A reprint of my Sunday feature in The Courier-Times.
by Donna Cronk
The public is invited to the first of four annual concerts sponsored by First Presbyterian Church in New Castle. The first one is an hour-long organ concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9 in the sanctuary at 1202 Church St.
Presenting the concert is Mary Ragna Yetter, the church’s new director of music, with a program called Summer Wind Pipes. A fellowship reception will follow.
Selections include such pieces as “The Emperor’s Fanfare,” by Antonio Soler; “Sonata II in C Minor,” by Felix Mendelssohn; “Prelude” by Louis Vierne, “Adagio in G Minor,” by Tomaso Albinoni and an offering written by former local resident Robert A. Hobby, “Glorious Things of You Are Spoken.”
A special treat will feature “Haydn Clockworks,” which are little pieces of music written for high-end 18th-century clocks.
For Yetter, her work is about “making music happen in this building.”
That includes directing the choir, playing the church’s massive pipe organ, and producing various special musical performances throughout the year.
Yetter anticipates that the upcoming organ concert’s musical selections will “show off the sounds of this instrument.” She said this organ has incredibly good sound.
First Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Rod Smith says that Yetter brings “years and years training and experience, both in the USA and internationally, to one of the finest pipe organs in the state. I think of it as a perfect match of refined skills, talent, love of craft, brought to an instrument that knowledgeable musicians crave to play.”
Originally from Oklahoma, Yetter has been interested in the organ since she was a small child. Her mother took lessons but had to give them up. The daughter then started taking them at about age 5 and has been at it ever since. She played throughout high school and assumed she would continue playing and learning about her instrument.
Majoring in organ performance was the natural next step and she earned a bacehlor’s degree from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, a certificate of advanced study from the Royal College of Music in London, England, and has a master of music degree from the University of Memphis.
Yetter also plays harpsichord and violin, and has performed with a variety of orchestras, chamber groups, choruses and in solo concerts.
Since moving to Anderson last summer, Yetter has served as Anderson University organist. Throughout her adult years, she has been a professional organist and choir director at various churches in several states and in Ireland. Her husband, Erich, is an assistant professor of dance at Anderson University. They reside in Anderson and are parents to three grown children.
“In the arts, you go to wherever the job is,” says the master organist.
Yetter has taught both organ and piano in the past and is open to continuing that in the future. When she isn’t involved with music, Yetter enjoys reading, cooking and their pet dog, Shiloh.
She’s delighted by the welcome she has received at the New Castle church.
“They really are wonderful people,” says Yetter. “They really want to be singing and they are so appreciative. They really have just welcomed me here.”
Smith says the church historically maintained a strong music program and that the new director has arrived at a crucial and exciting time.
She says, “They needed me at exactly the same time that I needed them.”
Adds Smith, “I can’t wait for Mary Ragna’s first public concert and for her to unveil the musicians who’ll play at the four we are planning for each calendar year.”
She invites everyone to come enjoy the program and fellowship. “I just want it to be joyful,” she says.
We moved into our house 21 years ago this month. It was the age of a preschooler at the time. The previous owners, who had it built, were relocating to another state. Everything was in wonderful shape. They had just invested a lot of money in the surrounding landscaping the year before.
There wasn't much we needed to do when we moved, but that would change over two decades. And while at the time, we felt as though we had a "new" house, yesterday Brian pointed out, as only Brian can, "It's not a new house, anymore. It's gotten old like us."
We've replaced flooring more than once; added an open-air back porch; a new roof; painted the whole house and bought a new water softener.
We've updated both bathrooms, but not fully remodeled them, and because tastes and time changes things, we removed the ivy wallpaper in the kitchen that I adored for the first decade or more than we lived here.
But the laundry room had received no attention. It's the last of the house's wallpaper, and the only revision it got was when laminate went in the hallways, kitchen and dining room. I wouldn't have chosen the wallpaper the previous owner had, but until recent years, there was nothing wrong with it, and I didn't hate it. Opposite the washer and dryer is a closed pantry that covers the entire wall.
While the room is only a pass-through from the garage into the house, it's served us well. But it was neglected and I cringed every time the boys brought friends through the house that way.
We've been meaning to redo it. But working in a small space and wrestling washer and dryer never made it to the top of our to-do list. Until this week.
I have been gathering supplies and spent two evenings removing the wallpaper. Yesterday I started painting at 5:30 a.m. and all the related work went into the evening. We had some drama when moving the washer back into place and there was a leak. Everything went on hold until the plumber could get here and finally pronounce the leak repaired.
As my friend Cheryl said, we dodged a bullet because there was talk of cutting a hole in my newly painted wall to get to the deeper plumbing issues. Whew!
You have to practically wrestle Brian to get him to agree (even while rolling his eyes) with plans to hang new things on walls. He has a real problem with holes in walls, particularly new ones. But I insisted that we decorate the space.
So a print from Meijer went over the appliances. I bought a big white C that I wanted on the left-hand wall but there was a stud issue, so the first-runner-up, a wreath I had on hand, took the Big C's place to make use of the one existing screw. Brian insists that nothing else go on the wall.
I reorganized the built-in pantry, letting go of things such as five old-fashioned wood-handled dusters that we inherited from our folks, I guess. I only know in all my 60 years I had never once used one of them, preferring the light-weight feather duster.
Some other things went as well, such as the clothesline taken down for Sam's high school open house in 2005. The supplies we kept and use are all contained now in clear, lidded and labeled containers. We had three laundry baskets full of "rags" in the garage and those were pared down and placed in the pantry.
I still have a little touch-up work to do on the white woodwork but for the most part, I'm no longer embarrassed for people to come into the house through that entrance. I'm even showing it to you!
Here's the updated look.
Note: The following feature story appeared in the Sunday, May 19, 2019 Courier-Times and Connersville News-Examiner. It is reprinted here.
by Donna Cronk
Chuck Avery never minded the idea of growing older.
If you're waiting for the punch line, there isn't one.
“When I was younger, I thought older people seemed respected and settled,” he says, adding that they are “not trying to impress anyone. Just trying to relax. It turned out like I thought.”
Avery, 84, spoke during a Tuesday brunch at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle. His topic concerned thoughts on aging.
The Hagerstown resident and Connersville native is well known regionally for his regular humor column that still runs in The Courier-Times and Connersville News-Examiner along with two other papers. At one time during his nearly 30-year side career as a general-and-humor columnist, his work appeared in nine newspapers.
Avery said he almost never knows in advance what he will write about in any given column. He credits former Hagerstown Exponent and Courier-Times Publisher Bob Hansen with giving him his start. He has no plans to quit writing the columns. But as for speaking gigs, he doesn’t do so many anymore.
He said last year, he spoke in Richmond. The person who invited him mentioned a stipend and told him to keep the talk to 15-20 minutes. Avery asked if he could have 25 minutes, and the person said no, 15 would be better. Avery responded, “If you’d raise my stipend, I won’t show up and we’d both be happy.”
Avery says it’s a true story, the kind readers have come to expect from the retired 27-year speech, drama, and literature teacher at Hagerstown High School. Youngest son Ian now teaches writing in Ohio. Chuck and wife Michelle have four grown kids, 10 grandchildren and two greats.
The couple became interested in each other while doing a play in Angola many years ago. She taught school for 31 years in Richmond before retiring.
Michelle says in their family, her husband is known for his storytelling abilities. She says he has the same personality at home that comes across in his columns. But, he says he wasn’t known for his wit while growing up.
Of his hundreds of columns, Avery says a personal favorite is about Christmas when he was a kid. A local organization sent the family some holiday gifts – and the Averys sent them back, requesting that the group give the presents to a family who needed them.
“We didn’t have anything but pride,” he recalls.
As a young man, he worked in Connersville factories where he found the jobs boring. Yet the experiences were significant because they motivated him to head to college and pursue something more interesting.
Along with his teaching career and sideline of column writing, producing books, and public radio commentaries, he and Michelle built two houses in rural Hagerstown. They still live in the second one, built a decade ago, which they designed and mostly built themselves. He still works on their property and cuts wood to heat the house.
These days his hobbies include learning to play classic guitar and improving his pool game. He works at both daily.
On Tuesday, Larry and Norma Meyer of New Castle were part of a packed house to hear Avery’s program. She worked at Hagerstown High School with Avery when he served as department head. She says he was witty back then.
Avery said once he finished talking in Richmond last year, the event host told the audience, “Next month, we’ll have a really good speaker.”
It’s all copy. And for Chuck Avery, it’s a good life.
Tips on aging well from Chuck Avery
During his Tuesday program, newspaper columnist Chuck Avery offered thoughts on how to avoid appearing old. He suggests that folks implement these tips as soon as they get their first AARP solicitation. He mentioned that for many at the luncheon, that invite came long ago. He shared:
1. Once you are invited to join AARP, start using rear-view mirrors when backing up. Receiving the invite means it won’t be long before the recipient can no longer use the arm-over-seat, turn-your-head-around-to-see method.
2. Begin parking in the same general area in big parking lots. Avoid trying to get into a parked car you haven’t owned for two years.
3. Commit to memorizing the make and model of your current car.
4. Make lists of every act you intend to do wherever you’re going. Avery deadpanned that he doesn’t get to a big city such as New Castle often but he had a list with two things on it for Tuesday. The list included go speak at Forest Ridge, then go to Kroger for a big ham.
5. Avoid abbreviations on your list. If you just put P and B on your list, you might end up with pork and beans.
6. Learn to address everyone as “neighbor.” That way you no longer have to memorize names.
Note: This column appears in today's New Castle Courier-Times. A much shorter version appeared on Ovid Community Church's Facebook page as a Wednesday devotion. Times and seasons of life change. #Feelinggrateful.
By Donna Cronk
The first mother-daughter banquet I remember was at about age 4 in the basement of our little Methodist Church. It was also my first experience with favors, those pretty or useful “little somethings” appearing at each place setting – keepsakes to remember an event. Oh, I remember. I can still envision the plastic red roses. I thought they were gorgeous.
Through the years I looked forward to attending these spring affairs with my mother. Each was a chance to dress up, have a fancy (for us) meal, be entertained by a singer or speaker, maybe play a game or win a door prize. Most of all, it was a night out with Mom.
Then I grew up and moved far from my hometown. It no longer seemed feasible to make it back, about 160 miles, for the Mother’s Day banquet tradition. Still, I mentally sighed, wishing I could be no other place.
Even though I loved these banquets that celebrated mothers and daughters, we never attended one together in my adult years. When I think of the many do-overs I wish I had in life, this is one of them. I should have taken time off work and gone.
But when you’re 30, it seems a hassle for something so minor. It isn’t until you reach 60 that you know it wasn’t minor to spend a special night with your mom and to recognize what I would give for one more.
Then came the years of her Alzheimer’s disease, while at the same time Brian and I were raising two sons and working at our careers. These were years when a mother-daughter banquet seemed an alien concept. With my mother unable to attend, and having no daughters, not to mention no sisters, nor cousins to accompany me, I figured I’d never again attend such a sweet evening.
I didn’t feel I had a place at the table.
Who could guess the turns – I would call them blessings – that life can take? My Sam married a girl who not only relishes mother-daughter banquets, but Allison and her mother have often planned them at her Indianapolis church. It turns out I would be included each year on the guest list!
But there’s more. Once I published my novels, I started getting invitations to speak at mother-daughter banquets. Banquet season is when I’m asked to speak most. I’ve spoken twice each at my church and at Allison’s church in recent years. Not only did I have a seat at the table, but also a son in the kitchen helping with the meal and a husband serving food off rolling carts!
This season, I’ve spoken at two banquets and attended two more as a guest. My tea cup runneth over.
Mother’s Day isn’t all sunshine and flowers to every mother or daughter but you probably don’t know that because they tend to keep quiet this time of year. It can be painful to those who no longer have their mothers around on such a sentimental, emotionally charged day.
I like how my church started calling theirs Daughters of the King banquets. What a brilliant way to get around the high emotions of “mother-daughter.” We’re all daughters of the King! That means we each have a seat at the table.
If this day is hard on you for any reason, and you don’t feel you have a seat at a table, as I felt many years about mother-daughter banquets, ask the Lord to restore that seat to you – at whatever table it is that pains your heart. God is in the business of restoration and He can make things happen in ways we could not, even on our most creative days.
I’m thinking of that beautiful scripture of Joel 2:25 (NIV): “I will repay you for the years that the locust has eaten ...”
This restoration of mother-daughter banquets into my life may sound like a small thing. But it is not. Those banquets with my mother meant a lot. Now they mean a lot in a new way I – a way I had never imagined possible.
Courier-Times Neighbors Editor Donna Cronk also edits the quarterly her magazine for women. She is currently looking for essays from local women about great vacations they have taken, along with photos, for the next issue. Deadline is June 1.
When Judy Booe of Veedersburg surprised me with an invite to speak at the First Christian Church's Spring Fling mother-daughter banquet, I was delighted to say yes! The evening proved a trip down memory lane and a chance to reminisce with friends from the 1980s spent in Fountain County.
Following the lovely banquet, those with Fountain Central ties enjoyed gathering at Tom and Judy Booe's home to reminisce and laugh about the good old days. The joy of my book journey continues to be the memories made in renewing contact with so many wonderful people we've known throughout our lives. I didn't want the evening to end ...
And sure enough, it was about 12:30 a.m. before we rolled in back at home.
Then up and off for me to New Castle to attend the confirmation into St. James Episcopal Church of my friend and writing colleague, Stacey Torres. She was confirmed by The Right Rev. Jennifer Basketville-Burrows, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis -- the first African-American woman elected a diocesan bishop!
Then home ... and off again to the Mother-Daughter Banquet at my daughter-in-law's home church, Zion Evangelical Church of Christ in downtown Indy.
It's been a FULL but fully satisfying weekend. My gratitude to all involved.
When you climb the stairs, this marble-topped Victorian table that belonged to Grandma Jobe welcomes you. At right on the floor is a vase Brian bought his mother Mary long ago. He wanted to keep it and placed it here. I think it's the perfect spot. What's up with the rocking chair in Sam's photo? It's a reflection. The camera sees all, even when the photographer does not.
We replaced our sagging white bookcases (they're now garage shelving) with these black beauties from IKEA, at the suggestion of our daughter-in-law Allison. Part of our task in late winter and early spring was to edit our book collection. We donated more than 100 volumes; moved a lifetime collection of personal and Brian's career yearbooks downstairs to a doored cabinet, along with some text books he couldn't part with (although he did a great job of letting go of many). Special-edition books, such as signed author copies, those gifted to us by loved ones, and special ones for one reason or another, also went downstairs to our glass-front antique plantation-desk bookcase. It's full! But there's always room for one more. This bookcase also holds Brian's vinyl-record collection, lower left, and bunches of photo albums and scrapbooks. I'm in the process of covering and numbering in order the albums. I wanted to add some personality to the shelves so added career keepsakes for both of us. Brian said he always liked diplomas in their original folders so they went up too. The vintage fire extinguisher, right, is a unique gift from Brian's staff. Staffers signed it. The idea is that Brian "put out fires." It's been in his closet for several years and we thought it should come on out!
We needed the space to function more than only an office, but we needed that component too. Everything up here is a mixture of function, comfort, and heirlooms. Brian wanted to keep the desk. He and both our sons did their homework right there! Yes, it's pretty beat up, but it's in the "what we keep" department. The old chair gave out, and for now, we're using a dining room chair. Will likely buy another down the road with a spare to go where this little antique chair is now. The framed newspaper is a gift from one of Brian's building teachers who so thoughtfully found and framed a British newspaper from when Brian's dad landed there in World War II! He also included a picture of Brian's dad, Ray, from that time. What a gift! The little red chair was handed down in my family. I used to watch my favorite shows sitting in it, including the once-a-year showing of "The Wizard of Oz," and the weekly viewing of the original "Batman." I loved them both.
What I dig about this project is that it was Brian's idea! The space had been a repository for miscellaneous heirlooms, droopy overstocked bookcases, second-string sofa and loveseat for many years. We hadn't used it at all, basically, since the boys left home. It was their hangout for homework, entertaining, and video games. It took us quite a while this winter and spring to re-imagine. We wanted to make it our own personal space, editing out all the clutter, and filling it with comfortable seating, fully-loaded TV (cable, NetFlix, etc.), office area, Brian's vintage stereo equipment, and albums and important to me was a place to enjoy 150 years' worth of our families' paper trail of photos, special papers, and small heirlooms, tucked away neatly. I call the area Archives: Family Basket Cases. (Laugh! Even if you're family! It's suppose to be funny!) I also keep vacation keepsakes and photos in those baskets. We each picked out our own new recliners and had one recovered to match the coal-colored fabric in the other. The rocking chair is from Brian's family; the lamp tables from mine. The mirror spent all my growing-up years over a sofa in our home. It is reflecting a fan and drapes in the window on the opposite wall.
On the wall shared by the bookcases are Brian's 1976 stereo and turntable. The albums are out of view next to the turntable. Again, heirlooms are used. The cedar chest was my mother's "hope chest," refinished by Brian early in our marriage. The tiny table was made by Brian in "shop" class back in the day. The music stand comes in more handy than you know! Now I have room to leave it up and practice programs I write and give to women's groups. This spring I am debuting a new program for mother-daughter-banquets. It's about how we women are keepers -- of secrets, dreams, memories, mementos and of faith. Editing and re-imagining this room inspired the program.
Brian says we have "Ma and Pa chairs." We went for total comfort. The chairs and the carpet were our biggest expenses. The carpet is called "stone" and the chairs "coal." The previous carpet was a mess, and was also wrinkled. It had been through two teenage boys, their friends, and 14 years. It was time. But it was quite an effort to move everything downstairs, and the edited version of everything back up again.
Our "basket cases" are filled with 150 or more years' worth of various branches of our families' paper trails, old photos, vacation photos, and keepsakes, and more. I enjoy many trips down Memory Lane from these memory-filled baskets. Come visit our study and take in a movie with me. Or, we'll put up my folding table from behind the door and work on a project. I'm grateful for the space. Thanks for dropping by!
The following feature was recently published in the New Castle Courier-Times. It is my honor to share another story from our Greatest Generation.
by Donna Cronk
As one of the 16 million American veterans who returned from World War II, ready to restart their lives with jobs, marriages, families, and find a post-war normalcy, Forrest Owens resumed his life after serving with the U.S. Marines.
He became an electrician, married Mary, and started a family.
For 30-and-a-half years, he worked at Chrysler Corp. in New Castle, retiring in 1999. The Kentucky
native returned to his home state in 2017, and today, he and daughter Beverly reside together in
Grayson where they lead a quiet life.
Inside his storage bin are artifacts from a time that was anything but quiet. Among his honorable discharge and letters of commendation papers are two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Blue Enamel Star, Asiatic Pacific Combat Ribbon with two gold stars, and the American Defense Metal.
Owens’ service included first-wave invasion of the brutal island battle of Iwo Jima, located 660 miles
south of Tokyo. He was a part of it for the first nine days, there when one of the most iconic moments
in U.S. military history was recorded as the American flag was raised on the island’s highest point.
During this intense five-week battle, 7,000 Marines lost their lives and another 20,000 were wounded. One of the wounded was Owens, who was sent home to recover.
When Owens, who will be 94 on April 26, was asked what it was like to be at Iwo Jima, the Marine
says that he “never thought a lot about it until recently.” He adds that in the last few years he realizes
“how happy I was (that) I was there and did this and saw this.”
Excitement over the flag
On day five of the battle, U.S. Marines took the highest point, Mount Suribachi, and raised the
American flag. Owens recalls someone saying, “Look at Old Glory on Hot Rock.” He says everyone
started yelling and carrying on with happiness over the sight. He didn’t see the Marines place the flag
but he said the flag was “just starting to wave” when he spotted it.
The battle continued, and on the ninth day, the Marines were in the process of taking the second
highest point. It was then that Owens was wounded when a grenade exploded and hit his mouth,
injuring it and taking out two teeth. But instead of being treated and sent back into battle as Owens
expected, he was shipped back to the U.S. to heal.
“I was wanting to stay,” Owens recalls. “I was hoping to get through that without (being) wounded.” He
also wanted to remain with his buddies, and had been promised a promotion following his effort at Iwo Jima. Yet at the same time, he was happy to survive and go home.
After all, this was his third war wound. Prior to Iwo Jima, he fought in Guam scouting out Japanese
positions. He had been trained for the job by learning how to fight in thick jungles with mud, heavy rain and 100-degree heat. One sergeant told him that his background as a Kentucky country boy would serve him well, adding, “It’s like squirrel hunting, except the squirrels shoot back.”
In Guam, he was wounded in the right shoulder by shrapnel, then when leaving the hospital following
treatment, wounded again, that time in the left hip. He recovered at Pearl Harbor, and months later,
was sent in with the first wave to Imo Jima.
Owens said landing on the island was rough because the amphibious tracked landing vehicles
carrying soldiers came under immediate fire. The landing vehicle next to his own exploded and men
inside it were killed and wounded.
“Hell on earth, the first day,” Owens describes. That day alone, his outfit lost five of eight officers –
including the captain. Of the 220 soldiers, 111 lost their lives.
On that day, he did a lot of praying and imagines that most of the soldiers did likewise. Owens
describes his nine days on the island as a time of intense fighting and death.
“I was scared all the time I was there,” says Owens. “All day and all night you expected to get hit.
People getting killed all the time. I was happy to make it through.”
But make it he did, and he remembers so much about the period that he could fill a book, not just a
Taking the island was significant, according to information from The National WWII Museum in New
Orleans, because securing it meant the island would provide emergency landing space for 2,200 B-29
bombers and save the lives of 24,000 U.S. airmen. It was important in the war effort to fight the largest
Pacific battle of World War II – the invasion of Okinawa.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz is quoted as saying, “Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon
valor was a common virtue.”
Wanted to be a Marine
Owens volunteered for service on his 18th birthday and joined the Marine Corps. He enlisted because
the war was going on. “Everybody was patriotic and all the young men wanted to go.” He wanted to
be a Marine due to the heroic strides they were making. “They were heroes and I wanted to be part of
Following his service, Owens married Mary, and the couple had five children: Allen Owens (wife Teresa) of New Castle; Terry (wife Beverly A.) Owens of Noblesville; Beverly S. Owens of Grayson, Kentucky; the late Darryel Owens, formerly of Houston, Texas; and the late Rickie Owens, previously of Shirley.
Both Darryel and Rickie are buried in Knightstown. During Forrest Owens’ years at Chrysler, the family
lived in Wilkinson. Mary passed in 1998.
Says Owens, the two-time World War II Purple Heart recipient, “I’m very proud of our veterans today,
our service people. I have a great honor for them.”
His daughter Beverly, a former Wilkinson resident, says her dad still drives, needs no home assistance,
gardens and until last year, kept bees. He still has three living brothers of five original, and two living
sisters of three.
His involvements include membership in the Shirley Masonic Lodge No. 531; Shriner’s Club in Shirley;
life member of the New Castle VFW; member of the Scottish Rite in Indianapolis, and member of the
Willard, Kentucky American Legion Post 342.
His daughter said he often speaks of the boys from all over the country whom he served with in the
service, including those who were lost in battle. She said he would enjoy hearing from old friends who
probably have lost track of him. Cards may be sent to Owens at 204 W. 2nd St., Grayson, Kentucky
“I’m very proud of him and I’m honored that he’s my dad,” says Beverly.
Did you ever wrap your school books in paper to make dust jackets? I never did. But daughter-in-law Allison did back in the day, and she came up with an inexpensive solution to organize our photo albums.
She suggested craft paper and numbers. So far today, with one done before church and two after church and lunch this afternoon (it's not even 2:30 p.m. yet), three are finished.
Through the decades I have taken lots of photos. We have about a dozen random photo albums. It's been a long time since I added albums but I do have envelopes full of photos from many different vacations, occasions and a whole lot more hiding in The Cloud from my cell phone.
But my dilemma at hand is: How to attractively organize and display the existing photo albums that display snapshots from our family's life -- literally -- from the 1970s through about 2010 when I stopped buying these.
I told Allison that I don't plan on scrapbooking these. You'll note the several scrapbooks I created for the boys in time for display at their high school graduations (at left). These are nicely done, as are some other specialty scrapbooks, including a This is Your Life for Brian's 50th and scrapbooks I created for Brian and his brother Steve of their father's World War II history.
But scrapbooking done "by the book" is labor intensive, expensive, and frankly, no longer anywhere on my to-do list. I also didn't want to buy new albums.
Allison's idea is ideal. I already have a big roll of the craft paper, cheap and plentiful if I need more, rolls of excellent-quality postal tape, and I picked up some numbers. Starting with the first album of photos from high school (number 1), and going through the years in order, I'll number the photo albums and place them back on the bottom of our new bookcases.
Our progress in completing the space I think of as our new study is on hold at the moment as we need to buy two more bookcases, move our vinyl records upstairs for placement on the bottom row of one new bookcase, wait for our new chairs to arrive, select a lamp and throw rug to hide the cord, and then--I'll show you the end result.
I have a little patch of free time this afternoon so I'll get two or three more of these albums covered and numbered, and work on the rest as I can.
I searched Pinterest for ideas on storing and organizing family photos and nothing much resonated. Allison's idea is the best solution by far that works for our situation.
And, I've had a chance to walk down memory lane as I've worked on these. Right now, I'm in the 1980s. Here's one of me while managing editor at the Attica newspaper, now the county-wide Fountain County Neighbor.
Next are a couple photos I took when I had the opportunity to accompany some kids from Attica Elementray School go see President Ronald Reagan arrive at the Purdue University Airport, and give a speech.
It was exciting for this small-town reporter. Welcome to my 1980s...
Along with the President, center, do you recognize the white-haired gentleman? That is Indiana Gov. Robert Orr. I had the opportunity to attend a meeting accompanying two community activists make their case for prohibiting an explosives detonation company from locating in the county. I got to sit inside Gov. Orr's office with them and write about the meeting for an exclusive. X-plo-Tech was defeated by the community's will. Sue Barnhizer Anderson and I won a second-place state journalism award for our coverage.
Back to 2019. (Is that even possible?)
What I would like to know is how YOU store and display your family photos and in particular, what about all your random family photos stashed in albums like mine?
Donna Cronk Photo /// I know. But hey, don't judge! We're under construction up here in the "bonus" room." I captured this image right before the new light-gray carpet went down. It takes some creativity to work around those crawl-space plugs, but we're up for the challenge. Will show you the results in a few weeks.
I’ve been slacking in the blogging department lately. It seems that too many other projects have been demanding attention. I’m not complaining; they are all positive uses of time.
As you might surmise from the photo above, we’re in the midst of redoing our “bonus” room upstairs in our house. I don’t like the term, “bonus” room. I suppose it’s a logical-enough generic title real-estate folks give to an undesignated “bonus” space in one’s home.
It's vague enough to allow potential homeowners to envision the random space however they want, keeping the area open to possibilities. But the name sounds to me as though the builder had some extra materials and time and as an after-thought, decided, “Oh, what the heck. Let’s just slap on another room.”
For the first decade we lived here, the room under the eaves at the top of our stairway was something of a family room. I’ll never forget move-in day when I made the unrealistic request to move our roll-top computer desk upstairs. My fearless helpers did it, although they all may require hip or knee surgeries these 21 years later, dating back to the moment of hefting that thing skyward.
When laptops revolutionized our online work spaces to hours spent with keyboards in home easy chairs and even while stretched out in bed, the computer desk became a dinosaur.
I tried selling it (yes, you can LOL) on Facebook, then giving it away. No takers. I learned that not even Goodwill accepts these relics, nor do they take entertainment centers, another dated concept that worked well a generation ago.
Our bookcases, our second-string sofa and loveseat, and a TV with a game system hooked up filled much of the room in the years the boys were home. There, they enjoyed their games and did homework at Brian’s high school desk.
Once the boys left home, something like a decade ago, I had no vision for the mostly abandoned space. For a while, I stocked it with summer outdoor furniture in the off-season as well as miscellaneous antiques. Our bonus space became more of an attic than anywhere we wanted to spend time.
It was Brian who suggested a makeover! So this winter and early spring we’ve sorted through all our books, donated 110 volumes and reassigned others to different venues in the house, ordered and installed carpet, I’ve worked on streamlining and organizing family archives of photos and paperwork, and we got rid of excess furniture, hauling things down, and then last weekend, back up again after the carpeting went down and we undertook a careful edit.
Last Saturday after celebrating Ben’s birthday in Indy, Sam and Allison took us to IKEA in Fishers. We had never been, although Brian had long since told Allison he wanted her to give him a personal tour.
We found new bookshelves, in black, to go with our new space, and picked them up yesterday. The kids are coming Sunday to help put them together.
We have easy chairs ordered, and within another three weeks, our bonus room will have morphed into a new “study.”
I’ll show you pictures when that happens but for now, it’s under construction, so here's the before view..
My other construction project consists of writing four programs for spring! In fact, I need to make hay on a couple of these today. The first is a program for a Knightstown sorority week after next. I’ve never spoken to this group before, and their emphasis for April is on the literary arts. I’ll speak on the topic, “It’s all about the story,” and reflect on a career consisting of various kinds of writing.
Then from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 12, Hinsey-Brown Funeral Service in New Castle is hosting a special program called “Luncheon With the News Girls. They’ve invited a variety of women who take part in regular outings organized by Wanda Jones. There is a catered meal and the program features my friends and sister authors Sandy Moore, Tina West and myself. We’ll each give short programs and after that, visit with attendees and have book signings.
Seating is limited, but we’re allowed to invite some friends ourselves. So if you would like to attend, RSVP as instructed on the flyer below. Reservations are required and going fast.
Then in May, I’m speaking at two mother-daughter banquets – one near the Ohio border and one near the Illinois one. I’ll be sharing reflections on my journey as a granddaughter, daughter, mother and the joy of learning I would become a mother-in-law.
So those programs, too, are under construction.
With that said, I’d best get my hard-hat on and get to work.
The following column appeared in Sunday's, March 10, Courier-Times.
In our 60s now, Brian and I are clearly beyond the era of furnishing our home. We’re more in the stage of unfurnishing it.
In this latest round of “what we keep,” the topic is books. We’ve collected volumes all our lives. My collection began at the top of the stairs in the old Veach’s store in downtown Richmond where a rack of Little Golden Books caught my eye when shopping with Mom. I’d be permitted to pick one to buy on occasion, and more than half-a-century later, I still have those shiny-covered stories.
When Grandma Jobe was ill in the 1960s, she received a sunshine box from church friends. It contained small amusements, encouragements, and cards. I still have the slim volume of friendship-themed poetry from that box. I’ve raised my hand with that tiny book in it several times, set to discard it, but always stop short.
College books in my major seemed too important to hawk at the campus bookstore. So the texts about editing, crafting feature stories, the history of journalism, and the requisite grammar books have roomed on our shelves for thirtysomething years.
Then came the decades of novel buying, gifting, garage saling. There were Friends of the Library-sale tables that yielded recycled tomes for a quarter apiece and offered no guilt if I didn’t read them right away – or in 20 years. Then there is my double-copy problem. When I enjoy a book such as “The Shipping News,” if I find a duplicate on the cheap, I’ll pick it up for a loaner.
Brian has similar stories. He attended college a good many more years than I did for a master’s degree and certifications beyond that. He never wanted to purge his textbooks. In one noteworthy attempt, I held the volumes up and he would declare to keep or not. One book of poetry garnered his curious comment, “I hated that book. Keep it.”
So that’s how the weeding process has gone until now. We got a new sofa downstairs which inspired us to remake our upstairs bonus room. The room is where most of our books hang out and every last one of them, along with their shelving, and all manner of miscellaneous and mismatched furnishings, have to be hand-carried downstairs before our new carpeting is installed.
I’m envisioning a carefully edited library area with new shelving, a library table moved upstairs from down, and a designated family archives section where neatly organized lidded baskets will hold a family-history paper and photo trail. Should the need arise for our presidential libraries, it’s all there.
Meanwhile, we’ve given away works of Bill (Shakespeare); Uncle Walt (Cronkite’s bio), and a good number of less notable notables, including those duplicate loaner copies. Brian has decided that when it comes to our volume of volumes, less is less.
“All books do is sit there on the shelves,” he said.
“Yes, that’s what books do. It’s who they are,” I told him.
What does he expect them to do, spin, or for the non-fictions to reshelve themselves just for kicks into the middle of the photo albums? For Dad’s art books to mix it up with the novels?
So far, the tattered sofa and loveseat are gone; the new carpeting ordered, and we’re each hauling down at least one armload or large object a day, our stated minimum requirement on this project.
Then we'll reverse the process and the edited version will go back upstairs. At this rate we might be done while still in our 70s.
We’ve gone through nearly every book in the house and given each the yea or nay. No book in our collection is worth a marital spat so the criteria is simple.
1. Each of us may keep any book with no judgment from the spouse. (Rolling of the eyes is not to be within view.)
2. However, if there is no expressed desire to retain a book, and if said owner does not see himself or herself enjoyng it within the next 10 years, it’s gone.
If one person’s trash is another’s treasure, then our recycled books are someone else’s shelf problems. We wish them well.
Brian kept the poetry book because he hated it so much. Remember, I’m not allowed to judge. (Rolling eyes out of view.)
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times. She also edits the quarterly her magazine for women.