Saturday, August 8, 2020

Snapshot! by Liz Flaherty...with a little help from her friends...

We went to hear music at Black Dog Coffee last night, one of our favorite things to do and something we've missed so much during Covid's long sojourn with us. We stayed fairly distant, masks either on or ready to put on, and got to share music and conversation and memories with friends. 

We've made so many of those memories together, although not being a musician gives me a different perspective than the others have. While my recollections are more likely to be formed around different criteria than theirs, we all have them. 

Sarah and Ron Luginbill, with some beautiful violin help from their daughter Lita, sang mostly old songs last night. Ron kept the audience informed as to when the songs were recorded and by whom--and he was always right. I could have sworn "At Seventeen" came long before 1975--I'm glad I didn't argue that point. 

We talked about the memories we got from music. And how it's not just the music you remember. It's where you were when you heard it, who you were with, what the weather was like. And how it made you feel.

"It's a snapshot," said Mike Almon. "You should write that." 

I'm limited this morning by my own memories, but I'd love to hear yours.

Sarah sang the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" last night. It was nowhere near my favorite Beatles song (that's another column--or maybe a series), but I remember sitting in the car--although not which car--and listening to it and wishing so hard that could happen for me. I wasn't happy with who I was then--who is when they're 16?--and I didn't really believe dreams came true. 

Mike Almon always ends his concerts with Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle." Duane and I weren't very long into our journeys as parents in 1974, but the song's lyrics resonated even then. Every parent ends up with regrets, being sorry for times wasted, things said and things not said. But none of us are ever sorry for the time spent on bleachers, one-on-one time in the car, or just sharing the same air as our kids. 

June Zinn, who plays the flute, talked about a song she used to play with Steve "Bear" Pochi, a much beloved friend who's no longer in the circle of chairs musicians seem to gravitate to no matter where they are. She can't think too much about the song, or about its lyrics, or she can't play it anymore. Her eyes welled up when she talked about Steve. Memories.

There are songs that Ole Olsen players sing in musical reviews that go so deep into their hearts that if you're watching them sing, you feel what they're feeling. When Kelly Makin starts "At Last," I sit up straight and listen, simply because of the power and the emotion that come from the stage. 

It's a lot like, for those of our generation, remembering where you were when President Kennedy died. Remembering later, when Alan Jackson sang "where were you when the world stopped turning" and we all knew and felt again that September morning. The emotion is so deep I can't begin to describe it.

I don't think I've said this very well, and I'm sorry for that. Let me say again, I'd love to hear your memories. And how they made you feel.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Fiction, facts, and the virus... by Liz Flaherty #WindowOverthSink

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood... Yeah, I'm singing and I really shouldn't, but it was raining when I came out to the office this morning. Coming straight down and darkening the shades of green that come to Indiana with August.

About writing. And the virus. And fiction. And real life. And facts.

I'm glad I write fiction as opposed to true-life, because fiction is negotiable. It's pliable and you can be assured of a happy ending. Although you're led by the characters you write, in the end the pen is still in your hand.

Another thing about writing fiction is that one of its primary rules is that you check your facts before you put them on paper. If you're going to mention someone having six heart bypasses (which I did), you need to make sure it's a possibility. If your hero in 1865 is going to be singing "Little Brown Jug," he needs to reconsider--it hasn't been written yet. If you're writing about the Revolution, don't use the word mesmerize--no one did until 1829.

There's more than one reason to be careful with facts in fiction. One is that you can be sued for defamation. Another is that many readers believe if something's in print, it must be true. (You can mess with that statement a lot. If it's on Facebook...if it's in the National Enquirer...if it's on YouTube...or my own choice--if it's in People...)

Unfortunately, there are too many pens in too many hands in the virus, aren't there? Too many "if it's in..." quotations.

Another facet of writing fiction is characterization. The better you are at it, the better your stories are. If you have a bad guy, you need to make sure he's not all bad, or the reader can't sympathize with him. If you have a hero and/or a heroine, you need to give them flaws so that the reader can be him or her. (I'm always relieved when a heroine has bad hair and some extra pounds.)

All fiction stories have an arc that shows the growth of the story's protagonists from start to finish. Of course, the arc more often looks like a roller coaster, because it swoops up and down and goes in loops and occasionally goes completely off the rails, but, when you're coming down that last screaming drop, it's still an arc. The thing to do is not quit in the middle or there you'll be. Just hanging there, not sure whether to believe YouTube or science, this doctor or that one, a Facebook meme or a journalist.

We can't quit in the middle--I still have grandkids to watch grow up so that I can take the credit for what fine people they are, don't you? We need to continue to search out the truth, to do our best to take care of others (whether we like them or not, no matter who they voted for), and to be really careful of what sources we quote from. I love People. It's probably my favorite "social media," but it doesn't pretend to be science. I love YouTube, too--it's where I listen to music. (And sing along, although, like I said above, I really shouldn't.)

But if I quit reading in the middle, before I've looked at other sources and weighed them out, I shouldn't quote anything I've seen. I can't do that as a fiction writer; I most certainly should not when it comes to true-life.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Banning Books? Not in My House... by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

This happened in 1991. After all these years, I can hardly believe it came to pass, but it did--book-banning really happened at our school. It made me know then that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. I said then that we had to choose our battles--we still do. I wish I was better at choosing them. I wish I'd fought this one harder.

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” ― Stephen Chbosky

My son came home from school the other day and told me that someone had submitted a list to the powers that be at his school, requesting that books named on that list be eliminated from the school library. Apparently, the person who made the list did not want his or her child reading those books.

That's fine by me, but don't tell my child he can't. Or the girl down the road that she can't. Or all the other kids in the school that they can't.

Books in school libraries are chosen by people who know children, like children, and want what is best for children. Their choices are not always perfect, but they are made with the people in mind who are going to be reading the books. If they chose with the idea that they were going to please everyone, their choices would be a lot easier.

But the library's shelves would be bare.

The Bible would be gone. Mark Twain would be gone. Judy Blume would be gone. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be gone. Dr. Seuss, Margaret Mitchell, and, of course, Stephen King would not be allowed through school doors. Because they all offend someone, sometime, somehow.

I personally can't stand Stephen King's books. He cares the bejesus out of me and keeps me awake at night. So I don't read them. But I have kid who does, and he finds things in Stephen King's writing that I can't find and don't want to take the time to look for simply because I don't like being scared. (Note in 2017: In 2001, Stephen King wrote my favorite book on writing of all time, called On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft--go figure.) 

A young lady named Christy Martin recently had a "Student View" published in the Peru Daily Tribune that made a lot of sense to me. It concerned the labeling and banning of certain records, most notably those by the group 2 Live Crew. The statistics quoted in the article supported informative labeling, but "banned the ban."

Books, like records, are often "insulting, repulsive, offensive, sexist, and utterly distasteful," as Miss Martin said, but it is never up to one person or one special interest group or one church congregation to decide for everyone. Let them be labeled like movies and records, if necessary, but don't try to ban them.

It is most certainly within parents' rights to demand that their children not be required to read material they do not approve of and it is the school's responsibility to honor these demands, but let it stop there.

My children all read Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War in school. I read it when they did, all three times, and never did learn to like it, but they did. At least one parent I know requested that his children read an alternative selection and his request was honored. It was enough.

I told my kids I didn't want anything by 2 Live Crew in the house, just as my mom never let me play the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" at home. I found out that a 2 Live Crew tape has been in my son's room for a couple of years now, just as "Louie, Louie" became one of my favorites. I can't help but wonder, if I'd never said a word pro or con, if my kids weren't smart enough to decide about 2 Live Crew on their own, and I can't help but wonder if Mom shouldn't have listened to the Kingsmen and to me before banning "Louie, Louie" from the house, thereby practically forcing me to embrace it as a rock and roll legend to be forever loved and defended.

But it is my house, and if I find 2 Live Crew offensive, it is okay for me to ban it--or at least try to. If my mother thought "Louie, Louie" was a dirty song, it was all right for her to ban that in her house, too.

But not in your house. That's your business. And not in the school attended by my children. That's my business.

Added in 2020. It got done at that time. The book in question was banned because one mother didn't want it there. And, oh, my gosh, there are people who would ban everything in libraries now if given the chance. Because there was a lot of ugliness in history, just as there is now. Because writing was done using the morals, ethics, and mores of the time and sometimes they stunk. Because people today are sometimes hurt by what was written then. 

I think they would be more hurt by hiding the existence of the way things were then; banning the existence of those books would give way to denial of those flaws.

It would also be throwing out the good with the bad. One of my favorite authors for teenage girls was Janet Lambert, from Crawfordsville, Indiana. I read every word she ever wrote and loved them all. I learned many things from them. Good things. But in those books, I don't recall there ever being a black person who wasn't a servant. I don't believe she would write that way today--at least, I hope she wouldn't--but reading them not only taught me good things, it made me pay attention to others that weren't so good.

Paying attention is important.

I'm not saying all books are good. I'm saying there are no limits to what you can learn if you read. And if you pay attention. What others read isn't your business, but there's no other way for you to argue points than if you're fully armed with facts and knowledge of both sides of a situation. 

Like so many times now, I don't have a neat, tied-in-a-bow ending here. Just read. Learn. Inform. And while you're at it, have a great week. Be safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Remember when... by Liz Flaherty

This particular post came from 2017. I happened on it and was grateful again for the answers. The memories. They draw us together,  you know...memories. Like you, I've never seen or felt the kind of divisiveness that we're in now. I've never been this scared for my grandkids, this discouraged for the country, this angry. But reading this again, remembering helped. I hope it helps you, too. Please, add your memories of happy things in comments. We'll all like them. 

I posted a blog about Macy, the little town across the fields and through the woods from where I live. The response was unprecedented here at the Window, and I can't thank you enough. I promised I'd share the comments that showed up both here and on Facebook. They brought back some memories for me--I hope you enjoy them, too. If you have anything to add, please do.

Shannon Conley Smith Even though I'm not as old as you and Uncle Bill, (I think this was mean of Shannon, but I didn't edit it out. - Liz) I still have very fond memories of Macy, Indiana. I also remember those free movies except for by the time I was old enough to watch them they were Christian movies. And I remember the hardware store and a little restaurant that had video games in it and the two churches, but the thing I wanted to be most in Macy, Indiana was a Macy firefighter auxiliary member. They would have meetings I believe once a month, they would exchange gifts, have snacks, and talk about the coming up chicken noodle dinner to help raise money for new equipment, but what made me want to be one of them most of all was when the men would be sent out on a fire the ladies would run up to the fire house and get the coffee or the hot chocolate and the donuts ready for the men when they got back from fighting a fire. Or if it was going to be a long night, we would bring the coffee and donuts out to the scene of the fire for the men to have a break and go back to doing what they volunteered to do and that was to help the people of Macy, Indiana. That is one of my Fondest Memories and that is what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Art Shafer Fulton had the Free Movies too and the Westerns were great. Cokes for a nickel weren't bad either. I guess living in the country and small towns never gets totally out of your system. Fulton had a population just over 300 and we always played Macy in Basketball.

Shelly Eisaman I don't suppose that anything I share can be as way back as the movies. They were long gone by the time i came along but I do have many wonderful memories of growing up in Macy. My sister and I were raised in the same house as my mom and her siblings. The house on Sycamore that my parents still call home. 
When I was little I was sure I was related to the entire town. I had so many Aunts and Uncles. Everyone knew everybody else and word traveled faster than I could. As I got older I realized that though not exactly aunts and uncles, I was in fact related to good portion of the town through either mom or dad. It was great for a kid as social as I was. There was always someone to visit.
I would torment George, the boy next door. Aunt Norm was the next house down and always had goodies for us. She baby sat me and little David and had no problem laying into our rotten butts when we needed. She was the only person that no matter how many times we asked would explain exactly how we were all related. 
Way at the other end of town I could visit with Miss Rosie. She had the best stories! She could tell stories on everyone! I have pictures from one year during Macy days I did a bed race with her. It was so much fun. My kids loved visiting Rosie on Halloween. We would take her flowers and she would tell them stories. 
About two blocks up from Rosie was the green and white house on the corner. I never knew the lady that lived there but she had the only yard that had as many sweet smelling flowers as Mom's. 
If Aunt Norm didn't watch me then Aunt Sue would. Aunt Sue was so kind. Every trip with her was an adventure. 
Christmas Eve was a big to-do at our house with Slishers from everywhere coming to town. When it was finally my turn to be an elf with Uncle Kenny that meant getting to play Santa at Clair and Hazel's after Mom and Dad's and then there was always Christmas Eve service at the church. Everyone got an orange, a candy bar, and a candy cane.

I remember when Macy Days was a big thing. The parades and bands at the fire house. Carnival rides and games. Somewhere I have a lot of pictures. 
The grocery store was great. The ladies that worked there. I remember going up there and getting so much penny candy in my fancy play dresses that my mom would get for me at the Nearly New Shop in Rochester. They never batted an eye at the silly little girl in her princess ball gowns. 
I was an 80s kid in Macy but I have so many wonderful memories. Visiting Aunt Jean and swimming at Bill and Shirley's. Annoying my sister and Angela every chance I got. Babysitting for both churches. Waiting for Clair to pick us up at the post office for school. Trying to walk the tracks to Rochester. 
Our little town is full of so many stories and so much history. I look forward to reading others' memories.

Bob Pontius Kissed a girl for the first time at the free show in Macy, summer of 57 or 58. (There was more to this conversation, by the way...)

Judith Post  I really enjoyed this. It brought back so many memories. I grew up (and still live) in Fort Wayne. No free movies, but my parents gave me and my sister 50 cents every Saturday to walk to the Rialto Theater with our friends. It cost 25 cents to watch the double features, and then we had a quarter to buy candy at the dime store and an ice cream cone on the way home.

Sheila Fitzpatrick It was said that there was an underground passage under 19 between the old Ballee house and the Waite sisters' house in Gilead. That house still stands on the corner.

June Zinn Love this new venture, since we are on here every day. If you are old enough to remember movies for 10 cents or better yet, free, these bring back memories. I grew up in Knox, Ind, in the fifties, a good time to grow up! Thank you for this chance to look back.

Marsha Adams Moved to Macy in 1957, entered 3rd grade and my family was forever labeled as newcomers. At one time my dad was the town sherif, which was a bit of a joke, no police car, no stop signs in town but he did occasionally get called out for a stray dog, lol. That being funny because there were stray dogs everywhere. 
I remember when the King and his Court (men's fast pitch softball team) put on an exhibition. We had a horseshoe pitch where teams competed. We would ride our bikes everywhere and the most fun was riding from our house on McKee street and trying to coast all the way down to the railroad tracks without going over the fence and into the cornfield at the end of the street. I remember my mom (Iris Delawder) working at the grocery store and knowing everything about everyone in town. We lovingly called her the town newspaper. There are so many memories I could share with my best friend Shirley Connor Greenwald--we probably would reminisce for hours.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

In Times Like These... by Liz Flaherty

Such weirdness.

I understand that we are deep in the middle of a pandemic. Therefore, I wear masks when I'm at the store because it protects the other people who are there. I stay out of crowded places. I accept, swallowing hard, that we don't get to watch our grandson graduate. (One of us may have cried a little over that, but the kid is healthy, a good guy, and funny, so I can live without seeing him in a cap and gown.)

But, yeah, weirdness abounds, doesn't it?

A lot of people won't wear masks and a few can't. I don't get the politicizing of it. I hate wearing a mask, but I would hate it worse if someone got sick because I didn't wear one that day. Do the ones who won't wear a mask think they're only going to infect people they don't like who vote for different people than they do?

We never ran out of toilet paper. We didn't even come close. I also never bought more than I had cupboard space for. I haven't yet understood the idea of hoarding it for the express purpose of keeping other people from having it. I'm almost certain their needs in that area are the same as mine. Same with hand sanitizer, facial tissue, and wipes.

I can no longer buy Cherry Coke Zero, my drink of choice. Nor can I buy any other flavors of Coke Zero. Yes, I do understand that it's not good for me anyway; that's not the issue here. Is someone hoarding the Coke Zero in their garage-full of toilet paper?

We are being urged to pay with a card instead of cash. Hmmm... I use a card a lot, because it's convenient, but I don't really want to be told I have to. I don't believe I'm particularly paranoid, but I do wonder if I should stuff a (very small) mattress with all the cash I can come up with and hoard it in that garage I mentioned up there.

There were weeks there were no eggs, no flour, no yeast, and no sugar-free coffee creamer. Sometimes the only canned vegetables I can find are the ones I don't want. Yeah, fresh is better and I'm thrilled to see the open-air markets and plenty of produce, but the shortages...they're just strange! For weeks, I couldn't buy cube steak, which my son says I ruin anyway, but still--does someone have it in their garage? I hope they have a freezer in there...

I don't have any answers to the endless conundrums that surround us. I'm a fan of keeping your head down and doing the best you can without doing any harm, but I'd love to have real answers to both the shortages and the resultant hoarding. Or did the hoarding come first and cause the shortages?

Uh-huh. Weird.

On a better note, congratulations and happy days to everyone from every school in the Class of 2020. I'm sorry--I think everyone is--for what happened to your senior year, but you'll survive and you'll thrive. God bless you.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.