Saturday, March 30, 2024

I Wish I Had... by Liz Flaherty

Thank you to everyone who responded to last week's post. If anyone was helped or encouraged, I am so glad. 

I have been trying to think of something to write about, and not doing very well. So I started thinking about regrets. I'm lucky that I don't have many big ones. I'm sorry I never lived outside of Miami County, that I never lived in a new house, that I wasn't a better mom, and that I haven't traveled more than I have. Other than that...

I'm sorry I never saw the Beatles or the Eagles perform live. 

That I ever worried about how my kids wore their hair.

That I didn't smoke pot at least once.

That I never learned to swim.

That I never wrote a political column. (I could do that or I could do this one--I had more faith in my ability to do this one.)

That I ever smoked cigarettes, although I enjoyed every one I ever smoked.

That I've wasted so much time on anger, on having my feelings hurt, on worrying because I'm not a good housekeeper. 

That I've never kept off the 35 pounds I've lost at least 10 times, but who's counting?

That I don't see my grandkids enough. 

That I ever bought my 2006 Pontiac Torrent. 

That I can neither sing nor dance in ways anyone else should have to hear or see. 

That I've watched as much TV as I have. It's time I can never get back, and I'd have had a lot more fun doing other things. 

That I didn't stick to my guns on things that mattered and, conversely, that I did stick to them a few times when they didn't.

That I haven't read more books and that I've finished ones I hated. 

That I can't roller skate. Or ski. Or do my hair the way other people can.

That I haven't been more helpful in my life. Kinder. Funnier.

That's all I can think of. I'm sure if I gave it more thought, more time, the list would be a lot longer. But it wouldn't be more important, because there are so many more things I don't regret. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

As I shouted all over social media this week, I won the second place medal in the 2024 Gal's Guide Anthology: Nourish. I have been so excited and so honored. The book will be on sale on Amazon in April and is available for pre-order from Gal's Guide Press now. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Sad on Sunday... by Liz Flaherty

I don't remember when I wrote this, although the mention of when I stopped smoking makes it about 18 or so years ago. It was hard to write and hard to think about, but I thought it was important. I still think it is, and I've written about it a few times, a few places since I wrote this. Several of us talked and laughed today about what we take to keep ourselves...okay. I laid claim to my little green pill and others spoke of other pills, other methods, dark days and not-so-dark ones. 

       Depression wasn’t something I gave a whole lot of thought to.  It was something that happened to other people.  Young mothers who’d just had babies and were overwhelmed by the endless and huge responsibility of it all; middle-aged men who’d lost their jobs and didn’t know where to find new ones; people who’d suffered emotional losses of such magnitude I couldn’t begin to imagine how they felt.  Being on the self-righteous side, I also thought you only really suffered from depression if you gave into it, if you didn’t outrun it with a healthy sense of humor, or if you just wanted people to feel sorry for you.  Average people, people like me, didn’t get depressed.

          A little over four years ago, I stopped smoking.  Aside from being self-righteous, I’m also an unmitigated coward, so I did it with medication.  I didn’t care; it worked, and the side-effects of the medication were minimal.  I’d always said that if I didn’t smoke, I’d weigh 200 pounds--not a good thing if you’re short and small-boned, which I am--and I’d suck down antidepressants like they were candy.  I was joking, okay?  Just kidding.  Really.


          I don’t weigh 200 pounds, (2024--my weight goes up and down like a yoyo; this has never changed) but I did gain 35 in the year after I stopped smoking, and it’s still there--I’ve discovered that chocolate chip cookies are a great replacement for nicotine.  But the other thing that happened in that year was that I found out depression really does strike average people.  To borrow a term I’ve heard often in the past three years, I hit the wall.

          Since I’m one of those people who always have the symptoms described in articles about diseases (it’s amazing I’ve lived this long!), it was no surprise that I had several of the indicators of clinical depression.  You know what they are.  You’ve read them in the doctor’s office while you’re waiting or at Walmart or Kroger while you’re taking your blood pressure.  You’ve read them and thought, “Hmm...” because you had a couple of them.  Sometimes.  But then they went away, so you were okay.

          But what happens when they don’t go away?  What do you do when you were sad on Sunday afternoon and you’re still sad at bedtime on Thursday?  When you’re so tired you can barely get through the day but you’re sleeping way too much?  Or you can’t get through it because you’re hardly sleeping at all?  When nothing’s fun anymore?  When you can’t see an end to feeling hopeless?  When, even though you’d never consider suicide yourself--oh, of course, you wouldn’t--you understand people who do?

          When I hit that wall, I was one of the lucky ones in that I never for one moment thought suicide was an answer.  I was seldom sleepless, never slept too much, still had fun.  Sometimes.  But working an eight-hour day wore me out to the point that I never really wanted to get off the couch after I got home.  I looked around at my husband and kids and grandkids--even them--and was bewildered because, Good Lord have mercy, how could I possibly be unhappy?

          But I was.  Oh, I was.

          I didn’t really want to start smoking again, but I knew I’d be happier if I did.  What was worse--to die of lung cancer or of depression?  “I don’t know what to do,” I told my doctor.  “Maybe I need to smoke again.  Just some, you know, not a lot.”

          “No,” he said.  “No.  I know what to do.”

          So he gave me a prescription and talked to me a long time about clinical depression.  “You’ll be fine,” he promised.  “Maybe six months, maybe longer.  But you’ll be fine.”

          I hated taking Zoloft.  Zoloft was for weak people, people who gave in to being sorry for themselves, people who wanted others to feel sorry for them.  I’d try it for a little while, but it wasn’t going to work, not on me, Mrs. Average.  I hated it.  

          But it wasn’t really so bad.  Maybe six months.  That should get me over the hump, and maybe I wouldn’t start smoking again.  I could always blame the 35 pounds on it.  You know, I couldn’t lose weight because I was “on medication.”  No one had to know I was a spineless wuss who was taking antidepressants. 

          Six months became two years.  Not that it took me that long to feel better--that’s how long it was before I got the courage up to stop taking the Zoloft.  I was so afraid to stop.  What if I feel that way again? I thought.  I would surely die from it.  But stopping was painless, and the depression is only a memory.  But it’s a memory that can make me miserable in a heartbeat, make me question myself if, just once, I happen to be sad on Sunday afternoon.

          But I am all right, I remind myself, because by Thursday night at bedtime, I have forgotten the sadness.  I feel good.  No, better than good; I feel wonderful.  I haven’t smoked for four years and one month.  And I will never, ever take any of it for granted again.  It is a gift.


    It is indeed a gift. But several years into my time without Zoloft, things happened--or didn't--that I had trouble dealing with. I still never thought of suicide, still slept okay, still laughed and enjoyed life. Most of the time. But sometimes--too many times--I was sad on Sunday and still sad on Thursday. 

    "They call it the leveler," someone told me about my little green pill, and that's what it does for me. I know people who need more than I do, people who don't need any help at all, and others who are like me. 

    I thought of this last week when I was listening to the audio version of Kristin Hannah's The Women. She wrote about the pills that in the 1960s and beyond were called "mother's little helper" that drove countless women into addiction. 

    I'd forgotten all about them, but they were what I feared. Unlike hard drugs or the opioids of today, they were hidden under a cloak of innocence. I feared that pseudo-innocence and I looked down on people who'd gone down the rabbit hole of addiction because...well, I don't have an excuse, because I should know better than to look down on anyone. 

    Because had I needed help then, who's to say I wouldn't have been one of them? 

    I don't know what I should say here. I don't want anyone to take anything they don't have to, to keep taking it when they don't need it, to use it as an excuse for bad behavior instead of a crutch to help you. I know crutch isn't an acceptable term, but when you are broken, sometimes you need help with the healing. You need a crutch.

    Be blessed this week. If you need help, ask for it. If someone needs to talk, listen. Be nice to somebody. 


Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Art of Being Thrilled by Liz Flaherty

Okay, it's probably not an art. Being thrilled, I mean. It's something I've never given much thought. I don't read thrillers, don't watch thrillers, am categorically scared of anything described as a thriller. I'm not afraid they'll hurt me--they're mostly fiction--but they will keep me awake, reappear in my dreams when I do get to sleep, and make me say after watching one that "there go two hours I can never get back."

But there's a real difference between dramatic thrillers, which really are art, and just being thrilled. Which is just fun.

Yesterday, a bunch of us had lunch together. We met at noon and at 2:30, we finally vacated the table. We've been friends for over 40 years, that bunch that met. We share memories, we care for each other, and we laugh a lot. We don't meet often, nor do we have to, but I am thrilled with the days that we do.

Also yesterday, I had two notes from publishers. Neither of them involved money, contracts, promises, or bestsellerdom, but they were personal and friendly. In the constantly changing publishing industry, I am totally thrilled with personal and friendly.

Peru High School's basketball team is at the semi-state today. What a thrilling ride the past few weeks have been for the players and their supporters. 

Picture borrowed from

Just this week, I was thrilled to have cleaned off the dining room table, the kitchen island, and the table next to my chair. Like most thrills, those won't last long. 

I've been thrilled to have coffee every morning in the silence of the office, to save 10 cents a gallon on gas, to have dinner at Beef O'Brady's, another dinner from Ebenezer Church pizza, and one last night at Farmhouse Cafe. I'm also thrilled that I don't have to cook if I don't feel like it. 

Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day and a great week. I hope you find a thrill here and there. Be nice to somebody.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Being Stuck by Sinclair Jayne March 13

The Window welcomes the charming and talented Sinclair Jayne today, talking about a subject every writer knows and dreads.

Shout out to the fun and clever Liz for letting me crash her blog this week.

Have you ever been stuck?

I believe it’s more common than any of us want to admit as many women fall into the trap of thinking we need to be some sort of version of Ed Sheeran singing Perfect as we juggle all the spinning elements of our lives-work, and yet sometimes something drops. Or everything does. Maybe even us.

I was emailing with Liz about the feeling of being creatively stuck a couple of years ago on the last book or my Misguided Masala Matchmaker series—Stealing Mr. Perfect. Completely unexpected. I used to be a teacher and taught creativity workshops. I’d researched creativity in writing. I knew the tricks, and then I hit this wall I’d heard about, but had imagined I would never hit it hard. And if I did bump my head or toe on the wall. I would take in a deep breath and walk around or awkwardly clamber over. 

At first, I was more curious than worried. Why this book? Why these characters? I knew my hero and heroine. My heroine had been a main supporting character in the previous three books in the series. She was the driver, the matchmaker and yes, she was loving, enthusiastic and always misguided. She found or stumbled into the perfect match for her family through judgment errors, luck and stubborn misreading of a situation or person. She was lovable and funny. Rani Kapoor’s HEA was supposed to be a slam dunk, and yet I stumbled and missed the basket three times until I was starting to freeze up and fantasizing about throwing my computer out of a window and applying for a job at Starbucks. 

I wrote and revised. Reworked. Started over and over and over again. I Conferenced with my editor and consulted friends. But what I really wanted to do, and what I started practicing was the email to my editor and publisher saying that I didn’t want to write the book. It wasn’t working. The series would work better as a trio. Totally unprofessional and since I’d argued that Rani needed her story to wrap up the series when we were discussing a three or four book contract, my fantasizing about backing out felt like a limp white flag.

I was stuck. And as a developmental editor who has held the hands of many authors who have a crisis of faith and become stuck, I was ashamed of even thinking about not writing the book. It was something I’d never imagined not doing. Writing a book is a journey, a thrilling honor, an adventure, a joy and yeah, sometimes a teeth-grinding frustration in gorging on humble pie. But not doing it? Inconceivable. 

My mind spun round and round. What to do? What was my next step and how did I take it? What finally shoved me back on my feet and out of the ditch was when I imagined telling my daughter—then a college freshman who is absurdly talented and driven and who’d not whined once when she lost several months of her senior year performances, rituals and activities and who was starting college on Zoom--I was giving up. I had flown my resiliency flag my whole life, and it was definitely a theme when I raised my children. When Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance came out, I read it, gifted it and wouldn’t shut up about it.

I used to teach with someone who often intoned ‘suck it up butter cup.’ And I knew that I had to take a new approach—the fourth attempt to write Stealing Mr. Right. During another Zoom with my fabulously brilliant and creative editor and author Kelly Hunter, I finally realized why I was stuck, when she was trying to guide me in a different direction that felt wrong all the way to my fingertips. She argued passionately that the theme of the book was “What is love.” And that’s when I realized that the book—yes, a romance about a matchmaker who falls in love, wasn’t really about love. It was about identity. Rani’s and my hero’s. 

That’s why I couldn’t write it. I was writing the wrong book. Rani had been defined by others her whole life, and her growth arc was about finally coming into herself. Gaining confidence. Defining herself and taking full agency of her life. Jasminder has been so alienated from his culture and family that he is disconnected from himself and life and only has his career. By setting off separately to learn about themselves, they can love themselves and then fall in love. It was so sudden and so clear that I abruptly ended the meeting, opened the new file and began to write starting on page one. One month later I hit save and send. Happy. Relieved and proud because the book sang. 

Grinding it out might not seem inspirational, but it is effective and gritty. Being emotionally stuck requires, I’ve discovered, a bit more finesse, and self-kindness along with support. When my mother passed last year after several years of decline and illness, I felt totally spent. I was scheduled to attend a writer’s retreat a couple of weeks after she died and vacillated about going. But my husband strongly encouraged me to go as did the three other authors I was meeting. And spending time talking story, talking lives, family and goals while walking in the gorgeous nature that surrounds and imbues Canmore, Canada, soothed and inspired me.  And when I was brainstorming the plot for the fourth book in a new series The Coyote Cowboys of Montana, I felt devoid of ideas. I admitted how empty my brain and heartfelt—how I was again stuck. It felt scary admitting that, and yet they bounced ideas with me for The Cowboy Charm, which released last month. “Use your feelings,” Author, Publisher and bestie Jane Porter advised. “Let them drive the story.” 

Usually when I write, I’m in my imagination. Sure, I’ll grab a snippet from something I read or hear about on occasion, but mostly it’s me and the wild animals rampaging through my head. Harnessing the grief, the exhaustion, the frustration and the disquieting giddiness of relief that the worst had finally happened life, sounded scary. What would happen? Doom and gloom. And yet, The Cowboy Charm was one of the easiest books I’d ever written. It flowed and my hero and heroine, both of whom were at uncomfortable turning points in their lives danced. Even when there was heaviness, The dialog, the visuals, the secondary characters shone with light. I was having fun. My hero was having fun, and my heroine, who was as stuck as I had been, found her groove and fun again.

It was freeing to face something hard head on, not in a stoic way, but in a ‘let’s play’ way. I hope I can seize the chance again. But I do know that after navigating two deeply different but equally challenging moments of being stuck creatively and emotionally, I have more confidence that future me will grab the challenge rather than duck it or pretend it will go away. 

Have you had a moment where you really felt stuck? How did you rise to the challenge? A response will be chosen randomly to win a signed and print copy of the two books that illustrate my most recent moments of becoming unstuck. You can DM or email me at

A former journalist and middle school teacher, Sinclair Sawhney lucked into a job as a developmental editor with Tule Publishing nearly ten years ago and continues to enjoy working with authors. As Sinclair Jayne, she’s published over twenty-five romance novels and counting. She loves her cowboys, small towns and HEAs. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s often hosting wine tastings with her husband of over twenty-seven years in the tasting room of their small vineyard Roshni, which means light filled, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Cheers.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Happy Saturday

I'm taking the day off today. I hope you're having a good weekend. Spring is on its way. Don't forget to change your clocks!

If you're looking for something to do this afternoon, stop in at Gallery 15 from 2-4 PM for music from Sarah & Ron Luginbill & Friends Monroe Alfrey and Ron Youngblood. 

Coming soon! Gal's Guide Anthology: Nourish, a collection from Hoosier authors (including me.) It's available for pre-order now at Reserve your copy now!

This anthology is sponsored and published by the Gal's Guide to the Galaxy Library in Noblesville. 

See you next week. Have great days. Be nice to somebody.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Phooey Kerflooey, Perfect Peace, and the Chaos of Camp Ministry by Kristen Joy Wilks

When my three sons were young, they asked me to write about our Newfoundland dog, Princess Leia Freyja. Now, I knew that a story for kids had to have adventure and chaos and fun. So, the method of producing chaos that I chose was a rampaging squirrel.

Our family lives and works at an off-grid Bible camp and we have had a number of rampaging squirrels over the years. We’ve had squirrels that broke into the house, the camp buildings, the pantry. We’ve had squirrels eat food, tear things up, and drag stuff all over the place. We’ve even had a squirrel that started a fire!

What started out as just fun and games became much more serious and close to home as my story grew. You see, any character must face a dark moment and grow into a new person because of it.

I didn’t just pull my theme of finding God’s peace in the middle of squirrel and puppy chaos out of a hat. My husband and I have worked in full-time camp ministry for almost twenty-five years. Camp life is a life of chaos and not just the good kind, either.

Yes, you have the delightful fun of watching the campers think up and perform crazy skits. But you also have the clean-up when they inexplicably decide to dump pudding on someone’s head or dealing with the necessary 911 call when they include a light-hearted joke and rub hot sauce on the camp director’s (my husband Scruffy’s) back and the sauce turns out to be a lot more potent than anyone imagined.

Yes, you have the charming chaos of water fights, night games, and sand castle competitions. But you also have the responsibility of protecting campers from injury, sunburn, and exhaustion after a week full of activities.

Yes, you have the joy of telling children of God’s love for the very first time. Amazing moments like when the great great grandchildren of the camp founders’ pastor ask to be baptized in the horse trough in the camp meadow. But you also have the grief of seeing people decide that they don’t need God, growing older and walking away from their faith, their friendships, and their relationship with you.

Yes, you have the victory of watching children who were campers grow to be camp counselors, camp interns, leaders in their own churches, and even the parents of campers. But there are those you can’t save. We have loved with all the strength we had within us and then found out that the one we loved so deeply still chose to take their own life in the end.

Joy and pain and chaos and grace, all smashed together into this thing we call camp ministry.

It is no wonder that I ended up writing about a boy who wants God’s perfect peace but all he seems to get is a whole lot of chaos. This is a journey I have lived and it is one that you will live too, dear reader. So, don’t wait for the world to stop spinning to reach out. God is love. Even when everything around you is not. He gives the kind of peace that can handle a little bit of chaos . . . or even a whole lot.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace

all who trust in you,

all whose thoughts are fixed on you! NLT

 Kristen Joy Wilks

Author of Phooey Kerflooey


A puppy will fix everything.

A boring new house?
Boring house + puppy = adventure!

An attacking squirrel?
Evil squirrel + puppy = a squirrel-battle extraordinaire!

A daredevil brother who zooms into constant peril?
Rowdy sibling + puppy = calm days snuggling their furry friend!

What could possibly go wrong?


Kristen Joy Wilks writes from a remote mountain meadow that alternates between quiet and chaos. The mom of three sons, an orange cat, and a giant Newfoundland dog, she lives with her camp director husband at Camas Meadows Bible Camp where she is photographer and camp storyteller. Kristen once climbed a tree and snuck into a church through the balcony to return a library book (and check out another) and has been pursuing stories ever since.  Her writing highlights the humor and grace God gives amidst the detritus of life. She can be found tucked under a tattered quilt at 4:00 a.m. writing a wide variety of implausible tales or at Try one of her stories for free with her newsletter!

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.