Tuesday, May 21, 2019

If You Woke Up Rich... by Liz Flaherty

From  Peru Indiana Today in February of 2018. 
There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.
Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.
It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.
If I had 500 million dollars...no, even if I had five million dollars, how would life be any better? I suppose the house would be bigger and have more bathrooms. Maybe I wouldn't compare prices at the grocery store or book the cheapest flights or drive my car until its wheels threaten to fall off. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't clean my own house anymore and I know I've always said if I were rich, I'd sleep on clean sheets every single night. I might spend more on clothes. And closets. I'd give more.
But I'm not sure what I'd do once I was finished...you know...not doing what I do now. I don't think sunrises or sunsets would be any more beautiful, my cats more accepting, or my friends any better. I think relationships might change in crumbling, scratchy ways that would cause pain. I think there are people who would decide they liked me because I was rich, and...really, is that a good enough reason?
So, okay, if I wake up with that 500 million, you can have it (except for a little bit--I'm not entirely stupid) and I'll just keep the life I have. But I'd love to hear your answers to why you'd want that much money in the first place.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The best job ever... by Liz Flaherty

This is from last year and before that, too. My mother-in-law, Mary Farrell, and my mother, Evelyn Shafer have both left us and there are great empty places where they were, but what blessings memories are!

My sister-in-law Debbie Coleman once said motherhood was the only job she had that she never wanted to quit. I had to admit that I wanted to quit it at least once every single day. The kids probably wanted to fire me at least that often. One of the greatest gratitudes in my life is that we all stuck it out.

Mary Farrell
Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year and I didn’t write anything about it even though writing is what I do. I think about it a lot, think about my mom—gone all these long years—and my mother-in-law, who I’ve loved almost as long as I’ve loved her son and who has loved me back. I think about being a mom and a grandma—it’s just my favorite thing. But Mother’s Day? I’m really glad my kids remember it, tell me they love me, stop by if they’re close by, but mostly I’m glad it’s not 
Mary Farrell
confined to one day in May.

I wrote most of this years ago—I’m the rerun queen, you know—but I hope it still says what it did then. I hope it stands up.

Graduation days have always been like Mother’s Day. They were the signal that one of the most important jobs in life-as-a-mom was nearly finished and that she had, at least to some degree, been successful at it. From my own high school graduates, the entire day of graduation was a gift to me. They would much rather have collected their diplomas on the last day of school and cut and run. They were not eager to wear caps and gowns, to see all the relatives at the open house, to stand with their dad and me and have their pictures with us grinning gleefully from either side of them.

Evelyn Shafer
Parents Night during the various sports season is like Mother’s Day. After all, we always get a rose; we get to stand with the kid and grin gleefully while our picture is taken, and we go back to the bleachers safe in the secret knowledge that, bar none, our kid is the best one out there. Oh, she may not make the best grades, and he may not be the best athlete, and she may cause trouble in class from time to time, but overall, he’s the best kid. You know what I mean.

Mother’s Day is when you tell the kid who thinks you’re being bossy, unreasonable, and not quite bright that you love him more than anything else on earth and he tells you he loves you, too and maybe gives you a little one-armed hug if no one’s around.

Mother’s Day is when someone tells your daughter she’s just like you and she just smiles and says, “Thank you.”

Mother’s Day is when the kids have been horrendous brats all day long. They’ve beaten up the neighbor kid who’s half their size, trashed the entire house, and flipped mashed potatoes at the kitchen wall. They’ve broken the Blu-ray player—the one you got their dad for Christmas—and spilled…oh, everything.

After they’ve gone to sleep and you’ve scrubbed the wall and cleaned the worst of the mess in the house and apologized profusely to the neighbors, you check the kids before you go to bed yourself. And they look like angels among their cartoon-character sheets. Their skin is baby’s-bottom soft and flushed with innocence and youth and they’re the best kids ever born and you are so lucky and it’s truly Mother’s Day all over again.

When they’re older and have established their own ideas and thought patterns and don’t agree with anything you say and their favorite things about you are your wallet and your car…yes, even then they will every now and then do something so perfect and so right it brings tears to your eyes. It doesn’t matter what it is—it can be standing firm for something they believe in, defending an underdog with heat and dignity, or confessing to a wrongdoing rather than let someone innocent of it suffer in their place. When it happens, it is absolutely Mother’s Day.

To all who fit the bill, Happy Mother’s Day. Whenever it may be.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Different Feeling by Joe DeRozier

You get a whole different feeling when someone mentions her name, don't you?
I talk a lot about Dad. Maybe because I feel my life has been a series of failed attempts to be like him..... but Dad couldn't have been Dad.....without Mom.
"Mom" IS her name. Isn't weird when someone calls her by her first name?
Mom and Dad together are a formidable team.
While Dad's status as Exalted Grand King Poo Bah was never in question, Mom was the Radar O'Reilly of the home. Dad may have been President, but Mom was the Congress and the Senate...except she wasn't lazy and corrupt...but you understand.
Dad didn't anger often, but when he did, Mom was the only one that could calm him. Had she done it the same way, each time, we kids would have caught on. I suppose it depended why he was mad...but Mom always knew how to disarm him.
Mom never got mad...well, not screaming mad...more Clint Eastwood mad. Quiet, and looked you in the eyes..."Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?" kind of mad...
When Dad disciplined us, he could get a little crazy.
Dad: Joey, you're late, again! You're grounded until you're 75.
Me: (maintain silence...don't poke the bear!)
After an hour or so, Mom came to the room and let me know it was for a week. I just had to let her work her magic.
When Dad didn't feel we did a good job, he redid it. We knew it. He left traces of evidence showing that we dropped the ball.
Mom did the same thing, but left no evidence... I noticed, though.
Mom is an observer. I don't remember her teaching us to be like that, or maybe I'm more like Mom than I know, but I would notice that the carpet was vacuumed a different way, or the cushions were set up differently. Then the question was, did she REALLY not want me to know she redid my job, did she REALLY want me to know, or did she REALLY want to see if I was observant enough to figure it out?
While we were growing up, Mom was an early riser. I'd get up at five am, and she was already up doing exercises. She was the last one in bed.
Her profession was nursing. She went back to it once we kids were older. Though nurses were just starting to wear scrubs, Mom insisted on wearing her nurse's uniform. I was really proud of that. That was cool.
Mom broke her back at work...twice. She has had approximately six million surgeries and most of her body parts are not original. She should have died a few times, but I fully believe her will to take care of Dad always kept her with us.
Moms, for those of us born so long ago, always took a back seat to Dad...but Dad could have never been Dad...without Mom.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Silver linings and wounded knees

This is from Peru Indiana Today last year. 
Last week, I read my column aloud at a writers’ group meeting and one of the members mentioned how positive it was. It was, I agreed, and there were a couple of things about that. One was that I hadn’t been feeling positive at all when I wrote it—I’d had to dig myself out of a deep pool of poor-me. The other was that if I’m the one writing it, it’s going to be positive. Because, while I believe wholeheartedly in clouds—I’d better this spring, hadn’t I? Clouds are nearly all we’ve had—I believe even more strongly in silver linings.
Photograph by Simone Viani
 Sometimes it’s really hard.
          Sunday afternoon, we went to a long-term care facility to see a family member who is ill and needs care and treatment but who wants only to go home. Who isn’t the person I know and love anymore, but yet he is. Each visit is like re-scraping a wounded knee that never fully heals. You limp in, and when you leave, the limp is more pronounced, the pain more intense.
          Today it’s cold and snowing, bitter white flakes that make your eyes sting and water. April’s cruel wind is whipping around in true “gotcha” mode. I’ve heard this morning of yet another illness, another death, more regrets over a reluctant life change. If there’s blue in the sky, you couldn’t prove it by me. It is a melancholy, cloudy, sore-knee kind of day.
          There are times in nearly every relationship, be it marriage, friendship, or family, that the connection wavers. When the bond must be reinvented to be either tightened or broken. Things that you wanted to always be the same are not. Things you wanted to change might do just that, but not necessarily in ways you’d hoped for. Whatever the outcome, it’s never painless.
          But, before Sunday afternoon was Sunday morning. We went to see our
youngest grandson receive his first communion. It was a lovely service and the eight-year-olds looked—give me a Nana moment here—so stinkin’ cute. Little girls in white dresses and little boys in vests and dress shirts and ties. The front of the church was crowded with parents and grandparents. Lunch afterward was my daughter-in-law’s most excellent lasagna and good conversation. We left with exuberant little-boy hugs and reluctant ones from his adolescent brother. As grandparent days go, it was an extraordinarily good one.
          After these days of cold and wind and all-consuming clouds, the sun will shine again—I hesitate to say it’s guaranteed, but history indicates it. For those of us who need light more than others seem to, we’ll see and feel hope with every sunrise.
          Relationships will be what they will, but even ones that end leave good memories behind. They continue to occupy the “places in the heart” we all have. I can’t, no matter how many Susie Sunshine columns I write, make all endings into happy things—that particular knee is going to hurt regardless—but there are new and wonderful beginnings, too. The trick is in finding them.
          Plenty of writers (and meteorologists) talk about the clouds. They define them, differentiate between their types, and predict how long they are going to last. They do it well, and if you’re in a bad place, it can undoubtedly lend comfort to know someone else is there, too.
          But some of us are going to continue to search out the silver linings, to find positivity when, like I said above, it’s really hard. We will continue to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons and find something to laugh at even before our tears dry. We’ll wear flip-flops in the snow because tomorrow will be better. I’ve been three days writing this column, but as I wrap it up, there are deer playing in the side yard and the sky is blue. It’s going to be a good day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Louie, Louie... by Debby Myers

Chances are that at least half of you reading this will relate to it since cats are our most popular pet and 47% of homes have at least one. Cats are unique, mysterious animals. Being the owner of three of my own, I attest to the fact that like ours, no two or three are the same.

Of our three cats, I’ve had Roxy since my son was 12 – this year he will turn 30 and she will turn 18. (That’s in human years, in cat years she’s like 126!) She was just eight weeks old when I got her for my kids, but they’ve all been gone now for a while – so now Roxy is MY cat.

We also have OUR baby, Zoey. She is just two and I rescued her after someone threw her out of a truck in a box when she was a kitten. 

Finally, there is ALAN’S cat – Louis Faragon the 3rd – Louie for short. When a friend of a friend had to suddenly move and couldn’t take him along, we adopted him. Louie was four when we got him and is eight now.

All of our cats are indoor/outdoor cats. We let them out nearly every day for a few hours unless it’s storming or below freezing. I think the longest any of them has ventured away is a day or so in the summer. Right after Thanksgiving in 2016, we had a few warm days, so out went the cats. One of those mornings that they went out, we didn’t see any of them until dusk. Roxy came meowing at the door and came in with Zoey dashing after her. But no Louie. But no worries – he’d be around by morning.

Only he wasn’t. And another day passed. And another. By the third day, Alan was worried. I even believe that Roxy and Zoey were trying to find him. They would want out all the time and would sit in the back yard looking for him. I kept saying, “He’s a cat. He’ll come back when it gets cold again. He’s probably found a lady cat,” and more excuses. When a week came and went, the cold returned. I was worried, too.

Did someone take him? He’s a beautiful long-haired black cat. Had something happened to him? Was he hurt? How do you even go about finding a missing cat?!

We made flyers and hung them all over the neighborhood. As it continued to get colder, Alan would bundle up and walk block after block searching and calling his name. A friend of ours, from Miami County MonthlyNews, ran across a flyer and offered to do a FB video (attached) and post it.  

Two weeks later, Christmas came and all the grandchildren were asking Santa to bring Louie home. The temperatures plummeted to single digits. No Louie.

We offered a reward, waited and then raised it. All of our friends were helping spread the word and Louie’s picture. One, who works at the local radio station, began making announcements. It seemed like every time someone saw a black cat, we’d get a call and go check it out. We saw a lot of black cats, but no Louie.

It became so cold that schools were cancelling. There was a stretch of below-zero days. I think it might have been around that time that I began to feel like we wouldn’t see him again. Yet Alan never gave up hope. No matter how cold it was, he still looked every day.

Around the two-month mark near the end of January, Alan hung up fresh flyers. There had been no possible sightings or leads in weeks. My heart sank watching him as he went back through the process. 
There was no way Louie had made it through that freezing stretch unless someone had taken him and wasn’t giving him back. 

One night in late February Alan and I were in our PJs getting ready to sit down in front of the TV to relax. I had gone online to check messages and the first thing that popped up on FB was a post by the Scratching Post Cat Rescue saying they thought someone may have seen our cat! I quickly responded, asking if they had a picture. I was afraid to mention it to Alan until I saw it. About 15 minutes later there it was – it really looked like him! I showed Alan the picture and we both came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t. After all, we live on the far west side of town and this cat had been found on the far east side.

Then the phone rang. It was the Scratching Post. The people who had taken the picture called them back and said the cat was in their back yard right then. If we wanted to come by and look, they would wait up on us.

When Alan arrived at the house, he circled the street and alley half a dozen times. He didn’t see a cat, but remember, Louie is black and it was late at night. Finally, he just parked in the alley behind the house and sat…and waited. I was at home becoming anxious. We texted back and forth. The more time that went by, the more I feared it was another false sighting - another disappointment for my heartbroken husband.

Just as Alan was about to give up and drive back home, he saw a cat’s eyes behind a bush at the edge of their yard. He quietly stepped out of the car and called, “Louie, Louie is that you?” The cat came out from the bushes, started to run toward him and suddenly stopped. He called out again. The cat took a few more steps toward him and then darted up toward the house, running under the deck. Alan called me and told me to call them and ask if he could come up toward the back door.

As he approached the house, they turned on their back light. Alan could barely see the cat hiding under the deck. The woman then began telling Alan the story of how they had spotted him. Two days earlier, they had come home and found him scratching on their sliding glass door. Being animal lovers, they opened the door, but he wouldn’t go in. They thought he must be a stray, looking ragged and matted. Because they had a cat of their own and often put out food for the neighborhood cats, they offered him a dish of food, which he devoured. When he came back the next day, they called the Scratching Post asking about a missing black cat they’d heard about. That was when the Scratching Post went to work looking for the man who had been looking for his cat for months – Alan.

As they talked, the woman went inside to grab the cat food. When she walked out and started to pour some into the bowl, the cat came out from under the deck. Alan saw him and said, “Louie, is that you?” Louie came right to him and Alan scooped him up, tears flowing down his face. It was Louie! Alan thanked the woman over and over. When her husband came out, Alan was stunned to learn that that he’d met him at Dillinger’s where he worked. Both the man and his wife had seen Louie’s pictures months before in the bathrooms at Dillinger’s, not realizing he belonged to Alan.

In the mean time I was still at home waiting. I heard Alan come in the back door. He came walking toward me with Louie in his arms – he was alive! We both showered him with love. He had survived three months outside in the bitter cold. He was so dirty that he looked gray instead of black. His hair was matted in clumps all over his body. Soon after we let him down, he went straight to his water bowl and drank every drop.

Over the next several days, Louie slept constantly. Both Roxy and Zoey seemed content to have him home. They would get up on the bed and sleep next to him. Alan worked on his fur, cutting and brushing until he’d made enough leeway to finally give him a bath.

Statistics show that cats can find shelter in small places. They can survive the cold due in part to their fur and small body mass. They stay alive by staying awake, keeping on the move and eating small scraps they find. We sure wish Louie could tell us about his time away. We tell him all the time about how so many searched for him and about how his Daddy never gave up on bringing Louie back home.