Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ends, Beginnings, and Funny Feelings by Liz Flaherty

Our family sold our farm. The 40 acres on a corner had been in the family for well over 100 years. Although I am sentimental about virtually everything, I am not particularly so about the place I grew up. Go figure. Mostly I am happy that the person who bought the place will take care of it. He will respect and nourish the land in exchange for what the land gives back. So I'm good with it.

But the lilac bushes there on the corner where the house is were my mom's. They're big, glorious ones. I used to hide in the one there by the driveway near the old hitching post. I crawled into it so often there was a hollowed-out place in the middle of it. It is the one that bloomed in August in 2019 when my brother Tom died. I felt as if it was Mom assuring us that Tom and Dan and Christine were all with her and all was well. It bloomed again in August of 2020, and I hope it was Mom and Dad saying it was okay to let the farm go. It was time. 

There are blue spruces on the corner. My brother Dan planted them, I think. He had a way around blue spruces. 

A large rock sits there. My sister sat on that rock with her back to the rest of the world and figured out how to go on from whatever place she was in. Coming along later, I tried to use the rock for the same purpose. Didn't work. It was Nancy's rock, not mine. 

Thinking of the corner makes me ache and my eyes sting. There were five of us who grew up in that too-small house, and one little girl who died when she was only three. How many times did a school bus stop there in the 26 years there was a Shafer kid in school at Gilead and later North Miami? How many times did Mom watch us and imagine what Christine would have looked like climbing onto the bus?

Mom always kept things "for good," which is why I don't. I think she enjoyed having the things, and looking at them, while I enjoy using them. Neither way is wrong. But I remember boxes of candy sitting on the stairs at the farm (it was cold there on the steps--even colder at the top of them). I opened a box of chocolate covered cherries one time and found them collapsed in on themselves and hardened by time. That may be when I decided I wouldn't keep things, but use them. It was heartbreaking to have candy that couldn't be eaten.

Those stairs are still in that old house full of memories and things saved for good. Most of the things are gone now. We've taken them out, shared them among ourselves and given much away. We've wondered what some things were and why they were saved. Vandals have done their part, too, destroying and doing harm because...well, I don't know why they do it. I get angry about that because even in these last months of owning the farm, it was still my mother's house; it deserved respect if for no other reason than she loved it.

Maybe now, finally, I know why I've written this column this morning. It's a goodbye to the farm, yes, but it's also a thank-you to it. It's not that I was always happy there--I'm not someone who enjoyed childhood--but I was safe. I was loved. I was never hungry. It was where I learned that if you look hard enough, there is always something to laugh about. It's where I learned to be strong and to think for myself  and that no one owed me anything except whatever respect I earned.

Although selling property is always an end to something, the memories don't go away; they are yours to keep. I still hid in the lilac bush, broke the window on the front of the house--Dan dared me to see if I could throw the stick over the roof. I never said I was smart--and read 100s of books that started me on the path to writing my own.

I'm thinking about the family I grew up with as I sit here. My brothers and sisters and my parents and the ripples that came from them. Brothers' friends that I had crushes on, sister's friends who were funny and friendly and still are, and the neighbor's farm where we went every year for our Christmas tree (a dollar every year; thank you, Mr. Swigart.) 

I think of the song I talked about last week, Harry Chapin's "Circle," and once again his lyrics speak the voice of my heart. 

"But I have this funny feeling;
That we'll all be together again."

Amen. Have a great week. Seek out and treasure the memories. Be nice to somebody.

***

Anita's store is colorful, its inventory reasonably priced, and, kind of like "Alice's Restaurant," you can "get anything you want." It's a great spot for clothing, gifts, and one-of-a-kind items. The store's phone number is 765-470-2035. If you haven't been there yet, you're missing out!

 


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bends in the Road by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

Harry Chapin (1942-1981) was a gifted singer-songwriter. Think "Cats in the Cradle." My favorite song of his--at least right now--is "Circle." It is my favorite because I am at a time in my life when it has much meaning. Especially the following words. 

"There's no straight lines make up my life and all my roads have bends
There's no clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead-ends"


When we were first married, we had a table with three chairs. Someone gave them to us when they bought a new dinette set. I don't know if they're still called that, those oblong creations of Formica and tubular stainless steel. The seats on the chairs were upholstered in heavy plastic and the backs were either bolted between struts of the aforementioned steel or pushed down onto them. Once the plastic started giving way and tearing away in strips that revealed fuzzy yellow stuff, you could buy replacement ones that never fit quite right. 

By replacement time, though, we needed four chairs instead of three, so we went to Glazier's and bought our own dinette set. It was $139 and chances are good we had to buy it on time. We bought a lot of things from Glazier's, including the next table and chairs, which were made of wood. We got five chairs because there were five of us and six would have cost more. The fifth chair didn't match the others and it didn't last as long, but by the time it totally collapsed, the kids were starting to leave home. 

Our kitchen was small, so we got a little wooden table with two chairs and moved the other set into the dining room. We could now, if we searched out all the chairs plus the piano bench and possibly a bucket turned upside down, seat eight people at one time.


Then, I don't know when it was...years ago, we paid a visit to Glazier's for something and ended up with an oak dining room table the size of a small country and six new chairs. It's beautiful. I think we've only used it stretched to its full three-extra-leaves length a few times, but it's been nice to have. Letting it go is hard to think about.

But it's time.

I can't lend too much importance to the dinette set--I'll keep calling it that even though it's the least elegant of the terms we use for it. It's in your life from the time you're tied into a chair with a dishtowel in the absence of a highchair to when you're using it for a desk or a sewing table or a place to play Solitaire when you're older than you want to talk about. It's where you have hard talks with your teenagers, harder talks and hand-holding affirmations with the person you share your life with, where you laugh until tears are rolling down your face with girlfriends. There is no end to the joy and pain and healing that are shared across the table over the years.

The kitchen table is the place that you either get good at piecrust or you admit you're always going to buy it because yours is terrible. It's where families do much more together than just share meals--it's where they love each other without ever having to say the words. It's where decisions, both good and bad, are made. Hearts are broken and hearts are made whole. It is both a pulpit and a judge's bench. 

So now, here we are, although Glazier's is no longer that Big Store with a Little Door we depended on for so long. The big table will be re-homed soon and we need a new table and two chairs, maybe three. Our dining area hasn't shrunk, but our needs have. We're thinking a little dropleaf one that will sit flat against the wall. When the kids and the grandkids come home, they'll wonder why we got rid of the big one because they're at a different place on the circle's curve than we are. We are indeed back to its beginning, thrilled that there aren't dead ends here and wondering what's around the next bend.

Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.


I worked in Logansport for 30 years. One of my favorite places to eat was the Boardwalk Cafe on Broadway. I was delighted when they opened a venue in Peru, sad when they had to close because their building was sold, and thrilled again when they reopened on Broadway this week. We had lunch there today--Friday--and it was as delicious as always, the service was prompt and smiley, and we were full when we left. (I also used way more napkins than the average person, for which I apologize, but I'm also way messier than the average person.)


The phone number for Boardwalk is (765) 460-5003, and the hours are as follows. I hope you pay them a visit!

Monday- Thursday: 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Sunday: CLOSED

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Vex and Valor by Debby Myers #WindowOvertheSink

Ebook Cover
When I was in first grade, our teacher asked us to write a story about anything we wanted. It could be something true or we could make something up. Although I don’t remember a lot about first grade, I do remember how excited my teacher was about my story. She gave me a permission slip to take to my mom so she could submit my story to children’s magazines to be published. The story was about a little girl who loved daisies. It was accepted by Children’s Digest and Highlights. Miss Gustafson told me she knew I would write a novel one day.

Since then, I’ve written many other short stories. I took every writing class I could in high school. My creative writing teacher said I had a gift. All I knew was that I loved to write! I was going to be a writer! Of course, then came…life.

When I was 20, I moved to Texas with my ex and my oldest daughter. I hated it and I started a journal that I later converted to a book. A few friends read it, but I was young and didn’t pursue it any further. I’d written it on an old word processor, so it’s lost now.

The next 30 years I dedicated to raising my children and working. I still took every

chance I could to write. I worked in radio, where I got to write news stories and ad copy. I worked as an Assistant Director of Development, where I composed a newsletter, donor profiles, and performance reviews. I ran a day care, writing original stories for the kids we watched. I was part of a non-profit, as well as a large corporation, where I wrote quarterly newsletters. But no novels.

About 10 years ago, I met Liz through our theater group. I was in awe of her knowing her accomplishments as a best-selling author. One day she asked me to write a story for her blog about directing plays. Since she’s been kind enough to let me write several more about: my multiple sclerosis, being in flying trapeze in the circus here, my father-in-law’s death, generation gaps with our children, depression, the death of my daughter’s baby when she was five months pregnant, being a best friend, even our cat’s disappearance for three months before he was found. I think she gave me writing fever again!

As the days of the pandemic went on…and on, I decided to start writing again to pass the time. At first, I wasn’t really serious about it. Yet the more I wrote, the more I liked what I was writing. I kept going. I am beyond thrilled to have had my first REAL novel published just last week. It is fiction with a culmination of my life experiences.

Paperback Cover

Vex and Valor
 
is the story of two families from different sides of the tracks. Tim and Vee Crawford are the parents of four children who are lifelong residents of Brookton, PA. Georgia and Zeke Hayes struggle to make ends meet after moving four of their seven children there from Tennessee.  They become intertwined through the marriage of their two youngest children, Ella Crawford and Ben Hayes.

The story begins with a fight between the married couple. The argument is overheard by their two young children hiding in a closet with their 10-year-old daughter watching through a crack in the closet door. Following the altercation, a neighbor finds Ella unconscious with no witnesses as to what happened to her. And her children are missing.

As Ella fights for her life, the children are found. Both she and Ben’s families gather, all waiting on word of Ella’s condition and looking for answers. Many believe it was an accident, while others, who know Ben drinks too much, think he may have caused this to happen. 

The saga begins in 1969 and takes place over three days. We are transcended into the lives of Ella and Ben’s families. The book is written in two sections. The chapters are short, moving from character to character and place to place. In section two, we watch the families become even more entangled and continue to search for answers about Ella. We meet new characters as we see the Crawford and Hayes grandchildren grow into adults, each with their own accomplishments and problems. The story comes to a climax when the truth about Ella is finally revealed.   

I’m pleased to say the book is available on Amazon in paperback or eBook. I’ve had a few challenges already. The cover was wrong on the paperback the first time, I found a few typos (that’s what happens when you self-publish, self-edit), and the chapter breaks are off in the eBook. But overall, I’m pleased. In its first week, it has sold better than I expected. Of course, all of my family and friends are the buyers so far. I’m hopeful some of you will check it out too!

The title Vex and Valor comes from the words tormented and fearless. As you meet the characters, you’ll see these attributes in the lead and in many of the characters. I also chose the title hoping to keep the stories of the Hayes and Crawford families going. I’m considering a three book V series to include Vows and Verdicts and Vengeance and Victors.

As a writer, it’s not really about how the book sells, but more of a feeling of accomplishment at its completion, the end product. I had so much fun writing it – I want others to have just as much fun reading it! Thank you, Liz, for letting me share it today with your readers!

Vex and Valor is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08VTT9174


When Duane and I had lunch at the Farmhouse Cafe at 97 W. Harrison in Denver one day last week we chowed down, enjoying every bite, and talked to Missy Yocum. Then we left, waving as the door closed behind us. 

We got to the car before we realized we hadn't paid for our lunch. I didn't ask her, but I'd venture to say chasing recalcitrant customers down the sidewalk isn't Missy's favorite part of the business she owns and operates with her husband Dan. 

But every other part seems to be. The cafe is comfortable, the food is good, and there's always someone to talk to! The phone number, if you want carryout or to order ahead, is (765) 985-3000. The hours are as follows. Just remember it's a pandemic and sometimes things have to be changed. 
Monday:
6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Tuesday:
6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Wednesday:
6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Thursday:
6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Friday:
6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Saturday:
6:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Sunday:
CLOSED

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Not What Was Intended by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink


Unless the Colts were playing...or a long time ago, Joe Montana...I've never watched the Super Bowl. I've seen a few halftime shows, but mostly I just find something else to do. However, I do love the commercials. I have enjoyed this year's Doritos commercial, every year's Clydesdales, and if Betty White shows up, all the better. 

I used to make shirts. One time I misplaced the buttonholes on one of my younger son's shirts. Once a buttonhole is made, especially if you cut the little gap between the stitches, it's...well, made. You can't undo it. So there was Jock's shirt with its top two buttons less than an inch apart and all the rest of them correctly spaced. Whether he meant it or whether he was just being a nice kid, he told me he liked them that way, and every shirt I made him thereafter had the top two buttons less than an inch apart. 

Kathy Mattea

One time years ago, we went to a concert at Honeywell. The guy we went to see was really good. We loved his show. But his opening act was outstanding--we really loved her.

I ordered a pair of jeans recently. When they came, they were the wrong size. I mean, they were the size I ordered, but they were too big. I was going to send them back, but they were so...comfortable. And if I'm walking on a cold day, there's plenty of room to wear leggings with them. They're not my favorites, I don't think, but somehow, they end up in the wash more often than anything else. 
Of the books I've written, fewer than half the titles I've chosen have stuck. Most of the time, I'm okay with what ends up on the cover (although not always--want to talk about The Debutante's Second Chance?) Occasionally, I really want the title I've chosen. Such was the case with The Happiness Pact. Five years or so later, I don't remember what I originally named the story, because The Happiness Pact was perfect. 

When I met Duane Flaherty in May of 1969, he didn't like me. At all. In May of 2021, we will have been married 50 years. He says he likes me now. 

We all make plans, don't we? The Super Bowl is the Rolls Royce of televised football games, carefully planned by the people who are going to make money from it. The shirt pattern gives very concise directions on where to put buttonholes. Every writer I know puts a lot of thought and heart into the working titles of manuscripts. I couldn't wait to get the jeans I ordered, but they're not what I intended at all. I don't think Duane meant to ever like me that day in Keller Kleaners when we met. 

I remember writing about this years ago, only I was writing about my plans for adulthood in general and motherhood specifically. My kids weren't who I thought they'd be. I was nowhere near as good a mother as I wanted to be. Truthfully, if there's a mistake I haven't made in life, it's because I haven't thought of it yet. 

But I'm so happy to have our kids be who they are and not reflections of plans we may have had for them. I'm glad Duane liked me last instead of first. I'm glad the books I write are more about what's between the covers than what's printed on the front one. That Jock liked his shirts with funny buttons, that we got to see the opening act, that I like the commercials even if I don't watch the game. 

I was wondering when I was writing this if it's stuff I've figured out during the pandemic, when plans are...well, pretty pointless. But it's not about plans or even goals, is it? It's about finding the good and enjoying it until you have to let it go. And then finding the good again. It's about loving when you don't feel like it, laughing when crying would be easier, and to put it into social media language, scrolling on by if it's something you can't change. 

Have a good week. Stay warm and safe. Be nice to somebody. 


 
Heard in The Nail Studio: "I AM relaxed!" "Choose your color." "Have you been oiling?" "How's the family?" "How are you? Doing okay?" "Coffee?" "Want some water?" Sisters Gina Lopez and Julie White are the techs in The Nail Studio at 302 E. 3rd Street in Peru, although you get to the shop on Wayne Street. 

There are often flyers hanging on the wall for fundraisers and community events. You can order your cheeseballs there. If you need to talk, people will listen. If you need prayer, it’s free without asking. If your hands need gentleness, Gina and Julie know that. If you need a little longer massage, they know that, too, because the tightness in your hands will tell them.

Like most businesses in small towns, in addition to making a living, it's about community, family, and caring. Nail care is by appointment and the phone number is 765-473-5866. Julie and Gina work with your schedule and will often rearrange their own if it's necessary to a client. 

Gina Lopez and Julie White

Added later: I just found out (via Facebook) that today is Gina Lopez's birthday. Happy birthday, Gina! Thanks for opening The Nail Studio in Peru. 


Saturday, January 30, 2021

When the Weather Outside is Frightful by Debby Myers

Today when I let my dog outside, there were light snowflakes falling. It was so


pretty and peaceful. I was still in my robe and slippers, but I had to step outside just to watch and take it in. When I was a little girl, snow was the greatest. All the neighbor kids would bundle up and trek through the snow. We’d go sledding at the park, have snowball fights, make snow angels, and build snowmen in each of our front yards. We’d be outside so long, we’d be freezing before giving in and going home.

Being in my 50’s, I’ve seen a lot of it in my lifetime. I am certain my mom purchased more winter garments in one winter than most kids today get in all their childhood years. They don’t own snow pants, a scarf, or a sock hat with a pom-pom on top. If they have mittens, one or both are lost. Many prefer a hoodie over a puffy down-filled coat and aren’t affected much by the frozen stuff. I’m not sure they know what a true “snow day” is since school closes at the mention of the word. SNOW.

Now, if you really know me, you know I have been outspoken that I haven’t been a fan of snow. I worked in Rochester for many years. Like the school administrators, I wanted to declare a “snow day” every time I had to make that drive on a blustery day. More often than not, I drove home after dark. I know all of you know what I mean when I used the words “space snow.” It would completely mesmerize me making it hard to concentrate on driving. 

The worst drive I ever made in the snow was when I had been asked to fill in at a store in Huntington. It started to snow on my way there. Then it continued to snow throughout the busy crowd of shoppers picking up essentials – you know those…milk, bread, eggs. It felt like the 10-hour shift flew by. But then I had to drive the 40 miles to get home with 6 inches of snowfall and counting.

When I pulled out on highway 24, cars and trucks were bumper to bumper creeping on the icy, snow covered road. As we inched along, it started getting dark, making it even harder to see through the heavy snow falling. After an hour I had travelled 20 miles. I had nearly hit other cars several times and almost been hit just as many from sliding. I had my hands clamped on the steering wheel so tight that my fingers were cramping, and I had a terrible headache, likely from the stress of it all. 

But then, as if it couldn’t get any worse, my driver’s side windshield wiper broke off. I completely panicked. I couldn’t see at all – I had to figure it out. I secured the glove on my left hand, rolled down the window, and started clearing the window manually as we creeped. Then my cell phone rang, and it was my husband checking on me. He wanted to come and get me, but with the traffic and the snow, it wasn’t even possible. I don’t think either of us remembers what I said, but I know I started to ramble and cry, then screamed I couldn’t drive and be a windshield wiper all at once. 

It took 2 hours and 10 minutes before I pulled into the Walgreens parking lot and started to sob. Hubby was waiting on me there. He brought me hot coffee, put me into his warm car, and drove me the rest of the way. I really hated snow.

Although we haven’t had much the past few years, I have to admit, I miss it…especially seeing the kids enjoy fun playful activities in the snow. My youngest two grandchildren haven’t even had the chance to experience that yet. I miss looking out and seeing everything so crisp and white, pretty and peaceful.

Of course, since I don’t have to drive to Rochester or Huntington or anywhere in it anymore, now I want it to snow…a lot. How about you?

***


Family-owned for 15 years, DeAngelo's Pizzeria of Denver, Indiana is on the same  street as the park and the baseball diamonds. Owners Hayley and Kevin Hostetler and their employees are friends and neighbors of the community, generously helping with fundraisers and keeping young ballplayers fed. The food and ice cream (ask me; I know ice cream - Liz) are wonderful. If you haven't tried them yet, I recommend the ham and cheese. And the pizza. And...

Heated outside dining is available. The menu is extensive and the phone number is (765) 985-3126.