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To Be Alone

I have my own space. It’s my office-slash-sewing room. I spend hours—some of them even productive!—in here every day. It’s where I write. Where I sew. Where I watch Hallmark movies and sewing shows and episodes of The West Wing. Virginia Woolf wrote an extended essay about this very thing called “A Room of One’s Own.” I’ve quoted it several times, but I’ve never read the whole thing. I’m just extremely happy to have one.

It was something I dreamed of during the years of never being able to go to the bathroom by myself, of nothing ever staying where I put it, of everyone’s needs being more important than mine, of working a job that no matter how much I liked it, took up too much of life. We could do it all, women said, and we could. We did then and many are doing it now. But we shouldn’t. Not without help. Not without a place to just be ourselves. To be alone.

It doesn’t have to be a room.

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I wrote this in August of 1991 when my years on bleachers were winding down, and it's probably been my most repeated essay ever—I put it out there every year whether readers want to see it or not. It's dated, I guess, because it's been a long time, but I still think there's very little that's better than watching your kids be engaged, whether it's in sports, drama, debate, or anything else. There are things I'm sorry for from my active parenting days, things I wish I'd said or done and things I wish I hadn't. But I don't regret one minute of being a spectator.

They're the parents of a player. You'll recognize them because they're the ones carrying umbrellas, rain ponchos, winter coats, a big Thirty-One bag full of blankets, and enough money for the entire family to stuff themselves on popcorn and Spanish hot dogs and nachos because there wasn't enough time for supper before the game.

They bring the weather gear even on a clear night, you'll notice, because although clouds may burst with bucketfuls of rain or snow or both, the parents won't have the option of going home or even to the car. It doesn't matter if everyone else leaves the stands--as long as the players are on the field, their parents are in the bleachers.

She's the mother of a player. You'll recognize her because she's the one whose chin wobbles and whose eyes get big when someone screams at the player she belongs to. She's the one who only claps politely when her son's name is called in the team lineup because she doesn't want anyone teasing her about being unduly biased.

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Standing up

Writing is different for me than it used to be when I had to steal my hours at the keyboard from other times of the day, from social life, probably from my family--and no, that's not an easy thing to admit. But nowadays, although life is busy and for the most part happily so, I'm in the office as soon as I've finished that ten minutes of housework I require of myself. Sometimes fifteen if I've fallen behind. I worry about deadlines and sometimes push them a bit, but I never really reach the "I'll never get this done in time" point. I almost always have my column (if it's a new one) or guest blogs or my own blog posts ready the night before.

But it's 7:16 on Tuesday morning right now and I haven't written the post for this, my own blog, where the deadline is self-scheduled. But I've told people I'll post every Tuesday or beg a friend to do it in my place. However, I forgot to beg this week. I was busy enough I didn't write my own. It's not fair to anyone that I too often use essays I've used before. What to do, what to do.

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I wrote this in 2007 and happened onto it today when I have tumbled 11 years farther down the slope I talk about. I’m grateful beyond words to still be here, to still open this Window once a week, to still enjoy the grandkids—although they’re growing up a lot faster than I like.

Thanks so much for coming.

There are times—long, achy days of a bad knee and raging sinuses and throbbing finger joints—when I resent that I’m 50some and tumbling inexorably down the wrong side of the middle age slope. Is this all there is? I whine, channeling Peggy Lee. Have I worked all these years so I could afford to go more places and see and do more things just to learn I’m too old, too sore, and too damn tired?

I have time, now that I no longer preside over carpools, hold down bleachers, or operate a short-order kitchen and 24-hour laundry, to read all I want to. I have stacks of books and magazines beside my chair, along with a strong reading lamp, a spot for my coffee cup, and a blanket to cover my cold feet. However, if I sit in one spot for more than 15 minutes, I fall asleep. Most of my reading these days is done in the car, where I feed CDs of my to-be-read list into the player and “read” all the way to work and back. I love audiobooks, and listening to them makes my commute downright enjoyable, but there’s something lacking without the reading lamp, the cup, and the blanket.

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Piercings, tattoos, and underwear

This is from 2009. I think I could make a series of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," because I still feel the same way about piercings, tattoos, and underwear. I still don't know where to look. But I still maintain none of those things are sufficient criteria by which to judge a person. - Liz

I don’t mind piercings. I don’t love them, by any means — I nearly fainted the first time I got one. That was the first ear with a darning needle and then I had to go ahead and have the other one done. Then they were crooked and I let them grow back, vowing never to do it again. But I did, and then one more time just because I wanted to wear two sets of earrings. I’d like to do the cartilage thing, too, up in the top of one ear, but I’m too big of a chicken, so that’s not going to happen.

I don’t mind tattoos, either. Some of them are beautiful and meaningful to their wearers. I’d even kind of like to have a little shamrock tattooed somewhere not obvious, but in addition to being a big chicken, I’m also a cheapskate. I’d rather spend the money required for a tattoo on something else. Probably earrings. Maybe purses. Or shoes.

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Did you see the meme that’s making its way around Facebook? What it declares, in big, bold letters, is that “Every high school should have a mandatory class called ‘life’ which teaches you how to sew, change a tire/oil, do taxes, basic first aid, basic cooking etc. Basic things that you need in real life.”

In a comment on the meme, my friend Bob said, “We learned that sort of stuff helping our parents. Family isn’t the same as it used to be.”

Of course, he’s right, because very little is the same as it used to be, and I’m pretty sure that’s a complaint that has gone on since the day after the beginning of time.

But I think he’s wrong, too. Family may not be “the same,” but most parents still love most kids. Most schools and most teachers love them, too, and do their level best to prepare their charges as well as they can. I’m not sure when in the schedule they are supposed to find the time to teach them everything they need to know about “life.”

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This is from August of 2015. It has served as a good reminder to me this week. Although it was first on a writing blog, I think it works okay for the Window, too. Enjoy your moments! - Liz

Magic Moments

Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace.
 - Carly Fiorina

My thanks to Jenny Crusie for this post. Not that she wrote it or even knows it exists, but she suggested we “take a moment” in another blog, and that's why I’m writing about happy pieces of time.

Like when someone tells your kid she’s just like you and your kid says, “Thank you.”

Or when no one’s around and your aloof five-year-old grandkid climbs into the chair with you and stays a while.

Or when in the manuscript from hell, you get a scene that is so perfect it leaves you laughing, crying, or jumping up and down.

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Red Hearts and Moments

Recently—was it only last week?—my column had to do with being average and the virtues thereof. Reader response was great, and I’m so appreciative of that. And I’m still average and happy with it.

But today I met a friend for a several-hour work session and lunch. We talked and laughed and wrote nearly all day. On the way home, the sun was shining. It was warm but not hot. The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” played on the radio and I sang along—loud and terrible.

I’m in the last chapter of the book I’m writing, there was a red heart in my last text from my husband. He’d told me to be careful, because he doesn’t like how I drive. And to take my time. And…you know, the red heart—it fills a well I didn’t even know was running shallow.

There was nothing average about the day.