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The Amethyst and Avery’s Heart

One day last week, I spoke at the Black Dog Coffee House in Logansport. It was a big step outside my comfort zone, and, never confident, I wore my favorite amethyst necklace for luck. I saw some friends, Savanna and Bryce, before the talk. They introduced me to Avery, their little girl. Before I “went on,” Avery gave me a little red heart to keep. I slipped it into my pocket, pushed the comfort zone into the corner, and started to talk.

I wondered how I would fill an hour because, you know, I’m just not that interesting. But it was something like an hour and twenty minutes later that Scott Johnson suggested we wind it down. A responsive audience made the whole experience so much fun I’m still thinking about it days later, still reaching up to touch the stone in my necklace and remembering. Still stroking my thumb over Avery’s heart.

I write romance novels, and when I finish a book, I tend to think of the hero and heroine staying where I left them, probably sitting on the couch in front of the fire smiling into each other’s eyes. As time goes on, they’ll have children, she’ll gain a few pounds, he’ll need bifocals. The cat and dog in the picture will change. The carpet on the floor will go over to hardwood and then on to a large area rug.

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How not to be a grouchy old person

I'm not sure when I wrote this, but since the granddaughter I mentioned is--gasp--21, it's been a while.

"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." - James Taylor

In the seventies, Gail Sheehy wrote a book called Passages. Since it was a period of life for me that involved three children, one husband, a house, and a full-time job, I didn’t read the book. It didn’t sound very entertaining, and believe me, if I had the time to read in those days, I wanted the subject matter to be entertaining.

Now, in the last decade of the century, I still haven’t read the book, but I do think more about passages these days. A death in our family of someone who left us too soon, before his life was even in full summer, caused some of this introspection. The births of my second, third, and fourth grandchildren in scarcely more than a year created more.

The passages make me sad.

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PRIVACY, FACEBOOK, AND ME

I was surprised to find this partial essay this morning. I haven’t changed my views about privacy in the seven years since I wrote it, but privacy has changed. It’s easy to blame Facebook, a computer site that knows what you’re thinking before you think it and tells you where to buy something you only just decided you wanted, but Facebook is a choice. I must admit, it’s one I made willingly. I enjoy the pictures, the memes, the quotes, the jokes, the relationships created by prayer, the links to news stories I might otherwise miss, and the interaction with friends—both flesh-and-blood and cyber—and family.

However, those things I mention near the end of this column, being “a Christian, political, and a feminist,” have opened me up to all kinds of things. They’ve caused me to lose friends (who, in retrospect, probably weren’t), gotten me called names, and made me question myself (am I really a wicked, evil liar?). It is insane, but probably true, that social media is something else that has shaped the person I am, and that’s my fault.

I give it too much power, don’t I? So I’m going to take it back. If you identify with any of this rather confused ramble, I hope you do, too.

So, here it is, Privacy and Me, circa 2012.

*

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It’s about respect.

That’s hardly an original idea. Most of us heard it growing up, many of us have said it as parents. Often. We’ve said it within our marriages (through gritted teeth sometimes, which is quite a trick but can be done), about the flag, and about the national anthem. About teachers and preachers and law enforcement officers and people in the military—past and present.

I’ve always thought it was pretty easy to be respectful. Even if you have biases—and we all do, whether we like admitting it or not—keeping them to yourself is a good thought. They’re a kind of poison, and if you spread them around, you’re spreading toxicity. It’s that spreading that teaches kids about hate, because they’re not born knowing it. I’m not trying to say it’s okay to have them as long as you don’t hurt anyone with them, but I am saying it’s better.

It’s also easy to be respectful of people you agree with, or ones who look like you or worship like you do or love like you do or never need anything from you. It’s easy when respect is part of a bandwagon thing where one finds safety in numbers. Although my ideology doesn’t entirely fit at church, I am nevertheless always safe there. Our likenesses are bigger and, I believe that in our hearts, they are more important than our differences.

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Out of Step

I'm a pleaser. I never, ever want to be the catalyst for anyone being unhappy or uncomfortable or sad. I never want to be rude (although I accomplish it fairly often--sorry!) If there is an odd number and you need an even one, I'll always be the one to opt out and go watch TV even though I hate TV. I suffer tremendous guilt over hurting someone's feelings even if--wait for it--I didn't do anything. And, no, it's not always a good thing to be.

Because pleasers get hurt way too easily. They take everything personally. They dwell on things until they drive not only themselves crazy but everyone around them, too. They can be decisive but usually aren't because, after all, what if their decision affects someone else in a negative way? They are forgiving, sometimes to the point of thinking they're probably imagining the insult they're forgiving. They can literally believe they need to be forgiven for taking something wrong.

They always say, "I don't care. Where would you like to go?" or "Where would you like to eat?" or "Whatever you want to watch." When they do make a choice, they worry incessantly that it is the wrong one. Not for themselves--they truly don't care--but for everyone else.

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"I'm younger than that now..."

This is from August 17, 2015. I was still so pumped when I wrote it--I got pumped again when I found it to reprint it in Window Over the Sink. I am so glad and so grateful to have come of age when I did, with the songs that were my soundtrack to adulthood. There are some things that no amount of revisionist history can lessen and the music of the 60s is one of them.

“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.” ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I was 13 when the Beatles came to America and to the Ed Sullivan Show to nestle into the hearts of so many of us. I bought all their records and tried to grow my frizzy brown hair out long, straight, and sleek. I sat through A Hard Day’s Night at least 10 times, but I never got to go to a concert. I was, in the vernacular of the day, a Beatlemaniac.

That left me sometime after the White Album and prior to the birth of my first child, but I’m still unable to stand still or be quiet when an early Beatles’ song comes on the radio.

Well, shake it up, baby now—twist and shout...c’mon, c’mon...

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Nevertheless…

I wrote this in July of 2015. I’m sure no one’s surprised that I’m a feminist, but this isn’t really about that—not purposefully, anyway. It’s about being inspired, and much of my inspiration has come from women about whom it was undoubtedly said, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” I’d love to know who other people have been inspired by.

I took Duane to have his new-knee staples removed today. The nurse who removed them is beautiful. Blonde, straight white teeth, and a pretty smile. She's been married a year, she and her husband are buying her grandfather's farm, and she wants four children starting as soon as possible. "Is that crazy?" she said, and then answered her own question. "I don't care if it is. Family's important to me. To us."

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Goals and sometimes

I don’t do resolutions, although I start each new year with some goals that sometimes I make (finish at least one book) and sometimes I don’t (lose fill-in-the-blank pounds). I hope each year will be an improvement over the last one, which sometimes works out and sometimes not.

I used “sometimes” a little too often in that first paragraph, didn’t I? But to tell the truth, it’s an important word. If you say “always” or “never,” you’re committed to something whether you want to be or not.

Like “I would never say that.” Sure, you would, if you were mad enough.

Or “I always wash the sheets every Monday.” Unless I forget.