Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Silver linings and wounded knees

This is from Peru Indiana Today last year. 
Last week, I read my column aloud at a writers’ group meeting and one of the members mentioned how positive it was. It was, I agreed, and there were a couple of things about that. One was that I hadn’t been feeling positive at all when I wrote it—I’d had to dig myself out of a deep pool of poor-me. The other was that if I’m the one writing it, it’s going to be positive. Because, while I believe wholeheartedly in clouds—I’d better this spring, hadn’t I? Clouds are nearly all we’ve had—I believe even more strongly in silver linings.
Photograph by Simone Viani
 Sometimes it’s really hard.
          Sunday afternoon, we went to a long-term care facility to see a family member who is ill and needs care and treatment but who wants only to go home. Who isn’t the person I know and love anymore, but yet he is. Each visit is like re-scraping a wounded knee that never fully heals. You limp in, and when you leave, the limp is more pronounced, the pain more intense.
          Today it’s cold and snowing, bitter white flakes that make your eyes sting and water. April’s cruel wind is whipping around in true “gotcha” mode. I’ve heard this morning of yet another illness, another death, more regrets over a reluctant life change. If there’s blue in the sky, you couldn’t prove it by me. It is a melancholy, cloudy, sore-knee kind of day.
          There are times in nearly every relationship, be it marriage, friendship, or family, that the connection wavers. When the bond must be reinvented to be either tightened or broken. Things that you wanted to always be the same are not. Things you wanted to change might do just that, but not necessarily in ways you’d hoped for. Whatever the outcome, it’s never painless.
          But, before Sunday afternoon was Sunday morning. We went to see our
youngest grandson receive his first communion. It was a lovely service and the eight-year-olds looked—give me a Nana moment here—so stinkin’ cute. Little girls in white dresses and little boys in vests and dress shirts and ties. The front of the church was crowded with parents and grandparents. Lunch afterward was my daughter-in-law’s most excellent lasagna and good conversation. We left with exuberant little-boy hugs and reluctant ones from his adolescent brother. As grandparent days go, it was an extraordinarily good one.
          After these days of cold and wind and all-consuming clouds, the sun will shine again—I hesitate to say it’s guaranteed, but history indicates it. For those of us who need light more than others seem to, we’ll see and feel hope with every sunrise.
          Relationships will be what they will, but even ones that end leave good memories behind. They continue to occupy the “places in the heart” we all have. I can’t, no matter how many Susie Sunshine columns I write, make all endings into happy things—that particular knee is going to hurt regardless—but there are new and wonderful beginnings, too. The trick is in finding them.
          Plenty of writers (and meteorologists) talk about the clouds. They define them, differentiate between their types, and predict how long they are going to last. They do it well, and if you’re in a bad place, it can undoubtedly lend comfort to know someone else is there, too.
          But some of us are going to continue to search out the silver linings, to find positivity when, like I said above, it’s really hard. We will continue to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons and find something to laugh at even before our tears dry. We’ll wear flip-flops in the snow because tomorrow will be better. I’ve been three days writing this column, but as I wrap it up, there are deer playing in the side yard and the sky is blue. It’s going to be a good day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Louie, Louie... by Debby Myers

Chances are that at least half of you reading this will relate to it since cats are our most popular pet and 47% of homes have at least one. Cats are unique, mysterious animals. Being the owner of three of my own, I attest to the fact that like ours, no two or three are the same.

Of our three cats, I’ve had Roxy since my son was 12 – this year he will turn 30 and she will turn 18. (That’s in human years, in cat years she’s like 126!) She was just eight weeks old when I got her for my kids, but they’ve all been gone now for a while – so now Roxy is MY cat.

We also have OUR baby, Zoey. She is just two and I rescued her after someone threw her out of a truck in a box when she was a kitten. 

Finally, there is ALAN’S cat – Louis Faragon the 3rd – Louie for short. When a friend of a friend had to suddenly move and couldn’t take him along, we adopted him. Louie was four when we got him and is eight now.

All of our cats are indoor/outdoor cats. We let them out nearly every day for a few hours unless it’s storming or below freezing. I think the longest any of them has ventured away is a day or so in the summer. Right after Thanksgiving in 2016, we had a few warm days, so out went the cats. One of those mornings that they went out, we didn’t see any of them until dusk. Roxy came meowing at the door and came in with Zoey dashing after her. But no Louie. But no worries – he’d be around by morning.

Only he wasn’t. And another day passed. And another. By the third day, Alan was worried. I even believe that Roxy and Zoey were trying to find him. They would want out all the time and would sit in the back yard looking for him. I kept saying, “He’s a cat. He’ll come back when it gets cold again. He’s probably found a lady cat,” and more excuses. When a week came and went, the cold returned. I was worried, too.

Did someone take him? He’s a beautiful long-haired black cat. Had something happened to him? Was he hurt? How do you even go about finding a missing cat?!

We made flyers and hung them all over the neighborhood. As it continued to get colder, Alan would bundle up and walk block after block searching and calling his name. A friend of ours, from Miami County MonthlyNews, ran across a flyer and offered to do a FB video (attached) and post it.  

Two weeks later, Christmas came and all the grandchildren were asking Santa to bring Louie home. The temperatures plummeted to single digits. No Louie.

We offered a reward, waited and then raised it. All of our friends were helping spread the word and Louie’s picture. One, who works at the local radio station, began making announcements. It seemed like every time someone saw a black cat, we’d get a call and go check it out. We saw a lot of black cats, but no Louie.

It became so cold that schools were cancelling. There was a stretch of below-zero days. I think it might have been around that time that I began to feel like we wouldn’t see him again. Yet Alan never gave up hope. No matter how cold it was, he still looked every day.

Around the two-month mark near the end of January, Alan hung up fresh flyers. There had been no possible sightings or leads in weeks. My heart sank watching him as he went back through the process. 
There was no way Louie had made it through that freezing stretch unless someone had taken him and wasn’t giving him back. 

One night in late February Alan and I were in our PJs getting ready to sit down in front of the TV to relax. I had gone online to check messages and the first thing that popped up on FB was a post by the Scratching Post Cat Rescue saying they thought someone may have seen our cat! I quickly responded, asking if they had a picture. I was afraid to mention it to Alan until I saw it. About 15 minutes later there it was – it really looked like him! I showed Alan the picture and we both came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t. After all, we live on the far west side of town and this cat had been found on the far east side.

Then the phone rang. It was the Scratching Post. The people who had taken the picture called them back and said the cat was in their back yard right then. If we wanted to come by and look, they would wait up on us.

When Alan arrived at the house, he circled the street and alley half a dozen times. He didn’t see a cat, but remember, Louie is black and it was late at night. Finally, he just parked in the alley behind the house and sat…and waited. I was at home becoming anxious. We texted back and forth. The more time that went by, the more I feared it was another false sighting - another disappointment for my heartbroken husband.

Just as Alan was about to give up and drive back home, he saw a cat’s eyes behind a bush at the edge of their yard. He quietly stepped out of the car and called, “Louie, Louie is that you?” The cat came out from the bushes, started to run toward him and suddenly stopped. He called out again. The cat took a few more steps toward him and then darted up toward the house, running under the deck. Alan called me and told me to call them and ask if he could come up toward the back door.

As he approached the house, they turned on their back light. Alan could barely see the cat hiding under the deck. The woman then began telling Alan the story of how they had spotted him. Two days earlier, they had come home and found him scratching on their sliding glass door. Being animal lovers, they opened the door, but he wouldn’t go in. They thought he must be a stray, looking ragged and matted. Because they had a cat of their own and often put out food for the neighborhood cats, they offered him a dish of food, which he devoured. When he came back the next day, they called the Scratching Post asking about a missing black cat they’d heard about. That was when the Scratching Post went to work looking for the man who had been looking for his cat for months – Alan.

As they talked, the woman went inside to grab the cat food. When she walked out and started to pour some into the bowl, the cat came out from under the deck. Alan saw him and said, “Louie, is that you?” Louie came right to him and Alan scooped him up, tears flowing down his face. It was Louie! Alan thanked the woman over and over. When her husband came out, Alan was stunned to learn that that he’d met him at Dillinger’s where he worked. Both the man and his wife had seen Louie’s pictures months before in the bathrooms at Dillinger’s, not realizing he belonged to Alan.

In the mean time I was still at home waiting. I heard Alan come in the back door. He came walking toward me with Louie in his arms – he was alive! We both showered him with love. He had survived three months outside in the bitter cold. He was so dirty that he looked gray instead of black. His hair was matted in clumps all over his body. Soon after we let him down, he went straight to his water bowl and drank every drop.

Over the next several days, Louie slept constantly. Both Roxy and Zoey seemed content to have him home. They would get up on the bed and sleep next to him. Alan worked on his fur, cutting and brushing until he’d made enough leeway to finally give him a bath.

Statistics show that cats can find shelter in small places. They can survive the cold due in part to their fur and small body mass. They stay alive by staying awake, keeping on the move and eating small scraps they find. We sure wish Louie could tell us about his time away. We tell him all the time about how so many searched for him and about how his Daddy never gave up on bringing Louie back home.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Little Christmas in April... @ Liz Flaherty

I hope you've read all the Christmas Town stories that have been coming out since 2014. If you haven't, here's a good chance to get started. The Dark Horse is 99 cents today. Chloe and Row are one of my favorite couples ever. I hope you like them, too!


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Drink the wild air." by Liz Flaherty

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink 

the wild air.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Regardless of the fact that there was snow on the cars when I came out to the office this morning--I'm writing this on Monday--it is spring. I’m wearing capris (and a sweatshirt) and the grass is bright green and growing so fast I think I can see it happening.

I can’t really say spring is my favorite season. Its historically hysterical weather keeps that from being the case. I spend as much time fighting my way out of the moods the gloom puts me in as I do celebrating the sunshine and birdsong and things growing.

But there are things. So many things.

Like this one.

Connor Wilson and beautiful Alia Mathias

And this one. I took it a couple of weeks ago when I talked myself into believing the green really was starting to peek out. Can you see it or is it just me?
And down the road...
Spring on the Nickel Plate Trail
Or these guys, who played in a band together in high school. See the one in the blue shirt? I met him in spring, married him two springs later. This is our 48th one. Or 49th--I always have trouble figuring that up.
Dennis See, Duane Flaherty, Brad Ferguson, Lanny Bell
And this.
Me in 1968. I know--it's awful.
And, oh, yes, these.
"Trio" by Elena G

And most of all, this one.
I've written about baseball ever since my kids played it. It's not my favorite sport, but there's definitely something about youth leagues. Something about those baggy pants and big helmets and the looks on those faces. 

It's always been said that pictures are worth 1000 words--those are my 1000 for today. Have a great week--and a great spring, regardless of hysterical weather!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

"Most people are good..." by Derek Mullikin

This week, please make Derek Mullikin welcome at the Window. This essay originated as a Facebook post. While I don't necessarily agree with everything he says here, I like and appreciate his passion. Thank you for being here, Derek! - Liz

Please take two minutes of your time to read this. I wish everyone had this opinion of our amazing city! On my way to work this morning I heard a song on the radio that I felt reverberated with our community.
‘’I believe most people are good

And most mamas oughta qualify for sainthood
I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights
I believe you love who you love
Ain't nothing you should ever be ashamed of
I believe this world ain't half as bad as it looks
I believe most people are good’’ 
(Written by David Frasier, Ed Hill, and Josh Kear, recorded by Luke Bryan)

When I say it reverberated, I do not necessarily mean this is the consensus amongst our community, but I believe it should be. All of the negativity about Peru in the group, elsewhere on Facebook, and seemingly everywhere we turn is completely unjust. In my opinion, most people are good.

Peru, at the least the Peru I know and grew up in, hasn’t relied on “big business” and “things to do” like I have seen so many people criticize that we lack. Facebook has given negativity a voice, one that does much more destruction than anything else. Peru does not need Walmarts or Targets or extravagant restaurants and go-cart tracks. In fact, I believe these things would ruin the beauty of what small town Peru is.

I have lived in big cities. I worked in Indianapolis for three years, I lived in Chicago for three months, and in Lafayette for five years. If these were such great places, why would I come back to Peru to raise my children? Because Peru, with its imperfections, is a great town to raise a family in. I can go to Kroger and get groceries with my children and not worry about someone snatching them up. I can forget to lock my car door and not worry about things being stolen. I can walk down the alley, my wife can walk down the alley, and we don’t worry about the terrible things that could happen. People wave and say hi, whether they know you or they don’t. OUR people. Most people are good.

Peru is not some rundown town of people who have nowhere else to go. It is a community of people, most of whom are good people, who appreciate what Peru is. It is home. When I was a child, I didn’t need laser tag, sports teams, or restaurants to keep me happy. We went outside and played with our friends. Our parents did not worry if it was safe for us to be out, because Peru is a safe place. That has not changed.

Just because the news shows you murders and heinous stories every day that happen in Indianapolis or Chicago or even Kokomo, does not mean it happens in Peru. And if you disagree, and propose a laundry list of things you want reformed in our town, I ask you to do this one thing--look in the mirror, really look, and ask yourself two things: (1) What are the ramifications of changes like the ones you want to see? (2) Are you a shining example of what you seek from others? In most cases, I do not think either answer will satisfy you.

Shaming people for doing business out of town is bizarre to me. That is commerce. We, as a small town, DEPEND on outside business. For employment, for goods, and to supply the very businesses our town has. I encourage those who think Peru has nothing to offer to please leave. Peru is not here to be a sanctuary for you to never have to leave your front porch. Peru is a safe town, a true oasis in the world we now reside. We lack some conveniences of a big city, but we also lack, more importantly, the shortcomings of a big city. We are strong.

Peru has been put through the wringer, mostly by its own citizens. No matter what you say to whomever you are trying to convince, you will not tear this city down. For every one person exploding with pessimism and animosity, there are 10 more good people trying to make life meaningful for themselves and those around them. Most people are good.

I do not speak up on these things often, and sometimes I am drug into the same “Peru sucks” conversation that has been enduring for decades. But in my heart, my character, Peru is my home. It is where I live now, not because I have to, not because I work here (I don’t), and not because it has all the bright shiny lights. Peru is my home, because that’s exactly what Peru is. Nothing more, nothing less, and I am totally okay with that. I hope one day you all will be as well. If you aren’t, you have our blessing to take your life somewhere else. Rather than advocate change, can we embrace and improve what makes Peru, Peru? I hope so. And I believe most people are good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The sounds of the earth by Liz Flaherty

This is from last year sometime. It's been a week of feeling puny and being behind, so my apologies if you've read this too lately to enjoy it again. The sun's shining today and I'm feeling blessed. Hope you are, too.

Oh the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree

An' a ol' weepin' willer is laughin' at me - 

Richard Rodgers

I’m not a movie person, but the quote above is from Oklahoma. I used it because I love what he was able to do with a few words that give voice to how I feel. But, about movies--I have trouble sitting in one place for two hours and the truth is, I don't like very many new movies--although there are some exceptions to that. I don't like violence, I don't think sex is a spectator sport, and I still flinch at four-letter words, especially when there are a dozen of them in a sentence. I’m not crazy about animation and I hate stupid, so it really cuts down on things to watch.

am a theatre person. If it’s on stage, I’m probably going to like it. Worse than that for anyone around me, if it’s a musical, I’m going to sing with it.

I can't quote many things from movies and plays I have seen, beyond the obvious. "My dear, I don't give a damn" and "I see dead people" come to mind. But I can remember scenes and how they made me feel. Especially that—how they made me feel.

Sally Field in Norma Rae
I remember when Old Yeller died. When Sally Field stood on a conveyer belt and held up a sign saying UNION in Norma Rae. When Chamberlain and his Mainers charged Little Round Top for the third time with nothing more than bayonets and heart in Gettysburg. When Rick Nelson and Dean Martin sang in Rio Bravo. When black soldiers got boots in Glory. When Jimmy Stewart filibustered in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (Is anyone with me on thinking that should be required viewing for all members of Congress and they can’t swear in until they get it?) The eight times I saw A Hard Day’s Night in the theater. Seeing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” being sung on Broadway. There are so many I can’t begin to think of them all.
          In 1994, I made my daughter’s wedding dress. Also the matron of honor’s, three bridesmaids’, and two flower girls’ dresses. (I bought the Mother of the Bride one--I was tired.) From March until August, I didn’t venture too far from the sewing machine. Over and over, while I sewed, I watched Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, the ones with Megan Follows and the late Jonathan Crombie playing Anne and Gilbert.
          I loved how they made me feel while I sewed. They got me over the crying-over-beading and the many times I said, “I can’t do this,” and all the days I was much too tired to thread the needle one more time.
          Duane and I went to see The Dixie Swim Club at the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater. While I admit to some bias, I think Peru, Indiana’s local theater group is full of outstanding talent, and it’s never been showcased any better than it is in this play. I laughed so hard I nearly cried, and then there was a brilliant, aching point where I was crying. Several years later I talked to Laura Stroud, one of the stars of the play, and when I tried to talk to her about that one line she had delivered with so much perfection it sliced my heart right in two, I got sniffly again and, oh, it felt so good. (Note from 2019. We saw this again a few weeks ago at Kokomo Civic Theatre, with our friend Teresa Hershberger reprising the role of Jeri Neal. I think it's still my favorite show.)

          It’s always nice when readers say something that makes you goofy-smile and happy-dance all day. Or when they let you know you got them through something that would have been harder otherwise. It means that even though they may forget your name, the title of the book, or even its protagonists, they’ll still remember how you made them feel. It doesn’t get any better than that.

          It’s been a rough week for virtually everyone. Finding this column and changing it made me think of lines from Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You”:

“Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?”
I remember doing that during that awful September, when the news became unbearable. Not I Love Lucy per se, but other reruns. Shows that didn’t hurt. Shows made us feel better, as if we could get through the day.

My niece, Sara Nider Biggs, is a teacher with two children. This week, she said on Facebook, “Every day, be sure to tell somebody Thank You.” Sara was starting with her children’s teachers, who keep them safe every day.
I join her in that, thanking everyone who does all they can to keep children safe. I also thank all those people who did and do write, direct, and act in movies and plays, and who sing songs and write books that I can’t quote lines from. Because no matter how hard or sad or impossible times are, you make us feel. You make us feel wonderful.