Friday, January 19, 2018

If you woke up rich... @Window Over the Sink

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, 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 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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Rickrack Chronicles @Liz Flaherty

This is from 2010, written for in the "Lifelong Pursuits" series. My apologies for it being so long, and because I'm sure you've read parts of it before, but the memories in it are sweet.
I was about nine. Awkward. Not very pretty. Not good at things, not that anything held my interest for very long. We spent Thanksgiving with Great-aunt Gladys that year. She sewed the most beautiful things (notably clothes that just fit my Tiny Tears doll) and I told her I’d like to sew, too, but my mother wouldn’t let me learn on the old treadle machine until I’d accomplished something by hand.
Did I mention I was awkward? Not the least of this was that my hands didn’t do anything right. Aunt Gladys — that’s a single “aunt,” not to be confused with the double one in the paragraph above — tried teaching me to knit and gave up after a long weekend of putting in and taking out … and taking out … and taking out. But sewing? Anyone could do it, Mom thought, and you had to do it in the right order.
So Great-aunt Gladys sent me — me, who never got mail addressed to me unless it was my birthday — a couple of yards of green cotton print, some white rickrack, and a pattern for an apron. Since my mother wore aprons all the time, I’m pretty sure everyone thought I’d give the whole project up anyway and Mom would get a new apron out of it and the fabric wouldn’t be wasted.
Well, I didn’t, she did, and it wasn’t.
Night after night, I stitched. I gathered, I hemmed, I added rickrack. And added it. And added it. I finished the apron. It was hideous, and I never wore aprons anyway. Did I mention I was nine? So I gave Mom the apron and she said, yes, I could learn to sew on the machine, but I didn’t want to anymore. I was sick of sewing.
When I was in the seventh grade, home economics was a required course — remember that? It was half cooking and half sewing and it only took me a couple of weeks to figure out I wasn’t meant to be either a chef or a seamstress. The food I cooked in class was raw in the middle and charred on the outside and the skirt I sewed was … God, it was awful. It had so many gathers in the back and so few in the front that the entire garment looked bustled. Not a good look for 1962. Did I mention I wasn’t good at crafting?
I had this sister-in-law, Sadie — actually, I still have her; I’m convinced my brother married her just for me. Did I mention I’m the youngest? One year during Dollar Days, a huge Midwestern going-back-to-school event at which you could buy fabric, socks, and underwear really cheap, Sadie said, 'Why don’t we make some dresses?' Shifts were popular then. They were easy to make, so we did. I used Sadie’s sewing machine with a knee press control and it was a lot of fun. Wonder of wonders, I was pretty good at it, too. But then shifts and sewing went out of style and I got more interested in the Beatles and other boys and I didn’t sew anymore.
I grew up a child of the 60s, complete with a peace sign on a chain around my neck and folk songs echoing through my heart. I wanted a husband and children, to write books, and to help people.
I had this daughter in 1972 — actually, I still have her, too. She was little and cute and so much fun to sew for that I spent years making her things. The year she was four, her dad
stayed up with me on Christmas Eve until two A.M. while I made her a long Holly Hobbie dress on my horrendous old sewing machine. We drank coffee and laughed while I sewed and he assembled toys. At one point, when I was in tears because I was so tired from fighting with my sewing machine, he said, 'Let me help you. You can open that big present under the tree.'
But I wouldn’t. I finished the dress and it was beautiful and so was she. So was the new sewing machine I unwrapped on Christmas morning. Yes, I still have the man who gave it to me, too. Did I mention a husband and children?
Twenty years later, I gave my daughter that sewing machine when I bought a new one. I used the new one sometimes, made a garment here and there, but not a lot. I had teenagers and a husband, a job and a house. I wrote stories on lined yellow paper and dreamed of being a writer. I didn’t care about sewing.
In 1994, my daughter and her boyfriend called. They were engaged. Wasn’t it wonderful? Would I make her wedding dress? And dresses for the three bridesmaids and the two flower girls? 'Of course,' I said, and from March until midnight of the day before their August wedding, I sat in the kitchen and sewed, cursed, and cried in turn.
Oh, they were gorgeous. Not the dresses so much as the girls in them. Did I mention that I wasn’t very pretty? Well, I still wasn’t, but oh, the beauty I’d created with the sewing machine and serger that spent all those months on the kitchen table. Sixteen years later, I can still see the picture of them in my mind.
So I sewed for a few years. Nieces’ weddings. Granddaughters’ dresses. Grandsons’ boxer shorts and pajamas. It was fun, but I had a job to do, books to write, bathrooms to clean. Who had time to pore over bolts of fabric and sweep up errant straight pins?
I was at a meeting when another member showed a quilt she’d made from Kaye Wood’s Six-Hour Quilt pattern. They were fast and pretty and my friend gave them to the children’s hospital. Gowns, too. You could whip them up in a half hour out of soft, child-friendly fabric. Oh, and turbans for cancer patients who had lost their hair. They took no time, and they helped people.
Did I mention I wanted to help people?
I turned half of my office into a sewing room — which sounds very neat, but in truth you can scarcely walk through it — and now I sew quilts and hospital gowns and long Pioneer Day dresses for little girls who might not have them otherwise.
I spend hours comparing colors and textures in fabric shops and buying from the clearance bolts at Wal-Mart. I’m a sucker for the thread rack — all those colors!—and the notions wall. I have enough scissors that I wonder if I should have some kind of weapons license for them, and there hasn’t been a sewing show created for television yet that I don’t like. I love sewing machines as much as I do computers, but thankfully they do not become obsolete when next year’s model comes out.
Sewing is an avocation that gives a surprising amount of sensate pleasure. The aroma of a fabric store or department, a combination of sizing and fibers, is like the scent of spring — it makes a stitcher happy, gives her energy, and opens her wallet. I’m always surprised when I buy fabric that it’s not soiled from the oils of exploratory fingers. Because those of us who sew never just look at the material we use. We touch it, sniff it, pull out the bolt and lay it up against another to give it a critical eye. We talk across the bolts to each other.
“It’ll look great till you wash it and that white border turns pink.”
“The pattern calls for two yards but if you lay it the other way, you only need half that.”
“It may be in the home dec department, but it’d make a great shirt.”
“So what if it’s ugly? It’s a buck a yard and it won’t look half bad with this blue.”
When I look back — no matter how many times I’ve stopped doing it — sewing has been a constant for most of my life. The treadle machine I begged to use 50 years ago still sits in my hallway. I hated sewing on it, but I love the fact that I still have it. A Holly Hobbie dress is in my bottom drawer. My daughter’s wedding dress hangs in the spare room closet. I remember Great-aunt Gladys sometimes, and am grateful once again for the package that came in the mail that day and the memory bank in which she opened such an expansive account for me.
On more Sunday afternoons than not, I go upstairs and turn on an old movie and while away the afternoon assembling a quilt for a child who needs warmth. I hope she enjoys it. Because sewing is all about warmth and enjoyment and making memories. It’s love in every stitch.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hey, remember when... @Liz Flaherty

Last Friday 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.

Friday, January 5, 2018

...when life was slow and oh, so mellow...

Macy was laid out in 1860 at the time the railroad arrived in the neighborhood. The community was originally known as Lincoln, but when it was discovered that there was already another Lincoln in Cass County, the name was changed in order to prevent confusion in the mail system. The namesake of Macy is David Macy, president of the Indianapolis, Peru and Chicago Railway. The post office at Macy has been in operation since 1880. - Wikipedia

              I was working, although not very hard, and Bill was standing across the counter, thinking about going home and getting something done. “Do you remember the free shows?” I asked. “Were they over here in this vacant lot?”

          There are many vacant lots in Macy; nevertheless, he knew which one I meant.

          “That’s where they were.” he said, “I remember one movie, is all. My sister and I didn’t get to go to it, so we crawled out her bedroom window and laid on the porch roof and watched it from home. Do you remember them?”

          “I remember one, a western, but they were all westerns, weren’t they?”

          “And they all had John Wayne in them.”

          I nodded agreement. “You could walk across the street to the drugstore and buy a Coke for a nickel. If you had an extra penny, you could get it in a Dixie cup and carry it back to the movie. The popcorn stand was right there at the corner of the store, wasn’t it?”

          “Yeah,” he said, “and the popcorn maker’s still over at the firehouse. Still works.”
Macy Christian Church Fellowship Hall - Used to be Karn Grocery

          Wow. I’m 57 and I still work, too, but barely. I can’t believe the popcorn machine does. I close my eyes and I remember how the popcorn smelled. Hot and buttery and—can you smell salt? In my memory, I can.

          My age was still single digits when we used to go to Macy to
watch the free shows. It seems to me as though they ran them two nights a week, though we probably didn’t go that often. In retrospect, I don’t know who “they” were, either. But I remember that Macy bustled. It had two churches right downtown, the drugstore, a hardware store where Mr. Case sold a wagon to my brothers and me. The wagon cost $9.00, but he gave it to us for a dollar less.
          There was a place across the street that sold and repaired televisions and maybe other appliances; I’m not sure. On the corner was Karn’s Grocery, where you got foodstuffs on one side and dry goods on the other and Mrs. Karn always smiled at you and called you by name. There was an elevator in town with piles of corncobs just begging to be played in. Someone threw one just right once and I got my first black eye. (It may have been my last, too—I’m a big coward.)
Macy Christian Church

          Doc Sennett had his practice back there on Sycamore Street. He’d give you shots and tell you to “look toward Akron” so you wouldn’t see the needle and kick up a fuss. I don’t remember them, but I heard from people who’ve lived here a long time that there was a bowling alley and a hotel. You could get your hair done at Loretta’s or Markie’s and stop by the cafĂ© for lunch. You could get gas at the station on the corner or you could sit up on the cement wall there and horse around with your friends.

          Out at the edge of town there was an old building—I think it was a pickle-canning factory once—where kids ran wild and made a racket and had a good time. The railroad tracks ran behind it and there was a depot out there somewhere.


            I wrote the first part of this ten years ago, while I was working at the Macy post office for a while. I got to talk to people every day when they came and got their mail. I learned a lot about Macy and I wish I’d been there long enough to have learned more, because so many of those memories get lost in the shuffle of living and working and dying. I never finished it, and I wish I had, but maybe that's where you come in.

            Share your memories here, if you have the time or the inclination. Or if you know some “way back when” stories about any of the other little towns around here, write them up and we’ll share them here. Things like Deedsville’s free shows and what was that business in Tin Cup? The house in Gilead that used to be a hotel and why that stretch of houses over there is called Woolly Town.
            In the mean time, thanks to Bill Coahran for the conversation, and thanks to you all for visiting the Window. See you next week.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Directing Magic @Debby Myers

Debby Myers is with us this week to talk about directing in community theater. A veteran of 15 shows from "behind the camera," she's sharing the process. After reading this, check out Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre Inc., where you can find out all about her next show, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.

A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly. - Kevin Bacon

Liz asked me to write a piece on directing in community theater. She felt like I should have some knowledge of it since I’ve directed 15 shows for Ole Olsen Memorial Theater here in Peru. It seems, however, that each show brings forth new knowledge and challenges. I’ve directed casts as few as five to as many as 27. There really is no magic wand; however, I often turn my shows over to the “Ole Gods” to finish them! More on that in a later article….

Debby Myers
Honestly, from the time I decided to be a director, I learned that my work isn’t done until the curtain closes on the final performance. It begins with ordering and reading through scripts, then choosing a script and reading it many more times. This helps me develop a vision of the playwright’s intentions and how I can bring the script to life – my own interpretation. This sense of “what the play is really about” will shape my thoughts about every other aspect of the production. I then go into the process of investigating royalties and script costs and putting together a budget for the show to present to the Board of Directors and membership for approval. I’ll talk to you about a BIG royalty mishap in the next article…

Once I feel like I know the play inside and out, it’s time to set audition dates to
Debby Myers, Brandi Murphy, Jo Hayes, Anne Loy
cast the show. I study the characters in the script – their intended physical and psychological traits. However, for me, they are just a guideline. With most play scripts, as long as you don’t change the words, you CAN change the characters. Sometimes a male role must be converted to a female or ages must be adjusted to fit those who audition. I select the actors who are best able to bring the characters to life in my vision, even if it’s not the obvious choice to others. I enlist three other experienced directors to be at auditions and give their opinions. Something to know about me is that I am willing to take a chance on someone new to acting. In community theater, the more we increase our members and keep them involved, the more likely they will stay. I let everyone know that the final casting choice will be mine. I have a great story about…oh…next article.

Once the show is cast, I begin scheduling the rehearsals, often to fit the needs of the cast as well as my own. It’s also important to select a crew before casting. All shows require set builders and designers, lighting and sound technicians, a prop person to gather items, a costumer to find and alter costumes as needed, a stage manager, and an assistant director. Surrounding myself with these critical pieces of my production gives me peace of mind to begin to direct. I’ve been brutal a few times when I didn’t…you’ll love this--in the next article.

Blocking the play by adapting the actor’s movements to workable floor plans on the set is my next step. Although most scripts have stage directions I have to determine if they are feasible on our stage. Leading rehearsals, I’ve learned to collaborate creatively with the actors and the technical crew to make the blocking natural, changing it when necessary and allowing the inspiration of the actors themselves. Blocking the show takes up half of my total rehearsal time. Finally, I strongly suggest the actors write their blocking in their scripts to save time later. I have the nickname in our group of “Blocking Nazi”….next article…haha!

Actors draw out character motivations and relationships under my watchful eye because ultimately I make the decisions. I strive to develop these expressions and characters as rehearsals continue. It’s important to me to have excellent communication through notes taken during the rehearsals for each individual actor as well as the group. I always set a deadline for being “off book.” Most often this is two weeks from opening night. There was one time I broke my own rule…next article.

There are many details that I handle behind the scenes. Gathering information from the actors for the show’s program, taking photographs to use for publicity and scheduling media, working closely with the crew as well as with hospitality and tickets. At Ole Olsen, we also seek out a sponsor for each of our productions and I feel like I should be a part of that solicitation.
Debby Myers on set
Something we directors often joke about is becoming “fetal” about a week before opening night. This is when we begin to wonder if we’ve succeeded or failed. Tweaking characters and movements begins to feel like treading water. It’s when I invite in other directors for approval. Of course, there was one time I didn’t like what they told me….next article.

Finally, I must write a “Letter from the Director” for the program and put together a curtain speech and a curtain call. I’m not finished with my work until I feel that pace during the final dress rehearsals and see my vision coming alive – it’s satisfying. I bring together the many complex pieces of a production—the script, actors, set, costuming, lighting, sound, and even all the little stuff —into a unified whole because I love it. For me, as a seasoned director, it’s also often just the reaction of those watching the play that completes me. No matter how much hard work is involved, it’s the finished product that always makes me beam with pride. Not just in myself, but in the whole village it takes to make small town community theater so special, and sometimes unpredictable! Join me for the more mishaps I’ve had as a director if Liz will have me back…next article!