Thursday, December 29, 2011

Next stop...

Today I'm visiting with Sarah Grimm over at Off the Keyboard. Hope you come by!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. It's time for the writer in me to hit the road again. Today, I'm with Emma Lai talking about plans for the New Year. I hope you come by!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm visiting...

Seems like I'm getting around a lot lately. My Christmas trees are over at Cheryl St. John's parade of trees. My pictures aren't as clear as some, but I still love my trees. :-)

I'm also spending the week at Marie Tuhart's blog. We don't write the same kind of thing, but writers are unfailingly supportive, and I appreciate hers!

On the 22nd, I'll be at

We're taking the week off at Word Wranglers.

More later, but that's enough for now! I'll post another Window Over the Sink next week. Till then, have a great Christmas!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

It was Christmas of '94...

...when I wrote this particular opening of the Window Over the Sink. I hope you enjoy it.

There are people out there who have their Christmas shopping done. They are the same ones who bought all their wrapping paper, Christmas cards, bows, and tinsel last December 26.

They also keep all their Christmas shopping receipts in a separate place, like a little green and red folder, and they know at all times where that folder is located. If they have real Christmas trees, they remember to water them every day and they take them out of the house before all the needles fall off and embed themselves in the carpet.

These people's tree ornaments match each other. The ethereal angels or brilliant stars they use do not cause the trees to lean drunkenly. There are never full strings of non-working lights on the trees and the lights all twinkle at the same speed or they chase each other merrily around the branches.

Their Christmas cookies and candy are made and frozen well ahead of time and they have plenty of decorative tins and baskets on hand so that all they have to do is add a pretty handmade bow and they have an instant gift for the unexpected guest.

I decided many years ago, on a Christmas Eve when I was sewing the last ruffles on my daughter's Christmas dress at two o'clock on Christmas morning before she and her brothers rolled out at five, that when I grew up, I was going to be one of the people I've been talking about.

My first step in that direction was to buy wrapping paper the day after Christmas for the following year. Then we moved to a different house. It just seemed foolish when we were already moving 10 times as much stuff out of the old house as we moved into it to also move 12 rolls of paper and 50 bows, so I gave them away instead of moving them. Then, two weeks later, I went out and bought all new because we moved in November, for heaven's sake. (Moving is not good for one's thought processes. While I did not move the wrapping paper, I did move several boxes that remain unopened in the attic 17 years later.)

My next organizational move was to buy and address Christmas cards as soon as they hit the shelves, which was somewhere along about July. I even addressed them in green ink to make them look properly Christmas-like. Then I proceeded to lose them, along with the complete list of addresses I'd called all over the country to compile.

My sister-in-law Lynn, bless her cold little heart, found them long after Christmas had passed, nestled behind the microwave oven. Fifteen years later, I'm still telling her it's none of her business how often I clean behind my appliances. Or if I do.

Then there's shopping.

Occasionally, I start it in August. More often, I start in October and now and then in November. I've discovered that it doesn't matter when I start Christmas shopping, I finish it on Christmas Eve. Last year my husband and I were only two of the 3000 people in Walmart at 11 o'clock on Christmas Eve morning and we decided we would never, never do such a foolish thing again.

At least until this year.

Because, all advice I've given freely and unasked to people not withstanding, I've given up.

I'm never going to be one of those people who have Christmas organized. I will always be a day late and a dollar short and my favorite Christmas tree ornaments will still be the ones my kids brought home from the first grade. My tree top will still be crooked and I'll always have needles embedded in my carpet even though we have an artificial tree. The cookies and candy will always be made at the last minute if they're made at all and eaten warm off a dish towel lying on the kitchen counter.

What it amounts to is, at least as far as Christmas is concerned, I am like Peter Pan: I won't grow up.

I hope you won't, either. I hope you have fun shopping and wrapping and decorating. And don't forget the giving. It's the very best part of it all.

Till next time.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Familiarity breeds...what?

I wrote this after Christmas in 1991. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mark Twain said that familiarity breeds contempt, and in all honesty, I tended to believe it. Marriages go down the tubes with astonishing regularity; people speak with disdain of their home towns, their families, the schools where they were educated; parents abuse their children and grown children turn their backs on aging and disabled parents.

Rather than being cherished, familiar things become monkeys on our backs. Even I, who so oppose change that I will be ready when bell bottoms came back because I still have my old ones (they're size eights; who am I kidding?), become disenchanted with the sameness of day-to-day life.

But then the holidays came.

For the first time ever, I decorated our Christmas tree by myself. There were no kids around to argue about what went where, how early was too early to put the tree up, or whether to play Christmas carols or Guns 'n Roses while hanging garland. No one cared who made the blue ornament in the first grade, whether the garland on the tree was gold or white, or if the bottom branches drooped in the back. (They did. They always do.)

There was no one there to warn me that the lights that operated perfectly spread out on the living room floor wouldn't so much as blink when placed with scientific precision on the tree branches. There was no one there to remind me that there was only one outlet in the corner where the tree stood, which meant that twice a day someone would have to move all the packages out of the way and do a military low crawl under the tree in order to turn the lights on and off.

There was no one there to tell me I would be the low-crawler because I was the shortest.

I could have done with some familiarity.

I did my Christmas shopping without anyone tagging along showing me everything they wanted, which was everything that (1) was out of stock until February, (2) was available only in teensy weensy and gargantuan sizes, and (3) cost more than the house, my car, and their shoes.

This freed me to shop with ease and at leisure, which meant everything I bought was (1) the wrong size, color, and brand, (2) was what I liked rather than what they would like, and (3) cost more than the house, my car, and their shoes. It probably would have been better if someone had tagged along.

I bought all the ingredients for Christmas baking, figuring that when my daughter came home for the holidays, we would fill the house with the familiar scents of cinnamon, chocolate, and sort-of-burned cookie edges. However, we never found the time to bake, so the house smelled like the primer my husband was applying to the kitchen walls, the laundry my son brought home from college, and chocolate covered cherries.

But familiarity won out.

Going home from one shopping excursion, I heard the faint sound of music from outside and opened my car window in the 20-some-degree temperature to determine its origin.

Standing alone in front of the drugstore beside the customary red bucket, a man in a Salvation Army uniform played Christmas carols on a horn. His hands and cheeks were red from the blustery cold, but the notes from the horn were as true and sweet as if they'd come from Gabriel's trumpet. I continued home happier, my soul soothed by the songs I had been hearing my entire life.

Christmas morning at the Flaherty house was the same hubbub it always is. Paper and ribbon was everywhere and everyone, including the family in Germany whose presence was so sorely missed, loved everything. Suddenly on Christmas morning, color, brand name, and cost meant nothing. It was the giving that mattered.

So maybe Mark Twain was right, but I read another quotation just the other day wherein George Ade said that familiarity breeds contentment. I think I like his quotation better.

Till next time.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Over at Word Wranglers...

Kristi's interviewing Christine Bell today. Stop and see what she has to say.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Welcome to the bathroom wars...

I wrote the original Window Over the Sink for years. For the local newspaper, for a couple of shopping guides, even for my first website. Lately, a few people have asked about some of those columns, so I've spent some time digging through them. I thought I'd give you a hint of what is to come. This one was written in December of 1990-something. All I'm sure of is that kids were in college. Let me know what you think.

For the past 14 years, we've lived in a big old farmhouse back a bumpy lane. It is the perfect house for us, with plenty of bedroom space, a laundry room that doesn't require me to climb steps with the 15 or so loads of clothes I wash each week, and a kitchen where people like to congregate. It also has one teensy, tiny, hole-in-the-wall bathroom.

When a house contains three teenagers and two adults, which this one did for a number of years, that one bathroom makes for a lot of ugliness.

Regardless of groundless rumors and old wives' tales, men rather than women are bathroom hogs. After all this time of brushing my teeth at the kitchen sink and combing my hair in front of the four-slice toaster, I feel qualified to make such a dramatic statement. In the time it takes for my husband or one of my sons to wash his feet, my daughter and I can both take a shower; shave our legs; wash, dry, and style our hair; and read a chapter in the book that always lies on the back of the john.

The men of the house, naturally enough, deny this. It is easy for them to do so, as they have not spent entire days of their lives sitting on the stairs outside the bathroom door praying for the little room's occupant to come out on a wave of steam and Irish Spring so that they could make a mad dash for it before their father or son or brother appeared to take up residence for the next 45 minutes. (Yes, that's really one sentence. My writing's come along some since then.)

It was terrible in the days when none of the kids drove and we all actually went places together. The scenario went something like this.

4:00 PM. I say, "I'd better take my shower and get ready to go."

My husband looks at his watch. "We don't have to be there for three hours."

Like any other idiot, I agree and decide to wait.

4:01 PM. First son takes shower.

4:46 PM. Second son takes shower.

5:31 PM. Husband takes shower.

6:16 PM. Daughter takes shower.

6:30 PM. First son goes into bathroom to comb hair. He is joined by second son and their father.

6:45 PM. Family gets into car to leave. Mother is still dirty and isn't wearing any makeup. Daughter is combing her hair in the car. She smacks a brother in the eye with a brush-driven elbow and third world war ensues. Husband and sons look very nice. Mother is ticked off. Big deal. What else is new?

It's not so bad anymore, with one of the sons grown and with a bathroom of his own and the younger two away at college. Since I get up at 3:30 in the morning, it's usually no problem if I stay in the bathroom for a whole 20 minutes if I want.

But then Christmas break came along. I got up the other morning and stumbled in my usual way into the living room, trying to get my glasses on straight and find my way to the coffeepot.

And there is my younger son, on the couch in front of the television. When he saw me, he flinched, never having realized people really looked like that in the morning, then he got up, turned off the TV, and greeted me.

And went into the bathroom.

I brushed my teeth at the kitchen sink, combed my hair in front of the toaster, and dressed in the laundry room. Sometimes there's no sense in fighting the battle when losing the war is a sure thing.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Life Without Apostrophes

I don't post here much, and you're right: shame on me. I've become more proficient with doing things here, have even learned to add pictures. See cover to the left--or maybe to the right--center? That's not where I put it! Oh, well. Maybe proficient was a little too ambitious of a word.

Anyway, the website's being worked on, and WINDOW OVER THE SINK is coming to the internet. Not just me writing it, but other writers as well, who mumble along and have as good a time at it as I do, so stay tuned. Let me know what you think. When it happens, I mean. I'm not there yet.

The new book's coming January 2, though it's up for pre-sale on Amazon and B & N. I hope you stop in and pre-buy. :-)

I ended my first college class with an A. Well, duh, said my friend Debby, it was a writing class. But different writing than I'm used to, and I was only so-so at it, which bothered me a bit, but do you know what? They didn't want me to use contractions! I told the instructor in my last paper that I just wasn't ready for life without apostrophes. I want to fit everything in, you know, and sometimes that means shortening some things--like dusting, cleaning out from under the car seat, and words like did not, would not, et cetera. Oh, I mean etc.

I'm making this a short one, but want to wish you Merry Christmas in case I don't get back. I'll try to keep you informed when the old newspaper column finds new life here, and I hope you like it.

Till next time.

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