Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Frame

 I'm in a writing group, Wordplay, with Don and Kathy Kegarise. Kathy is a poet whose work I'll beg to use in the Window at a different time. Today I want to introduce you to Don. He's funny, a little grumpy--yes, you are, Don!--and one of the most talented people I've ever met. He's written two books and had some of the most fun adventures imaginable. His art brings tears to my eyes--so did this essay. Please make him welcome. - Liz


by Don Kegarise

The 24” x 36” picture hangs at the back of the studio out of light and traffic of hundreds of paintings that come and go. Some are admired and sold, others changed around and hung in other rooms. Many of them travel miles to art shows in different cities. While the poorly done sixty-year-old painting collects dust that dulls the warm snow scene featuring an old abandoned house, the story is not about the painting, or the artist, but about The Frame.

  The big snow scene was finished. It really fell short of what I had in mind, but it was finished. It was only the third painting since I had started painting again after several years of not painting anything. Unable to find a frame that suited the picture, the only thing left was to make it myself. I sort of knew what I wanted and had found the right piece of wood, but I didn’t have the tools to make it.

  My father had been a carpenter and cabinetmaker before he retired, and he still used his shop daily, fixing and repairing things for his kids and grandchildren. I had found a rough-sawn board a full one and a half inches thick that I thought would make a nice frame.

One evening after supper I went down to my parents’ home, visited for a while, then asked Dad if he would help me make a frame. As usual he responded with a “Sure, be glad to.” 

  Once in the shop I gave him the dimensions and tried to explain what I thought it should look like. We ripped the board down and cut the pieces to length. To cut the miter was going to be tricky because of the angle I wanted for the sides. We had cut extra pieces, so we could practice the miter cuts on the corners. The first two sample cuts did not work, I could see what was wrong, but Dad couldn’t.

  After another try I could see he was getting upset. For the first time I noticed his hands shaking and the inability to see in his mind--to visualize--how to cut the miter.

  The man who was known for his patience was losing his control. The same man I had watched just a few years before who took a framing square and laid out a 2 x 8 jack rafter, take a hand saw and cut a compound angle on one end and a seat cut on the other end then hand it up to the two men on the roof where it fit without issue. This was the first time I realized he was old and in his eighties. The thousands of hours of work, raising a large family, struggling through the Great Depression and World War II, had taken its toll.

  We took a short break and afterwards, managed to complete the frame. Today, sixty-one years later, the painting in The Frame still hangs in my studio. I look at it daily, only now I am the eighty-seven-year-old, with hands that shake a little and must give the simplest task a second thought. I need to be aware of my patience. Sometimes I reach up and rub my hand over the rough wood. The energy is still there and seems to shrink the gap in time.

***

Don Kegarise, Kewanna, IN

indianaartists@outlook.com

With a background in psychology from Youngstown University, motivational speaker and artist, Kegarise has been proactive in area art leagues and the IAC, promoting art and artists.  He excels in management, sales and creative ideas and has developed numerous organizations with success. Kegarise has lived in the Kewanna area for the past forty years where he co- owned Kegarise Art Studio,   Kegarise enjoys painting landscapes, creating objects from found items , and is the author of several published short stories.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

“…the silent candle burning.”

Join me in welcoming Debby Myers back this week. The subject isn't an easy one, and I found myself grieving with her when I read it. That's a good reminder, too, that the weight of grief lightens when it is shared.
by Debby Myers
So, I’m sitting at my computer wondering what interesting topic I could write about to intrigue Liz enough to let me share it with all of you. Whenever I think about writing, I can come up with different stories that make up each chapter of my life.

With my multiple sclerosis comes the loss of short-term memory from lesions in my brain...as if I needed to forget anything else! What’s fascinating is that my long-term memory is almost all intact. I’ve already written for you about my disease, about being a flying trapeze artist, about losing my father-in-law and about directing community theater. So, what this time...

Let’s talk about 15 years ago. That’s when I really began to understand that there are very different kinds of love and tragedy. My oldest daughter was pregnant with her first child. After carrying him for five months, she went in alone for her monthly prenatal checkup, not expecting that the outcome of that appointment would change everything. When her OBGYN started the ultrasound, she asked if anyone had come with her and asked where the baby’s father was. My daughter said he was at work. The doctor stopped the ultrasound and told her she should call him. Something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. Her baby boy had died in vitro.

The next couple of weeks seemed like a blur. They had to induce labor for her to give birth to him. It was too late to abort the pregnancy. The baby’s father, my ex-husband, and I were all there. After several hours of labor, my ex was enraged. He went to the doctor and pleaded with him to do something to speed up the process. My daughter cried the entire time. My heart was breaking. 

Finally, she gave birth to a 10-ounce baby boy. We all held him in our hands – fully formed, but very tiny. By law, he had to be named before he was cremated: Peyton Samuel.

My daughter slipped into depression. She quit beauty school. She wouldn’t eat or clean up. She cried and cried for two months. We all worried about her. If she ever came out of it, what would it take? They had given her a picture of him that she carried with her. Then about four months after she lost Peyton, she went back to her OBGYN for a checkup and learned she was expecting again. That’s when she began to see light at the end of the dark tunnel she’d been living in.

My daughter was very careful throughout this pregnancy. She blamed herself for losing Peyton. She was convinced it had been something she had done, although we all tried to convince her that it wasn’t. She was scared it might happen again. She got past that five-month mark and began to feel more at ease. It was then that she began to smile again, to look forward to her new baby.

Nearly 13 years ago, I became a grandmother for the second time. Yes, I say the second time because I held my tiny grandson in my arms first.

When my granddaughter was born, she literally saved her mother’s life. My daughter spent every waking minute with her. She’d get up in the night many times those first few months to see if she was still breathing. Now she is about to be a teenager and is the apple of our eye.

None of us will ever forget Peyton Samuel. My daughter keeps a small scrapbook just for him. I often wonder what he would have looked like and what he would have been like now. Yet I know he is forever an angel and is with many of our family members who have gone since.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It ain't easy...


          We’ve been married a long time and I hope we’re married a lot longer, but contrary to the belief of everyone who hasn’t been married a long time, it never gets easy. On either participant. Although it’s harder on the one who’s right. In our case, that would be me—but there, as in virtually everything else, we don’t agree.
          Take, for instance, spending winters in Florida. He—Duane, the roommate, the boyfriend, my husband, the person I do in all actuality love more than life itself, but for now we’ll call him “he”—loves Florida. Loves heat and says he never has to shovel it or blow it out of the driveway. Loves the beach. Loves palm trees and all the other tropical things that grow there—except roaches; I don’t think he loves them.
          I like most of those things, too—other than unrelenting heat, but I like them, it must be said, for a week. Maybe two.
          However, we spent a few winters down there and enjoyed them, although I was always eager to get home. However, he doesn’t want to go again, because he worries about the house we have here. About power going off and pipes freezing, about vandalism and burglary. (I worry about those things, too, which is why we have alarms and people checking on the house all the time, but what do I know?)
          Speaking of the house, we’ve lived in it for over 40 years. It has an upstairs and three acres of lawn and it’s in the country. It would be a good idea, I have mused, to sell it and move closer to town or maybe even to town, where things are more convenient, lawns are smaller, and we could find a one-story house. He was okay with that, except that he doesn’t want to buy another house. Owning a house is okay, he agrees, but he doesn’t want to own another one. I, on the other hand, think renting a house is okay, but I don’t want to rent one.  
          So we’ll stay here, which is fine with me. If anything changes I’ll let you know.
          Then there’s music. I like music—he loves music. However, he hates crowds, so we never go to big
Janie Fricke at Shipshewana
venues to see anyone. I’m good with that because—voila! I don’t like crowds, either. We agree. What we don’t agree on is how much to spend on concert tickets. No matter what the price is, he turns pale, wipes his forehead, and says it’s too much. The artists are great, but it’s just…too much.
          It took me a while—years, in fact—but I finally learned to buy the tickets and when he asks how much they cost to just ask if he’d like a cup of coffee, because I’m not telling. It’s kind of like how many guitars he has or how much fabric I have—not worth discussing.
          Neither of us much likes how the other one drives, although that’s something we’ve pretty much worked out. If we’re both in the car, he’s driving. Even if I start out under the wheel, I give it up about six or seven comments down the road. I have mastered the wilting look, given just before I say, “Would you like to drive?” and pull over so that he can. Which was what he wanted all along. No, I’m still not crazy about his driving, but if I talk enough, I can ignore it.
          I like to talk. Frankly, he likes to talk more. I think I’m a better listener. He thinks he is. I like to talk about personal, sensitive, intense things. He likes to talk about anything that’s not personal, sensitive, or intense.
          As the years have gone on, we’ve discovered newer, sillier things to disagree on. Skipping over religion and politics, we are never hungry at the same time. I yearn for anything salty and he’s never met a pastry he didn’t like. I love red meat, he prefers chicken. I want to eat at regular times almost every day. He wants to eat whenever. He almost always orders the same thing at a restaurant and I practically never do. He always drives the same route to virtually any destination and I look for a new one every time. He is so relieved that I have GPS because I no longer get lost every time I go anywhere.
          We don’t worry a lot about those differences, because for the most part, they don’t matter all that much. What matters is ending the day laughing at each other’s jokes and having each other’s back. Just don’t expect it to be easy, because it never will. Especially if you’re the one that’s usually right—just ask me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Advice for young Americans

This week's guest post was written by Chris Flaherty. I'd like to say he learned these things from his dad and me, but I think he came about them on his own. Some of them undoubtedly the hard way. Thanks, Chris.

My advice for young Americans. 

1. Stay out of debt. Credit cards and student loans for a communications degree are probably a bad idea for most.


2. Don't go to college unless you have a clear, concise plan for what your degree will do for you professionally. 


3. Pick a career that either makes you an extraordinary amount of money or do something you enjoy. Not many of you are going to get both. For those of you who are average (most of you), the difference between the job you hate and the job you love is only about 10k a year. See #4 and be happy.


4. Don't buy things. See things and do things, instead. 


5. If you aspire to live in NYC, DC, or LA, do it when you're young. It's pretty easy to work your way to the middle of the country as you get older. It's damn near impossible to go the other direction.


6. Drive your car until it doesn't work anymore. Fix it a few times and keep driving it. Car payments are a terrible waste of money. 


7. Pick good battles. You'll find that most aren't worth the effort and stress.


8. If you can't pay your bills, you can't afford to have a pet and sure as hell can't afford to have kids. 


9. He's not going to change, much. She isn't either.


10. There's a fair chance you're the asshole. Be self-aware.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Standing up

Writing is different for me than it used to be, when I had to steal my hours at the keyboard from other times of the day, from social life, probably from my family--and no, that's not an easy thing to admit. But nowadays, although life is busy and for the most part happily so, I'm in the office as soon as I've finished that ten minutes of housework I require of myself. Sometimes fifteen if I've fallen behind. I worry about deadlines and sometimes push them a bit, but I never really reach the "I'll never get this done in time" point. I almost always have my column (if it's a new one) or guest blogs or my own blog posts ready the night before.

But it's 7:16 on Tuesday morning right now and I haven't written the post for this, my own blog, where the deadline is self-scheduled. But I've told people I'll post every Tuesday or beg a friend to do it in my place. However, I forgot to beg this week. I was busy enough I didn't write my own. It's not fair to anyone that I too often use essays I've used before. What to do, what to do.

Maybe I could steal from Joe DeRozier--he wouldn't mind. He wrote this the other day about his son Jeremiah...but, no, I can't swipe it without asking, and he's out of town. Where are you when I need you, Joe?

Or I could ask Debby Myers. People love her posts. But even I can't ask her to come up with 1000 words fifteen minutes ago. There are probably limits to friendship.

Or, hey, Brad McClain, could you be funny today? I'm behind and I need...but, no, not this time.

I have no one to blame--I'm the one who didn't get my "homework" done in a timely manner. These have been busy and disturbing days, but that has become the status quo and I need to work around it.

That being said, here I am without a subject. No beginning, no ending. I have words and thoughts, but they need to stay on this side of the Window. They have to do with politics and religion and I try not to do that here. But our pastor said in church Sunday that sometimes you just have to Stand Up, and I agree with him--it's important to Stand Up. But it needs to come with the warning that you'll lose friends, you'll be hurt and you'll hurt others, and sometimes it's lonely where your heart and your mind decree you must stand.

Rest in Peace, John McCain. Thanks for standing up. God bless America.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A small world and gentle pleasures


I took her picture but I won't post it here because I don't remember her name. She's African-American, on the tall side, with a smile that lit up the whole corridor of the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon when my friend Nan and I went to spend a couple of days writing. She was with a group of people going to spend the day at Mackinac Island. She walked with a quad cane. Very fast. She smiled at everyone she met, laughed and talked and twinkled. We told her she was everywhere and it was no wonder no one could keep up with her. The fourth or fifth time, she hugged us and kissed us and when she walked away we were a little silent and a lot moved.

She'd been a concert violinist, said the man who led their group, and a registered nurse. My first thought was, Oh, how much she lost. My second, as she walked away down the long hall, was, Oh, how much the rest of us gained.

The woman had a long blond braid and a medical walking boot. She walked past where we were working, barely limping. Behind her came a teenager wearing a boot. "We just saw one of those on someone else," we said.

"That was my aunt," she said. "We both have a broken foot. My mom has one, too, but she doesn't have a boot anymore. We're just a clumsy family."

We ordered eggs for breakfast. I asked for over easy. Nan asked for poached. I said, Oh, I want poached, too. Can I change that? The waitress narrowed her eyes at me and said, "I only do so much Monday," and started laughing. The eggs were perfect.

Lots of restaurants up here close on Mondays, but we found one that looked way interesting, took a couple of exits and missed a turn getting there, but pulled into the parking lot right in the middle of its lunchtime hours. A car pulled out. We could see someone walking around in the rustic log structure that housed the restaurant. Didn't matter what we saw--it was still closed.

We decided today we’d work outside. It took us several minutes to get settled at the table in the inn’s courtyard. Got the umbrella at just the right angle. Settled into the wooden chairs, coaxed the computer mice into working on the slatted table, and went to work. And then it thundered. We beat the rain inside.

Yesterday, we went to visit Gene Stratton-Porter’s home near Rome City. It was beautiful and seeing it brought back warm memories of reading her books. On the bottom shelf of a glass-fronted case lay Tom Mix’s chaps. “You won’t know who he was,” said the guide. Oh, my gosh, I said, his stagecoach is in the museum in the county seat where I live.


The world shrank to a three-way conversation in a lovely old house. “Miami County? I’ve been there. They’ve got somebody’s piano there, too. Cole Porter!”

It was a short trip, although we got a lot done and saw some things we’d never seen. It doesn’t take long to gain experiences, to feel sweet and gentle things, to be grateful, to find the comfort of a small world. It will be good to get home today—it’s always good to get home—but the gifts of being “away” are countless.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"And we were friends and it was good."




1993 
I’ve been lifting weights. I kind of like it, but I must tell you, if the idea of an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman lifting weights sounds funny to you, you’re absolutely right. It looks pretty funny, too.
          I work out on Nautilus machines, instruments of torture conceived of and built by men who hate squishy women. Then, when I am winded, sweaty, and exhausted, I do leg lifts, crunches, and things like curls and flys. No matter which way I turn when I’m in the weight room, there’s a mirror in front of me. Mocking me.
          Why am I doing this? Because, like every other year of my adult life, I gained weight over the winter. Because, when I was trying on a dress and had my stomach sucked in, my daughter said, “Just suck your stomach in, Mom. It’ll look fine.”
          Because 1993 is the year of my 25th high school class reunion.
          I remember thinking, when I’d been out of school eight years, that I could have been a doctor by then if I’d wanted to. Now I’m thinking, I could have a kid who’s a doctor if any of them had wanted to. Admittedly the kid would be a really young doctor whose only house calls were to home to have his or her laundry done.
          I remember my 20th class reunion, when I went on a diet and got my hair done and even borrowed my friend’s shoes because they matched my new shirt. I remember my relief because that our name tags had our senior pictures on them because I knew without a doubt that no one would remember me except for the ones I see all the time at school and at the grocery store and once a year at the fair. “Stay with me,” I told my husband. “If no one knows me, I want to go home.”
          “What if you don’t know them?” he asked.
          “I’ll know them.” I was as sure of that as I was that they wouldn’t know me.
          Some knew me and some didn’t. I knew some of them and some of them I didn’t. Some of us had changed dramatically and some of us hadn’t changed at all. Some of us had children who were nearly grown and some had toddlers. A few were grandparents.
          I had a really wonderful time. My husband checked on me periodically. We got home at three AM.
          So here it is five years later. I’m still on a diet and still wondering if anyone will know me when we all get there. Many more of us are grandparents by now and have probably changed even more, so that people will squint at our name tags and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember…” (You say that a lot at class reunions.)
          And it’s a joyous thing, being with people who remember the same things you do. If you’re feeling old, you can look at them and think how young they still look and know you’re the same age. You remember sitting in the same classes, on the same bleachers, riding the school bus for what seemed like hours every day.
          It makes me wonder, while I’m lifting weights and checking to see if I have yet developed triceps and calf muscles (I haven’t), if others are doing the same thing or facsimiles thereof.
          I’m glad my class reunion isn’t the only reason for the diet and exercise, because it’s not a very good one. No one there cares what size you are, what color your hair is, or how much money you made last year. Because, although not all classmates love each other even after 25 years, there is a sense of togetherness developed by memories shared that makes us see each other in a kind light. We delight in each other’s glories and mourn each other’s losses. It is the best of times.
***
North Miami Class of 1968
          2018
          Still dieting, and I’ve only gained about 40 more pounds since 1993. I’m calling that a success.
          Our 50th class reunion was this past weekend. We partied and ate and talked and took a million pictures. We remembered…oh, a lot. We were different now. Our hearing is compromised, our joints either wearing out or replacement models. Doctors’ appointments are a much bigger reality than we’re happy with. We’ve suffered losses and we’ve experienced glories. We mourned and we delighted. And we laughed, walking around and around the room and trying to make sure we greeted everyone. “I missed a few,” I said on the way home. “I missed a few,” a friend texted the next day.
          But not many, not intentionally, and we’ll catch them the next time the class of ’68 converges and gathers in celebration of that sense of togetherness the shared memories gave us both then and now.
          It was the best of times.

Someday many years from now
We'll sit beside the candles glow
Exchanging tales about our past
And laughing as the memories flow
And when that distant day arrives
I know it will be understood
That friendship is the key to live
And we were friends and it was good. - Eileen Hehl


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

TAKE YOUR MOMENTS


by Debby Myers

Elvin Myers
My husband just got a phone call that his father has passed away. My father-in-law was 86 and he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Although I didn’t meet him until seven years ago, I’ve heard from many that he had a long, wonderful life. When an older person dies, that is often the comment you hear most.

What I see in him is a man who had many experiences―some breathtaking, some tragic, some hysterical―and he was strong, proud and loved. As he began to deteriorate from the man I knew, I didn’t want to remember him in that way. I couldn’t bring myself to go see him the past few months, knowing he was dying. I think it was because every time I lose someone I love, my memories of them come flooding back. I want my memories of him to be when he was talking and smiling…living. It may sound selfish to some.

My own father died almost 30 years ago at the age of 48. No one said he had a long,
Ernie Range
wonderful life. On the contrary, he’d had a rough one. It was a heart attack, sudden but not really unexpected. My parents were divorced and I hadn’t see him much―not since I was a teenager. Yet he was still my dad. That connection was there.

I’ve been told you can see him in me. My memories of him are so vague. I wish I’d known him better and I wish I’d spent more time with him. I wish we had talked about his childhood, his memories. Hindsight is definitely 20/20.

The death of a parent is different than any other. They gave you life and it feels like a part of who you are dies with them. In my case, the loss was overwhelming. I needed to fill that void with memories―the good ones—of my dad. I was angry because there were so few, so long ago.

None of my children ever knew my dad, so I am their only link to him. Whenever I got the chance, I would tell them something about him. That he loved basketball, that he made up little nicknames for me and all my friends, that he liked to drive, and loved Elvis Presley.

I’m so glad my husband will have so many memories of his father to share with our grandchildren about their great-grandfather. That’s the circle of life we speak about. It’s so important to keep one’s spirit alive after they pass. In truth, it’s the one thing I think they want―not to be forgotten. It’s so important to tell our children and grandchildren stories of those who have gone. I wonder what my children will remember about me. I like to think I’ve given them many good memories.

In all aspects of my life, I’ve stuck by a phrase. In 4th grade I was cast in a play at school called “Cowboy on the Moon.” From a young age, I remember wanting to be in the spotlight and I had no fear of performing, sometimes to a fault. At one of our final rehearsals, my teacher, Mrs. Demuth, said to me, “Take your moments up there and help others have their moments too. Your moments are how you will be remembered.”

So, readers―do it! Take your moments! Over the next several weeks, our family will be sharing their moments of my father-in-law. May he now rest in peace and know he will be remembered.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

There was a stairway...

I think I always knew I'd be a writer. Or at least that I wanted to be. Since I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, Lewis Grizzard, Captain Stubby, John Turnipseed, and numerous and sundry other syndicated columnists, that was what I wanted to be, too. While I never got syndicated--not from lack of trying--the Window Over the Sink has been out and about for 30 years. It is my favorite thing to write. However, I try not to make it about writing. Except today.

I wanted to write books, too. I read voraciously as a kid, finishing every book an author I liked wrote and starting over and reading them all again. And I wanted to do that, too.
Gilead School - thanks to Don DeWald
There was a stairway in the center hall at Gilead School. The stairs led to the
stage. That was where I would sit whenever it was allowed at lunchtime and recess and write long stories on loose-leaf notebook paper. I liked college rule the best because I could get more words on the paper. I kept it all in a folder. I used a different color folder for each story and I can still remember whose stories went with what color. When the folders began to disintegrate, I put them back together with masking tape. I was ten when I started. I'll be 68 Thursday--I'll let you know when I stop.

So tomorrow Nice to Come Home To will be released. It's the third story from Lake Miniagua. Its protagonists are a writer and an engineer (who also plays guitar.) They own an orchard together--think McClure's and Doud's in a mash-up; I'm so grateful for their unwitting help in the writing of this book--and they like each other a little more than they intended.

The blurb and buy links are below. Thanks to everyone who reads the Window both here and in Peru Indiana Today. If you read my books, thanks for that, too. You've all made it such a fun ride. Have a great week!

***
Will an apple a day…

Keep love at bay?

For Cass Gentry, coming home to Lake Miniagua, teenage half sister in tow, is bittersweet. But her half of the orchard she inherited awaits, and so does a fresh face—Luke Rossiter, her new business partner. Even though they butt heads in business, they share one key piece of common ground: refusing to ever fall in love again. But as their lives get bigger, that stance doesn’t feel like enough…








Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Piercings, tattoos, and underwear

This is from 2009. I think I could make a series of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," because I still feel the same way about piercings, tattoos, and underwear. I still don't know where to look. But I still maintain none of those things are sufficient criteria by which to judge a person.

I don’t mind piercings. I don’t love them, by any means — I nearly fainted the first time I got one. That was the first ear with a darning needle and then I had to go ahead and have the other one done. Then they were crooked and I let them grow back, vowing never to do it again. But I did, and then one more time just because I wanted to wear two sets of earrings. I’d like to do the cartilage thing, too, up in the top of one ear, but I’m too big of a chicken, so that’s not going to happen.

I don’t mind tattoos, either. Some of them are beautiful and meaningful to their wearers. I’d even kind of like to have a little shamrock tattooed somewhere not obvious, but in addition to being a big chicken, I’m also a cheapskate. I’d rather spend the money required for a tattoo on something else. Probably earrings. Maybe purses. Or shoes.

Now that I think about it, there are a whole host of things I don’t mind. Drooping pants with
boxers and body parts peering out. Skin tight pants with body parts squeezing out. Skimpy tops with body parts hanging out — although I must confess to jealousy here; I’d give my whole earring collection to have the kind of body that looks good in those tops.

It doesn’t bother me that people wear pajamas in public. Truth is, the pjs seldom expose any body parts and they’re really comfortable. They’re often color coordinated with a hooded sweatshirt and a stocking cap and gloves. I don’t have a problem with chains. You know, the ones looping from people’s pockets that are attached to ... something. Of course, whenever I see them, usually on a guy in a close-fitting black cap, I spend the next hour singing, “Ch-ch-chain ...” This would be all right, except that I don’t know the rest of the words, so I just say, “Ch-ch-chain ...” over and over again.

I don’t mind comb-overs. As someone who has had recalcitrant hair for ... oh, lots of years, I understand that you do what you have to do. Every now and then, though, the wind will catch hold of a comb-over and suddenly you have a nearly-bald man with hair standing a foot or so straight in the air on one side of his head, starting from a part that’s right over his ear.

Which brings me to my problem.

I don’t know where to look.

When dealing with people, there’s little that’s more important than eye contact. It once took me months to go back to a fast food restaurant because the cashier who took orders took mine without once looking at me, much less saying Please, Thank you, or Have a nice day. But you can’t maintain a mutual gaze all the time. You have to look at something else.

If a person doesn’t have facial piercings, you can look at his or her face. You can notice if you like her makeup or if he should have shaved and you can ask if they have any weekend plans. But if there are little gold rings in their eyebrows, nostrils, and upper lips, you catch yourself staring in a heartbeat. Same goes for tattoos of teardrops slipping down cheeks. Your query about weekend plans comes out something like, “So, are you backing the Cardinals in the Super Tattoo?”

If hair is just, you know, hair, you can think, “Oops, roots,” and go on about your business, but if the comb-over is misplaced, you absolutely cannot tear your eyes away. Your fingers itch to just give a little flip of that chunk standing Alfalfa-like where the wind left it.

Drooping clothes give you parenting urges, even if you no longer clock in daily as a mom. You want to offer a belt, a cover-up hoodie, sweats to wear over the sprayed-on jeans. You want to say, “Just get up?”

Chains make you think in stereotypes. Gangs? Truck drivers who thunder past you on icy highways and scare the snot out of you? Even worse, in my case, is that they make me sing and gaze vaguely at anything except the serpentine length of metal looping from a pocket to...something.

However, I think I may have something figured out. And I owe it all to the name tag I wear at work.

The name tag is so that people will know what they can call me aside from “hey!” or, even worse, “hey, lady!” It’s information, and if I didn’t want to share that information, I wouldn’t wear the tag. (This is assuming I wasn’t required to wear the tag, and I’m not even going there.) I think this means it’s okay to look at facial piercings, obvious tattoos, attention-calling clothes, and chains.

What isn’t okay is to look at all those things and forget to see the person behind them. Just as there is a whole lot more to me than a chintzy plastic name tag, there’s more to everyone than what meets — and calls to — the eye.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The case for average

I'm not sure when I wrote this, but my letter grade in life hasn't risen any since then. 

I'm coming clean. It's said that confession is good for the soul — plus it's a novelty in this day of not admitting to anything. Makes me feel all sanctimonious and Marmee-like. So here goes.

I am not a leader.

Umm, felt good. I'll say it again, louder and longer. I'm a follower with absolutely no aspirations to lead.

I have never dreamed of gathering obscene wealth or dining at restaurants where cute guys park your car and paparazzi snap pictures of you as you walk past. I've never longed to be a CEO or a member of any other profession that has initials as its description.

If I'm helping at a seminar or conference, I'm the one making sure the speakers have fresh water and directing people to the coffee urn and the nearest bathroom. I'm never the one smiling out over the crowd and saying, "Can everyone hear me?" I don't want to be heard.

I play Jeopardy along with the TV show at home — badly — but the idea of actually going on television for any purpose makes me turn pale and fumble for my Zoloft.

The last time I had jury duty, I was elected to be the foreperson based on my being the only one who had served before. I explained that all this meant was that I knew where the bathroom and the coffeepot were, but the other jurors seemed to think that was sufficient knowledge. I hope those people are never around when conference speakers are hired; they might recommend me!

When I was in high school, I was always a third-row member of pep club, never a cheerleader. In physical education class, the bane of my existence, I warmed the bench in basketball, was the 27th batter in baseball, and the only time I ever got a volleyball over the net was when the hard-as-a-rock ball bounced off my nose and I thought it was broken. The nose, that is, not the ball. If I'd gone away to camp to improve my skills the way young scholars and student athletes do now, I'd have ended up being the tent monitor because I was too lackadaisical to excel at anything else.

While I admire excellence and do on occasion strive for it, I'm more often happy with good-enough. My husband — whose leadership qualities I hesitate to acknowledge just in case he takes it upon himself to lead me — thinks if you're going to do something, you should do it right or not at all. Having been raised by a mother who ironed everything, I became an adult who can survive years at a time without opening up the ironing board. However, if I'm wearing a jumper or a vest, I will break down and iron the collar and sleeves of the blouse I wear underneath. It looks … you know … okay. My husband considers this beyond laziness and well into slovenliness, so I let him iron my blouses whenever he wants to.

I am — dare I say it? — incredibly average, to the point that I've never been able to buy my clothes off the clearance racks because my size is average, too. When I gained the requisite 20 pounds and two sizes after I stopped smoking, so did everyone else.

And you know what?; I don't mind being average. A friend suggests that this is because I don't want the responsibility of excellence. I don't want to be the idea person, the trouble-shooter, the Moses of the workplace. She's right.

But at the end of the day, when all the ideas are presented and the games played and the conferences over, everyone needs the bathroom and a cup of coffee. They need to sit and unwind without worrying whether there are wrinkles in their blouses. They need to just be average.

So, the bathroom's just down the hall there and the coffee's fresh. Cream? I'll be glad to get you some. That's what people like me are for, and it's not bad at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Donut Man and Led Zeppelin


You may have noticed that when I get overwhelmed--or lazy--I beg invite friends to join me here. They have tons of information to share, are funnier than I am, and present a new view through the smudged glass of the Window Over the Sink. This week, Joe DeRozier's back. Thanks to him for coming and for sharing what he calls his ramblings. See you next week--unless another funnier, smarter friend shows up - Liz 

It's dark... I'm tired...

I grab the mountain of paperwork from the passenger seat, climb out of the car, then go to the back seat where I put the bag of garbage that Kat left for me by the back door.

I throw the garbage in the dumpster, trying to stay aware of where my keys and important papers are so as not to pitch those in there as well.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to climb in that dumpster to retrieve my things. I used to fling myself up on the side, check for racoons, then jump in. It's harder now. I get a ladder if I can...things sure change...

I unlock the bakery door and walk in to pitch black. It doesn't really matter. I KNOW this place better than anywhere. Besides...my eyes are still closed.

It's seven steps in, and slightly to the right at about 45°. More than likely there is a rack there. At chest level there are light switches on the east wall. I hit those and there's an instant flood of light. It takes a second to adjust my eyes.

I look at the freezer temp and the condensation pump for anything that needs immediate attention.
All good…

I grab a 50lb cube of shortening. They're not as light as they used to be. I fill the melter, check temps, then start my prep work.

I check my phone for messages. Most people contact me through Facebook, so the only messages are usually telemarketers. Salespeople used to stop in and ask for my dad because I looked so young...that doesn't ever happen anymore.

Actually, while I'm thinking about it, salespeople never come in...or donation people. They call or message. They'd do better getting off their phones and stopping in...maybe I'm just getting old...

I get the first 85 lbs of dough ready to mix. I roll racks, move boards, put away dishes, get the proof box ready. I scan the bakery to figure out what I've forgotten to do. There's always something.

I forgot to scale cake donuts...

I head to my office, a.k.a. “the cave,” and fire up my computer, where I print out my "donut bible" and the invoices.

I start my dough, then head back to the cave to do more paperwork.

The dough finishes and I throw it on the tablewell, I USED to throw it on the table. Now I roll it as close to the
table as I can, assess the situation, pick it up and say a quick prayer.

I'm still strong enough... it's the pain...

I have 10 minutes to let the dough proof...

This is the best 10 minutes of the day... I have coffee... I sit down by the table. I'm alone, with Led Zeppelin playing in the background. It's quiet...

I think about my family... I think about my dad, a lot. I wonder what wonderful things will happen with my kids. How long will my wife put up with me? Will her eyes lock in the "rolled" position?

The timer goes off. My coffee is cold.

It's 3:30 am, now.

I create some donuts. I'm slow at first, then get into a rhythm.

Mason and Michael come in. They always come in to help. We talk. Some about business, some about Peru. Our wives/girlfriend (Mason's girlfriend is my daughter, April, so he has to say good things). Politics, weather... we make fun of each other. We fry, fill and ice, and pack up the donuts.

Ed Stuber from Main Street Market picks his donuts up just as we're packing them. They're still warm.

We get everything cleaned up. Mike and Mason eventually leave.

People from the other stores come in. There are brief salutations...nothing more...It's quiet again for me. I try not to fall asleep. I have a few hours to wait until I start all over...

The time comes...I start my dough, this time knowing there will be about 300 pounds. I'll only mix and cut these, but no one else is here. I see customers in the storefront and store workers going back and forth... of course, they're too busy to bother with me...

I'm around a lot of people, but I'm alone, really.

Just me and Led Zeppelin playing in the background...