Saturday, March 27, 2021

Words. Right Here in River City! by Liz Flaherty


I will try not to be sesquipedalian when I write the column today. Only showoffs are, you know...oh, and people who know more and better words than I do. Ones who walk down corridors instead of hallways, have fevered brows instead of sweaty foreheads, and suffer from plantar fasciitis instead of sore feet.  

The word sesquipedalian came from a word-of-the-day email I get from Merriam-Webster. I forget a lot of the words, and never use some of them, but then there are those that are just so...fun. 

Sesquipedalian--see? I keep repeating it in the hope that I'll remember it--means either having many syllables or using long words. I like it a lot, and when I say it, I think of Robert Preston singing "Ya Got Trouble" in The Music Man. There's a rhythm to it. A cadence. Measurement. 
I love words, but their pronunciation is often a mystery to me. If I have to read aloud from the Bible in church, I look up audio pronunciations of things like koinonia so that I will sound as if I actually know what I'm talking about. (Yeah, I know the Lord knows better, but He has infinite patience.)

I was in my 40s before I knew that Aloysius was actually Allo-wishes. I'm not sure I have it straight yet that epitome is e-pit-o-mee but Jerome is Je-rome. Isn't it? Or is Je-rome really Jer-e-mee? Which brings me to my son's name, which is Jeremy. Should we have spelled it J-e-r-o-m-e? I hope not, because I don't even like how that looks. Perhaps this is the underlying reason we call him Jock and always have.

I was also in my 40s before I learned to spell weird and diminutive. Not knowing how to spell them had never stopped me from using them in print, but it should have. 

Words become buzzwords. I'd never used the word efficacy in my whole life--I had to look it up to be certain of its meaning and I'm still confused--and yet it's suddenly in the news all the time. Do you remember when someone realized that harassment was a real thing and the word became what had to have been the most-used of that particular year? Only the pronunciation got changed. I still blink when someone says HARassment instead of harASSment. Did they do that so that the very fitting word ass wouldn't be stressed when they talked about it?

Etymology is the study of words and their origins. This is a word I'm really not too crazy about, because I get it confused with entomology, which is the study of bugs.

I do have favorites, though. I love the word serendipity, because it feels good when I say it. I like juxtaposition, although it sounds goofy when I say it. I like compassion, tolerance, joy, kindness, gathering. I like when words sound like themselves, like rain or gentle or laughter.

I like that I get to write this column every week and that you are kind enough to read it. There's another good word: appreciation

Got any favorites? Or ones you don't like? I hope you share them with us. Have a great week. Use good words. Be nice to somebody.

***

The #businessoftheweek is Gallery 15 & Studios. The gallery is beautiful and welcoming. It is a place to appreciate and enjoy art and music as well as learn from artist Sarah Luginbill and musician Ron Luginbill. There are paintings displayed that will complement any d├ęcor and, more importantly, find comfortable places in any heart.

Stop in or call to see what's going on. Arrange for lessons or just go in and sit a while and absorb. You'll feel better for having done so.

Gallery 15 & Studios
15 E. Main
Peru, IN 46970
(765) 469-9730



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Splintered by Time by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink


If you didn't know your age, how old would you be? I've thought about that off and on for a couple of weeks now. The question (for me) came from the lyrics of a song I don't remember by a group I don't remember that I heard...somewhere. Sometime. 

At the age I am now, recent memories are little pieces of the whole. Instead of wide swathes of color, they've become like a kaleidoscope. Always colorful, always beautiful, but never quite the same. When I was trying to come up with something profound and metaphoric, I thought of jelly beans, but they are always smooth. But my friend Marietta Snow used to bring stained glass candy to work. The flavors were separate, but if they hadn't been, the candy would have looked like this. 

That's the way memories are now. They have sharp edges and sometimes they are hazy. Splintered by time.

So, if I didn't know my age, I'd go back to when memories were large and complete and as smooth as jelly beans. Not sure what age that would be, but I know I'd like it.

I love women's clothing right now. The designers seem to have realized that many of us are not tiny, built like hourglasses, or 17. But, still...

I guess I'd go back to an age when clothes were more fun because they fit better.

I'm bewildered by the fact that five of the Magnificent Seven--our grandkids--are adults. One of the others has a driver's license and a job. Even the seventh one is a year or two into double digits. I think his mother tries pushing down on his head to slow his growth, but he's going to pass her up pretty soon.

Hmmm...if I were just 20 years younger than I actually am, they'd be little again. Maybe I'd do that.

The past five years have been pretty rife with loss and heartbreak, so I guess I could just be five years younger. That would work, wouldn't it?

I cared about all the wrong things when I was in high school. I was probably smart enough, but I wanted to be popular. I'm sure if I were 16 again, I wouldn't care as much about being popular, but I'd work harder at being smart. I'd be nicer, too. I wouldn't leave such a trail of things I need to apologize for.

If I were in my 40s, nothing would hurt and I could set down on the floor and actually get up without the help of a sturdy chair or a strong hand. The full-blown wrinkles that I'm melting into would be only harbinger lines denoting character. 

Maybe I would be 28 instead of the 48 I was when my first book was published. That was such a fun year, but if I'd been 28, my mom would have been alive to see it.

My friend Nan Reinhardt wrote about this a few weeks ago and ended up with the same conclusion I have. 

When I was younger, I looked better in my clothes, but could never afford to buy the ones I wanted. Nor did I go anyplace to wear them. 

I wouldn't change anything about my grandkids, including how fast they have grown up. Like my daughter-in-law, I'm all about pushing down on Eamon's head, but that's because then I get to hug him even if he does roll his eyes.


The last five years? I'd love to have not lost my brothers and my mother-in-law, to have not struggled with day-to-day things that were...a struggle. But what else would have changed if those losses and those conflicts hadn't been there? Different isn't always better. 

While I wish I'd been better at being in high school, no one could pay me enough money to go through that time of my life again.

My 40s were...yeah, probably my favorite time ever. But they were only meant to last 10 years. 

So, that conclusion? If I didn't know how old I was, I'd still be 70. My grands would still be growing up too fast. The regrets would still be there--potholes in life's road. But I've loved people my whole life, and been loved. And had a great time.

The memories may be shards of color now instead of big sheets of it, but they're just as bright. I apologize if I tell you about them more than once, but thank you for listening. 

How about you? What age would you be? 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

***


City Tire of Peru is this week's business of the week. In business on Main Street since the 1980s, their service and the friendliness with which it's rendered is a highlight of the town. With my tendency to run over nails, I get to visit them even when my tires are new! Stop in or give them a call.



 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

No Limits by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

Just because it's pretty.
This morning, as part of my Facebook scroll, I read this: "In a society that has you counting money, calories, pounds and steps, be a rebel and count your blessings instead." It's a nice thought. 

I guess. 

But are we really that limited? As someone who's been on one diet or another most of my adult life, I'm always going to "count calories." As an only-fair-weather walker, I think it's fun to wear my Fitbit and keep track of my steps. I have enough money to eat, have shelter and health care, and donate some, so counting it isn't part of my regimen, but if I had a lot of it or thought I needed to, I probably would. When I had a cash drawer at work, I counted it all the time and liked working with money. (Although I never got all that good at it. Sigh.)

Even then, I manage to count my blessings every day.

Politics are limited now. Have you noticed? My father--and my siblings can correct me if I'm mistaken on this--always voted for party. My mom didn't. I never have, although my votes have nearly always leaned a certain way. Bipartisanship didn't used to be an anomaly--elected officials were able to think and act beyond the limitations of the party and give consideration to the needs of their constituencies. Do they tell us that they are limited by the logos on their hats when they're running for office and I just never catch on? 

There is a meme--how did I ever write without Facebook?--that says the opinions of entertainers and athletes are valueless. Another one that seems to indicate if you've never watched certain TV shows, you must be a better person than someone who does. There are ones who say if you're cautious, you're living in fear. Others that insist if you believe in science, you can't be a Christian. Or that if you're a Christian, you can't believe in science. 

I suppose that's what the term "cancel culture" really means, isn't it? It's not so much about a publisher stopping the printing of six books out of a children's author's 46-book catalogue. Or taking Confederate flags and statues out of statehouses. It's not about stopping organized prayer in schools--I'm here to tell you can pray anywhere you like; you just can't insist everyone else do it with you. 

Once again, I have no answers to this. Personally, I don't think anyone else does, either, because one of the first skills we give up is the one of listening without preconceived judgment. Yeah, me, too.

But it's so important that we stop this limiting of each other and ourselves, isn't it? So go ahead. Count those calories, steps, and money if you want to--it's a piece of cake to count your blessings at the same time. While you're there, watch whatever you like and turn off what you don't. Pray when and where and how you please. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody. 

Oh, and while you're out,   Get up, get dressed, and get DeRozier's!



Business of the week is DeRozier's Bakery. Not only are Joe DeRozier's pastries worth an extra turn around the block if you're counting those calories and steps I mentioned above, Joe is one of the kindest and most generous people around. A conversation at the table in his back room is a great way to start the day. He's an entrepreneur, an extraordinary donut-maker, and a gifted storyteller. 

The bakery phone number is (765) 473-6688 and the Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/DeRoziers-Bakery-235272106981456 Stop in for a donut, some conversation, and a copy of Heck, I Don't Know... I Just Make Donuts. He'll even sign it for you!

Thank you, Joe. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Dear Nancy by Navi Vernon

Navi Vernon read this at one of the first meetings of Black Dog Writers at Black Dog Coffee in Logansport. As one who's loved and lost and loved again, she speaks with a gentle and knowing voice. I'm so grateful to her for sharing it with us today. To find other essays by Navi, visit her blog. You won't be sorry you did.


Dear Nancy,

I hurt for your friend who just lost her husband. As always, your gentle questions are wise and nonintrusive. What helped? What clearly did NOT? Your desire to, as you put it, “stand with her in her grief” made me reflect back to that time. You knew it would.

Enough years have passed that clarity has replaced the fog that overtook me for so long. I couldn’t have responded to your questions then. Now, the answers are within reach.

I hid after Allan died. Sounds like your friend may be doing that too. Don’t take it personally. She may not know it yet, but the fact that you care, and that you don’t presume to know how she feels gives you credibility as an authentic presence in her life. Write to her. I promise she will read and reread your words and they will strengthen her.

Everyone is different. It’s possible that supportiveness is solely in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t think so. Humans respond to empathy and compassion. Trying to fix, minimize, distract, or simply check “offer nice words” off your list isn’t helpful. Doing no harm seems a good universal practice.

A wise man once said, “you can’t know what you don’t know.” I have no doubt—none—that my own efforts through the years to console or comfort people in grief have fallen short, despite my best intentions.

From my perspective, there were five kinds of post-death gatherers—all with good intentions.

First, were the “well-wishers” who sent a Hallmark card signed only with their name, paid their respects at the memorial, and offered well-worn platitudes.


Second, were the “distancers,” those who knew us and cared but found the whole situation overwhelming and simply stayed away. I’ve never held it against them. I’ve always assumed they had bigger issues around uncomfortable realities.


The third group was the “gut punchers,” who made me feel worse, although I wasn’t sure why at the time. “At least he didn’t suffer,” “at least you were home,” at least, at least.” Your label fits. I share your disdain for the at-leasters. Others grief-trumped me with their own horror stories (conversational narcissism at its worst). Who knew grief is a competition?


Fourth, were the “loyals,” those who loved us and bore witness to my total devastation. Although most of them had no frame of reference, they never gave up on me. And, with a nod to your insightful brilliance, they didn’t lie. You’re right, we don’t know how other people feel and we can’t read the future, so we don’t get to make that stuff up. Instead, the loyals continued to reach out with help/motivation/compassion EVEN when I was in hiding. EVEN when I couldn’t/wouldn’t respond.


Lastly, there were the “grief-standers.” Their heartfelt words outshone the dreaded platitudes. “I’m with you…. I’m sorry…. Don’t forget to breathe….” landed differently on my heart than “thoughts and prayers,” “so sorry for your loss,” and vague offers to help. Grief-standers offered specific acts of kindness. Karen sent a book of stamps with her card for the thank yous she knew I’d write. Louis and Margo gave me a $100 bill to cover unexpected expenses those first few days. Barb and Herschel brought a simple food that we christened “Man Bread.” Hot or cold, it gave visitors something positive to talk about.

A few not only stood with me in my grief but gave me a lasting gift, whether they knew it or not.

• My mom. Not just because she was my mom, but because she lost her husband (my dad) in a construction accident and was a widow at 21. She knew firsthand that the road would get a lot rougher than it felt to me in those first few “love bubble” days. Even after she and my step-dad returned to Florida, I knew she was just a phone call away. The gift: She wasn’t afraid of my emotion.


• Allan’s friend, Mike. Mike was out of town when Allan died. He cut his trip short and came directly to our house. I was sitting at the dining room table. The girls were there. My mom/dad, I think; maybe others. Mike walked in and simply stood in the dining room. When it was obvious he couldn’t take another step, I went to him. He just hugged me and cried. There was no doubt we were sharing the weight of this new reality. The gift: He didn’t shelter me from HIS emotion.


• Our neighbor, Sam. Sam is a quiet man. An introvert to the extreme. He and his family have a small farm with a big red barn and a plethora of animals–large and small. The stereotype that comes to your mind is the right one. It may have been the day after? For some reason, I was drawn to the front door. Had the dogs barked? I looked out and there stood Sam in the middle of the yard with a casserole dish in his hands. I walked out. He never said a word. I took the dish. We stood there–each with tears streaming. He tried to talk once and couldn’t. We just looked at each other and finally we nodded and he turned and walked home. In that shared nod, I felt all of his love, care, and concern. A look of full empathy. The gift: A total heart connection when you least expect it.


• My client, Cassie. Years ago, Cassie was a training director at Bank One. By then, I’d moved on from my job and she’d moved on from hers and we’d lost touch. Her mom still lived around here and alerted her when Allan died. A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from Cassie. Though we’d only known each other through a client relationship, here she was, speaking my language. I learned that she’d lost her husband to cancer the year before. She knew (as close as anyone could) about the void that is left, about the excruciating feeling of half of you being torn away–your history, your promised future. We wrote back and forth for years. Now, we’re connected on Facebook. We share the knowledge that even though we’re both remarried, we are WIDOWS too. That doesn’t end. You can love again. You should love again. But, that never (ever) diminishes the love that was. It’s not an either / or. Love is an AND. The gift: HOPE.


I leave you with my ponderings—quasi answers to your insightful questions. Maya Angelo said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” May we use our shared experiences and both become better grief-standers.


FYI – I didn’t proofread this. Decided that if I did, I’d likely delete a ton of it. So here it sits. As is. Raw.

Love,
N

 ~*~


This week's Business of the Week is 2 Days Boutique, at 39 N. Payson Street in Denver. Owners are mother-and-daughter team Mary and Katie Day and the hours are as follows: Sunday-Tuesday: closed. Wednesday & Thursday: 11-5. Friday 11-5. Saturday: 10-3. Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/2daysboutique/?ref=page_internal 

2 Days has a cute selection of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Mary and Katie are always friendly and they're glad to help you find anything you need. I love going there!

Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.