Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Time to Get Off the Tilt-A-Whirl by Scott Johnson

Photo by Taylor Lentz
Scott Johnson is probably the closest thing to a renaissance man I've ever known. He owns the Black Dog Coffee Shop and Legacy Outfitters in Logansport, Indiana, and is so generous to the arts community that none of us have ever figured out a good way to thank him. He hosts musicians and writers, provides a venue for classes, and--although he's ostensibly retired from teaching--teaches someone something every day. The Black Dog Writers is home to some of the best writing voices around--including his. 

Logansport, like every other small town around, needs money. Needs jobs. Needs industry. One such industry, WSP may be coming there. Or not. There are many articles about it, including the one linked here.

This is Scott's take on it. I like it a lot. I don't live in Logansport, or work there anymore, so I don't have a dog in the race, but if I did...well, I'm with Scott.

The whole WSP thing that is simmering in the background of this pandemic is a mess. I went back and read all of their social media posts…once. (I read them all as they were released but today I went back and read them consecutively…anyway) To produce a coherent argument and dissect each of these posts would take more energy than I have to give. I could hardly get through a paragraph without a feeling a bit ill from the constant spin. I rode the “Tilt-A-Whirl” once or twice as a kid…hated it every time…this situation calls up my memories of that experience…dizzy, a bit queasy, a little disoriented and each time I had to ask myself the question…why the hell did I buy a ticket to make myself feel like shit? It made no sense to me…pay money to make myself sick? No thank you.

Do I want a better, cleaner environment for our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our rivers to be what our community is known for… I always felt that we didn’t put near enough energy into capitalizing on our unique river dominated landscape. Do I want a higher quality of life in our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our community to be known for the artists and artisans who live among us. I want our community to be known for its music, and its diverse culture. I want our new restaurants to thrive…I want our new hotels to thrive…I want our schools to thrive and succeed….i want our children to know that the world is a place full of opportunity and I want our community to become a destination...yes a destination. A place where people want to come…a place that is welcoming, and interesting, and inspiring. When people visit us, I want them to leave thinking about when they might be able to come back. I want to leave people feeling better about the world then before we made their acquaintance.

Do I know about mercury and lead and zinc and other heavy metals? Do I know how it all impacts human health? Do I know how hard it is to clean up a polluted environment? Do I know what it takes to work safely…”sustainably” around this stuff? And more importantly do I know about environmental reporting and regulatory requirements? Do I know that environmental regulations can be changed in the future, loosened, lowered depending on political clout and with a simple stroke of a pen? Yes, I know a bit. Probably not much more than anyone else…but I know a bit.

I also know that we need good jobs in our community…and I know that we need to live in the modern world and this modern world comes with some pretty nasty stuff. Stuff like heavy metals…stuff like chemical emissions. I want it all I guess. What I really want is a modern world that does not rely on the fact that we have to pollute to progress…I want a world where we do not have to use the word “sustainable” in our corporate names to make people feel better about having them as neighbors.

Perhaps I am a dreamer. Perhaps I am. That is fine with me. Until we imagine a better world, a different path, we will never even recognize the opportunity to change course. Let us all imagine. And then let us all take action.

I don’t like to be spun around. I don’t want to pay to feel worse. Wisdom is composed of insight and intuition…the gut feeling. My gut is a little unsettled by a flawed process…and a flawed message. Now, I am stepping off the carnival ride...and going to find a good lemon shakeup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

...and selfless... by Debby Myers #WindowOvertheSink

My husband and I had an interesting conversation recently. During a discussion on a decision I had made, he asked me if I ever wonder what he’s thinking. I thought it was a silly question at first. “Of course!” I replied.

He said, “For example, what do you think that I think about your decision?”

I just laughed and told him I didn’t really know, except that he wishes he could make it go away. Then he laughed and we both went about our day, but later I did start thinking about it. Not just what he thinks about that, but what kind of things does anyone think someone else thinks about them.

In the eight years we’ve been married, we have been through so very many things that sometimes it feels like we both should have collapsed under the pressure and the sorrow. We lost three people very close to us that first year we got marriedhis best friend’s wife, my brother and, another dear friend. The next year both my grandmothers died. Then two years later the day after we returned home from a dream vacation to Hawaii came my MS attack and diagnosis which threw both of our lives in a completely different direction.

The following year, his father passed away and a close friend died suddenly. During all of this his mother ended up in the hospital and when she came home, she needed constant care. This put a strain on both of us. We decided we needed a break and soon after we left on a trip out West. On our way back, my husband had a seizure while we were in a hotel in Iowa. He’d never had a seizure before! I think then I must have felt as terrified as he did when I had my first MS attack.

Not long after we got home, I took a bad fall that was again scary for both of us. Last year I lost one of my best friends to cancer. And now we are living through a pandemic.

As you go through all that life throws at you, people tell you you’re strong, you’re resilient and time heals all wounds. Are you? Does it? How do I think my husband feels about all of this? What do I think he thinks I feel? I know how I felt as each thing happened – did I really take time to think about what he was thinking? I believe I thought I knew, but truth be told, I only scratched the surface. I didn’t tell my husband everything I was thinking. I still don’t all the time. We all keep a lot of our own thoughts to ourselves. Sometimes I do it to protect others from being hurt. Other times I need to think it through myself before I share. I know there have been times I didn’t want him to know what I was thinking – I thought it might make him angry or sad. Sometimes it’s just because it’s personal to me and I don’t want to share. Other times it’s random pondering. But that’s me, what about him?

Back to his original question “Do you ever wonder about what I’m thinking?” I still say my answer is of course adding only about 50 percent of the time.

His question took me back to all I’ve told you that we’ve been through. To be honest, some of that time I was too wrapped up in my own feelings to consider what he must be thinking too. Selflessness means being more concerned with the thoughts, feelings and well-being of others – forsaking oneself for their benefit. The definition is tricky. Some believe no one is truly selfless because even if you’re doing something for someone without expectations of a reward or recognition, you are still gaining something yourself. It may be something as simple as a warm feeling. I mention this because my husband asking me this question is one requiring my selflessness. I’m a little ashamed to say that often I get too caught up in my own feelings, whether they be of happiness, sadness, anger or inquisition, to think about what he is thinking.

The point of my sharing all this with you is that I learned a lesson today. I may be 56 years old, but I like nothing more than a good lesson! From now on, I am going to strive to be more selfless. Before I make a decision that not only affects me, but others as well, I’m going to remind to ask myself what I think others think. I’m going to try to be more concerned about other thoughts and feelings than my own.

I can still think back to hearing myself saying “I don’t care what they think!’ or “I’m doing what’s best for me!” I’m pretty sure most of you have said those things too at one time or another. Yet selflessness shows giving, love, empathy and compassion. Isn’t that how you want others to see you? To think of you? 

Practicing this improves relationships, helps you gain perspective, takes you out of your own thoughts and away from your troublesif only for a moment. It can be therapy toward inner peace when you do get stuck in your own thoughts, because you know you’ve considered others. After all, wouldn’t it be the best ever compliment if someone said, “She’s strong, resilient and selfless” instead of just “She’s strong and resilient.” I think so…what do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Class of 2020 – Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar--

I’m listening to the Dave Clark Five. There, in case you didn’t know (or care) how old I am, is irrefutable evidence. 

As I listen, and maybe sing along, I remember. I remember going to movies at the Roxy and at the Times in Rochester and the State in Logansport. I saw A Hard Day’s Night seven times—at least once in each of those theaters. I saw Woodstock at the Roxy, Bonnie and Clyde at the State. I remember Shindig and Hullabaloo and American Bandstand and Where the Action Is on TV.

I remember Friday night basketball games and football games and convocations at school. Painting mailboxes (and ourselves) to earn money in 4-H, when we rode from house to house in the back of a pickup. Once, when we were playing outside at school, some of us sixth-grade girls asked if we could take a walk. The teacher—I think maybe he was playing baseball with the boys—must have given some absentminded approval, thinking we meant we were going to walk on the school grounds. Instead, we took off down the road. A mile later, someone came along and gave us a ride back to school. In the back of his pickup.

It was a more innocent time, of course, but it was neither as good or as bad as most of us who were around then remember it. Our music was the best that ever was—argue that if you will, but we know. We know. We remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and Elvis and Chubby Checker and…oh, we remember.

It’s kind of unusual for me to look back so dreamily on those days, although I tend to wax sentimental on many of the ones that came along later. I’ve always liked being an adult a lot better than I did being a kid. I liked being a mom and a wife and a postal worker and a writer better than I liked being a teenager. Those are the times I cherish most in my memories.

Except, of course, for senior year.

I remember that there were only two seniors who had to ride my bus in the 1967-68 school year and I was one of them. Janie was the other one and I am so glad she was there. Jim Shambarger, for six years straight, had the locker beside mine.
It was the year our school’s basketball team fought and scrapped their way to the semi-state. When none of us could talk because we just stayed hoarse from week to week from yelling. When Logansport’s Berry Bowl—the old one—was stuffed with supporters. Whenever our cheerleaders did the old “Two Bits” yell, everyone in the gym stood and “hollered” except the supporters of the school our team was playing against. Even now, I remember how much fun it was. How exciting. It defined the year for North Miami’s Class of ’68.

Although I’d never want to go back, I still get a little ache when I think about it. When I listen to some of the songs from those days, tears push against the back of my eyes and it’s a good thing I’m alone in here because I couldn’t talk if my life depended on it.

Listening to “Glad All Over,” I find myself thinking of Connor, my fifth grandchild, who will graduate from North Miami this year. He’s done what grandkids do, gone from being a toddler to being six-foot-three in the blink of an eye. He’s big. Hairy. Funny. He works and drives and knows what he wants to do. Like the rest of his grandfather’s and my Magnificent Seven, he is our hearts.

Covid-19 came along and his friends and he and all the other 2020 kids missed their senior trip, their spring break trips, and getting away with the kind of stuff you get away with your last semester of your last year in school.

It shouldn’t be a big thing in the scheme of things, in the overall big picture of life. But it is. It is. That ache again, for him. For his classmates. For all of the class of 2020.

They came in, this senior class, with Nine Eleven, when the nation’s hearts all broke in unison. The unison didn’t last long. We were back to being controversial and confrontational in no time at all. Quarreling and blaming, cheating and lying, hating and…oh, loving, too. Learning and laughing. Growing in spite of ourselves. Going on.

You, the class of ’20 and the ones before you and after you—you’re the best of us. You’re our chance to get it right. The generation that follows you won’t think you did—you’ll screw up as many things as you fix. Most of us don’t make the mistakes of the ones who went before us; we think up new ones of our own to make. You will, too.

But you’ll still be the best of us. The brightest light in this year of dimness and pain and sorrow. The loudest laughter. The sweetest music. When anyone does the “Two Bits” cheer, we’re all going to stand and holler for you because you’re so good. So smart. So precious to us all.

I’m so sorry for the damage that’s been done to your senior year. I know it’s time that you’ll never get back. But it’s not the best time of your lives—it’s just one time. There are so many better times ahead for you. Because you can do anything. Be anything. Go everywhere. Have good times and bad and survive them all.

Do you remember in the movie Hoosiers, when Norman Dale looked around at his team in their gold satin warmups as their hands met in the middle of their circle? Do you remember what he said?

He said, “I love you guys.”

You are the circle, class of 2020. You’ll make us laugh. Make us weep. Make us proud. Whether you’re in gold satin, denim, or leggings, I know I’m speaking for everyone who knows you when I swipe that line and change it up a little.

We love you guys.