Monday, December 31, 2007

Things that moved me in 2007

The subject of this post was actually supposed to be an addendum to my Christmas card. It's not a completely unique idea - I stole it from Wendy who stole it from someone else. As we already know I got kind of back logged at Christmas time so the few cards I sent out were lucky to include my signature. There was very little chance that they might include a letter, or a list. My intentions were good. My time management less than stellar.

Looking at the clock I have exactly six hours to get my this posted. Ha! It's dinner time and the boys are getting hungry. If I had to make one change in the new year that would make my life a lot easier it would be the making of dinner every night. Meal preparation is getting very boring. Eating even more so.

But rather than end the year bitching, here's my list:
  • The smell of hay right off the truck (I was in charge of getting the hay for the Nativity scene. )
  • A red-faced goose. (I needed a break from hospital duty and went to talk to the ducks outside the hospital. This particular goose and I had quite a conversation.)
  • The British movie "On a Clear Day"
  • Driving down the road and seeing a whole flock of red-breasted robins having a worm fest on the neighborhood lawns
  • Watching a visiting baby receive ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday. (Perhaps I should have been more reverently bowing my head, but I couldn't resist watching this little one.)
  • Little baby toes painted red ... yum!
  • My new kitchen ... oohlala!
  • The "Silly Goose Daisy" video sent by email. (I tried to attach it here but alas, I am serious attachment challenged)
  • Gabrielle at the beach
  • Going on a "Caht" search and finding instead a cockatiel walking across the street. When I stopped to "rescue" it, the friendly bird, walked right up my arm and perched on my shoulder like we were long lost friends. (The happy ending to this story is that the bird had not gone to far from his front door and the cat was sitting in a neighbor's driveway waiting for me to pick him up...wondering, I'm sure, what took me so long!)
  • Driving through McDonalds behind a pirate ship and a whole passle of scary looking but not so scary pirates.
  • Jenni James' blog ... whether it is about her cat's problem with constipation, rescuing sea lions, or making birthday lists, Jenni can seriously write a story and make you think you are in the middle of the action
  • Party preparations with Linda
  • Looking out the window and watching a bird take a bath in the sand, right under birdbath filled with fresh clean water. Go figure!
  • Good friends saying goodbye ... very sad but full of the power of love
  • Watching what could only be a grandmother and her grandson (about age 11) having lunch (a school's out celebration?) at Steak and Shake. They both totally enjoyed the coke floats swimming in a sea of whipped cream.
  • New kitties
  • A lone morning glory poking its purple flowery head through the weeds and ginger plants.
  • Watching a dad and son (kindergarten age?) riding bikes home from the first day of school.
  • Watching from behind as a goose went running down the sidewalk. Who knew a little goose bottom could be so cute?
  • Completing NaBloPoMo
  • Dancing with the Stars ... let's face it, the show is addictive!
  • My sweetie knowing just what to do/say when I had an emotional meltdown
  • The Christmas Pig Ornament miracle at Cracker Barrel.
  • Hispanic Festival of Lessons and Carols, liturgical dancers and children's chorus singing Silent Night ... mmmmmm, too good for words!
There were also ...
Good books:
  • Three Cups of Tea
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • The Pig of Happiness
Good people:
  • Bella from Peaceful Journey
  • Terri St. Cloud
  • Fr. Roos
  • New babies
  • The lady at the Apothecary Pharmacy
  • A sympathetic veterinarian
  • Fr. Miguel and his "happy band of Christians"
  • Peruvian waitress at Olive Garden who knew how to talk trash with a 90 year old man and get away with it!
  • Men and women serving in the Armed Forces .... thank you
Good shopping:
  • Reddi Arts ... 25 years in business and still going strong.
Good music:
  • Wendy's 2007 Christmas mix ... perhaps her best
Good sayings:
  • "I love the sea" (Gabby Green)
  • "This makes me want to cry." (Dad at Christmas looking at his stocking)
  • "Talk to the hand!" (Ashley Megan to her grandmother!)
Good pictures:
In no particular order here are a few of my faves from this year. There are more that I could include but everytime I upload a photo, every line I've written has to be repositioned which is kind of frustrating since I'm down to 13 minutes to post before the new year begins.

    Linda's first lavender crop



Dad and Ashley blowing out candles on his 90th birthday





Key West sunset

Black Beauty the nurse dog



Wendy, Ashley and Rob






So there you have it - out with the old and in with the new.
I wish for you, in the year ahead, love and joy and beauty and peace enough to go around.
God bless you,
Merry ME
P.S. I just went back to the beginning of my blog to find out when my "blogiversary" is. I read the post for Jan. 4 and was amazed that I ended it with talk of keeping my "List of things that moved me" up to date. How's that for continuity?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Past

And just like that Christmas is over.

Unless you've still got money to spend or presents to return (of which I have neither) the pace has slowed to a crawl. No more trips to the mall. No more late night wrap-a-thons. No more last minute baking. Like the meatless turkey carcass that sits on the kitchen counter surrounded by a kizillion dirty pots and pans, the only things left of Christmas day are good memories, happy thoughts and an overwhelming desire to sleep.

As far as blogging and Christmas go, it's really not a combination that works well together. I quickly found my ability to multitask has lessened to the same degree my need to complete several jobs at the same time has grown. Even after burning the candle at both ends and telling myself "I think I can, I think I can ..." I soon realized I just don't have it in me anymore. And since something had to go, it was obviously the blog.



I feel kind of guilty, though I'm not really sure why. Guilt is really is a useless emotion isn't it?
I guess the notes and brief subject ideas about Christmas and the holidays that I wanted to write about will keep til next year. And like baking cookies, if I start early, perhaps I'll get them posted on time.



According to the calendar it's time for me to move on to New Year's resolutions. But since I'm being honest, I think it's a pretty good bet, that not only will I not keep any resolutions past the first week of January, I probably won't even make any. There are things I'd like to do differently in the days ahead; things I'd like to accomplish. Changing my diet, adding exercise to my daily routine and getting up earlier in the day would all be on the list. But let's face it, change doesn't come easy for me. Crappy excuse, but my own personal truth.



I do, however, want to keep writing. I want to be more disciplined about it. I used to be disciplined. It wouldn't be like trying to learn a new trick. As my sweetie would tell me, it would simply be a matter of choice. To write or not to write ... my choice.



For whomever might be reading this, I do hope you had a great Christmas. You know, it really is a magnificent holiday. Every year, the story of love being reborn in the most humble of places reminds me that we can (if we choose) forget the commercial trappings and concentrate on the loving. Like the Pig of Happiness, if we see rain and decide to dance instead of grumble about getting wet, life is just bound to get easier.



On that note, I wish for you bright stars in the sky and the love of the people around you. May all your bones be filled with peanut butter. [Photo L: The dog of happiness!]

Merry ME

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tradition

" Tradition is the illusion of permanence."
Woody Allen

If today is any indication, then perhaps I'm not the Scrooge I was afraid I was turning in to. Let's face it, Christmas time is a stressful time. Some days it's just easier to say Bah Humbug and leave all the decorations in a box, in the closet, up the stairs. The very idea of digging it all out for three weeks of falalalala - ing makes me tired.

Yet I got up this morning, pulled out the ....

... and just like that the words stopped; my mind went blank; I'd not only hit the wall, I'd smacked into it hard enough to knock myself senseless.

I don't know what I was possibly thinking telling the world I was going to post Christmas thoughts every day before Christmas. Even if I had the thoughts, the very idea that I expected to find time to write then post them is laughable.

It's been ten days since I wrote anything. Tonight my mind is mush. My feet are killing me and my fingers less than flexible. I'm on my way to bed.

But first I'd like to assure you that no moss has gathered on this rolling stone.
I've shopped.
I've baked.
I've wrapped.
I've baked.
I've decorated.
I've baked.
And today I took most of it to the post office.

While there is something to be said for tradition, I think this is the year for me to say, "its time for a new tradition." I think I may just have to call the Christmas baking marathon a thing of the past. I discovered it's not as much fun to do it all by myself. And for the money I spent on postage, I could have fed a small third world country.

Also, I'm pretty sure that those stars, bells, and trees that I so carefully cut out and decorated with sprinkles are going to be nothing more than glitzy crumbs by the time they arrive at their destination.

So my friends, I'm going to go out on yet another limb. I have between now and next Christmas to go through all my recipes. The ones stuffed in recipe boxes, cookbooks, and Ziplock bags. After finding them all, I'll organize, retype, and compile the lot of them. I'll print up enough for all my cookie recipients and send paper instead of cookies. It's a brilliant plan!

Anyone want to take bets to see if it really happens?

Signing off and going to bed,
Merry ME

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Christmas Pig

From the donkey who carried Mary into Bethlehem to Rudolph and his flying reindeer friends animals are featured prominently in most holiday stories. Soft, furry, friendly animals you can't help but love. Or mean, grouchy animals that are transformed by the magic of the season. You name the animal and it undoubtedly has a holiday story to tell. Magic, you see, is the language of Christmas.


I discovered a few years ago that I am the kind of girl who needs a theme to work with when making things merry. From brown birthdays, to monkey baby showers, to blog posts, I've found if you have a theme to work with, you don't have to work so hard. As for this time of year, I realize that Christmas is, in and of itself, the more prominent theme; still I like to put my own twist on the familiar. I learned this from a couple of gay guys who lived next door to me in San Diego. One look at their over-the-top, neon bright tropical fish tree, with hand painted ornments that looked like they just swam out of the Caribbean Sea, and I knew I had to try the theme approach.

In years past I've had a purple theme, a cow theme, a shell theme, and a travel theme. The Christmas after I went to Cursillo, I was amazed to find a plethora of rooster ornaments for my de Colores theme. I am pretty sure, if you can think it up, somebody somewhere has already thought it up and turned the idea into ornaments for your tree. And I have to tell you, once you've picked a theme it's very likely that you will become obsessed with hunting down every last theme-based decoration.

Take for instance this delightful Santa pig. I've had it for a few years, but never really considered having a whole Christmas planned around it. Let's face it, except for baby pigs, swine are not necessarily the most loveable of animals. They are rather large, and my guess is they are kind of stinky from rolling around in the mud. However, I've recently read two books about pigs (The Pig of Happiness by Edward Monkton, and The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery) and I believe if we open our hearts to the good things about pigs, we won't have time to think about the ugly stuff this world can dish out. A pig seems pretty content just being a pig and that can be a good lesson for us humans.


Which brings me to this announcement that for Jack and I, 2007 will be the year of the Christmas pig. Go ahead, scoff if you must. But not before you read this article that was in today's newspaper. All heavenly signs are not necessarily bright stars or singing angels. Perhaps, rather than strains of glorious halleluias, all one has to do to know she's on to something is read a simple column hidden in the middle of the Metro section. There's more to this Christmas pig idea than first meets the eye. So stay tuned.


Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon (Merry Christmas - Tagalog)
Merry ME


"A Modern Christmas includes Pigs"
By TERRY DICKSON, The Times-Union


ST. SIMONS ISLAND - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. People are festooning their yards and houses with lights, inflatable Frosty the Snowpersons, Santa Claus and other stuff.


And it's so easy. You go to your local store, buy lights and string them up, plug them in and - this is the amazing part - they work.

It wasn't always that way.

Back in the '50s and '60s, my mother and I would repeat the same ritual about every year. A few weeks before Christmas, she would tell me to put on my coat and my cap with the ear flaps. We'd bundle up and ride the country roads looking for a red cedar with a pleasing shape. She'd whack it down with an ax, load it in the trunk of the car and stick it in a bucket at home.

My mother would untangle the strings of lights, plug them in and, usually, they would remain cold and dark. In those days, one bad bulb kept the rest from working. She would painstakingly remove each bulb in the string and replace it with a good bulb until she found the rascal that didn't work. Once they lit up, she would string them on the tree and they would go out again and she would start replacing bulbs again, then and for three or four more times until the tree came down.

But at least it was a real tree with a real cedar smell. Now you can buy herds of electric reindeer and trees that are already decorated and have them staked out in the yard in minutes.

We always buy real trees for the living room, and this year Vonette, my wife of 30 Christmases, added a couple of easy to assemble, stand-'em-up and plug-'em-in trees, one for the den, one for the yard.


This trend started humbly a few years ago when Vonette saw a small electrified deer in a box. Thinking it was cute, she bought it. It turns out, Christmas decorations can be like the people you meet on the Internet. The pictures aren't always representative. The guy who looked like Richard Gere on the computer screen tends to look like Richard Nixon in the flesh. Nonetheless, Vonette set the little deer among the already decorated shrubbery and plugged it in. As we were going out for dinner, our daughter, Jessica, glanced at the cheerfully lit animal and said, "That's supposed to be a deer? It looks like a pig.''

Thinking her remark was insensitive and hurtful, I immediately came to Vonette's defense.

"It's a Christmas pig," I said.

It did look a little overfed and short-legged. And unfortunately, as Christmas animals go, pigs don't make it.

There were no hogs snorting around the manger on the first Christmas, and swineherds weren't watching their flocks by night. And how about Christmas songs? Rudolph the Red-Snouted Poland China hog? Amal and the Night Swine?

Guess I'll have to do it myself. So here we go, an out-of-meter ditty sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme:
Come listen to my story,
'Bout the Christmas pig,
The runt of the litter,
He wasn't very big.
While carolers sing
About old Rudolph,
The little Christmas pig's
Got his nose in the trough.
Tater peels, stale bread,
Eggplant casserole.
The problem with a hog,
Is he won't pull a sleigh.
Call him for work,
He'll run the other way,
But for Christmas leavings,
He can't be beat.
There ain't very much
A hog won't eat.
Fruit cake, soy-based egg nog,
Men's cologne...
A new Christmas tradition is born. The yule hog is lit.
Enjoy the season.

Florida Times Union, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, pg B-5,terry.dickson@jacksonville.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Visions of Sugar Plums

“When having a smackerel of something with a friend,
don't eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway trying to get out.”
Winnie the Pooh

Jack and I took a field trip today. We went to the Fresh Market. As if we were in Tiffany's we went to look (and drool) not actually shop. Unlike Publix or Walmart, the Fresh Market is more of a market than a large grocery emporium. I realize that the Fresh Market is, indeed, a chain store, but it's smaller and feels more small town "markety." Fresh produce in baskets, fresh cut meat wrapped in brown paper, fresh baked bread and cakes while you wait. Mmmmmm. It all makes grocery shopping more of an outing than a chore.

Today the market was decked out in its holiday finery. Two foot Christmas trees stood at the door, next to rows of poinsettias and blooming Christmas cacti. I have to tell you, those trees were so cute and simple that I almost bought one in my desire to downsize the holiday trappings. Since Jack wasn't as equally drawn to the midget firs as I, we chose, in the spirit of Christmas goodwill, to agree to disagree. We walked into the store, like kids going into FAO Schwartz. It was a veritable cornucopia of gourmet delights.

And that's another part of the holiday season, isn't it? The smells and tastes of so many special treats we don't allow ourselves at other times of the year. Poets of yore wrote of sugar plums, which according to what I can find out is "a small confection, often consisting of fruit such as a candied cherry or dried apricot surrounded by fondant."* The same source also said that because "prunes are dried plums, recipes calling for prunes are still keeping things plum-my." In my opinion, there is a rather large difference between a small sugary confection and something prunishly plum-my. Another internet source said sugarplums are "what the fairies eat when they want to sneak a sweet treat!"** I think fairies, like flying reindeer and a fat man who can get up and down a chimney without disturbing children who are sleeping with one eye open, are part of the magic of Christmas.

Upon entering the market Jack turned right and I turned left. He checked out softball sized fruits and mini eggplants. I headed straight for the candy aisle. Not so much because I had a sweet tooth, but the displays were so tantalizing, so perfectly stacked, so very Christmasy I couldn't resist. Out came my camera so I could share the sight.



After one photo, a woman, obviously a member of the management, came up to me and asked if she could help me. I explained, as if a "real" journalist, that I wanted to write about Christmas sweets and thought the display would make a great addition to my article. Well, with that, the accommodating lady started straightening out all the giant lollipops so they would photograph to their best advantage. Check this out. I love that the lights in the background look a little like snowflakes! Surely a sucker that size would be enough to sweeten the disposition of even the grinchiest Grinch.

I close with this poem I found while researching sugar plums. I'd never read it before and I think it is kind of cute.

The Sugarplum Tree
(By Eugene Fields)
Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
"Tis a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.

When you've got to the tree,
you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below-
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:


You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground-
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!

There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I'll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.

In the days ahead, in the Christmas rush, I hope you'll have at least a few fairy, gingerbread dog or chocolate cat sightings. If not that, then at the very least, I wish for you a candy cane or two.

Merry ME



* The New Food Lover's Companion as quoted on the Food Network site.
**dedewilson.com/recipies/sugarplums.html

Monday, December 3, 2007

Disclaimer

In putting together my thoughts for this wordy lead up to Christmas I need to explain that I come from a Christian/spiritual place. For me the "reason for the season" is not just an overused slogan, it is the heart and soul of the holiday. Not that the festive flair, decorations, and gift giving isn't a nice addition. I like falderall as much as the next person - maybe more than that person who was honking at us to get out of the parking spot a full 2 seconds faster than we were moving.

Yet, I still regard these days leading up to the big event as anticipatory and exciting in a churchy kind of way. Somehow in the midst of all the running around and madness, I always get to feeling rather introspective.

Whether you are a Christian or not. Whether you believe in the Virgin Birth or not. Whether you believe in angels or not, I think there is still a place for the Bethlehem story in our lives. For it is a story of hope and love. It is a story of people giving to others, whether it be outrageous gifts like gold and incence or simply a room in a stable so a poor family could rest. It is a time to stop, reflect and embrace the kind of deeply felt peace that might change the world. For just as in the days of Herod the king, our world is sorely in need of change.

Christmas may be the best known and most over the top of holiday, but some kind of mid-winter festival has been celebrated for ages. The Winter Solstice, for example, occurs on the shortest day or longest night of the year. Around the globe different cultures celebrate a holiday on or about the winter solstice. Interpretation of the event varies from culture to culture, but most hold a recognition of rebirth, involving festivals, rituals or other celebrations. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, and other festivals of light are just a few.

Every culture, it seems, has some kind of observance of the rebirth of light and hope, even if it is simple a celebration of the sun's (son's?)victory of darkness. Winter days begin to get longer and the sun begins to take the chill out of the air, one degree at a time. Peeking their heads out of a cave or snow drift, even the animals seem to declare "all's right with the world."

So, whether you believe as I do that the birth of the Christ child is reason enough to celebrate, or if you just like the idea of giving and receiving gifts for no other reason than to say "I love you," Christmas is a good way to end one year and push us into a new one full of resolve to do it better in the next.

My posts will undoubtedly have a Christian/spiritual bent to them, but don't let that turn you off. Hopefully, I will touch on something you can relate to. And again, my point is not to preach, but to make the season more meaningful somehow, and less hectic. Hopefully we'll make it to the end of the year in one piece full of the perfect peace.

Kamgan Ukudigaa (Merry Christmas - Aleut)
Merry ME

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ho! Ho! F#*!#!king Ho!

Well, I made it through NaBloPoMo and the month of November, but I missed the very first day of my advent calendar blog. Yesterday just got completely away from me. What would normally have been a minimal trip to Walmart for groceries turned into a pre-Christmas shopping nightmare.

It didn't help to find out AFTER everything had been passed through the checkout line that the money the credit union told me was available for withdrawal from my checking account was not really available as in, "go ahead and use your debit card." Instead I faced a cart full of food in front of me, a line full of people behind me and a clerk staring at me with a curious look. Luckily my mastercard was handy so I was able to take my purchases home without having to swab the Walmart deck.

There was a Salvation Army man ringing a bell just outside the door. If I told you that I dropped a dollar into his bucket instead of saying what I was thinking would you be proud of me?

I think that is part of the "real" meaning of Christmas don't you? Like turning the aordinary into the extraordinary. Looking for a miracle even when it seems totally impossible that your credit card limit will cover your charges. Smiling at a stranger rather than growling. I've got 23 days to go. I may not get all my thoughts about Christmas and the holidays posted, but keep checking in. It's the time of year when you never know what might happen.

Be blessed.
Merry ME

Friday, November 30, 2007

December 9

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.” Aldo Leopold

Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of ChristmasNever worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
Charles N. BarnardThe perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!


Clearly I was a little premature in thinking I could do everything on my Christmas list AND write about it. I'm beginning to think there might be some kind of scientific phenomenon that occurs at this time of year. While the amount of things that need to get done is tripled, the time to do it all halved. I've learned that if I had really wanted to post 25 Christmas blogs, then I should have started in July. Which is also when I should have started baking and buying gifts.


Enough of making excuses. I'm all about going easy on myself. Why add self-recrimination to the list of holiday stressors.


Today we bought our Christmas tree. I use the word "we" rather loosely. Jean was at church and Jack was at school, so that left only Dad and I to search out the area tree lots for the perfect tree. Actually I was kind of excited that I didn't get a Grinch-like "I'm not interested" from Dad. But once we parked at in front of the trees, I was sent off to find the tree by myself.


I didn't go uninformed, however. At breakfast Dad, the engineer, had determined mathematically the exact size we needed to buy. I think the formula went something like this:

A. From floor to ceiling = 8.0 ft.

B. Allowance for stand = 1.0 ft.

C. Allowance for table = 1.5 ft.

D. Allowance for star = .5 ft.


A-B-C-D = 5 ft. tree

34 Things We Love about John

November 30, 1973
Jacksonville, Florida
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On a chilly November night, a week after my original due date had come and gone, I decided the pain I was having on a fairly regular basis was not gas, but the real thing. I was in labor. This should have been a good thing, however, I was home alone. There was no one to drive me to the hospital or to watch Big Sister Wendy. The expectant father was at the airport picking up the expectant baby sitter.
When Dad got home, we headed for the hospital, in the MG. No easy task getting in, considering my size. As we neared the railroad crossing that is known for its lengthy trains, we were in luck. No bells or bars to dodge. And don't think for a minute that James wouldn't have tried to beat the train! He was, after all, a Naval Aviator!

I checked into the labor room, Dad was asked to wait outside. That was back in the days before everyone in the family was allowed in the pleasantly decorated delivery suite. However, I'd taken a "Lamaze" class and taught myself to laugh in the face of pain. Well, not laugh exactly, but perhaps grin and bear it.
I'd learned how to breathe my way through the first stage of labor, and puff my way through the transition stage. I was ready. Once Jim came in to help me push, it was going to be a perfect family moment. "Was" being the operative word. Three things happened simultaneously to change the tempo of things.
First of all there was a major accident, the ER was crowded, and the evening nurses' shift change was in full swing. People were scurring around. The obstetrician had been called, but was nowhere near the hospital. Secondly, John decided he wasn't going to wait around, he wanted out. So much for slow and easy rhythmic breathing. What I distinctly remember is a young nurse screaming at me "Don't push!" as she quickly rushed me down the hall on a gurney. I was neither calm nor pain free. I screamed right back at her, "I want a spinal!" (The 1973 version of an epidural that has become the pain cocktail of choice for most modern mothers-to-be.)
And thirdly, James got involved in some Frankenstein movie and didn't know I was having a baby until the nurse came out and said, "Uh, excuse me, Mr. Ellington. Would you like to leave the show long enough to say hello to your wife and new son?
The good news is all's well that ends well.

It's been 34 years since that eventful evening. I can't say it feels like yesterday, but I do have to wonder where all the years between then and now have gone. John has a teenage daughter of his own. Time marches on.
In honor of that little boy baby who has, since the day he was born, taken things in his own hands and done things his way, here are 34 things we love about John (in no particular order):

1. John is a good guy to have around in an emergency. He thinks fast on his feet. He knows no fear. For example: When John was about 4 he had a real thing going for SuperHeros. He wore a Superman cape and and red rubber boots almost 24 hours a day. One day he and I were riding in a friend's car when her muffler dropped off. There we were 2 damsels in distress and one pint sized superman, what to do? No problemo. Superman turned into Spiderman, showed us the string he'd been carrying around and suggested we use it to tie the muffler up. Damn! Why didn't we think of that!
2. John is a rescuer. Mostly animals, but often times people. Once when he was young he discovered some teeny tiny baby birds and brought them home. Convinced we could save them, John called a wild bird rescue center. They told him what to do and how to do it, including feeding the little things mashed up cat food from an eye dropper every 2 hours. As I think back, that doesn't sound often enough, and maybe it wasn't. After being up most of the night, the babies died. They really didn't have much of a chance, but in their short lives they were well cared and gently loved by a boy with a big heart.
3. That reminds me of the number of times I read "Are You my Mother" to Johnson. He loved that book. His other favorite book was "Where the Red Fern Grows."
4. To say that oil and water mix better than John and school would be an understatement. He was the proverbial square peg in a classroom of round holes. But today he reads encyclopedias and atlases. He can tell you how tropic temperatures and air currents come together to make hurricanes and what direction they will travel.
5. He should have been a veterinarian or animal "whisperer." Then he'd be getting paid for what comes naturally to him. I went with him once to watch a colt be born. He was right in the mix the whole time. I had to leave because I got a little light headed.
6. I repeat, he is an animal lover. Cats. Dogs. Horses. Iguanas [Photo L: Lou] John loves any and all animals. If you don't believe us, just ask Martha how many cats and dogs he brought home.
7. Johnson can dance. I think our whole family will always remember how he got out on the dance floor down at a restaurant in Mexico and cut a rug with a woman more than twice his age.I'm not sure if he can still boogie today, but he's passed on a lot of his moves to his daughter.
8. He's stylish. Always has been. Up until the time he went to middle school, I was in charge of John's wardrobe. I bought things that would last and that I could afford, i.e. cheetahs jeans from Mervyn's. Once he became a junior high stud muffin, he'd have nothing to do with clothes that didn't have a designer label in them. [Photo L: Mr. Cool]
9. John is the keeper of Ellington memories. He never fails to remember a detail from 20+ years back. Of course, he can say anything he wants because he knows the rest of us can't challenge him.
10. He swims and can hold his breath like a fish. He even had a waterbed growing up. He's a waterbaby.
11. His temper may scare the bejesus out of you sometimes, but the reverse of that is also true -- his capacity for love and his big ol' heart are boundless. (And you know if you ever run into trouble, John can and will protect you.)
12. John is a weatherman. Is there a hurricane or a tornado coming your way? John's on the weather watch, studying the path of the storm. And if the eye of the storm happens to be pointed right where he is, not to worry. He's not going anywhere.
13. He's a football lover. Need help with a football pick? John's your man. The Dallas Cowboys will always be his team. Even when they stink.
14.He's a woodworker. Back in wood shop in junior high, his sister produced a very fine tick tack toe board during her class time. When John took the same class, he produced a beautiful custom coffee table that still resides in Mom's house. (Nobody knows where that tick tack toe board ended up.)
15. He's not a big fan of authority.
16.He appreciates neat handwriting.
17. Like most Ellingtons, John has a deep affection for Sharpies, fancy pens and mechanical pencils.
18. He's a good driver. Even in the snowy ice. One time, before John even had his license, he had to take over the wheel from his big sis who was losing control of the car on an icy Virginia road.
19.He's a good Dad. He can speak "teenager." [Photo R: John, Wendy and Ashley]
20.The man loves his blankets.
21. I think the sun feeds his soul.
22. He feels the need...the need for speed. Thankfully, he's toned down his driving rush, but he's up for any and all rollercoasters. I imagine he would not turn down a ride in a jet. Or a hydro speedboat. Or a NASCAR.
23. He's loyal. His friends are family to him. [Photo R: John and Eric]
24. John is the Ansel Adams of the Ellingtonfamily. He takes great pictures! For that matter, so does Wendy. Maybe its something inherited.
25. Need Christmas lights hung? Call John. He may try to convince you Christmas has been cancelled, but in the end, he'll string enough twinkly lights to rival the Aurora Borealis.
26. Need someone to climb on your roof to assess the damage during a raging storm, or ice blizzard? Call John.
27. Need someone to dangle from a crane to repair something? Call John.
28. Need something dis-mantled? Call John. He is as good a taker-aparter as they come.
29. John has a natural sense of direction. He's never lost. Or if he is lost, he doesn't let you know it, which, if you are lost, is a comfort.
30. Despite a disturbing start to his deep sea fishing experiences, John is a premier fisherman. He is also not afraid of getting a hook out of a shark's mouth. I'm not sure this is a good thing.
31. He has also inherited the Ellington gambling gene. He is as at home in Las Vegas as his father and sister and Wayne Newton.
32. There's a story about John and a BB gun war. Let's just say the insurance company, his father and I were all really grateful that John was not actually in the war. He was merely the arms dealer.
33. I don't think John is afraid of anything. He's been known to have a face off with a barracuda. In the end, the fish decided to leave well enough alone.
34. John doesn't know many strangers. His Aunt Linda convinced me it would be okay to put him on an airplane by himself to spend the summer with her in Hawaii. I begrudgingly agreed. When the time came I walked him onto the plane to turn him over to the attendant who would be in charge of his safety for the duration of the flight. I cried like I was sending him off to war. John sat down next to the prettiest girl on the plane and never even said goodbye.
This compilation of John memories and fondnesses was not done by ME alone. Jim and Wendy helped a lot. We love you Johnson. Thanks for all you do to make us smile. Happy Birthday ... and many, many more. [Photo L: Some of my favorite people in one of their favorite places, Las Vegas.]

Still wondering how so many years have passed, I am,
Merry ME

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Light Bulb Moment

I recently had what I thought was a really cool idea for a give-everybody-on-my-Christmas-list-the-same-present present. It was an especially good idea because I was going to get it done and in the mail before the first of December which meant I was going to have the whole month of December to do fun Christmasy things.

The idea was sort of a Little House on the Prairie kind of gift. Homemade and from the heart.
I was going to write something! How original!

But then I got side tracked by this blasted NaBloPoMo (do I ever spell it the same way twice?). On top of that, my idea was turning into a very expensive proposition which kind of defeated the whole thing.

So here's what I've decided to do. In an effort to keep my writing skills honed, I'm going to use my blog as a launching pad for my own personal Advent calendar. From December 1 - 25, I'm going to pick a word, a holiday word we're all familiar with, and see if I can write something about it. The giving part of the idea is that hopefully, in our stress-filled-gotta-get-it-done-before-Christmas world, I can find something to say about the word that will destress the holidays.

I'm not sure I can do it. But it's a creative idea don't you think?

Tonight, I've got to finish my final post for NaBloPoMo. I want it to be published by 12am. Ahhh, just the sound of the word "final" makes me smile. I think I've done it. I'm a winner even if I don't win a prize.

Feeling confident in my new found ability to make a commitment and not quit 2/3 of the way in to it.
Thanks for hanging with me,
Merry ME

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

30 days hath September ...

April, June and November ...


Unless you are a member of NaBloMoPo and then it will seem like November has 300 days. I've really never known this month to drag on so long. Under normal circumstances, the days passing slow as molassas would be in my favor. I'd have what seems like more time to shop, bake, and prepare for December ho, ho, ho thing.


This afternoon I was sitting pretty. Almost resting on my smug, I-posted-30-days-in-a-row laurels. I thought I had only 2 more posts more to do. Indeed the finish line was in sight. Then I looked at the calendar. The last day of November does not arrive until Friday. Since I only had subject ideas for today and [what was I thought was the last day]tomorrow, I've now got to come up with one more thing more thing to write about.


Just when one thinks one is really screwed, the muse jumps in to aid the writer, or if not the muse then at least what the writer could call serendipity.


How can I possibly NOT draw attention to the comment I received on last night's post about Dancing with the Stars. The only comment I've ever received on my blog from someone I don't know. Can I suggest you go back and read it without sounding like a braggart? Go ahead. Take a peak. Check it out! I'll wait!


Hmmm. What do you think? Spam?

Yeh, I think so too.


There for a moment I let myself believe that members of Helio's Brazilian family had not only found my blog, they had posted a grateful comment. I convinced myself that they were really impressed with my choice of dancing winners, etc. etc. etc. I can't speak or read Spanish. So I scanned the comment and when I didn't see Helio's name, I pretty much had to tell myself it was a hoax. Talk about deflating one's ego.


The thing that cracks me up is how whoever wrote the comment ended it - "goodbye friend."

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. And now that I've finished with this little ditty, I can offically say I see the end of NaBloPoMo in sight. Woohoo!

I checked out the prize list yesterday. Sixty-two prizes have been donated. There are 6245 NaBloPoMo members. I've never been the luckiest of people so I'm guessing my chances of being randomly picked for a prize of any kind are pretty slim.

Yet, hope springs eternal.

TTFN,

Merry ME

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N

Sequins

Glitter

Silk shirts with no buttons

High heels

Music

Disco ball trophy

Dancing with the Stars started an hour and a half ago. There's been some dancing but mostly glitz and gab. I'm not sure I can stand the wait.

Mel vs Helio

Sexy girl vs cute, cute boy

Who's gonna win?

Enough hype already. Let's get on with it.
The thing about contests, the thing I really hate, is that in order for someone to win, someone has to lose.

So Helio won - great choice. But Mel did some mighty fine dancing. They were both so good, I say they were both winners.

Here's a dance quote I found that speaks to me - not so much about dancing but about life. I don't know who said it.

"Your love for yourself is only shown when you are dancing freely."

There is something to be said for dancing freely - disco ball trophy or not.

Merry ME

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Kitties/My version

I just read anitjen's post for today. It was about one of her cat's aerial abilities and another of cat's hunting prowess. I also have two cats. Cat's who aren't supposed to be in high places. Cats who don't know that there is life beyond the back door.

So imagine my surprise when, as I was reading Jenni's post, the girl cat wanders in with a mouth full of feathers. She is acting like she just won a feline version of the lottery. She is tossing around feathers like they are actually attached to a body with wings. In reality she's found a bunch of feathers that I collected and banded together in a kind of feng shui feather bokay and stuck in a plant.

Said plant was in the sink being watered. I suspect said cat got up on the counter where she doesn't belong and took the feathers right out of the plant. I'm thinking this is against the house rules, but like Jenni, I feel kind of proud that her natural instincts weren't completely bred out of her or drowned when she was thrown in the well from which she was rescued.

I grabbed my camera to try to capture the feather hunt on film. It's really not easy to photograph black cats. The pictures always end up looking like black blobs. Sometimes the blobs have big red eyes. Nonetheless here is a sequence of photos from Girl Cat having fun entertaining herself, to her brother, Boy Cat, eventually stealing the feathers from her. The picture(s) I didn't get was of Miss Braveheart walking off looking uninterested, then a few minutes later strolling back in the room with the feathers hanging out of her mouth. Obviously she had won the battle. Girls rule!


1. "Hey, mom, look what I found."











2. "This is kind of fun!"







3. "La, la! I'm just checking out this wire. No I don't even notice the feathers you're sitting on."







4. "I'm a handsome fellow!"









5. "Hmmm, what 'cha got there, Sis?"






6. "On your mark! Get set! Go!"









"Here, little lady, let a man show you how it's gone."




Who knew feathers could be so much fun?

Merry ME

Just wondering ...

Why is it that ....

  • When people get on an elevator they look up at the floor marker rather than the people? I doubt if anyone in a crowded elevator could pick out a person in a police lineup even if they were standing right next to the guy (or gal as the case may be)?

  • When I pick a line in the grocery store that looks like it's moving smoothly, it always comes to a complete standstill?

  • My car still smells like sour milk after four months of airing out?

  • Some old people enjoy being old and others don't?

  • You wait for a while at a doctor's office doing nothing. But as soon as you pick up a magazine and start to read an interesting article your name is called?

  • That Santa wears a red suit instead of something more readily visible like neon yellow?

  • When I get a canned operator on the telephone I have one of two reactions. Either I talk to the person I know is not a real person who is prompting me to say, "yes" or "I didn't get that, please try again" with my inside voice like she is a long lost friend. Or I scream at her like she is a complete bimbo for not getting my information correct.

  • [And since I'm on the subject] the computer person can repeat back your information?

  • Two big fat mean women thought it was okay to torture and starve a seven year old boy. Where do grownups get off thinking they can beat up little kids?

  • Somedays I have trouble remembering why I walked from one end of the house to the other but when my kids have another birthday I remember everything that happend on the day they were born ... over thirty years ago.

Got answers?

Merry ME


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Observations from a Girl in the South

The days of 2007 are ticking away. It is the end of November and, as I've already mentioned, Christmas with all it's trimmings is almost upon us. It is hard for me to get into the swing of the season when the Southern temperatures haven't gone much below 75 degrees.

A few weeks ago, the weatherman talked about an earlier than normal freeze. The temperatures may have dropped during the night, but the days have stayed warm. There is nothing like autumn to help one make the seasonal transition. A few sycamore trees in our neighborhood have dropped dried up leaves; none of which had much color. Some turned yellow, a few made it to an orangey red stage. Mostly they turned brown and landed on the ground.

Remember the theme from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head?" Because my neighborhood is full of oak trees, and it is true that from little acorns might oaks will grow, we've had weeks of "acorns falling on my head, and on my roof, and on my car. They are everywhere.

I'm sure if I was a better, more inventive cook, I could think of some kind of someting to make with the little buggers. If I was more crafty, I could glue them into some kind of homey decoration. Alas, all I can manage to do is step on them with bare feet. O-U-C-H! Acorns are obviously round, which makes them bruise the bottom of your foot when stepped on in just the right way. But the real hurty thing about stepping on acorns is that they have a pointy end. When your driveway is full of the premature oak trees it becomes a mine field - not fun like a pile of leaves.

I walked through the garden shop of Target today. There were a few Christmas trees that we all know didn't come from anywhere near Florida. Undoubtedly they will drop most of their needles before the 25th of December because of the heat and early cutting. But at least they weren't spray painted green. Curiously, there was a smell of pine in the air. And rosemary. Apparently rosemary trees, a la Martha Stewart, are going to be popular this year.

I have to be careful what I ask for. It's been known to snow in Jacksonville, so I don't want to press my luck. I'm not dreaming of a white Christmas. I would, however, like a cool yule. I want to be able to wear sweaters decorated with sequined ornaments, and turtleneck shirts and warm, wooly socks. I'd love to have a fire in the fireplace, without having to turn on a fan to even out the temperature.

I know Christmas can happen without all the Hollywood trappings. We don't need to have snow or trees or crackling fires to enjoy the real "reason of the season." It's what's in your heart that's important. It's the spirit of charitable giving that brings the holiday to life.

I wonder if reindeer like acorns. IPerhaps I could make a little North Pole stew and season it with rosemary. I think I'll put that on my list of things to do in the next thirty days.

Merry ME

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cookies

“C is for cookie, its good enough for me. Oh cookie, cookie, cookie starts with c.”
Cookie Monster
If the Christmas season has actually started then it must be that time of year when I start thinking about making cookies. Like those people who buy gifts during the year then sashay their way through the season unscathed by shopping frenzy, I would do good to start my baking early. Spreading it out across 12 months and filling up the freezer with blue stars, green sprinkled Christmas trees, and fat brown gingerbread men would be simpler than the last minute craziness that I seem to put myself through year after year. You'd think I would have come up with a better way of doing things by now.
There was a time in my life when baking was actually theraputic for me. Too depressed to even think about being merry, for some reason I discovered a certain degree of peace when in the kitchen up to my elbows in flour and sugar. Baking became a holiday tradition sort of by accident.
My kids are now grown. You'd think that they would be making holiday tradtions of their own. Yet year after year they ask for mom-made cookies. In years past, I'm embarrassed to say, I've promised cookies right up until the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve and still not gotten them made. I've been known to send Valentine hearts instead of snowmen and Santas.
Today was the actual start of the baking tradition... the buying. I bought pounds of butter, flour, and sugar. I bought a new jug of vanilla and fresh sprinkles. I brought it all home and laid it out on the counter. Every year I hope that if left there long enough my fairy godmother [I do have a fairy godmother, don't I?] might just come and wave her wand to make the cookies magically appear. It hasn't happened yet, but the hoping against hope has become part of the tradition for me.
The next step is making several batches of dough to be chilled. Again, I usually get this far in the process. I can put the dough in the freezer for weeks or in the fridge to chill for just a couple of days. My intentions are always good. Unfortunately, like other science experiments that have been discovered in the back of the refrigerator, I've found sugar cookie dough that could possibly be used to create a new antibiotic.
The problem, I have decided, is that there are just not enough days from Thanksgiving to Christmas to bake, wrap and mail the cookies. Okay, there are enough days I'm just not real good at managing my time.
I have to mail of John's birthday present tomorrow. I've baked two batches of chocolate chip cookies because he's let me know that his boss is waiting for them. I'm wondering if he's using cookies as leverage to get a Christmas bonus! Probably not, as poor Johnson is the one who has been let down most often by the lack of promised cookies.
I've only got six more days of NaBloPoMo. Perhaps, since I'm in some kind of routine, I could use the time to make one batch of cookies every day til Christmas. The only problem I see with that brilliant idea is that if the cookies are not mailed to my cookie-eating children and their friends, then Jack and I will be the ones left to eat them. This would not be good for either one of us.
I shudder to think how much it's going to cost to mail the cookies. In years past I made a deal with the postal workers. They promised special treatment of my packages for which I paid with a plate of cookies. I'm not so naive as to think that the cookies got A-1 care to their final destination, but at least I saw that the packages were gently placed at the top of the gift laden mail baskets, not tossed like a basketball.
We all know that a bag of Oreos or Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men would be cheaper and easier. But in this crazy mixed up world, a box of cookies, homemade with love by a mom who loves the tradition as much as the kids is just another way of spreading Christmas joy. And that's what it's all about, isn't it, this season of giving?
I don't know for sure because it's not been well documented but I have a sneaking suspicion that among those packages the magi laid at the foot of manger cradle there was a box of 7 layer cookies. Chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, butterscotch. Yum! Surely it's a mixture good enough to feed a king.
Happy baking,
Merry ME

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I seriously considered joining the shopping maniacs standing in line for stores to open at 4am. Well, not seriously, but the thought did cross my mind. However, for the past couple of years I've thought it might be fun to drive to Fernandina early in the morning just to shop in my pjs. For some reason that sounds like fun to me. Not sure why.

Here's something else I'm grateful for. There is really nothing I need, want or can afford that is worth climbing out of my warm, cozy bed to stand in line for. I'm more of a sleeper than shopper.

However, in an effort to get my son's birthday present to him on time, I did venture out into the madding crowd. Like a compass needle set on due north, I pointed my car in the direction I wanted to go and didn't look right or left. I was on a mission ... surf shop, toy shop, office shop and home.

I was luck in because my selection of stores was not the mob scene it could have been. If I had wanted to buy a surf board, I may have had to wait in line. But, since all I wanted was a few trinkets, I got in and out without too much trouble. I did have a moment of heart-stopping buyer anxiety when I heard a salesboy who was all of about 17 tell a kid who was about half that age that a particular pair of pants, which were sure to become an all-time favorite were a steal at the bargain price of $70.00.

Seventy dollars? For a pair of pants that the kid was going to outgrow in six months or rip to shreds when he crashed down from the top of a skatebaord ramp. Seventy dollar pants was the main reason I tried to stay out of Surf stores when Johnson was in his I-won't-wear-Cheetas days.

My trek to the office supply store was uneventful. In and out, just like the burger joint. Until I decided to check my receipt. I was stuck in a traffic log jam, not moving at all, so I went through my bag to see if I could decipher how the kid at the register had worked my return/purchase transaction. That's when I discovered the return had been handled fine, but the purchase had not taken place. I wasn't charged for the fancy dancy label maker I'd stuffed in my bag as the kid was stapling together old and new receipts. Yikes!!!!!!! I felt Bonnie MacDougal in the car with me.

By the time I had this figured out, the light sequence had changed three times and my position in the line of cars was second from the front. I just about had it made. I could turn the corner, hit the expressway and be home in ten minutes.

Wrong! Just like I was a movie cop I made a U-turn. Granted I cut off a pissant PT Cruiser, and ran over the roadside curb, but for a 1990 Dodge Caravan, I thought I made quite a brilliant maneuver. I went back into Office Max and the kid gives me a questioning look. When I explained to him what happened, he actually said, "oh you were buying that?"

"Well, yeh," I thought to myself, "that would be the reason I brought it up here in the first place."

The guy didn't seem to notice my incredulity. He wasn't impressed by my honesty. I think he'd had a long morning.

Ho!Ho!Ho! Merry Chrismtas! Let the season begin.

Merry ME

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice. "
Meister Eckhart

Thanksgiving the F-word holiday - food, football, family. In concept I think it is a grand idea. I've gotta wonder, however, if the holiday we experience in 2007 is anywhere near the same in spirit as what it started out to be. Obviously, the Pilgrims didn't have TV and football; they didn't have giant balloon characters to march down a New York avenue; hell, they didn't have avenues or even New York. Sadly they didn't have microwave ovens or brown-'n-bags or Pam cooking spray to give their roasted birds the golden Norman Rockwell look we strive for.
I'm guessing that without malls the Pilgrims didn't feel the need to hurriedly gobble (no pun intended) up their festive foods so they could rest up for merchandizing blitzkreig to come. I wasn't there so I can't say for sure, but I bet the act of surviving another New England day was reason enough to give thanks. Indeed the original Thanksgiving day celebration was all about saying thank you, to God, to their neighbors, to their family. It wasn't just a day to put behind them. It was, what it was ... a day to cherish the things in their lives that really mattered and be grateful.

Today, I'm feeling grateful that I am not a Pilgrim. I have ancestors in my family tree that had some connection to the Mayflower, although I'm not sure exactly what it was. Still I don't think I would have made a very good Puritan woman. I like having my turkey deheaded and defeathered for me. And much as I like digging in the dirt, I'd have starved right along with many of the people who were counting on me to plant, tend and harvest the venerable vegetable triad of corn, squash and beans.

Today I'm grateful for the roof over my head that I didn't have to build. In fact I didn't have to clear the land, hone the trees, or plug the holes. I'm having trouble just thinking about the work those first Thanksgiving people had to do just to get through the day, every day. When I'm stuck in a traffic jam, looking at all the people sitting in gas guzzling cars that are somehow destroying the ozone layer and melting polar icecaps I often find myself wishing for a simpler time. Simpler, yes ... really really hard, probably not.

I'm grateful to have a family to fuss about. There are people in this world with no one at all to call and ask to bring an extra can of cranberries or green bean casserole. There are people in the world, children and old people, who are going hungry as I sit here stuffed to the gills. I'm grateful I'm not one of them. And I'm also a little bit sad that in this day and age there is so much plenty and so much want all on the same planet.

My heart is full of things I'm grateful for. I can't possibly list them all. Here's are a few of the things that immediately come to mind - in no particular order: Black kitties, faithful dogs, daughters, sons, granddaughters, sisters, dads, girl friends, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, trees, donuts, dishwashers, oxyclean detergent, music, quilts, beaches, oranges, penguins, cameras, Birkenstocks, baby pigs, children, books, children's books, swimming pools, schools, socks, elephants, hospitals, my new kitchen, Sesame Street characters, ATMs, tea, penicillin, lavender bath gel, tulips and daffodils, reality TV, laptop computers, flannel pjs, saltine crackers, Coca Cola, toothpaste, macaroni and cheese, red birds, yellow birds, purple birds, alarm clocks, telephones and snail mail.

My list could go on and on. I try to be grateful for just about everything. It's hard to be grateful when poop hits the fan. Still I try. Mostly I'm grateful for the people to whom I owe so much. People who love me in spite of me. People who share with me just because. People who put their lives on the line every day so that I can live a life of abundance - overabundance to be sure.

Last, but not least, I'm really, really, really grateful today, and everyday, for one special person - my sweetie aka Capt. Jack or Prince Charming. I'm grateful for all he does to lift me up, to help me be the best I can be. For his sense of humor, his spirit, and his style. For the way he listens with his heart as well as his ears. For his patience even when he doesn't feel patient. For his love even when I'm not so loveable. For his gentleness and his strength. For showing me what love is all about.

I am blessed and for this I am sincerely grateful. I hope you've had a day full of all your favorite foods and that you can still zip up your pants. May you know the joy of gratitude.

Be blessed and don't be afraid to say "thank you."

Merry ME

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Project Runway

I have just discovered that a great way to chase away the blahs is to turn on Project Runway. I hate the canned statements that Tim Gunn ["make it happen"] or Heidi Klum ["with fashion one day you're in and one day you're out"] make show after show, but really how can you watch and not get caught up in the lives and intrigue and designs of these rather strange people. Creative, yes. Talented, yes. Brave, yes. All that but still a little strange.

I thought I'd given up on reality TV. I broke my addiction to Survivor several season's back by going cold turkey. I just said no. If you don't watch the opening show, you don't get hooked. However, I have to admit that I cannot say no to Dancing with the Stars. I haven't voted yet, but I think my devotion to the show would probably be considered over the top by most.

After reading antijen's recent blog about this season's Amazing Race, I totally rethought my decision not to watch. The if-you've-seen-it-once-you've-seen-it-all adage just doesn't hold true when you have teams of people who are so different traveling to some of the world's most out of the way places, milking camels, running through airports and sleeping in train stations. I never even heard of the place where they competed this week, the village of Bingo in Burkina Faso, so I think it is possible to say the show is educational.

But back to Project Runway. Sarah Jessica Parker showed up on tonight's show, asking the contestants to design a two piece outfit for the "everyday" woman. I consider myself an everyday woman, even though I don't wear bling; I don't wear high heeled shoes sans panythose, and I am rarely out of baggy, big girl blue jeans. However, I wouldn't have even considered wearing any of the designs from tonight's show. No matter, it's always fun to see what the designers come up with. I loved it when SJP walked into the design room and Chris was so excted he started crying. Something about him reminds me of Nathan Lane. Not sure what, but it makes me smile. Even though Elisa readily admits she comes from another plantet, she and Sweet P came up with a likable dress, albeit way to short for my taste.

I think Tim Gunn is a big butthead when he comes into the room where everyone is congratulating and commiserating and rushes the loser out. Like the party can't get started til the poor guy gets his pins and needles out of the work room. Even when I don't particulalry care for one of the people, I hate it when someone has to go home. I guess that's the reason it's called a game - someone is in and someone is out. Oh well, I'm going to bed in a better mood than when I got up. Thanks Bravo.

Auf Wiedersehen,
Merry ME

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good News/Not so good day

I was relieved to tune into Anti-Jen's Monday post to find she had not been abducted by aliens. Seems she spent the day at Sea World, which for a sea mammal rescuer could be either a fun experience or sad one. As it turns out in this case, Jenni was fine with the captive sea lions and whales. I guess if you've got to be kept in a big swimming pool, the ones at Sea World are of the 4 star variety. None of those nasty problems Jenni is always rescuing wild seals from.

So, now that I know things are okay in S. California I have to decide what to write about. My choices are limited but I've narrowed it down to two. I could tell you about how I was attempting to put on some panty hose to wear to church on Sunday morning and got stuck lying on my back looking, I suspect, like a dead bug - legs stuck in the air, unable to move my body. I had to call for help. At some point I may be able to do this story justice, but right now I'm feeling kind of embarrassed.

My second choice of post material is neither funny or pretty. It is, however, what's on my mind.

Do anyone remember the children's game - The Farmer in the Dell? A sing-song kind of game where one person picks another person who picks another person. Each pick is followed by a rousing chorus of "hi ho the dairy oh, the farmer in the dell."

In the game the farmer picks a wife, the wife picks a child, the child picks a dog etc. etc, etc.
You get the picture.

Well my evening last night was along those lines but in a less cheery way. One thing led to another and the hi ho chorus was more like a 45 record on a s-l-o-w speed so that it sounded kind of creepy. I should have seen it coming, there were signs that I chose to ignore, as in sleep through. But sometimes melt downs, like poop, just happens.

First of all Jean got mad a Jack; then Jack got mad back; then I got mad a Jean; and she got mad back; H-I-H-O-T-H-E-D-A-I-R-Y-O.
Then we went to dinner, but didn't make it around the block;then I spoke to Jean;the I started to cry;Black Beauty started pacing;Dad started worrying. H-I-H-O-T-H-E-D-A-I-R-Y-O.
Jack held me, I cried some more. I fell down between the toilet and the shower and cried some more. H-I-H-O-T-H-E-D-A-I-R-Y-O.
Jack put me to bed. I cried some more. Jean hugged me. Dad hugged me. Beauty paced, the cats investigated. I went to sleep. H-I-H-O-T-H-E-D-A-I-R-Y-O.

The good news is this - if I didn't already know it - next time I play Farmer in the Dell for real I'll pick Jack as my farmer. Even when it seems like your whole world is falling apart, having a sweetie like Jack is reason enough to sing H-I-H-O-T-H-E-D-A-I-R-Y-O!

Merry ME

Monday, November 19, 2007

I have developed the habit of doing nothing other than a quick pee and brushing my teeth before turning on the computer to check on AntiJen's blog site for a post. With the three hour time differential, I don't usually get to read her daily messages until the following day.

I knew she was headed to San Diego to visit with her sister and babysit a niecelet. I knew she was going to be time-challenged. I knew NaBloPoMo wasn't going to be her first priority. Still, I sucked in my breath when I got to her site this morning and there was no Sunday post.

Jenni is my blog mentor. When my writer persona grows up, it wants to be just like her. Smart, quick witted, good vocabulary, "green" thinking and especially good when it comes to sentence structure.

It was Jenni's suggestion that got me into this blasted every day posting business. She was my first "friend" on NaBloPoMo. And let's face it, even if greeblemonkey has tagged me as a friend, as in real life, you find out who your friends are when you're down in the trenches.

I feel like I've let my friend down somehow. I don't know how I might have helped her. We live 3000 miles apart, which means our friendship is linked only by some mysterious signal that travels between computers. And in all honesty, I'm kind of glad she opted for real life, rather than the frantic-just-write-anything-and-post-it-so-you-can-go-to-bed things I've been writing lately.

I mean really, my last few posts have been lamer than lame. There really isn't much in my life to write about so I'm on the verge of having to make things up. Jenni is there in burned out, smokey smelling Southern California living good post material. So what if she doesn't get in on the "random" drawing prize at the end of the month - she's all about the adventure not the reward.

Have I mentioned that the mother in me is a tad bit worried about her. I mean, if she'd posted something, I'd know she made the drive safe and sound, that she made it past the Grapevine without incident. That she hasn't been kidnapped by aliens and taken to their planet and made their queen and been impregnated for the survival of their race. If she'd posted something by now I'd know for sure that those cock roach clusters she's been talking about didn't poison her.

Since Jenni isn't my own daughter I am aware that my natural mothering instincts are a little, not a lot, over the top. She has her own mother to fear the worst. Just like my own daughter she may have just turned her cell phone, i.e. unbilical cord, (or computer as the case may be) off when going on a big girl trip. "Oops! sorry mom, I forgot to turn it on." Yeh, right. Not having your phone on so your mother can get in touch with you when she knows you're not at home is a notsosubtle attempt at autonomy. What's that all about? Don't they know mothers worry. Don't they care? Who do they think they are, anyway, grown-ups?

Well, I can't sit around stewing. I need to start my day. I'm sure Jenni is going to have a terrific story to tell when next we hear from her. I can't wait. Not because I'm a neurotic, dramatic, over-adrenalined worry wort. But because I live vicariously through her adventures. Just think of it, if she was, by an off chance, abducted by aliens who better to tell the story than antijen.

Hey, Jenni, call/write home!
Worrying yet still,
Merry ME

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dieting

"Vegetables are a must on a diet.
I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie."
Jim Davis
Last night my sweetie and I went on a date. The first one in a long time. We started off by seeing the Bee Movie followed by dinner at Carraba's. Popcorn, soda, dumb movie, bread dipped in olive oil, pasta. Maybe that's why I felt so sluggish when I woke up this morning. I think I need to make some lifestyle changes. Less eating, more moving.

But look at the calendar. In four days it will be Thanksgiving. Even though we've already feasted on all the traditional foods and desserts, the fourth Thursday of November is the official start of holiday overeating. It is not the time of year to start a diet.

Unless, of course, it's a diet of sugar cookies and eggnog.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another New Baby

Our family is growing by leaps and bounds. Just this year we've added a new bride, two fiances, and now a second baby. Wow!


Yesterday, Gianna Ysabel Garcia came into the world. God has blessed her mom and dad, sisters, brother, Grandma, etc with another healthy and beautiful little girl. I can't wait to see a picture of her when her eyes are open and she's lost the I-just-got-born-give-a-girl-a-break-and-take-my-picture-later look.

In honor of little Gianna here are a couple of special wishes added to my August 16th post -

I wish for you:

That your home is safe from fires, wind and earthquakes

That you will honor and share your Latin heritage

Welcome to the world little one. May God bless you and keep you.

Merry ME

Over the hump

Sat. morning...the house is quiet except for finch songs and newspaper rustlings...I considered going back to bed but I think I should shower and do something about the pile of ironing that is stacked so high that you can't see the chair it's resting on...I know, I know, if I'd fold the laundry when it comes out of the dryer I wouldn't have the ironing problem...When I opened my blog this morning I was struck, pleasantly so, by the list of "recent posts" listed for November...Then I checked the date - the 17th - I'm past the half way point...woohoo!!!I liken this feeling to being cooled by a spray of water, or tossed an orange slice to suck on when running a marathon...I feel a little less draggy, less like tossing in the towel...I may be more vitalized but I'm running out of ideas...Can you tell?

Friday, November 16, 2007

POV

"If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own." Henry Ford


I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of days thinking. Reliving things that happened, re-hearing things that were said during our mini-family reunion. Processing is what my sweetie calls it. For me it's probably more like a dog chewing on a bone. I've turned bone chewing into an art form.

In an email I received yesterday, one of my sisters wrote: It is really fun to have all of us together, even though each of us has such different points of view.

Maybe because I'm both physically and emotionally exhausted, not to mention also suffering from a severe case of Thanksgiving dinner hangover - still stuffed to the gills -but I reacted to that statement like it was a bad thing. We're sisters. We are fam-i-ly. How can we have different points of view? Why would we have different points of view?

Two days later, I can finally say something obvious like "duh"! Of course we have different points of view, we're different people. Sisters maybe but still individuals. In an effort to understand something as complicated as quantum physics, I started at the beginning. I grabbed an apple. Here's how I figured it out.

If I put an apple in the middle of the dining room table and asked each of my sisters to sit in her age assigned seat (how old does one have to be before she feels cofortable enough to sit in a different chair?) we'd all see the same apple. But we'd be seeing it from different angles. Neither is right or wrong, just different.

In the case of real life situations, throw in the fact that there are sixteen years between oldest and youngest sibling, as well as lots of personality differences. So in reality it isn't a big surprise that we've got different points of view. Again I say, duh.

What I read in-between the email's lines, was more along the lines that we don't trust each other enough to share our points of view. There's not a lot of safety in expressing our individual ideas. Hmmmm, now that's a bone to chew on.

Merry ME

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sounds of silence

For years, when asked what they'd like most for a gift, my mom and dad would answer, "peace and quiet." When your house is full of girls of all ages and emotions, it is easy to understand why this particular gift would be a blessing.

I don't quite get why Dad still answers the "what do you want for ...." question with "peace and quiet." Seems like that is pretty much every day. Maybe not always peaceful as in serene, but at least his days are no longer ruled by the phases of the moon. And quiet is a relative thing!

I couldn't help but notice just how quiet the house felt today with everyone gone. Lonely quiet. Perhaps it was the kind of quiet my dad enjoys. But for me it was the kind of quiet that makes me cry. The kind of quiet that is full of memories rather than female activity. The kinf of quiet I always want to sleep through.

But life goes on. And like everything else, there is a time for noise and a time for quiet. In order to appreciate one, you have to endure the other. I'm torn between going to bed and snuggling under a couple of quilts and turning up the volume on the stereo for a rousing chorus of "wide Montana skies."

Peace and quiet - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Merry Me

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Goodbyes Suck

"Distance never separated two hearts that really care, for our memories span the miles and in seconds we are there. But whenever I start feeling sad cuz I miss you I remind myself how lucky I am to have someone so special to miss."

One down. One more to go. The hardest one. The one I always hate. Saying goodbye to my sister Linda. Not sure how it got to be so, but out of five there have to be a few different groupings. Linda and I, for whatever reasons, are what you might call two peas in a pod. We've also been called the "cuckoo pigeon sisters" which may or may not be an accurate assessment.

Before the sun comes up tomorrow, Linda will get on a plane and head back to the NW. Too many miles will separate us. Yeh, I know the separation is a just a land thing, that our hearts will stay united. Still, it's not like I can just get in the car and head for the hills and be at her house in time for dinner.



This post is going to have to be a two parter. I'm having trouble focussing. I hope it counts to publish this half and then come back tomorrow - if I can get my head out from under the covers - to finish.

ttfn
Not so merry, ME

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Girls Day Out

Slept in late.

Got a hallpass.

First time visit to Hobby Lobby (mind boggling)

Ate lunch at the Loop (blue cheese burger - yum!)

Wandered around Borders. (Omigod, haven't been there in ages)

Tried on black Birkenstocks (really liked them, couldn't bring myself to spend the $$'s)

Fell in yarn love at Stitch in Time. (Didn't buy, just drooled)

Came home to regroup.

Going to RedLobster for dinner. (Shrimp Scampi. Yum!)



This is the kind of day sister visits are all about.



Merry ME

Monday, November 12, 2007

P.S.

It looks like my camera survived its swan dive into my ice tea. Woohoo! I'm still in the picture taking business!

ME

Veteran's Day

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."
José Narosky

Today is Veteran's Day. Not the actual, November 11th day, set aside for remembering all the people who have given up life and limb, and maybe soul, for those of us who stay at home. As with a lot of holidays, Veteran's Day has been relegated to a Monday so working people can sleep in late, play golf or finish the weekend chores they weren't able to accomplish in the regular 48 hours set aside for catch up. I hope that the real purpose of the day does not get lost in all that activity.

America was birthed in war. It's been said freedom isn't free; a good offense is a good defense, or something like that. No matter how you feel about the war in Iraq -or the President and his fighting machine -you've got to give a lot of credit to the people (men and women, young and old, of every color and religion) doing the dirty work.

In my lifetime, there have been other conflicts. All in places too far from my comfortable home to even begin to imagine. Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Grenada, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan. And let's not forget the "cold" war which is really an oxymoron if you think about it. Or maybe all wars are cold. In order to get the job done, human beings pretty much have to stick their hearts in a deep freeze to harden themselves to the sights and sound and smells around them.

I've been lucky. My granfather and father made it home from WWII, somewhat beat up in body (C.E. Aldrich, USS Yorktown, Battle of Midway), but sporting medals on chests full of military pride. My ex-husband and most of his contemporaries guarded the Mediterranean Sea, not the Gulf of Tonkin. My son and nephews have not seen battle other than 5 o'clock traffic on an LA freeway.

But in about six weeks that's all going to change. The Middle Eastern War is no longer going to be a political question, thousands of miles from home. Before the end of the year, I'm going to be listening to TV news reports with a new ear. Like mothers and fathers and wives and husbands, etc., have been doing since time began, I'll be holding my breath until our soldier comes home.

Though a few have been trained and ready to go, my niece is the first person in our family to go off to war in several years. And what makes it unique, for us, is that she is the first woman to do so. She is also the first mother, leaving behind not only her mother and sisters but her 6 month old daughter. Lauren, whose army job it is to repair missiles, will be driving the truck at the head of a convoy of missile launchers. Yikes!

I don't think there is anything I can say that won't sound political or sexist. The argument for women in combat is long past. The fact is woman are there, living and dying beside their male counterparts. Lauren won't be the first woman to see combat and she won't be the last. Her's won't be the first family to hold their collective breaths until she comes home.

Let's be honest - it's not a male or female question at all. It's a war or no war question. Please don't get me wrong. I come from a long line of patriots. I love my country and believe in its military prowess. I cry at the sight of flag draped caskets. My own national anthem is Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. A Marine marching band is my idea of pure sex appeal.

But until the people of the world are willing to look one another in the eye and see the face of God, the God of love and brotherhood, there will be families like mine who must suffer the consequences; and if there is such a thing, perhaps we will also reap the rewards.

I close this post with a prayer of:
Gratitude for all those who answer our nation's call.
Courage for the families who wait.
Hope for the children of the world.
Peace. May we know it and share it.

Merry ME

"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"
Maya Angelou