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.