Saturday, May 30, 2020

Seeds of Age by Liz Flaherty

I changed the bottle in my water cooler the other day and reflected a little grumpily that it won't be long before I'll have to start using three-gallon bottles instead of five-gallon ones because the weight and awkwardness are getting hard to handle.

I've been wearing the same necklace ever since the beginning of sheltering in place because neither Duane nor I can consistently manage to fasten or unfasten jewelry clasps.

When we watch Grace and Frankie, I nod my head the whole time--not just because it's funny but because even at its most unbelievable, it's shockingly accurate.

This morning I needed something from the shed. No, not that shed--the other one, which meant I had to look in both of them. I found the item I was looking for, used it, and went into the house to ask Duane to go out and latch the doors on the sheds because even though I got them open, I couldn't get them closed.

Walking is the only form of exercise I like, and I like to walk two miles; however, I'm tired enough after a mile and a half that I usually just do that. I might add that the mile and a half takes me as long as the two used to take. Or I might not. I might just say that I choose to take more than 20 minutes to walk a mile. What's the hurry, after all?

Our 49th anniversary was yesterday. We talked the night before about the things long-marrieds often talk about. (Actually, I did most of the talking--he nodded sometimes.) Would you do it again? Has it been worth it? What would you change? What if we'd done this instead? The truth is, any change at all--including the times of pain, sadness, and anger that create pock marks on any enduring relationship--would alter the path of our lives together. It might be straighter, but it might not be, too. It would make the climate of the marriage different and put us in a place we might like less instead of more. It's not a chance I'd be willing to take. He wouldn't, either.

All of these things are seeds planted by time. By age. Some of them were surprising--who knew I wouldn't be able to put my own necklace on? Some were expected--walking slower--but not expected already. Later, maybe, but not now.

But I've noticed...

That the water in the three-gallon bottles tastes and costs the same as the water in the five-gallon bottles.

That whatever necklace I have on has memories and love attached to it--doesn't matter what one I wear or for how long I wear it.

That the women who play Grace and Frankie make no pretense at not being the age they are, nor do the characters they play, and when I'm laughing I don't give any thought at all to how old they are.

People, even ones you aren't married to, will help you with things like door latches. Partly because they feel sorry for you because you're old, partly out of respect for said oldness, and partly because people are generally nice.

That when you walk slow, you see more wildlife and plant life. You smell the flowers. You hear the birds--although I have to admit I still don't usually know one from another.

That scar tissue, some of the fabric that holds 49-year marriages and other long friendships together, is strong stuff. Made to last if that's what both halves want to happen.

The seeds of age are hard-won and we earn them whether we want to or not. How and where we plant them and what we do with whatever grows from them...well, that's up to us.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


I was standing in the middle of my office, with the mess of office stuff on my left and the even bigger mess of sewing stuff on my right. The windows and door were open. The fifth episode of the second season of The West Wing was on television. The orioles were talking outside and our cat, Gabe, was just sitting there. He may have been a little cranky about the orioles, but he’s old and he’s a guy—maybe he was just cranky for general principles. I had coffee in my hand, fresh from the Keurig, sweetened and creamed to just the taste and color I liked. My husband wasn’t here, but he’d kissed me goodbye when he left. We’d laughed about something and we’d danced in the hallway in the house before I came out.

I laughed out loud, in here with no one to hear me, and I can see my smile in the screen of the computer even now. The orioles in the yard are even more orange than they usually are. Birdsong is sweeter and flowers gorgeouser.

And there, just for a couple of minutes in my morning, life was perfect.

Joe DeRozier
My friend Joe makes doughnuts. During the coronavirus quarantine, he’s been delivering pastries to surrounding towns on certain days of the week. One town in particular was happy for his deliveries since their own long-time bakery was closed. The other bakery has opened back up now, so Joe stopped delivering to that town. He didn’t have to. They didn’t ask him to. But he wasn’t interested in taking over someone else’s playground.

For a moment in time, there was perfection in the world of local small business.

I like color. I like birds. I like rabbits and squirrels and deer in the yard. This morning, the cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, and blue jays—not to mention what I think was a bluebird but I’m not positive—are all over the place. I can see the rabbits down where they live and the squirrels scaling the cottonwood. No deer today, which is fine.

The scene out my office window is perfect. Just now.
Terri Hall

My friend Terri gave me ten bags of fabric. Yes, ten. Since I already have…much fabric, I don’t need to get into those ten bags all at once. They’re sitting over there on the sewing side of the room. And it’s like having a Christmas tree in May. Each of those bags is a gift and I don’t know the contents. When I need something new, something uplifting, I open a bag. I make plans for the pieces of fabric in the bag. Masks, or one beautiful piece I’m going to be wearing as a summer top—if we ever actually get summer—or the center of a quilt block.

There is nothing except the fabric and the plans for it and who can be made happy by what is done with it. Happy’s good. Passing it on is even better. Opening that bag makes for several perfect moments.

There are drive-bys going on for high school graduates. This morning I watched a video of North Miami staff sending their students off for the summer with signs and waving. Dry eyes weren’t an option if you were watching.

It was perfection in a time of pain and loss.

As part of a lifestyle, a vocation, or an avocation, I think perfection is overrated—possibly because I’ve always known I had neither the patience or the necessary skills to achieve it. I’m a great fan of pretty good, good enough, and okay. If something was fun, productive, and no one was hurt, that’s as close to perfect as I need.

I remember a customer showing me a bubblegum card with a a young Mickey Mantle on it. I was so impressed because it was really old and it was…you know…Mickey Mantle. But he said it was worthless because it was so imperfect. The corners were crumpled and it was faded and it looked…old. All I could think was, Yeah, but it’s Mickey Mantle.

And yet. And yet I can still appreciate those moments of perfection. And talk about them, remember them, and be glad they happened. So, once again in my best Pollyanna Whittier voice, I’m asking you to look for the perfect, enjoy it, and store it up so that when 2020 is in the past, you will remember more than darkness. More than division. More than haters hating and people dying and high school seniors having to grow up at least a semester before their time.

I hope you’ll remember that while churches were silent, the people who attend them still worshiped. That while school buildings were closed, teachers (and parents!) still taught and students still learned. Don't forget bright orange birds, graduates not in the least lessened by not being able to march with their classmates to “Pomp and Circumstance,” and health care and other essential workers who stepped up Every Single Day of the quarantine. Remember always that in the midst of all that was bad, there were also moments of perfect in every day.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Moving forward... by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

I think about retiring from writing. I talk about it. I muse to friends about it and look with no small amount of envy at people who are 20 years younger than I am. Not because I want to be 20 years younger--I like where I am--but because I'd like to keep writing for another 20 years. Not that 20 would be enough.

I had a houseful of kids for 200 years. My house was loud and messy and so full of angst it rolled over the edges of the windowsills and splashed into the flower beds. I was exhausted all the time, and so overwhelmed I didn't know what to do with myself, and such a failure in so many ways as a parent that I'm amazed my kids still talk to me. Somewhere deep in my heart, I couldn't wait for it to be over.

And then it was. Oh, my God, it was. They were all grown up. And I wasn't ready--I wasn't ready at all. I loved chaos! I loved angst! I wanted the noise back.

For 30 years, I worked for the USPS. There was not much middle ground there; when I didn't love my job, I hated it. The public was 95 percent wonderful and five percent the dregs of the earth, kind of like the job itself. A carrier bag of mail that wasn't supposed to weigh more than 35 pounds often did. Full-route pieces of mail that went out like clockwork every month suddenly didn't show up when mail count rolled around. Like any other workplace that has both laborors and managers, there were abject failures and glorious successes on both sides. When I retired, though, I suddenly wasn't sure I wanted to. I stood at the time clock for a full five minutes on my last day, not wanting to take that final step.

I have loved every day of retirement from that job. I don't in truth miss it, but I still remember how I felt that day.

Sometimes there are just too many endings, aren't there? Too many losses. Too many life changes that leave you stuttering-- "Wait, wait, I'm not ready."

What to do? Well, it's pretty easy. Of course, I had to write it all out before I got it.

The truth is, you're never going to be ready. But wait, there's more. With endings come beginnings. With loss comes memories. With life changes come new friends, new experiences, good times.

I thought for a long time that in order for my work to be credible, someone needed to be reading it. Someone needed to be paying me for it. Those are things I would always prefer, but credibility comes from within, doesn't it? Do I write better when I have an audience? Yeah, I think so. Do I write better if there's a paycheck attached? Not always. So, no, I won't retire until I can't operate a keyboard anymore.

You don't "get over" losing people, do you? I think it gets better, but the getting better takes effort. It doesn't mean you don't talk about the ones you loved or that you don't remember things. It doesn't even mean you remember only the good things. What it means is, if they had a place in your heart while they were living, they still have it.

Having an empty nest means your life is, for the most part, your own again, and it's up to you what you make of it. For us, live music, coffee shops, and writers' groups have been new and exciting beginnings, including the friends, experiences and good times I mentioned above.

Not being ready doesn't stop things from happening. Life doesn't go on hold until you're ready to start living it again. It stops briefly, breathlessly, and waits for you to catch up. Do that. Don't let it go on without you.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

If you can't say something nice... #WindowOvertheSink

I don’t really mind the social distancing of these strange days. I don’t mind wearing a mask when I’m going to be among others. My hair and my nails…well, they don’t look very good, and I’ll be glad to see Denee and Julie again, but they don’t actually bother me, either. I can wait until the end of the getting back to business line because no one I know bases their opinion of me on my hair and nails. Or, if they do, they probably aren’t people I need in my life. I am—sigh—of a certain age, and caution just makes sense to me. It’s not—let me say that again, NOT—the same as fear.

We haven’t run out of toilet paper. I haven’t even fought with anyone in the personal-needs aisle of a grocery store over the last four-pack, although one day I did indeed buy the last four-pack. I’m growing used to using whatever brand of facial tissue I can find, because the spots where Kleenex and Puffs live are always empty. I miss them, the Puffs and Kleenex and the Charmin toilet paper, but I miss having smooth skin, too, and I’ve learned to be perfectly happy without it.

Like that skin, I kind of doubt that life as we knew it will ever return completely. Just as every other catastrophe has affected us, so will this one. I don’t know, sadly enough, if we will learn from it or not. We aren’t even able to get the basics down. Love your neighbor. Do no harm. Tell the truth. Live and let live.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I’m going to slip something right in here that I wrote for a blog post somewhere else. You won’t even see the seams—promise!

“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” – Tina Fey

I’ve never been able to settle Mother’s Day down into that one Sunday of the year. Make no mistake, I like hearing from my kids on the actual day. If I’ve heard from all of them by day’s end, it makes the sunset of that day all the better and brighter and…I don’t know, calmer. (Which is decidedly odd, because I don’t recall ever having a calm day while they were growing up.)

The truth of the matter, though, is that most of my Mother’s Days haven’t been on the second Sunday in May. No, it’s been more like this.

Y  The days they were born. I don’t need to explain that one, do I?
Y  The days they graduated.
Y  The evenings they sat on the porch with me and watched sunsets.
Y  The mornings my sons crawled out of bed and helped me get my car unstuck from the snow so that I could go to work.
Y  The day after my mother’s passing when I told my mother-in-law that I no longer had anyone who would love me no matter what. And my mother-in-law said, “You still have me.”
Y  The day my daughter, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, and I lay on a bed in a vacation rental and laughed and talked.
Y  The days lately when my daughter has gone to the grocery store for me because, as her brother says, her dad and I are in the “high risk” group.
Y  The blissful days that have made me a grandmother seven times.
Y  Every day. Every day you’re a mom, no matter who it’s to—giving birth doesn’t have a lot to do with it—you have somebody to love who loves you back. Even on the days you don’t like each other.

I’ve reached the time when I am the matriarch (although I’m not at all crazy about that word) on our particular branch of the family tree. I still miss my mom and mother-in-law, but am so glad that I had them. They were glad to have had me, too, and that’s a nice thing to know.

Not every second Sunday in May has been a happy day, just as every day as a mother hasn’t been a happy one—I had three teenagers at one time; of course they weren’t all good days! But when I look back and count up my fortunately few regrets, being a mom is never on the list.

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day. All of them.

There, didn’t see a thing, did you? My life is so much better with cut-and-paste in it! I’ve thought so much about my mom lately. I cut lilacs at the farm where I grew up—they were always her favorites. And mine. I’ve thought of my mother-in-law and how much I miss her. I’m so grateful to have had them both.

And my mind keeps going back to those basics. Love your neighbor. Do no harm. Tell the truth. Live and let live. And another one, said by Thumper’s mom, If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. These are things all mothers—including rabbit ones, apparently—have been saying all along. They’re as right now as they ever were.

As we go through this time and come out on the other side of it, we need to remember those things. We need to relearn how to listen, how to embrace and mean it, and how not to do harm. We can do without Charmin, Kleenex, Puffs, and smooth skin--we can't do without kindness and all that goes with it.

Have a great week. Be safe. Be nice to somebody.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Sixth Try #WindowOvertheSink

I’ve discovered that even when I try to write about something that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 virus, or quarantine, or social distancing, it doesn’t work very well. The crisis and all its accouterments are the elephant in every room. So I thought I’d just go ahead and wallow in it, write about it, talk about who and what I miss. About worrying. About fear. I’ve now started this paragraph five times. I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around thinking I should be doing something productive, so maybe that’s what this is. More likely, though, it’s just the sixth try at a column.

I love the wildflowers on the Nickel Plate. Today it was little starry white things and even tinier yellow ones with the occasional bold and brassy dandelion pushing its way forward, saying, “Here I am, like it or not.” Today, while walking, I saw six people on bicycles. We kept our distance, nodded, smiled, and said, “Hi.”

I’ve baked this week, banana bread and cinnamon roll bread and Grands biscuits and Weight Watchers cheesecake. I’ve done laundry and dishes and cooked meals and gotten out of cooking a few others simply by making a phone call and picking up some really good stuff someone else prepared. Days that are never long enough suddenly are. I am never bored, but for the first time in my adulthood I understand how some people are.  

On my grandson’s birthday, the third grandchild’s birthday during the quarantine, we took money to him and handed it to him out the window of the car. There were no hugs involved, but everyone’s heart was, so it was okay.

Writing has been interesting. I’ve had some days when I’ve written more than I sometimes accomplish in a week. There have also been hiccups. There have been paragraphs and full pages written and discarded, written and discarded, written and…sometimes on the sixth time, it takes. The paper that has published the Window went on hiatus and I feel betrayed even though I wasn’t. I think that explains part of the wandering around, though. Part of the inability to complete things.

DeRozier’s Bakery has been delivering doughnuts all over the place. Most area restaurants are taking orders by phone and delivering to your car when you go to pick them up. Grocery stores have special hours especially for at-risk customers. More sewing machines than I’d have thought existed in the area have sewn masks steadily since the need for them first became known.

People are being heroes everywhere we turn. Healthcare workers. Retail associates. Postal workers. Other delivery personnel. Those who are sharing accurate information not colored by politics. Performers who are giving free concerts online from their living rooms, their kitchens, their showers. Teachers who left their classrooms without saying goodbye to their kids are still reading to them from Facebook, answering questions, working on e-learning. Going to meetings on Zoom. And meetings, and meetings, and meetings…

We all worry, but the worries are different for everyone. If a nurse has children at home, how scared is she or he of taking the virus home with them? Teachers can only do so much to educate without a classroom; they can’t be sure their kids are doing the work in their packets or eating regularly. Everything we buy off a shelf or receive by one delivery mode or another has been touched by human hands. Many human hands. Not everyone is careful. I worry because I’m afraid I’ll never be able to hug my grandkids again. I’m afraid my husband or I will get sick and we won’t get to be together.  

There are words and phrases being used a lot. Hoax. Living with fear. Social distancing. Masks. We’re all in it together. Good people. The usual people are trolling social media—telling less than the truth, calling names, denigrating others because they can. They’re stirring a pot that is already boiling over with floods of fear and loneliness and not giving a damn.

Connor Wilson at McClure's Orchard
We are brought to tears, some of us, by unexpected things. Vandals who stole and destroyed signs meant to honor seniors who’ve been robbed of the last so-much-fun months of high school. Virdie Montgomery, a principal who put 800 miles on his car so that he could visit each of his seniors. A picture of a grandson heeling in apple trees in a field. Knowing another grandboy hurt his foot. Music videos.

I’ve been looking for a way to finish this column, this endless sixth attempt that’s much more than a single paragraph. It’s hard because there aren’t any solutions yet.

But we will have church in the building this week, for the first time in a long time, maintaining our distance and dispensing with greeting time. Restaurants will be open at partial capacity soon. Salons are welcoming customers back slowly, one at a time. Be safe. At least as safe as you can, for the sakes of others if not for yourself. Wear a mask even if you don’t like them and don’t think they’ll help—they sure won’t hurt.

I remember a line from a book I read in junior high days. It was Sue Barton, Rural Nurse, and the town of Springdale, New Hampshire had suffered the effects of a terrible storm. (I think it was a hurricane, but you can’t quote me on that part.) Many of the town’s residents spent the night in a church, on high ground. When they got up in the morning, they looked down on the town and its partial ruin and up at the sky, and one of them said, in words like this but maybe not exactly, “It looks like it’s going to be a good day, folks.”

We’re going through quite the hurricane, aren’t we? Some days it feels as if the eye of it is coming straight toward us and we’re going to have to find a way to climb its wall to find safety again. Other days aren’t so bad. They’re times of doughnuts, wildflowers, grandkids’ birthdays, banana bread, and heroes. So many heroes. It’s days like that when we feel like we’ll be able to finish the paragraph and look around and say, “It looks like it’s going to be a good day, folks.”

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Time to Get Off the Tilt-A-Whirl by Scott Johnson

Photo by Taylor Lentz
Scott Johnson is probably the closest thing to a renaissance man I've ever known. He owns the Black Dog Coffee Shop and Legacy Outfitters in Logansport, Indiana, and is so generous to the arts community that none of us have ever figured out a good way to thank him. He hosts musicians and writers, provides a venue for classes, and--although he's ostensibly retired from teaching--teaches someone something every day. The Black Dog Writers is home to some of the best writing voices around--including his. 

Logansport, like every other small town around, needs money. Needs jobs. Needs industry. One such industry, WSP may be coming there. Or not. There are many articles about it, including the one linked here.

This is Scott's take on it. I like it a lot. I don't live in Logansport, or work there anymore, so I don't have a dog in the race, but if I did...well, I'm with Scott.

The whole WSP thing that is simmering in the background of this pandemic is a mess. I went back and read all of their social media posts…once. (I read them all as they were released but today I went back and read them consecutively…anyway) To produce a coherent argument and dissect each of these posts would take more energy than I have to give. I could hardly get through a paragraph without a feeling a bit ill from the constant spin. I rode the “Tilt-A-Whirl” once or twice as a kid…hated it every time…this situation calls up my memories of that experience…dizzy, a bit queasy, a little disoriented and each time I had to ask myself the question…why the hell did I buy a ticket to make myself feel like shit? It made no sense to me…pay money to make myself sick? No thank you.

Do I want a better, cleaner environment for our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our rivers to be what our community is known for… I always felt that we didn’t put near enough energy into capitalizing on our unique river dominated landscape. Do I want a higher quality of life in our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our community to be known for the artists and artisans who live among us. I want our community to be known for its music, and its diverse culture. I want our new restaurants to thrive…I want our new hotels to thrive…I want our schools to thrive and succeed….i want our children to know that the world is a place full of opportunity and I want our community to become a destination...yes a destination. A place where people want to come…a place that is welcoming, and interesting, and inspiring. When people visit us, I want them to leave thinking about when they might be able to come back. I want to leave people feeling better about the world then before we made their acquaintance.

Do I know about mercury and lead and zinc and other heavy metals? Do I know how it all impacts human health? Do I know how hard it is to clean up a polluted environment? Do I know what it takes to work safely…”sustainably” around this stuff? And more importantly do I know about environmental reporting and regulatory requirements? Do I know that environmental regulations can be changed in the future, loosened, lowered depending on political clout and with a simple stroke of a pen? Yes, I know a bit. Probably not much more than anyone else…but I know a bit.

I also know that we need good jobs in our community…and I know that we need to live in the modern world and this modern world comes with some pretty nasty stuff. Stuff like heavy metals…stuff like chemical emissions. I want it all I guess. What I really want is a modern world that does not rely on the fact that we have to pollute to progress…I want a world where we do not have to use the word “sustainable” in our corporate names to make people feel better about having them as neighbors.

Perhaps I am a dreamer. Perhaps I am. That is fine with me. Until we imagine a better world, a different path, we will never even recognize the opportunity to change course. Let us all imagine. And then let us all take action.

I don’t like to be spun around. I don’t want to pay to feel worse. Wisdom is composed of insight and intuition…the gut feeling. My gut is a little unsettled by a flawed process…and a flawed message. Now, I am stepping off the carnival ride...and going to find a good lemon shakeup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

...and selfless... by Debby Myers #WindowOvertheSink

My husband and I had an interesting conversation recently. During a discussion on a decision I had made, he asked me if I ever wonder what he’s thinking. I thought it was a silly question at first. “Of course!” I replied.

He said, “For example, what do you think that I think about your decision?”

I just laughed and told him I didn’t really know, except that he wishes he could make it go away. Then he laughed and we both went about our day, but later I did start thinking about it. Not just what he thinks about that, but what kind of things does anyone think someone else thinks about them.

In the eight years we’ve been married, we have been through so very many things that sometimes it feels like we both should have collapsed under the pressure and the sorrow. We lost three people very close to us that first year we got marriedhis best friend’s wife, my brother and, another dear friend. The next year both my grandmothers died. Then two years later the day after we returned home from a dream vacation to Hawaii came my MS attack and diagnosis which threw both of our lives in a completely different direction.

The following year, his father passed away and a close friend died suddenly. During all of this his mother ended up in the hospital and when she came home, she needed constant care. This put a strain on both of us. We decided we needed a break and soon after we left on a trip out West. On our way back, my husband had a seizure while we were in a hotel in Iowa. He’d never had a seizure before! I think then I must have felt as terrified as he did when I had my first MS attack.

Not long after we got home, I took a bad fall that was again scary for both of us. Last year I lost one of my best friends to cancer. And now we are living through a pandemic.

As you go through all that life throws at you, people tell you you’re strong, you’re resilient and time heals all wounds. Are you? Does it? How do I think my husband feels about all of this? What do I think he thinks I feel? I know how I felt as each thing happened – did I really take time to think about what he was thinking? I believe I thought I knew, but truth be told, I only scratched the surface. I didn’t tell my husband everything I was thinking. I still don’t all the time. We all keep a lot of our own thoughts to ourselves. Sometimes I do it to protect others from being hurt. Other times I need to think it through myself before I share. I know there have been times I didn’t want him to know what I was thinking – I thought it might make him angry or sad. Sometimes it’s just because it’s personal to me and I don’t want to share. Other times it’s random pondering. But that’s me, what about him?

Back to his original question “Do you ever wonder about what I’m thinking?” I still say my answer is of course adding only about 50 percent of the time.

His question took me back to all I’ve told you that we’ve been through. To be honest, some of that time I was too wrapped up in my own feelings to consider what he must be thinking too. Selflessness means being more concerned with the thoughts, feelings and well-being of others – forsaking oneself for their benefit. The definition is tricky. Some believe no one is truly selfless because even if you’re doing something for someone without expectations of a reward or recognition, you are still gaining something yourself. It may be something as simple as a warm feeling. I mention this because my husband asking me this question is one requiring my selflessness. I’m a little ashamed to say that often I get too caught up in my own feelings, whether they be of happiness, sadness, anger or inquisition, to think about what he is thinking.

The point of my sharing all this with you is that I learned a lesson today. I may be 56 years old, but I like nothing more than a good lesson! From now on, I am going to strive to be more selfless. Before I make a decision that not only affects me, but others as well, I’m going to remind to ask myself what I think others think. I’m going to try to be more concerned about other thoughts and feelings than my own.

I can still think back to hearing myself saying “I don’t care what they think!’ or “I’m doing what’s best for me!” I’m pretty sure most of you have said those things too at one time or another. Yet selflessness shows giving, love, empathy and compassion. Isn’t that how you want others to see you? To think of you? 

Practicing this improves relationships, helps you gain perspective, takes you out of your own thoughts and away from your troublesif only for a moment. It can be therapy toward inner peace when you do get stuck in your own thoughts, because you know you’ve considered others. After all, wouldn’t it be the best ever compliment if someone said, “She’s strong, resilient and selfless” instead of just “She’s strong and resilient.” I think so…what do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Class of 2020 – Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar--

I’m listening to the Dave Clark Five. There, in case you didn’t know (or care) how old I am, is irrefutable evidence. 

As I listen, and maybe sing along, I remember. I remember going to movies at the Roxy and at the Times in Rochester and the State in Logansport. I saw A Hard Day’s Night seven times—at least once in each of those theaters. I saw Woodstock at the Roxy, Bonnie and Clyde at the State. I remember Shindig and Hullabaloo and American Bandstand and Where the Action Is on TV.

I remember Friday night basketball games and football games and convocations at school. Painting mailboxes (and ourselves) to earn money in 4-H, when we rode from house to house in the back of a pickup. Once, when we were playing outside at school, some of us sixth-grade girls asked if we could take a walk. The teacher—I think maybe he was playing baseball with the boys—must have given some absentminded approval, thinking we meant we were going to walk on the school grounds. Instead, we took off down the road. A mile later, someone came along and gave us a ride back to school. In the back of his pickup.

It was a more innocent time, of course, but it was neither as good or as bad as most of us who were around then remember it. Our music was the best that ever was—argue that if you will, but we know. We know. We remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and Elvis and Chubby Checker and…oh, we remember.

It’s kind of unusual for me to look back so dreamily on those days, although I tend to wax sentimental on many of the ones that came along later. I’ve always liked being an adult a lot better than I did being a kid. I liked being a mom and a wife and a postal worker and a writer better than I liked being a teenager. Those are the times I cherish most in my memories.

Except, of course, for senior year.

I remember that there were only two seniors who had to ride my bus in the 1967-68 school year and I was one of them. Janie was the other one and I am so glad she was there. Jim Shambarger, for six years straight, had the locker beside mine.
It was the year our school’s basketball team fought and scrapped their way to the semi-state. When none of us could talk because we just stayed hoarse from week to week from yelling. When Logansport’s Berry Bowl—the old one—was stuffed with supporters. Whenever our cheerleaders did the old “Two Bits” yell, everyone in the gym stood and “hollered” except the supporters of the school our team was playing against. Even now, I remember how much fun it was. How exciting. It defined the year for North Miami’s Class of ’68.

Although I’d never want to go back, I still get a little ache when I think about it. When I listen to some of the songs from those days, tears push against the back of my eyes and it’s a good thing I’m alone in here because I couldn’t talk if my life depended on it.

Listening to “Glad All Over,” I find myself thinking of Connor, my fifth grandchild, who will graduate from North Miami this year. He’s done what grandkids do, gone from being a toddler to being six-foot-three in the blink of an eye. He’s big. Hairy. Funny. He works and drives and knows what he wants to do. Like the rest of his grandfather’s and my Magnificent Seven, he is our hearts.

Covid-19 came along and his friends and he and all the other 2020 kids missed their senior trip, their spring break trips, and getting away with the kind of stuff you get away with your last semester of your last year in school.

It shouldn’t be a big thing in the scheme of things, in the overall big picture of life. But it is. It is. That ache again, for him. For his classmates. For all of the class of 2020.

They came in, this senior class, with Nine Eleven, when the nation’s hearts all broke in unison. The unison didn’t last long. We were back to being controversial and confrontational in no time at all. Quarreling and blaming, cheating and lying, hating and…oh, loving, too. Learning and laughing. Growing in spite of ourselves. Going on.

You, the class of ’20 and the ones before you and after you—you’re the best of us. You’re our chance to get it right. The generation that follows you won’t think you did—you’ll screw up as many things as you fix. Most of us don’t make the mistakes of the ones who went before us; we think up new ones of our own to make. You will, too.

But you’ll still be the best of us. The brightest light in this year of dimness and pain and sorrow. The loudest laughter. The sweetest music. When anyone does the “Two Bits” cheer, we’re all going to stand and holler for you because you’re so good. So smart. So precious to us all.

I’m so sorry for the damage that’s been done to your senior year. I know it’s time that you’ll never get back. But it’s not the best time of your lives—it’s just one time. There are so many better times ahead for you. Because you can do anything. Be anything. Go everywhere. Have good times and bad and survive them all.

Do you remember in the movie Hoosiers, when Norman Dale looked around at his team in their gold satin warmups as their hands met in the middle of their circle? Do you remember what he said?

He said, “I love you guys.”

You are the circle, class of 2020. You’ll make us laugh. Make us weep. Make us proud. Whether you’re in gold satin, denim, or leggings, I know I’m speaking for everyone who knows you when I swipe that line and change it up a little.

We love you guys. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Back to the Wood by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

This is from six 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. It's been used and re-used, but it's still a favorite. I hope you enjoy it...again.
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, February 18, 2020

Set 'em up, Joe... by Joe DeRozier #WindowOvertheSink

It was in the '90s.

It's hard to believe that something so clear in my memory happened so long ago. I was still a pretty young guy, and I was still burning the candle at both ends. I'd be in the bakery early in the morning, do paperwork, run errands,  mix dough, proof dough, cut dough, again proof dough, fry dough, ice and fill dough, pack finished donuts in boxes to be delivered, then deliver the donuts―after I cleaned up the bakery.

We had several delivery routes back then, but this route was the longest and most spread out.  Because I couldn't pay anyone to do it, and still make money, I took it. It was a terrible route, with long distances between stops. 

I first went to Bluffton, then up to Ft. Wayne,  then the rest of the stops took me to the west side of the state.  Once done, I drove back home, for what seemed like an eternity, with no more stops. I drank coffee, popped Nodoz, and even took aspirin to do ANYTHING to get the caffeine in my system.

This night, I had already been to Bluffton. I then went up to Ossian, where I was routinely pulled over for speeding. It really was unintentional―I had a hard time focusing. The police there were ALWAYS nice. It was almost a welcome break from my drive just so I could talk to someone,even if they were writing me a ticket or warning.

I arrive in Ft Wayne, make my drop, and I'm heading to Highway 30. Was I speeding? Absolutely. I'm tired and I want to finish as soon as possible so that my caffeine rush doesn't desert me.

I see the familiar red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. This has become such a common occurrence to me, it doesn't faze me anymore. I pull to the side, have my license and registration all ready, and roll down my window. I wonder what the heck is he doing back there.

Suddenly, several more police cars show up. This isn't standard operating procedure. The original police car finally opens. I'm looking back at him, because I'm baffled.

He yells (I mean, really yells!) at me to get back in the van (I just had my head sticking out the window), put both hands outside my window as far as they could go, and not to move a muscle. This seems a bit theatrical.

I look at him, and he's making a pretty wide semicircle to be able to see me, as he approaches. HIS GUN IS DRAWN. Suddenly I realized that this is real.


If you know me at all, you know my thoughts aren't always the most practical. It dawned on me, that I had a van full of donuts…and that there were a lot of policemen. They SO wanted my donuts, they were willing to threaten physical violence for them. What an honor!

Of course, this made me start to laugh. I'm tired. Incredibly drained. Running on fumes. The longer I look at the situation, the funnier it becomes. To me.

NOT to them.

I'm "gently" pulled out of the van―at gunpoint. I'm still giggling like a little girl. I'm frisked (by the way―that isn't cool), and another officer looks in the van with his flashlight. "What is in those boxes?" he screams.

Now I'm almost dying. "Donuts," I say with a huge grin.

He opens a couple boxes. Now he starts to laugh.

I told them I had just dropped off donuts at a convenience store and was heading to my next stop.

Apparently, a man in a van had just robbed a store and was racing down Highway 69. I was understandably mistaken for that guy.

The police were very nice and told me to be careful. It was one of the few times that sheer adrenaline saw me through the rest of my route.

I wonder if any of them are still telling that story to their friends?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Be My Heartwarming Valentine by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

It’s a magical place, is Christmas Town, Maine, and the writers of its stories can’t wait to go back each year. They start planning the next roster of stories as soon as the current one is finished. They exchange names of characters and businesses and keep a bible of what’s been done so far. Even the writers change from year to year. No one leaves Christmas Town because she wants to, but sometimes other responsibilities require a trip out of town.

Every now and then, we change things up. One year, we covered Thanksgiving and New Year’s as well as Christmas. For Christmas of 2019, we released our 2018 stories as an anthology. And now, as the new roaring 20s are putting on their fresh clothes, we have eight new stories in the Be My Heartwarming Valentine: A Heartwarming Christmas Town Box Set.

Stop by and sign up for our newsletter. You’ll find free reads and other fun stuff there. New information will be showing up as we wind down to release day on February 11.
Here to give you the Cliff’s Notes synopses of our stories are this year’s authors. Click on their links to find out more about us—we love visitors!—or to sign up for our newsletters.

Table for Six by Anna J. Stewart
When overwhelmed widowed single mother of three Cora Leonidis's mother-in-law "buys" her a personal chef at Christmas Town's bachelor auction, she doesn't know whether to be relieved or horrified. But from the moment Giovanni Renzo appears on her doorstep, Cora feels an immediate connection to this wanderer. She's not the only one who's loved and lost. While Giovanni is there to make her life easier, Cora hopes to heal his heart...and prove it's okay to love again. 
Sign up for Anna's newsletter at 

A Tale of Two Rings by Beth Carpenter
Two years ago, Alden Moretti ended his engagement with Mindy Rose and left Christmas Town. Now his grandmother has volunteered him to participate in the Christmas Town bachelor auction as an excuse to return. His assignment: convince Mindy to give back his grandmother’s diamond engagement ring. But after a few trips down memory lane with Mindy, Alden is having second thoughts. Can he leave Mindy behind once again?

The Apple of My Eye by Melinda Curtis
Young Lizzie Lincoln buys Steve Haepner at the auction for one hundred schmeckels and wants to keep him, much to single mom Abigail’s horror. Apple farmer Abigail doesn’t date. However, she needs an electrician and since Steve claims he’s not interested in dating her, it’s too good of a deal to pass up. But soon, Abigail is thinking she may have spoken too soon…
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Romancing her Valentine by Cari Lynn Webb
When Tessa Collier places the highest bid on the last bachelor at Christmas Town's Valentine's Day auction, she only wants one thing - a fake date to accompany her to her ex-husband’s gender reveal baby shower. But there's nothing pretend about Tessa's reaction to her bachelor - professional skier, Ryan Reeves. When Ryan offers his terms for their arrangement, Tessa must decide if one impulsive decision might lead to heartache worse than attending that baby shower alone or to her forever Valentine.   
Find Cari Lynn at

A Place to Hang Her Heart by Liz Flaherty
Although he was the instigator to the end of their long marriage, Rob Rahilly still needs to know Christy is happy after her solo move to Christmas Town, Maine. When his job ends in early retirement, he goes to New England to see how she’s doing, and ends up in a bachelor auction. Will the only woman he’s ever really loved take another chance on him, or do some hurts go too deep for the wounds to heal?
Find Liz’s Facebook author page at

Knock Down My Heart by Anna Adams
Georgia Bardill's daughters decide Sven Dante, their mom's handyman, is the perfect prince for her. Naturally, they volunteer him for the town's bachelor auction on the condition he takes out their mom and then makes them a snowman. A single mom, a slightly reluctant do-gooding "prince" bachelor, and sweetly manipulative little girls make Knock Down My Heart a heartwarming Christmas Town romance!
You can get in touch with Anna at

Love Fixes Everything by Claire McEwen
When Carrie Porter’s friends bid on handyman Gage Flanagan in the Christmas Town bachelor auction, and then gift his services to her, the single mom is embarrassed to accept their charity. But Carrie sets her pride aside to learn all she can about home repair from the surly bachelor. Only Gage isn’t quite as grumpy as he seems. As they work together to repair her historic home, Carrie and Gage realize that the love they feel might just repair their hearts as well. 

Head Over Heels by LeAnne Bristow
High school English teacher and former college gymnast, Karen McFadden, wants nothing more than to open her own gymnastics facility, but a math learning disability makes completing the paperwork for a business loan almost impossible. The last thing Daniel Lassiter wants to do is get stuck with an attention-seeking diva who wants to relive her college glory days, but when his accounting services put him in the library's bachelor auction, he has little choice but to help her. He doesn't believe that she wants to open the gym so she can help underprivileged teens. She doesn't think he'll stick around long enough to find out. Will they realize what's right in front of them before it's too late?

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