WHEN YOU WRITE A BOOK, I promise that you have no idea beforehand who, what, when, and where you will meet up with unexpected friends, new opportunities, and all kinds of other things, besides.
The bulk of Brian's career was spent in Fishers, so it comes as a surprise that he had NOTHING to do with me landing wonderful gigs with all three books at Fishers United Methodist Church.
The latest of the three happened on Tuesday night when around 20 readers in the church book club showed up to talk about the book and show heirlooms.
I loved every moment of the evening, and I am grateful to several who made it possible.
First, to Mary of New Castle who told her friend Rita about the book and Rita invited me to the Creek Readers Book Club.
There I met Rita, who is responsible for me meeting Kay, and the book club members at Fishers UMC.
Since then, both those book clubs have featured my two additional books.
I'm grateful to them for bringing keepsakes to talk about and I think maybe some even picked up some good tips about WHAT to do with family china and silverware that the family doesn't want (what about an artisan who can transform it, or Replacements Limited?).
Also, one man talked about spending $400 on a clock repair that didn't last, and he then took matters into his own "hands" by purchasing a $20 modern clock kit and installing it into the heritage clock. Presto! It worked!
Some chapters that folks told me they particularly enjoyed were ones about saving boxes, getting rid of spices, corralling pens and toting around prom dresses! Yes, I am not the only one who saved her 4-H prom dresses.
So did Kim, the group's coordinator:
THANK YOU ALL FOR A GREAT EVENING. I sure do appreciate your interest in this and in all my books.
I'm enjoying three weeks before my next stop on the author journey. I plan to catch up on some things around the house, entertain some overnight guests, and just chill out and gear up for being the luncheon speaker for the annual Henry County Senior Center summer picnic; Writer Chicks the next day; and then I'm blessed to have been chosen to speak at the 63rd annual Rural Urban Dinner in Hagerstown.
Happy Independence Day weekend to you all. Blessings, peace, and have a wonderful summer.
P.S. Kim's prom dress is no worse for wear a few years down the road.
It was "old-home day" in the Franklin County Public Library in Brookville Saturday. I appreciate so much these Union County school days-friends, Melody and John, coming out to my program and bringing their spouses, besides.
They participated in the "What's in your attic?" show-and-tell part of the program, too.
John brought this pre-World War II pinball-type game that came from his Grandma Stella Estridge of Liberty. He told stories about his strong-willed, as well as physically strong grandmother.
Melody brought a small Stitchwell sewing machine that remains fully functional. The antique was made in Belvidere, Ill. (*That's the state abbreviation printed on it.) She recalls making an assortment of doll clothes on the machine as a girl, including fancy ones as she had scraps from a wedding gown her mother sewed for someone.
Interestingly enough, while I thought such machines were for children, Melody explains that they were actually salesmen samples so the sales staff didn't have to lug around the full-sized machines when trying to make a sale.
Someone created the small quilt frame that rests on display in Lee's home, a tribute to her grandmother, and a wonderful way to preserve a piece of a quilt.
Adult-Services Librarian Leah Turner provided a wonderful meal for those attending, consisting of chicken-salad sandwiches and a vegetable and cheese tray. Her food was delicious.
Brian and I didn't eat while we were there but Leah thoughtfully packaged up sandwiches, veggies and Diet Cokes and sent us off with this "moveable feast" as we made our way through the winding and hilly backroads of Franklin County, on through Rush County, and back home again to Pendleton.
Thank you, Leah, John, Melody, Dennis, Ruth, and Lee!
There's always a blessing when I take this little "show on the road," and you all were mine on Saturday.
This spring, when I had a book signing and program at the Union County Public Library in my hometown of Liberty, Indiana, a number of special guests surprised me by their attendance. Among them were my great-great nieces, Katie and Lexi. They attended with their grandmother, and my niece, Marlene.
This week I had a mail delivery that brought delight! It was from Katie! She had cut out a picture of me promoting that event from our hometown weekly newspaper. She addressed the envelope and everything. THANK YOU MISS KATIE! I love it!
A thank you note is in the mail to Miss Katie. Just when I thought that snail mail was largely a thing of the past, it arrived in our box from this young lady.
Tuesday was Flag Day, but I took this photo on Flag Day Plus One at the intersection of a county road and U.S. 36 in Henry County. As I drove through the back and main roads through Henry and Madison counties last night, I took in the bright beauty of a June evening.
This photo was taken at about 8 last night, with sundown coming at 9:13 p.m. Oh, how I love the long-lit days.
Tuesday was also our monthly meeting of Writer Chicks Society (WCS). This month I hosted, and as always we packed a lot of visitation and information into a more than three-hour meeting around our family's kitchen table.
It is a wonderful thing to have a group of like-minded writers with whom to unpack the joys, challenges, opportunities, and surprises of the writing/authoring/business sides of these experiences.
The picture below is of the Teachers in Travel Society book club in New Castle.
Last night I attended the book club's discussion as this lively group of mostly retired New Castle High School teachers featured my first book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, for the June selection. Ten of the dozen or so members attended at Primo's downtown. Thank you all for the meal and the conversation.
I appreciate that they humored me for a photo. It was a bit dark in there and I should have turned on the flash, but I'm happy for the picture--and always, to be back in New Castle, my home away from home.
My next "road show" is a trip to the Franklin County Public Library in downtown Brookville Saturday. I'll be giving a program at 1 p.m. called "What's in your attic?" Attendees are each encouraged to gather up a favorite keepsake or heirloom and briefly tell about it at the end of the talk. I'll also be signing and selling books but the program is free and certainly, no purchase is necessary!
The library is providing refreshments, I'll have a door prize, and in the words of the county news correspondents who used to put chicken-dinner news in hometown newspapers, hopefully "a good time will be had by all."
Reprinted from my Next Chapter newspaper column that appears in New Castle, Connersville, and Shelbyville newspapers twice monthly.
By Donna Cronk
With it commonplace for folks to pay with plastic instead of cash, I knew with this book, I needed to invest in a credit-and-debit-card reader. But what may seem an ordinary task to others threw me into a tailspin.
I decided to get one through my bank; to speak about it face-to-face with a human wearing business attire and a badge, seated in a leather chair behind a desk. News flash: these people still exist!
The task involved speaking with the correct banker who handles this, creating a particular business account, determining which reader best suits my needs, and signing the forms.
When the gadget arrived at my home, so did an email with links to videos about set up. I’d need to sync my phone with the reader, and complete related chores.
A banker checked in to see how it was going. It wasn’t. We made a phone appointment to get the reader launched. I dreaded our meeting and sent her an email that this all seems over my head. She asked for a chance to help, saying it with no a hint of condescension.
It took longer than a quick call; I was not a quick student. But we got it done. Story of my life: English is easy; math and tech not so much.
The day came for me to use the card reader on my own in real time. As I reached the venue early to prepare, butterflies swarmed in my gut—not about being the keynote speaker before a couple hundred people who were on their way—but if I would be capable of using this technology. What if I hit the wrong button and didn’t know how to correct it with potential customers viewing my ineptitude? What if I accidentally charged someone $1,500 instead of $15?
Mulling all this over, I pulled my book cart through the parking lot toward the venue.
“Excuse me,” came a woman’s voice. “Could you help me lift a crate from my car? I just had back surgery.”
I could. We introduced ourselves and started talking as though old friends. With her crate delivered to the kitchen, I found my bearings in the fellowship hall, and began assembling my book table. My new friend took a seat nearby and we continued chatting.
A retired nurse, she had a hobby-business that involved creating and selling jewelry, just as I have one creating and selling books. Once my table display was in place, she waved her credit card, saying she would like three of my books.
“Oh, wow! This is the first time I’ve used a card reader and I’m nervous,” I confessed. “I think God sent you to be my angel for a trial run,” I told her. Or something close to those words.
She said it wouldn’t be hard, adding, “I have one. I’ll help you.”
I fumbled the small gadget into position and turned it on. Out came my phone for its part of the process.
Success! It felt like a miracle—not that the tech worked, even, but that someone came along to put me at ease just when I needed her.
“If you want, I’ll sit with you at your table and help,” she offered, and did.
To my amazement, she took off and gave me her necklace that I had admired.
Since that night, I’ve used the reader numerous times with flawless results. Such irony! Someone now might mistake me for an old pro. Or at least for old.
I sent an email to the supervisor of the banker who helped me launch the reader. I told the boss that her employee is kind, patient, and helpful. I figure the best way to thank someone is to praise them to their supervisor.
Recently in another parking lot, I looked down to see a debit card on the pavement. I picked it up and headed to a nearby store’s service desk. There was a line, so I went back to the car, called the number on the card, then pressed the correct prompt. Voice mail.
I decided to drive the card to a bank branch that bore its name. I looked it up and one wasn’t far. Handing it to the teller, I explained how I found it and she vowed to call the card owner. She didn’t ask my name. I was glad. I didn’t want credit; only to help.
As Fred Rogers’ mother famously told him, “Always look for the helpers.”
They’re everywhere, even in parking lots.
We can each be one.
Union County native Donna Cronk writes a column for several Indiana newspapers. She’ll be giving a program and book signing at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at the Franklin County Public Library. Everyone is invited. Feel free to bring an heirloom for a show and tell activity. Her new book is There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Connect via email: email@example.com.
I'm delighted to share an awning with my longtime colleague and friend Darrel Radford on the grounds of the Henry County Historical Museum tomorrow, Saturday, June 11. We'll be there from 11 to 5 where Darrel will have these 100-page keepsakes available for $10. Proceeds benefit the historical society and its projects.
Here's what else is up tomorrow, from a Facebook Henry County Historical Society post: They're here!!! The 100-page bicentennial booklet created by Darrel Radford will be available for the first time at Saturday's Henry County Historical Society Ice Cream Social.
The event is planned from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gen. William Grose home and grounds, 606 S. 14th St., New Castle.
The booklet features a historical tidbit for each day of the calendar year. Then, the booklet shows how “Henry County has made history from A-Z,” an alphabetical look at key local historical people, places and moments.
More than 500 photos are included in the booklet, thanks to the collections of Doug Magers and the late Mike Bertram along with archives from The Courier-Times, Henry County News Republican and New Castle-Henry County Public Library. Priced at just $10, the booklet is sure to be a keepsake All proceeds from sale of the booklet will be shared with the Henry County 529 Legacy college fund for county students and the Henry County Historical Society and its museum, housed in Gen. William Grose's New Castle home. The local historical society is the oldest, continuously operating group of its kind in the state of Indiana.
Only 500 copies of the booklet were printed, so make sure you get yours soon. After Saturday, they will be available at the museum, which is open by appointment. Call 529-4028. Or, starting Monday, you can also pick one up at the Chamber of Commerce office in downtown New Castle.
In other news, I had waited nine months for Tuesday to get here. And the day did not disappoint. I had been recommended and invited to speak at this year's Indiana Extension Homemakers Association state conference at the Embassy Suites in Noblesville.
I provided a program called "You Should Write a Book," where I spoke of my authoring journey and told would-be writers how they might delve into self-publishing. The committee was kind enough to give me a wonderful location and I sold a lot of books! Special thanks to my friend and sister author, Janet Hart Leonard. Janet launched her book on Sunday at a beautiful event at Ginger's Cafe in Noblesville. Janet is a columnist for the Noblesville paper. Her new book, available from her or on Amazon, is When the Hart Speaks: Whimsy and Wisdom From the Little House on the Alley. The memoir is a delightful story about how God has a plan, even when we don't see it. Janet tells the stories of her life in a powerful, sweet, and inspiring way.
Are you as random as I am about little chores and re-dos around the house? This morning I dove into our coat closet by the front door.
We keep too many coats and jackets in there, along with an assortment of stocking caps, ball caps, gloves and scarves. Since we aren't ready to part with the contents, I decided to free up some space by replacing the bulky hangers with streamlined ones that skinny up the required space.
They replace the wooden ones that I have collected here and there for decades, saving them from our folks' closets, and from who knows where--probably purchases of men's suits.
Yes, I know there is some interesting advertising on some of them. I don't care. They are being donated very soon. If you want them and can come and get them, let me know fast. They are free for the taking. You just need to reach me before they are donated. (hurry ! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
To my great surprise, when I got to the gloves section, they all matched! Normally that never happens. Gloves are like socks, they tend to stray off the beaten path, or shelf, as the case may be. This time, they were all there. I think I know why.
Now that we are retired and don't go here, there and everywhere on a daily basis, or the boys aren't around to grab gloves, these pieces of outerwear don't get the use they once did.
I'm fascinated by two sets of gloves. They are vintage, and I've never lost a mate. The black ones were either my mother's or more likely, my Grandmother Jobe's. The blue ones date back to at least my grandmother, or some other long-ago relative who was born in the 1800s as was Grandma Jobe.
I used to play dress up with these gloves, and here they are, completely useful. I like these pairs because they are lightweight, somewhat dressy "spring" gloves. And I like the color navy, so they are my favorite gloves! They are unusual, vintage, and they have remained paired like a couple of elderly lovebirds that we find completely charming.
So that's my Saturday morning! Hope you are doing something fun, interesting, or useful.
Carry on! Oh, and here's the finished closet. (**Please note that the three jackets to the right are mine. The rest are *someone else's whose name I won't mention but who lives here.**) Just teasing though, because he uses most all of these jackets and coats.
I don't know when he last wore the trench coat, however, but he's all set for a winter formal occasion or if he's asked to become a CIA agent.
I recently spoke to the Laughing Liberty Ladies Red Hat Society on location in Richmond. Being with these ladies is as easy as being at home! There's my friends Lois and Shirley, and other ladies who have been in my hometown for decades. One, Dorothy, even recalls buying a refrigerator from my dad in the 1940s!
Jenny Pugh is a colleague who writes for Western Wayne News. One of these ladies is not from Union County but came to live there in recent years, inspired by visiting the local boating and camping venues and she now adores her new hometown!
A couple other ladies travel to be with this bunch monthly from Cincinnati.
Thank you, Liberty ladies, for having me as your speaker!
I survived! Going into this past week, I had two personal meetings and four author-oriented gigs. It would be a fun week, a blessed and rare-air period of days, even, but it would involve a lot of programs and making sure I had the correct amount of everything (script, props, books) ready to go with the specific event.
Monday was Writer Chicks Society at Janet’s in Noblesville, and as always, we had a lot to say, and numerous updates on our projects. We didn’t even finish early, despite missing our member, Susan, who was off having fun on a family trip.
That evening found me in Middletown with a fellowship session, and then the highlight of the 2021-22 year of Bible Study Fellowship, our annual share night, where participants are welcome at an open mic to share their personal takeaways and insights from the study. This year's was Matthew.
Tuesday night took me down I-69 and other routes south to Greenwood at the Greenwood Christian Church where about 220 filled the fellowship hall for a mother-daughter banquet. Although I grew up in a tiny church, this banquet took me back to those years and how much I adored those banquets!
I only wish I had taken photos! Two key people among many wonderful ones made my night. One of the coordinators, Stellamae Carley, invited me to give the 2020 program, which covid ruined, as it did in 2021, and I was delighted to be remembered for the 2022 edition.
I broke out my new card reader to use for credit and debit payments and I felt nervous to use it for the first time. God sent me an angel named Elaine in the parking lot! We chatted there and some more inside and when she asked to purchase books with her card before everyone got there.
I told her she was my Guinea pig. I felt so grateful to process her payment while there wasn’t a group around waiting on my fumbles--and all went great. She even helped at my table as the night went on. And she gave me her necklace!
Wednesday night it was off to Fishers where Creek Readers and I discussed my book, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. I can’t begin to express to hostess Kay how much I appreciate her selecting my book and how much fun it was to see how the book affected the club members.
They brought heirlooms to discuss and share with the group ranging from Mary Jo’s father’s poem to Ellen’s majorette uniform and other delights! Kay told me it was one of the best meetings the group has ever had! I’m humbled and grateful.
When Thursday arrived, I did a first. I sat down and on the spot, that day, wrote a program for the evening’s gig, in my beloved New Castle for the Young Moderns Home Ec Club. They were hosting their annual guest night with about 40 slated to attend.
I had put off writing their program because I wasn’t sure which direction to go with it. I decided to go with a shorter, more personal program about how I came to write the book and what our family went through during both 2020 and 2021 and how cleaning out the attic and writing the book helped get me through some tough times.
I ended on a personal note about how we all made it! We survived a worldwide pandemic and it’s something to celebrate!
Oh, but I'm not done ...
Saturday's road took me east to another mother-daughter banquet, this one at Hagerstown’s New Testament Church of Christ. The Friendship Circle outdid themselves in décor and attention to detail, along with delicious food. They even surprised me with inviting my cover artist Marilyn Witt to join us! It was lovely. Just lovely.
Note: The following is my latest published column in the three papers for which I write twice a month. It printed around the date of Erma's 95th birthday.
by Donna Cronk
I hadn’t thought much about Erma Bombeck in some time. The national columnist was part of the average American homemaker’s life for 30 years through her consistent output of domestic common sense and humor.
I’m sure that many women considered her almost a friend who dropped by whenever the paper arrived.
It seemed that she would always be at it, cranking out copy from her laundry-room beat; that maybe we haven’t heard from her in a while due to a backlog of dirty clothes, with a funny story coming right up about how that happened.
Her death at age 69 in 1996 meant we would never share her life’s roadmap through her 70s, 80s, and even now, in what her 90-something self would have to say about life and aging. Today, oddly, I’m feeling the loss of that loss.
The humorist came back on my radar recently when my friend, Cathy, mentioned that she wanted to record a PBS show coming on late that night about Erma. I decided to stay up and watch it. While not a new program, I had never seen it before so it was new to me. It brought back memories.
When I came to the New Castle paper in 1989, Erma’s columns arrived in a large white Universal Press Syndicate envelope and had to be typed into our news program. It’s hard to remember how we got things done before the internet changed everything, but for sure, there was considerably more retyping copy into video display terminals (VDTs).
I sometimes spent entire afternoons keying in club minutes and wedding write-ups, for example. It fell to me to type Erma’s work.
I did the math, and at that time, she was a year younger than I am now. She lived only another seven years, passing from complications of a kidney transplant, a few days after penning her final column.
How can it be that she’s been gone for an entire generation—folks born, raised, and then some—without the wit and wisdom of one of the funniest women who ever knew her way around home row. I wonder if anyone under 50 has heard of her.
Erma is funny and brilliant on paper, but I didn’t think her charm translated well into TV spots. I wanted to laugh … but (sorry, Erma), it didn’t work. She was a paper person through and through. So was I, getting so nervous I nearly froze back then when I had to speak at newspaper-sponsored recipe contests.
I thought her lack of stage presence made her all the more believable and “like us.” She looked and sounded like your own mom, sister, or yourself, up there on the big stage or in the talk-show-guest’s hot seat.
Her gift was finding the relatable insights and humorous irony in ordinary-life situations. Not once or occasionally, but cranking out weekly masterpieces with the same inch-count as the previous ones, and the ones to come the next week. She pulled a writer’s version of dancing backward in high heels.
Her humor had none of the mean-girl snark nor insinuation that someone of a different political or faith bent than hers is a horrible person. She found the common ground. I couldn’t tell you her politics or denomination.
Erma inspired us. She truly was “just a housewife” from Ohio, and she really did make the casseroles and care for her family despite 30 million readers looking in, well, reading what she wrote.
Once I won a statewide newspaper-contest award for column writing. The judge jotted in the comments section that you never know from where the next Erma Bombeck will come.
She didn’t come from me, but putting Erma’s name in the same sentence to describe my writing was worth more than the engraved plaque. And I do like engraved plaques.
These days, I think of Erma in a new way. How is it that 70 once seemed old and now… not so much. I told a friend the other day that, “When I use the phrase ‘older woman,’ it will always mean someone older than I am.”
Should I live to be 100, the "older woman" I mention will be at least 100.1 years old.
Years ago we bought Brian’s mom a book collection of Erma’s columns for a Christmas gift. When Mary passed, and we went through things in preparation for an estate sale, I saved back the Bombeck book. I thought it was surely dated, though.
What did I know? I was then a younger woman in my late forties.
Now? Even though the hunky actors she mentions on her pages are dead, and we use computers instead of typewriters, and too much comedy has turned vicious, I expect that if I read that book, I’d find that Erma is timeless.
The last time I sat down and read her work, or enjoyed it as I retyped her columns for the paper, we weren’t peers—writing or otherwise. Now we are. I’ve caught up. We’ve both seen greater or lesser chunks of our sixties. We both had columns for at least three decades. Heck, we both had husbands who were school principals. She got a kidney transplant; my older son works in kidney-transplant surgeries. We have plenty in common.
It sure would have been nice to read Erma’s take on the sunset side of life, those missing years she didn’t get; the ones I still hope to see.
The unique twist of being common, yet one of a kind: that was Erma. She gave us the sustenance we needed to assemble a meatloaf after a long day, can the green beans when the garden is on summer overload, fold the laundry (yet again) and run the sweeper (yet again). And come on! No matter what other Big Things we’re doing, who likes a crunchy carpet or damp laundry? Seeing to the mundane is part of life. Erma knew that. She made it interesting.
Erma would now be 95. I miss her.
Donna Cronk is retired from 31 years at the New Castle Courier-Times. She still writes columns for three papers, and enjoys giving programs and attending book club discussions about her new book, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Connect with her at email@example.com.
As I continue the spring tour of ladies banquets, libraries, and other stops, I found myself over the weekend at two venues. Saturday was a brunch in Selma at the Christ United Methodist Church. I was invited by Anita Price.
It turns out that this church is the "home" church--if not now, in their childhoods or other previous years--to several women I know. Jackie, a retired teacher from my sons' elementary school, was on hand as this is her hometown childhood church!
So often, anywhere I go in Indiana feels like home. Connections abound!
Attending were some Bible Study Fellowship mentors, including with Anita, our long-time teaching leader Jodie, and group leader, Brenda, along with at least a couple others who were there. The committee provided fun decorations and a lovely brunch. Thank you Anita, for taking a chance on someone you have never heard speak before to provide the program.
Friday night found me in my home-away-from-home, Henry County, where Debbie from the Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church invited me to be the banquet speaker with a theme of "Garden Party." When I walked into their gym/multipurpose room, this bouquet was my welcome, and now greets me when I walk into our dining room:
The committee worked hard to carry out the spring floral theme, but also decorated the stage in keeping with the theme of my 2022 book, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
A nice crowd filled the space and enjoyed a meal of a baked potato and taco salad bar, and dessert. There was a Garden Party photo booth, door prizes and fun.
Grateful for these lovely gigs, when I got home Saturday afternoon, I felt relieved that I didn't conflate the two gatherings! I had never been to either of these venues, and since they were hours apart, I hoped I didn't talk about gardens where trips were the theme, and vice versa.
And I was tired! That was my third program for the week. Tuesday's was at the Knightstown Public Library, and we had a wonderful time with my signature "What's in Your Attic?" program. Several attendees brought their heirlooms.
Today I have been working hard my to-do list; tonight is the last BSF of the 2021-22 year with our Share Night next Monday, and then we're off for the summer. I think I'll take the next hour off before it's time to get ready to leave. It's a busy season. But busy in a fulfilling kind of way. Hope your week is a good one.