Note: Today's post is a reprint of my Sunday Courier-Times newspaper column. Inspiration comes in many forms and for me, most recently it arrived through my discovery of TED Talks (TED.com), courtesy of Dr. John Dickey, a retired optometrist in New Castle. He'll celebrate his 99th birthday soon, and he is one of the most interesting -- and interested -- people around.
A few weeks ago, Kent Kemmerling mentioned that he attends TED Talks at John Dickey's home.
Where have I been? I had never heard of the talks which number in the thousands. I figured "TED" meant a guy, maybe a man of considerable influence and intellect whose name I should know but don't.
A simple Google search provided multiple links to the world of TED Talks where I quickly learned that TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design in the form of a decades-long series of speeches — or talks, if you will — on anything and everything by experts on said topics. These experts are able to condense complex information in a way that inspires, encourages, challenges, and motivates. And even if the thousands of talks didn't do all that, they do with certainty accomplish the mission of spreading ideas.
I knew if Dr. John Dickey was a part of the talks, they were worthy. I've written about Dickey's handmade clocks, and our newspaper and the evening TV news have covered his autograph collection, and his travels.
I've always been impressed by his spirit of adventure, optimism, engagement, and yes, brilliance. I hadn't realized that he will be age 99 next month. Yet he enjoys new ideas, loves technology (and uses it adeptly), and enjoys sharing intellectual thoughts with those who fill his home weekly for the TED Talks -- which he hosts.
When I got the official invite to attend a Talk and write a story, I was delighted. In fact, I didn't mind Sunday night at all last week as I eagerly awaited Monday morning and my first experience with TED.
I may be obsessed.
When I left the gathering my head was spinning from the speakers, the new ways to look at math and science. I watched Yves Rossy spiral through the air with his Jetman wings as though a bird in flight. Amazing. I was inspired by Jim Yong Kim who sees beyond poverty and limitations and wonders why people everywhere can't have a shot at good lives.
I marvel at these brilliant people. From each Talk, I tried to imagine my own takeaway. I will never be good at advanced math concepts such as the gifted Roger Antonsen. But his challenge was to create the ability to change your perspective and see it in a new way. I can do that.
I will never have a bestseller as author Anne Lamott. But I left over-the-top inspired by her to come up with my own list of truths I've learned from life and writing.
I would be too chicken, if I even had the unlikely opportunity to soar through the sky like Jetman Yves Rossy who appears birdlike. Footage from his flights will take your breath away. But I sure can apply his tip to "always have a Plan B."
Now I have an idea that I can't shake. I'd like to get together with a group of friends where our agenda is to present our own TED-inspired talks. How fun would it be for each person to bring a surprise talk or activity or craft or reading or talent or song or musical representation to the table and wow us all with -- something. Something that inspires us. Challenges us. Delights us. Or even if it doesn't, makes us proud that our friend was gutsy enough to put it out there.
How about you? Would you and your friends consider devoting an evening or an afternoon to a sort of TED workshop? Or at least select some videos, play them for your group. Then see what happens. I think you and your friends will be changed.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors editor at The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Connect with her at dcronk@thecouriertimes or call her direct line at 765-575-4657.
The following is a reprint of my Sunday column in the New Castle Courier-Times. Have a great week, everyone. I'll catch up with you on the weekend.
During more than three decades in a newsroom, I've been asked to judge a few things:
American history essays, newspaper-sponsored writing contests, best-decorated door at Christmas at a health facility, a library chili cook-off, a nursing home pet contest, a queen contest at a small-town festival, parade floats at another small-town festival, baked goods at The Mooreland World’s Fair (as we like to call it at the paper). I also judged beautiful handmade needlework for a DAR competition.
Being a judge is fun. There’s no pomp, but there are circumstances. Those generally involve heat and humidity. There’s no black robe and no one stands up for you when you enter the space, which may be a pole barn in August. Or, it could be a tiny room filled with stacks of handiwork that has taken the stitchers hundreds of hours apiece, only to be evaluated by a judge over a single lunch hour.
Once during a judging event, I had a dulcimer band quit playing when I entered its space. The musicians stopped not out of respect, but to yell at me. Apparently I had inadvertently interrupted their performance while setting up trophies for the parade winners. Other than that humiliation, most of my judging efforts have been anonymous.
Oh, but make no mistake. It’s serious business to determine if a homemade snickerdoodle is better than a seven-layer-bar. Perhaps I should have another bite of each to make sure.
When I judged the queen contest, it wasn’t that the committee had searched high and low for a judging team whose combined wisdom could determine the fairest maiden in the land. Um, no, it was that my coworker, who was originally tapped, didn’t want to do it and asked me to sub. So why was she selected to begin with? Could be that that the committee figured she would come with a camera and put the results in the paper? Bingo.
These situations take me back to a childhood full of 4-H. I sewed dresses, baked nut bread, crocheted an afghan, arranged flowers, assembled a terrarium, pressed and labeled leaves on a poster, and created demonstrations.
In the back of my mind while completing the work, I wondered what the judges would think, fretted if the poster was turned the right way, if the label was in the correct corner, and if the hems were straight.
All I’ve ever wanted to be, career wise, is a writer. But what I’ve come to see is that I will be that no matter what, and it’s not only the interviews but the experiences that provide subject matter. Whether I’m writing for a newspaper, working on a book, or posting a Home Row blog, regular life is my subject matter, and Lord willing, a writer I’ll always be.
As I approach age 59, I have no plans to retire, but people are asking me about it more all the time. Maybe it’s because my husband is retired (he’s five-and-a-half years older). Maybe it’s because I’m looking like I should be retired. Whatever the reason, I’m starting to think about what I want to do when the time comes, whenever that is.
I think I’d like to become a 4-H judge. I don’t know if there is a course to take, if there are more or fewer judges than needed, or how all that works.
I’m still covering fairs as part of this small-town newspaper journey, one that began 43 years ago when I decided – at a 4-H fair dog show, no less – that it’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. But what do I want to be when I retire? Guess that’s something I should think about.
How about you?
How did you decide who you wanted to be in retirement? What unique plans do you have? What plans have come to pass? Anything unusual or unexpected happen? Might make an interesting story. Share with me at email@example.com.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Her hobby involves speaking engagements encouraging women to live their dreams and bloom where they are planted, themes in her two novels. See the About Donna and Contact sections on this website for details.
Donna Cronk / New Castle Courier-Times photos // Jack Claborn visits with National Road Yard Sale Founder and Chairperson Patricia McDaniel as they prepare for the annual 800-plus-mile yard sale, May 31-June 4. Treasures, bargains and ... goats. Pat will be featured in a 7:30 a.m. segment Wednesday morning on Fox 59-Indianapolis TV.
Every year, along our nation's first cross-country route, U.S. 40, historically called The National Road, a continuous yard sale takes place on farms, at homes, businesses and in pop-up locations. This goes on for more than 800 miles, from Baltimore, Maryland, to St. Louis. This year it runs May 31-June 4. Jump on anywhere. While previewing the sale, I became inspired to write this column, which ran Sunday in the New Castle Courier-Times.
When you’ve been married as long as I have, there are certain things you don’t discuss. For example, goats.
Brian doesn’t understand what I see in a goat. He thinks they are stinky and without purpose. He doesn’t find them humorous or interesting in any way.
I happen to love goats, and can easily overlook any perceived flaws. I think they are funny and I am interested in how they seem to look at life differently than the other farm animals, let alone the humans.
If we drove by a pasture with a goat standing on the roof of a shed or in any other unexpected place on the property, you would find me laughing and craning my neck for an extended look. You would find Brian annoyed not only by the goat, but at my amusement.
It’s a topic on which we agree to disagree.
Maybe it’s a rural thing, because quite out of the blue, and without realizing that goats were a topic of dispute in my home, a friend from my hometown said that her requirement for buying a vehicle is that it is, and I quote, “big enough to haul a goat.”
I do know that I will never own a live goat. Never mind that it would be highly inappropriate and probably even a zoning violation to have one in the subdivision where we live. But also, I respect Brian’s feelings, however misguided they may be, about this topic.
I’m sure he would say he has shown a good measure of tolerance by never complaining about my collection of more than 100 Christmas sheep ornaments. (I’ve never seen a goat ornament. Wonder why.) He doesn’t understand the sheep collection, or why I like them so much, either, but he doesn’t make it an issue. We choose our battles.
It’s the same way, I suppose, that I tolerate the thick smears of peanut butter he leaves on table knives, the butter able to stick to the blades regardless of a run through the dishwasher, or the way he has been known to leave empty containers in the pantry or fridge. I don’t say a word. Well, mostly I don’t.
So I found myself in a marital quandary.
When interviewing Jack Claborn about his barnyard folk art, which includes huge, colorful chickens and round, life-size pigs, I mentally gasped when my eyes fell on the whimsical goat. Perfect!
I don’t know what the going price is for a real goat, but for one that’s a metal piece of folk art made in Texas, it’s $50.
What would Brian say if I texted him that I had just bought a goat for $50? Surely when he got home and saw that the animal grazed silently in the landscape and would require no feed, and there was no chance it would randomly appear on top of a car or stray into the neighbors’ garden, he would be relieved.
But that wouldn’t be the only option. Since he sees no charm in a real goat, it’s highly unlikely that a metal one would provide it.
My mind fought itself. Oh, I wanted that metal goat! What an unusual nod to my rural heritage it would be in the middle of our landscaping. It would be like a perfectly acceptable gazing ball ir bird bath – only not.
No one else would have a metal goat. Perhaps it would become a conversation piece. “The Cronks? Oh yeah, the ones with the garden goat.”
I would laugh at such a reference. Brian would not.
To my way of thinking, not getting my goat is our loss.
To Brian’s, well, let's just say he'd rather have the cash.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-575-4657. In her free time she enjoys speaking engagements encouraging people to live their dreams.
Yesterday, on Mother's Day, I had the blessing of having both sons and our daughter-in-law come visit and share a meal together on the back porch. I started the day at church, and since I had a gig Saturday, somehow I never got around to a weekend post.
So today, I'm reprinting my Sunday feature that ran in the New Castle Courier-TImes.
I was touched by both nursing home and school in coordinating a pen pal exchange between Tri sixth-graders and Heritage House seniors. What a great project to bring the older and younger generations together through words. And then to meet in person.
Please read on...
The tension mounted Monday afternoon in Dusty Neal’s Tri Elementary
classroom. Sixth-grade students watched the door, anticipating the arrival
of some special guests.
The guests were the pals behind the pens the kids had swapped letters with
since Christmas. As several of the senior writers rolled into the
classroom in their wheelchairs, they waved and sported wide smiles.
Everyone seemed anxious to meet each other.
It was a field trip for the Heritage House seniors. And it was a win-win
for all involved.
Student Grant Cash said his favorite part of the project is, “We get to
find out all their history.” Jade Coffey likes “getting to know a person”
along with “Thinking of the joy someone gets over a letter.”
Evan Craft enjoys writing to his senior friend so much that he hopes to keep it
up this summer – long after school credit is involved.
Heritage House pen pal Katy Walker said, “I thought they would be bored
with me. I’m definitely not bored with them.” She was happy to discover
the project involved sixth graders because “that was my favorite year in
Participating were Neal’s 31 students and Heritage House’s 24 residents.
“It’s been a really unique experience,” said the teacher. “These kids are
learning about someone else.” This is the first year he has implemented
the activity. “I had wanted to do some service learning,” he said.
The project also counted as an English / writing exercise and Neal has
seen the academic payoff. “I’ve definitely seen some improvement in their
Heritage House Activity Director Shari Waltman and Assistant Activity
Director Barbara Gideon escorted their residents to the school. Waltman
wanted the students to know that their letters are important to her residents.
Students got the chance to ask their pen pals questions, such as inquiring
about favorite foods, colors and seasons, if they have kids of their own
and what they did for a living. One resident, Janice “Sarg” Halphin, was
asked how she got the nickname. She explained that she has 30 nieces and
nephews and once when they were extra rowdy at an Easter egg hunt, Halphin
told them to settle down in a stern tone. They gave her the name and it stuck.
After a period of meeting, greeting, questions, answers and even a few
hugs, it was time for the pen pals to go their separate ways.
Said Heritage House’s Norma Sauer during the afternoon, “I love kids.”
In 1981, Brian and I started a new life chapter with a move to Fountain County, Indiana. We each were excited for different reasons. Brian would transition from school teacher to administrator. His new salary of $22,000, an enormous figure to us (even though he would be working insanely long hours), meant that I was headed to college full time to complete a journalism degree.
It didn’t take long that late summer and early fall to connect with one Gay Kirkton, English teacher and wife of football coach Rick Kirkton.
Plans were made to get together at our house on a Saturday night. Maybe I cooked supper for all four of us, but that I don’t remember. We didn’t play cards or games but instead, we talked and got to know each other. If memory serves, the sun was about to come up before the evening-turned-morning ended. We had that much to say and the conversation has not stopped since.
The clearest memory I have regarding that evening didn’t happen that night at all, however, but arrived in our mailbox a few days later. It was a handwritten card from Gay thanking us for having them over and saying what a lovely time she and Rick had enjoyed. They hoped, in fact, to get together again soon.
What? They liked us, they really liked us!
I’m certain that somewhere in my personal archives, I have that card, composed in perfect penmanship, a textbook example of the warmth, hospitality, and encouragement found in a budding friendship – and in a thank you note.
Years later, when writer Joyce Maynard asked us what we would do for a living if we could do anything we wanted, Gay had a quick answer: She would be the social secretary for a First Lady.
I had never heard her voice this before but it was perfect! She would be ideal for such a role in every way that I could imagine. I had evidence in the stash of flawless, handwritten notes received to mark numerous occasions.
She still sends them.
Gay’s not the only one, either. There’s a good chance that someone reading this post (and I know of one in particular to whom this applies for certain, Debbie) are modern women by any measure, but they still prefer instead of a quick email a lovely piece of stationery inserted into a coordinating envelope, sealed, stamped in the front right-hand corner, mailed, then delivered to the recipient via the U.S. Postal Service.
I know this because I get these beauties at work, and I get them at home. And each time, when the mail carrier delivers such a treat, I can’t wait long enough to find a proper letter opener, but instead, tear open the envelope and as fast as I can, read the words someone has cared enough to offer.
For years, I assembled the work notes into large, red scrapbooks which are still shelved alongside our books. For a couple of years now, I’ve papered the front of my work station divider with the notes and letters and cards that newspaper readers have been so kind to mail. This is the beauty of being a community columnist and feature writer: touching other people, connecting with them, and sharing their stories.
At home, I have a special tray in a bedroom that serves as a default book office. The tray holds the thank yous book readers are thoughtful to send when I have spoken to their group or banquet, or the letters they have written telling me about enjoying one of my books, or they share a particular story such as how a husband and wife read my second book together aloud daily until they were finished.
If I ever need a reason as to why I have spent my career at newspapers, or why I wrote two books, or why I am grateful that I have been given the opportunities I have, or presented the cast of characters that fill my life, all I have to do is look at what people have written by hand and sent in my direction.
Yep, those are going to the nursing home with me.
On the other hand ... I’m okay at sending greetings, but no better than okay. I don’t much care for doing up Christmas cards anymore and I failed miserably at that task last year.
Sometimes I remember that I need to select a special greeting card for an occasion, and mentally, lazily I groan at the effort involved. Other times I forget and the card or the note are never sent.
As are most, I’m prone to express my sentiments with emails or social media posts.
What I know is that what is least common is most appreciated. It used to be the rare thing to get a beautiful email or text message. Now what is rare is the hand-addressed envelope with a personal message tucked inside.
Long live thank yous, letters, greetings, and other assorted messages that arrive the hard way, take the long route, the way of ink and stamps and time spent securing their passage.
They are jewels in the world of correspondence, relics perhaps from an another era, their effort preserved by a determined few.
How about you? Do you send or receive cards, notes, or letters the old-fashioned way? Do tell.
Donna Cronk is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. They are available on Amazon in print or for Kindle, and from the author.
Orville, left, and Wilbur Wright, courtesy of Google Images.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author David McCullough ended his biography, The Wright Brothers, stating that when Neil Armstrong went to the moon in the summer of 1969, he took along a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer.
I teared up.
The magnitude of it all touches me. So does the entire story of the life, times, influences and sheer genius of Wilbur and Orville.
I finished the book earlier today. I didn’t want to leave the Wrights behind, having spent hours listening to the book, read by the author during time spent behind the wheel this February. More than once I sat in my car after arriving home, just to hear more.
I have a connection to the Wrights, based purely on place in a couple of different ways. Their mother, Susan, grew up on a farm on the same spot on the map as I did, in Union County. By all accounts, the sons of Bishop Milton and Susan Wright inherited their mechanical aptitude from their mother.
If the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio, are considered from nowhere, then Susan is from still deeper nowhere. Or at least that’s how some would see it. For me, it's a point of pride: special people come from anywhere and everywhere. Place need not be a limitation.
Milton and Susan got their marriage license in my home county and married in neighboring Fayette County. I didn’t know this until a dozen years ago when I read it while visiting the site that is my other link to the Wrights.
Older brother of the two, Wilbur was born in Henry County in 1867, far out into the countryside and because of this historical fact, the name Wilbur Wright comes up frequently at the newspaper where I work, in New Castle, Indiana.
There’s the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum, financed and operated with donations procured by a band of faithful neighborhood volunteers (and some of the nicest people I know). I’m out at the site a few times a year when I do articles about what’s new each April when they open for the season, about their June festival, and again in the fall when the complex is adorned with beautifully and clever decorations for the annual Christmas Tree Walk. An exact replica of the Wright Flyer is the centerpiece of one area of the museum.
New Castle has an elementary school named for Wilbur, and various other references are plentiful.
But even if I had no personal interest, as a proud American and fan of history and awe-inspiring stories of many kinds, I’d still want to read or as it happens, listen to this book.
We learn of the boys’ early influences, a French helicopter toy that inspired their interest in flight, and of how if there was ever a case of two heads being better than one, this is it.
The two were passionate about figuring out flight and the book goes into detail about how they did what they did, methodically, painstakingly, with concentration, determination, and will. Their distractions were few as they had no wives or thought of getting wives, lived at the family homestead in town, and the two worked together to solve problems and test theories. Their day job was their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, where the family had settled. The shop produced the funds to pay for their life’s true work.
McCullough unfolds their stories using letters and other documents to detail how they accomplished what they did, achieving flight in 1903 with the Wright Flyer, the first successful powered aircraft in human history.
The boys from Dayton, Ohio changed the world.
The author speaks of the Wrights' fame and how it didn’t change them, but having to deal with jealous rivals did as they had to defend and initiate lawsuits when they clearly would rather be working on the science of flight.
I didn’t realize that Wilbur died so young, having achieved so much in so brief a time. He was just 45 in 1912 with typhoid fever. Orville lived on, ironically, having survived a crash that killed his passenger earlier. He lived to see planes in World War I, the sound barrier break, and even jet engines, passing in 1948.
Only 21 years later, Americans would walk on the moon. And that is why that scrap of fabric from the Flyer resonated with me so much.
I am undone by these humble men’s achievements, by their genius and their abilities to figure out so much while not being the least bit intimidated by the so-called great minds of their day. The brothers blew them away.
I’m touched by the Wright Brothers because of the contributions they made to the world, and not just the world but to me personally, such as swift, safe flights to and from far-away places. I think of them when I fly, with my nose plastered against the window if at all possible, all the better to look out over the beautiful, neatly organized, continuous quilt of land beneath the aircraft.
It’s a beautiful sight.
Flying still feels like a miracle.
I love time alone with my studies or spreading out tax papers or reading current magazines in my local library. During the past three years, I've spent a lot of time in libraries all over the state. Each one has a unique character and atmosphere. This chair with the sunlight streaming on it is my favorite local library spot. What's yours?
It may not look all that special, but look again.
See how the sun shines an early-afternoon spotlight on the chair nearest the window? See the abundant natural light? You should have a seat. There, in my local library, you sinnnn-kkk into that chair and never want to get up again.
Yes, one of my life's little luxuries is finding a place in my schedule to visit the local library and hole up for a couple of hours in that chair, right there. It's my favorite place in our lovely little Pendleton Community Library.
I like to pile my purse and tote or briefcase into that extra chair, stretch out my legs on the little table and ... chill.
This morning I'll get my grocery shopping done and this afternoon, I'm heading to the library. The snow is supposed to fall. I don't know if I'll feel the warmth of the sun today but the snow will make it cozy in its own special way. There I'll dive into my new weekly Bible Study Fellowship lesson and spend a couple of hours in John.
Are you familiar with bestselling author John Green? The Indianapolis native (author of The Fault in Our Stars and several others) likes to quietly visit the Knightstown Library. It's a small Carnegie on the town's main drag. A few years back I did an article about his affection for this library.
The staff didn't even know who he was and certainly wasn't aware that he was a big-time writer. They didn't know, in fact, until he won a literary award and decided to gift it to that very library.
You just never know the impact a library can have on a person.
Are you a regular at your favorite library? Do you have a favorite seat?
While lovely vacation spots are blessings, and time spent in a friend's home over coffee at the kitchen table a delight, there are sweet spots all around us. One of mine is found in my local library.
I planned to finish this blog series a week ago. But real life got in the way. I arrived home Sunday night of inauguration weekend. After catching up with Brian, tossing the ball with Reggie, skimming the mail, and grabbing a hot bath, it was bedtime.
Monday and Tuesday meant a return to work at the newspaper and buttoning up coverage along with normal work duties.
Wednesday would be my catch-up day and it was full to the brim, starting with a hair appointment, then an overdue trip to the grocery store. (Brian still won’t solo). Halfway through shopping, I realized I was not feeling well. By the time I got home, it was clear: I was sick.
Thursday I went to the office to spend a necessary couple hours finishing the weekend Neighbors section. The symptoms by then were familiar: cough, chills, aching body, full throat, fuzzy brain and no appetite. I got home by noon and crashed.
And so it went the next three days. I had to cancel several different plans ranging from Friday Weight Watchers, a Saturday memorial service, lunch with a friend, and helping out at church Sunday. That's not to mention some library returns, a return to the mail stack, unpacking.
But you know how those things go. You feel so bad that it’s just how it is. As Sunday pressed on, my ability to remain upright improved and Brian's lessened. Yep, he's got it.
So that’s a long way of saying I'm here to finally wrap up the trip. I thank so many of you who have traveled this distance with me on Home Row and through the separate news stories printed in The Courier-Times and its sister papers.
I thought I’d post a few random photos. It seems when you visit DC, there is a photo op and story everywhere you look.
My sincere appreciation to my employer, Paxton Media Group, to everyone at my home paper, The Courier-Tmes, to Tom and Sue Saunders who did an outstanding job organizing and implementing the trip, to everyone who traveled with the group, and to the good Lord who helped me meet deadlines and keep my health during a week I’ll never forget.
While touring the fabulous Woodrow Wilson House, the tour guide said this hallway mirror was once in the White House. She explained that at one time, the White House would occasionally purge belongings and put them up for sale. That's where this mirror came from. I wonder what other images it captured throughout history. Wilson died, by the way, in this home in 1924. His wife, Edith, lived there until 1961 until her own passing. She donated most all possessions in the handsome abode to sustain his legacy.
Trump International Hotel, the former Post Office in DC. The 5-star hotel offers luxury rooms in this historic 1899 building, recently remodeled by Trump. The photo was taken just after dark Saturday, the day after the inauguration and day of the Women's March. Protesters from the march gather in front of the hotel.
By Donna Cronk
It's hard to believe that it was merely one week ago that I picked up a sparkly jacket from Classic Collections consignment shop to complete my $43 Indiana Society Ball ensemble.
With everything else going on the past week, I left you all hanging on the topic.
Let's catch up.
Going into the trip, there were two things that concerned me most about getting my job done. In fact, I asked close friends to pray specifically for my technology!
I had no doubt about finding content. But I worried that my elderly laptop and reliance on hotel wifi would get the connections I needed to transmit stories. I was hugely (or shall I say bigly?) relieved that those were fine.
My second concern had to do with schedule logistics. On Thursday, we were booked for a full day of sightseeing, and the experiences would provide one of the stories that Indiana editors wanted for weekend papers.
That was fine but I had to miss a portion of the day because I had to return to our Bethesda hotel, change into my dressy-ish outfit, and reach the Washington Hyatt by 4 to pick up my press credential for the Indiana Society Ball.
I wondered how to accomplish this, but it too, worked out. I think my apprehension comes from Indiana not having a Metro system that whisks masses of people underground to their destinations. In DC, this is how large numbers of people live their lives and it seems to work very well.
I opted out of the National Cathedral tour and got back to the hotel, then left again via the Metro to the stop I needed for the ball. Once I got there by 4, that's where I'd remain until the bus driver picked up ball-goers at 10. At least I didn't have to navigate the Metro by myself at night even though I'm told it's perfectly safe.
I got to the Hyatt with ease, greeted by this welcome sight at the Hyatt entrance.
Yes, a row of police motorcycles spelling out a greeting.
Inside, I was directed to the press-registration where the public relations team greeted and credentialed media coming through to cover the evening. I felt a wave of excitement when I saw the check-in sign because I realized I had cleared the second worry about this assignment.
I was there! I was all set to cover the ball! The occasion required a photo in my second-hand attire.
Easy now, I'm a writer, not a fashionista.
Early party-goers came through in gorgeous outfits, dressed to the nines, the men in crisp, black tuxes. We weren't allowed to take photos in the lobby so I'm not able to show you how stunning they looked but think about the popular, beautiful people at your senior prom and picture them 20 or 40 years later. That is, picture the most flattering versions of what you imagine they would look like. You've got it.
I talked with one of the event's organizers as we stood in line to pick up credentials. She was nice, originally from Indiana, but spent her career as a textile curator at The Smithsonian. Guess what she misses about her home state? The Indiana State Fair.
She explained that The Indiana Society is a social group of folks who are former Hoosier residents, and forevermore Hoosiers, period, only living and working in DC. The ball got started in 1953 when after a long run of Dems in the White House, Republican Eisenhower became president. The Republicans were out of luck getting ball tickets. So they created their own gala and it's gone on every election since.
Money raised goes to charity and one of the ball-goers in our tour group told me that tickets were $360 a pop. About 1,000 attended the ball. Funds that night went to Riley Hospital's Art Therapy and to benefit veterans.
After our spontaneous chat, it was time to go through a Secret Service check point, wanded and all, front and back, belongings gone through, and once clear, I was directed to the actual ballroom downstairs. I realized that's where I'd be for the night. I had left my coat upstairs. So back up I went, grabbed my coat and yes, I had to once again go through Secret Service checks.
One of the public relations women told me that the Indiana press was well-represented at the ball and that the Washington Post would be mad at her because we got so many passes. I think she was joking because the seating didn't seem so incredibly tight to me. My seat was, as seems appropriate in keeping with the name of my blog, the last seat in the press pool as I was put at the far end in the back row.
Some of the press seats remained open. The TV reporters were posted on an elevated platform. As the sound checks continued, the tables were layered with beautiful dishes, silverware, centerpieces, candles, favors and programs,
I anxiously awaited further instructions ... Would we get press kits about the evening? Would we get tables of our own? Would we get at least a bottle of water? No on a table, eventually on the water.
I was a bit .of a pest with questions. First about the programs. No programs or press kits. Then about water. Oh sure, they would bring water.
We clearly were not in Indiana anymore. We remained in our roped-off area and were expected to stay there unless we had public relations staff escorts to go see someone in the room. A reporter from Bloomberg thought the set up was pretty standard.
This is a whole different world than what I'm used to where pretty much anyone in a community is accessible, But on the other hand, this was a social event, and it only makes sense that organizers wanted to make sure guests weren't swarmed by press during their fun evening out.
I took a few photos, like this one of a beautifully appointed table.
And, I took the occasional photo of Hoosiers in our group who I recognized in their lovely evening attire, for printing in the newspapers.
Following dinner and before the dancing, dignitaries were announced, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, former Vice President Dan Quayle, incoming Second Lady Karen Pence and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. Karen and Mike gave speeches.
And then, I waited, and felt sleepy, and longed for the clock to strike 10 so I could catch the first pumpkin back to the hotel.
I had been up since 4:15 when we made our way to the National Mall for an interview with Fox 59. So I downed a couple of granola bars back in my room for a (very) late dinner, and went to bed.
The next morning, up at 5:15 because it was inauguration day, and we had a new day's agenda. I learned that the ball-goers had a wonderful time, including some speaking with the vice president-elect and one, Ritha King, even had Pence initiate a selfie of himself with her and with his wife, Karen. Ritha is elated! You can see the photo she sent on The Courier-Times Facebook page with her comments.
I was glad for their good time, and for myself, delighted to have the event under my belt and a story in my notebook, just waiting to be written when I got the chance.
OK, I promised to get back with you today with another post. But again, where to start? I decided to explain what it's like to experience the actual inauguration day,
Our trip organizer, Tom Saunders, did his homework and was able to secure inauguration ceremony and parade tickets from elected officials. Yes, you do need both to get on the grounds of the first, and on the bleachers of the second.
For the ceremony, the ticketing process is much like attending a stadium sporting event. Our group members received tickets that took us in a variety of standing areas, designated by color. While you don't receive a specific seat, you receive a color- coded area in which to stand. Only a couple of us had navy-blue tickets so we teamed up to go together. My buddy was Kathleen Yager of Rushville. We took the Metro to Judicial Square where we saw this fella when we emerged from underground.
After taking his photo, we spotted posters pointing attendees in the right direction, according to color. Off we went several blocks. The nearer we got to the Capitol, the more the protesters increased. Interestingly, the loudest demonstrator was a Christian street preacher.
Then came this dramatic scene, protesting the Gitmo prison.
Next up, this one.
We turned at that corner and proceeded another block or so until we spotted a security check for those carrying navy entry passes. That was us. I would have liked to have taken photos of the Secret Service checking folks, but I was told the night before at the Indiana Society Ball not to photograph them so I didn't try..
We had been told to take very little with us, including making sure if there was a purse, it was very small. If you know me, you know taking a small purse to anything is a feat in itself. But I did load only essentials into a smallish one that I could crisscross and wear against me.
Reports on TV went back and forth as to if we could take umbrellas. I didn't even try since I had a hooded rain poncho, which I carried and quickly put on when it started sprinkling. The skies looked as though they would open up at any time but never got beyond a sprinkle. Whew!
It was much like airport security in that our bags and clothing were checked, we walked through scanners and were wanded.
We walked to as close as we could and still remain in our section. We were near a fence that separated us from a path where a lot of good looking and well-heeled folks passed by en route to the next level of seating, hundreds of seats. I have a real feeling that had we known who these people were, we would have been impressed. Maybe governors and other pols. Or lawyers of the big wigs. Who knows, but they were of a higher order than those of us standing.
We did see a few celebs. There were Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway, country singer Trace Adkins, a famous wrestler people knew, a Fox News broadcaster and a few others who are young and famous (or semi-so) and while crowd members waved and sought their attention, I didn't know them.
The thing about standing is that once you get your spot, the crowd starts filling in behind you and edging into your space. One man asked if he could just go ahead of us to get a photo. Before we knew it, he was a permanent resident of a coveted spot leaning on the fence. I was asked if I would give a dad and his kids my spot. Um, sorry but no. As the crowd presses in, you quickly realize that you must firmly stay put or you would be nudged out of the area where you started. I spent five hours in the same spot, packed like sardines.
You look for whatever it takes to pass the time. I was fortunate to land next to a retired fighter pilot / commercial airline pilot and his wife from Las Vegas. After five hours of being up close and personal, by the time it's over, you feel as you should invite them to Easter dinner or something.
The patriotic live music helped a great deal in redirecting my focus away from my aching legs.
We couldn't see the actual ceremony, but we saw the snipers posted atop the capitol building. Security aircraft flew overhead. A pair of large-screens on both sides of the capitol allowed us to watch the goings-on as dignitaries were introduced and seated, there were prayers and short speeches, and then there was this miracle of miracles that is rare in the world at large. It was the peaceful transfer of power from one president and administration to the next.
Sworn in was Hoosier Mike Pence as Vice President and Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the U.S.
We made our way out of the area and headed back the way we came. It wasn't long at all before we heard the former Marine 1 helicopter fly overhead carrying former President and Mrs. Obama.
We kept moving and soon we saw this.
We saw no violence and no rioting but these police were ready if it happened. And it did, with more than 200 arrested.
We weren't sure how to get to the parade. Kathleen was bent on seeing the parade. I had already decided that as soon as I delivered her to the viewing stands (which also require Secret Service checks) I would head back to the hotel via the Metro to write stories and upload photos. One of the papers I was writing for needed my work by 9 that night.
Let's just say we took the scenic route to get there. Two more hours of walking and hopping on and off the Metro. At one point, the Metro personnel told us we might not be able to get off where we needed because the city is rioting. Kathleen was unfazed! I think she she would have walked through a riot itself to get to that parade. She was steady and fearless! I still can't believe that we arrived exactly at 3, when the parade was to start. I had hoped to then stick around long enough to see our new elected officials but there seemed to be a delay. So I left early but Sue Saunders caught this image.
I walked a couple of blocks to a Metro station and after a change at another station and a scramble to find my line, as well as a great chat with a young professional from Maryland, and who happens to love downtown Indy, calling it, MUCH to my surprise, a "mini Paris," I was on my way, then suddenly lost in the crowd, then an arrival at my stop, Bethesda!
I wanted to rest and relax, to eat and have a soft drink! I had not had a single drop of water or food since 7 a.m. and here it was 5 p.m. I prayed for a burst of energy and to not freak out as I had three stories to write and about a dozen photos to upload for my employer. The stories and photos would go to a variety of newspapers around Indiana.
So I ordered room service, put on my pajamas and got to work. I tried to accomplish it all in a methodical way. First the inauguration story. Next the ball story and finally the sightseeing one. The good news was that my old computer with its new power cord and my cellphone were holding steady.
I worked feverishly, taking time to eat when it arrived and for little else. My deadline was 9 and I was maybe three or four minutes late.
And then, I dropped.
What a whrilwind this has all been. But I am blessed as a reporter to be here, to experience and write about it all, be it right now, on Facebook posts or in print or on websites of newspapers throughout the state, including my home base, the New Castle Courier-Times.
And now. It is approaching 10 p.m. We roll out of here at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, headed for home.
I have more I want to say about this trip. To be continued.