Welcome to my world...
Greetings friends, readers and friendly readers. I'm Donna Cronk, author of three books:
I'm a veteran newspaper columnist and author, as well as a lifelong Indiana resident. I live in a quaint little Hoosier town with my husband Brian, a required public-school administrator. We have two grown sons.
My hobby is presenting inspirational and humorous programs to groups of all sizes from a handful of book-club members to a banquet for hundreds.
I enjoy writing and talking about a variety of subjects ranging from faith, home, family, the empty nest, and aging. Feel free to roam around my website. I lead with blogs, and from them, you may get a feel for my interests and values. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO LATELY
Billie from A Dozen of Us book club in Connersville, has fun with some ear muffs from her childhood. She recalls how well-made and warm they remain. Everyone brought heirlooms to the March meeting and told about them as an activity to go with my talk about "There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go."
RANDOM ACTS OF WINTER
There’s something about winter that makes me want to clean out closets and cabinets, drawers and shelves. Sometimes the focus is micro, such as going through a drawer in the Sellers Cabinet and purging cookie cutters.
I used to make sugar cookies quite a bit. In fact, it was a fairly regular activity shared with my friend Patti F. One of her signature recipes is her Aunt Martha’s Sugar cookies. Many times she’s asked me to come help decorate them for special occasions. I don’t have all the fabulous tools and I’m not that great at the decorations, but it’s fun to solve the world’s political problems with Patti. If we disagree on something, we don’t get mad.
We don’t do that so much anymore, and while I think some of my cookie cutters are fabulous and we will keep them, there are others, such as in this photo, that I could let go because either I never really used them or I have duplicates.
Another big thing I do in early winter is put together the tally on my books’ sales Indiana Sales Tax and have our accountant submit it. Done. Then I start in on gathering all the proper paperwork for our state and federal taxes.
These winter trips to the pool for exercise leave me feeling chilled to my core. I want to come home and take a really hot bath to get my temperature back up to normal, or at least that’s how it feels. But instead, this winter I’ve developed a bad habit!
I remembered that Ben bought me an electric throw on Christmas, so I got it out and leave it plugged in. Reggie and I love it! In fact, it’s so warm and soft, and it relaxes me so much as I ease myself into the inviting warmth, I end up taking naps on the regular! Reggie certainly doesn’t mind.
But times, they are a changin.’ When I get this posted, I will head for the dining room where I need to empty the china cabinet and pie safe. On Tuesday, Saunders Flooring of New Castle will descend on the house and begin removing old and installing new flooring throughout most of the downstairs. This requires us getting the “smalls” out of the way. Trust me, there are smalls galore. All you must do is open a drawer or cabinet and there they are.
Things are going to look a lot different around here in a week. Wish us your best as we navigate the chaos in between! As Monti Foust once told us, “You’ve got to break an egg to make an omelet.”
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What kinds of specialty winter homefront chores do you have going?
ON THE SAME PAGE WINTER NEWSLETTER
If you’re familiar with my novels—about a small-town bed and breakfast and the woman who owns it; my memoir—on heirlooms, organizing, and nostalgia; or newspaper columns about home, family, and the challenges of getting older, you might gather that I’m a bit old-fashioned. I say that with joy and no apologies.
Can you relate? If so, you might enjoy the traditional pleasures of hearth and home and seek out encouraging books and people.
At heart, I identify as a Hoosier farmgirl, several decades removed.
Maybe one day I’ll have a high-tech newsletter, but for now I’ll make do with a homemade version. If you’d like this second issue you're reading here delivered to your email, let me know and I’ll send it your way, as well as the spring issue when it comes out in March. Reach out in the comments or let me know at email@example.com.
I finished 2022 with a combined thirty-five programs and/or events relating to my memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. For 2023, at present I’ve booked nine on the topic of Fun with Heirlooms. Here’s what Linda Davis, interim director of the Knightstown, Indiana Library says of my program:
“I’ve been telling everyone what a lovely program that you gave and what a sweet person you are. It was a joy to have you. You have inspired our staff to come up with some sort of monthly gathering for older patrons to just talk and tell their stories. It was so interesting to listen to the amazing things that have happened in each person’s life. And how eager they were to share! A wonderful way to spend an evening.”
While a part of me would love to spend winter hunkering down with early-morning mugs of coffee and more time to read or listen to audiobooks, iron antique linens I’ve culled from too many I've stored in my Sellers cabinet, work on Bible Study Fellowship lessons and listen to favorite podcasts, there are other things on my mind too.
Our house will soon be chaotic, only in a good way. We’ve got new flooring coming in for most of the downstairs, ordered from a wonderful longtime retailer in New Castle, Indiana. We’re expected to have all the “smalls” moved out of the way for the installers. If you aren’t shrieking, you have no idea how many “smalls” there are around here! It’s also a good opportunity to do some deeper cleaning and organizing.
While the Clydesdale book is about cleaning out, organizing, and reflecting on objects in our storage spaces, getting new flooring is about all those objects that are not in storage! HELP!
On the heels of new flooring comes a busy February: my first book-related program of the year, for a group of Methodist women right here in Madison County, Indiana; a loved one’s hip replacement later that month, and I’ll celebrate the one-year release of the Clydesdale book and the whirlwind time I’ve had with it. Then in March, things take off with three programs on my calendar. Oh, and there's our annual tax appointment, and, well ... life!
Winter is when committees plan spring banquets for their clubs, organizations, and mother-daughter banquets. I’ve been the keynote speaker at many such events and would be happy to tailor a program to your group. Give me a call or shoot an email and we can discuss.
Fun with Heirlooms is my signature program, but we can talk about other themes that might be compatible with your events. I’m all about encouraging messages.
I’ve spoken to groups of all sizes from state-and-regional conferences and annual programs to small book clubs where a few of us sit around a dining room table or out on a warm deck and talk over the life themes in my books.
The three books include inspirational novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, the sequel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, and the memoir, There’s a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go.
All three are available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats, and I have them in stock if you prefer a signed copy. Let’s connect via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 317-224-7028. Website is donnacronk.com. Or, visit on Facebook on the author page Donna Cronk.
Meanwhile, here are some things readers are saying:
“I love to read but reserve my limited amount of free time for those books that are able to grab my attention within the first chapter. I'm thrilled to report that I'm on chapter 8 already. As I've read this book, memories started coming to mind and had me visiting some of my own collections. The author puts such a great spin on the art of decluttering. As I clean out my own collections, this book has inspired me to not go through them in a hurry, but to celebrate the memories they conjure. I now look forward to my journey down memory lane as I once again try to downsize …” –Amazon post with five-star rating from Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana.
“You will find that the author knows just how to take you on an adventure in her attic and in her memories. We all find ourselves in that very place at some time in our life. Sorting through "stuff" brings back memories that hug our heart. Donna Cronk knows how to take you on a fascinating trip down our own memory lane. Deciding whether to keep the Clydesdale in the attic is our biggest challenge. We aren't getting rid of just "stuff" but a bit of our own story. Very enjoyable read!” -
Amazon post with five-star rating from author Janet Leonard, Noblesville, Indiana.
“Donna Cronk has the gift of finding the compelling twist of everyday things in life, the compelling detail, and then presenting that in a delectable format for the reader. - Advance praise from career journalist/author Lisa Perry
A career community journalist, I live in central Indiana with Brian, my husband of 44 years. I write books, related programs, and a newspaper column for three Indiana newspapers. I’m active in church, study with Bible Study Fellowship nine months a year, and am cofounder of a writing support group, Writer Chicks.
I enjoy home, family, and providing encouraging programs on a variety of topics for book clubs, luncheons, and banquets.
This winter arrangement was designed by Liberty friend Kelly Finch. I bought it several years ago and look forward to getting it out every winter.
It isn't how I thought I would spend my Monday morning-stringing lights on our stairway. After all, lights and ribbons have been there since Thanksgiving weekend when I knock myself out decorating for Christmas.
For the last couple years, Brian and I have found that we enjoy the lights so much that even when we take down the tree and gather the rest of the trimmings, we leave the stairway and entryway swags alone. Suddenly that red ribbon becomes not Christmas red but Valentines red.
Early this morning, as I sipped coffee in the dark--perhaps my favorite few moments of the day--with the computer screen glowing and nothing else bright but the swags, I noticed a sudden burst of darkness. I looked up to find dark where the mini white lights had been. What to do? Last thing I had planned for today was to redecorate for Christmas! Aw, but I quickly reframed the moment into decorating for Valentines day. It's all how you look at things.
So I removed the ribbons and dead lights and found another strand up on my Christmas shelf in the closet. I plugged them in: dead. I went to my third strand and they worked. The ribbons still have some fluffing to do (the camera doesn't lie), but I even upped my game.
I remembered the handmade hearts and doves decorations I made about this time two years ago as Brian endured chemo and I needed to stay busy. Light--including scented candles burning from morning until bedtime (thank you friends)--felt especially warm and welcome. I thought the little decorations might be pleasant, and they were.
I dug them out and put them up just now. We aren't big Valentines people in the card, candy, and flowers sense. But there's no doubt we're still each other's Valentines in the long-game department.
We got engaged 45 years ago this coming Valentine's Day.
Carry on. Back to my regular programming.
THE MENNEN DEODORANT CHRISTMAS
Last night was a first: we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I had the day to prep, and it reminded me of those growing-up years on the farm. Since my brothers, now passed on, are quite a bit older than I am, Christmas family gatherings were later in the day on Christmas so they could be with their kids or other extended families first.
It's what I grew up with, and I enjoyed the way we eased into the holiday. I opened gifts from Santa / my parents, and then we had a few hours to get ready for the rest of the family to join us for the big meal, gifts, and fun.
This approach worked out equally well after I got married because we could gather at Brian's folks on Christmas Eve, then have Christmas morning with them before heading east to be with my folks and extended family for a dusk celebration.
I loved those moments on the curvy, ribbony-hilled back roads of northwestern Union County, Indiana as we approached the farm in late afternoon, knowing all the fun ahead.
Yesterday as Brian and I got the house and food ready, I put the finishing touches on a white elephant exchange to do for laughs. There was even a dog category with three family dogs in attendance.
The fun took me back to 1981, our first Christmas in Fountain County. That summer Brian had accepted his first school administrative job at Fountain Central. We couldn't sell our trailer back in Richmond, Indiana and didn't know how or when that would happen. So we continued to pay on it and the lot rent, as well as the most reasonable rent on the spacious country home we rented.
My job was to attend college full time in person and take every extra short course or correspondence course I could to get my journalism degree and begin the career I dreamed of as a community journalist. With Brian's pay raise, it was possible, but without me contributing any money to the cause and these added expenses, we had little left for extras. There would be no new furniture, clothes, or other indulgences.
Yet we were happy as clams. Our dreams were coming true. We had each other. We had lots of plans.
That Christmas season, we went to an all-staff dinner party at the home of school secretary Barb Clark. Barb was all things to all people--and turning her family's basement into a party room with food and decorations fit for royalty was one of her endless talents. Barb could do anything well--backward in heels.
I was relieved that instead of spending money on "real" presents, we were to bring a gag gift for an exchange. Since those can be anything, and I had a silly fringe-laden top that I never wore and think I surely got in another silly exchange, it was wrapped and gifted. Done.
When I opened my designated gag gift, it was a Mennen Speed Stick. You would have thought it was the Hope Diamond. I don't recall our exact words but I know that we carried on about it as though we had hit pay dirt!
We looked at each other with delight: something we could use! Something namebrand even! Something we didn't have to spend money on! We held our deodorant close. I don't remember much else about the evening, other than the glow we had between us knowing that our underarms would be covered for a good while and live rent free on our bodies. Yippee!
Later, Barb was told the story and she recalled her version of a similar one: the Christmas that she and her beloved husband Hersh, were pressed for money and he bought her a potato masher. She was delighted!
As we gathered with our kids, and Ben's wonderful girlfriend, Julie, yesterday, (hugs to Sam's girlfriend Ashley, who was unable to join us with her beautiful daughters), we had the luxury of not only gag gifts (dish sponges and soy sauce, anyone?) but real gifts that cost considerably more.
The real Gift of Christmas is the Reason for the season: The Word who was made flesh and came to dwell among us ... (John 1:14).
Feeling grateful for life, health, peace, family, friends, and for His gift, according to God's perfect plan.
May your Christmases be bright, and all your gag gifts be useful.
A VISIT TO THE PRESS COFFEE CO.
Last week my former newspaper colleague, coworker, and forever friend, Sandy Moore, and I visited The Hub in downtown New Castle. We decided to meet for coffee at The Press Coffee Co., which is one of the businesses inside the building.
I couldn't quite grasp from friends' descriptions how everything fits together in the building, but now I get it! Essentially, The Courier-Times no longer needed such a large building. Through technology, changes in operations, and a centralized press at another location, the building was put up for sale and purchased.
The building site, once the "hub" of the city's interurban, was reimagined as a modern "hub" of activity in the form of an office building for an assortment of small businesses.
The Courier-Times indeed still operates out of the building, along with other businesses.
I love the mug I purchased in the beautiful new coffee shop located inside the building formerly known as The Courier-Times. Sandy and I enjoyed iced tea together as we caught up on life and had a fresh look at our old surroundings! This space was formerly part of a newspaper layout room and circulation department. The walls have been reimagined and it's hard to envision it as it once was from this perspective. But it's beautiful and is the first thing you step into when entering the building.
The Press Coffee Co. is a nod to what was--the entire building being The Courier-Times newspaper, which has been in New Castle serving Henry County, Indiana for more than 180 years. But it's also a nod to what can be--something new!
Sandy and I met in the middle of the afternoon. We noticed the delicious salads chilling in the cooler and noted that we should have made it a luncheon meeting. Next time!
We looked around the building a bit. New businesses are in old spaces. It's wonderful to see our home-away-from-home thriving. It also feels like one of those mixed-up dreams that seems so fictional it couldn't happen. As in: "You wouldn't believe what I dreamt! That the circulation department is now a coffee shop and Christy Ragle's PR business next to it!"
But dreams can become reality. We wish the businesses that now share space with our Courier friends every best wish for success. It's wonderful to see downtown New Castle being reimagined and thriving.
INTO THE HOME STRETCH
Mum's the word next to our front door. I usually pick up white ones but am so happy with this big, vibrant orange baby, a gift from the Springport book club. Our covered front porch faces west and those two elements must be the secret sauce because plants tend to love that spot. It's also perfect lighting for photos. We've taken many special-event and group photos from right here.
I've had a couple church projects this past month along with one author fair in Cambridge City, and a trip to Union County to send off to heaven Brownsville's legendary Geneva Floyd, at nearly 102 years old and I do believe she garnered the largest funeral ever held at the community's United Methodist Church.
But for the most part, aside from my normal activities such as Bible Study Fellowship and Writer Chicks, it's been a restful month. Oh, except at the dentist when I thought it was just a breeze of a routine checkup but instead, I got hit with the need for two fillings and a CROWN! Ugh.
Things are getting busy again on the promotions circuit, though. This is where I'll be on Saturday:
This event comes with high marks from author friend Janet Leonard. I could find bazaars to attend every weekend all fall, but I decided to limit them to three and this is starting the bazaar season off great.
Here's what's up for the rest of the year, gig wise:, with my books:
1. SATURDAY, NOV. 3, 10-3: Earthly Endearments, 155 W. Main St., Atlanta, Indiana, Holiday Open House. More than 20 vendors in this beautiful event venue.
2. SATURDAY, NOV. 12: 8-2: Spiceland Friends Church Bazaar, 401 W. Main St., Spiceland, Indiana. Wonderful homemade goods and eats.
3. FRIDAY, NOV. 18: 11 a.m. Reminisce program presentation, "Fun with Heirlooms", and lunch. Union County Public Library, 2 East Seminary St. Liberty, Indiana. Free but reservations required: 765-458-5355.
4. SATURDAY, NOV. 19: All day, Union County Extension Homemakers Annual Bazaar, and meal. This is inside my alma mater, Union County High School, and is a huge, wonderful bazaar you have to see to believe in such a small town. I'll be "bunking" with Nancy Huntington, who graciously invited me to share her booth.
5. SATURDAY, DEC. 3: Christmas Tea at Wilkinson Church of Christ. Reservations needed. I'm honored to speak on "Simply Devoted: Stories of the Christmas season."
This will close out my fun year of book promotions with a total of 35 events in 11 months since the 2022 book came out. I look forward to picking up more, Lord willing, for 2023. Email me at email@example.com for more information. I can send you information, too, including a copy of my fall print newsletter.
For now, season's blessings! Enjoy the rest of your fall as we head into November tomorrow.
AT THE DOOR OF SIXTY-FOUR
I don't post a lot of pictures of our sons these days, or share stories about them, either, the way I did when we were all younger! They have their own stories to tell, and their own private lives. But they are always on my mind and in my heart.
They indulged me today with a selfie from Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts chalked up a victory today, yay! Here they are, from left above, Ben, and Sam. Thanks for the pic, guys. And these too, Julie and Ben, left, at an apple orchard yesterday, and Ben and almost lifelong pal, Taylor, whom he ran into at the game today. I love family pictures, don't you?
Given that tomorrow I'm living out the question asked in a famous Beatles song, they humored me. But as I reminded Brian, I'll still be in my early sixties--right?
I haven't posted in a while so this one is a big old catch-up. Today after church, then watching the Colts, Brian went out and did some sort of fiddling with the lawn mower, so I decided to cut down the ornamental grass that grows outside right behind my inside writing chair. It looks just like this patch, which grows out front and still looks so beautiful that I didn't have it in me to take it down yet.
Brian and I have a little dust up over the ornamental grass about this time every year, and also when the grass starts growing like crazy again in the spring. I love these grasses. But before long now, they will turn beige, brittle, and right about then, the late fall cold will set in. If I don't cut this grass to the ground before that happens, I may not do it until spring. But I want to, and that's the goal.
If I don't get them trimmed, they shed and blow around the lawn and worse, with the one behind my writing chair, it makes loud rattling noises from the dried grass blowing around. So at least one of them is down and I fully plan to see to the other if for no other reason, and it's a good one, than marital bliss.
We're in the heart of the prettiest fall I have ever experienced in my, well, you know now, how many years. When the sun hits the trees and shrubs a certain way, neon! It's as though they are lit with nature's super-powered light, or that they are fireworks displayed on a trunk. We've scarcely had a dreary day all fall.
I couldn't help but capture these pretty flowers from near the church entrance this morning:
Also, we've been keeping Sam's dog, Jax a couple times a week due to Sam's unique work schedule. Jax and our dog, Reggie, aren't complaining, as they enjoy romps, treats, and sleepovers. Here's a rare "hold-still" view of Jax, and one of him after a day of play:
But along with dogs, plants, fall, and enjoying seeing our sons enjoy this beautiful weekend, I've been working on book programming. I've added two programs to the fall, along with three bazaar or open-house type venues. Here they are:
1. ATLANTA: (Not the one in Georgia.) Christmas Open House, Earthly Endearments, 155 W. Main St., 10-3, Saturday, Nov. 5. Lots of wonderful, vetted bazaar-type goods.
2. LIBERTY: Union County Public Library Reminisce program, "Fun with Heirlooms," 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18.
3. SPICELAND: Friends Church Bazaar, 8-2, Saturday, Nov. 12.
4. LIBERTY: Union County Extension Homemakers Bazaar, all day, Saturday, Nov. 19. Union County High School.
5. WILKINSON: Christmas Tea, presenting a program, "Simply Devoted: Seasonal Stories." 1-3, Saturday, Dec. 3.
Thanks for stopping by my website. Have a great fall.
PERFECT FALL WEATHER
In my last blog post, I promised to show what I picked up at Lola + Company in Bloomington for the Writer Chicks. Here they are ... narrow silvery bangles. They are actually recycled guitar strings. The store owner wraps them in this charming recycled music-book paper. Sorry to spoil the surprise, Cathy. I'll bring yours next month.
It's time, much as I'll miss them, for the annual fern giveaway! I have four gorgeous ferns that need new homes or they'll be off to that great greenhouse in the sky. If you want one, all four, or any number in between, contact me. Messenger, text (317-224-7028) or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. First to claim them gets them. But don't call if you "might" want them, only if you do for sure and can come and get them. I don't deliver. These babies are HUGE! Frost isn't their friend and soon they'll be freezing their fronds off! So come get them!