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.

Because.

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 and...er...snots, 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.