Tuesday, July 31, 2018

There was a stairway...

I think I always knew I'd be a writer. Or at least that I wanted to be. Since I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, Lewis Grizzard, Captain Stubby, John Turnipseed, and numerous and sundry other syndicated columnists, that was what I wanted to be, too. While I never got syndicated--not from lack of trying--the Window Over the Sink has been out and about for 30 years. It is my favorite thing to write. However, I try not to make it about writing. Except today.

I wanted to write books, too. I read voraciously as a kid, finishing every book an author I liked wrote and starting over and reading them all again. And I wanted to do that, too.
Gilead School - thanks to Don DeWald
There was a stairway in the center hall at Gilead School. The stairs led to the
stage. That was where I would sit whenever it was allowed at lunchtime and recess and write long stories on loose-leaf notebook paper. I liked college rule the best because I could get more words on the paper. I kept it all in a folder. I used a different color folder for each story and I can still remember whose stories went with what color. When the folders began to disintegrate, I put them back together with masking tape. I was ten when I started. I'll be 68 Thursday--I'll let you know when I stop.

So tomorrow Nice to Come Home To will be released. It's the third story from Lake Miniagua. Its protagonists are a writer and an engineer (who also plays guitar.) They own an orchard together--think McClure's and Doud's in a mash-up; I'm so grateful for their unwitting help in the writing of this book--and they like each other a little more than they intended.

The blurb and buy links are below. Thanks to everyone who reads the Window both here and in Peru Indiana Today. If you read my books, thanks for that, too. You've all made it such a fun ride. Have a great week!

Will an apple a day…

Keep love at bay?

For Cass Gentry, coming home to Lake Miniagua, teenage half sister in tow, is bittersweet. But her half of the orchard she inherited awaits, and so does a fresh face—Luke Rossiter, her new business partner. Even though they butt heads in business, they share one key piece of common ground: refusing to ever fall in love again. But as their lives get bigger, that stance doesn’t feel like enough…

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Piercings, tattoos, and underwear

This is from 2009. I think I could make a series of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," because I still feel the same way about piercings, tattoos, and underwear. I still don't know where to look. But I still maintain none of those things are sufficient criteria by which to judge a person.

I don’t mind piercings. I don’t love them, by any means — I nearly fainted the first time I got one. That was the first ear with a darning needle and then I had to go ahead and have the other one done. Then they were crooked and I let them grow back, vowing never to do it again. But I did, and then one more time just because I wanted to wear two sets of earrings. I’d like to do the cartilage thing, too, up in the top of one ear, but I’m too big of a chicken, so that’s not going to happen.

I don’t mind tattoos, either. Some of them are beautiful and meaningful to their wearers. I’d even kind of like to have a little shamrock tattooed somewhere not obvious, but in addition to being a big chicken, I’m also a cheapskate. I’d rather spend the money required for a tattoo on something else. Probably earrings. Maybe purses. Or shoes.

Now that I think about it, there are a whole host of things I don’t mind. Drooping pants with
boxers and body parts peering out. Skin tight pants with body parts squeezing out. Skimpy tops with body parts hanging out — although I must confess to jealousy here; I’d give my whole earring collection to have the kind of body that looks good in those tops.

It doesn’t bother me that people wear pajamas in public. Truth is, the pjs seldom expose any body parts and they’re really comfortable. They’re often color coordinated with a hooded sweatshirt and a stocking cap and gloves. I don’t have a problem with chains. You know, the ones looping from people’s pockets that are attached to ... something. Of course, whenever I see them, usually on a guy in a close-fitting black cap, I spend the next hour singing, “Ch-ch-chain ...” This would be all right, except that I don’t know the rest of the words, so I just say, “Ch-ch-chain ...” over and over again.

I don’t mind comb-overs. As someone who has had recalcitrant hair for ... oh, lots of years, I understand that you do what you have to do. Every now and then, though, the wind will catch hold of a comb-over and suddenly you have a nearly-bald man with hair standing a foot or so straight in the air on one side of his head, starting from a part that’s right over his ear.

Which brings me to my problem.

I don’t know where to look.

When dealing with people, there’s little that’s more important than eye contact. It once took me months to go back to a fast food restaurant because the cashier who took orders took mine without once looking at me, much less saying Please, Thank you, or Have a nice day. But you can’t maintain a mutual gaze all the time. You have to look at something else.

If a person doesn’t have facial piercings, you can look at his or her face. You can notice if you like her makeup or if he should have shaved and you can ask if they have any weekend plans. But if there are little gold rings in their eyebrows, nostrils, and upper lips, you catch yourself staring in a heartbeat. Same goes for tattoos of teardrops slipping down cheeks. Your query about weekend plans comes out something like, “So, are you backing the Cardinals in the Super Tattoo?”

If hair is just, you know, hair, you can think, “Oops, roots,” and go on about your business, but if the comb-over is misplaced, you absolutely cannot tear your eyes away. Your fingers itch to just give a little flip of that chunk standing Alfalfa-like where the wind left it.

Drooping clothes give you parenting urges, even if you no longer clock in daily as a mom. You want to offer a belt, a cover-up hoodie, sweats to wear over the sprayed-on jeans. You want to say, “Just get up?”

Chains make you think in stereotypes. Gangs? Truck drivers who thunder past you on icy highways and scare the snot out of you? Even worse, in my case, is that they make me sing and gaze vaguely at anything except the serpentine length of metal looping from a pocket to...something.

However, I think I may have something figured out. And I owe it all to the name tag I wear at work.

The name tag is so that people will know what they can call me aside from “hey!” or, even worse, “hey, lady!” It’s information, and if I didn’t want to share that information, I wouldn’t wear the tag. (This is assuming I wasn’t required to wear the tag, and I’m not even going there.) I think this means it’s okay to look at facial piercings, obvious tattoos, attention-calling clothes, and chains.

What isn’t okay is to look at all those things and forget to see the person behind them. Just as there is a whole lot more to me than a chintzy plastic name tag, there’s more to everyone than what meets — and calls to — the eye.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The case for average

I'm not sure when I wrote this, but my letter grade in life hasn't risen any since then. 

I'm coming clean. It's said that confession is good for the soul — plus it's a novelty in this day of not admitting to anything. Makes me feel all sanctimonious and Marmee-like. So here goes.

I am not a leader.

Umm, felt good. I'll say it again, louder and longer. I'm a follower with absolutely no aspirations to lead.

I have never dreamed of gathering obscene wealth or dining at restaurants where cute guys park your car and paparazzi snap pictures of you as you walk past. I've never longed to be a CEO or a member of any other profession that has initials as its description.

If I'm helping at a seminar or conference, I'm the one making sure the speakers have fresh water and directing people to the coffee urn and the nearest bathroom. I'm never the one smiling out over the crowd and saying, "Can everyone hear me?" I don't want to be heard.

I play Jeopardy along with the TV show at home — badly — but the idea of actually going on television for any purpose makes me turn pale and fumble for my Zoloft.

The last time I had jury duty, I was elected to be the foreperson based on my being the only one who had served before. I explained that all this meant was that I knew where the bathroom and the coffeepot were, but the other jurors seemed to think that was sufficient knowledge. I hope those people are never around when conference speakers are hired; they might recommend me!

When I was in high school, I was always a third-row member of pep club, never a cheerleader. In physical education class, the bane of my existence, I warmed the bench in basketball, was the 27th batter in baseball, and the only time I ever got a volleyball over the net was when the hard-as-a-rock ball bounced off my nose and I thought it was broken. The nose, that is, not the ball. If I'd gone away to camp to improve my skills the way young scholars and student athletes do now, I'd have ended up being the tent monitor because I was too lackadaisical to excel at anything else.

While I admire excellence and do on occasion strive for it, I'm more often happy with good-enough. My husband — whose leadership qualities I hesitate to acknowledge just in case he takes it upon himself to lead me — thinks if you're going to do something, you should do it right or not at all. Having been raised by a mother who ironed everything, I became an adult who can survive years at a time without opening up the ironing board. However, if I'm wearing a jumper or a vest, I will break down and iron the collar and sleeves of the blouse I wear underneath. It looks … you know … okay. My husband considers this beyond laziness and well into slovenliness, so I let him iron my blouses whenever he wants to.

I am — dare I say it? — incredibly average, to the point that I've never been able to buy my clothes off the clearance racks because my size is average, too. When I gained the requisite 20 pounds and two sizes after I stopped smoking, so did everyone else.

And you know what?; I don't mind being average. A friend suggests that this is because I don't want the responsibility of excellence. I don't want to be the idea person, the trouble-shooter, the Moses of the workplace. She's right.

But at the end of the day, when all the ideas are presented and the games played and the conferences over, everyone needs the bathroom and a cup of coffee. They need to sit and unwind without worrying whether there are wrinkles in their blouses. They need to just be average.

So, the bathroom's just down the hall there and the coffee's fresh. Cream? I'll be glad to get you some. That's what people like me are for, and it's not bad at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Donut Man and Led Zeppelin

You may have noticed that when I get overwhelmed--or lazy--I beg invite friends to join me here. They have tons of information to share, are funnier than I am, and present a new view through the smudged glass of the Window Over the Sink. This week, Joe DeRozier's back. Thanks to him for coming and for sharing what he calls his ramblings. See you next week--unless another funnier, smarter friend shows up - Liz 

It's dark... I'm tired...

I grab the mountain of paperwork from the passenger seat, climb out of the car, then go to the back seat where I put the bag of garbage that Kat left for me by the back door.

I throw the garbage in the dumpster, trying to stay aware of where my keys and important papers are so as not to pitch those in there as well.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to climb in that dumpster to retrieve my things. I used to fling myself up on the side, check for racoons, then jump in. It's harder now. I get a ladder if I can...things sure change...

I unlock the bakery door and walk in to pitch black. It doesn't really matter. I KNOW this place better than anywhere. Besides...my eyes are still closed.

It's seven steps in, and slightly to the right at about 45°. More than likely there is a rack there. At chest level there are light switches on the east wall. I hit those and there's an instant flood of light. It takes a second to adjust my eyes.

I look at the freezer temp and the condensation pump for anything that needs immediate attention.
All good…

I grab a 50lb cube of shortening. They're not as light as they used to be. I fill the melter, check temps, then start my prep work.

I check my phone for messages. Most people contact me through Facebook, so the only messages are usually telemarketers. Salespeople used to stop in and ask for my dad because I looked so young...that doesn't ever happen anymore.

Actually, while I'm thinking about it, salespeople never come in...or donation people. They call or message. They'd do better getting off their phones and stopping in...maybe I'm just getting old...

I get the first 85 lbs of dough ready to mix. I roll racks, move boards, put away dishes, get the proof box ready. I scan the bakery to figure out what I've forgotten to do. There's always something.

I forgot to scale cake donuts...

I head to my office, a.k.a. “the cave,” and fire up my computer, where I print out my "donut bible" and the invoices.

I start my dough, then head back to the cave to do more paperwork.

The dough finishes and I throw it on the tablewell, I USED to throw it on the table. Now I roll it as close to the
table as I can, assess the situation, pick it up and say a quick prayer.

I'm still strong enough... it's the pain...

I have 10 minutes to let the dough proof...

This is the best 10 minutes of the day... I have coffee... I sit down by the table. I'm alone, with Led Zeppelin playing in the background. It's quiet...

I think about my family... I think about my dad, a lot. I wonder what wonderful things will happen with my kids. How long will my wife put up with me? Will her eyes lock in the "rolled" position?

The timer goes off. My coffee is cold.

It's 3:30 am, now.

I create some donuts. I'm slow at first, then get into a rhythm.

Mason and Michael come in. They always come in to help. We talk. Some about business, some about Peru. Our wives/girlfriend (Mason's girlfriend is my daughter, April, so he has to say good things). Politics, weather... we make fun of each other. We fry, fill and ice, and pack up the donuts.

Ed Stuber from Main Street Market picks his donuts up just as we're packing them. They're still warm.

We get everything cleaned up. Mike and Mason eventually leave.

People from the other stores come in. There are brief salutations...nothing more...It's quiet again for me. I try not to fall asleep. I have a few hours to wait until I start all over...

The time comes...I start my dough, this time knowing there will be about 300 pounds. I'll only mix and cut these, but no one else is here. I see customers in the storefront and store workers going back and forth... of course, they're too busy to bother with me...

I'm around a lot of people, but I'm alone, really.

Just me and Led Zeppelin playing in the background...

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Climbing into the day...

We didn't mean to, but my friend Debby Myers and I seem to be doing a little series on grief and depression. Mine is at Peru Indiana Today and Deb's is here. The fact that we both wrote on it at virtually the same time without the other knowing made me think about how many people are in anguish, be it physical, emotional, or mental. How many people are suffering in silence? In aloneness? Thinking there is no light at the end of their personal tunnel? It's important to share it and to take care of it. Sometimes finding someone to talk to is your first step to "getting out of bed."

Thanks, Debby, for sharing this part of your journey. I feel privileged that you write for the Window. - Liz

Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Have you ever really asked yourself? Oh, sure, you have the usual reasons―go to work, go to school, go visit friends. But what if you didn’t have anywhere to go? What if you couldn’t go even if you wanted to? Would you get out of bed? After all, sleeping is how we spend 35 percent of our lives. Being in bed is where we are most comfortable, where we are relaxed. Why get up? Do you have to have a reason? If you didn’t have to, would you?

Getting out of bed each morning is really a matter of self-worth. In my opinion and from my experience, it’s something you have to do for yourself and no one else. It’s how we are meant to spend the other 65 percent of our lives―out of bed. Getting up, making the bed, eating breakfast, taking a shower, and getting dressed are all activities we do for ourselves. In my situation, I don’t have to get out of bed. I don’t have to hurry off anywhere, don’t have to go to work, can’t drive anymore to go visit friends or family.

For a while, I didn’t. I stayed in bed all day sometimes and never left my bedroom except to potty. I didn’t want to eat and I didn’t care about myself. Getting up for me meant more pain, more struggles, more facing my new reality.
But it’s when you don’t get out of bed in the morning that you know you may have sunk into depression. Often nothing or no one can pull you up except you. It’s not easy. I kept thinking, who cares if I get up or how I look? No one is coming over. I have nowhere to go. Why not stay where I am most comfortable and relaxed?

In my case, as I lay in bed in my jammies with the TV on at two in the afternoon, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was on. Yet somewhere in my subconscious, I heard a woman say, “You can never really love someone else until you love yourself.” Of course, I’d heard that phrase before, but this time it must have really stuck. I dozed off to sleep again and began dreaming about all of those I love―my husband, my parents, my children and grandchildren. But not myself.

When I woke up, I got up out of bed. I made the bed, ate, took a shower, and got dressed. I stood and looked in the mirror for a long time thinking about what that woman had said. I decided to put on makeup and style my hair. Afterward I looked in the mirror again and said out loud, “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.” But the truth was – I knew right then, at that moment, I didn’t.

I had to do something. I didn’t really want to spend my life hiding in my bedroom. I needed help. I went on the portal for my neurologist. I wrote to her explaining and admitting for the first time that I was suffering from depression. Me―depression. Two words I never thought would be linked in the same sentence. She told me to make a list of reasons to stay in bed and reasons to get up each morning. Surprisingly the reasons to get up heavily outweighed the reasons to stay in bed. She also pointed out the obvious―that I had recently learned I had multiple sclerosis.

Finding out that you have a chronic illness and learning to live with it is like when you suffer the loss of a loved one, only that loved one is you. In an instant, your whole life changes and you lose who you used to be. My neurologist took me through all the five stages of loss.

1.   Grief – I’d had plenty of that and survived that one.
2.   Denial – already conquered that one too.
3.   Isolation – just got through that one.
4.   Depression – that’s where I am now.
5.   Acceptance ― This was the one I needed to survive and conquer now.

I am so close to that last stage, so close to accepting and loving this new version of me. I've accepted that I don't have to lose who I used to be. I have to accept and love who I'm becoming. Number Four still holds me back sometimes. That is the reason my neurologist had me complete the list. So when that depression creeps in, I can look at the reasons I DO have to get out of bed in the morning. Most days it works, but just like with loss, I can slip back into any of the stages any time. My goal for now is to stop lying in bed wondering, "Why do you get out of bed in the morning?" It's then I'll feel that I've moved on to Number Five.