Saturday, October 30, 2021

Trees, Flags, and Better Days by Liz Flaherty

I'm writing this early (very unusual--I'm more likely to be writing the column before dawn on Saturday morning), so if it seems "out of time," it probably is. 

What do you do when you write a column that tries very hard to focus on the positive, but your neighbor two miles away is flying a Nazi flag on his property and you've heard the news that someone--presumably the state of Indiana--plans on removing the trees that line State Road 16 along its path through Denver? 

These are not--for me--positive things. Not that the neighbor doesn't have the right to fly that flag if he likes; it's part of the First Amendment, which is one of my favorites, and indicative of his values--something we are all entitled to express. 

Removing trees is a hard one for me, because I'm too old to see replacement trees grown up, and if the ones there now are removed, I'll never again appreciate the string of silver maples that shelter the front porches that line Denver's main drag. However. There's always a however, isn't there?


Sara Musselman

Yeah, it's a hard one.

But look what showed up on Facebook this morning. My friend Mary Snow shared it, and I was so glad to see it again. It's just the best idea, and I'm going to start my Advent collection on November 1 instead of December 1, so that it can go to the food pantry in time for the holidays. 

Last week, I read aloud at an Open Mic at Gallery 15, performing among singers and a "chalk talk" presentation by Sarah Luginbill. It was such a fun evening. I'm always amazed at people who say "there's nothing to do," but they never show up when things are going on. 

Trunk or Treats are everywhere--have you noticed? I was going to put a list here, but it got too long. Visit the Facebook page Positive Future of Peru, Indiana and find them. I love Trunk or Treats, don't you? They are gifts from those who care, and we can't have too many of them. 

Maconaquah's marching band brought home the prize from the ISSMA Scholastic state finals. We saw part of their performance--the First Place was definitely deserved. 

Borrowed from the Kokomo Tribune

We had a book-signing recently. I got to sit at a table with Debby Myers and Joe DeRozier and drink Aroma's delicious coffee and  City Wineworks' delicious white and have a DeRozier's donut while listening to Denny and Duane play. We got to talk to people. I bought cards from Sarah and talked to representatives of Anita's and Boho-Chic. We laughed a lot. 

It was, all in all, a good week. I'm sorry about the neighbor and his flag. I feel less safe in my community now and I no longer want to walk the stretch of the Nickel Plate Trail close to where he lives. I assume this is the reaction he was looking for, so, okay, he gets it from me. 

I'll miss the trees in Denver. I still miss the ones that were cut down on 1500 North when I was a kid. I never noticed if the road was actually widened, but I sure do still notice that big empty space. 

There were sad hours this week. Times I sat and stared into space and had to dig deep for happy. I was mad a few times. Hurt. Frustrated.

And it was still a good week. I hope you had one, too. Be blessed in the one coming up. And be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Assignment: Write Something Scary by Navi Vernon

I love assignments. My daily to-do lists serve a useful purpose, but there’s nothing like an official assignment to set me on point. Blank screen and GO.

Hmmmm… on second thought, “write something scary” is somewhat ambiguous. The upside is that it allows a broad creative license. The downside is that it didn’t come with the neat parameters most often associated with an assignment. How should one run with this? 

Obviously, there are options. Write a scary story, write about something universally scary, or write about your personal “something scary.” Sometimes even those lines blur. 

Good people struggle daily with “something scary” in the form of mental illness, addiction, abuse, adultery, housing insecurity, terminal diagnoses – I’ll stop there but you know there are others. 

Uncertainty alone can be a “scary” trigger. A well-placed “what if” can set some into a tailspin of terror. 

Stephen King routinely writes something scary. His greatest gift is his ability to tap into some universal fear that we all had as kids. Whether the “something” lived under the bed or in a storm drain surrounded by balloons was irrelevant. The fear of the lurking unknown evil creeped us all out. Still does. I was 50’ish before I dared to dangle any body part over the edge of the bed after lights off. 

Seems like the more wrinkles I get the less scary life is. Either that or I’ve simply grown accustom to my fears and they no longer have the power they once did. 

My fears as a child were much different than when I was a young mother – hoping to keep my babies safe and healthy. The first night I set the bar pretty low for each of my three daughters. I just didn’t want them to stop breathing on my watch. Of course, parents are destined to live in perpetual worry if not downright fear about their kids—whatever their ages. Experiencing this kind of “something scary” is uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.  Guess that’s the price of love. 

Something scary has the power to wake you up in the middle of the night, but you don’t see many horror movies about unpaid bills. I suspect we’ve all been there at one time or another. 

And, all that, my dear listeners is what my friend, Nancy, would call revving up—the wandering free writing we do until we arrive at some central truth. 

I think I’ve arrived. What scares me now is that life windows are beginning to close. From the “you can do anything you set your mind to” of my youth to something less certain now. Almost 20 years ago, I went through a period where I needed a reason to get up in the morning—a reason to imagine a future. Long before making a “bucket list” became trendy, I put three things on a “long-term” to do list. 1. Graduate from college – check – better late than never. 2. Get buff – ha! It took me years to realize that “buff” is relative; something one achieves at (always) the next level, never the current one. I’ll settle for healthy – check. 3. Hike the Grand Canyon. No checkmark. One day, I realized I may have waited too long. Some windows close before we step through. We wait for more money or more time. We wait until… fill in the blank. And, then, one day that particular option has been grayed out. You couldn’t choose it now, even if you wanted to. It’s gone. 

A few years ago, I asked my mom to illustrate three children’s stories I’d written as an undergrad. Before I turned the series in for a grade, I’d added ridiculously rough sketches to the first story with wordy picture descriptions for the other two. I’d always treasured the quilts that had been collaborations of my mom and grandma. My stories paired with her drawings would give us a chance to do something similar for the next generation. I was pumped when I pitched my idea to Mom. 

Yet, even as I handed her the first book, she said she wasn’t sure if she could it. For an instant, I saw something unfamiliar in her eyes—self-doubt. Somehow, I managed to say, nonchalantly, “oh, well, give it a try. It’ll be fun.”

Inside I was thinking: What? She’d tackled projects like this before. Mom was a practical artist, more of “a figure it out as you go” vs. the artsy/visionary type. Like me, she worked best with an assignment. She loved a challenge. Mobility issues may have sent her to assisted living, but she was still quick-witted, smart, and creative. 

We didn’t mention it again for a week or two. One day, she handed the book back to me and said simply, “I can’t do this.” She didn’t make a big deal about it, so I didn’t either. It wasn’t until after her death when I found her sketching attempts in a small notebook that I realized she was right. Her practical, on-demand drawing skill that had served her well for a lifetime was no longer available. That window had closed. 

Suddenly the future seemed less certain. If it happened to Mom, it will happen to us all. 

As windows close, our worlds shrink, sometimes so gradually we don’t even notice. Until. Use it or lose it went from old adage to a warning for me. Logically, I’d always known that. But, this made it real—transformed it into my something scary.

Today, our planner leans heavily toward active vacations. “While we can,” I say. Joe gets it. There’s plenty of time to see things through a tour bus window when we’re old. A meme on Facebook sums it up for me. “One day I won't be able to do this, but today is not that day.” Stay tuned on that Grand Canyon hike.


Navi Vernon and her remarkable voice are part of Black Dog Writes, the writers' group at Black Dog Coffee in Logansport, Indiana. We meet the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30, weather permitting, and would love to have any local or regional writers or just curious people join us. 

Find and follow Navi at Living Commentary. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Beauty and Gratitude

With apologies for not keeping up well at all, I'm using a post here that I wrote for another blog last week. But first I have some people to thank.

Joe DeRozier. Joe DeRozier. Joe DeRozier. For being the kind and giving person he is and for all the help he is to the arts in the community. 

Denny and Duane, two of the Three Old Guys, whose music and nice-guy-ism never fail to inspire. Barb and I will keep you for a while longer, at least. 

Royal Center Library and Monticello Rotary for making me welcome this week and listening to me ramble--and for the nice gifts, too. I love presents!

The people who came to the "Bit of A Party" last night and spent some time, bought some things, and laughed with us.

And especially, Tahne, Chris, Laura, and Jock Flaherty for the trip to Maine. While I don't think 2021 has been the best of years in some ways, it has filled my memory bank to bursting, and I am so, so grateful. 


The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ― Louisa May Alcott

Today I toured Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott. The weather in Concord was drizzly and on the gloomy side. The house itself had sloping floors and walls and ceilings that were the south side of elegant. The fireplaces were small, as were some of the rooms. The windows were crooked and tiny-paned. Cobwebs crept into a few places. Blue tarp covered some roof.

The desk Bronson Alcott made for his daughter Louisa was little more than a half-moon shaped slab of wood painted white to match the woodwork it was built around. A desk Louisa bought herself later had a top considerably less than half the size of mine at home. It reminded me that all you really need to write is paper, a pen that feels good in your hand, and the heart to tell your story. 

It was wonderful.

If you've ever read Little Women, or seen any of the movies with the same title, you know the March family were tenderly drawn replicas of the Alcott family. You've imagined a hundred times the rooms where Marmee dispensed her wisdom, where Hannah served the family she loved, where Beth played the piano. You've envisioned Jo "scribbling" at the desk (although she was in the garret, not her bedroom), and Amy being...Amy. You attended Meg's wedding in the parlor and wept with her when her beloved John died ten years later in Little Men.

You've known the Marches weren't rich, that Mr. Alcott marched to a very different drum and that Mrs. Alcott was the glue that held things together. That the loss of Lizzy--Beth--was a heartbreak that stayed with them the rest of their lives. 

Orchard House just cemented the relationship. Although it was beautiful outside--I don't think anything in Concord could NOT be beautiful--the inside was just a house, where people lived, loved, laughed, and lost. All the things that we build our own lives from. All the things we build our own stories from.

Like I said, wonderful. Thanks, Louisa. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Bit of A Party!

 We hope to see you there!

This Friday we're going to have a "Bit of a Party"

65 North Broadway
Peru, Indiana
Friday, October 15th
4-7 PM
We're going to have Wine from our Wineworks.

Art from our Gallery 15.

Coffee and Hot Chocolate from our Aroma Coffee

Some gifts from our Boho-Chic Hair Salon

Snippets of all the things at our Anita's


Live music from Duane and Denny

And a book signing from Best Seller, Liz Flaherty, Debby Myers and her trilogy,
and your dusty donut guy and his two books.

Stop in to say, Hi!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021

When I Was A Kid

When I was a kid, people used the n-word all the time. They also referred to women as broads and numerous worse and more degrading terms. They thought certain factions of society needed to know their places and stay in them. Quietly. 

Terms like "got herself pregnant," "he's just out for one thing," and "you know what they're like" were bandied about with no thought to them being a gender or cultural insult. 

People who didn't fit into the white, Christian mold were lumped into a category known as Other. They were welcome here in the melting pot, but only if they fit in and kept quiet. 

As a kid, I rolled my eyes because Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays.

As a kid, I was very uncomfortable in friends' evangelical churches. Methodists, you know, are quiet. 

As a kid, I didn't laugh at others because I'd been laughed at and I didn't like it. (I'm fairly certain this is a barefaced lie--I'm sure I did laugh at people even if I didn't like it happening to me. As I said, I was a kid.)

There were no black kids in my school. No Hispanics that I remember. At that time, there weren't even any Amish. We said the pledge of allegiance every morning, prayed before lunch. We didn't swear where people could hear us. We didn't use certain words at all. At least, a lot of us didn't. For what it's worth, this is kind of like me thinking I never laughed at people--probably a raging case of selective memory.

Even now, I've used the f-bomb fewer times in my entire life than I'll read or hear it in a single week.

But that's because I don't like the word. I don't like the word "quip," either, or "desire," so I don't use them. I flinch when I see them. If any of them crop up too often in a story, I won't finish the book--words I don't like tarnish the reading experience for me.

For me. 

Things are different now. We can blame whomever we like. I definitely have some on my list and I'm sure you do, too. We need to accept that they are different and work within the changes. Maybe we need to realize that what was good for us for so long wasn't for the greater good. 

I've worked on this column all week, and I still don't know what to do with it. Yesterday, I tossed the whole thing. Last night, I found it and brought it back. Because even now, when things are different, nothing is more important than communication. 

We need to talk to each other, don't we? Without casting stones. I can't make cruelty and untruth and outright meanness okay in my mind. I can't. I don't want to. 

So, to anyone I laughed at, for any time I didn't object when I heard the n-word used, for anyone's feelings I've hurt because I acted as if their opinions and life experiences weren't as important as mine, I am sorry. I was wrong. I hope you will forgive me.

I will still say the pledge, hand over the heart, and get a lump in my throat when the national anthem's played. I will still pray when and where I want. That's me. You do what matters to you. If you need to kneel, I'll help you up when it's over. If you don't want to pray, I'm sure you'll be still while I do. 

I'll still watch my language. I'll still flinch at words I don't like. If you think that's funny or stupid, I guess that's okay. I think it's stupid that you use those words, too, but that's not my business, is it?

My business is to be tolerant. To not judge. To be kind. To be kind. To be kind. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.