Friday, April 20, 2018

...for laughin', for cryin', for livin' and for dyin'...

The bones of this post are from about three years ago, back when Duane had just gotten his first new knee. Some things have changed--children's hospitals no longer accept most of the things stitched with so much love, my friend's sister-of-the-heart has passed away, and my shark-catching grandson turned 16 this week. But, like always, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just as I was inspired by strong women when I wrote this, I am still--never more so than in celebration of the life of one of those women. Rest in Peace, Barbara Bush. Thank you for everything.

I took Duane to have the new-knee staples removed today. The nurse who removed them is beautiful. Blonde, straight white teeth, and a pretty smile. She's been married a year, she and her husband are buying her grandfather's farm, and she wants four children starting as soon as possible. "Is that crazy?" she said, and then answered her own question. "I don't care if it is. Family's important to me. To us."

Night before last, the U.S. Women's Soccer Team brought home the world cup. With skill and dignity and class.

This morning, my daughter-in-law accompanied me when I went walking. We walked faster because she's younger, and she took time to eat raspberries while I huffed and puffed to keep up. I don't think she broke a sweat, but I love her anyway, and it was fun walking with her. I love my sons for a great many things, none more than the daughters-in-law they brought me.

My grandson caught a shark when he went fishing with his dad and brothers off the coast of North Carolina. It wasn't very big, I guess, but sheesh, a shark. His mother--my daughter--said calmly on Facebook that Connor "saved the boat" and provided dinner. Back in Indiana, I'm shrieking, "It's a freaking shark!" His mother undoubtedly looked up the proper way to cook shark.

On June 9, I went to Walmart. It was raining when I went, but, you know, it rained all the time in June. No big deal. But when I left, it was pouring. I'd been waiting inside the entrance doors for about 15 minutes when a pretty young woman offered to help. I said No, I could wait, but she insisted, and she held her umbrella over my cart and me all the way to my car. Which was way across the lot because I don't search out good parking places. (That's one of the things you find yourself doing when you wear a Fitbit.)

I have a friend who goes with a sister-of-her-heart every few weeks while the sister has chemo. They talk and my friend knits and relationships mesh and tighten at the same time as they wait and hope there.

I have other friends who sew and sew and sew for children's hospitals. Blankets, gowns, cancer turbans, stuffed toys that offer comfort and warmth.

There are so many pictures of guys out there with six-pack abs and sexy stubble and maybe some tattoos and soulful expressions. These are the ones who go on the covers of romance novels and that's fine. Though none of my heroes ever really "fit." They wear shirts most of the time and hardly ever look soulful.

But I've realized as I've sat here that those guys on the covers don't motivate me at all. And much as I truly love them, the guys in my books aren't my inspiration, either.

But the heroines, well, that's another story altogether. Those women I listed up here...and others like them? They're my inspiration. They're the ones whose stories I want to tell, the whole laughin', cryin', livin', and dyin' thing.

How about you? Who's your inspiration?

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Other Side

Today's post is thanks to our son, Chris Flaherty, the one who says it's not that that grass is greener on the other side, it's that it's the other side. I'd love to say I always understand that, but I don't. I do understand the part about not fitting in--writers often don't, poor kids often often don't, Democrats in Indiana often don't. The idea, I think, is to get comfortable in the round hole you don't really fit into, but saying that is much easier than doing it. Chris's words--and the eloquent ones of Robert Service--touched me and made me ache. But sharing's a good thing, I'm convinced, even when the sharing is sad. 

Robert Service's poem, "The Men That Don't Fit In" used to make me feel better about myself. When I read it the first time, I realized there must be lots of people who share my struggles. I've always experienced terrible bouts of depression associated with unfulfilled wanderlust and adventure-seeking. I change jobs much too often and as a result have enjoyed very limited professional success. I've basically started over a dozen times. I currently live on a beautiful mountain retreat and have a great job (to most people) with benefits a congressman would envy, yet every single night I dig out my maps, stream national geographic, or browse Zillow or Instagram to see where I want to go or live next. I'm never content. I don't ever need MORE.. just different.
Well, my life is quickly reaching the final stanza of Robert Service's poem and it doesn't make me feel better, anymore. It's actually pretty damned depressing.
So, for all of you who have repeatedly punched happiness or contentment in the face in search of something else, this is for you.

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest. 
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake. 
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last. 
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in. 
Robert W. Service

Friday, April 6, 2018

On being productive.

I love being productive, when I can end a day tired but satisfied with what I've accomplished. When I look back at the days when the kids were all in school, my day looked something like this.

3:30 AM: Get up. Start washer and dryer, put away supper dishes, drink coffee, and get ready for work. Read a chapter of a book while folding the clothes that were in the dryer.

4:20 AM: Go to work. Trip takes 33 minutes. Allow extra seven minutes for emergencies such as flat tires, mountainous snow drifts, and having to stay in the car until “American Pie” stops playing on the radio or a chapter ends in an audio book.

5:00 AM – 1:30 PM: Work day job. Half hour lunch is long enough to return things to stores, pick up things at other stores, get caught by a train, and read another chapter while eating a hot dog from B & K.

1:30 PM: Go home from work. Trip often takes more than 33 minutes because other cars insist on using the road. Pick up things at the store I forgot to get at lunchtime.

2:05 PM – 4:15 PM: Put away the groceries I brought home. Reload washer and dryer and fold the clothes that were in the dryer. Drink coffee. Make the bed. Run the sweeper if the floor feels crunchy. Look at the can of Pledge in consternation, trying to remember why I bought it. Start supper, using mystery meat I defrosted in the microwave. Read a chapter while it’s defrosting. Fall asleep and wake up when Duane comes home. Feel guilty because the house is never clean enough.

5:30 PM – Pick up first child at practice. Five-mile round trip.

5:50 PM – Pick up second child at practice. Five-mile round trip.  

6:20 PM – Pick up third child at practice. Five-mile round trip.

6:30 PM: Explain to children that it would be much easier if they all came home at the same time. They could do their homework while waiting for the last practice to end. Glare back at the resultant blank looks.

6:35 PM – 7:30 PM: Eat supper, drop off assorted children for evening activities. Go home and fall asleep during Jeopardy.

7:30 – 10:00 PM: Dry and fold more clothes, do supper dishes, stuff Pledge can behind everything else so that I can never find it again, notice there’s another Pledge can hidden in the same place. Shower and get ready for bed.

10:00 – 11:00 PM: Pick up children from wherever they’ve been dropped off, not getting out of the car because—didn’t I mention I was ready for bed?

11:00 PM: Go to bed. Intend to read another chapter. Don’t even get the book open. Regret never stopping to smell the roses everyone’s always talking about.

(I must admit that Duane did some of the hauling of kids, but since this is my whine here, I felt perfectly fine leaving that part out.)

My schedule is much different in retirement.

Somewhere between 5:30 and 7:30 AM: Get up. Put clothes in the washer. Go to office. Write. Or not. Play Solitaire. Or not.

9:30 AM or so: Eat breakfast. Put clothes in dryer.

10:00 AM – Noon: Write. Or not. Sew. Or not.

Noon – Eat lunch. Fold clothes and put them away.

12:30 – 2:00 PM: Do whatever I want. Fall asleep in the recliner.

2:00 – 11:00 PM: I’m not exactly sure what happens to the rest of the day, but it’s gone.

I also work part time, I volunteer, I belong to things. Much of the time, I’m busier in retirement than I ever intended to be. Productive? Not so much, and even though it’s taken me seven years to figure it out, that’s okay. Sometimes it’s enough just to smell the roses.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The most valuable thing

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend. - Theophrastus

The other day, I was talking to some people at a craft fair when a pretty young woman heard one of the others mention that I am a writer. She waited till the conversation was over, till I'd been stung by a woman saying, "Oh, yes, I read those when I was about twelve," when I said I wrote for Harlequin. At least, I thought, she didn't ask when I was going to write a real book. Or where the restroom was. I suppose that would have come later.

But I regress. When the conversation ended, the young woman--her name is Whitney--introduced herself and asked about writing and we talked a little bit. She reads "everything," the best kind of reader there is. She was pretty, bright, and interesting. It was fun talking to her. She said someday she wanted to write a book. And someday, when she had time, she was just going to write.

Which led to me giving advice she didn't ask for. Not that I'm a stranger to doing that, but just this one time, I was right to do it.

"Whitney," I said, calling her by name beause I love her name, "don't wait until you have time."

And I know, really I do, that I'm not the first person who ever gave that advice, but it is undoubtedly the best advice I ever gave.

I went on to tell her that I'd written my first three books sitting on bleachers. That
was in truth an exaggeration, but I did do some writing there. And in the car while I waited on kids. And during my lunch hour. And in the early morning hours before work--I had to get up at 3:30 AM anyway, so we're talking really early--I wrote the first draft of One More Summer in 83 days and a lot of that writing was done between 3:00 and 3:30.

Just last week I waxed pompous to my friend Margie, telling her I didn't know how I'd managed writing books and working fulltime all at once. I still don't know, but I do know this. I never had time, so I guess I made time. Thank goodness for coil-bound notebooks and pens that write well.

So, to Whitney, and to any other young writers out there, that's my best piece of advice: make time. My second-best is, when you meet a veteran writer, walk right up and talk to her the way you did to me. It makes our day.

I’m ending this differently, because it’s three years since I wrote this, and it was for a writing blog. I don’t regret the advice—unlike some I’ve given; when will I learn to keep my mouth shut?—but it applies to much more than writing. It applies to travel and apologizing and playing a game of Farkle with someone (particularly seven-year-old grandchildren who stomp all over you.) To saying “you bet” when someone asks you to go somewhere even if your hair’s dirty, whether it’s to East End for dessert or Aroma for coffee or a trip to Walmart for toilet paper and laundry detergent.

Don’t have time? Sure you do. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Let It Go

This is from March of 2015. It all still fits me to a T. Sigh. How about you?

The title of this post is the name of a perfectly lovely song that has been over-played, over-exposed, and over-everything else. It's also the phrase Duane used to me--several times--when I complained about changing times. I despise the time change. I don't care whether we're on Eastern, Central, or Southwest Lilliputian time, just leave it alone! My husband, on the other hand, doesn't mind the time change nearly as much as he minds the fact that I just won't let it go.

Which leads me to other things.

  • Bad reviews.
  • Weather.
  • The other side of the political aisle.
  • The church across town whose doctrine and signs drive you nuts.
  • Death and...
  • ...taxes.
Which in turn leads me to different other things.
  • The card you forgot to send.
  • The apology you've owed for years.
  • The bags in the laundry room that need to go to recycling, Goodwill, and the women's shelter.
  • Saying "I love you" and "you are so cool" and "I want to help" and "I'm so sorry this has happened to you" to those who need to hear it.
  • The laugh out loud and...
  • ...a hug.
The first list is, you got it, of things you should let go. So...just do. We'll wait over here in the corner while you go into the bathroom and scream really loud if that's what it takes.

The other list is, you got it, too!--of things you shouldn't let go. Of things it's never too late to do.

How about you? Do you have lists of your own? Go ahead and take care of them, then go out and have the best week ever--who cares what time it is?