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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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I keep saying, “The hardest thing about being old is…” There’s nothing wrong with saying that, except that I finish it differently almost every time. Here’s my list for this week.

• Your body betrays you. If you get down, you can’t get up. When you leave a doctor’s appointment, you may as well make another one, because by the end of the week, you’ll need to go back. Gravity, that wicked witch, has attacked you and taken away certain…assets you thought you had. Well, she didn’t take them away, but she certainly did put them in a different place.
• Losing your memory. Because you don’t have it anymore and oh, boy, do you miss it. You can, of course, remember what you wore to school on the first day of seventh grade (blue skirt, white blouse, red T-strap shoes), the boy you had a crush on when you were eight (Randy), and a mean thing you said to someone in Mrs. Kotterman’s class that still makes you squirm (sorry, Suzanne). However, you can’t remember what you went into the next room for, why you had to go to Kroger’s, and the name of your firstborn if he’s the one you’re talking to. You can’t remember that you told that same story just yesterday to the—cringe—same person you’re telling it to today.

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A Real Thing

Another visit to my past—and my parents’ past. I wrote this in 2012. I hope you don’t mind revisiting it.

“Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.” - -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

On September 28, 1935, my parents went to a minister’s house and got married. My dad wore a double-breasted suit and my mom had on a hat. They stayed married through the rest of the Great Depression and three wars, through the births of six children and the death of one at the age of three, through failing health and the loss of all their parents and some of my father’s siblings. Dad died in 1981, Mom in 1982. They were still married.

From the viewpoint of their youngest child, who was born when they were in their early 40s and they thought they were finished with all that, it was the marriage from hell. I never saw them as a loving couple, never saw them laugh together or show affection or even hold hands. They didn’t buy each other gifts, sit on the couch together, or bring each other cups of coffee. The only thing I was sure they shared was that—unlike my husband and me—they didn’t cancel out each other’s vote on Election Day.

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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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THERE ARE TIMES…

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.