Friday, August 18, 2017

All about me...

Well, not really about me, but about my December book. I don't usually do book stuff (much) on this blog, but since I never got a regular post put up, I'm doing what can be viewed as...well, as a commercial. Only I don't have a fast-forward on here, so you may as well just go get a sandwich.

Anyway, here is the cover of The Happiness Pact. It will be out December 5, but is available for pre-order everywhere. I'll put some links down there below the blurb and if you want to order from all of them, feel free!

Thanks for coming by and for your interest in the Window.


Tucker Llewellyn and Libby Worth—strictly platonic!—realize they're each at a crossroads. Tucker is successful, but he wants a wife and kids: the whole package. Libby knows that small-town life has her set in her ways; the tearoom owner needs to get out more. 

So they form a pact: Libby will play matchmaker and Tucker will lead her on the adventure she desperately needs. But the electricity Libby feels when they shake on it should be a warning sign. Soon the matchmaking mishaps pile up, and a personal crisis tests Libby's limits. Will Tucker be there for her as a best friend…or something more?

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Kobo

Harlequin


Friday, August 11, 2017

Are we there yet?

Although I couldn't find it when I went looking for it, I remember the column I wrote about "random" drug testing. It was sometime in the early 90s. Imagine my surprise when I saw by an editorial in July 28's Peru Tribune that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is my response. In order to be fair, I also sent it to the Tribune for them to address--or not--how they chose.






On July 28, reading the Peru Tribune, I was pleased to see an article about Ole Olsen’s Children’s Theatre’s production of The Tempest. I was glad to see Maconaquah’s projects being reported on. Police Chief Mike Meeks gave an informative interview about Narcan. I even liked the headline on the op-ed page that proclaimed, “Schools need to step up.” Because where kids are concerned, of course schools need to step up. As do parents. Churches. Politicians. The kids themselves.
          But then I read this one phrase in the editorial, the one that said, “…strongly considering adopting drug testing for high school juniors and seniors involved in extracurricular activities as well as students who drive themselves to school.” Is this then the stepping up the Tribune is referring to?
          When my kids were in school in the 90s, there was a lot of talk of random drug testing among student athletes. I don’t know if it was ever implemented, because my kids graduated and my mind moved on to other things, but I do recall writing a column that questioned the randomness of only testing student athletes. I didn’t understand then—and still don’t—what was random about that. What about student musicians, student librarians, and the students who skip school as often as they attend? Was there no possibility, no matter how remote, that any of them might be using as many illegal drugs as the athletes?
          So, here we are 25 years after my indignant column, and the definition of “random” apparently hasn’t changed a bit. Students who do not join extracurricular activities--which I always thought we encouraged, didn’t we?—and those who don’t or can’t drive themselves to school are evidently drug-free.
          Now, I admit I’m a little out of it as far as kids go. Well, maybe a lot out of it, but I still don’t understand the picking and choosing. I have no problem with drug testing, as long as it starts with the administrators and works its way down through the faculty to the student body. I truly doubt it will do any good, but I’m usually happy with proactive things. Of course, I’d be happy if the schools’ stepping up had more to do with curricula, better teacher salaries, and making sure no kid ever went home hungry. Or, wait, maybe just the band kids and the ones who wear green T-shirts could go home hungry. Yeah, just random ones. That’s it. 
          Our prompt at this month's writers' group meeting was "are we there yet?" I didn't have to explain at all what this essay had to do with the prompt. Twenty-five years after such total inequality was encouraged, it’s being encouraged yet again. It makes me think of prior to 2008, when I thought racism was…well, not a thing of the past, but better. It reminds me, loud and clear, that no, we’re not nearly there yet. And that we must not give up until we are.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Let's talk about reading...

This is from 2010, when I got my first Kindle. I'm on my second one, now. It's smaller, lighter, and has hundreds of books on it. Sadly enough, there are a lot of them I haven't read. The free-book phenomenon struck soon after e-readers started gaining in popularity, and to borrow a phrase from a couple of movies and an old talk show, "They're everywhere! They're everywhere!" It isn't a credit to me that a writer has only about a chapter and a half to capture my attention, but it's true. I still miss brick-and-mortar bookstores. I miss the textures, the smell, and talking to other people in the aisles. Books-A-Million is still alive and well in Kokomo, but that's 35 miles one way and it doesn't feel the same as bookstores used to--can't explain that, but it's true.

So, anyway, do you have an e-reader or are you strictly paper and ink? Either way, happy reading.

I have a Kindle! I put it off for a long while because of how much I love the feel, scent, and sight of a paper-and-ink book in my hands. But then one of my girls, Tahne, got one. And she loved it. A friend got a Nook. And she loved it. I looked at the mountains of books lying on nearly every flat surface in my house, not to mention the bookshelves. And I didn't love it. It was time, I decided. Oh, yes! said the roommate, who has no appreciation for the number of books I have...everywhere. But, I argued, I didn't want to spend the money. I'll buy it for you, said the roommate. He really has no appreciation. So I said okay.

I ordered it, it came, and I looked at it for a couple of days. "I don't know what to buy," I said, "without running my fingers over the spines, looking at the covers, and reading the blurbs."

You can do that with the Kindle, except for the spine part. But it's different. Way different. So I bought my own book. Boom! In about a minute, there it was: The Debutante's Second Chance.
Wow.

But I didn't, you know, want to read it. I needed to buy something to read.

A friend, Janet Dean, had a new book out--The Substitute Bride. So I bought it for the Kindle. Boom! It's a mail-order-bride story, a good one, and it was fun to read. No, it was a lot of fun to read. I took my time over it, relished it, loved every word.


I was heartbroken last year when the only bookstore close enough for me to go to closed (I won't go to Waldenbooks anymore, but that's a whole 'nother story) and I had to buy most of my books at Walmart or the grocery store. Or else I ordered them from Amazon and waited.

Did I mention Boom!

Since getting the Kindle, I've read Robyn Carr's new one, a lovely one by Marta Perry, The Five Little Peppers Grown Up (yes, really), and then, once again, I was stumped. So I bought one by Jenny Crusie, an old one I thought I might have missed. The Cinderella Deal.

Yes, I had missed it. And it's lovely. One of her very best and very funniest, and I'm taking my time over it, relishing it, loving every word. I didn't feel the spine, can't smell the paper-and-ink, but you know what? I can still laugh out loud at the humor and feel the tenderness slipping along my arms.

Walking through the house, I passed a flat surface without a stack of books on it.

It was dusty.

Oh, no, what have I done?
***
On to 2017 - While I'm here, I want to invite you to come to the Logansport, Indiana library tomorrow, August 5, at 2:00  to talk to Nan Reinhardt, Cheryl Brooks, Kathi Thompson, and me about writing. We'll have books to sell and sign, but mostly we just like conversation. Come and join us!


Friday, July 28, 2017

About Singing Trees...and Gilead

This is from June of 2010. My fourth book was getting set to come out and I was so excited. Ten or so later, I still get that excited with every release. Home to Singing Trees was and is still special to me. I think my writing's grown up some, but I still love that every inch of this book was placed in or around Gilead, where I grew up. (Five whole miles from where I live now!) While I played fast and loose with names and businesses, I used ones I found in research or see in church every Sunday or heard when the roll was called in elementary school. Sarah Williamson McKissick was my great-grandmother, but it wasn't her story I told.

The book is still a favorite. It's still available--how was that for a commercial?--and finding this brought back some memories. It was the first time I was ever invited to do a post on a guest blog and, once again, I was so excited. The blog, Prairie Chicks, is no longer active, although many of its founders are still writing. It seems to be what we do.


Despite an alarming tendency toward prudishness and an inability to drop the f-bomb unless I’m truly, truly ticked off, I am a fairly modern woman. Back in the 60s, I’d have been first in line to burn my bra if anyone had asked me. When Helen Reddy sang, “I am woman, hear me roar,” it was me she was singing to.

Although I liked reading about the 1800s, I never wanted to live then. Those long dress and multi-petticoats wrapping around a woman’s legs no matter what she was doing, not to mention that she did virtually everything only to be told every time she turned around where “her place” was—well, I just wasn’t having any of that, thank you very much.

When, after reading hundreds of romances (sound familiar?) I made the blithe decision that, hey, I could probably do that (sound even more familiar?) it was to contemporary I turned. Three published—and more unpublished ones than I care to talk about—books later, I still love contemporary. Even more than that I love Women’s Fiction. So much I capitalize it when I write the words.

But one day I was at the family farm where my brother and sister-in-law live and I looked at the concrete steps that led down to a flattened area in the hilly lawn. The flat space was where the interurban train that ran between the small towns in the community used to go right through the yard.

And I thought...hmmm….

It would be fun, maybe, to write a story about the building of the interurban. So I went to the library. Many sunlight-deprived hours later, I had a story. I found the germ of it in The 1877 History of Miami County and went on from there. It had nothing to do with the interurban, but I didn’t care. It captured my imagination and my heart and the tips of my typing fingers and before I knew it, Home to Singing Trees was born.




Liam and Sarah’s story is about second chances for two people who richly deserve them. It’s about families and working together and overcoming things you think just can’t be overcome. It will be released by Wild Rose Press on October 15 (it will be in both electronic and print formats, but the date on print is tentative) and I am so excited. Here is a teaser of an excerpt—there should be a graceful way to segue to that, but I haven’t found it yet!

He felt the warmth of her skin through the thin fabric of her shirtwaist, and the scent of roses was even stronger when she was in his arms. Her curly hair tickled his nose, and he brushed it away, allowing his hand to linger on the silky tresses.

She is so soft, and it’s been so long since I’ve felt this kind of softness, or even wanted to.
When she finally drew away, he was reluctant to let her go, sorry for the space she placed between them on the wooden step.

“Is it all right,” he asked, “that I call you Sarah?”

With that question, he felt her withdrawal become not only physical but mental and emotional as well.

“Of course,” she said, her voice colorless. “You are my employer, after all.”

Liam was struck with the abrupt and unsettling realization that being Sarah Mary Williamson’s employer wasn’t enough. He didn’t know what else he could be; even in the wilds of Indiana, employers and servants didn’t marry, and the liaisons they did enjoy were hardly the kind he would ask of Sarah.

Maybe, he speculated, they could be friends. He had other female friends, like Amy Waite, the daughter of Gilead’s most prosperous merchant and the teacher of the lower grades at the school. And there was Sue Anne Klein, who had come to visit her aunt and uncle, the Shoemakers. Only Sue Anne wanted to be more than friends.

He looked at Sarah’s hazy profile in the darkness, at the set of her firm chin and broad shoulders and remembered that she hadn’t felt firm or broad at all in his arms.

Friends?

It would do.


For starters.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Class reunion

I happened on this from 2008 and thought I'd wait until next year to use it again, because next year it will be 50 years since we walked down the sides of the gym floor and graduated. However, there's much talk among friends and family about class reunions right now. I hope you have as much fun at your reunions as we do, that you manage to leave cliques and hurt feelings behind with the big hair and wearing dresses to school no matter how cold it is.

Our class has an annual party now, coming up in August. See you then, Class of '68.



We all thought we'd change the world with our great work and deeds. - from "Class of '57" 


It was my high school class reunion. My 40th--yikes! About 70 of us, including 42 classmates from the original 92, met at the local museum (Would that be the museum of ancient history? asked my daughter Kari), where we ate and drank and talked and talked and talked. (Actually, if you want to see where we met, it's here www.miamicountymuseum.com)

I was not a mover or a shaker in North Miami High School's class of '68. I was more of a sitter and talker. But 40 years after the fact, when most of us are a little heavier and a lot grayer--well, some are grayer; many use a lot more hair color, myself included--it doesn't really matter who moved and shook and who didn't. It was just fun to see each other and finish each other's sentences because even though our lives have gone off in a starburst of directions, our beginnings were the same.

The subject matter of conversations was different than it used to be. We used to talk about our kids and now we talk about their kids. We used to talk about beginning new jobs and now we talk about winding down the ones we've had for a long time. Many of of have retired. Many more of us are thinking about it. What will you do? we ask each other, and we are pleased that no one plans to be bored or go quietly into that good night. We made noise and had sometimes raucous fun when we were young and I believe we intend to continue that into our old age. With somewhat less agility, of course.


Do you still write? people asked me. And I shrugged and mumbled and said I didn't know if I really did or not. But I do. Of course I do. Writing's like breathing to me, so I'll always do it. And I want to go to college--which I've never done--and volunteer at this place and that one. But I'm not sure, I told my friend Patty who has suffered such great pain in recent years and still looks wonderful, what I want to be when I grow up.

Some of us know. Nan is going to play more golf. Call me, I said. I'll go along and ride in the cart and drink. No one wants me to play golf--I'm godawful--but I'm a good rider-alonger and I'm fond of margaritas. You know, the frozen kind with very little booze but a lot of delicious slush. Marsha's going to play bridge. Jim's wife Becky, who is not a classmate but is funny and puts up with Jim :-), doesn't know what she's going to do, only that it will be whatever she wants. Many will travel more, will do more on ebay, will spend more time with the kids' kids.

And in five years, we'll meet again. Someone asked if our next gathering would be in the nursing home and Jeann said, No, probably the retirement center--the one after that will be in the nursing home. And that'll be fine. We'll talk and talk and talk and hug each other hello and goodbye and discuss what we want to be when we grow up just as we always have.

Wasn't it Dickens who started a story with, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times..." I'll cut that a little short in reference to the the class reunion. It was just the best of times.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Independence days

Believe it or not, this is a new entry to the Window Over the Sink. The word independence was a prompt at this month's writers' group meeting, and when I got to thinking of all it meant just to me...well, it was a lot. It made me think it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone and I'd love to know others' thoughts on it--so if you'd like to share, feel free. Other than that, thanks for coming by--have a great week. 

      I love the word Independence. It’s a strong word, like knowledge or excruciating or warrior. It elicits strong feelings in the same way as make my day, pilgrim—never mind that I’m mixing my cowboys--or adventure or love you, too.
          When I grew up, way back in the late middle of the last century, I craved
independence with a yearning I later saved for things like Marlboro Lights, longhorn cheese, and Pringles potato chips. I knew with no doubt whatsoever that somewhere out there in the land of jobs and no curfew and never again having to watch television was Independence.
          I was right. And I embraced it. I made every mistake an 18-year-old girl could think of to make and then some. I made decisions that changed my life forever in ways I could not have foreseen. I did every single thing I wanted to do—and then some.  Smoked way too many Marlboro Lights. Ate a lot of longhorn cheese on whatever crackers were available. Said love you, too to the wrong person more than once. I married the right one, and didn’t promise to obey. A good thing, too. An independent thing then.
          Independence as a young mother meant different things. It meant going to the bathroom by myself and sitting up late talking to girlfriends while our children slept. We were living lives we chose and loved, and we didn’t admit until much, much later how overwhelmed we were. We were working moms when it wasn’t popular, expected more emotional support from our husbands than our mothers ever would have dreamed of, and even expected help in the house in exchange for pumping our own gas and changing our own tires. These weren’t always things we got, you understand, but that didn’t stop us from expecting them. In turn, we got some Independence. Our own money, checking accounts, cars, and even credit. Later, we agreed, we would get some sleep and be able to go to the bathroom alone more often.
          As a “hear me roar” feminist, I was always proud to do my part at work—
and then some. I did my crying in the restroom, didn’t ask for help unless I was desperate, and didn’t flinch from hearing the language I still don’t like. It was hard occasionally, watching a few other women play the age-old game between the genders that meant they didn’t have to carry heavy objects or do unpleasant jobs. I’ll bet they didn’t know how to change their tires, either, but that could just be me being…you know, independent.
I was masterful, I can admit now in long retrospect, at cutting off my nose to spite my face. If I had it to do over again, perhaps I would…no, no, I wouldn’t. I would still do my best to not play the game, still cry in the restroom, still not ask for help unless there was absolutely no other way.  It was a legacy I owed to my daughter and daughters-in-law and granddaughters. It was how not having to play the good-old-boy game became much more common than it used to be.
Now, in my semi-retirement, independence has taken on yet other meanings. My husband’s and my at-home jobs have become more traditional. He mows. I cook. We both clean. Some. We make the bed together from opposite sides of its king size. We are at the life stage when, for the most part, we are only spectators at workplace, political, and relationship games. It's not that we no longer care; it's that we've learned our limits.
I will not deny that some things still hurt, that anger still scrapes along every nerve, that every now and then a regret will create an itch I can’t quite scratch. But—and here’s the good part—I know and sometimes even accept that which I cannot change. I know more than I want to about life’s costs, but also know the payoff it offers; that is, for every worst day, a lot more best ones will follow.
This, then, is Independence.



Friday, July 7, 2017

Endings and beginnings

This is from 1992, in the fall, I think, before the youngest left for college. I've learned a lot since then, about redefining myself, about how cool it is having adult children, about how right I was to look at endings as beginnings. I've always said that my favorite time is Now, and it's always been true. Still is. But it's fun to remember other favorite times.



“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” - Erma Bombeck

It's sneaking up on me. People have gone into therapy over it, gotten divorces because of it, lost or gained weight, started or stopped smoking--the list goes on and on. I'm pretty sure some movie star is going to write a bestseller about it, then an expert with initials after his name is going to write another one explaining the deep, hidden meaning of the first one.

Women have bought new wardrobes, changed their hair colors and even their professions because of it. Men have spent more time on golf courses and their jobs and their appearances because of it.

Are you curious yet?

What "it" is, of course, is "Empty Nest Syndrome." I'm not really sure if it should be quotation marked and capitalized like that, but since I'm the one facing it, at almost the same time as my 42nd birthday and in the same time period as wrecking my car and my annual trip to the gynecologist, I think it deserves big letters and quotation marks.

Laura Wray & Jock Flaherty in high school in the early 1990s. Now they've been married 19 years. 
For the first time in more than 22 years, I will not have to do laundry every day, cook enough for an army, or be the voice of authority. I won't have to share my shampoo, my package of razors, the only pieces of my wardrobe that are new, or the full-length mirror in my bedroom. A gallon of milk will last longer than the time it takes to open it, a box of cereal will make it to the cabinet shelf before it is decimated, and no one will eat all the middle pieces out of the brownie pan.

I will be able to take a shower without someone knocking on the bathroom door and saying, "Mom, are you about done?" I can lay a book down and find it in the same place when I go back to it. I can rent a three-Kleenex movie without anyone bagging over it. I can play Nintendo (note from 2017--remember this is 25 years ago, okay?) without anyone coaching me or beating me so badly I have to go to the kitchen and pout. I could, if having two children in college allowed me to have any money, spend it on myself without feeling guilty.

Whoopee.

It will be fun, in a way, my husband and I agree, to have the house to ourselves. We will, for the first time since we've lived here, have the biggest bedroom in the house as soon as our son moves out of it. We'll have better meals because the picky eaters will be being picky at school instead of at home. We'll be able to used the big thick towels instead of the little thin ones that are all that's left when everyone is home. We can both take classes or have dinner out if we like, without worrying about missing an important school function.

The possibilities are endless. Endings are something I'm not to fond of and I avoid them by looking at them as beginnings. That's what I'm going to do now, when the house is too empty and the phone is too quiet and being "Mom" is no long all-encompassing. Letting go of any child is hard, and I think letting go of the last-born is going to be the hardest of all. However, releasing the kid is allowing yourself to begin to know the young adult.

So I've decided I'm going to look forward to all the endless possibilities, to the beginnings. I am. Really.

Friday, June 30, 2017

"...out with the crowd..."

This is a springtime post and here we are in summer, but we drive by busy softball and baseball fields nearly every day. In the town closest to us, for instance--Denver, Indiana; population in the area of 500--there are two fields in the town park. Players range from knee-high to adult-size and the parking lot is always full-to-bursting. Kids are on the playground and conversations going on in the picnic pavilion. People are lined up for candy, drinks, and popcorn at the concession stand or up the street just a little piece, for ice cream, sandwiches, or pizza at D'Angelo's

There are a lot of things that epitomize rural and small-town living, and some of those things are hard to deal with. Conveniences are...well...inconvenient. The politics can be polarizing. We worry a lot about our public schools because they're small and they're in the cross-hairs of the guns of change. 

But these ball fields on sunny summer days, where "everybody knows your name" and, when it comes right down to it, everyone has everyone else's back--these are the essence of this life we've chosen here in North Central Nowhere. 

In baseball, there' s always the next day. - Ryne Sandberg

They're back.

I don’t mean spring flowers or myriad shades of green or much-needed rain or too much wind, though they’re here, too.  I’m talking about the boys and girls of summer who dot baseball diamonds and softball fields like the brightest flowers of all.

They all wear caps and they all chew massive wads of gum or something worse.  They swing their bats around above their heads and scuff up the dirt at the bases so they can get their uniform pants good and dirty.  Then they slide into base a few times to grind that dirt in so that it doesn’t ever come completely out.  That’s what they’re supposed to do; they’re ballplayers.

The players’ parents sit in the stands.  They eat popcorn and swig on Coca Cola and talk to each other about what they should be doing but can’t because Johnny has a game tonight and Jimmy has a game tomorrow night and Lucy plays on Friday nights and Sundays.  They really get tired of sitting at baseball games, they tell each other, but wait a minute!  Johnny’s up to bat.  The conversation changes, gets louder and more urgent.  Good swing.  Just get a piece of it.  You can do it.  Good eye, Johnny.  It’s okay, just do the best you can

But parents do more than talk at ballgames.  They knit, do paperwork, fall asleep in their cars if the day’s started too early and gone on too long.  They work in the concession stand and hand out ice packs and free drinks after the game.  They dig into their pockets when a kid really wants a Blow Pop but only has a nickel.  Then they go home and wash uniforms and talk about how glad they’ll be when it’s all over for the year and they’ll have time to do what the really should have been doing all along.

One summer, when my two sons were playing on separate leagues, I logged the number of baseball games I attended.  Forty-two.  That was 42 afternoons and evenings I could never get back.  Good heavens, I had kids in baseball for 13 years.  How many games was that?

To be honest, I do have some regrets about the raising of my kids.  I’m sorry I worried about how they wore their hair, that they wore high-tops with dress pants, that their rooms weren’t clean.  I’m sorry for the times I was unfair, the times I defended them when I shouldn’t have and didn’t when I should.  I wish I’d been a smarter parent and a better example.  I regret opportunities missed: when I should have shut up and listened or when I should have said encouraging words instead of their cruel opposite.

But I don’t regret any of those 42 evenings and afternoons a year sitting at baseball games.  Buying hot dogs and nachos for the family and calling it supper.  Washing uniforms and handing them back to the kids before they were completely dry because it was time to leave for the next game.  Talking and laughing with other parents and working in the concession stand when I’d already spent eight hours on my feet that day.  I’ve never once been sorry for calling Good eye, Just get a piece of it, Good job.

Life stays rich when your kids are grown.  You get to do things you haven’t done in far too long.  You can make travel arrangements for two, buy milk and bread once a week, and cook dinner with the surety no one’s going to say, “I don’t like that,” and eat Cheerios instead.  You can call your car your own, do laundry a couple of times a week instead of every day, and go for weeks on end without yelling, “turn that thing down,” even once.  You don’t have to share your makeup, the bathroom, or your clothes.  You can spend money on yourself without lying awake suffering from guilt.  No doubt about it; it’s nice.

But sometimes it’s too quiet.  Sometimes there’s too much alone time.  Sometimes you’d like to sit on bleachers and yell Good swing,  Just do your best.  Because those are words you never regret saying and your kids always need to hear.

And because when it’s over, when the fat lady of parenthood sings, neither baseball nor summer are ever the same again.

Enjoy every minute.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Say yes to mammograms...

This was written in 2009. I know there's not that much to it and that it's not Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it is my month to make my appointment. And, truth to tell, I remember every month of my life that my mom died from breast cancer. And I remember every month of my life that my friends Dottie Eberle and Inge Pitman left us way too soon because of breast cancer. 

I also have friends who have survived. As much as in memory of the losses I mentioned above, I'm posting this--and urging you to make your appointment--in celebration of their wellness.


Okay, I know this is pink. I know it looks dumb on this blog, but, hey...we're talking about breasts here. Boobs. Jugs. Tatas. Other euph--I've forgotten how to spell that word--that are even less elegant. And we're talking about breast cancer. You know, that nasty disease represented by that ribbon over there?

We've got some "experts" saying don't bother with mammograms, don't examine yourself. I'd venture to say most of them have not buried their mothers or sisters or daughters. Most of them don't know and celebrate the survivors the way those of us do who knew and loved women who didn't survive.

So make the appointment, okay? And make the jokes and maybe go out for lunch afterwards, preferably a lunch where you laugh a lot and get a little loud and drink a toast to yourself because you've done something for yourself today. Maybe your husband or partner or your kids will make the toast--because you've done something for them, too.


Friday, June 16, 2017

"Don't miss it--don't even be late."

Next week is fair week here in Miami County. It's a lot different from when I was a kid. It's way earlier, for one thing. Smaller. The rides are...I don't know--less? I volunteer out there now, as a member of Extension Homemakers, but we didn't go for a long time. Until this year back in the 90s...




Last night my husband and I went to the fair. We didn't get there until about eight o'clock. We were going to get something to eat, take a quick run around the exhibits, and be home in an hour and a half or so.

After all, we said, the fair Isn't What It Used To Be. We don't ride on the rides anymore, or play the games offered on the midway. Since our kids are all out of school, we can't even look up many of their friends 4-H exhibits anymore. It's just not the same.

When I was a little kid, a hundred or so years ago, the fair took place during the week of my birthday. On one day during the week, not necessarily my birthday, my mother would work in one of the the food places at the fair and I would take my birthday money and run wild until she came and found me and told me we had to go home.

I never got to run wild very often, so I always took full advantage of it. I picked up duckies and won wonderful little bamboo canes. I laid nickels on numbers and went fishing with the little crane and threw more nickels at shell-shocked goldfish. One year, I talked one of my brothers into taking me on the Bullet--I was scared to death to go by myself--and I lost all my money while I was on it and a whole bunch of cotton candy and caramel corn as soon as I stumbled away from it a couple of traumatic minutes later.


It was probably a good ten years before I braved the Bullet again, and then only after I'd left all my worldly goods with someone intelligent enough to remain on the ground and before I'd had time to eat anything I stood a good chance of losing the hard way.

The fair remained wonderful through my teenage years. There was nothing more romantic than smooching with someone on top of the Ferris wheel or toting home a hideous teddy bear won for you by someone. Another side to that romantic thing was fighting with someone while you were there and having to ride home with your girlfriends while you cried and said you never wanted to see him again. Ever. (Note from 2017. If this happened, I don't remember it. That's either a sign my memory's truly gone or indicative it wasn't all that serious of a relationship.) 

But then things kind of changed. The only time we went to the fair was on family day when the rides wouldn't entirely break the bank and the only ones who rode were our kids. Except for when their dad rode the Bullet with them while I held everyone's money and a good supply of wet paper towels.

Pretty soon the kids were going to the fair without us. We would manage to go out one night to eat pork chops and do a quick run through the exhibits and get home in an hour and a half. All the way home, I would complain that It Just Wasn't What It Used To Be.

Until last night.

When we spent some quality time talking to people we hadn't seen in years and remembered how much we miss them.

When I stuffed myself with a tenderloin the size of a dinner plate that tasted just as wonderful as they did that hundred years or so ago I mentioned up there.

When we walked, not ran, through the exhibits and marveled at the talent and hard work of those doing the exhibiting. When we looked up our favorite 4-H members' entries and crowed proudly at their blue ribbons.

When we strolled through the midway and smiled at laughing babies in strollers and their excited siblings on the rides. Their parents waited patiently and tiredly with the strollers, talking to others doing the same, and we knew what they were saying. "The fair just isn't the same anymore."

When we sat in hard chairs in a big tent and watched dozens of cloggers doing their thing. The noise form their shoes was deafening. And rhythmic. And pretty-sounding. The bobbing black ponytail in the front row was captivating, nearly as much so as the smile on the face of the ponytail owner.

Exhibits. Smiling cloggers. Laughing babies. Good friends. Good food.

Maybe the fair's not the same anymore. But it's still the fair. I hope you don't miss it.

Thanks for coming by. Here's the website for the fair. I hope you go and have a good time. And eat a tenderloin. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

1993 to 2017 - some things stay the same...

This is from sometime in 1993. The green carpet's long gone. A flower bed is where the hydrant used to be. Chris's feet eventually stopped growing. There are things I wrote back then that I look at and say, "What was I thinking?" But then there are others like this one, when I actually got it right. Thanks for stopping by. Don't sweat the grape juice.


Close your eyes
Listen to the skies
All is calm, all is well
- Roger Miller


There's this spot in our back yard near the porch. It's a rectangle, about four feet by ten feet or so. The grass grows really thick and nice there, probably because the hydrant, with the garden hose hanging from it, is there, too, and our garden hoses always leak.

It didn't used to look like that. It used to be all dirt--or mud, depending on if anyone was using the hose--and littered with Tonka trucks and little green army men and Weebles and Fisher-Price people. There was usually a filthy little boy sitting in the middle of it. It drove me crazy.

So now there's no more mud, and the filthy little boy is 19 and in college and a lot bigger than I am. Like I said, the grass grows thick and nice there.

I hate it.

Several years back, some of my in-laws were coming for a weekend visit. They were coming on Saturday morning. Well, there was a basketball game on Friday night and my husband and I both had to work Saturday morning. To make a long story short, the house was a disaster from top to bottom and there was no time to clean it. So I cringed and worried and left a note for my kids when I left for work on Saturday morning. "Please," I wrote, "just mow a path through the living room."

As kids often do, they surprised me. When I got home, you could smell the Pine-Sol from the back yard. They gave me a guided tour of all they'd done.

"We swept and dusted and made beds," they said, gesturing at all the splendor. "Here are the dishes done, the stove wiped off, the grape juices spilled on the carpet, all the newspapers picked up."

Grape juice on the carpet? I picked up on that right away. Sure enough, right in the middle of the doorway between the kitchen and living room was a splattery purple spot on the green carpet. It was not, need I tell you, a pretty combination.

"Oh, well, get me a rag," I said. "It's a new stain. It'll come up."

"No, Mom. We tried."

"You just need to use a little elbow grease," I argued.

"It won't come up, Mom."

It wouldn't.

Until we cut that carpet away last year to enlarge the kitchen, we had a purple-on-green spot that leaped out at me as soon as I entered the room. I noticed it every time and it never bothered me the least bit. Because when I saw the purple spot, I remembered how hard the kids had worked that morning.

It more than equaled out.

The first time our older son went to basketball camp, since his feet were growing
at the rate of a full size every couple of days--at least, that's what it seemed like--I bought him a new pair of basketball shoes. They were really, really cheap, but they looked just like the ones that cost a whole lot. With what camp cost, I explained to Chris, there was no way we could buy expensive shoes, too. No problem, he lied. When he came home a week later, his feet were raw and bleeding where they had blistered and re-blistered.

A few years later, I was bemoaning our financial status when Chris walked through the room wearing his basketball shoes, ones that had cost that "whole lot" I mentioned above. Duane pointed at his feet. "There it goes," he said. "Do you really mind that?"

Well, no. No, I didn't mind.

When your kids grow up, which they do really fast no matter how you try to slow the process, sometimes people express envy that you have your child-raising days behind you. If only for the purpose of making you feel wise, they ask for your advice. You try to abstain from giving that advice, because no two children are alike, so you can't treat them as if they are.

But I can say this much. Buy them good shoes so they'll grow straight and sturdy. Let them play in mud so they'll learn about building up and tearing down. And most of all, whatever you do, don't sweat the grape juice.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Once upon a time...

This was from August of 1994. The grandparents I wrote about here were born in 1869 and 1873, which sounds incredible to me now. It makes me wish I'd asked a lot more questions and written a lot more down.

Have I ever told you about my grandmother? Well, that's a silly question, when I already know I haven't, but it was a good way to give you a clue I'm going to tell you about her now.

Her name was Elvira Pontius Shafer. She died in 1957 at the age of 84. I wore
Photo by Annette Wise
my favorite blue and white dress to the funeral and sat next to my cousin Ronnie and had to be really quiet for a long time, even longer than if I'd gone to school that day.

She used to sit in her kitchen and drink coffee out of a big white cup with a long crack down the side. I asked her why she always used that cup and she said it was to save the good ones for company. Evenings, she would sit in a small rocking chair near the stove in the living room and take down her long white hair and brush it while talk and noise went on around her. She never paid any attention to me and I was pretty sure she didn't like me.

That's all I remember.

Photo by Annette Wise
But I know she and my grandfather, William Washington Shafer, had two stillborn babies and that those babies were buried in the garden. "How could they?" I demanded of the person who told the story. "How could they have done something like that? We're talking babies here, not goldfish." I don't remember the answer, but years later, my sister Nancy told me how much time Elvira had spent in her rose garden. Alone.

When Amy, Elvira and William's firstborn child, was 23, she became a statistic in the influenza epidemic of 1918. Amy was buried in the cemetery, not the garden, but I'm sure Grandma grieved for her out there with her roses.

One time when Elvira was pregnant, which she was at least 10 times, a fire broke out in the house. According to pictures and to my memory, Elvira was a skinny little thing, but when the fire erupted, she picked up the sewing machine and carried it downstairs and out of the house. In those days, sewing machines were big things in heavy wooden cabinets with a treadle attached underneath. We have one of them sitting in the hallway downstairs. I, who haven't been pregnant in 20 years and who am by no one's measure a skinny little thing, can lift one end of it.

I know that when William went blind and spent most of the rest of his days on the couch in front of the big living room window, it didn't make any difference to her. They still laughed and had a good time until he died in 1952, when they'd been married something like 58 years.

That's what I know about my grandmother. It's not much, but I'm glad I know it. I'm glad I listened when aunts told stories in my hearing. What I know has taught me a couple of things that I'm sure she never intended. One, that I hope none of my grandkids ever think for one tiny minute that I don't like them. Two, that I never save anything for company, because there's no one more important than family.

Talking about Elvira makes me think of my roots, something I never gave much thought until recently. It makes me wonder if she's the reason I think it's so very important for women to be strong--like she was. Strong enough to survive the most grievous emotional assaults and still laugh with the man she loved. Strong enough to carry a sewing machine down the stairs.

So, if you get a chance, take a long hard look at the pages of your past. Listen to the stories told by those who remember things you can't. Then tell the stories again so that they live on. Tales of the past embroider the fabric of our lives today and lend them a little richness they wouldn't have had otherwise.

Thanks for listening. Pass it on.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summertime, and the livin' is...busy @Liz Flaherty

This was written in June of 2008. It makes me realize that often, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm still reading Kathy Seidel and Pam Morsi books (although they don't write nearly fast enough to suit me), still spending family time where I can, and still hanging hummingbird feeders with hope every spring. But the grandkids are growing up way too fast and the days are still too short.





...you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky...
from "Summertime" by Heyward, Gershwin & Gershwin

Someone mentioned that I don't blog much, and she was right. I'm sorry, I moaned back, but the 24 hour days just aren't long enough anymore. And they're not. I'm just so tired all the time, I whined to a friend recently, and she said yes, everyone is. We are.

I remember summers of going to 40-some baseball games when my sons played on two different leagues. I remember the summer I sewed dresses for two flower girls, four bridesmaids, and my daughter the bride. I remember when we had a garden the size of--oh, I don't know, but it was way too big. If memory serves, there were only 24 hours in a day then, too, but somehow they lasted longer.

Well, complaining aside, it's a nice summer here in North Central Nowhere. The days are lovely and warm and the nights are lovely and cool.

I saw Mari, my oldest granddaughter, graduate from high school. I sniffled through the whole thing and I am so proud of her.

My daughter Kari and I went to Shipshewana, Indiana to the biggest flea market I've ever seen. We walked around until my feet were falling off, but I got two sets of sheets and we ate some truly excellent chicken and noodles for lunch.

My third grandson, Connor, played T-ball this summer. He played for the Yankees, and my husband said the Yankees were a big team from New York. Connor gave him a disapproving look and said No, they were from kindergarten.

I hung hummingbird feeders on the front porch as I always do, and was disappointed not to draw the usual crowd of the little birds. Until I realized we'd drawn another crowd. Two pairs of orioles feasted on hummingbird nectar for several weeks. They left as suddenly as they'd come.

Deer congregate in our three-acre yard. They drink water from the low spot and chomp on whatever deer chomp on. (Last year it was two new trees; they apparently don't like the ones we planted this year.) We sit on the back porch and watch them. They stare up at us once in a while, then go back to whatever they were doing.

Oops, I need to throw a reading commercial in here. Kathleen Gilles Seidel's Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige is a splendid addition to the keeper shelf. Likewise Pamela Morsi's Last Dance at the Jitterbug Lounge.

As I read this, it seems as though I'm spending these summer days watching life rather than participating in it. And maybe I am. But I'm enjoying it, every single too-short day of it, no matter how much I complain.

I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Will you still need me... @Liz Flaherty

This is only 10 years old, downright new in the scheme of things for this reopened Window. But now I'm 66, even more than the song says.

And it's still exciting.
Me at 64--I'm sure I look even better now!

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four..." - Lennon / McCartney


It was exciting when I was six. I got a doll for Christmas and a new red wagon for my birthday. My sister worked at a department store and bought me cool clothes and married the mysterious stranger who would raise my brother count to four. A huge limb came through a kitchen window during a storm and I climbed my brother Joe like a tree, knowing beyond all doubt that I was going to be taken care of.

Sixteen was exciting, too. I was able to date as soon as someone asked me and I could drive a car on the road instead of in the back pasture. I could wear makeup as long as my mother wasn’t paying a lot of attention, and every now and then I used swear words in public. I’d already witnessed that long, sad weekend when President Kennedy was shot, and the even sadder one — for me  when my grandfather died, so I knew by then that my brother couldn’t keep me safe anymore.  
  
I loved being 26. I was done having babies and we were buying our own house. Vietnam was finally over and I could vote and even drink if I wanted to. My oldest son started playing baseball and what fun that wasI had no idea I’d be spending the next 12 or so summers on bleachers. It was an exciting time.

It wasn’t long till I was 36, ten years into my bleacher time, and I was getting wrinkles. My kids were in varying stages of adolescence and my hair was getting really, really gray. At least, I think it was; I’ve never let the roots get long enough to be sure. It was the best of times, being young enough to get up and down without groaning but old enough to try and talk someone else into doing it for me.

Fifteen minutes later, I was 46. I was catching onto having grandchildren, using a computer, and cooking in one-quart saucepans. My husband and I rediscovered ourselves as a couple and found out we canceled each other out in the voting booth. I discovered Walmart and he discovered golf and the grandkids found out just how easy it is to run over both of us. We started making a lot of age jokes even though they’re not all that funny anymore and the veins in my legs took on a spidery look. And it was exciting, being a couple again, with no one in the back seat criticizing our driving.

And in the blink of an eye, it’s 2007 and I’m 56. I remember my mom being 56 and she was a whole lot older than I am, a phenomenon I haven’t quite figured out. My veins are worse, but I don’t care, and we’re not even going to talk about my roots. 

We’ve seen more horror in the past few years than any of us can bear to think about. More than we can begin to understand. There are more things in life to create anger than I can remember there being before: terrorism, gas prices, politics, greed, “not my job, man,” and the cost of prescription medicine, to name but a few. I catch myself saying, “It wasn’t like that when I was your age,” because ... well, because it wasn’t.

But you know what? It doesn’t help a thing for me to wax nostalgic about what once was. It doesn’t bring back good service, reasonable prices, or kindness. Like the generations before us, we’ve made a bunch .. .oh, good grief, a huge bunch ... of mistakes that our kids and grandkids have to clean up after. When I was your age, we were messing up the air big time then because we didn’t know any better. But you do. Littering was rude and inconsiderate; now it’s downright dangerous.

And there are things that have stayed the same. Although cherry cokes and ice cream cones cost a lot less when I was a kid, they tasted just the same. Pizza is just as sinfully good now as it was then, even if you eat it cold the next day. Hot dogs and hamburgers still taste special when they’re cooked on the grill and there’s not much that’s better than a burned-to-a-crisp marshmallow. 

Oh, and then there are the things that are better. My car was seven years old and had 165,000 miles on it when I got a new one, and we kept the old one because there was nothing wrong with it! I don’t remember cars lasting that well when I was young. And this computer, while it does have its tantrums, is so much easier to deal with than a typewriter. My oven cleans itself and I have a machine that washes the dishes. Oh, yes, much better.  
 
So, like I said, I’m 56. And you know what? It’s fun. Healthy days are not things you take for granted and sunshine is a joy that fills your soul, not just your eyes. Grandkids are the reward you get for having done something right with their parents, and if you don’t have any of your own, it’s perfectly all right to borrow someone else’s. 

We’ve just passed New Year’s, so spring will be coming up soon. Days will be longer, grass green and new, and the sky even bluer than we remember it from last year. Flowers and children will cover the landscape with bright colors and sweetness. We’ll eat ice cream and strawberries still warm from the sun and we’ll hold close the beauty of springtime graduates and early summer brides. I’m 56. And it’s exciting.

Till next time.