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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Those who know me well are probably familiar with my penchant for plans. I love circled dates on the calendar. I would be that girl who wants a ring and a date. In fact, at this juncture in life, skip the ring. I just want dates.
For a string of years before covid, our immediate family took annual long-weekend Colts away-game trips. The secret sauce began the spring before, when the date was set, and intensive planning began. By the time it was wheels-up, we had a basically hourly agenda with tickets, times, addresses, and confirmation numbers.
I appreciate that most prefer travels to sandy beaches and water. I'll take a place with lots to experience and an agenda to go with it.
Our planning led to almost flawless times in some of America’s major cities. And cities are not our natural habitat, so we’re extra proud of ourselves when our navigation works out. Securing tickets in July for an October visit to the Statue of Liberty, for example, yielded coveted upgrades into the crown.
But there’s always something to be said for a spontaneous call from friends to “come down tonight if you aren’t doing anything” or some semi-whim-ish plans.
That's what happened when friend, author Cathy Shouse (www.cathyshouse.com) asked if I might want to tag along and “hang out in Bloomington” during an overnight trip this summer. We could have a couple of long, uninterrupted chats to and from, plus separate rooms in an air bnb. She would spend Saturday at her conference on the Indiana University campus, and I could do … whatever!
Ah, ha! I knew exactly what the whatever would be, if my friend Cheryl were available.
Cheryl and I made fast friends 33 years ago about to date when I became Neighbors Editor at the New Castle Courier-Times. After she moved to Bloomington several years ago, we tended to get together annually but life gets busy, and it had been quite a while since we’d had face time.
Cheryl instantly agreed! We could spend a good chunk of Saturday together! I was pumped and told Cathy YES!
We stayed at Straw Bale Bungalow, hosted by Keith, in a neighborhood in the middle of Bloomington. It's a 1920s bungalow with a straw bale addition. So many pluses! He’s next door to Cathy’s writer friend, Jan.
And, we were even invited into Jan’s lovely home, but turns out it was Friday night, and Friday nights mean Keith hosts a neighborhood dinner on his open-air back porch. There neighbors gather and enjoy homemade pizzas and pass a huge crock full of salad. Some bring wine to share, and the feast and delightful chatter are on! We were guests as well.
I had the good fortune to sit next to a writer and author (pen name Lynn Romaine) who pulls her small trailer around the country during a portion of every year and writes about her adventures. When I got home, I looked up one of her books, Wander on amazon.com. It was quite an enjoyable read with a bonus of practical travel tips and ideas. I rated and reviewed it! I wonder if she saw.
Amazon reviews or simply ratings are important to authors. Particularly if you are indie-published, those reviews and/or ratings are treasured in today’s ratings-driven culture.
You can imagine, as we're even asked to tell the USPS how we liked our stamp-buying experience from our local postal clerk, or if the big box store greeter said hi!
Even though I didn’t realize it going into the weekend, there would be a definite book theme going on, both on the surface, and in the background.
Not only are Cathy and I writers, but so is Jan, and along with the Wander author, another neighbor at the far end of the table where I didn’t get to chat with her, is also a writer.
Small world that it is, when I asked Keith if by chance he knew an author and cabinetmaker—really, a Bloomington celebrity—Nancy Hiller, he seemed surprised with my question and offered a resounding “YES! She used to live one block in that direction.” He pointed in the direction, and added that when she left there, she gifted him a plant start that now thrives in his backyard.
I met Nancy after writing a feature story about a gorgeous IU Press book she wrote on the cultural history of the Hoosier cabinet. The cabinets were made in the early decades of the 1900s in New Castle. They are to stand-alone antique cabinets what Coke is to soda pop or Kleenex is to tissue. I have a Sellers cabinet, so similar to a Hoosier, and Nancy had a brilliant observation I’ll slip in as a side note at the end of this piece.
Anyway, I met Nancy at the Henry County Historical Society when her book launched several years ago, and we hit it off to the extent that Cheryl and I enjoyed a dinner with her on another Friday night in Bloomington once upon a time.
Then on Saturday of this trip, at Cheryl’s suggestion, I visited the used bookshop inside the Monroe County Public Library. It was fabulous, and as you can imagine in a book-intense city like Bloomington, was as large as a small library elsewhere. There, featured on a pedestal, was one of Nancy’s books, this one about beautiful homes, and the women owners’ stories. It was a buck fifty. It went home with me.
The irony of how Nancy-rich my time there was, is that Nancy passed away not long after that weekend…
Also on Saturday, Cheryl and I visited a favorite store of hers, Lola & Company, which offers home, gift and garden products. I will be posting on Facebook the small gifts I brought home to my Writer Chick Society friends but in case they read this first, I won’t say what they are. The store is at 114 N. Walnut St. and you can check it out at email@example.com.
The owner and I had a sweet conversation as she uniquely gift-wrapped (free!) the little gifts. My Clydesdale book came up, and she said it sounds so interesting she is hopping on amazon and getting it pronto! I do hope she enjoyed it.
I enjoyed her shop, and this weekend in the one-and-only Bloomington, Indiana! Grateful to the entire cast and crew of the somewhat spontaneous summer weekend. It seemed longer than possible for only a 24-hour getaway. Thank you, Cathy, for asking me!
A LITTLE SIDE STORY ABOUT NANCY (if you have the time)
When Nancy and I discussed Hoosier cabinets several years back, I told her that I had dreamed of owning a Hoosier cabinet, and that a similar Sellers cabinet, also made in Indiana, came on my radar. I bought it!
I explained that the cabinet was a consolation prize. How so? In the late 1980s, I spent months pining for a 1905 house, fully restored, two-stories, and my dream, in a small town where we lived and rented a house at the time.
We low-balled an offer, which was rejected. Brian remained convinced that they would come down, and we might go up, and by spring, we’d have it. I stalked the property, driving by at a snail’s pace, visually decorating the porch, and filling the outdoor urns with geraniums and ivy. Would I paint the front door bright red or black?
Only one day, my daydreams were thwarted when I drove by, and spotted a moving truck unloading furniture. Someone else had bought it.
“My” house had sold. I was a little crushed.
Not long after, I visited a garage sale where this almost-perfect cabinet was for sale. Such cabinets brought six-or-seven hundo at the time. She wanted three-fifty for this one. I asked to call my husband.
Rather than say let’s think about it, or what will you do with it, or that’s too much, I knew what he was thinking: she didn’t get the house, but she can get this.
Nancy listened to my story, and said indeed, it was a consolation prize. She explained that the word cabinet means small cabin. I didn’t get the big house. I got the little cabin.
I’ll never forget that story, nor the generosity of Brian to go along with something that only I wanted or cared about. Because he loves me.
August, with its thirty-one days, is a long month. Yet it went by in a blur of activity. So much so that I am still saving back a separate story about friend Cathy's and my trip to Bloomington for another post.
With my other two books, summer months were quiet on the speaking circuit. I thought that meant that I could legitimately tell other would-be authors that you probably won't have much on your author calendar in June, July, and August. People take a break, but look out for fall and spring!
Ha! That wasn't the case for my summer this time around.
August sent four talks my way, with three of them in five days. The month meant writing four separate programs. Whenever I'm asked to speak somewhere, I think about the audience, the setting, and what the group has in common. How will they respond to my humor? Do they want hometown stories? Do they want how-to about heirloom organization and distribution ideas? Do they want stories from the book? Or a mix of all that?
One thing that feels humbling and amazing is how my two little great-great nieces have somehow taken a liking to attending my talks! They even made me drawings and Katie sent me a snail mail letter. Thank you Katie and Lexi! You are my youngest followers! Thank you to their Mammy, Marlene, my niece, for bringing them to a library gig last spring, and then to our hometown church one week ago. They even made cookies for the pitch-in.
I can only imagine the joy my mother, their great-great-grandmother, would experience in seeing them and having them at church sitting so close to where she sat on a pew almost every single Sunday for fifty years! And, their great-great-great grandmother Hazel! She played organ in the Brownsville United Methodist Church for twenty-five years.
Following the church pitch-in meal, I spoke about the book, with emphasis on the community and the memories that span every inch of our little country church. Then came a time of show and tell, with Connie Parks Call, left, showing her "Brownsville Lion" mascot from when the township school served all grades before consolidation. Her cousin Janice Parks Burk, right, showed her Grandpa Elliott's cup that always hung on the outdoor pump for all comers to pump their own drink of water from the well.
When we returned home Sunday afternoon from Brownsville, I unloaded the car with the props and materials I used for Brownsville, and reloaded I needed for the next day at the District VII Extension Homemakers Retreat at Placid Lake Retreat Center, near Hartford City.
I got there early to set up my book table. I saw several familiar faces among the women from several counties making up the area represented--including Madison, Henry, and Union counties, along with Randolph, Franklin and Blackford members.
Following lunch, it was time to move my goods over to a different building where I would present a breakout program billed as "Book Review." Instead of just reviewing what's in my memoir, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, I used the time to offer ideas on organizing, downsizing, bequeathing special legacy heirlooms, and even how to divide household goods among loved ones.
Then came my favorite part of these programs: When attendees show and tell about their special heirlooms. The participation was outstanding, as were the stories.
Two of the Homemakers' stories each had a ring to them, including LaVonne's, at left. Hers concerns her father's putting his hands on his late wife's (and LaVonne's mother's) diamond ring, long after it had been worn.
It hung on a nail inside a cabinet.
Stories shared by those attending center on not so much the actual objects, but the objects of their affections: the people they loved and love to whom the items belonged.
It's the nature of what we keep: things that remind us of memories and moments that have informed our lives and helped connect the threads of people and time into the people we are today. Thank you Homemakers for being a great audience and the stars of the session!
There are no bigger fans of Union County history than Steve and Vicky Logue. Steve grew up in perhaps THE most historic home in the county, one that helped usher one-time slaves to freedom as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Vicky is Union County historian, following in the footsteps of history lovers in her family including her late mother, Virginia, and her grandmother, Esther Cox. Her husband Steve's cousin, Nancy Huntington, who grew up on this road, provided gorgeous Ball jars brimming with summer blooms.
It was an honor to be asked to speak at the Union County Historical Society's annual dinner meeting in August. My talk emphasized recognizing and savoring the oral and written histories handed down in our families, and that we ourselves experience. The stories help make for a personal historical record of family and community for the generations that follow us.
In a delightful handmade basket were a variety of locally made products and whimsies, including this stitched heart. Liberty. My home, and my deep love and respect as an American citizen. This heart will go on our Christmas tree and when I gaze at the tree and this ornament on a snowy December night, I'll think of that delightful night back home again--in Liberty, Indiana.
One more for the road. This one is from Hamilton North Public Library in Cicero's program I did in early August. I'm grateful to my sister Writer Chick, Susan Sparks, for recommending me to the Friends of the Library. It was a fun evening.
If you need a program for something, let me know. Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a good time.
And as I just told someone a little while ago, I'm not the best at asking for reviews and ratings--or asking for anything, really (being a saleswoman doesn't come naturally)-- but if you've read the Clydesdale book and would feel so inclined, please post an honest Amazon or Goodreads rating or review. It helps get the book noticed in a big, beautiful world full of big, beautiful books of every kind.
Blessings. I'm outta here for now! I have a newspaper column to write.
A week ago, I had the pleasure of being guest speaker at the 62nd annual Hagerstown Rural Urban Banquet, sponsored by Western Wayne County organizations and businesses, along with Hagerstown Young Farmers and Optimists.
I’m comfortable attending events alone, as I spent 37 years covering such things for community newspapers and several years before that, writing for college newspapers.
This time, however, I was invited to bring guests. To my delight, younger son, Ben, and his girlfriend, Julie, were those guests. What a treat! Thank you, Rural Urban!
The evening went well, the food and conversation were great, and I got to visit with some folks I have met and written about from the Western Wayne area over a course of decades, including my former boss, Bob Hansen, and 50-year Dance with Cindy owner, Cindy Oler, who in retirement is a columnist for her magazine for women.
Backdrop was the beautiful Harley Hills Golf Course. After festivities ended, and the last opportunity to sell a book had passed, dusk settled in.
Someone helping at the banquet graciously asked to help transport my wagon to the car where I packed everything into assigned spaces and started to drive off into the beautiful sunset.
AND ... it's corn and tomato season in the heartland! Would you just look at these beautiful cherry tomatoes? YUM! They are delicious, too. I love them in contrast with this old blue bowl.
What's in your plans for this August weekend? I'm heading shortly to Bloomington with Writer Chick Cathy Shouse. She writes cowboy romance. She's got a conference there tomorrow, and I'm spending the day with New Castle-native Cheryl Bennett, hanging out in her adopted hometown of Bloomington.
Just a quick change-of-pace 28 hours or so. I hear it's Freshman Move-In Weekend! Yikes!