Tuesday, December 25, 2018


This was printed Saturday, December 22, in Peru Indiana Today. Apologies for such a quick turnaround on the blog, but...well, it's Christmas Day. I hope you're having a great one.

Every now and then…well, most days, I look out the west window of my office at the trees and the fields and the big round bales of hay that manage to convince me they are deer if I only see them out of the corner of my eye. And I get philosophical. I’m not sure if that comes with age or experience or weariness, but there it is. I find myself with tears on my face and not knowing where they came from or why they’re there. I laugh out loud here in the silence of this beloved room, yet am unable to pinpoint what’s so funny.
          This morning, in this quiet place, I’m thinking about Christmas. I’m not “feeling it” very much so far this year. As long as I’m with family or friends, I can find it in the laughter and music that is shared there, but the feeling leaves me too soon. There is still the blessing to be found in believing, the joy in giving, and the rush of pleasure that comes with lights and wide-eyed children.
          And yet.
          There is so much depression at this time of year, so much loneliness, so much awareness of what we don’t have. Relationships may have changed or disappeared through the year. Loss might have become such a part of you that it seems to have its own heartbeat. You may try to go back to sleep when you wake in the morning because facing the day is just…well, it’s beyond you. You just can’t.
          Yes, you know how lucky you are and how wonderful life is and that soon you will feel better. You get the thing with counting your blessings and faking it until you make it and smiling even though it makes your cheeks wobble and your eyes water. You get all of that.
          But now it is Christmas and even though you love the lights and the kids and the excitement and the music, you’re kind of overwhelmed, too. You don’t feel like you think you should. You might be angry for no identifiable reason. You might feel compelled to make someone else feel bad because…I don’t know why. Maybe just because. Your own pain from loss and change you didn’t want may threaten to take over your life and take you down with it.
          This is when you need to find your west window, even if you don’t know you have one. But you don’t have to do it alone. If you need help, it is up to you to make the call. It is when you must remember…you MUST remember…that it’s not just you. That lots of people are in the same place as you, even ones you think have perfect lives. The Size Twos. The ones with perennially good hair and always full wallets and kids who behave in the grocery store and spouses who know what they’re thinking.
But there’s fear, isn’t there?—that’s hard to get around. If you’ve been hurt, it could happen again. You could lose all the emotional gains you’ve dragged up from inside yourself in just an instant and the next time it will be even worse because you’ve talked to somebody about it and now they know. They know, but they care. If it happens again, and real life tells us it very well might, they’ll still care.
It’s dark now, a morning later, sitting here beside the west window. The
office Christmas tree is covered in white lights but only a few ornaments because I never finished decorating it. The desktop is the same mess it always is, with memories showing up sometimes in the piles, stirring the laughter or the tears or both.
There…as the sun comes up in the opposite window, a deer makes his light-footed way through the field. It’s not quite light enough to see him, but I’m almost sure…but it’s not. It’s a round bale, as beautiful in its way as the deer would have been.
I shouldn’t give advice—I am as unqualified to do so as anyone could possibly be—but advice comes, I am convinced, not from thinking you know it all but from caring about the person you’re talking to. But even as I spill out here what I think you should do, I know that the best thing anyone can do for someone else, much better than giving advice, is to listen.

And the best thing you can do for yourself is the giving I mentioned earlier. Whether it’s gifts or time or just a listening ear or a terrible joke. Take an angel from a giving tree, hang mittens on another, ring a bell, visit someone who doesn’t normally get visitors. Instead of scrolling with your phone, call someone and talk on it. They’ll be glad to hear your voice. If you’re not a phone talker (there are those of us around), text. Write a letter or send a card. The truth is, if you’re thinking about someone else, you give yourself a rest.
So, if you’re having a rough holiday season, whatever the cause, find your own west window and things that give comfort—even if they’re round bales instead of deer. There is hope and love and sharing to be found and I hope you find all of it. I hope I do, too.
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


I don't know when I wrote this, but it's a repeat from last year. The grandkids mentioned near the end are 21 and 22 now, so it's been a while, but I was happy to find it. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you believe. Merry Christmas to all of you, and thanks for continuing to read the Window Over the Sink.

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. - Fred, in Miracle on 34th Street

I'm a Christian, so believing in and embracing the “reason for the season” was never an issue. I have three older brothers, so believing in Santa Claus was an issue. In short, I never did. In our house, by the time I came along, Santa was a mythological folk hero portrayed, as Susan said in Miracle on 34th Street, by a “nice man with a white beard.” I liked him, I wanted him to be real, but I knew better. Some part of me wondered if the reason a lot of classmates got better presents than I did was that they believed in St. Nick and I didn’t.
         Twenty or so years later, my husband and I worked hard to keep our kids’ belief in Santa alive and well. Duane even gestured over the fallow fields we drove past and assured the back seat brigade that the rows only looked empty—they were actually filled with bumper crops of air oats. This peculiar grain, which grows only where there are children to imagine it, is what reindeer eat that allows them to fly.
         One Christmas Eve, we drove home from my family’s celebration through a Christmas card display of falling snow—great fat flakes falling straight down. Although it was only late afternoon, it was dark. The car was full of gifts and goodies and excited children.
         Duane saw the movement from the side in time to pump the brakes gently and slow to a crawl. Allowing the cluster of antlered deer to cross in front of us to the field on the other side of the road.
         The kids fell silent. Watching.
         “They’ll be working tonight,” said Duane.
         “Uh-huh.” As usual, I had a brilliant rejoinder to add to the conversation.
         “Filling up on air oats before they go out,” one of the kids offered.
         I know the deer were whitetail, not reindeer. I know the only thing the field produced that night was a few inches of snow. I know that Duane and I did the Santa job later on that night, laughing and wrapping and eating his cookies and drinking his milk. I know all that, really.
         A year or two ago, I was driving somewhere with grandsons in the car. I don’t remember how old they were, only that there was more than one and it was wintertime. One of the boys lifted a hand, gesturing toward the field we passed. “Look,” he said. “Air oats.”
         I don’t care what I know—I believe.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

...in everlasting words... by Liz Flaherty

"A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day." 
 Emily Dickenson

As a writer, words are some of my favorite things. I love word games even though I'm not good at them. I love looking them up, using them in sentences, using ones in writing that I wouldn't use in conversation because...really, extrapolate? I can't even pronounce it correctly.

It's an ongoing thing. All the way back in first grade, when we got our first paperback Dick and Jane readers, I fell in love with words. The first word in that little gray book was look, and I've been overusing that word ever since. When I write a book, I have to do a global search and remove at least half of them. This shortens the book considerably, but probably helps the story.

Words can give you power, whether you realize it at the time or not. If someone tries to make you feel stupid--and they will--just add some syllables to your response. Just be sure you know what the polysyllabic rejoinders mean, or you'll sound as stupid as someone might be trying to make you feel.

Sometimes, like if you say "philatelist" instead of "stamp collector," you just sound kind of snotty. (You probably really don't, but since I'm not sure how to pronounce that, either, I just threw that in. You should hear me butcher juxtaposition and numismatist.)

I'm a fan of euphemisms, too. Of curse words that aren't quite as...cursey...as others. They probably are. I'm sure freaking is every bit as profane and intensely meant as the word it replaces, but I'm a lot more comfortable with it. So are others of us who thought the use of certain four-letter words was a certain path to hell. I mean heck.

My love of words has never lessened even as it has become harder to think of the ones I'm looking for when I talk and write. The correct term usually remains stubbornly on the tip of my tongue or locked into my keyboard, but the rightness of an expression is still like music.

What I don't love is the the hijacking of words for disparaging purposes. I've been tired of being called a snowflake for a couple of years now, yet snowflakes are beautiful things, art objects within themselves, clean and bright and perfect.
So maybe that's okay. If that's not how you mean it when you're talking to me...well, look it up.

The word retard became something ugly because of misuse. Having its second syllable appropriated to use as an epithet--libtard or Dotard anyone?--added insult to injury to a word never intended to be pejorative.

I don't love many cutesy new words, either, ones that are added to the dictionary each year because of their common use. Why can't we just use them a while and then let them fade into the wayback of our lives, never to be thought of again. Oh, yeah, wayback is one of those new words, even if Word doesn't know about it and scolds me with a red squiggle. It means "the area in the back of a van, station wagon, or SUV." However, I like the way I used it and the way they used it in the "wayback machine," so maybe we can add a second meaning to its definition in Merriam-Webster. 

That's probably how people turned snowflake into an epithet, isn't it? They liked the way it sounded, the feelings it stirred up and hurt, the divisiveness it deepened. 

I wonder if it's how homosexual became gay and queer and someone long ago thought the n-word was common usage and okay. 

Words will always be some of my favorite things, but putting thought with them is an even bigger favorite. We should all try it sometime. 

Title of this post taken from a line in the Bee Gees' song, "Words," with thanks.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Out of darkness by Amy Brown

Please make Amy Brown welcome at the Window. I saw this post on Facebook and asked--maybe begged a little--if I could use it. It's a little ragged, a little raw, and some of it's hard to read, but its message is important and I thank her for sharing it. - Liz

So I am going to say some things, some may be offended. Some may cheer. But bear with me because it's something I want to say. It's a book, so if you don't want to read, I won't be offended if you scroll on by.

Jason and I have had a 17-year-old foster daughter for almost three months now. Most days are good, some are a little tough. She's not cooking meth in the laundry room, she's not openly disrespectful, and she’s not hurting people or animals. For that, I am thankful.

But her scars run deep.

She's lost both her parents in the past two years. She wasn't raised with the same values I was or how my kids were. That's the hardest part. She's almost socially feral, in some ways. She's come a long way, She's gone from D's and F's to A's and B's. She's learning what family does for each other, how it's not all about yelling and name calling. I have great hopes for her. She's learning that talking it out is actually pretty effective. That someone getting your coffee ready for you before school is actually a thing people do because they care. People doing nice things for her made her suspicious. Earning her trust was and still is hard.
The biggest struggle has been in influences and friends. Hanging around with the wrong crowd. One day she said, "If he really loved me, he wouldn't say that..." Another time, it was, "I'm sorry my parents were crappy and didn't teach me how to..."


First of all, we don't love at a Level One or a Level Seven or any level. Sure, there are types of love, and different ways of showing it. BUT, you don't measure love by what people do or don't do. If you loved me at a Level Eight, you wouldn't do that, but I understand you only love me at a Level One...

Eyeroll. Sigh.

You are not the asshole whisperer. You only have control of your own actions and reactions. If someone is going to be an asshole, they are going to be. YOU can't change them. Don't even try. But you can move FORWARD and be the person you want to be. Always.

Here's the thing. We all have baggage. We all have things in our lives that change us. That mold us into who we are.

Here's where you get to choose. You can let those bad things define you or influence you. Or you can stand up and define yourself. I chose the latter. I know some who still choose the former even 35 years later.

I was in a foster home with my brother. We were there for three years, probably. It wasn't the greatest, I will say that. We were bounced back and forth with our mother, between her and foster care. In 1983, Easter Sunday, she introduced us to someone. "This one's your dad," she told us.

Six months later, we moved to northern Indiana. In the country, away from the city. With a new mom. With two new sisters. With a dad. A family.

Here's the thing, and I am going to be perfectly raw here. Had we stayed with our mother, I would not be the person I am today. I was looking forward to turning 16 so I could quit school. Frankly, because that was the culture there. Welfare, food stamps, various babysitters. Most likely, teenage pregnancy. Drugs and alcohol. I have some good memories with her, but now, 35 years later, I realize she couldn't take care of anyone but herself. She's missing something inside her, and I believe that. She blames others, to this day, for how her life has turned out.

Bear with me here.

Do I sit around, feeling sorry for myself, claiming at every bad turn in my life, it was because I was abandoned? That my mother “didn't want me?” No. It was 35 years ago. Even in those first 10 years without my dad, we really were with her only a only few years of that time. We've been without her more than we were ever with her.

My life was damaged by sexual abuse at a very young age. I've dealt with depression and anxiety. I get overwhelmed sometimes. I've struggled with OCD, feelings of not being good enough, failed relationships, failed marriages. (Laugh here if you want toI don't care) Some more disastrous than others, some filled with horrible treatment and emotional and mental abuse. Some, amicable to this day. I've been cheated on, told I was worthless, made to be a robot. I've been told what my “jobs” were as a wife. I have been told I am just the wife, I am not family.

I've made bad decisions. I have regrets.

But now, I am thankful.

I am thankful that I had a father, even though we butted headsmostly that Aquarius stubbornness mixed with some Staats blood. I am thankful that he and my (some may say “step”) mom taught me manners, how to talk to people. How to be respectful, how to be caring. How getting up every couple hours to feed a lamb made me love and appreciate animals. How consequences, no matter how harsh they seemed, were for my own good. How important it was to get good grades, to stay out of trouble. How having older sisters buffered that relationship. How I knew I could count on them. How they helped with "girl stuff" my mom never taught me. How laughter and sarcasm can help you keep your sanity.

I am thankful for a partner who works HARD. Who shares my love for animals and sarcasm. Who would do anything for me. Jason and I have been together over a year and I still get butterflies. We are more a team than anyone else I have ever known. I don't have to question if he loves me or if he has motives for anything else. We are talking Level Ten here, folks.

I get it. I see it now.

My biggest motivation through my life was to NOT be her. Harsh? Maybe. Realistic? Yes. I wanted to be who I always wanted a mother to be, to my kids. I love my relationship with both of them, and now trying to mimic that relationship with Hobbit (That is a nickname.) so that SHE can see that people do care. That you can get through life with support, care, and talking things out. That how you got to this point in life that was out of your control does NOT have to define the rest of your life. How feeling sorry for yourself because of that DOES NOT HELP. How self-sabotage is NOT EVER going to make you happy or get you peace. Self-sabotaging your relationships with your parents, your friends, your partner, your kids...it's truly heartbreaking.

Do you get it? Can you take that bitterness, that ugly self-destruction, and throw it out the window and be thankful that you are blessed? That people, knowing your scars, can't fix what you don't want them to....but wait... they want you anyway? These people want good for you, want you to succeed, want you to be happy? YOU are the only one who can fix or change that. Not multiple partners, not drugs, not alcohol.


If you can't see this, you are slowly killing yourself. Who you COULD be.
I have had this conversation with Hobbit many times in the last three months. I hope she gets it, I hope it sinks in and she feels her own self-worth growing. I hope she's successful, confident. I hope she understands that good people do exist. It's hard. It really is hard trying to mold a child you did not give birth to or have since she was very small. I hope that one day, she looks back and can say that we helped her grow.

Here's another thing.


So all that rambling above comes down to just that.

If you want to be happy, it's up to you. You can choose. Sure, you are allowed to have bad days, where those insecurities sneak in, take you down to your dark place, but if you stay there, if you linger in that dark place, that's on you.
Use it to prove to everyone that despite all that shit, you made it. You survived. You succeeded. You tied up your loose ends, maybe even double-knotted them. Wrote letters you never intended to send. Screamed at a tree. You can forgive, but it’s harder to forget—but how you deal with what you don’t forget will make a world of difference.

Look. I don't know why I vomited all of that this morning. I feel like someone, or multiple someones, needed to hear it today. If it spoke to you, then I can believe that is the reason. We all see messages, signs, maybe this one is yours.

You are the only one who can get your own shit together. Period.

And now, I finally feel like I have my shit together. Sure, I don't prioritize things in the order they probably should be. I procrastinate. I take too long on tasks, mostly because I get lost in them, not because I overlook them. My heart is in it though, I can assure that. I feel everything. I get my feelings hurt sometimes. I can only be responsible for how I react to that. And, friends, it sure ain't in self-sabotage or attacking someone else for it.

Can I get an amen?

Amy Brown is Mom. Artist. Photographer. Realtor. Pack Leader to four. Poet. Sometimes an all-Know-it. Lover. Fighter. Occasionally, an all-nighter. Loves to sing, can't dance. I wear short pants.

Email brown.aj0129@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

...just the perfect blendship... by Debby Myers

Please welcome my friend Debby Myers back to the Window today. I love her subject and have been adding up my own best friends ever since I first read her post. Thanks to all of them, to you for reading, and to Debby for writing.

“Friendship," said Christopher Robin, "is a very comforting thing to have.”  A.A. Milne

From the time we begin making friends, we usually find a “best” friend. As adults, I’m pretty certain we all have a bestie or two or three. I consider my husband, my mom, and my kids all my best friends. However, as teens, it means something else. A “bestie” is who you tell all your secrets to, run around with, talk to about guys, laugh and cry with, complain to about teachers and parents or anything really.

At 18, I moved into a fabulous apartment with a balcony. I was AWAY from home. Not only away from home, but doing pretty darn good. I had more friends than ever. I was attending business school and interning at a beauty school. The only thing that kept everything from being perfect was that my boyfriend still lived in our home town.

My two “best” friends, Leanne and Maribeth, were my roomies. We each had our own room, privacy and always had each other’s backs. Yet I don’t really think I understood then what “best” really meant. Truth is, I hadn’t even met my “best” friend yet.

That happened when my boyfriend, Mark, came to pick me up one Friday night. I asked him why he didn’t just stay at my place. He said it was a surprise. Turns out the surprise was a party at Maribeth’s ex-boyfriend’s house. But when he came to get me, I didn’t know that yet.

Mark arrived and I ran out to the car, anxious to see him. He said “we’re riding in the back.” I opened the car door and started to scoot in and that’s when I saw her. I immediately got back out of the car and after a heated confrontation with Mark that included me refusing to get back in, but he convinced me that it was only an hour car ride.

You see, Maribeth’s ex was Mark’s best friend, Rich. His new girlfriend had caused Maribeth a lot of grief. Maribeth was my roomie and one of my “best” friends. I didn’t like this girl by associationlet’s just say I hadn’t let go of “high school.”  Now here I was stuck in the car with her having no intention of saying one word to this witch.

About 10 minutes into the trip, Mark had to relieve himself. Rich turned onto a country road, then pulled over. He and Mark got out and went across the street behind a tree. I yelled to them that I needed to go too. They yelled back, “Well, get out and find your own tree.”

Now it’s not like I’d never squatted on a country road before, but the witch got out, too. Before I knew it, she was squatting very near me. When I glanced over at her, something stuck me funny and I began to giggle. I couldn’t stop! I fell over with my pants down and couldn’t get up – I urinated on my hand, then she began to giggle too! She got up, handed me a wipe and pulled me up. We kept laughing all the way to the car.

The rest of that ride home was surreal. The four of us talked, laughed and made up a list of people to call for the party later at Rich’s house. That night we had a blast – we connected.

So now that I’ve shared the history of our first meeting, I can let you know that the witch’s name is Cathy. Now at 55, Cathy and I have been “best” friends for 37 years. Real best friends. We’ve helped each other through so much life – between us we have four divorces, six marriages, five children, and too many jobs to count. We have lost three parents, a brother, a sister-in-law, an ex-husband, and many dear friends. We’ve both had medical emergencies, car troubles, and been broke. Cathy might be the one person who knows me better than anyone else – my strengths and my weaknesses, my triumphs and my tragedies, my loves and my hates.

One of our favorite things to do over the years was to take an afternoon, get in the car together, drive down country roads with the music loud, sing and laugh. Cathy would scream at old barns that looked like they were falling down. I would yell at people who drove by. It was a releasewe could both forget about whatever troubled us. Sometimes we would stop at a pretty spot and share happy memories of the past plus hopes and dreams of what’s ahead.

You might be asking yourself why I chose this topic. The first couple of articles I wrote for Liz were about my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. At that time, almost three years ago, I was in such a good place. Working as a manager in a newly built grocery store making good cash. I was married to a wonderful guy.  We were just back from a vacation in Hawaii. Both of us were heavily involved in theater – acting, directing, serving on the board. Our circle of friends and colleagues was endless.

But it was Cathy, my real best friend, whose friendship proved endless when I was at my lowest, not long after my diagnosis. And it was Cathy, my real best friend, who brought me through my stage of depression, when for the first time I contemplated suicide. It is still Cathy, my real best friend, who I talk to nearly every day.  A life altering disease, like Multiple Sclerosis, is a daily battle. I’m not indicating that I no longer have a circle of friends. So many have reached out to me. Yet it is Cathy I go tothat’s how you know a real best friend.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The promises we make... by Joe DeRozier

As the last pieces of turkey, a mouthful of potatoes and what is believed to be the last remnants of dressing are festering in your fridge until they are mercifully thrown to their final resting place, we start our stressful journey towards Christmas.

Each year we promise ourselves that the next Christmas will be better...

We'll spend more time with family.

We'll pick out the perfect gifts.

We won't let uncle Steve get on our nerves after his fifth glass of eggnog.
We'll go out and appreciate the lights, and the snow. 

We'll make a snowman.

We'll call friends and family to let them know we think about them.

We'll let every worker in every store we do business with, know how appreciated they really are...

Time moves quickly...especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Work, parties, schedules... Soon, we won't have as much time as we had hoped...

We'll end up getting gift certificates for everyone. 

Uncle Steve will get an earful.

We will be too tired to look at lights and it's too cold for building a snowman...besides, didn't the puppy christen that area?

Our friends and family know we love them...besides, they didn't call us, right?

The cashier was busy and wasn't in a good mood, so we said nothing except a nondescript comment about the weather, and left.  Never mind that a kind word of appreciation would have made her day just a little more bearable...

Let's make this year the one that we fulfill our intentions...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Proactive Like a Tree by Joe Scheidler

Welcome back, Joe Scheidler! 

Nov 8, 2018

There is a groundhog in the cover crop today.  We've been seeing him for a few weeks now, generally around the noon, feasting on the newly emerged radish and cereal rye.  I suspect this activity will come to an abrupt end if the weather forecast holds; snow tomorrow, followed by unseasonable cold.  Today the hog is working beyond his usual hours, laying on fat in preparation for the long winter’s sleep.  He apparently knows the forecast as well.

The groundhog is being proactive: acting before a situation becomes a crisis.  It
is responding to an anticipated event, which is winter, by ensuring it has laid on enough energy reserves to carry it until spring. If he were reactive, eating only what was necessary when the mood hit, he would one day soon find himself out of food and short of fat.

Evidence of proactive behavior is rampant in nature: squirrels and birds caching nuts and seed, waterfowl winging southward, insects laying overwintering eggs, frogs and turtles settling into the marsh muck.  During this autumn season even plants respond proactively by shedding leaves and building winter stores.

If a tree does it, then being proactive apparently requires little critical thinking. In nature, it is the result of eons of adapting and evolving, reacting to cues that are life changing or threatening.  It is the product of a lengthy process that bears impressive results.  That's not to say the process has gone uninterrupted. Dramatic, sometimes planet-wide disturbances have occurred over geologic time. Existing proactive measures were sometimes inadequate and entire species, even taxonomic families, were lost, and the slow, lengthy process of filling vacated niches with new life forms would begin anew.

A planetary disturbance is happening again and this time man, that singular species most competent in critical thought and most capable of proactive behavior, is responsible.  Our systematic destruction of earth’s balanced atmosphere has earned us a new title in the epochs of geologic time: the Anthropocene, and this new era has seen the launching of the earth’s sixth mass extinction.  A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund says globally, we’ve lost half of our wild animals in the past 40 years.  Freshwater ecosystems have declined by 75 percent during the same period.  The study looked at only vertebrate populations, but separate published research showed insects declining 45 percent in the past 35 years worldwide, and up to 75 percent in German nature preserves.

Contrary to the perceived abundance we may hear and see daily-- the bird songs, the flowers, the chorus of night insects-- facts are facts.  The studies are not fictitious, no more than running out of gas on the highway is fictitious, and neither is remedied if we ignore them.  As one reviewer stated, “It’s okay to freak out now”.  Yet, by all apparent indicators, we are continuing with business as usual, wielding our dominion over the planet, worried little of food insecurity, mass starvation, unprecedented displacement of people from climate induced disasters. Instead we look forward to the next new iPhone and support fossil fuel consumption at every turn.

We have a one way relationship with this planet.  Earth doesn't need us, we need it.  At our disposal is the technology and wherewithal to influence the end game, to heal the scars, to leave future generations a home.  It demands an immediate, all-in, proactive approach to sustainable energy and lifestyles. We are capable, we can save ourselves, and we owe it to the planet that has given us everything. 

And that groundhog, the birds, the insects? This is beyond their proactive capabilities. Their future is on us, too.

A groundhog lays on the fat
For a long winter’s nap
The birds southward wing
To await the coming of spring
Proactively they choose their course
While man, with his critical thinking,
Burns carbon without blinking,
With nary a hint of remorse.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Days 19-25

Not keeping up very well here. I hope you're seeing these on Facebook and that your Thanksgiving Day (and all your gratitudes) were wonderful.

Day 19 of 30. I wrote this once, but it disappeared, which leads me to think maybe it wasn't very good to start with... Today, I'm thankful for journeys.
For trips, because I've seen such wonderful things and beautiful places and met such great people.
For the mom journey, the marriage journey, the nana journey, the friends journey, the author journey, because they are the best ones, the most exciting, the most fun, the ones I hope never, ever end.
For the learning journey because, even if you're old enough you can almost see your brain cells disappearing, you can still learn new things every day and enjoy that particular ride forever.
Day 21, I'm thankful for people who share the things they know--even with strangers in hotel dining rooms, for pumpkin spice creamer, and for people who tell the truth even when it's not comfortable to do so.
Day 22 a few hours early. My greatest gratitude all in one place except three. Miss you, Mari, Charley, and Shea.
Day 23, I’m grateful for mountain sunsets, daughters and granddaughters, and things that sparkle when you need a little shine in your life.
Day 24 of 30 Days of Gratitude. I’m thankful for “It’s A Wonderful Life” and being reminded that it truly is.
Day 25 of 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm thankful for home. Which needs no explanation whatever.

I just noticed that I missed Day 20. Other than the fact that we were on the road to our own family celebration in North Carolina, I'm not sure how that happened. I kind of like this--it gives me an extra day to be thankful whenever I feel like it. :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Turkey, joy, and a small glass of beer

Yikes, it snuck up on me. I have a repeat here from this week's Peru Indiana Today. We're having family celebrations this week and hope you are, too. 

Quite honestly, I'm not sure when I wrote this, so if you've read it too recently to like reading it again, my apologies. The greatest gifts...the greatest reasons for Thanksgiving...are the people in our lives, and I'm so grateful for Aunt Nellie. She gave more richness to my life than I can ever explain.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust
Aunt Nellie was my great-aunt. She was born in 1892, loved and married two men, and never had any children. She was the other side of the coin from my grandmother, who’d undoubtedly been the Good Daughter, and even though I loved them both, I worshiped the ground Aunt Nellie walked on.
My mother’s side of the family were all teetotalers, but when my brother-in-law asked Aunt Nellie if she’d like a beer, she said, Yes, she wouldn’t mind a small glass. I don’t know that she ever drank beer again, but she did indeed enjoy every drop of that “small glass.” Where Aunt Nellie was, there was always laughter.
We used to go to her house for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how many of us were there. It seemed like dozens at the time, but the number was probably closer to 25. She lived in a pretty little Cape Cod house on a pretty little street in Goshen, Indiana, and she had...oh, even in memory, it thrills me...she had a step stool you could sit on and the steps pushed out Windo over the Sink Logoin front! She also had a finished basement with its own kitchen! In the living room part of the basement, there was a cabinet Victrola with a stack of records. They were tinny and scratchy and it was hard to get them going the right speed with the crank, but there was such safety lying on the rug listening to Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore.
Even though I grew up on a small farm, the only time we ever had turkey was on Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in it every year. I loved eating whatever I wanted and never having to touch the red stuff that slid out of the Ocean Spray can. The dessert table was impressive, to say the least, and it was pretty much stripped by the end of the day. Even then, leftovers went home with each family, and the feeling of fullness and warmth would go on with turkey and noodles the next day.
I imagine being poor was a key player in my satisfaction with Thanksgiving, but that’s really neither here nor there. What matters are the memories and the lessons Aunt Nellie left behind. She was somewhere in her 80s when she died. She’d been packing for a trip to Grand Rapids with friends when she passed away. Grief created a hard, empty place in my chest at the loss, and I just knew I’d never get over it. However, at the funeral the officiating pastor mentioned her preparing for her trip and said she’d been just as ready to go to heaven as she’d been to go to Grand Rapids. My grandmother, who’d loved her younger sister even more than we did, said she thought if she’d had her choice, Aunt Nellie would rather have gone to Grand Rapids. Laughter softened the grief and added one more rung to the memory ladder.
Aunt Nellie was one of the first people I thought of when I became a Harlequin Heartwarming author. She’d have loved the line’s premise, its joy and sense of family and its humor. She'd have also told everyone at the beauty shop all about her niece, the author. Knowing that reminds me again of how lucky I was to have her.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. If you have that small glass of beer, be sure to enjoy every drop.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Days 13 - 18

Day 13 of 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm thankful for blogs. I love writing them and I love reading them. Even when I didn't have a place for my column, Window Over the Sink--thank you, Peru Indiana Today, I wrote it in blogs. Review bloggers are a tremendous help to authors. Special interest blogs on virtually anything keep people in a loop they might not be able to reach otherwise. (They also help with research, not that it's all about me or anything.) Some are funny, some heartrending, some impart knowledge both relevant and easy to understand. There are political blogs, religious ones, and ones that will make you mad enough you won't go back there ever again.
If you have a favorite blog or blogs, please feel free to leave a link to them in the comments. Their writers will appreciate it and so will I.

Day 14 of 30 Days. Borrowing--okay, ripping out--a page from my friend Amy Vastine's book today, I'm grateful for Google. While I may miss the sturdy dependability of paper and ink encyclopedias, I love the instant gratification and choices offered by Google.
It is particularly helpful in checking the veracity of virtually every political comment or meme or missing person on Facebook, but sometimes it's just fun. (Smiley Burnette played Gene Autry's sidekick, Frog, in case you were wondering... I thought it was Pat Buttram. Duane wins again.)

Day 15 of 30 Days... I'm grateful for the arts and for chances to learn about and participate in them. Talented artists in local galleries offer lessons in addition to displaying and selling their work. The library has free programs on numerous crafts. There are writers' groups, musical Round Robins and open mic sessions nearby. Community theater at Ole Olsen, Logansport's Civic Players, and Tipton and Wabash theater groups, to name a few, are always looking for members.
I hear (and have probably said) that "there's nothing to do here." Yes, there is--you just have to go out and do it.

Day 16, continued from Day 15... I'm grateful that there are always opportunities to learn things and that it's perfectly okay not to be good at them. That it's not necessary to always be the best as long as you're having a good time and not hurting anybody. That music and art and writing come more from the heart than the hands.
That being said, I'm grateful to the artists, musicians, and writers who share their skills and the things they see and feel with the rest of us.

Day 17 of 30. All about me today... I'm grateful for windows. The one by my desk where I watch the deer, the activities visible when you live on an oasis in the middle of farmland, glorious sunsets, and the changes of the seasons. The Windows OS on the computer which was and continues to be one of the great Mysteries of Life, but added immeasurable joy to the writing process.
And the Window Over the Sink, which I started writing in the late 80s for the Peru Tribune and have written off and on ever since. It's where you've learned more about me than you ever wanted to know, and where (hopefully), I've said what you thought, made you laugh--or cry. It's done more for me than I'm sure a therapist would. My thanks to the people who have read it and still do--you are the best therapy of all.

Day 18 of 30 Days of Gratitude. I am grateful for conversations. Ones that inform, that make you laugh, that give you certainty and/or confidence. Ones that assure you that no, it's not just you. Ones that start with "do you remember" and end with feeling as if you got to visit the time and place you were talking about. Ones that clear the air so that you can go on either together or separately. Ones particularly that end with "Love you" and "Love you, too."

Friday, November 16, 2018

MUSTERING IN... by Joe DeRozier

It's late for Veterans Day, but here's a post from my favorite baker, Joe DeRozier, about the way it's been for a lot of new recruits in a lot of lonely places.

I was sitting in my living room, just waiting.
Mom was busy doing things around the house that didn't really have to be done, while my sister calmly sat on the couch. Dad had to work. He asked if I wanted him to stay to see me off, but I knew he hated to miss work. He WOULD have had I asked, but I'm not sure if I could have handled saying goodbye to him.
Mom had cut my hair a day earlier. It was long and I didn't want to draw attention to myself in basic training. I kept grabbing the back of my neck because it felt strange not to have hair back there.
We didn't speak, really. I was waiting for my recruiter to pull up to take me to the bus station in Green Bay.
I pulled my things together and said my goodbyes to everyone, being careful not to look my sister in the eyes.
My recruiter and I spoke in the car during that hour long drive. I asked questions that were vaguely answered. He honestly didn't know the answers, but gave me enough for pacification.
We got to the bus stop. I had never been on a bus. He handed me my ticket, and told me that I was the last stop.
It takes about two hours from Green Bay to Milwaukee, but by bus it was about four. Four hours to sit and think...
I had just graduated high school and had no idea what I wanted to do. College was out of the question and I wasn't sure about the local factories. The military seemed to be a good idea. I got the job I wanted, travel, and decent pay...but now I was scared....and alone.
No cell phones to text my friends. No one to tell me it was okay and I'd be fine....just yesterday's Green Bay Press Gazette....
On the bus I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes of people watching. These were not the same people I grew up with; no one wanted to sit by me and talk. I would have liked that...anything to stop thinking....
It seemed we stopped a thousand times. Towns I had never visited. Some got on, some got off.
A young guy, maybe a few years older than I, had a boombox. He was very respectful and played it softly. Music was changing, I noticed. Hard rock was getting softer, more keyboards, psychedelic.
We got to Milwaukee. He'd told me, last stop, I remembered. It was getting dark. I was the last one on the bus. The driver pulled into the bus terminal and shut down for the night. Dang it...I jump out and have to ask directions to the Howard Johnson Hotel. It isn't far...
I got inside and checked in. I had never been to a hotel. They give me directions to my room. I got up there, laid my things out, and sat. I didn't know what I was supposed to do.
Suddenly the phone rang. It was someone with MEPS. They'd do a wake-up call at four am. Be in the lobby by five. No problem since I won't sleep a wink. Okay. I knew what was next, just nothing after.....
I stared out the window at Milwaukee. I liked the lights.... I ventured outside. I didn't know where I was going or what to even look for. I stayed close to the hotel. I went back. I tried to find someone in the lobby in the same situation that I was in. No one... I went back to the room and turned on the three-channel TV... I wonder if Dad is out of work yet.... is he thinking about me?
I lay on top of the bed and tried to sleep. I'm not sure if I ever got that wake-up call at four, because I was downstairs by that time.
The lobby slowly filled up.
Where were all these people last night?
I talked to a few of them. No one was very festive. Maybe the time, maybe the environment...maybe my breath...
We were herded into giant classrooms...we had a ton of paperwork that we mindlessly signed and dated. No one knew what we were signing and no one questioned it.
My belongings were always on my lap... I was afraid to let them out of my sight. A small connection to home, I guess.
It still felt weird on my neck...
We were set up in groups of 12, more or less. We were taken from one room to another. We were physically tested on everything from eyesight to hearing to reflexes to walking around like a duck in our underwear. A full room of young men, in their undies, walking like ducks. The humor didn't escape me but it didn't seem appropriate to bring to their attention how funny it looked.
I don't know if it was the same group I had been in or not, but we were separated again and given plane tickets to St. Louis.
One young man was put in charge, Phil Arndt (my spelling is probably incorrect). He was the first guy to really talk to me. He corralled us and got us into the plane. He sat next to me.
Phil was my first friend in the army..... great guy. I hope he's doing well...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A THOUSAND CUTS by Joe Scheidler

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to welcome Joe Scheidler to the Window. He read this essay aloud at a Writers' gathering at Black Dog Coffee House the other night and I begged (with dignity, of course) him to visit us here. 

Joe is a native Hoosier with an advanced degree in ecology. He worked for IDNR as a wildlife biologist and owned and operated Springcreek Landscaping for 25 years. The solar advocate practices sustainable living with Lee, his wife of 40+ years. They live near Logansport, Indiana. 

Oct 8, 2018

This morning broke foggy, dripping wet and unseasonably mild. I let the dog out and stood barefoot in the yard, the October soil warm on my feet. Fall flocking blackbirds hung in the cattails at the marsh edge, filling the morning with a raucous symphony. The colors of autumn brightened leaves in the dim light of dawn, and a delightful dank fragrance of an ebbing season’s growth hung in the air.

In that moment, there seemed such hope and promise, a temptation to think things weren't as bad as scientists say. How could we have crashing bird and insect populations, rampant deforestation, melting glaciers, impending ecological disaster?  It's too easy to deny. And therein, perhaps, is the root of the problem.

We, as people, are in a tight spot. Surrounded by the technology and information to save ourselves, we are drifting passively towards certain doom. With a wartime effort we might avoid the worst case scenario, but the probability of acting soon enough appears hugely unlikely.

This old sphere is like a billion year old freight train, chugging along, carried by momentum, optimizing the perfect conditions for life and harboring a resistance to change. But our activities are leading to death by a thousand cuts.  The cutting continues while we experience the pristine, take long drives through endless forests, tally dozens of bird species in a day of watching, find solitude in wild places and breathe air sweetened by all things raw and untainted. The cutting continues as we go about our busy days, engulfed by our efforts to make ends meet, to maintain or improve our level of comfort, to earn and enjoy our leisure, to embrace the status quo.

Recently I learned our current administration quietly acknowledged a projected 7 degree F (3.88C) rise in global temperature before the end of the century.  It wasn't an admission of man-caused climate change, but rather that the planet’s fate is sealed.  It was a justification to freeze fuel efficiency standards because increasing gas mileage in vehicles would play no significant role in reducing global temperatures.  It was a nod to stay the course.

Then today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a warning that we have only a dozen years to limit total warming by 1.5 degrees C. Another half degree more (i.e. 2 degrees) and dramatic, perhaps irreversible changes to life on earth are assured. According to the report, “It's a line in the sand and what it says to our species is this is the moment we must act”.  The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is the difference in having hundreds of millions of people exposed to water stress and food scarcity. It means more forest fires, fouled air and heat related deaths. It means massive migrations of people from the world’s shorelines.

But the biggest change, according to the report, would be to nature itself. Pollinating insects would be twice as likely to lose habitat. Ninety-nine percent of coral reefs would die and marine fisheries would decline at twice the rate. Ice free Arctic summers would occur every 10 years at 2C vs every 100 years at 1.5C.

The report goes on to offer specific reductions in carbon pollution and indicates how goals could be met using current technologies.  Former NASA scientist James Hansen, responding to the IPCC, said even 1.5C is well above the Holocene era temperatures in which human civilization developed, but that number gives young people a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it.

Meanwhile, we're on a solid course for a multi-degree rise, leaving 2C in our dust.

Tonight I heard coyotes singing. Instead of the typical yipping chaos, they engaged in long mournful howls. Maybe they know something, but more likely they, as so many species wild, are being led innocently to a senseless and needlessly cruel future, if not total extinction.

Coyotes didn't occupy our fair state when I was a lad. I can say the same for white-tailed deer, bald eagles, river otters,  peregrine falcons and wild turkeys. All are the result of applied wildlife science, a hugely successful reintroduction program, and a witness to wild habitats still capable of supporting species long absent. At this moment, just outside my doorstep, the night air is sweet, an ancient bird migration is underway, the songs of insects are reaching a crescendo, and the garden’s newly sprouted cover crop is lush and green.

And while the old sphere spins, a few billion years of refined perfection is being cut to shreds.

The old sphere spins
While time moves on,
We suck our resources dry
And think we do nothing wrong. 

The sun still rises,
The flowers still bloom,
And we're content and nourished
As babes in the womb. 

Our mother is ill
But we acknowledge it not;
We forge headlong in a race
To lose all that we sought.