Thursday, April 28, 2016


When I was young, I envied other kids—their houses, their parents together, their siblings. I wanted the same clothes other girls had—or their looks—or their confidence. They knew when to speak up, they knew their place in the world.

I was stuck in my own growth because I looked at other people and saw what I was not, what I had not.

Later, I discovered other young moms lived in nicer houses than ours. Their children always wore pretty clothes. The family car was newer, or classier.

Many years afterward, I learned a valuable piece of advice at a Weight Watchers meeting: “Don’t compare your inside to their outside.” What I saw in others wasn’t, necessarily, the whole truth.

Over time I began to learn a few things by observing the lives of others:
  •      Some young couples had huge debt to help them look good: big house, new car, pretty clothes.
  •      Some confident people were, in fact, pushy; some had no compassion for people in pain; some never saw below the surface in people.
  •      Some very talented people have unpleasant side effects--lacking in good sense, unloving to their children, gossipy and back-biting.

True, not all young people or confident people or talented people were like the examples I cite here. That’s one of the challenges of life—just when you think you’ve got it figured out, somebody comes along and makes you do a 180 in your preconceptions.

Little by little I learned the nature of Envy, and why it is harmful. I read books, I listened to sermons, I began to ponder the details of other people’s lives.

The people I was drawn to most, the ones who remained friends for many years, were people who enjoyed the same things I did: a walk through the meadow at the farm where I used to live here in Northeast Indiana; or sitting and talking about literature, music, or art, while sipping herbal tea; or drinking wine and listening to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. (My first experience of Beethoven’s Seventh had me in tears.)

These lovely people took me out of myself. And by that simple, compassionate, caring act, they helped me banish Envy. Over time I began to be the person I wanted to be. Or, perhaps a better way of saying it is: I began to love the person I was becoming.

I say becoming because there is no closure to this process of growing.

So I can say, with some regret, that the Envy I now harbor—I think it’s the only one—is the envy of people who are allowed to cry. To express their pain, their sorrow, their grief, their anguish.

From my earliest memories I was admonished not to cry. Not even when I got hurt. Not even—God forgive me—when my mother died. (My father couldn’t express his grief, therefore I shouldn’t grieve either.)

So as a young child I began to hide my tears, my feelings.

One of the first people to help me become a feeling person was Vira Marner Palmer. She was an outspoken, feeling woman who often voiced her opinion. When I married into the Palmer family, I gained a new mother.

More than anyone in my life, she knew what it was to be an only child whose mother had died too young. She was not a pleaser. I don’t recall seeing her cry, but I’ve seen her angry and heaping abuse on a man who was publically harassing her husband.

Before her death when I was 28, she urged me to go back to college and finish my degree. She had graduated from high school, and she was married to a college professor; her sons were in college pursuing advanced degrees. Vira recognized the importance of education.

Learning goes on forever . . . and I’m still learning about Envy, among other things.

One important thing I know is this: No one has all the gifts/luck/possessions/talents. Each of us has some. And what we have is important.

Do not envy.

(That is my goal.)

Celebrate the good others do, or have.

(I try to do that.)

Becoming. That’s what it’s all about.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

In Just-

This is what I call the e e cummings season, "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful." Today’s forecast calls for rain, which was supposed to begin ten minutes ago; my guess is that it’s holding off till I get to Walmart’s parking lot and will let go the minute I open my car door. But that’s just a guess.

Just-spring here in Northeast Indiana comes with a full basket of tulips and dandelions, mowed yards, birds courting, bushes in red and green and yellow, trees in pink and white and magenta and yellow-green.

Landscaping is newly mulched. Gardeners grow antsy waiting for the frost-warnings to lift so they can be the first kid on their block with annuals shoving each other aside in hanging baskets and flower boxes and any little patch of soil that doesn’t have anything in it.


Spring returns every year (March 21st in the northern hemisphere), with new growth in the earth; with hope for new beginnings (Easter is a spring festival, you know); with beauty so abundant you feel it will run right over you.

It’s overflowing and everywhere. And it’s for everyone.

Spring (with apologies to Janne Robinson for her lovely poem) doesn’t care: whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, or other. If you’re super-sensitive to pollen or criticism or penicillin. If you’re grieving or rejoicing. If you’re too old to, too young to, or don’t give a damn. If your income exceeds your outgo or you have no income worth talking about. Spring breathes on us, whether we like it or not.

All the therapy in the world won’t take away Spring. All the fervent prayers, tears, threats, tantrums—no effect on Spring.

We’ll have to deal with Spring-endure it, embrace it; enjoy it, avoid it. Spring doesn’t care.

If you see a white-haired woman in a black sweatshirt and New Balance walking shoes, carrying a box of Kleenex, that’s probably me. I’ll sneeze my way around the block, or the Y track on rainy days.

Spring doesn’t care.

But I do.

Celebrate Spring! And I hope you enjoy what She has to offer.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Liz in Michigan
(and other stuff)

Please welcome Liz Flaherty, who tells wonderful stories about people you'd love to meet.

          Hello, and thanks, Judith, for letting me come back to visit. I’m all excited about my new book, Every Time We Say Goodbye, a release from Harlequin Heartwarming. I love the book. I love that I was able to use Cole Porter titles throughout its pages and that—even though my setting has made-up names—people who live around here will probably recognize it.

          But I don’t want to talk about that today. I don’t even want to talk about writing romance. Exactly. Because what I want to talk about is friendship.

          Judith and I met on the high side of 20 years ago when Jenni Licata singlehandedly wrangled the organization of an RWA chapter. We became NIRA, the Northeast Indiana Romance Authors. The chapter no longer exists, but lives were changed by that group of writers. Of friends. I have had 12 books published; I’m fairly certain if Jenni hadn’t sent the letter that made me a part of that first little group, I wouldn’t even have one.

          All these many years later, Judith and I still see each other a few times a year. We talk about kids and grands and quilting and church and writing.

          I have friends I met on the first day of the first grade. We meet once a month and have lunch. We celebrate each other’s joys, mourn our losses, eat too much and laugh a lot.

          Debby and I worked together for 30 years, often so in tune we could actually share a work station meant for one. One of my fears when I retired was that we wouldn’t be close anymore. I shouldn’t have worried.

          I have close, dear friends in Georgia and Kansas and Florida and Ohio and—how lucky can one person be?--I have a sister and sisters-in-law whose friendships I love having. I have online friends like Word Wranglers Kristi, Margie, and Ava and more writer friends than I can begin to name—many of whom I’ve never met.

          I don’t even remember how Nan and I met—I think we’ve tried to figure it out and possibly we’re both wrong. But friendship with her was an unexpected gift of being "of a certain age." While I cherished my old friends, I never expected to get another BFF. But I did.

          And then there’s my other BFF, the real best one, the one I’m married to.

          Oh, there it is. The full circle my favorite stories always are. Because along with being love stories, my books—and most other romance novels—are stories about friendships. The friendships, at least to the editorial staff—just kidding!--are usually secondary to the romance; we have to be careful that, unlike in real life, we don’t give them too much room. But the friends are still there, offering comfort and humor and fresh coffee.

          Writing romance lets us try to put into words the special friendship that exists between people who fall in love with each other. I’ve always been glad my husband and I were friends before we were anything else. I’m even happier we’re still friends.

          Speaking of full circle, I hope you’ll want to read about Arlie and Jack’s romance—and friendship—in Every Time We Say Goodbye. And, just to keep the conversation going, tell us a story about a friendship you’ve shared with someone.

Book #12!

[You can order Liz's book from Harlequin, online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And probably other places.]

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Do you know what’s going to happen in two weeks?

Yes, that will be April 21st. A Thursday.

All things being equal—my back/head/shoulder/arm being in good form—I’ll be going to tai chi class at the senior center. After class I’ll pack a lunch and go knit with my friend Emily while we nibble our salads and sandwiches, and share our lives.

Mostly, though, I have no idea what will happen in two weeks.

A couple of days ago I went to the eye doctor for a regular exam. As I was leaving—writing a check, making the next appointment—I chatted with the office lady. We lamented the lack of nice weather and wondered if spring ever would arrive. “Two weeks,” she said.

That rang my chimes. One of my all-time favorite blog posts by Liz Flaherty was called “Two Weeks,” published in February 2015. Here’s a sampling of what she said:

I remember telling the kids that if they ever felt hopeless and unable to talk to anyone about it, to please, please, please wait two weeks. Because even though two weeks won’t go all that far in healing most wounds, it will make them bearable. And then when things get bearable, I said, give it another two weeks. This was in the 1980s—I’m still giving things two weeks.
Liz’s experience goes back thirty-some years—and today I hear echoes of it from time to time.

After our lovely warm March days—high 50s and low 60s count as lovely and warm in my book—I had hoped (foolishly, as it turned out) we’d be having an early spring. Now we’re back to 20s and 30s at night, maybe upper 40s in the daytime, wind (always), rain (which we do need because we didn’t have much precipitation during the winter, but still--). And I have to report that I did already have my first attack of allergies, with sinus and asthma problems included in the package. That’s always a spring thing. So I have to say, spring is here. Sort of.

Bottom line: I’m ready for warm weather. I want to take off at least one of the layers I’m never without, “just in case” something meteorological transpires. I’d like to lower the car windows and let some fresh air blow through. Air, I said—not wind!

The neighborhood is beginning to color up—forsythia blooms right around the corner, peony and hosta plants are shooting higher out of the ground, seeking the sun. Daffodils in all their colors and varieties delight the eye around town. And before the recent 24-degree night, the magnolia down the way was gorgeous! (A friend at the coffee shop said her neighbor’s little girl caught sight of the magnolia in bloom and was awestruck! Well, I said, who wouldn’t be? A pink tree!) There’s plenty of solid evidence that spring didn’t forget us this year.

Probably I’m just regressing to childhood—I want spring, I want it all, and I want it now!

Liz Flaherty’s advice:

When your wits’ end is approaching, give yourself two weeks. You can take them off, work on another project, or do something else entirely (I get lots of sewing done). You can even say you’re quitting and plan a whole new life without a laptop at its center. You can watch television, read some of your TBR pile or something off your keeper shelf that fills your well, or do nothing at all.

I love taking time off—and that’s a weird thing for a retiree to say, but it’s true as can be. When the daily/weekly routine seems to be too much same ol’-same ol’, then I’m for a day off. Or, as Liz says:

Your two weeks can last two months, two weeks, two days, or two hours. However long you need for things to slip back into place.
My recent time off was exactly two weeks. And I didn’t enjoy it at all—sinus congestion, coughing, sleeping whenever I wasn't coughing. No, not my idea of taking time off. But I have come back to my daily/weekly round with a renewed sense of getting things done. And even better, being grateful for good health.

So when, as Liz Flaherty says, your wit’s end is approaching, give yourself two weeks. Till the planets tilt again and your life rights itself, and you look forward with clear gaze.
Have a great two weeks!

PS—If you can wait only one week, you can read about Liz Flaherty’s newest book, Every Time We Say Goodbye, which was released April 1. Liz will guest blog here at Thursday’s Child next time. Come by and visit!