Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Best Job by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink


Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I've had a lot of them. 

I've been blessed in the realm of motherhood. By my own mother, mother-in-law, and stepmother-in-law, all of whom taught me more than I can begin to either relate or remember. All of whom I laughed with, cried with, and got mad at. All of whose places in my life are held by them alone. I still miss all of them, each for varying and yet the same reasons. And I'm grateful.

I'm blessed by our kids. I got to be a mother because of them. I got to make every single mistake that presented itself to me as they grew up, and they grew up in spite of them. Or maybe because of them. They knew to think hard before they quoted me because chances were good I was wrong. They knew to never say the words "like my mom always did" because...well, Mom always had a good time, but it was messy.

But they know, please God, that I love them more than my life. Despite my favorite Mother's Day story to tell--the one about when their Aunt Debbie and I were talking about motherhood (she was a great one) and she said it was the only job she ever had that she never wanted to quit. And I realized...and admitted...sigh...that I wanted to quit it virtually every day of my life. 

But...but...it's the best job, isn't it? 

Uh-huh. Sure is. Didn't last long enough, either. Go figure.


Then there are my other kids, the ones who married mine even after I threatened to make them sign a promissory document that there would be no givebacks. Their parents made different mistakes than Duane and I did, and oh, my gosh, they did a wonderful job. And there you go, I got three more people to love more than my life and that was all I had to do; no labor or laundry involved. Being a mother-in-law is also the best job in the world. All my kids-in-law really had to do was love the ones they married to make me happy, but they do--and are--so much more than that. And I'm grateful.

The best gift by far of motherhood is, of course, grandmotherhood, because it is an experience that defies description. My grandkids are the actual Magnificent Seven, but as Sarah Hudson said one day, "You may think your grandkids are cute, but..." when she was telling me about her first one. She was so right, because when someone in creation times murmured the word, "Perfect," God snapped His fingers and said, "Right! Grandkids!" They're all Magnificent. 


I asked Mom once why she never told me that when I had children, I was doomed to being afraid something would happen to them every single day for the rest of my life. She told me she was afraid she'd scare me off motherhood. She had a point--the depth of that fear is something else that no one has come up with a Big Enough description for.

The depth of the love is the same way. And I'm grateful. Happy Mother's Day to everyone who's ever cared that much for a child. 

Have a great week. Give someone a present. Be nice to somebody. 



Saturday, May 1, 2021

Transition by Joe Scheidler #WindowOvertheSink

My friend Joe Scheidler is back with us today. This essay is from early March and, as always, Joe wrote what my heart felt. 

We are in the transition of winter to spring, the time when our acclimation to cold is quickly undone and we’re less comfortable with a north wind and 40 degrees than we were at 10. There’s a lot going on. Sandhill cranes are winging northward, redwing blackbirds are singing, daffodils are breaking ground, sap is running, geese are bickering over prime real estate. The list is long and timeless, understood yet filled with mystery. 

It’s a fickle time of year for weather. Warm and cold air masses combine to spawn storms, some severe. Too much warm too soon pushes buds to break then the frost returns and a season’s fruit is lost and sadness settles on the orchardist. All this is complicated by a climate that has changed so normals are no longer, predictions are often “unprecedented”, and weather events are breaking long established records. 

Our old dog, from all indications, is unconcerned. As long as the weather is not brutally hot her contentment is certain and predictable. Early spring, late frost, weather weirdness, all are meaningless as she is singularly focused on loyalty, friendship, and squirrel patrol, and from these she does not venture. It appears she lives solely in the moment and lacks the capacity to consider or recognize changes or threats that are forthcoming. There is one exception, that being when we are about to leave without her, and she’s melting into the floor even before we’ve made the announcement. 



I suppose wild species are similar. Some have the foresight to cache food for hard times ahead but most subscribe to a carpe diem philosophy. Adapt or die is their motto, which they follow without plan or fret. They are totally innocent as we cripple or destroy the environments we share with them, yet hold no recognizable ill towards us, even as some are facing certain extinction or dramatic population declines due to our actions. They are, in a sense, old dogs: highly responsive to our activities and in simple need of recognition, appreciation and respect. 


In the absence of humans, wild species would be just fine, but our influence on global ecology is complete so no place or living thing has gone untouched. It’s a relatively new development in human history, with the greatest impact occurring in just the past couple hundred years. The future of almost everything alive rests on us. We don’t turn on our phones, switch on a light, or hop in a car without an impact that ripples across the planet. Dominion, it appears, we can claim. 

The old dog feels frisky after her morning breakfast and bounces her front paws on the floor and stands with ears perked, looking expectant. She clearly has a message but I’m clueless and in need of coffee, a brew made from a bean likely raised in South or Central America where lush forests once stood and migrant birds once wintered; a bean that was processed and shipped, accruing a handsome carbon footprint, so I could grind and prepare it in my kitchen using appliances and gadgetry that were produced from mined metals that were smelted then poured into molds or stamped into products deemed essential for comfort in modern society and demanded by hundreds of millions of anxious consumers. And in the process of getting my beans countless people profited and they, too, wanted to buy more stuff, so to satisfy this new demand more mines were opened and the whole industrial complex was given a boost. The stock market reacted favorably and the money poured disproportionately to those already holding the greatest wealth and a beautifully capable planet became slightly less capable all because I felt a need for a cup of coffee. 

I recently read about a new lithium mine scheduled to open in the great state of Nevada. The mine, located at Thacker Pass, is promised to be a mile long and two miles wide and produce 179 million tons of lithium to help satisfy the world’s growing desire for electric cars and green energy storage. The mine will bring jobs and a valuable source of lithium from within our own borders. It will also wreak environmental disaster on a remote area of Humboldt County which, oddly enough, is named for one of the world’s most influential naturalists. One article I read states that electric cars are not the solution and cars of any sort are not the solution and we should go back to walking like humans have for 99.9 percent of our time on earth. And that made me think of an interview I heard on NPR with a man who had lost his job and car due to the pandemic and was forced to turn down a new job because he had no way to get to it. And I thought of my old roommate who has been diagnosed with ALS, and in a recent video, there he was taking a test drive in an electric wheelchair which was no doubt powered by a lithium battery. He was grinning from ear to ear. 

We’re in a seasonal transition, looking forward to the end of a pandemic, waiting to see how the world reacts, setting our hopes on something that is new and just while holding the promise of prosperity. A magnificent blue globe spins in her orbit around the sun. She gives us free reign to all she has, not contesting our decisions but reacting to them. She supports every living thing, and like an old dog looking to her master, is asking for respect and appreciation. No one said it’d be easy.

Visit Joe at Springcreekland, his blog. He and Lee live near Logansport and are an integral part of Black Dog Writers, our extraordinary writers' group. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Feeling Good by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink


April, 2021: I found this. I don't know when I wrote it or if I've ever used it before. I'm sorry if it offends anyone or is a trigger for anyone. I'm sorry if it's something you can't relate to, but, truthfully, I thought body image in one way or another was an issue for nearly everyone. 

I'm on the low side of my weight merry-go-round right now. Not slim, and only a can of Pringles away from hitting the "obese" mark on the BMI, but I feel good.  

My friend Nan and I were talking about weight the other day. Actually, she was probably talking about it and I was obsessing about it. Which I’ve been doing since I was in the seventh grade and was consistently bigger than Linda, who lived down the road. I’m fairly certain I still am.

I have lost the equivalent of several versions of myself over the years. Fifteen pounds for class reunion, 25 for our daughter’s wedding, an enthralling 40-some the year I retired. A couple of years in the 80s, I lost weight to wear a two-piece swim suit in Florida; once it was to wear my favorite-ever black-and-white polka-dotted dress to our younger son’s graduation.

I’ve gained it back. Usually plus some. Every time. I do not, as my friend suggested, accept myself as I am. But I also do not eat sensibly or exercise enough. I don’t tell the truth about my weight on my driver’s license and I cringe at every doctor’s visit because there’s always that stop in the hallway between the waiting room and the examination room.

I do, in all honesty, hate being the size I am. I want to be the size I was when I first thought I was overweight. I also want to be able to eat a whole can of Pringles on a daily basis. Those things, as you can imagine, don’t go together. I can win against the Pringles by not buying them—but that doesn’t fix the fact that I’ve never met a carb I don’t like.

There are terms that go along with being heavy. Some of them are just what they are: overweight, heavy, obese, fat. Some are silly euphemisms: chubby, jolly, round. A few are kind: curvy, voluptuous, big-boned. Then there are the others, when someone says, “she has such a pretty face,” or “she let herself go,” or the even crueler “tub of lard.”

Then there is the issue of clothes. Like any other big girl, I’d like for my clothes to make me look like the size six I’m not. This isn’t going to happen, especially when people who create catalogs, commercials, and magazine advertising persist in having size zero models wearing plus-size clothing. Kudos to the retailers who have gone to the dark side and given us glimpses of fashion realism.

I blame no one for the extra pounds I carry on my woefully small bones; I have earned every ounce of them myself. Hopefully some of them will go away on my next foray into eating right and I will weigh less and feel better and never gain it back. I wish this not only for myself but for everyone else who has a daily struggle with poor self-image. If you can’t gain weight, I hope a few pounds (preferably mine) come your way. If you have terrible hair, I hope you find the right cut or color or whatever it takes.

But, on the days when you really can’t make peace with how you look, it’s much more important to remember that your weight and whatever other physical things about yourself like are not who you are. Acceptance is hard to come by when it comes to appearance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t like yourself. You can still laugh hard, love much, and make every day a good one.

April, 2021: I hope you "feel good," like I said in the first paragraph, and that you've found your own path to it. Sometimes it's a good idea to skip dinner and have dessert.  

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Right Thing to Do by Liz Flaherty


I wrote this in February of 2011. Nothing has changed.


"I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too." - Jimmy Stewart as Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


I visited the U. S. Senate in 1965 on a trip to Washington, D. C. with a friend and her family, sitting my five minutes in the visitors’ gallery at the top. I was so enthralled by seeing Everett Dirksen and Ted Kennedy in person that the tour guide had to tell me twice to “come along.” Dirksen was talking in that gravelly voice of his. I have no idea what the discussion was about, only that everyone listened.

Tonight, I watched (and listened to—I’m patently unable to sit still for over two hours) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This movie, with Jimmy Stewart and Harry Carey at their best and Jean Arthur at her most appealing, was released in 1939. On the off chance that you haven’t seen it, it’s about a naive scoutmaster who is appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate. He runs smack-dab into political corruption, but he doesn't back down; instead, the movie climaxes in a filibuster on the Senate floor. Jefferson Smith, played by Stewart, talks for hours, losing his voice and coming to a black moment over a pile of letters on a table that clogs my throat up even after seeing it at least a dozen times.

I didn’t see the movie till long after my visit when I was 15, but I remember thinking something like that really could happen, because I’d been to that big room and seen for myself how people behaved there. I thought the mere presence of the place would cause corrupt politicians to slink away and—if we were lucky—shoot themselves as Claude Rains attempted to do in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I thought surely most of the senators in that place, and their ideological brethren in the House of Representatives, were like Jefferson Smith, there to represent the people in their districts in support of the country they loved.

Memory—the older you get, the more convenient it gets—convinces me I was right about that. It did really used to be that way. But it’s not anymore. Because now they seem to be there to cater to lobbyists, to rip each other to shreds, to try to push forward their own agendas while decrying everyone else’s in wounded and righteous rhetoric.

Make no mistake about me and my rose-tinted look into the past. I like having computers, that my wages were never gender-based, that medicine has made such huge strides in healing and quality of life, and many, many more things about today’s world. I’d be lost without cruise control, electric windows, and even television. But sometimes, in some ways, I’d like to go back.

To manners and respect and feeling safe. To dressing for comfort and average being fine and dandy and majority rules. For standing up, as Jefferson Smith did, just because it’s the right thing to do.

And I want congress to go back, too.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Magic and the Lucky Ones by Liz Flaherty

...the magic's in the music and the music's in me...

I was one of the lucky ones. 

In the 1960s, there was a group called the Lovin' Spoonful. Some of them are still around, still singing--I think they even use the group name...but in the 60s, when they recorded and performed a string of hits that most of my generation can still sing along with, they were...well, magic. Their first hit was "Do You Believe in Magic?" and I think it planted a seed that has grown, so that those of us who were "the lucky ones" still believe. In the magic and the music and in our fellow human beings.

The Magic Room

Last night, in a storefront on Broadway in Peru, there was some magic going on. Dusty baker / author / all round good guy Joe DeRozier threw "a bit of a party," with a gathering of downtown business owners, some writers, and a whole bunch of people who came to laugh, talk, visit with each other, and encourage.

Sarah Luginbill

It was magic, and those of us who participated are so thankful to Joe and to all of you. 

Photo by Sarah Luginbill

Speaking of magic...

It's all around us in the spring, isn't it? It's windblown, of course. Often wet. But it's green and it smells good and little people play baseball and shout "hey, batter, batter..." and adults gather on bleachers and find common ground where they hadn't realized it existed. It does exist, all the time, in the love for the players on the field and the playground and sitting over there somewhere with their eyes and thumbs glued to their phones. 

There's magic in stories you hear. I heard one the other day at DeRozier's that's not mine to share and it's not time to share it anyway, but I'm so much richer for having heard it. I told Kathy Bunker I worked with her mother-in-law at American Stationery and once Juanita relined a coat for me because I couldn't buy a new one. The sharing of the actions of a good heart are always good stories. Kathy was glad to hear it and I was glad to talk about an old friend and a job that was a good memory. 

There's more magic in stories you tell. Hearing about the ones they've lost helps people as they grieve, whether it's at a funeral home viewing, a celebration of life, or years later when you reconnect with someone while pumping gas into your cars. Telling someone when your kid has done good or funny things (thanks, Kim Eaton), thanking them for services they provide or favors they've done, telling them they've helped you make it through a day.

My husband plays music with a couple of other guys, Denny and Gary. They are young in spirit, but they've been playing music for...a while. It was magical when they came together, because Duane was in the first band Denny ever played in before the Three Old Guys came together and Gary was in the last. Kind of serendipitous, don't you think?

Duane Flaherty, Denny See, Gary Gillund

I'm late getting this posted today. Something else magical is your support of this column. Someone last night said, "Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's even better." I think maybe he was giving me too much credit, but he also gave me a truly magic moment. A really lovin' spoonful of good feeling. Thanks to him and to all of you. I hope you're all the lucky ones. 

Have a great week. Support local business when you can. Be nice to somebody.