Saturday, August 8, 2020

Snapshot! by Liz Flaherty...with a little help from her friends...

We went to hear music at Black Dog Coffee last night, one of our favorite things to do and something we've missed so much during Covid's long sojourn with us. We stayed fairly distant, masks either on or ready to put on, and got to share music and conversation and memories with friends. 

We've made so many of those memories together, although not being a musician gives me a different perspective than the others have. While my recollections are more likely to be formed around different criteria than theirs, we all have them. 

Sarah and Ron Luginbill, with some beautiful violin help from their daughter Lita, sang mostly old songs last night. Ron kept the audience informed as to when the songs were recorded and by whom--and he was always right. I could have sworn "At Seventeen" came long before 1975--I'm glad I didn't argue that point. 

We talked about the memories we got from music. And how it's not just the music you remember. It's where you were when you heard it, who you were with, what the weather was like. And how it made you feel.

"It's a snapshot," said Mike Almon. "You should write that." 

I'm limited this morning by my own memories, but I'd love to hear yours.

Sarah sang the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" last night. It was nowhere near my favorite Beatles song (that's another column--or maybe a series), but I remember sitting in the car--although not which car--and listening to it and wishing so hard that could happen for me. I wasn't happy with who I was then--who is when they're 16?--and I didn't really believe dreams came true. 

Mike Almon always ends his concerts with Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle." Duane and I weren't very long into our journeys as parents in 1974, but the song's lyrics resonated even then. Every parent ends up with regrets, being sorry for times wasted, things said and things not said. But none of us are ever sorry for the time spent on bleachers, one-on-one time in the car, or just sharing the same air as our kids. 

June Zinn, who plays the flute, talked about a song she used to play with Steve "Bear" Pochi, a much beloved friend who's no longer in the circle of chairs musicians seem to gravitate to no matter where they are. She can't think too much about the song, or about its lyrics, or she can't play it anymore. Her eyes welled up when she talked about Steve. Memories.

There are songs that Ole Olsen players sing in musical reviews that go so deep into their hearts that if you're watching them sing, you feel what they're feeling. When Kelly Makin starts "At Last," I sit up straight and listen, simply because of the power and the emotion that come from the stage. 

It's a lot like, for those of our generation, remembering where you were when President Kennedy died. Remembering later, when Alan Jackson sang "where were you when the world stopped turning" and we all knew and felt again that September morning. The emotion is so deep I can't begin to describe it.

I don't think I've said this very well, and I'm sorry for that. Let me say again, I'd love to hear your memories. And how they made you feel.

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

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Fiction, facts, and the virus... by Liz Flaherty #WindowOverthSink

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood... Yeah, I'm singing and I really shouldn't, but it was raining when I came out to the office this morning. Coming straight down and darkening the shades of green that come to Indiana with August.

About writing. And the virus. And fiction. And real life. And facts.

I'm glad I write fiction as opposed to true-life, because fiction is negotiable. It's pliable and you can be assured of a happy ending. Although you're led by the characters you write, in the end the pen is still in your hand.

Another thing about writing fiction is that one of its primary rules is that you check your facts before you put them on paper. If you're going to mention someone having six heart bypasses (which I did), you need to make sure it's a possibility. If your hero in 1865 is going to be singing "Little Brown Jug," he needs to reconsider--it hasn't been written yet. If you're writing about the Revolution, don't use the word mesmerize--no one did until 1829.

There's more than one reason to be careful with facts in fiction. One is that you can be sued for defamation. Another is that many readers believe if something's in print, it must be true. (You can mess with that statement a lot. If it's on Facebook...if it's in the National Enquirer...if it's on YouTube...or my own choice--if it's in People...)

Unfortunately, there are too many pens in too many hands in the virus, aren't there? Too many "if it's in..." quotations.

Another facet of writing fiction is characterization. The better you are at it, the better your stories are. If you have a bad guy, you need to make sure he's not all bad, or the reader can't sympathize with him. If you have a hero and/or a heroine, you need to give them flaws so that the reader can be him or her. (I'm always relieved when a heroine has bad hair and some extra pounds.)

All fiction stories have an arc that shows the growth of the story's protagonists from start to finish. Of course, the arc more often looks like a roller coaster, because it swoops up and down and goes in loops and occasionally goes completely off the rails, but, when you're coming down that last screaming drop, it's still an arc. The thing to do is not quit in the middle or there you'll be. Just hanging there, not sure whether to believe YouTube or science, this doctor or that one, a Facebook meme or a journalist.

We can't quit in the middle--I still have grandkids to watch grow up so that I can take the credit for what fine people they are, don't you? We need to continue to search out the truth, to do our best to take care of others (whether we like them or not, no matter who they voted for), and to be really careful of what sources we quote from. I love People. It's probably my favorite "social media," but it doesn't pretend to be science. I love YouTube, too--it's where I listen to music. (And sing along, although, like I said above, I really shouldn't.)

But if I quit reading in the middle, before I've looked at other sources and weighed them out, I shouldn't quote anything I've seen. I can't do that as a fiction writer; I most certainly should not when it comes to true-life.

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

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Banning Books? Not in My House... by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

This happened in 1991. After all these years, I can hardly believe it came to pass, but it did--book-banning really happened at our school. It made me know then that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. I said then that we had to choose our battles--we still do. I wish I was better at choosing them. I wish I'd fought this one harder.

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” ― Stephen Chbosky

My son came home from school the other day and told me that someone had submitted a list to the powers that be at his school, requesting that books named on that list be eliminated from the school library. Apparently, the person who made the list did not want his or her child reading those books.

That's fine by me, but don't tell my child he can't. Or the girl down the road that she can't. Or all the other kids in the school that they can't.

Books in school libraries are chosen by people who know children, like children, and want what is best for children. Their choices are not always perfect, but they are made with the people in mind who are going to be reading the books. If they chose with the idea that they were going to please everyone, their choices would be a lot easier.

But the library's shelves would be bare.

The Bible would be gone. Mark Twain would be gone. Judy Blume would be gone. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be gone. Dr. Seuss, Margaret Mitchell, and, of course, Stephen King would not be allowed through school doors. Because they all offend someone, sometime, somehow.

I personally can't stand Stephen King's books. He cares the bejesus out of me and keeps me awake at night. So I don't read them. But I have kid who does, and he finds things in Stephen King's writing that I can't find and don't want to take the time to look for simply because I don't like being scared. (Note in 2017: In 2001, Stephen King wrote my favorite book on writing of all time, called On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft--go figure.) 

A young lady named Christy Martin recently had a "Student View" published in the Peru Daily Tribune that made a lot of sense to me. It concerned the labeling and banning of certain records, most notably those by the group 2 Live Crew. The statistics quoted in the article supported informative labeling, but "banned the ban."

Books, like records, are often "insulting, repulsive, offensive, sexist, and utterly distasteful," as Miss Martin said, but it is never up to one person or one special interest group or one church congregation to decide for everyone. Let them be labeled like movies and records, if necessary, but don't try to ban them.

It is most certainly within parents' rights to demand that their children not be required to read material they do not approve of and it is the school's responsibility to honor these demands, but let it stop there.

My children all read Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War in school. I read it when they did, all three times, and never did learn to like it, but they did. At least one parent I know requested that his children read an alternative selection and his request was honored. It was enough.

I told my kids I didn't want anything by 2 Live Crew in the house, just as my mom never let me play the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" at home. I found out that a 2 Live Crew tape has been in my son's room for a couple of years now, just as "Louie, Louie" became one of my favorites. I can't help but wonder, if I'd never said a word pro or con, if my kids weren't smart enough to decide about 2 Live Crew on their own, and I can't help but wonder if Mom shouldn't have listened to the Kingsmen and to me before banning "Louie, Louie" from the house, thereby practically forcing me to embrace it as a rock and roll legend to be forever loved and defended.

But it is my house, and if I find 2 Live Crew offensive, it is okay for me to ban it--or at least try to. If my mother thought "Louie, Louie" was a dirty song, it was all right for her to ban that in her house, too.

But not in your house. That's your business. And not in the school attended by my children. That's my business.

Added in 2020. It got done at that time. The book in question was banned because one mother didn't want it there. And, oh, my gosh, there are people who would ban everything in libraries now if given the chance. Because there was a lot of ugliness in history, just as there is now. Because writing was done using the morals, ethics, and mores of the time and sometimes they stunk. Because people today are sometimes hurt by what was written then. 

I think they would be more hurt by hiding the existence of the way things were then; banning the existence of those books would give way to denial of those flaws.

It would also be throwing out the good with the bad. One of my favorite authors for teenage girls was Janet Lambert, from Crawfordsville, Indiana. I read every word she ever wrote and loved them all. I learned many things from them. Good things. But in those books, I don't recall there ever being a black person who wasn't a servant. I don't believe she would write that way today--at least, I hope she wouldn't--but reading them not only taught me good things, it made me pay attention to others that weren't so good.

Paying attention is important.

I'm not saying all books are good. I'm saying there are no limits to what you can learn if you read. And if you pay attention. What others read isn't your business, but there's no other way for you to argue points than if you're fully armed with facts and knowledge of both sides of a situation. 

Like so many times now, I don't have a neat, tied-in-a-bow ending here. Just read. Learn. Inform. And while you're at it, have a great week. Be safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Remember when... by Liz Flaherty

This particular post came from 2017. I happened on it and was grateful again for the answers. The memories. They draw us together,  you know...memories. Like you, I've never seen or felt the kind of divisiveness that we're in now. I've never been this scared for my grandkids, this discouraged for the country, this angry. But reading this again, remembering helped. I hope it helps you, too. Please, add your memories of happy things in comments. We'll all like them. 

I posted a blog about Macy, the little town across the fields and through the woods from where I live. The response was unprecedented here at the Window, and I can't thank you enough. I promised I'd share the comments that showed up both here and on Facebook. They brought back some memories for me--I hope you enjoy them, too. If you have anything to add, please do.

Shannon Conley Smith Even though I'm not as old as you and Uncle Bill, (I think this was mean of Shannon, but I didn't edit it out. - Liz) I still have very fond memories of Macy, Indiana. I also remember those free movies except for by the time I was old enough to watch them they were Christian movies. And I remember the hardware store and a little restaurant that had video games in it and the two churches, but the thing I wanted to be most in Macy, Indiana was a Macy firefighter auxiliary member. They would have meetings I believe once a month, they would exchange gifts, have snacks, and talk about the coming up chicken noodle dinner to help raise money for new equipment, but what made me want to be one of them most of all was when the men would be sent out on a fire the ladies would run up to the fire house and get the coffee or the hot chocolate and the donuts ready for the men when they got back from fighting a fire. Or if it was going to be a long night, we would bring the coffee and donuts out to the scene of the fire for the men to have a break and go back to doing what they volunteered to do and that was to help the people of Macy, Indiana. That is one of my Fondest Memories and that is what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Art Shafer Fulton had the Free Movies too and the Westerns were great. Cokes for a nickel weren't bad either. I guess living in the country and small towns never gets totally out of your system. Fulton had a population just over 300 and we always played Macy in Basketball.

Shelly Eisaman I don't suppose that anything I share can be as way back as the movies. They were long gone by the time i came along but I do have many wonderful memories of growing up in Macy. My sister and I were raised in the same house as my mom and her siblings. The house on Sycamore that my parents still call home. 
When I was little I was sure I was related to the entire town. I had so many Aunts and Uncles. Everyone knew everybody else and word traveled faster than I could. As I got older I realized that though not exactly aunts and uncles, I was in fact related to good portion of the town through either mom or dad. It was great for a kid as social as I was. There was always someone to visit.
I would torment George, the boy next door. Aunt Norm was the next house down and always had goodies for us. She baby sat me and little David and had no problem laying into our rotten butts when we needed. She was the only person that no matter how many times we asked would explain exactly how we were all related. 
Way at the other end of town I could visit with Miss Rosie. She had the best stories! She could tell stories on everyone! I have pictures from one year during Macy days I did a bed race with her. It was so much fun. My kids loved visiting Rosie on Halloween. We would take her flowers and she would tell them stories. 
About two blocks up from Rosie was the green and white house on the corner. I never knew the lady that lived there but she had the only yard that had as many sweet smelling flowers as Mom's. 
If Aunt Norm didn't watch me then Aunt Sue would. Aunt Sue was so kind. Every trip with her was an adventure. 
Christmas Eve was a big to-do at our house with Slishers from everywhere coming to town. When it was finally my turn to be an elf with Uncle Kenny that meant getting to play Santa at Clair and Hazel's after Mom and Dad's and then there was always Christmas Eve service at the church. Everyone got an orange, a candy bar, and a candy cane.

I remember when Macy Days was a big thing. The parades and bands at the fire house. Carnival rides and games. Somewhere I have a lot of pictures. 
The grocery store was great. The ladies that worked there. I remember going up there and getting so much penny candy in my fancy play dresses that my mom would get for me at the Nearly New Shop in Rochester. They never batted an eye at the silly little girl in her princess ball gowns. 
I was an 80s kid in Macy but I have so many wonderful memories. Visiting Aunt Jean and swimming at Bill and Shirley's. Annoying my sister and Angela every chance I got. Babysitting for both churches. Waiting for Clair to pick us up at the post office for school. Trying to walk the tracks to Rochester. 
Our little town is full of so many stories and so much history. I look forward to reading others' memories.

Bob Pontius Kissed a girl for the first time at the free show in Macy, summer of 57 or 58. (There was more to this conversation, by the way...)

Judith Post  I really enjoyed this. It brought back so many memories. I grew up (and still live) in Fort Wayne. No free movies, but my parents gave me and my sister 50 cents every Saturday to walk to the Rialto Theater with our friends. It cost 25 cents to watch the double features, and then we had a quarter to buy candy at the dime store and an ice cream cone on the way home.

Sheila Fitzpatrick It was said that there was an underground passage under 19 between the old Ballee house and the Waite sisters' house in Gilead. That house still stands on the corner.

June Zinn Love this new venture, since we are on here every day. If you are old enough to remember movies for 10 cents or better yet, free, these bring back memories. I grew up in Knox, Ind, in the fifties, a good time to grow up! Thank you for this chance to look back.

Marsha Adams Moved to Macy in 1957, entered 3rd grade and my family was forever labeled as newcomers. At one time my dad was the town sherif, which was a bit of a joke, no police car, no stop signs in town but he did occasionally get called out for a stray dog, lol. That being funny because there were stray dogs everywhere. 
I remember when the King and his Court (men's fast pitch softball team) put on an exhibition. We had a horseshoe pitch where teams competed. We would ride our bikes everywhere and the most fun was riding from our house on McKee street and trying to coast all the way down to the railroad tracks without going over the fence and into the cornfield at the end of the street. I remember my mom (Iris Delawder) working at the grocery store and knowing everything about everyone in town. We lovingly called her the town newspaper. There are so many memories I could share with my best friend Shirley Connor Greenwald--we probably would reminisce for hours.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

In Times Like These... by Liz Flaherty

Such weirdness.

I understand that we are deep in the middle of a pandemic. Therefore, I wear masks when I'm at the store because it protects the other people who are there. I stay out of crowded places. I accept, swallowing hard, that we don't get to watch our grandson graduate. (One of us may have cried a little over that, but the kid is healthy, a good guy, and funny, so I can live without seeing him in a cap and gown.)

But, yeah, weirdness abounds, doesn't it?

A lot of people won't wear masks and a few can't. I don't get the politicizing of it. I hate wearing a mask, but I would hate it worse if someone got sick because I didn't wear one that day. Do the ones who won't wear a mask think they're only going to infect people they don't like who vote for different people than they do?

We never ran out of toilet paper. We didn't even come close. I also never bought more than I had cupboard space for. I haven't yet understood the idea of hoarding it for the express purpose of keeping other people from having it. I'm almost certain their needs in that area are the same as mine. Same with hand sanitizer, facial tissue, and wipes.

I can no longer buy Cherry Coke Zero, my drink of choice. Nor can I buy any other flavors of Coke Zero. Yes, I do understand that it's not good for me anyway; that's not the issue here. Is someone hoarding the Coke Zero in their garage-full of toilet paper?

We are being urged to pay with a card instead of cash. Hmmm... I use a card a lot, because it's convenient, but I don't really want to be told I have to. I don't believe I'm particularly paranoid, but I do wonder if I should stuff a (very small) mattress with all the cash I can come up with and hoard it in that garage I mentioned up there.

There were weeks there were no eggs, no flour, no yeast, and no sugar-free coffee creamer. Sometimes the only canned vegetables I can find are the ones I don't want. Yeah, fresh is better and I'm thrilled to see the open-air markets and plenty of produce, but the shortages...they're just strange! For weeks, I couldn't buy cube steak, which my son says I ruin anyway, but still--does someone have it in their garage? I hope they have a freezer in there...

I don't have any answers to the endless conundrums that surround us. I'm a fan of keeping your head down and doing the best you can without doing any harm, but I'd love to have real answers to both the shortages and the resultant hoarding. Or did the hoarding come first and cause the shortages?

Uh-huh. Weird.

On a better note, congratulations and happy days to everyone from every school in the Class of 2020. I'm sorry--I think everyone is--for what happened to your senior year, but you'll survive and you'll thrive. God bless you.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

...we mutually pledge to each other... by Liz Flaherty

Today is the Fourth of July. It's always been a favorite day, full of family celebrations and parades and awe-inspiring fireworks. It's been a reminder of patriotism, of lives lost, and of sacrifices made. Of the amazing glory of our comparatively young country.

Do I still feel this way? Not so much. There is no place right now for those who tread the middle ground, which leaves many of us longing for the way things used to be. If I'm honest about it, I'll admit they weren't really that way even then. I guess we were just a lot politer about it.

There are things, though, that still feel the same. My husband, my brother, our son, and our grandson have all served--or still serve--in the military. I am proud of their service, proud of them, and proud of others who have answered that call. There is no limit to the love and gratitude I feel. When I watched my husband give our grandson (who now outranks him) his first salute as an officer, I re-understood the meaning of having one's heart swell with pride.

I remember, though, don't you? During Vietnam Era when people spat on soldiers? When they called them baby-killers. When the government tried to deny the damage that had been done to our own by Agent Orange and by the greed that led much of the war. So, no, not always better. I not only worry about my grandson having to fight in wars not of his generation's making, but of his own countrymen treating him badly when he is at home.

I love the flag and I'll always stand for the anthem. But I'm happy the USA is still a place where it's your choice whether you stand or kneel or go on watching television when it plays. While I think burning the flag, emblazoning a political figure's face all over it, or making it into a shirt is disgusting, you are free to do so.

And, oh, yes...protesters burned it "back then," too. There was a lot of noise about making it a constitutional amendment that outlawed burning it. But they didn't really do much about the reason for the protests. And the only amendments most people honor are the ones they deem the most important. The First one is big to me, but many people are perfectly willing to ditch it in a heartbeat as long as the Second one remains untouched.

So many people are angry. That includes me. We all feel betrayed by more people and more things than I can begin to name or understand. The Fourth of July holiday and all it's stood for for all these 244 years is just having the crap beat out of it, isn't it? 

I'm a sucker for patriotic songs. I remember most of the words to the ones we learned as kids and cop to having cold chills whenever I hear "God Bless the USA." Especially that one piece of a line in it: "...the flag still stands for freedom..."

It does, as it has for that 244 years, but if it's not standing for everybody's freedom, well, we have a really long way to go as a country, don't we?

Happy 4th of July, USA, and everybody in it. Have a good week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Joy Comes in the Morning by Liz Flaherty

I'm sitting here this morning, late in getting this blog up, and looking out at the wet morning. It rained last night--stormed, really--so this morning everything looks all washed and vibrant. My feet got wet when I put out suet cakes this morning.

I feed the birds. Not a lot, but some. I put out suet, thistle seed, hummingbird nectar, and, this summer, lots of orange halves for the orioles. Did I say "Not a lot" just a second ago? Wrong. I reflect sometimes that we could become birdseed-poor if I don't get over the need to make empty containers full.

Right now, I'm looking out at the suet cake hanging from the clothesline pole. It's being swarmed by a flock of birds that are sort of brown and nondescript and cheerful. They're chattering and talking and eating.

I don't know what they are. When I try to look them up, they look like a whole bunch of other brown birds. And yet different. I still wonder exactly what species they are, but I don't really care that much. They're fun to watch and listen to.

The orioles, cardinals, redheaded woodpeckers, goldfinches, and bluebirds are fun to watch just because of their colors. I like their song, too, but mostly it's their brilliant colors that attract me.

I'm entertained by the territorial and pugnacious hummingbirds, annoyed by starlings and grackles, and pretty much enthralled by the whole aviary community.

Birds are messy. There is seed all over the place from suet and feed blocks. They have terrible bathroom habits. They haven't heard the part about gluttony being one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

And they give pleasure every day. Every single day. They share music and joy and sometimes they make me laugh. One of my favorite Bible verses is the one from Psalms that says "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." It almost always does for me, and the birds help that along. I'm grateful.

Wishing you joy. Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

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

This post is old--really old--but I haven't used it for a couple of years, so I hope its reappearance will be forgiven. This summer, as we know, is vastly different from any most of us remember, but down the road a piece, the baseball fields are busy again. There are lots of cars there. Lots of people. Lots of interaction. I hope and pray everyone is safe and being as careful as they can. And I'm thankful to open my car window and hear those voices, those special voices of summer. 
In the town closest to us--Denver, Indiana; population in the area of 500--there are two fields in the town park. Players range from knee-high to adult-size and the parking lot is always full-to-bursting. Kids are on the playground and conversations going on in the picnic pavilion. People are lined up for candy, drinks, and popcorn at the concession stand or up the street just a little piece, for ice cream, sandwiches, or pizza at D'Angelo's

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

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

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

They're back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy every minute.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Facebook, Connection, and the Truth

I spend too much time on Facebook. I know I'm not alone in this. I like it a lot...I may be alone in that...and I like keeping up with people I might not see or hear from otherwise. I love videos of cats and babies and wonderful music. I went to church on Facebook Live for weeks and belong to groups who are interested in the same things I am. I have a personal page and an author page of my own. I don't get my news from there, but I get a lot of how people feel about--and interpret--the news.

I don't know if it's the last days, do you? I've been reading it a lot, but I don't think it's up to Mark Zuckerberg, especially since he's already proclaimed that Facebook "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth." If it really is the encroaching end of time, what should we do? Personally, I think we should make the most of every day we have. Love each other. Listen. Practice kindness at every opportunity. Give. Seek understanding. Listen a lot and maybe don't talk as much. Be a helper. Laugh every chance we get. Did I mention listen? I think we should do all that even if it's not the last days.

A few friends from high school have posted requests for civil discussion concerning politics. They have invited people who don't agree to join in and say how they feel. These requests haven't included name-calling, untruths, or anything else our mothers would have washed our mouths out for, but time has taught me to keep scrolling if I know we're politically divergent. Because hardly anyone wants to hear opinions that don't mirror their own. (I include myself in that. Sigh.)

I worked the polls on June 2. I'd like to say for the record that many people wore masks, virtually all people were polite, and that there was absolutely no fraud or suppression involved. Also, the food served to poll-workers was excellent. I suggest you volunteer if you don't mind working a really long day for not a lot of money. It also gives you the opportunity to say, "No, they don't" when people post idiotic unfounded criticisms about voting.

I know it's not that way everywhere. Lines are hours long in some places. The numbers of polling places are strategically reduced in some places. Voting is made as difficult as possible in some places and impossible in others. The rest of the country could take a lesson from Macy, Indiana.

Facebook posts remind us of things. They sometimes raise important questions. But not everyone cares if what they post is true or not. If it's hurtful or not. They don't care about the ripple effect. So it's up to us to look things up. And then it's up to us to tell the truth.

Writer Jane Porter says, "...I can't unsee what I've seen...can't forget what I've read." She's right, and it gets harder every day. And yet. One of my favorite and most overused words is connection, and Facebook is still that to me. I still see pictures of nieces and nephews and 2020 graduates, of friends' new grandbabies, of teachers and librarians reading books aloud to children. I see other writers' book covers and reviews and post my own. So I'll stay on Facebook. I'll still spend too much time there--at least until social distancing becomes less...distant. If you're there, I hope you say hello.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Happy Places

Nickel Plate Trail
On Wednesday, coming through Denver, we automatically slowed to a crawl at the park where the baseball diamonds are because that's what you do where kids play. Or you should. And this time it was a definite payoff because kids were playing on at least one of those diamonds. There were cars in the parking lot, parents on bleachers. It made me happy, seeing the players out there. It made me happy remembering the time I spent on those bleachers and in that concession stand watching kids be kids.

I've thought, in the few days since, about the term "happy place." It's a popular one now. I have several of them--my office, our kitchen, anywhere our kids and grandkids are, the Nickel Plate, the passenger seat when Duane and I are going somewhere and talking the whole way. It made me wonder about other people's happy places, so I asked. Here are the answers I got. I love that so much happiness came from people and porches.

Becky Shambarger - My back porch, where I can relax.

Denise Smoker - I literally call my front deck, which is outdoors but covered, my happy place. As in don't bug me, I'm going to my happy place to write.

Bruce Clark
Bruce Clark - These days, it's where most of my friends are.
Gary Working - I have photos of my daughter Amber and I long ago making snow angels in upper park.

Pete Jones - Nothing makes you feel better than helping others. This is at a special needs school in Belize. The kids are getting water to take back to their classroom.
Joann Runkle - One of my Happy places!

Cheryl Reavis - My Happy Place: The Tiny Porch I had to lobby three or four decades to get, with my favorite writer cat, Carl, where the mosquitoes cannot get me, AND there are rocking chairs (which I have to share with said cat), AND a ceiling fan.

Joe DeRozier - My happy place. 
Jeremiah, Joe, April, and Nicole DeRozier

Cassandra Correll - I take after my Dad. He always liked lakes, canals...water. It's calming. I especially like lakes and trees.

Cindy and Kennedy Ridenour
Cindy Sue Ridenour - Anyplace, anytime with my granddaughter.
Cindy Walker - This is my Florida house. It’s my happy place because I can walk everywhere to visit friends, play cards, exercise, have Bible study, share a meal or glass of wine, and just chat or give a hug. Makes my heart happy from the time we arrive in December till April when we leave.

Jay Pritchard - My porch. I start my day here with a coffee and end it here with a
glass of wine. Love to sit and appreciate the gifts we have been provided.

Jane Lorenz - Our garden is always too wet in the spring.  So I plant on our back deck my herbs and some tomatoes. 
Skye Huges - The Oregon Coast. Or any beach, if not there.

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.