cathedral, The Pentagon and marble in the Indiana Memorial stone in the Washington Monument.
Also, Indiana limestone or stone grace the National Archives, National Theater, Departments of Commerce and Interior, Federal Triangle Building, Botanic Gardens, Federal Trade Commission and more.
In the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Italian-American artist Constantino Brumidi painted the frieze that appears as almost three-dimensional around the rotunda. It illustrates major events in U.S. history. We were told by our guide that two spaces in the frieze remained when the painter fell from a
ladder and never finished the frieze. However, the artwork was completed by other artists.
One spot went to Henry Ford for his contributions with the automobile, and the last blank area to complete the ring went to Henry County native Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville in an homage to flight.
When the House of Representatives was moved for more space in 1857, the Old Hall of the House became National Statuary Hall. Each state was invited by Congress to provide two statues of its most notable citizens, according to a capitol brochure. These statues in the collection are displayed in the Hall, the Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and corridors.
Can you guess the identities of the two Hoosiers who are depicted in
The first is Wayne County’s own Oliver P. Morton, Indiana’s Civil War governor.
He was a Centerville attorney whose home survives on the western edge of U.S. 40 (originally called The National Road) in Centerville and is on the National Register of Historic Places. He was elected to two terms as governor, beginning in 1861, and left office to serve as a U.S. senator. He died at age 54 during his second term.
Morton lived from 1823 to 1877. His statue graces the Statuary Hall collection.
The second statue is Gen. Lew Wallace.
Wallace was born in Brookville in 1827 and died in Crawfordsville in 1905. An attorney, Civil War Union general, governor of the New Mexico Territory, and Hoosier author. He wrote the classic Christian historical-adventure novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” in 1880.
The state of Indiana commissioned his tribute statue in marble. In it, he wears a military uniform. The statue was unveiled in 1910.
Throughout the Newseum -- a museum dediciated to the five freedoms spelled out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there are what I think of as "pullout quotes." As for this one, I had to smile. I have known quite a few who perfectly fit this description. I have fit this description. And even though I'm no longer young, I hope I still do.
I promised at least one more post about our trip to Washington, D.C. I could do individual ones on so many related topics. Yes, our nation’s capital is endlessly interesting on many levels. This post will be a wrap with some photos and comments.
I’m saving back two topics for my Courier-Times columns. One runs Sunday about the most moving and memorable thing we saw. Another will run a week from tomorrow about some Hoosier influences in our capital.
My best tip for visiting the capital is to contact your Congressional representatives well in advance (a couple months out if possible) and ask what tickets they can provide. Phone or email works great as they are staffed to expect these calls. You'll provide your Social Security numbers, names and addresses. You tell them when you will be visiting and you'll be assigned dates and times during your stay.
In fact, if you want to go inside The White House, the Pentagon or the FBI Building, you must go through a member of Congress for specific timed tickets. We went through Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office and received tickets to all three as well as gallery passes to the House and Senate.
A Donnelly intern – from Muncie – gave us a personal tour of the U.S. Capitol, complete with a tunnel ride from the Ryan office building to the Capitol. It was entertaining and interesting to walk through an office building full of senators and one by one, pass their offices, as well as experience the tunnel trip – much shorter than walking. And since we had the intern all to ourselves, we learned about what that experience is like, the pecking order of Congressional aides, and what it's like for him to live and work in D.C. in this role.
Who were we to get these tickets? We were simply Americans who planned ahead.
As soon as we completed a thorough tour of the U.S. Capitol, we sat in on the House of Representatives in the gallery for a while. There was nothing dramatic going on in those moments that would make for press headlines but what we experienced was representatives doing the people's business.
There were short speeches about wild fires in North Dakota, an honor presented to a pastor from Louisiana, a California Congresswoman criticizing President Trump, and a voice of support for the President from Texas. 'Merica, folks. Democracy in action.
It was peaceful, respectful, and a look inside what it is like in the House on a daily basis. Many views and opinions, all representing the varied concerns of one nation, working out the messy business of democracy.
In Statuary Hall, in a wing off the Dome, each state provides two statues of figures from history they want most to recognize. They cannot be living to be honored there. Can you guess the two Hoosiers on display? How about author Gen. Lew Wallace from Brookville and Civil War Gov. Oliver P. Morton from Centerville?
Across the street from the Capitol is the Supreme Court. I think it's the most beautiful building in Washington, D.C. No admittance tickets are required here. You simply walk in and look around and there's much to see. The best part, however, you should note: Every hour, there is a half-hour lecture inside the Supreme Courtroom where you'll get an overview of how the court works, and learn about its history.
Two posts ago I did a lengthy piece on The White House, but here's two more photos I didn't include previously.
Here's the outside of the Newseum. If anyone has any doubt about the building's theme, it's spelled out. This was my number-one destination. It is a privately funded site, so there is a fee. But the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 exhibits here are worth the fee alone.
Another favorite stop is Ford's Theatre. The building was closed for more than a century. Today, however, it is restored inside the theatre to how it was when Lincoln was assassinated. The basement contains a wonderful museum with artifacts such as the gun that killed Lincoln and the top hat he wore that night along with the blood-stained pillow on which he died across the street.
Directly across the street from Ford's Theatre is the House Where Lincoln Died. Yes, that is what it was known as for many years. The mortally wounded president was brought in following being shot and there he passed. The property was much later purchased by the U.S. Upon Lincoln's death it was utteredin this room the famous phrase: "Now he belongs to the ages." Some think the actual quote was, "Now he belongs to the angels." Guess we'll never know for sure.
Very close to Ford's Theatre is the FBI Building. The public exhibit here has been closed since 9/11 until three months ago. We were fortunate to have tickets from our Congressman on the day we visited as we got to witness a group of FBI agents being tested for their shooting abilities. They are required to pass tests every three months to make sure their skills are sharp.
Fascinating displays are found here, including those relating to notorious bad guys such as John Dillinger and the Boston Marathon bomber. Long-time director J. Edgar Hoover's desk is on display. It's a wonderful tour.
We flew into D.C., having purchased an Expedia discount package months in advance. We decided to rely solely on the D.C. Metro system to get us around. Even so, expect a lot of walking. But it's an effective way to get around.
How do you find accommodations for D.C.? We went with a package several months ago through Expedia. We took an early Monday flight and returned to Indy around midnight Thursday night / Friday morning. It worked great.
We stayed at the George Washington University Inn near the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. Bonus: the stop is exactly at the GWU Hospital and steps inside the front door you'll find a Starbucks, cafeteria and public restroom. We opted for cafeteria coffee over Starbucks and even ate there a few times for convenience. The employees were super nice -- one even had a Noblesville connection.
Foggy Bottom is the GWU stop and we enjoyed seeing the students heading to and from classes. Our inn was a block and a half away on a residential street. It was perfectly serviceable but not particularly memorable otherwise, aside from the cold lemon-lime water in the lobby, quite welcome when returning hot and tired on a late afternoon.
Here's an elephant from the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. Big guy.
I also want to shout out to how helpful and friendly an untold number of people were -- strangers all -- of various races, heritages and economic realities. What we have in common as human beings is so much stronger than what separates us.
I think the national media fuels a fire that isn't always there, at least and certainly not in the peaceful daily lives of those we encounter and enjoy randomly throughout this great land of the United States of America.
We saw two protests -- IF you want to call them that. Inside the Capitol were some African Americans wearing shirts that read this: "Trump is not racist."
And, while resting in a park across from The White House, this fella slipped on the mask and walked past us. Waving.
'Merica, folks. All views welcome here.
With Brian’s background studying and teaching U.S. history and political science, and mine in journalism with a history minor, it’s no surprise that we love to visit Washington, D.C.
But much more than that, we both love our nation, and we relish learning about its heritage, as well as our rights and privileges as Americans.
All summer we’ve looked forward to this last week in September. We knew the best way to get ourselves inside the public tours of The White House, Pentagon, and FBI were to first contact our Congressional representatives weeks or even months in advance of our vacation.
Turns out, in this post-9/11 era, the only way for the general public to get inside those sites is with passes issued through Congressional offices.
While you can get into the Capitol without Congressional tickets, without them you won’t get a personal tour from a staff intern, complete with a tunnel ride from a Senate office building into the Capitol complex. We received our assigned appointments for all these tours, then built the rest of our itinerary around them.
We were a little surprised to learn that we had been issued credentials for all of our requests, but then, I also learned that the best months to visit D.C. to avoid crowds are September through November.
I was too excited to sleep much before we flew out early Monday morning. My number-one on the ticketed-tour list was The White House. This was my fifth trip to D.C. but only the first inside the home of every U.S. president minus George Washington.
About a White House tour, I've heard, “You don’t see much.” Others have memories of visiting as kids or on senior trips. I wonder how our tour stacks up to those from decades past – or even those prior to 9/11 when security in our nation’s capital – and our great country -- absolutely changed.
For those who might be disappointed, I don’t know what they expect – a nap in the Lincoln Bedroom? Tea poured by the First Lady on the second floor? Let’s get real. This is a home, and a real family lives here. What you’ll be seeing are about a dozen first-floor public rooms along with their priceless furnishings.
What I also know is that the current mostly self-guided tour, was much better, and included seeing more rooms, spaces, and décor than I had guessed. Rather than any disappointment, I'm surprised and delighted with all we saw, and with the fact that only for the past two years has the public been permitted and encouraged to take photos on the tour route. I'm glad we came when we did.
Not a good-hair day for me, but get a glimpse of that beautiful White House Library.
You know this woman, below. I'm stricken by how much (like, exactly) that Chelsea looks like her mom. I suppose Chelsea is about the age now that Hillary was when she stood for her official First Lady portrait.
I should have taken more photos of the first ladies, but I got a few of the official presidential portraits, below. The first ladies and presidential portraits are scattered throughout the floor. I learned that they do not remain in one spot but are rotated throughout the mansion.
The Vermeil Room was once the billiard room, now used for various functions. Portraits of a variety of recent First Ladies are displayed there along with a collection of gilded silver, or vermeil.
Here are a pair of presidential portraits from a hallway. You know these men.
Remember that a family has lived in The White House continuously since 1800 and along the way, these families make changes and leave their own touch on the property. Some things go, like the billiards room, and some stay, like The China Room designated in 1917 by Edith Wilson.
I was surprised by how small the official State Dining Room is, below.
Next to the State Dining Room is the Old Family Dining Room. Another visitor asked if we would like our photo taken there. Yes, please, below.
And now the rooms we know by color.
I took quite a few more photos but I'll close with this one. I asked a Secret Service agent stationed in the room about the stairway, below. Yes, indeed, he told me, the stairs do go to the second-floor private family quarters.
I'll be doing a Part II post on some aspect of our trip to D.C. What I really want to share with readers are some thoughts and photos from The Newseum on their 9/11 exhibit, and about the statues and other aspects of the trip that referenced people and places I know well from east-central Indiana, One or both of those topics will be in a Courier-Times column.
For now, let me ask you: Have you toured The White House? When and what were your impressions? I loved this tour and am crossing this off my bucket list. I am impressed with the security, traffic flow, and also the way guests are still ironically able to take their time touring this beautiful mansion. And, I'm delighted that photo-taking is encouraged.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on your White House experiences.
And for the record, I didn't break anything!
When we make our way through an airport, I marvel at the light-footed traveler who checks in nothing, sports a single, smallish carry-on, and somehow, is perfectly equipped for whatever journey is ahead.
I’m not her.
Every time we travel, I experiment with techniques said to streamline luggage. Put each outfit in its own plastic bag. Roll your clothes. Bring one pair of pants, several tops, and you’re done. Checked luggage is for novices.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I still end up with a large bag to check, usually one to roll through the airport, and a personal satchel and purse besides. After all, I'm sure I'd be the one who would spill something toxic and staining on my one spare pair of pants. I'd be the one whose check-in luggage was lost. I'd be the one without whatever it is I need. And what if it turns cold and I have no sweater? Or hot and I have only sweaters?
So I over pack, and I flash back to first grade.
It was my first field trip, and a big one for a child who had never been on a day trip with anyone who didn’t include her mom. It was exciting! We packed into a school bus and headed to the Cincinnati Zoo.
We were traveling light, and I had with me a small, plastic, snap-shut change purse which held enough money for whatever I would need. Cotton candy, maybe. A toy? The possibilities were endless to trade from the contents of that pocket-sized money holder.
I don't remember what we did about lunch. It sure seems as though we would have brought brown bags full of food. It could be, however, we bought lunch there. I don’t remember the animals or who I hung out with, if anyone.
I only remember what I didn't have. The one thing I have never forgotten is that I lost my change purse at the start of the trip and the resulting feeling was of being utterly without resources, the trip spoiled.
It’s not a subconscious feeling. It’s right there, in the front of my mind. The coping messages sound off: Take an extra pair of glasses: What if yours break or the lens falls out? Carry-on underwear, makeup, an extra outfit: What if your luggage is lost? Do you have enough cash with you? What if you lost your credit card? Pack an extra camera: You want pictures, above anything you buy.
The real question always comes back to that little girl who lost her money. If I lose what I need, what will I do?
I vented about all this to a close friend the other day, herself a seasoned traveler. Hardly a month or two passes but she is off to visit her children in other states or on a vacation in Hawaii or even Paris.
“How do you do it?” I asked her in confidence. “How do you travel light?” I wanted some additional secrets, maybe a few that worked better than the plastic bags and rolled outfits that don’t. Most importantly, I knew I could ask her and not be chided for my ignorance of knowing how to pack lighter, the gold standard, it seems.
Guess what she told me?
She takes extra glasses, outfits, and over packs too.
I think rather than thinking I’m crazy to be channeling my inner six-year-old, and berating myself for schlepping it all through the airport, I’ll just relax in my over-preparation -- and roll with it.
What about you? I’d like to hear about your packing methods and if you can go light or if you, too, take along the kitchen sink.
In one way, it's hard to believe the Midlife Moms have been together for ten-and-a-half years. In another way, haven't we known each other forever? It's true that as an adult, a decade passes quickly. Just imagine: If we had started first grade together, we'd be halfway through high school junior year.
Yes, by now we all know each other and our casts of characters pretty well.
While we haven't seen each other through elementary school, first dates, and proms, we've lived a lot of life together this past decade, whispered a good many prayers for each other and our life circumstances, laughed at a lot of silliness, cried some tears, studied the Bible, taken on projects, and eaten some fantastic food.
We are a life group at Ovid Community Church. We do life together. And I thank the Good Lord that it works, that as group co-founder Delaine Wooden says, "We're more than a group. We're friends."
One of my favorite weekends of the year took place last weekend. Terri generously shares her beautiful lake home and water toys with us several times a year, times we have always referred to as retreats.
But of all the lovely weekends reminiscent of girlhood sleepovers, the summer ones are my favorite. You can't beat the ever-changing blues of the sky and water, along with the wind on our faces as we push through the water on Terri's boat, with the warm breeze brushing back our hair. We play in the water like the young dolphins we are not.
Sunday mornings we have a special Bible study out on the water. And in between, we feast on the bountiful menus that come together so easily with a crew of seasoned moms who know their way around the kitchen. We listen to each other's insights and tell stories.
For one summer weekend a year, we haven't a care in the world. Thank you Father for this refreshment. Thank you Terri for being the best hostess ever, and thank you to each of my MLM sistas, past and present, and Lord willing, future.
It's traditional that before we head back to our regular lives, we take some photos. Terri has a stack of pictures depicting lake memories from our ten years at Cordry Lake.
Above is one on the deck from last weekend. Some of the girls mentioned their lack of make-up and abundance of lake hair. They don't know they are beautiful. Inside and out.
A magnet from Terri's fridge. I'd have to agree.
This weekend I was awestruck anew by the incredible variety, color, nutrition, and beauty -- not even to mention creativity -- of God's food supply.
Friday night on the boat we enjoyed a picnic-type meal of Sharon's homemade ham salad sandwiches, artisan chips and dip, and Donna Shields' cole slaw, along with Delaine's summer Greek vegetable salad of tomatoes, corn, cukes, and herbs. It all hit the spot!
Then, because sometimes we bring so much delicious food, and have to hurry up and eat one meal so we can get to the next, we decided this weekend to do a daily brunch and dinner -- a two-meal day. Terri whipped up the above breakfast skillet with yellow squash, mushrooms, eggs and cheese. Fantastic.
Karen prepared this wonderful vegetable lasagne:
It was delicious, as was Delaine's fried zucchini with Parm and bread crumbs.
By the way, we have a signature scripture passage. Here's the NIV, Hebrews 10:23-25:
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Not a bad motto for doing life together. Happy first ten years, my sistas.