Saturday, January 22, 2022

I Don't Talk Funny--You Talk Funny by Liz Flaherty

Let's talk about traveling. Want to? 

It's one of my very favorite things, from the first trip in my memory--Pennsylvania--to the one I just came home from: Nashville, Indiana. 

Honestly? I don't remember much about the trip to Pennsylvania--I was only five, I think. I remember sleeping in a chair that stretched out flat in a motel room, that my cousins had cool tricycles, and that there were sidewalks all over the place on Jones Street in Hollidaysburg that made riding them so much fun. I remember my grandpa advising me to watch my step at Horseshoe Curve right before he tripped and that the adults talked a lot. Why would they talk when there were so many things to do? (I came to understand this later...)


A trip with my friend Shirley and her parents to Washington, DC in 1965 deepened my love for this country and its traditions. Many, many years later, I still remember how it felt to stand in front of Mr. Lincoln in his memorial, the powerful sense of sacrifice that came with visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the pride that came along with being inside the capitol building. At the national fireworks on July 4, there were several hundred thousand people in attendance, well beyond anything I'd ever seen, much less been part of. 


There have been other trips that remain vivid in my mind. Back to DC with our kids, to Ireland in 2009, to Vermont when the sense of homecoming went so deep I still feel it, to the Blue Ridge and the coast of Maine, to Florida's white sand beaches. I have loved everywhere I've been, although a few times the only things I really loved were the people we were there to see. Texas, anyone? 

Writing retreats are some of my favorite excursions. Something about sitting in a house on the side of a mountain with laptops and glasses of local wine and/or endless cups of coffee just brings out the best words in writers. I can't explain it, but there you go. 




While home is my favorite place to be, I'm so grateful to have seen the places I have. I hope I get to see a lot more. I want to hear the accents--I don't talk funny; you talk funny--feel the social vibrations that differ from place to place, and crane my neck to look at wonders both natural and man-made. I want to sleep on beds I don't have to make and use towels I don't have to launder (even though they're always white; have I ever mentioned that I don't like white?) and eat lots and lots of food that tastes different from what I'm accustomed to and--most importantly--I don't have to cook or clean up after. 

I guess there hasn't been much point to this column. Are you surprised? But I'd love to hear how you feel about travel. About your favorite places or even about your Texas. Any advice on where I should go next or how I can talk Duane into it? 

God, I love traveling.

Have a good week. Go somewhere. Be nice to somebody. 



Wednesday, January 19, 2022

On Gift-giving and Wedding Registries by Cathy Shouse


Weddings are one of my favorite events to attend, and I’ve had the good fortune of going to some spectacular ones. They were extra pretty to observe, with flowers that took my breath away, wonderful food, and venues that come to mind when I think of the most lovely places I’ve been. I like to see the bride’s dress and what vows the couple chooses.

Weddings have actually become more enjoyable for me over the years. There’s something about a couple joining their lives that is thrilling and brave. Sweet and heartwarming. I’ve been touched by personalized vows when I used to be steadfast in supporting the more traditional.

Over the past several years, it’s the wedding registry that has fascinated me. Partly due to the internet, the listings have become much more detailed. I find myself looking at fancy dog bowls and kitchen appliances I’ll never own nor would I know how to use. I’ve decided that there’s a philosophy attached to the process of choosing a wedding gift, and that really hasn’t changed all that much.

When my husband and I got married, there seemed to be three strategies from those bearing gifts.

Some meticulously followed the registry. Others ignored it entirely. Then there was my mother, who forcibly pushed her gift on me, with Dad a clueless participant.

I still have a rose-covered bathroom hand towel one of my friends

gave me, and have saved it for special occasions. Then there’s the tiny, four-inch tall cut glass vase my husband’s distant cousin gave, which is not often used, since I usually get bouquets and not just one flower bud. Yet I keep the vase in a prominent place and admire its beauty every time I see it. I believe it may have been from her own glass collection because it didn’t come in a box and is heavy like lead crystal. I make up stories in my head about its origins and it’s a treasure that has given me years of pleasure.

One sister-in-law gave me a very large glass bowl with an easy, delicious fruit salad recipe that I’ve made countless times, good for checking off that we’ve eaten all the food groups at home, and nice to bring to gatherings, too. She paired it with a set of three fingertip towels, each one labelled as given by one of her kids, who were young at the time.

One of my work colleagues created his own category, the after-wedding question: What didn’t you get? He asked if we’d gotten a toaster, and when I answered “no,” he gave us one.

But it’s my mother’s gift-giving style that stands out among them all. She wanted to give me “good” dishes and I couldn’t imagine why I would want that. I politely declined. That wasn’t sufficient for her. We had “discussions.” Saying no was never something my mother accepted well. One day I unexpectedly found myself with Mom at the downtown Indianapolis L.S. Ayers store (which I’m sure was not a surprise to her). Much of one entire level of the store, that looked as big as a car dealership showroom, was devoted to dishes--and knew I wasn’t getting out of there without choosing a pattern. Unexpectedly, I fell in love with a Lenox model that was fairly sturdy, not as expensive as buying a car, and practical. The pattern: Poppies on Blue. My mother marched me to the counter and involved the employee in recording the information into my registry.

The reception came, and my mother (and Dad) gave me several dish settings from my registry, the only ones of those I received. After the wedding, she then proceeded to give me a setting at every possible occasion, like my birthday and even Valentine’s (her favorite holiday) and in my Easter basket. At Christmas, the heavy box for “Jim and Cathy” was dishes. This went on for years. She presented me with a cute matching Lenox bunny cookie jar and a spoon rest, too. It wasn’t long until I had many settings and was seeing just how useful they were when we “had company.”

Those dishes are one of my favorite, most-used wedding gifts and I bring them out often. I find more and more reasons to consider family gatherings a special occasion and over Christmas, we used them several days in a row. Since losing Mom in April of 2020, getting out the dishes is always a bittersweet moment, a reminder of my mother’s indomitable spirit.

I feel a bit sad for people who only get gifts listed on their wedding registry. After all, sometimes when you’re starting married life, you don’t know what you need, until someone gives it to you.

I will sometimes pair a gift from the registry with a recipe, and once gave the measuring cups on the registry with my favorite brownie recipe.

What’s your take on wedding gifts? In the comments, I’d love to know your thoughts about what you give or something you’ve gotten.

****


Cathy Shouse writes inspirational cowboy romances. Her Fair Creek series, set in Indiana, 
features the Galloway brothers of Galloway Farms. Much like the characters in her stories, Cathy once lived on a farm in “small town” Indiana, where she first fell in love with cowboys while visiting the rodeo every summer. Please visit cathyshouse.com for more information on discounts and new releases or to sign up for her newsletter.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Needs, Wants, and Precedence

Last night, I dreamed about buying a new car, but the area was flooded and we had to go through water to do everything. Not in boats, just in water. It felt warm and I wasn't especially scared, but...water? I AM scared of water. When I got into my kids' hot tub, I didn't take a deep breath until I was in there and seated, and then I had to worry about getting out. (The half hour in between made it all worthwhile, believe me.)

This was an idiotic dream. To begin with, my car is only two years old and I love it to pieces--I have no wish for a new one. To go on with, I am scared of water. I would cheerfully wear a life preserver in the hot tub if one were offered. I've always said I'm afraid of bridges, too, but I'm not--it's the water underneath them. 

What I am taking the long way to get to is the word need. I love being around water, especially beaches in the Carolinas or the Panhandle in Florida, but I need to not go in that water any deeper than my knees. Ankles are better, but I don't want to be extreme. 


My husband and I, although we've been together over half a century, don't share the same values system on numerous things. We used to cancel each other out voting, have glaring conversations about labor-management situations, and stare at each other in disbelief that...you know...how could we possibly have been that mistaken when we chose a life partner?

We have learned, though, that while we will never agree on some pretty basic things, when we need the other one to stay on the side of marriage's slippery slope that they might not prefer, that need takes precedence over preference. When one of us--not naming names--needs to not have potato chips in the house, the other one has to suffer salt deprivation in response to that need. 


Which brings us to social media and politics. Yeah, I know, I'm sorry, but both of them really interest me and they definitely lend a cesspool consistency to our understanding of each other.

We need to respect opinions other than our own, we need to always tell the truth, we need to stop the name-calling. 


Did I say we? Well, yeah, I did. I have to remind myself daily to use the delete key! I don't play the whataboutism game, but I am a great one for posting opposing views and statistics that I have researched. While I believe strongly in what I present, the ones I say it to aren't going to change their minds any more than I am. So if I'm on their FB page, the delete key is a really good idea. Not calling anyone names or saying things that aren't wholly true (am I repeating myself?) is an even better one. 

Those things are like decency, kindness, love for others, and things to laugh at. They're things we need, and if they cost us something. that's okay, too.

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody. Even if you don't agree with what they say. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Write what you know. Really? by Jan Scarbrough



Write what you know. Really?

So, you want to write a book. Then write what you know, you’re told. Well, what I know isn’t much. Should I limit myself to that? Once a psychic told me I couldn’t dare write about a psychic because I wasn’t one. Guess what? I wrote a story with a psychic medium in it.

My friend Dale, herself a psychic medium, said this about my book: TIMELESS is a beautiful love story that intertwines two different lifetimes, and Jan has done an incredible job of introducing reincarnation and numerous other ‘Spiritual gifts’ that we all possess in a clear and concise way that will help you to understand the possibilities, even if they are not in your reality yet.

So there, psychic, who said I couldn’t do it!


Several years ago, I wanted to write a western romance. What do I know about a ranch? About cowboys? I live in the city. In Kentucky. I know a little bit about American Saddlebred horses, because I’ve ridden them since I was thirty-five. The easiest thing for me to research was the Professional Bull Riders organization. I joined the club. I attended local PBR events. I read books. I watched documentaries.

I brought my bull rider home to Kentucky in KENTUCKY COWBOY where he hooked up with his high school sweetheart.


The research helped when writing BRODY. He is a bull rider too. But he’d grown up in Montana on a ranch. I still didn’t know anything about day-to-day life on a cattle ranch. I read a book for background. But what was the easiest kind of ranch to write about? A dude ranch! I surfed the web and found one in Montana and that became the fictitious setting for my series, The Dawsons of Montana. MERCER, another book in the series, has bull riding hero named Drake.

Then in 2016, my husband and I took a vacation to a real dude ranch in Montana. I got altitude sickness and rode a horse up a mountain. I experienced it. Still, I was not an expert. But that area of Montana became the setting for another western series called Ghost Mountain Ranch.

Emily Temple in the article Should You Write What You Know? 31 Authors Weigh In, tackles this whole subject of writing what you know. If you’re interested, check it out. Thirty-one authors, much more famous than I, give you their opinion on the subject.

BTW, BRODY is on sale this week at Amazon for 99 cents.

***

Timeless - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016UQNLEO

Brody - https://www.amazon.com/Brody-Montana-McKennas-Ranchers-Book-ebook/dp/B016XI57SW

Dawsons of Montana - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08ZM6V8H8

Ghost Mountain Ranch - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BL85Q8W

Kentucky Cowboy - https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Cowboy-Bluegrass-Reunion-Book-ebook/dp/B07NJPPKFD





Saturday, January 8, 2022

Winter in the North (Miami) Country by Liz Flaherty

I am writing this on Friday morning. It is five above. I'm still settling into the new year, writing 2021 2022 every time, and trying to think profound thoughts. So far, it's not working. Most of my thoughts are centered around the wind chill factor and how long I can put off going into the house because the distance between my desk and the back door grows in exponentially with each degree the mercury drops.

And now I must admit it is early Friday evening and this is as far as I've gotten. This has been my fear most of my writing life--that I would just flat run out of things to say. (I think I have family members who have prayed for this to happen, but I forgive them. Really.)

I was looking back today about how winters used to be a lot more...wintery...than they are now. White Christmases were, if not likely, not improbable, either. I miss that. Not the actual snow so much as how things felt. Hot chocolate tasted better. So did cookies. It was fun to walk in snow. 

However, I wasn't afraid of falling down then. It was actually kind of fun. 

I remember high school basketball games being so exciting, both when I was a kid and when I was a player's mom. When I was in elementary school, it invariably snowed on sectionals weekend. My dad worked on the highway, my brothers had to miss ballgames because our road wasn't a primary one for the snowplows. I think there was a lot of cussing that went on. 

Picture by Betsy Hiffner

The winter we moved from the nice town subdivision to the wilds of northern Miami County was when the Blizzard of 1978 happened. My husband stayed in town because...you know...work, and the kids and I hunkered down in a house with questionable insulation, a questionable furnace, and a lane so full of snow I thought I'd never get my car down it again.

The only things about the blizzard that are fun are the old pictures and the selective, inaccurate memories. 

So, this morning--Saturday--it's 14 above. The distance between the house and the office can now be measured in miles instead of feet. And, really, it's not so bad. 

I don't often regret being the age I am. I've had so much fun in my life. I'm still having fun. Aside from aches and pains, this time is filled with family, friends, music, books, art, and a whole bunch of laughter. It's a blessed time.

For us. But for people who don't have heat or can't afford heat, whose transportation is negligible, whose food supply is iffy, whose knowledge of available resources prevents them from staying safe, these temperatures are scary business. 

Have a good week. Stay warm. And it is for those I mentioned in the paragraph above that I urge you to be nice to somebody. 

***

Watch the blog for Wednesday at the Window. I'm having guest posts every week and I'm looking forward to what they have to say. First up is writer friend Jan Scarbrough!