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Between Two Shades of Blue

Last night—Thursday—I sat in the living room and started a disgruntled column on why I have the winter blues. Even though we haven’t really had winter to speak of yet and even though I don’t really have the blues, I just couldn’t think of anything new and different to say.

But now it’s Friday morning and sunrise is out there, brilliantly red and pink and purple. The lightening sky in the west is the most gorgeous shade of blue. I looked on a color chart and it was somewhere between Olympic and Azure. By the time I looked up from the chart, it was different.

Every time you look away, something changes. Seasons come and go. Decisions made in the heat of a moment will be wrong when the intensity cools. Or not. Sometimes they are stunningly, life-changingly right.

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What I Said Was…

“I don’t know what to write about,” I told my husband as we drove home from eating a lunch I didn’t cook—that’s the best kind. “I think I sound preachy sometimes, and I don’t want to do that. I’d like to write about something funny, only I’m not really feeling funny.”

He nodded. He’s good that way. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear me.

“I was thinking I could make it ‘pick on your husband’ week. What do you think? I could write about…you know…your hearing.”

He took his eyes off the road long enough to scowl at me. “Not being able to hear isn’t funny. It’s as annoying to people who can’t hear as it is to people who have to repeat themselves.”

Oh, but I didn’t mean… “No,” I said, “I don’t mean about hearing. I mean about listening. You know, well, maybe you don’t because you never—but you probably don’t think that’s very funny, do you?”

He shook his head. He’s good that way. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear me.

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Roaring into the 20s

It is a new decade. When you reach “a certain age,” life passes you by at the velocity of a bullet, but I can’t say I’m all that sorry to see the old one go. I’m also pretty worried about what this next one is going to bring. I’m even more worried about what we’re going to do with it, because I don’t think we did so well from 2010-2019.

Like the internet. I love the internet. It is, when it comes to research, a writer’s best friend. Without leaving your seat, you can find out what song was popular in 1990, the lyrics to said song, and when it’s genetically possible to have blue eyes. You can also check on whether things are true or not, thanks to the unhappy necessity for fact-finders. I know the internet isn’t a product of the last decade, but I believe its unfiltered access to “Hey, let’s see who we can hurt today” probably is.

Then there’s medication. Once again, I realize its high prices aren’t a product of the last decade—maybe—but I believe the highway robbery part of it is. I’m relieved that Narcan is available free for people who have overdosed, whether accidentally or because they’re trying to kill themselves. I’d be a lot more grateful if insulin and cancer drugs were free, too, or at least affordable to everyone who needs them. These people want to live and live well, yet that choice is being taken from them.

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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.

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The Rickrack Chronicles

I was about nine. Awkward. Not very pretty. Not good at things, not that anything held my interest for very long. We spent Thanksgiving with Great-aunt Gladys that year. She sewed the most beautiful things (notably clothes that just fit my Tiny Tears doll) and I told her I’d like to sew, too, but my mother wouldn’t let me learn on the old treadle machine until I’d accomplished something by hand.

Did I mention I was awkward? Not the least of this was that my hands didn’t do anything right. Aunt Gladys — that’s a single “aunt,” not to be confused with the double one in the paragraph above — tried teaching me to knit and gave up after a long weekend of putting in and taking out … and taking out … and taking out. But sewing? Anyone could do it, Mom thought, and you had to do it in the right order.

So Great-aunt Gladys sent me — me, who never got mail addressed to me unless it was my birthday — a couple of yards of green cotton print, some white rickrack, and a pattern for an apron. Since my mother wore aprons all the time, I’m pretty sure everyone thought I’d give the whole project up anyway and Mom would get a new apron out of it and the fabric wouldn’t be wasted.

Window over the Sink Logo everlasting words... by Liz Flaherty

"A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day."
          -Emily Dickenson

As a writer, words are some of my favorite things. I love word games even though I'm not good at them. I love looking them up, using them in sentences, using ones in writing that I wouldn't use in conversation because...really, extrapolate? I can't even pronounce it correctly.

It's an ongoing thing. All the way back in first grade, when we got our first paperback Dick and Jane readers, I fell in love with words. The first word in that little gray book was look, and I've been overusing that word ever since. When I write a book, I have to do a global search and remove at least half of them. This shortens the book considerably, but probably helps the story.

Not So Self Assured…

One of my least attractive qualities is my singing voice; therefore, it is a public service that I only sing in the car when I’m alone or at church when I can’t help myself. So today, driving up 100 West alone on the way to Rochester, I was yelling singing along with the Beatles. The song was “Help,” a favorite I hadn’t heard for a while. It wasn’t one I’d ever thought that much about. But we’re approaching the end of the year, time to choose my word for 2020, and I think “help” might be the one.

We all need it sometimes.

We all need to give it sometimes.

We don’t always recognize it at the time we receive it.

We occasionally resent the ones who are trying to help us.

Now and then we resent the ones who need help.

Let’s Keep Dancing

This is from 2005. I thought my writing days were winding down (that was about 12 books ago) and I was on the reinvention wheel once again. I'm not sure I've ever gotten off. Anyone else been on that ride?

"If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing..."   -from "Is That All There Is?" by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, sung by Peggy Lee.

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.

Now that tuition, six-boxes-of-cereal weeks, and expensive shoes and jeans are in my past, I could, if I was interested, buy much nicer clothing for myself. But gravity and years of eating too much and exercising too little have made buying clothes a nightmare instead of a pleasure.