Saturday, March 2, 2024

An Open Letter by Liz Flaherty

It's no surprise to anyone that I have a soft spot for teachers. I've written about it and about them before. I've been angry about teachers' pay ever since I learned how much it was. I am reminded daily of how teachers have affected nearly every aspect of my life. So here is my letter to some of the teachers who've changed my life. 

Dear Mrs. Sullivan:

I was scared to death of you. But you taught me to read and to read well. It is a gift that has gone on giving ever since I was six.

Dear Mrs. Cripe:

You were so kind. I hope I would have already known about kindness from my mom, from Sunday School, from living day-to-day, but I remember yours from ever since I was seven.

Dear Mrs. Kotterman:

You made third and fourth grades a soft place to fall. I remember that from when I was eight and nine.

Dear All My Elementary Teachers:

You read aloud to us Every Single Day. You introduced us to Heidi, Little Britches, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lazy Liza Lizard, Caddie Woodlawn, and more others than I can begin to remember. In case I didn't thank you then, is it too late? Oh, good. Thank you for every day.

Dear Miss Boswell--or more lately, Mrs. Small:

You taught me to type in my sophomore and junior years. You didn't make me fast or particularly good, although you tried. I've written 20-some books, using what you taught me in each of them. Wow.

Dear Every-English-Teacher-I-Had:

Those 20-some books I mentioned up there? You taught me spelling and grammar and to pay attention to both. Goodness knows, editors make writers' jobs immeasurably easier, but I wouldn't know how to write without the basis you gave me. 

Dear Mr. Wildermuth:

Algebra didn't take, but the cherishing of humanity did. Still does. 

Dear Miss Name-Omitted:

In high school, you taught me the hard way that not all teachers are fair. Not all of them are good. Not all of them care about students. Not all of them should be in a classroom. Ever.

Dear Mrs. Mungle:

When I couldn't find you one day, it was because you were playing Christmas songs on the piano in the cafeteria while the kids were eating lunch. That was so much more important than whatever the reason was I was looking for you. 

Dear Coach Bridge:

You still remember their names.

Dear Mrs. See:

You still call my grandboy "one of mine."

Dear Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson, and Dr. Flaherty: 

I am so proud of you.

Dear Public Education:

Thank you. A thousand times over, thank you.

Have a good week. Thank a teacher if you were able to read this, count up my mistakes, and remind me of everyone I left out. Be nice to somebody.



 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Good Week by Liz Flaherty

The weather is weird, isn't it? Sometimes, especially as I'm walking through the snow to get to the office, I wonder if it's the universe's way of telling us to pay attention. Is God muttering about how to wake us up, so he sends things to slow us down and make us think. Maybe even before we fall and break a hip.

I don't know. Makes sense to me, though. 

I hope you've had a good week. I have, although not a productive one. That's one of the things you have to adapt to when you reach a certain age. Well, that I've had to adapt to. 

A good week involves the people you see and talk to, the things you laugh at, if you get some good sleep instead of lying there worrying about where you put the paper you know you got and saved. 

In a good week, you talk to one of your kids almost every day. They make you laugh. You may get to see one, along with a sleepy grandboy. 

Sometimes you get to talk to a kid about the word cacophony, which you can't even spell, but you love the pictures it draws in your mind. Cacophony refers to noise, but not always sound. It's a big, full word. 

A good week means time with friends, laughing at the selective hearing of husbands (It's a real thing--you know it is. Just like a man cold, only incurable.) 

A good week is laughing hard at a play at Ole Olsen right after you've eaten a really good meal catered by Made by Jade.

And there are others.

Talking to a rural mail carrier who loves her job.

Listening to Peter and Company at Legend's and eating more really good food.

Friday night supper at Farmhouse Cafe. Sharing the table with friends and good conversation. Beef and noodles and a decadent dessert.

A few warm, sunny days. An inch of white landscape out there this morning. A 19-year-old cat insisting he hasn't eaten in days! 

A writer / teacher friend on FB often ends her posts with And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway. Kathie Giorgio's had a time of it lately, and I'm happy to see the hope at the end of what she writes. I'm always glad to see hope.

As you can tell, I didn't have much going on today. But having a good week was enough. I hope you've had one, too, and that the one coming up is even better. Be nice to somebody.

In case you're looking for something to read...


Dinah is a mom, a giver, and a doer, so she’s used to change, but this summer is kind of overdoing that. The diner where she’s worked for half her life is closing, her college-age kids aren’t coming home for the summer, and a property on nearby Cooper Lake is calling her name, bringing long-held dreams of owning a B & B to the fore. Newcomer Zach Applegate is entering into her dreams, too.

Divorced dad, contractor, and recovering alcoholic Zach is in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, to visit his brother and to decide what’s coming next in his life. He doesn’t like change much, yet it seems to be everywhere. But he finds an affinity for remodeling and restoration, is overjoyed when his teenage sons join him for the summer, and he likes Dinah Tyler, too. A lot.

Dinah and Zach each experience sorrow and tumult, but go on to dance in the kitchen. Together, they have something, but is it enough?


Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Uncomfortable Zone by Liz Flaherty

Photo by Sarah Luginbill
On Thursday night, I read three essays at Open Mic at Gallery 15, something I've done a few times before. I made it through all three essays without falling off the stage, bursting into tears, or otherwise embarrassing myself or Duane, who said You can do this at least 10 times before Ron Luginbill introduced me.

The people in the chairs in front of the stage were unfailingly kind, making me almost certain I hadn't subjected them to the longest 12 minutes in their lives. Applause, to anyone who likes positive attention, is addictive. I'm not going to say it's like a drug, because I don't understand that particular addiction, but as an ex-smoker, I can say it's as good as the first cigarette of the day. 

I'm paralyzingly scared to talk in front of an audience, and it's as far out of my comfort zone as anything I can think of, but it's also fun. As a writer, being able to share what I love doing and have people say nice things to me about it is one of the best things ever. Unlike a book review, when you don't interact with the reader, you do interact with a live audience. 

One that is receptive, that listens, that does not want you to fail. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to step out in front of everyone knowing I was likely to be booed or ignored, to be unheard because no one was listening. To be jeered at because of my size, what I'm wearing, or the sound of my voice. To be heckled by people who relish the idea of doing harm. (I need to add in here that the musicians I know are almost universally supportive of each other, but they are also skilled hecklers. However, they would be horrified if anyone thought they meant it.)

Part of what I read was about music, where I said my only skill in music was the one of listening. This is a fact. Being a good listener also allows me to claim the skill of being a good audience. Sometimes. As long as I remember to not scroll on my phone after I take a picture of who's performing. As long as I don't sigh and look at the time. As long as I applaud and say great job because it matters. 

The stage is not a comfortable place for me, even when it's fun. I'm grateful to performers who step out to sing and play music, to act in theater, and to give of themselves even when the audience isn't kind. It's important, I think, to share talents and skills we're given, whether as artists--both performance and not, athletes, being skilled in sharing information, or anything else. It's also important to appreciate the sharing of others. 

Thanks for reading the Window. Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.




Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Rock With the Rhythm by M.J. Schiller

Hi, Liz! Thank you for having me today and entertaining the boys in the band. I think the rock stars that haunt my writing are born from my husband’s and my love for music, particularly live music. I enjoyed writing my first rock romance series—the LOVE AND CHAOS SERIES, centered around the band Just Short of Chaos—so much that I followed it up with my latest series about the band Insatiable Fire.

This is my third Last Chance Beach Romance. The first two were about the drummer, Levi Cannon, (BEATING IN TIME) and the lead guitarist, Caleb Winthrop, (LEAD ME ON). The final two are about the Blackstone brothers. My newest release, ROCK WITH THE RHYTHM, is about the lead singer and rhythm guitarist Phoenix Blackstone. It will be followed by Dakota Blackstone’s story, BASSIST’S INSTINCT, (he plays bass guitar for Insatiable Fire).

Phoenix and Dakota are about as physically different as you can get. Dakota is barrel-chested, with long, dirty blond hair and the glaring lack of a filter. He takes after his Swedish mom. Phoenix, on the other hand, is more long and lean. He generally is a pretty smooth talker, with long, black hair, and the dark coloring of his father’s Apalachee ancestors. It’s only when he’s around Savanah Drew that he becomes a bit tongue-tied.

Rock star Phoenix Blackstone never dreamed he’d fall in love with the designated driver.

Rock star Phoenix Blackstone never thought he’d fall in love with the designated driver.

Sure, she’s strait-laced and uptight, maybe even a little prickly at times. Not the best fit for a “rock star”, right? But that’s part of the appeal. There was always something about Savanah.

 In high school I worshiped her from afar. But while I was the boy from Last Chance Beach’s version of a ghetto, she was born into a 24-carat crib. She was the beautiful princess in the castle; I wasn’t fit to live in her gatehouse.

Although Savanah had never seemed like the rest of the glamor girls, she was still untouchable. But now I’m coming back to the island having garnered fame and fortune. Maybe my platinum records will tip the scales in my favor.

Savanah Drew never wanted the silver spoon stuck in her mouth.

But it’s not like I could do anything about it. And Phoenix’s dad may have worked on the docks, but Phoenix was the one who was unapproachable. His good looks, charm, and charisma, made him popular beyond my reach—I always knew he would go far. But when we were growing up, some people looked down on him because his dad wore a slicker and not a three-piece suit. One thing I can tell you, the Blackstones would be the first to come to the aid of someone in need. The people on my side of the island? If they can’t throw money at it to fix it, they don’t want anything to do with it.

But no amount of money or charisma can keep you safe when someone is out to get you, and someone on the island is gunning for the band members of Insatiable Fire, and anyone they’re close to.

Is Savanah the next target?

Excerpt 

Phoenix

Women gulping down drinks in fish bowls could work to a guy’s advantage, as it might put his woman in the mood. Or, it could work to his disadvantage, if she drank too much and ended up lying on the tile at the foot of the porcelain deity all night long. I liked to watch couples from the high platform of the stage while I sang and try to determine which scenario would play out for them.

But tonight I was focused on a couple in particular. A couple of girls. One was screaming “Insatiable Desires” —the song that had catapulted my band, Insatiable Fire, into the limelight—over and over again at the top of her lungs. The other was Savanah Drew.

“Insatiable Desires” was actually on our setlist, a few songs away from what we were currently singing. But the girl was annoying me. I’ll take requests. In fact, I love requests. I had even taken one earlier from this same girl. But this wasn’t a request; it was a demand, and I was starting to feel like an organ grinder’s monkey.

I turned to my boys. “So, we’re going to play her song, because we don’t want to be total pricks, and it was on the setlist…but it’s going to be at the end of the night.”

They nodded and grinned, agreeing with me that not giving in was the best course of action. But I had my doubts. Mostly because the party in question was still screaming as Savanah shushed her. 

I wasn’t really paying attention to the loud mouth though. I was eyeing Savanah.

Even though we’d been in the same class at school, she was a complete mystery to me. I was intrigued because she seemed different than the people she ran around with in high school. 

Does she still see them?

I knew nothing about her life now. We’d come back to Last Chance Beach a couple dozen times since we’d first left to try to make it to the big time eight years ago. But whenever I came home, I was pretty monopolized with family stuff. And even had I not been, I would have never asked Savanah out. 

The island had its own little caste system when I was growing up, and Savanah and I had been from different strata. Her dad was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Mine was a supervisor down on the docks. Hers wore $500 an ounce aftershave. Mine smelled of fish. My family wouldn’t have even been able to afford the golf cart that took the Drews from one end of their property to the other. She was the princess in the castle. I wasn’t fit to tend her gate.

But I was returning a very wealthy man. I wonder if a pile of platinum records evens the scales some…

I knew to some people it wouldn’t matter what my net worth was; I would still always be the son of a dockworker and therefore unworthy. The question remained, was Savanah one of those people?

Links ~

For MJ

Website: https://mjschillerauthor.blogspot.com/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/m-j-schiller

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MJ-Schiller-Romance-Author/286382241460365

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mjschiller/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjschiller

Tumblr: http://mjschilz.tumblr.com/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/mjschiller

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6479377.M_J_Schiller

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/M-J-Schiller/e/B009JOQFQQ

For ROCK WITH THE RHYTHM 

Books2Read: https://books2read.com/RockWithTheRhythm

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0CCYMNPTB

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rock-with-the-rhythm-m-j-schiller/1143836177

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/rock-with-the-rhythm

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/rock-with-the-rhythm/id6453885394

Bio 

M.J. Schiller is a retired lunch lady/romance-romantic suspense writer. She enjoys writing novels whose characters include rock stars, desert princes, teachers, futuristic Knights, construction workers, cops, and a wide variety of others. In her mind everybody has a romance. She is the mother of a twenty-eight-year-old and three twenty-six-year-olds. That's right, triplets! So having recently taught four children to drive, she likes to escape from life on occasion by pretending to be a rock star at karaoke. However…you won’t be seeing her name on any record labels soon.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Just Sayin' by Liz Flaherty

Thanks to Shannon Conley for giving me the prompt for today's post! 

She shared something from Stephanie Schmick on Facebook about hair stylists that was really good, and there was a line in there that caught my attention.  

"what’s the big deal, you are just a hair stylist..."

Seriously.

When I was young, just a housewife wasn't a pejorative term. It was actually kind of...you know...nice. A housewife took care of her family, her home, whatever got in her way that needed doing. It was a multifaceted job that had no beginning and no end. If she'd gotten paid for everything she did, no one could have afforded her, but many housewives loved what they did and were proud to do it. 

Somewhere along the line, the just in her job got ugly. She somehow wasn't as important as women who worked "real jobs." Jokes about lying on couches eating bonbons followed them around.  As time went on, women who worked outside the home became "just part-time moms who used school for a babysitter."

Even when I watched that happen, I didn't give it much thought. I was "just a postal worker" for 30 years. I write "just romance" instead of "real books." I've known and worked with many, many "just factory workers." Some of my kids are "just teachers." I've heard the term "just a bunch of farmers" used when talking about anyone rural.

And these. All of these.

Just dumb jocks.

Just flips burgers.

Just a bartender.

Just the maid at the hotel.

Just a server.

Just a girl.

Just a bunch of kids.

Just the trash guy.

Just a cashier.

Just a nurse.

Just an employee.

Just a mom.

I call B. S.

No one is just anything. No one. Every one of the people I listed here--and a bunch of others I didn't think of--have something in common. They make a difference in other people's lives. Many of them do what others either can't or don't want to.

A Logansport Community Schools bus driver named Crystal Miller handed out pencils to the students on her bus engraved with the message, "I am unique and valuable” and the number 9-8-8, which is the suicide crisis hotline. The driver was worried about "her kids" because a nearby student had taken his own life.

At some point, I wonder if someone has referred to her as just a bus driver.

I remember when I was in school how the custodians cleaned up after us. They knew us by name, cleaned up when someone was sick, and put up with things we never would have gotten by with at home. During memorable Senior Weeks in days gone by, they followed us and our squirt guns through the hall with mops. Shaking their heads and laughing and wishing us their best as we went forward.

I wonder if any of us ever called them just janitors. I so hope not.

I don't remember when I first heard the term just a nurse, but I'm certain it was made by no one who ever knew one, loved one, needed one, or saw one at work. 

This morning I'm just a columnist hoping you have a good week. Be nice to somebody. 







Saturday, February 3, 2024

Into the Darkness by Liz Flaherty

Not my tree...
It's still dark this Saturday morning. The lights on the office Christmas tree are brightening the room. I think I should take the tree down, and maybe I will, but not yet. For now it makes me mind less that there has been so much grayness in the days, that the news is so dreadful, and that treating people badly is not only expected, it's often met with approval. Even though the days are lengthening, the first hours I spend in the office are with darkness hanging tough outside. 

So, the Christmas tree. 

Solutions are often easy, but we don't realize it. We complicate things way beyond what is necessary. Is it human nature that makes us do this? We will hold back from doing what is likely the right thing for everyone because we're afraid it will help someone we don't like. We will destroy or throw away something we couldn't make money from rather than give it away. 

Joe DeRozier doesn't do that, by the way. If he has leftover donuts for whatever reason, he makes sure someone gets to enjoy them. Just saying.

Do you have too many good, usable clothes, but you still like new ones? Simple. For every item you buy,  donate two.

Did you replace your towels because they weren't fluffy anymore but you don't need the garage rags you used to make from old ones? Donate the old ones. (Unless they look disgusting. Donating things that are nasty is just...nasty.)

Do you have things you don't really want anymore but they belonged to your mother so you can't just give them away? Sure you can. Your mother didn't want them saved for posterity. She wanted them to be loved and used, and it doesn't have to be done by you. Want to make sure your kids remember them? Take pictures. 

It's easy to buy an extra box of cereal or some extra canned goods at the grocery store and drop them off in a bounty box or at a food pantry. It's easy, once you've read a book, to put it in a Little Free Library. It's easy to give away an old comforter when you buy a new one. It's easy to share, especially if you're sharing things you don't even want. 

It's easy, I guess, to be a Christmas tree in the darkness. Have a good week. Be nice to somebody. 




Saturday, January 27, 2024

A Little of This... by Liz Flaherty

Happy Saturday! I hope you're staying dry and safe. No regular post today. I have writing-type stuff going on, so I'm not writing. How does that work? Not always very well. 

The picture is a Facebook game that shows what I look like as a hippie. Although I'm not sure it looks like me--even me 40 years ago--but I just like it. It's too different from how I look to use it as an author photo, but since you know better anyway...

I'm part of an all-day Facebook celebration today, with lots of authors and giveaways. Fun conversations and interesting posts. I hope you come by! The event takes place here: 


I got a lovely message today from Leah Leach, Executive Director of Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy in Noblesville letting me know my essay, The Rickrack Chronicles, will be include in the Gal's Guide's annual anthology. It is both a pleasure and an honor to be included with some very good company. You can pre-order and find more out about the Gal's Guide here: https://galsguide.org/2024/01/19/gals-guide-anthology-nourish/

My friend Nan and I are taking off for a few days to do some writing in Nashville, Indiana. It's one of our favorite places. We may stop in while we're down there and take a look at Ron Luginbill's ukuleles at
Weed Patch Music


Speaking of music, if you're looking to hear some, Lew Little and Mike Almon release weekly reports on who's playing what kind of music at which location. https://www.facebook.com/lew.little

I'll try to have more to say next week. I hope you have a great one. Be nice to somebody. 









Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Gardner's Secret with Sheila Hansberger

Please welcome Sheila Hansberger, an award-winning author and artist, to the Window today. Sheila resides in California. Her paintings can be found in permanent collections across the USA. Full-color illustrations of her apple-themed artwork are included in the five-star rated paperback, The Better Than Average Apple Cookbook. The Gardener’s Secret is her debut novel. Visit her website at: www.s-hansberger.com.

Thanks for coming today, Sheila! I'm so happy you're here. I love your interview!

    What is your favorite thing about yourself? And your least favorite? My favorite thing about myself is that I’m determined, and I never quit on a project, no matter how long it takes to get it done right. That is also my least favorite thing, because I’m too much of a perfectionist. More could be accomplished if I didn’t expect everything to be perfect. A case in point: I wrote a romance…in fact I’ve rewritten it more times than I care to admit. Although one of the rewrites won 2nd place in a writing competition, I’m still not happy with the finished product…or should I say “unfinished” product? I’ve set the manuscript aside in favor of completing work in which I have more faith. Yet, it still lurks on my computer, trying to woo me back. I plan to finish it someday, but for now, I shove it to the back of my mind and work on other more pressing projects.


    Is there a particular line you won’t cross in writing, even to satisfy a trend or—possibly—to make a story more compelling? I won’t write erotica. I’m not a prude, but I’m a mom and grandma first.

    Is there someone you’d like to make proud of you with your writing, and do you think you’ve done it? Making my late husband proud would top the list. I’ve been a professional artist most of my life, and he was always my greatest fan and supported all of my creative endeavors. He’d come home from his office and greet me in my studio where I had hovered over a painting for hours. He’d sniff the air and say, “I don’t smell dinner cooking. What would you like me to fix?” I hope he’d do the same now if he found my fingers attached to a keyboard.

    What do you do on those days when you’re pretty sure the muse has died and you’ll never again write a publishable word? I rarely have moments like that, but if I did, I would read books, blogs, and articles about writing. Or, I would update my mailing list or tidy my studio. 

    What would you want to be if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a successful artist for over 30 years and would go back to that profession full-time. Currently, I write more than I paint, but if the balancing act ever ceased, I’d be happy to be creative in any way possible.

    Do you have any particular fan-girl moments you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about them, especially if they were embarrassing and good for a laugh! As a newbie writer at my first conference, I perused the hotel’s buffet, then settled my breakfast tray on the only empty table. A young woman approached and asked if she might sit opposite. As we ate, I admitted indecision about which classes to attend. She suggested looking for topics that interested me, but not to worry, because even if the subject matter didn’t meet my criteria, I’d come away with valuable information. That afternoon, I rushed into a class already in session. Lo and behold, she was at the microphone! Good thing I didn’t know she represented a publisher, or I might have pitched my not-yet-ready-for-consumption manuscript way too early. 

    Looking back, what do know now that you wish you’d known the first time you opened a file and typed “Chapter One”? OMG, it’s so true what people say about ignorance being bliss! If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to begin, because I didn’t realize how unschooled I was. I mean, anyone can write a romance…right? I’m not a plotter, I’m a pantser, so writing…er a, rewriting…slows me down. But in three months, I wrote a 60K-word story and thought it was salable. I even sought advice from a published author about what to do next. She was so patient, listening to me babble on and on about my manuscript. She even offered a sample query letter. I cringe now, remembering how I called myself an author that day. Years later, after joining two national writing organizations, finding critique partners, taking classes, and reading everything possible about the art of writing, I can say I possess the skills to claim the title of author.

    What was a best day of your life? A worst? (Feel free to skip this one—I know it crosses the line into nosiness, but I’ve been fascinated by it ever since the first time I saw City Slickers.) Choosing one “best” day in my entire life is impossible; I’ve been blessed with dozens. But Death lingers on what you’d call my worst days. So many family members and friends have left this earth far too soon. My husband fought Multiple Myeloma cancer for fourteen months. Shock and grief soften with time, but you lose a piece of your heart along the way.

    Do you have a favorite quote? Feel like sharing it? A quote by Paul Sweeney reminds me to write the very best story I have inside me, because this is what readers expect: You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little like you’ve lost a friend.”

    Who are your heroes / heroines? Have they made a difference in your writing? Rather than lean toward one particular hero or heroine, I admire certain human qualities any of us can possess. Individuals who exhibit unselfishness, generosity, and loyalty to loved ones get my vote. And, yes, I write those attributes into my characters.


    THE GARDENER’S SECRET

    Believing she’ll get to report gritty news, Callie accepts a job at her hometown newspaper. Instead, she’s assigned the gardening column—a subject she knows nothing about. She begs advice from a tight-lipped neighbor when he admits he’s a retired gardener, even though his mannerisms and speech suggest he’s anything but. 

    Not knowing the full truth doesn’t matter—she needs his help. The townsfolk think him strange and warn Callie to keep her distance, but she regards him and his family as friends. Learning their horrifying secret doesn’t deter her, even though loyalty will draw her into danger.

    Buy links: 

    E-book link: https://a.co/d/3rXC7Vr
    Paperback link: https://a.co/d/g6M9zcJ

    Saturday, January 20, 2024

    Songs of Winter by Liz Flaherty

    Friday morning early: It's snowing. My cottonwood is wearing white on her broad and aging shoulders. There is a stillness that only snowfall brings--and then only when the wind isn't buffeting things around. 

    I remember snow days when I was in school. My dad was never home, because he worked on the highway department, which lent a different kind of freedom to the days. If the snow was deep, which it often was, my brothers built tunnels. We slid down the hill behind the barn. On wood-cutting days, we slid down the bigger hills where my uncle lived, coming to a crashing stop in a gully at the bottom of the hill. I learned to use a two-person saw with my brother. I didn't get good at it, but I could do it. (Same thing happened with cooking--go figure.)

    I read a lot in the mornings, especially when my own writing voice is still croaky and stubborn, and this morning I read Amy Abbott's essay about musical theater. It made me think of songs I've heard sung on stages, plays and concerts I've been privileged to see. 

    Music's always been part of our lives, from when I first saw my husband in a band while I was still in high school (he didn't see me --that came later) to watching the Three Old Guys at Legend's on Wednesday night. The kids were in choir and swing choir--our daughter still sings on her church's praise team. The grandkids were in band--the youngest one still is.

    It's basketball season, complete with snow and school being called off late this morning. I thought of all the games I'd been to. When our school played in the semi-state my senior year, when we watched our oldest play, and later a grandboy or two. It's funny how your own gym always feels the same, regardless of the changes that have been wrought there, the adulthoods reached for. The tassels turned on mortarboards.  


    On my phone this morning was a picture of our youngest standing behind Eamon, his and Laura's youngest, helping him with his tie. That's been a while, Jock texted when I sent him the picture, and I thought of how long ago it was Duane helping him and Chris with double Windsor knots. 

    Oh, the memories. 

    I titled this Songs of Winter, because the snowy stillness of morning is one of the times so many things seem clear. Even though one of the worst parts of aging is what happens to your memory, when even the reason you went into the kitchen totally escapes you, you still recall how things made you feel. 

    Wishing you a week of feeling good things, making memories, and being nice to somebody.

    For the time being, Window Over the Sink and Window Over the Desk are both 99 cents for ebooks. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BGJS174L 



    Saturday, January 13, 2024

    Baby Jesus, Respect, and Never All by Liz Flaherty

    Baby Jesus was found. I saw it on Facebook, and an ache I didn't even realize I had was relieved. 

    It wasn't a real baby, of course, but a statue taken from the downtown nativity scene. There've been TV shows about lost and stolen Baby Jesus figures. They're usually found, as the one in Peru was. Sometimes they're damaged. They're always treated disrespectfully. The pain of that disrespect is very real. 

    Even if I were not a Christian, even if the nativity scene wasn't something so important to me, I wouldn't understand why someone would want to defile it. The same with a menorah. The same with a crescent and star. They are symbols of belief systems that are important to the ones whose faiths they represent. 

    I am not in anyway trying to say all Christians, Jewish people, or Muslims (or any other religions) are good people. I'm not trying to say some of their "rule books" don't have parts that make me cringe. I'm not comfortable with some of the modes of dress, with any culture that considers any of its members lesser, with men wearing hats in church. (You already knew how old I am--now you really know.)

    But then, I don't like a ton of tattoos, a ton of piercings, or personal body parts being uncovered in public. I don't like the f-word used just to use it--especially by people who can't differentiate between they're, their, and there. I don't like when people straddle two parking spots, take up residence in the left lane, or don't use turn signals. I have no respect for any one who puts their trash into the recycle receptacles or litters. 

    I hate ear gauges. 

    Wow, that is a bunch of dislike, isn't it? 

    But you know what? It's okay to dislike things others do, to not agree with or even respect their beliefs. It's just fine to be uncomfortable with cultural things that make you flinch or usage of the language that makes your ears curl inward so you can't hear it. It's okay to not know where to look when there's more ink on a person's skin than it takes to print a book or if they have huge holes where you have ear lobes. It's definitely not a mark against you to get mad at drivers who give idiocy a bad name. 

    But it's not okay to act on it, to in any way damage or even talk about all purveyors, wearers, or drivers as bad people. You don't know that. You don't even come close to knowing it. 

    As a Democrat in Indiana, I understand more than I want to about disdain. But I don't know what it's like to be black where most people aren't, what it's like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community where most people aren't. However, I know the word all gets used way too often. While I'm fairly certain all of those people, Democrats included, aren't good ones, I can guarantee they're not all bad, either.

    Something else I know is that much of the criteria we use for judging others is flawed. Seriously flawed.

    So, there you go. My time on the soapbox has expired. I wrote this from a perspective of sour grapes, of having my feelings hurt by someone I've known my entire life. It's something that happens more and more these days, isn't it?

    Maybe we can try to do it less often. Maybe we can remember before we say or do something hurtful that what means nothing to us means the world to them. In a lesser way, from pure thoughtlessness and often misplaced righteousness, we might be stealing their Baby Jesus. All we have to do to give Him back is say Hello. Have a great day. Smile. And go on.

    Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.







    Saturday, January 6, 2024

    I Liked 2023 by Liz Flaherty

    I liked 2023. Well, maybe not that much. Not enough to be sorry to see it go. Like many others, I'm exhausted by its shenanigans. By politics as a whole. By the state of health care if you choose not to live in a metropolitan area. By J-turns and traffic circles for the aid and comfort of certain areas being more important than well kept roads for the rest of us. 

    But wait. Those things aren't the fault of the year that just passed. Although they are the fault of the times, and I guess that's really where the exhaustion comes in. The older you get, the more times you can remember and the faultier the memory becomes.

    That's the thing about memory, isn't it? While it lends pleasure and knowledge and lots of oh, yeah moments, it also makes you revisit places you never wanted to go again. Things that hurt years ago still hurt. Things you thought you forgave...well, maybe you did, but forgetting's an entirely different thing, isn't it? 

    I've been writing this column all week and this is as far as I've gotten. We've had sickness in the house through the holidays and even though I've seen or talked to nearly everyone in the family, I feel a sense of disconnect, too.

    I miss the house being full. I can't explain why it was harder this holiday season than ones in the past. Not only have our children flown the nest, most of their children have, too. Life is still fun and full (regardless of those empty spaces I'm whining about) of writing and music and living in a place we love to live.

    So, fine, Liz, what is your problem?

    There isn't one. 

    Life is good. 

    Although time goes so fast, the sun still rises and sets at the beginning and end of each day. I know I've said that before, but sometimes I need to be reminded.

    Just as I need to be reminded that even when those times are exhausting and hope seems like a distant pinpoint of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, there will be good times that usually outweigh the bad. For all the people who feel as if they owe nothing to humankind, there are more who know that we do. For all the people who spread hate, there are more who spread love. For all those who are greedy, there are more who are generous. For those who suggest that we "get over" the shooting of children, there are more who will never get over it. Those deaths have left behind houses that will never be full again.

    I liked 2023 okay. So far, I'm not impressed by 2024, but I'm willing and wanting to be wrong about that. I leave you with an apology for my inability to dredge up happy thoughts tonight. 

    But this won't post until Saturday morning, when the sun will come up again. When we can start again and remind ourselves that life is good. 

    Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.









    Monday, January 1, 2024

    The Christmas Bears by Sherri Easley

    It was the first Christmas after losing my son, and I was struggling to find joy in anything, much less Christmas. I had not put up my tree and there was no trace of any holiday cheer.

    My daughter saw a post on a social media Mom’s page, asking if anyone had experience in repairing memory bears. Not for the first time, my daughter volunteered me. I am beyond blessed and sometimes frustrated that she seems to believe I can fix or make anything when it comes to sewing.

    I got the woman’s information, and we chatted a bit by text. Her grown son was off to college and was struggling with being away in his new environment. The only thing he asked for that Christmas was for his childhood bears, “Bear” and “Other Bear” be repaired.


    When the woman delivered the bears and all I could do was bite my lip and think to myself, this would require a miracle. She handed me two ragged brown, near faceless bundles and explained to me how she held one of them while she was in labor with her now grown son and that her son loved the bear so much; they had to find another one because the first one was showing wear.

    She asked how much I would charge, and I told her I wasn’t sure if I could do anything and that there would be no cost. I have always felt like when you are blessed with a skill or gift, you should pay it forward as much as possible and this was the perfect opportunity.

     I looked up the well-loved bears to see how they looked like in their less loved days and found, to my shock, that they were originally white. Picking one up, I inspected it closer, wondering what I had gotten myself into and how I would return them to their actual youth. Doing what I always do when in doubt- I jumped in and started working.

    I made a bath of warm soapy water with a little oxy clean and let them swim for a while. That did little, so I sprayed them with an oxygen based cleaner and a miracle occurred. I rinsed them well and put them between a towel and squeezed out the water and let them dry.

    I used a wire dog brush and gently brushed them out. They really had fur, after all, at least a little. I had to be careful, because they were pretty fragile. Then, I fattened them up with fluff and restitched the many holes and sewed their heads back on.

    I used oil-based paint pens to paint the eyes and even add that special white dot for the gleam. It was the nose, though, that brought the bears to life and gave them back their personalities.  

    As a side note, I sent a photo to my daughter as I was repairing them, and she asked if I had changed out the fabric on them.

    The last time I saw the bears, they were neatly tucked in a box awaiting pickup. I thought nothing more about them until Christmas eve when I got an emotional video of the young man opening his gift and his sweet and sentimental reaction at the realization it was Bear and Other Bear.

    … and just like that – the joy and spirit of Christmas found me once more.

    Sherri Easley was born and raised on a farm in rural east Texas, surrounded by good country folks and lots of great cooking. Growing up with an idyllic childhood in a small community provided her with lots of tales and characters for the stories she writes. When she is not creating Strategy at her corporate day job, you will find her snuggled up with her three dogs and two cats, writing stories from the heart. You can reach Sherri at 
    sherrieasleyauthor@gmail.com

    Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/3sk8a2rs

    Goodreads: https://tinyurl.com/5n7vb2mf