Saturday, May 29, 2021

Words and Adventures and 50 Years by Liz Flaherty

We talked at this week's writers' meeting about our voices and what we write about. I admitted that I write about aging...well, all the time. I feel kind of apologetic about it, but not really. My intent has always been to write about life's adventures from the cornfields and these days that inexorably flying  calendar has much to do with those adventures. 

I love words. No secret there. If I were a writer and I didn't love words, that might be a problem, but that's not an issue with me. My friend Nan Reinhardt collects words and writes them down. I, on the other hand, collect them, forget them, and discover them again another day. I would say that I do this on purpose, but that would be an outright prevarication. Well, yes, a lie, but we're talking words here.

Different words have importance at different times. One of my current favorites is slippery. And no, it's not really a favorite, but it's one that...well...slips into every day in one form or another.

Sometimes, instead of slippery, the word colors outside its lines and becomes trippery, because there you have the biggest single health fear I have. I tend to not watch where I'm going and I tend to not pick up my feet (they're heavy!) which means I fall more often than I'd like.

When this happens, I take a furtive look around to see if anyone has seen me skid across whatever treacherous surface I'm scaling. I wait until dizziness subsides and get to my feet using whatever methods necessary. And I am both grateful and...yeah, I'll admit it...scared, because I'm so worried about damaging a brain that's already being compromised by that damn calendar I mentioned. Becoming the subject matter in a family intervention is something I'd rather avoid. 

Also slippery are the memories of what happened yesterday. Yes, I know we talked about it, but then there was a squirrel or something and it's just gone. I do, however, remember the day my 47-year-old son went to kindergarten orientation. He had on this little denim jacket...

I've loved every age I've been in my adult life, some more than others, and this year when I am 70--which makes this my eighth decade, something I'm not thrilled about putting into print--is no exception to that. Because no matter how scary and frustrating the aging process is, it is also endlessly fascinating. There is no possible chance for boredom, because life changes virtually every day. Even if it really doesn't, there's the memory thing, so...yeah, every day.

As your vision dims and clouds, it also values everything it sees, because you've gained a real appreciation for the word finite. 

Listening becomes not only important but a necessity. Not only because you might miss something, which you most certainly will, but because hearing gets compromised. Even if you hear well, it is often situational. As in, your husband can't hear you if you're on the couch beside him, but will talk to you from two rooms away and be offended because you can't hear him over the sound of water filling the washer right in front of you.

I keep italicizing words know...words. They have so many meanings and places at different times in our lives. There are also some, and combinations of some, that I don't like. 

Like the term "little old lady." It may be accurate, but it's not your place to call me one. 

Like "no filters." I use this one myself, and it, too, is accurate. However, quite often, what it really means is rude. It's occasionally used interchangeably with entitled. This is not who I want to be. Even as a little old lady.

Like "kids today." Kids today are great, just like they were in every decade before this one. Their parents have made mistakes, and the only reason we complain about them is that they're different mistakes than the ones we made.

Like...oh, good grief, I think maybe staying past your welcome should be included here. I've gone on a little longer than I should have. But this has been fun for me to write. That's another word about aging, by the way: fun. It really is. 

Fifty years ago today, Duane and I went to a church in Denver with our friends Mike and Nancy and Rev. George Hapner and promised each other forever. It has been a long adventure. We have learned that sometimes a long marriage is held together by scar tissue and the emotional superglue used when we've broken pieces off each other's hearts, but that together is the operative word. We're going--he says--for another 50. Okay by me. I love you more, Duane. Love, by the way, is another favorite word.

Have a great week. Make life an adventure. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Go with All Your Heart by Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson wrote this eight years ago, when he retired from teaching. He's never really retired, you understand--people still learn from him all the time. A lot of teachers are like that, aren't they? They just kind of walk around with an invisible classroom. He said I could use this, so here it is, the Window's almost-annual gift to graduates, compliments of Scott Johnson, owner of Black Dog Coffee and renaissance man extraordinaire. Congratulations, Class of 2021. We are so proud of you. Go forth and be smart and funny and all the other things your parents and grandparents have always known you were. 

I have been sitting here in front of this blank screen for quite a while now. It's a nice evening so I don't really mind, but I have been trying to find some way of telling you all just what I have learned about life since my career began. I thought I would be able to sum it all up in one grand and deep sentence but my mind is clouded with memories and so I can't really see that clearly now.  

There are lots of little lessons that I would like to share and you can choose to think about them if you wish but I have long ago given up the idea that I could influence people to do what they really don't want to do. Ignore all this nonsense if you want to.

I learned that with us humans, we have to strive to give another person what they need rather than simply giving to them what we want them to need.

I learned that most of the time when fights and arguments happen, they have very little to do with what injury someone else has done to us, but rather what injury our own self esteem has done to us.

I learned that at one time or another, everyone needs to be told that everything is going to be ok.

I learned that we have to do what makes us happy and be who makes us happy because human nature cannot be fooled.

I learned that being kind to others without expecting anything in return is the best way to make ourselves complete.

I learned that some rules must to be broken but others should never be.

I learned that imagination is the most important thing to be nurtured.

I learned that reading and thinking are skills and like any skills, need to be practiced.

I learned that taking on challenges that other people provide but never challenging yourself has no worth.

I learned that we all have the power to make those around us feel good about who they are and this is the most powerful thing in the world. This power should never be withheld and the opposite of this...making those around us feel bad about who they are...should never be used.

I learned that when you have to correct a person, always let them save face by laughing with them immediately after.

I learned that karma is a real thing.  

I could probably write down lots more of these little lessons but these will do for now. When I look over this list, I find there I have failed to quote one single educational standard that might appear on a standardized test sometime. I guess this is why it is time for me to go.

I am going to borrow a line from a song that I heard today to finish this off.

Never give up

Never slow down

Never grow old

Never ever die young. 

Thank you all for everything you have done. I am sorry for many things. I will miss you and I will always be there to tell you...everything is going to be ok. -  Johnson

Have a great week. Hold someone tight. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Garage sale... by Liz Flaherty

I'm sorry not to have a post today. I sort of ran out of time. If you're not busy or if you want to find some good sales and good food, go on out to the fairgrounds for Miami County Extension Homemakers' Annual Garage Sale. See you there!

The Miami County Extension Homemakers will be hosting an Inside Community Garage Sale at the Miami County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 15, 2021. This sale will be held in the Project Building at 1029 North 200 West, Peru and will run from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.   Over 40 different Vendors and Participants will be offering their wares for sale with a wide variety of clothing, crafts, jewelry, household and miscellaneous items available.

In addition to the booths, the Garden Gate CafĂ© will be offering many delicious breakfast, snack and lunch items on site.  Items on the menu are their homemade cinnamon rolls, donuts, pretzels, cookies and mocha brownies.  They will also have biscuits & gravy and an egg brunch for breakfast.  Lunch entrees will be chicken salad wraps, turkey and bacon wraps, barbeque sandwiches, sloppy joes and pigs in a blanket all served with chips.  Coffee, bottled water, canned pop and lemon shake-ups will be served to quench your thirst.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Best Job by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I've had a lot of them. 

I've been blessed in the realm of motherhood. By my own mother, mother-in-law, and stepmother-in-law, all of whom taught me more than I can begin to either relate or remember. All of whom I laughed with, cried with, and got mad at. All of whose places in my life are held by them alone. I still miss all of them, each for varying and yet the same reasons. And I'm grateful.

I'm blessed by our kids. I got to be a mother because of them. I got to make every single mistake that presented itself to me as they grew up, and they grew up in spite of them. Or maybe because of them. They knew to think hard before they quoted me because chances were good I was wrong. They knew to never say the words "like my mom always did" because...well, Mom always had a good time, but it was messy.

But they know, please God, that I love them more than my life. Despite my favorite Mother's Day story to tell--the one about when their Aunt Debbie and I were talking about motherhood (she was a great one) and she said it was the only job she ever had that she never wanted to quit. And I realized...and admitted...sigh...that I wanted to quit it virtually every day of my life.'s the best job, isn't it? 

Uh-huh. Sure is. Didn't last long enough, either. Go figure.

Then there are my other kids, the ones who married mine even after I threatened to make them sign a promissory document that there would be no givebacks. Their parents made different mistakes than Duane and I did, and oh, my gosh, they did a wonderful job. And there you go, I got three more people to love more than my life and that was all I had to do; no labor or laundry involved. Being a mother-in-law is also the best job in the world. All my kids-in-law really had to do was love the ones they married to make me happy, but they do--and are--so much more than that. And I'm grateful.

The best gift by far of motherhood is, of course, grandmotherhood, because it is an experience that defies description. My grandkids are the actual Magnificent Seven, but as Sarah Hudson said one day, "You may think your grandkids are cute, but..." when she was telling me about her first one. She was so right, because when someone in creation times murmured the word, "Perfect," God snapped His fingers and said, "Right! Grandkids!" They're all Magnificent. 

I asked Mom once why she never told me that when I had children, I was doomed to being afraid something would happen to them every single day for the rest of my life. She told me she was afraid she'd scare me off motherhood. She had a point--the depth of that fear is something else that no one has come up with a Big Enough description for.

The depth of the love is the same way. And I'm grateful. Happy Mother's Day to everyone who's ever cared that much for a child. 

Have a great week. Give someone a present. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Transition by Joe Scheidler #WindowOvertheSink

My friend Joe Scheidler is back with us today. This essay is from early March and, as always, Joe wrote what my heart felt. 

We are in the transition of winter to spring, the time when our acclimation to cold is quickly undone and we’re less comfortable with a north wind and 40 degrees than we were at 10. There’s a lot going on. Sandhill cranes are winging northward, redwing blackbirds are singing, daffodils are breaking ground, sap is running, geese are bickering over prime real estate. The list is long and timeless, understood yet filled with mystery. 

It’s a fickle time of year for weather. Warm and cold air masses combine to spawn storms, some severe. Too much warm too soon pushes buds to break then the frost returns and a season’s fruit is lost and sadness settles on the orchardist. All this is complicated by a climate that has changed so normals are no longer, predictions are often “unprecedented”, and weather events are breaking long established records. 

Our old dog, from all indications, is unconcerned. As long as the weather is not brutally hot her contentment is certain and predictable. Early spring, late frost, weather weirdness, all are meaningless as she is singularly focused on loyalty, friendship, and squirrel patrol, and from these she does not venture. It appears she lives solely in the moment and lacks the capacity to consider or recognize changes or threats that are forthcoming. There is one exception, that being when we are about to leave without her, and she’s melting into the floor even before we’ve made the announcement. 

I suppose wild species are similar. Some have the foresight to cache food for hard times ahead but most subscribe to a carpe diem philosophy. Adapt or die is their motto, which they follow without plan or fret. They are totally innocent as we cripple or destroy the environments we share with them, yet hold no recognizable ill towards us, even as some are facing certain extinction or dramatic population declines due to our actions. They are, in a sense, old dogs: highly responsive to our activities and in simple need of recognition, appreciation and respect. 

In the absence of humans, wild species would be just fine, but our influence on global ecology is complete so no place or living thing has gone untouched. It’s a relatively new development in human history, with the greatest impact occurring in just the past couple hundred years. The future of almost everything alive rests on us. We don’t turn on our phones, switch on a light, or hop in a car without an impact that ripples across the planet. Dominion, it appears, we can claim. 

The old dog feels frisky after her morning breakfast and bounces her front paws on the floor and stands with ears perked, looking expectant. She clearly has a message but I’m clueless and in need of coffee, a brew made from a bean likely raised in South or Central America where lush forests once stood and migrant birds once wintered; a bean that was processed and shipped, accruing a handsome carbon footprint, so I could grind and prepare it in my kitchen using appliances and gadgetry that were produced from mined metals that were smelted then poured into molds or stamped into products deemed essential for comfort in modern society and demanded by hundreds of millions of anxious consumers. And in the process of getting my beans countless people profited and they, too, wanted to buy more stuff, so to satisfy this new demand more mines were opened and the whole industrial complex was given a boost. The stock market reacted favorably and the money poured disproportionately to those already holding the greatest wealth and a beautifully capable planet became slightly less capable all because I felt a need for a cup of coffee. 

I recently read about a new lithium mine scheduled to open in the great state of Nevada. The mine, located at Thacker Pass, is promised to be a mile long and two miles wide and produce 179 million tons of lithium to help satisfy the world’s growing desire for electric cars and green energy storage. The mine will bring jobs and a valuable source of lithium from within our own borders. It will also wreak environmental disaster on a remote area of Humboldt County which, oddly enough, is named for one of the world’s most influential naturalists. One article I read states that electric cars are not the solution and cars of any sort are not the solution and we should go back to walking like humans have for 99.9 percent of our time on earth. And that made me think of an interview I heard on NPR with a man who had lost his job and car due to the pandemic and was forced to turn down a new job because he had no way to get to it. And I thought of my old roommate who has been diagnosed with ALS, and in a recent video, there he was taking a test drive in an electric wheelchair which was no doubt powered by a lithium battery. He was grinning from ear to ear. 

We’re in a seasonal transition, looking forward to the end of a pandemic, waiting to see how the world reacts, setting our hopes on something that is new and just while holding the promise of prosperity. A magnificent blue globe spins in her orbit around the sun. She gives us free reign to all she has, not contesting our decisions but reacting to them. She supports every living thing, and like an old dog looking to her master, is asking for respect and appreciation. No one said it’d be easy.

Visit Joe at Springcreekland, his blog. He and Lee live near Logansport and are an integral part of Black Dog Writers, our extraordinary writers' group.