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...in 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.

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Gratitude and Curiosity

Every November, I do this thing on Facebook called 30 Days of Gratitude. I don’t know whose idea it was, where it came from, or how many people do it. I’ve done it for years, because it reminds me every day to be thankful and because it’s easy. I spend way too much time on Facebook, scrolling and keeping up with nieces and nephews and getting mad at political memes and wishing for the truth so that doing this one thing every day feels good. Feels right. And it’s easy.

Except on days when it’s not. Like this morning (Friday), when it’s so gloomy outside my office window that even the birds are silent. They pick at the suet in the feeder hanging from the clothesline and fly off in search of bluer skies. The cats woke long enough to eat breakfast, then went back to their naps.

I’m running a day behind—nothing unusual there—but my gratitude for today is for curiosity. As long as we are curious, we can find truths, beauty, reasons, and so much more. It’s when we wave dismissive hands and say “the heck with it,” that we lose track.

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I’m bewildered.

There are many things I liked about the “good old days.” Fifty-seven Chevys, 60s music, bell-bottoms—yes, really, I did; using complete sentences that didn’t include the f-bomb, not having to pump my own gas, milk in glass bottles, not knowing virtually everything good was bad for you. I could go on. And on. But then I remember other things, too.

My husband recalls black people having separate drinking fountains. The signs in Louisville used to say “colored,” and he always wanted to try it out to see if their water really was a different color.

He remembers coming home from Vietnam when people turned away from him in his uniform. When the personnel director where he had worked before he was drafted didn’t want to give his job back.

I remember not being able to get credit because of my gender and even when the bank finally gave me a loan in my own name, they sent the invoice for it to my husband.

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There’s Smart…and then there’s Smart

I’m smart.

There, I’ve said it. Yes, I am. Even at my age, I spell well. My grammar is adventurous but usually correct. I almost always know when to start a new paragraph, what to capitalize, and what verb tense to use. I know the Oxford comma rules the day and that the term “I seen” needs to be drummed from the English language. What I don’t understand, I know how to look up—The Chicago Manual of Style and Google are among my very best friends.

Along that same line, I get the news from more than one source and try never to quote anything I haven’t fact-checked. If I do—and it does happen—I correct myself and grovel. A little groveling, in case you didn’t know, is good for everyone. If I’ve put up an incorrect post on Facebook, I take it down or correct it. And, yes, grovel. If someone cares to call me a liar or a snowflake because they don’t like what I say, I bristle a lot, call them silent names that are much harder to spell than those, and subside, breathing deeply and thinking of karma. Oh, yes, karma.

So, yes, thank you very much, I’m smart.

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Unexpected routine

"I see the turning of a leaf dancing in an autumn sun, and brilliant shades of crimson glowing when a day is done." - Hazelmarie Mattie Elliott

From 2013--I think.

It’s funny the things that become routine without you realizing they’ve done it. My office is in the garage and its door is probably 50 feet from the back door of the house. I make this walk upwards of 10 times a day. More if I’m restless or if the words are hiding from me. Less if my fingers can’t keep up with them.

Coming from the house, I look toward the east and west horizons to see if anything has changed since the last time. Are the beans out of the field? Did they spread manure—I can tell when they do. Are the suet feeders empty?

Going back to the house, I look down. For season-predicting wooly worms. For the nasty little black worms that come out in fall. To see if the cats’ bowls are empty. Again. To make sure I see the step that hasn’t moved in 10 years or so but still manages to trip me from time to time.

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The beans are in and other blessings …

October is my favorite month of the year, except for when it's May. (I keep throwing that disclaimer in everywhere because I'm fairly certain I'll be chirping about May in six or seven months.) I love the deepness of October's colors and the range of its sounds. Its scents and textures lend comfort to virtually every circumstance in which I may find myself. I embrace the fact that it's a forever parallel for living life (and writing books) in layers. Therefore creating textures. And depth. And range.

Speaking of depth...and range, I read a blog post the other day about mature love versus infatuation by Jenny Crusie. In the middle of it was this quote: "...they both know that their love can be beaten to airy thinness and will not break, it’ll become the air they breathe, always bringing them back to each other."

I read the quote and read it again and realized that was my gift for today. It touches and wraps gauze around long relationships, exposing not only their longevity but their frailty, too. That comes as a surprise, by the way, that those two words often go together: longevity and frailty. I counted, rather smugly, on things like marriage and enduring friendships and siblinghood becoming easy as time went on. I’ve never been wronger, and I’ve had a lot of practice at that. (Including saying “wronger” instead of “more wrong,” but I think it has a ring to it, don’t you?)