Friday, March 23, 2018

Let It Go

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

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

Which leads me to other things.

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

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

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

Amazing Grace and Mondays

I wrote this on a Monday two years ago when I was deep in grief and looking for a way out. I'm glad to have found it for today because this has been a difficult week. Too much sadness and worry and heartache for one little set of days. So...yes, I'm glad I found it. I hope you have a great week.

This past week was springy. We've had warmth, rain, wind, and--here and there but not here--fog. The birds are everywhere, flashing flirtatious bright red wings and calling their spring congregants to order in raucous, cheerful voices. My cats, both of them reluctant outdoor residents, leave clumps of winter coat behind when they rub up against the bark of trees. Duane and I pick up hundreds of cottonwood twigs in the yard and grumble about it all the time we sniff greedily at the scent of spring and new beginnings.

I've walked the Nickel Plate a few times, building back up to where two miles won't leave me gasping and leaning forward with my hands on my knees. I didn't exercise all winter, and have yoyo-ed up 20-some pounds in the absence of motion. Does anyone else do this? It's nearly an annual thing for me, I'm not proud to admit.

Also this week, I got a little of my voice back. Silenced by the stress and grief of the illness and loss of my mother-in-law, I hadn't written a word beyond lists petitioning myself to buy eggs and milk in several weeks. This week I wrote a paragraph, then a few, then a couple of pages. I have, however, choked and stumbled over emotion. It's always one of my favorite parts of writing, but when I can't get past my own feelings to experience someone else's, I can't articulate it, either.

My grandsons are in the yard, picking up more sticks--cottonwoods are amazingly prolific with what they give up to the wind--and here is more emotion; there is little in life more fulfilling than being a grandparent. I've heard "Amazing Grace" a dozen times this week and accepted the comfort it offers, but it also opens up more feelings, releases more tears. Yesterday I wanted to call Mom and ask her when to put out the hummingbird feeders and realized I couldn't this year. That hurt.

In Anne of Avonlea, L. M. Montgomery says, “That is one good thing about this world...there are always sure to be more springs.” Along with those springs, even the false ones like this past week, comes depth of feeling that, like the reawakening of the earth, is revitalized each year. I have been this emotional in spring before, when kids and grandkids were born, when our sons married, when Duane and I married, at graduations. Each year, I am amazed.

I will forget by next year how this spring has been. I will be used to Mom being gone. I won't remember how the grandboys look in the yard with the tractor. I will have to be shown again, hear again, feel and see again, the "Amazing Grace" in each day.

Soon this spring, Monday glee I learned from my writer friend Holly Jacobs will be back and I won't quite remember how still and empty these past few Mondays have been, when even if the weather promised spring, winter resided dark and lonely in my heart. Eventually, when the ache lessens, I'll get more of my voice back. The grass will be greener, the sky more blue, the sticks picked up until the wind blows again. There will be kids on ball fields, tractors in fields, music on the air. We will remember that laughter is the blessed breath of life.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Keeping love alive...

This isn't old at all. It was first published in The Pink Heart Society in February of 2018. I suppose it's lazy, in a way, using it so soon, but I think the audiences are different--listen to me! Like I have a multitude of audiences!--and I also believe the subject is important to most of us. It doesn't have to be about marriage. It can be about friendship or family ties. The hard parts of those relationships have different titles, but they're hard parts nonetheless. Have a great week, and thanks for reading.

"A relationship is like a house. When a lightbulb burns out, you don't go and buy a new house. You fix the lightbulb."

from Pinterest with thanks

The truth is, if we really knew how to keep love alive, we’d all do it all the time. There’d be no discussion of divorce, no drama, no growing apart, no infidelity, no abuse, no looking across the table and thinking, Who is this man and what did he do with the guy I married?

Most of us don’t have to deal with all those things, but I’m fairly sure all of us have to deal with some. In nearly all long marriages, I’m certain there are years that don’t bear repeating (mine are 1982 and 2017.) There are things said that can never be unsaid. Bleak days and nights and weeks that seem to have no end. Long drives home from work when you intend to walk in the door and say it’s over. It’s done. You don’t want to play anymore. But then…

You have to work at it. Not just on the bad days, although especially then. You need to say you love each other every day even if you’re saying it through your teeth. You need to have each other’s backs, to laugh at the same things even if you don’t think they’re funny, to grieve when your partner does if for no other reason than you don’t want him or her to grieve alone.

It’s hard, it’s…yeah, it’s hard.

But then there are the moments.

At a wedding a couple of years ago, we were leaving the reception early. We were halfway to the door of the venue when the DJ started a slow song. Duane turned back and said, “You want to?” and we went back and danced for the first time in years. It was only a moment--or a few of them--but it made me happy all day. It makes me happy to remember it.

The thing with moments is that they attach and melt together, so that they bring ease and cohesion to the hard times and the bad days―even the truly awful ones. Times that originally brought tears and anger are ones you often learn to laugh at and to appreciate for the growth they provided—whether you wanted it or not.

It’s a mistake, though, to think love’s path will ever be without bumps, because human beings are flawed. We hurt each other, and we hurt no one more than the ones we love the most. It’s coming out on the other side, skipping from one moment to another, that allows us to claim endurance.

Every now and then, there are defining moments, signature ones that last forever. It’s up to us to recognize them, to hold them close and keep them safe for when we need them.

I am, at the very best of times, clumsy, so it was no surprise a few months ago when I tripped over a pair of shoes in the kitchen and went down like a tree, falling—for the first time ever—right on my face. I couldn’t seem to move, and I cried from the pain that radiated out from my broken nose. I’m not a weeper, so it was the tears that alarmed me most.

Duane, with his two artificial knees, got down on the floor with me, lying against my back and holding me. Keeping me warm and safe. When the shock wore off enough that I could move and the splinters of pain finally dimmed enough that I stopped crying, he got to his feet and helped me to mine. 

It was probably five minutes in all, from the fall to when we got up, but they defined the going-on-47 years we’ve been together. They personified love kept alive. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Wisdom born of pain

I wrote this quite a while back, although I'm not positive what year it was. Because I make a concentrated effort--and believe me when I say it's an effort--to keep this column from being overtly political, I haven't changed it; its statistics are out of date and incomplete. I remain grateful to the women who rose up to get us as far as we've come and proud of the ones who are still standing (and marching) to keep us from ever going backwards. 

Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less. 
Susan B. Anthony

It's Women's History Month. I've never been particularly fond of March, but reading up on this has made me more so.

In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the US with a medical degree. In 1853, Antoinette Blackwell became the first American woman to be ordained a minister in a recognized denomination (Congregational). In 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree. Lucy Hobbs, in 1866, became the first woman dentist. In 1869, Arabella Mansfield, became the first woman to be admitted to the practice of law, practicing not in cosmopolitan and forward-looking New York, but in Iowa.

In 1887, Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. The 'firsts' are endless. Edith Wharton won a Pulitzer, Amelia Earhart flew alone across the Atlantic. Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the Senate. Diane Crump was the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Elizabeth Seton was the first native-born North American to be canonized.

Sandra Day O'Connor and Sally Ride both went boldly where women had not gone before. Mae Jamison became the first black woman astronaut and Janet Reno the first woman attorney general. Madeline Albright was the first woman secretary of state, to be followed shortly by Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman in that position.

In 1920, twenty-seven years behind New Zealand and 85 years ahead of Kuwait, American women got the vote.

Betty Ford had breast cancer, a face lift, and an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. And went public with it all.

Rosalyn Carter, Barbara Bush, Hilary Clinton, and Nancy Reagan "stood by their men" even when standing there undoubtedly put their teeth on edge.

Time magazine said Eleanor Roosevelt "gave a voice to people who did not have access to power. She was the first woman to speak in front of a national convention, to write a syndicated column, to earn money as a lecturer, to be a radio commentator and to hold regular press conferences." I remember it being said that she would "rather light a candle than curse the darkness." I can think of no higher aspiration. She's still a hero.

I grew up reading Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronté. These were women who wrote books when women weren't supposed to.

And then there are women closer to home. My grandmother, heavy with pregnancy, carried a treadle sewing machine down the stairs and outside when her house was on fire. My mother-in-law, growing up in rural Kentucky, delivered mail on horseback. My mother, and my friends' mothers, were the foundations on which our lives were built.

I don't know if any of these women set out to make history; I doubt it. I imagine they were just women who wanted to do the best job they could. And they did. But they did so much more.

In the 2004 presidential election 65 percent of eligible women voted, as opposed to 62 percent of men. In September 2004, there were 212,000 women in the armed forces and more than 35,000 of them were officers? There are more than 1.7 million women who are veterans.

My daughter and daughters-in-law all go to women doctors. I went to a religious retreat where all the attending clergy were women (I believe by accident and not design) and where I learned the immortal words, "Clergy chicks rock!" and they did. They did.

When I vote, the gender of who I'm voting for is way down there on my list of considerations, right along with "do they have a nice smile?" I believe, thanks to these women in history, that it's way down there on my husband's list, too. (That being said, I must admit that I remain disappointed and angry that neither of the last two supreme court justices named was a woman and do not expect to get over it soon.)

Reading Little Women until the covers literally fell off made me know all the way to my soul that someday I was going to write, too.

All of this then is the legacy of Women in History. Because of them, we can vote and work outside the home or choose not to; we know that strength and power take many forms. Breast cancer and heart disease in women have become Matters of Importance in medical research and development.

"I am woman, hear me roar," sang Helen Reddy.

Thank you, Women in History, for giving us the voice to roar.

Friday, February 23, 2018

...the sounds of the earth are like music...

I wrote the bones of this three years ago. I've edited it some--I hope enough; sometimes my own writing is awful--but I still like those bones. Have a great week!

Oh the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree
An' a ol' weepin' willer is laughin' at me - 
Richard Rodgers

I’m not a movie person, but the quote above is from Oklahoma. I used it because I love what he was able to do with a few words that give voice to how I feel. But, about movies--I have trouble sitting in one place for two hours and the truth is, I don't like very many new movies--although there are some exceptions to that. I don't like violence, I don't think sex is a spectator sport, and I still flinch at four-letter words, especially when there are a dozen of them in a sentence. I’m not crazy about animation and I hate stupid, so it really cuts down on things to watch.

I am a theatre person. If it’s on stage, I’m probably going to like it. Worse than that for anyone around me, if it’s a musical, I’m going to sing with it.
I can't quote many things from movies and plays I have seen, beyond the obvious. "My dear, I don't give a damn" and "I see dead people" come to mind. But I can remember scenes and how they made me feel. Especially that—how they made me feel.
Sally Field in Norma Rae
I remember when Old Yeller died. When Sally Field stood on a conveyer belt and held up a sign saying UNION in Norma Rae. When Chamberlain and his Mainers charged Little Round Top for the third time with nothing more than bayonets and heart in Gettysburg. When Rick Nelson and Dean Martin sang in Rio Bravo. When black soldiers got boots in Glory. When Jimmy Stewart filibustered in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (Is anyone with me on thinking that should be required viewing for all members of Congress and they can’t swear in until they get it?) The eight times I saw A Hard Day’s Night in the theater. Seeing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” being sung on Broadway. There are so many I can’t begin to think of them all.
          In 1994, I made my daughter’s wedding dress. Also the matron of honor’s, three bridesmaids’, and two flower girls’ dresses. (I bought the Mother of the Bride one--I was tired.) From March until August, I didn’t venture too far from the sewing machine. Over and over, while I sewed, I watched Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, the ones with Megan Follows and the late Jonathan Crombie playing Anne and Gilbert.
          I loved how they made me feel while I sewed. They got me over the crying-over-beading and the many times I said, “I can’t do this,” and all the days I was much too tired to thread the needle one more time.
          Duane and I went to see The Dixie Swim Club at the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater. While I admit to some bias, I think Peru, Indiana’s local theater group is full of outstanding talent, and it’s never been showcased any better than it is in this play. I laughed so hard I nearly cried, and then there was a brilliant, aching point where I was crying. Several years later I talked to Laura Stroud, one of the stars of the play, and when I tried to talk to her about that one line she had delivered with so much perfection it sliced my heart right in two, I got sniffly again and, oh, it felt so good.
          It’s always nice when readers say something that makes you goofy-smile and happy-dance all day. Or when they let you know you got them through something that would have been harder otherwise. It means that even though they may forget your name, the title of the book, or even its protagonists, they’ll still remember how you made them feel. It doesn’t get any better than that.
          It’s been a rough week for virtually everyone. Finding this column and changing it made me think of lines from Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You”:

“Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?”
I remember doing that during that awful September, when the news became unbearable. Not I Love Lucy per se, but other reruns. Shows that didn’t hurt. Shows made us feel better, as if we could get through the day.

My niece, Sara Nider Biggs, is a teacher with two children. This week, she said on Facebook, “Every day, be sure to tell somebody Thank You.” Sara was starting with her children’s teachers, who keep them safe every day.
I join her in that, thanking everyone who does all they can to keep children safe. I also thank all those people who did and do write, direct, and act in movies and plays, and who sing songs and write books that I can’t quote lines from. Because no matter how hard or sad or impossible times are, you make us feel. You make us feel wonderful.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Of shamers and bullies and snots

These are getting too new! This one is only two years old and was first published on Word Wranglers. My point of view has changed some since then, because I think meanness has become the norm and that too many people think it's okay. It will be interesting to hear how others feel about it. I hope you had a good Valentine's Day and, as always, thanks for reading.

...when dreams were all they gave for free... - Janis Ian

I read on Facebook that actress Kristen Bell said her mother told her, "If you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself [with depression], understand that the world wants to shame you for that..."

People are "shamed" for being obese, for being Christians, for not being Christians, for being liberal, conservative, vegan or carnivore. Young girls are shamed for not having the ubiquitous thigh gap and boys for...I don't know, not wearing their jeans low enough. Rural people are shamed because--obviously--you can't be smart if you don't live inside city limits. Urban people are shamed because...well, because they're urban, I guess.

It's obvious that One, I spend too much time on Facebook, and Two, shaming has become the new epidemic. And I'm feeling bereft.


I'm a Christian, I'm fairly liberal, I once took medication for two years because of clinical depression, any thigh gap I might have boasted closed (I think for good) more years ago than I can remember, and I'm probably doomed to being overweight because I love to eat far too much.

But no, that's not why I'm bereft. It's because I've never been shamed. I pray when and where I want, I vote my conscience, and I wouldn't hesitate to medicate again if I felt hopelessness circling my life's perimeter. I think people who love me wish I'd lose weight (and keep it off) to keep me healthy, not because they're ashamed of me.

I will admit, I remember being made fun of because I was poor and dressed accordingly, because I was a geek, because I was shockingly uncoordinated, but I don't remember "shaming" even being a word when I was growing up. I was very familiar with "Shame on you!" accompanied by a shaking finger and a frown of motheresque proportions, but that was mothering, right? Not shaming. 

And people who made fun of me were being rotten little kids, weren't they? Rotten like I was being when someone had a lot of trouble reading aloud and I snickered. Or when someone I didn't like tore her dress on the slide and I snickered. Or when someone else I didn't like started her period during 7th grade English class and I snickered.

But I wasn't shaming. I was being a snot. While I'm not saying it's okay to be a snot, I do think it's part of the human experience and that the recipient of said snottiness and shaming is often better and stronger because of it. And maybe they learn a little about forgiving, about taking the high road, about how not to treat a person who's different than their particular definition of cool. And the snots grow up and cringe at what they said or did to someone else. It's not necessary to brand them for life, is it?

But there's another part, too, that I have to admit to. Not all snots do grow up; some of them stay that way forever. And they will pick on people because that's what they do. We need to recognize that, roll our eyes, say "consider the source," and go on better and stronger. What we don't need is to ever say the world's going to shame you, to indicate that the world is full of bullies, because in truth it's full of pretty nice people with some crummy ones on the periphery. Keep them there. Do what's right for you and don't hurt anyone else in the process. That's not really hard, is it?

Okay. Off my soapbox. Have a great week!

Friday, February 9, 2018

And that's the way it is. @Liz Flaherty

I am an old fogy. Not politically, but in so many other ways. I so miss good manners, patriotism, the loving Christianity I believe in, and cursing because you were mad--not just because your mouth was open. 
Eight years ago, I wrote this essay for Senior Women WebSo maybe I've been an old fogy for awhile now. I do wonder what Cronkite would think of the way things are now, how his report each night would go. I wish he was here. Have a great week. - Liz
I worry that we're not getting enough of the news that we need to make informed judgments as citizens. - Walter Cronkite

My husband Duane and I watched CBS’s tribute to the late Walter Cronkite, one of the network’s most famous and revered alumni. I was as glued to this broadcast as I was when Cronkite went on the air in his shirtsleeves and reported the death of a president. I read his autobiographical book, A Reporter’s Life, years ago, but I’d forgotten his enthusiasm for the space program, and I found myself grinning along with him 40 years later.

We grew up with Cronkite telling us the news. Even when he showed emotion, as he did at JFK’s death and the first lunar landing, he didn’t tell us what to think about world events, just Who, What, When, Where and Why they had occurred.

We remember the Vietnam war that he reported on and his courage in how he reported. Duane was there; I was just a soldier’s girlfriend who was afraid to watch the news for fourteen months.

Watching the tribute program made us remember something else. No, maybe that’s the wrong word. It made us realize something else.

There’s no getting around the facts of the Vietnam War. Arguably, we shouldn’t have been there. Indisputably, we didn’t win it. Veterans who returned home from that war were treated abominably, one of the greatest shames in my memory. It was a war that began and was perpetuated under the leadership auspices of both major political parties. It ended sadly after 58,000 Americans had died.

It was sad then and it’s sad now, but what Duane and I realized is that though some people undoubtedly and often justifiably assign responsibility to certain people and circumstances, the history of the conflict itself has not been relegated to a blame game. The mistakes have not been reduced to finger-pointing.

At our house, we are politically divergent; we cancel out each other’s vote as often as not, but we want the same things in life and we want the same things from our political leaders. We want them to be honest with us, to work hard, to do the right thing, and we want them to be responsible. It is not, no matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, always the other guy’s fault.

There is an old adage that says if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. When political columnists take up their allotment of space blaming the ones who came before them or the ones who vote against them, what good does it do anyone? I am much more interested in how our representatives want to fix problems than I am in who they think caused them.

How often have you heard, “Somebody needs to do something about —?” Fill in the blank with whatever your current frustration is. Taxes? Somebody needs to make them fair to everyone. Health care? Somebody needs to do something about it. Schools? Somebody needs to make them better, safer, bigger, or smaller.

So who’s Somebody?

Well, guess what, folks. It’s you and me and the guy down the road whose dog barks half the night and drives you crazy. It’s the family with an annual income in seven figures and the other family whose yearly earnings barely make it into five. It’s the doctor, the insurance agent, the medical facility administrator and the patient. It’s the student, teacher, parent and school superintendent. If we want things to be different, it has to start with us.

I’d like nothing better than to give a definitive answer as to exactly where we should start, but the truth is I’m not informed enough. All most of us can do is the best we can. We can be proactive instead of reactive, positive instead of negative. Instead of telling the other guy everything he’s doing wrong, we can do what we know is right and see if we can find a way to work with those whose viewpoints differ from ours.

We can do it without editorializing, without pointing fingers. We can deal with facts instead of opinions. We can do it the way Walter Cronkite reported the news.

And that’s the way it is.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Finding my way back... @Liz Flaherty

This is from four years ago, written one day when I was trying to settle my mind in one place, preferably a productive one. It didn't work, but I did figure out that sometimes it's okay to be...oh, look, squirrel.
I've wandered much further today than I should and I can't seem to find my way back to the wood - Kenny Loggins
I’m not a very attentive person. Well, I’m attentive, just not when and where I should be. I’ve said before that if I were in school now, I’d probably be diagnosed with some kind of horrifying but hopefully treatable acronym. As it is, I’m unfocused to the extreme. I would blame it on age, but that’s become such a huge umbrella that I’m reluctant to push anything else under it. So I will have to think of something…
Green is muscling its way into the grass in the lawn outside my office window. It is a Yes! moment. Birds are picking their way through. We saw a fat robin in the field yesterday. I wish he’d come into the yard as I watch—it would make the picture perfect.
Oh, yes. I don’t really know what to blame it on, or if I’ve always been this way. I got pretty good grades when I was a kid, but I don’t remember paying that much attention in the process.
You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up…
I have tried to improve my concentration. It would make writing much easier if I did. I sometimes wonder how I’ve ever completed a book when I rarely type more than a paragraph without…
Que sera, sera, what will be, will be. The future’s…Farmers of America. They had nine patchcool corduroy jackets…why don’t I just stick with a nine-patch instead of trying to go all Mary Fons?
Without what? Oh, without my mind going off into a dozen different directions. To make it all more complicated, I’m a pantser, not a plotter. While my people come pretty much named and fully formed, the story itself…
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…
…just kind of evolves, but I’m really not sure how it happens. Many times a scene will start to map itself out as I’m falling asleep. I used to keep a pen and paper beside the bed, but there were several truths involved with that. (1) I was usually too sleepy to write the ideas down, (2) if I was awake enough, the pen was out of ink, or (3) I’d dropped the pad of paper and it was somewhere under the bed, and (4) if I got under the bed for anything, I had to go get the vacuum cleaner, because there was no possible way I could go back to sleep over that much dust.
Flowers are for the living, Mom always said, so this week I remembered to send flowers to my mother-in-law. Because she’s been ill. Because I love her. Because I wish my mom was here to send them to as well.
Good Lord, what Mom would say if she saw the dust under that bed! And what was that scene all about? I know it would be a good one if I could just remember it.
trolleyOccasionally thoughts will circle around to where they are together and almost harmonious. More often they clang…
…clang, clang went the trolley…
…more like a cacophony in my head.
And I have decided this is all right. In truth, I’d like to have an orderly mind (and an starsorderly under-the-bed, too, but we’re not going there), but I just don’t think it’s going to happen at this point. I remember cleaning out something one time, though I don’t remember what it was—surprise!—and in the mess I was cleaning, someone had spilled a box of those little sticky-back stars teachers and parents used to give as rewards.
Oohhh, shiny.
I didn’t think of it then—or maybe I did—but that’s the way life and the unfocused mind are. There’s a lot of clutter in both, a startling lack of direction, too much discordant noise, handwriting both across and up and down the page the way they wrote letters in days gone by.
And bright stars, and joyous walks, and music, and stories I love. It’s not so bad…
robinStarry, starry night…he cut off his ear, for heaven’s sake…tulips are up…when the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along…
There he is. There’s the robin. He left too fast for me to get the picture, but it was perfect. See? Harmony.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

She floats through the air... @Debby Myers

When I was six years old, my mom sat down with me and explained that we lived in a circus town. She told me some of the history of the circus in Peru and that my cousin, Dottie, had been in it for a couple of years. But it was what she said next that changed my life. She asked me if I wanted to be IN the circus. Of course, I said YES!

And so it began…10 years of devoting five months of my time each year, including every summer, to the Peru Amateur Circus. My first couple of years I was in Double Swinging Ladders. I was so fortunate to be trained by Tom and Betty Hodgini. By no means an easy act, the Swinging Ladders swung six feet in the air while the performers did tricks, including hanging upside down by one foot. I was terrified of that trick. Just a week before final cuts, Betty came to me and said, “If you can’t do that trick, you won’t make the act. You have natural talent and you must overcome your fear.” The next day at practice I asked to be the first to go up--I wanted to conquer that trick. And guess what – I made the act! 

I loved being in the circus. It was like a big family. Right away I was in awe of the trapeze acts. I
asked my mom to get me a trapeze to practice on at home, like the ones they had at the circus building. On my birthday that year, Dottie’s dad brought me a REAL trapeze that he had made. He made a lot of the trapezes for the circus and was I lucky to have him as my uncle. Once that trapeze was hung on the tree in our front yard, that was where I spent all my time. Mom even put an old mattress underneath it in case I fell. 

When I was almost 11, I decided I wanted to try out for different acts. I tried out for five acts, but we were only allowed to make three. I made Side-by-Side Trapeze with my partner, Beverly. We did tricks on the low bar and up on the ropes on a still double trapeze. I was fortunate to be trained by Willie Wilno, who used to be a human cannonball. I was also in Balancing Bike. The driver would ride around in a circle as the performers mounted the bike and did tricks. Because I’d become fearless, mine was to stand on his shoulders. The last act I made was Adagio, where I climbed all over my partner doing flips off him, wrap arounds and lifts. I even got to go on road shows and perform on “Bozo’s Circus.” What kid doesn’t dream about that? As much as I loved all these acts, I had my eye on something bigger…and higher.

I wanted to try out for Low Casting. It’s a lower version of High Flying. Performers swing out on a trapeze, go into a trick and are caught by a catcher. I’d been practicing a lot at home – swinging out and letting go, landing on my mattress. I was ready to take that step.

At 12, I experienced death close-up for the first time when my Grandpa died. I went through my
father’s fight with alcoholism and the court hearing that would send him to prison on his 14th DUI. We were moving out of the house where my trapeze was since my parents were getting a divorce. The circus had now become something more for me--it was an escape. When I made Low Casting, I thought it was the best thing that could happen to me -  I was a flyer!

That year and the next I was in Low Casting, Balancing Bike and Single Swinging Ladders. One of the most exciting things to me was that all three acts were performed in the center ring. During those two years I overcame so much. Being a part of the circus gave me confidence and a sense of self-worth.

In 1977 I became a member of the “Flying Freebirds” Trapeze act – the act that closed every show and was the dream of every young child in the circus. My first year in the act, my idol – a girl named Bo - attempted a double somersault with a full twist. Every show for 10 shows she’d get three chances. It was so nerve wracking for all of us each time she’d miss. On her third attempt at the final show, she and the catcher grabbed hands and everyone in the arena exploded into cheers and applause. It is one of the most exciting moments in my entire life to this day. 

I flew for three years. It was hard work and we practiced every night for three hours. My last year in flying, we were practicing a trick called “Passing Leap.” The catcher caught me by my legs and as he turned me to go back to the trapeze, my partner did a somersault over me and grabbed the catcher as he released me to the bar. Just two weeks before the shows were to open, my partner came out of his somersault early and kicked me in the back, sending me hurtling toward the ground. I missed the net altogether. A spotter under the net caught the top half of my body. My heels hit the cement, crushing bones in both heels. The spotter and I both bruised our tailbones, but she saved my life. I still performed in the shows that year, but we never did the “Passing Leap” again. 

That was my tenth year in the circus and I was 16. Suddenly other things demanded my attention – my boyfriend, my car, my friends, school activities. I’d missed cheerleading camp the year before for circus. I wanted to have that new experience, so I left the circus that summer. I took so many friendships and memories with me. I’m not sure I’d have survived that 10 years without the circus. So if you have children and you live in Miami County – let your children join the circus! There aren’t too many who ever have that chance. And when they’re older and someone asks them something no one would ever guess about them, they can say like I can, “I was a flyer in flying trapeze in the circus!”

Friday, January 26, 2018

To live in hearts we leave behind... @Jerry Stan Williams

When I went looking for a quote to go with this post, the one by Stephen Hawking seemed to have been said specifically to describe Stan Williams. I met him a few months ago at Aroma. We drank coffee and talked about writing and families and South Side Sales and...oh, yes, ALS. I mention it last because he doesn't allow it to define him. He posted the following on Facebook the morning of January 24. What he knows and shares needs to be known and shared by all, so please ask everyone else to read it. Regardless of your political affiliation, please consider only the good of all and encourage your representative to do the same. To find out more about Stan, go to his Facebook page. - Liz
Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically. – Stephen Hawking

Jerry Stan Williams
Here is my message to the legislators (don't tell them, I want it to be a surprise). Please join me to pray it will pierce to the heart.
Thank you. In June, 2016, in my 58th year of life, I was diagnosed with ALS.
For reasons that science is still trying to understand, ALS is a disease that destroys the motor neurons which control all voluntary muscles. As the motor neurons die, the voluntary muscles waste away and die as well. Death is 100% certain and comes most often by asphyxiation or pneumonia. Symptoms of motor neuron death and muscle wasting are
• Cramps, sometimes severe, debilitating cramps
• Nerve and muscle pain
• Muscle spasms which can last as long as a few minutes
• And constant muscle twitches all over my body, all the time
My ALS started in my feet and legs. For the past year, I have felt the symptoms creep ever higher in my body, so that now my muscles from my neck down are always twitching, cramping, and spasming. They keep me from relaxing and, most of all, sleeping.
My doctors have prescribed medications to reduce these symptoms. The medications I take for comfort measures only are: Clonazepam, Gabapentin, Baclofen, and Quinine. Possible Side Effects are drowsiness, dizziness, loss of coordination, blurred/double vision, unusual eye movements, tremors, swelling of the hands/ankles/feet, sleeplessness, nausea, rash, headaches, swelling of the face/tongue/throat, abnormal heart rhythms, depression, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
My doctors have informed me of the possible side effects from these medications. However, we all know that comfort measure only treatments are often wrought with adverse side effects
To minimize my symptoms enough that I can function with a clearer mind during the day, I use CBD OIL. Possible side effects of CBD oil are: drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
Jerry Stan and Lisa Williams
My friends, I’ve been given a gift. I can see the finish line. So I have an intense urgency to awaken others to the critical importance of living life deliberately, of savoring each moment, of living a story worth retelling. I must also condense what I thought would be 20 or 30 years of grandparenting into months.
As long as I have breath and a voice, I am:
• Speaking at churches, community groups, ALS fund raising events, and at my Alma Mater, Anderson University, in April
• I’ll be interviewed this May on Channel 13 with Bob Kravitz who sponsors an ALS event.
• I am writing letters to my grandchildren for their special days such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings
• And I’m writing my memoir of the lessons, wit, and wisdom that I learned from working as a kid for my grandpa and dad at their small town used car lot in Peru. The book is entitled, Used Car Lot Wisdom: Lessons From A Different Kind of Grandpa.
Thomas Campbell, a 19th century poet, wrote, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
All of us with a chronic or fatal illness want to function as best we can, as long as we can. The drugs I have been prescribed keep me in a fog and leave me unable to achieve my life’s last goals. CBD oil calms my body and keeps my mind clear during the day so that I can achieve them.
CBD oil won’t cure me nor does it eliminate all of my symptoms. However, It does minimize my symptoms during the day so that I can be in the moments I have left with my wife, children, and grandchildren. I want to stretch each of these moments into a thousand. I want this last mile of my life’s marathon to be a story worth retelling, generation after generation, and, thus, live in hearts I leave behind.
(I swiped the pictures of Stan and his wife Lisa from his Facebook page, and I hesitated over my choices because I'm afraid someone will say or think, he doesn't look sick. He doesn't, although when you meet him, you know he can't get around that well anymore. But I used those pictures because they show that ALS does indeed take prisoners. Not only its victims, but their families and friends as well. If the use of CBD Oil loosens some of the bars on that particular prison, then let it be used--please. - Liz)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

“May you live as long as you laugh and laugh as long as you live!” @ Debby Myers

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on directing in community theater. To my surprise, a lot of you took an interest in it. I referred to several things that I said I’d tell you more about later. I think you’ll have as much fun reading about another side of directing.

The “Ole Gods” are often disturbed when opening week is looming at the end of my directing experience and my frustration has put me into a fetal position. Now keep in mind that I am a perfectionist. I forget I’m working with amateur volunteers who sometimes don’t take theater quite as seriously as I do. Praying to the “Ole Gods” is my next step. I could tell you that they don’t really exist, but it wouldn’t explain how much better it makes me feel to get everything off my chest! And when opening night comes, I feel the presence of the “Ole Gods” when the cast pulls off a fantastic performance and all my frustration vanishes.

The big royalty mishap I talked about in the last piece happened a few years ago when both the board and membership approved my request to co-direct Grease. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get started on it. My co-director and I applied for royalties, ordered scripts, got together to talk about the set and made a date for auditions. About a week before we were to start, we received an email from the company holding the rights to the show. Basically, it said that because our
theater only seats 60 people at a time, they didn’t feel the venue would work for the production. Weeks of work had gone down the drain and now we had a limited amount of time to find another show. This isn’t even the first time that has happened. If the play you’ve selected is on tour or being performed by a group within a 60-mile radius, the royalty request will be denied. As a director, you can’t apply for royalties until the show is approved by the membership, so that possibility is always there.

Mark S. Esch
When it comes to casting, I told you I make the final choice and I like to take chances. I think I proved that in the very first show I ever directed, Forty Carats. I was fresh off having been an assistant to a veteran director. I needed five women and five men for the show. I had a very good turnout for auditions, which gave me many different choices. There was a new woman who came. She had never been to an audition or been on stage. She was nervous, apprehensive and
inquisitive. Yet I was very impressed with her – she showed a lot of courage and energy. My panel at the table with me wrote down their choices for all the female parts, but her name wasn’t on any of their lists. After everyone left, I made a bold decision. I cast the woman as the lead! Despite all the flack I took for it, she was fantastic!

In my previous article I talked about blocking – I am the “Blocking Nazi!” I want movement on the stage all the time. I want all the movement to look natural. My pet peeve is walking backwards on the stage. I mean…do you walk backwards? I want to create tableaus whenever possible. I tell the actors that knowing their blocking is as important as knowing their lines. Hence the nickname.

I directed a two-person play called Same Time Next Year. Although I had set a deadline for the actors to be “off book,” this was the first show I’d done with a cast of two who had all the lines – 100 pages! Sometimes we must break our own rules…those two probably never really knew all their lines, but I realized that their chemistry on stage and dedication to the show was what really mattered to our audience – not the lines.

Rehearsals were going great for Miracle Worker, I had decided to start working with the crew. The show was very light intensive and the gentleman who was working the light board was struggling with my notes in his script for the light changes. Directing this play was a milestone for me and I was brutal with the crew about the set, costumes and props. Everyone had really stepped up. However, the further we got into the light cues, the more this gentleman’s
frustration grew. About half way through Act Two, he got up from the light board, walked out of the office and yelled “I quit!” I learned a valuable lesson that day.

There are so many unexpected mishaps that happen with live theater. There was the time an actor went completely blank on stage and yelled to the stage manager “Hey can you help me? I need a line, I’m sinking!”

Another time, an actor missed his cue and he was downstairs. Once he realized it, he barreled up the steps, bolted onto the stage (as the audience was laughing about hearing him running up the steps) and went on without missing a beat. 

One night, an actor broke a glass on the stage and all the other actors kept going as if nothing had happened.

When the ceiling literally fell, one of the actresses calmly lifted it back up as if it was part of the show.

During a storm, the lights suddenly went off in the middle of the show--the actors onstage attempted to keep going, thinking they would come back on. When they didn’t, one of the actresses blurted, “And that’s all folks!”

Finally, there was the time a bat came flying through the Depot during a show as audience members began to duck and scream. One of the actors yelled, “Meet our new cast member – Dracula!”

So now I’ve caught all of you up on the ups and downs of being a director. No matter what gets thrown in your path, you have to laugh!

“May you live as long as you laugh and laugh as long as you live!” - Ole Olsen

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.

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.