Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Evening News

At the risk of being redundant, I've got to say that there hasn't been much good news lately. Bombs are falling in Iraq, people are starving in Darfur, and Lake Tahoe is burning up. According to the 6:00 news it seems the world is on brink of the proverbial Inferno. I'm not sure that there is a way to stop the fall.

But the story that I have become fixated on, weird and depressing as it is, is the story about the missing pregnant lady in Ohio. And if I, a complete stranger who lives hundreds of miles away, can't stop thinking about it, what must be happening in the town where she lived.

Call me an optimist. Call me naive. Call me stupid. But even in the face of history repeating itself on an all too common basis, I really didn't want to believe that the boyfriend/father had anything to do with her disappearance. In fact, I would rather have believed that a tornado picked up the lady, and a group of singing munchkins and flying monkeys deposited her lifeless body in the woods. A demented version of the Oz story without a happy no-place-like-home-ending, but better, somehow, than the true story.

Why seems to be the only question that I can ask. Yet even knowing the answer won't provide any consolation will it? For in a case like this, I don't believe there really can be an acceptable answer to why. There is no way to fathom what goes through a person's mind before he unburdens his/her own demons on innocent bystanders.

My heart aches for the little boy who witnessed his mother's death and was then left alone in the house of horrors. Is it possible that a two year old child is still so me-oriented that once his mother was out of sight, she was out of mind. Would that be a blessed relief?

My heart aches for the people who unselfishly spent ten days of their lives combing mile after mile of underbrush without giving up hope that they would find this particular haystack's needle alive and well.

My heart aches for the woman's family who have to live with the knowledge that someone they knew and loved is gone forever; that they would never get to hold her unborn child.

In my dismay and disbelief, I want to hate the man responsible. Then I remember the Amish village who turned their personal tragedy into a nation's lesson in forgiveness. I want my hurting heart to be able to find at least a degree of that kind of forgiveness. I'm not sure it can.

But, I believe that the only way to turn bad news into good is to be the change we want to see in the world. I believe that light, no matter how small the flicker, can penetrate the darkness. I believe it is in the light that we see the face of God. And I believe it is in God, the god of your understanding and mine, where we'll find peace.

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us." Black Elk

(No-so) Merry ME

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

True Confessions

Back when I started this blog, my priest suggested to me that the Internet was not a good place to make confessions. He said if I got to the point in my online journaling where I felt a confession coming on, to stop everything and give him a call. I suspect he has better things to do with his time than salve a wanna-be writer's savage soul. I'm going to blatantly ignore his advice and go right to the heart of the matter ... I think I'm a cleptomaniac.

Before I plead my case, however, let me tell you that I pride myself on honesty. I've told enough off-white untruths in my lifetime that one day, I said, "that's it, no more" and have rarely strayed from that personal moral boundary. Perhaps it is this deep-seated sense of telling the truth that is eating away at my conscience; it is the reason I need to get this petty thievery off my chest.

You know when you go to a doctor or dentist's office that there are magazines sitting on the table to look through while you wait? They are rarely new magazines. They are often years, not months old, have dog-eared pages and one can only imagine the number of infectious bugs that are lying in wait for the next host person to jump on so they can incubate. If it's June and the weather outside is a typical Florida hot with a 89% humidity, you can pretty well expect to pick up a magazine that has either Halloween costume ideas, or suggestions for what to do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

I'm a sucker for women's magazines full of recipes and decorating redo's. I also look forward to going to my doctor's office, not so much for his skilled medical opinions, as for the fact that he has a subscription to Newsweek magazine and I let mine lapse. I found I was only reading two things in the whole magazine - "My Turn" and Anna Quinlen's essay on the last page. As I've mentioned before on this blog, the daily news stories depress me so I flip through the pages of Time and Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report, looking for, yet seldom finding, stories that make me smile.

But I digress. I have found recently that I seem to have little or no compunction whatsoever to 1) ripping out recipes 2) helping myself to coupons I'll probably never use 3) stealing whole articles because it's easier than trying to copy three pages of advertising and, as with most crimes that start small but soon escalate to more than one can handle 4) leaving the office with a particular magazine rolled in a tube and stuck in my purse as if it had been there all along.

I have a couple of excuses that sound reasonable to me. First of all, I feel like if a magazine is over a certain number of months old, nobody really cares if a page is missing, or a ragged square is torn out of the middle of an article on making Christmas gifts out of canning jars. Also, it is often clear that I am not alone in this aberrant behavior. If it is obvious a page has already been removed, I feel no remorse in continuing the destruction.

In my defense, if there is such a thing, if the reading matter in question is a Highlights Magazine, I NEVER circle the pictures on the Hidden Pictures page. I don't fill in the correct answers on the Reader's Digest Word Power Challenge (even though I rarely pass up this test of my vocabulary and am often pleasantly surprised at my score). And, I never take home a new magazine, new being a relative thing.

As a bit of an aside: Just like I don't enjoy having my breasts smashed to resemble IHOP pancakes, I don't like the idea of having to get a colonoscopy simply because I've reached a certain age. Suffice it to say, I don't alway like acting like a grown up, even when Katie Couric or my sweetie tell me there nothing to fear about this particular test but a little discomfort, discomfort being a relative thing. This may come as no surprise to some of you who know me, but often times my inner child rules my roost. My adult persona knows that things like mammograms and pelvic exams are simply things we have to attend to for our own good. My child persona, however, kicks and screams and throws a snit. She acts out and tears magazines before I am even aware of it.

Here's the problem. Not long ago, I was at the gastroenterologist's office. I did not want to be there and was feeling a tad bit pissy about it. As I waited for the doctor instead of making a list of ten good reasons NOT to get the test I was there to find out about, I thumbed through the March 2007, issue of Newsweek. Of course, thumbed through is just a euphamism for put it in my purse as I searched the office for hidden cameras and the magazine itself for some kind of alarming device. In the days since I have had the magazine in my possession, I can't for the life of me figure out what article was so important I couldn't just leave it there and, knowing there would surely be a next time, pick up where I left off on my return visit.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't take it just for the sake of taking it. I swear! Not only did I leave with the magazine in question, I brought it home and left the resulting evidence on the kitchen counter for what has now been two weeks. Never touching it, or incriminating myself in anyway. The Bonnie Anne MacDougal Conscience Meter, however, swings its red arcing needle into the "you should be ashamed" zone every time I walk by.

Bonnie Ann was a friend of my daughter when she was in elementary school. Bonnie's family was Mormon and there were kids in that family like stepping stones. Every year there was a new one. There were lots of hand-me-downs, runny noses and poopy diapers in that household. But there was also a good amount of love, loyalty and God-fearing morality.

One day the ice cream man drove through our cul-de-sac. As usual, kids came flying out of their respective houses with dollar bills flapping in the breeze. Like robots, the children bought their frozen treats, received their change, then made room for the next person in line. It was no different for Wendy once she got to the head of the queue. As luck would have it, she realized as she walked away that she had received an extra dime in change. Like all genuine Ellington's she undoubtedly thought she had hit the jackpot (a precursor to the real prize of her life). A dime is no great amount of money, but still, it was an unexpected windfall.

Then, she made a life-changing decision, not only for herself, but for me. She showed Bonnie Ann the dime and smiled at her good fortune, little expecting the reaction she got from her friend. It wasn't the amount in question, to Bonnie it could have been one cent or a hundred. What was most important to this child was the fact that it did not belong to Wendy and therefore needed to be returned to the ice cream vendor. Never mind that the guy had probably doubled the wholesale price of banana popcicles or was selling marijuana out of the back of the truck. Honest is as honest does.

So Wendy, both disheartened and a little embarrassed, went back, stood in line and turned the dime back over to it's rightful owner. I can't recall if the merchant was impressed by her integrity or not. But the story has remained a part of our family folk lore ever since. We don't wear plastic WWJD bracelets. Ours say, WWBAMDD?! It's a mantra that works better than fear of going to prison and being strip searched.

Having that magazine sit in my kitchen is akin to having a picture of Bonnie MacDougal, hands on hips, finger pointing, telling me to take it back to where I got it from. Bonnie Ann, wherever you are, I vow, from this day forward, to give up my sticky fingers and slight of hand ways. However, I'm not sure I can speak for my larcenous inner child!

Merry ME

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ahoy Matey!!!!

When was the last time you were in the MacDonald's drive through lane behind a pirate ship?

I agree, it doesn't happen very often, but it happened to me this morning. Luckily I had my camera and trusty notebook with me and was able to hurredly switch from my normal every day persona to that of Mary, Super Journalist. I didn't have time to change into a tan raincoat and fedora (actually I don't even own this kind of attire), I just jumped out of the car and started taking pictures as the pirate ship tried to manuever around and under the clearance bar.

Naturally, when you see a pirate ship there are bound to be pirates around. So I am not exactly sure why I was surprised to see, as I rounded the corner of the building, a man decked out from head to toe in pirate garb. He looked like the real thing; not quite as good looking as Johnnie Depp, but swashbuckling just the same. When I asked permission to take his picture, he posed bucanner-style and presented me with his best marauder version of a cheesy grin. Forgetting all about the journalist's code of ethics, my inner wench fell head over heals in lust; I was swept away with an almost undeniable yearning to go sailing on the high seas.
"My crew is in the car ahead of me," the brigand told me. Good God in heaven above, had I been picked up and dropped in the middle of a Pirates of the Caribbean set? After handing over a few pieces of eight to pay for his meal, the hooligan shouts to his mates, "everyone out of the car!" Clearly none of them were the least bit shy. They tumbled out of the car faster than I could cry in my best damsel-in-distress voice, "please sirs,don't hurt me."

I started clicking pictures like the photographer I am not. The kodak moment was too good to pass up. I moved in for a close up of the driver, still at the window awaiting his food, threatening to run the server through with his saber if the french fries weren't hot and crispy (something with which I could completely agree). From the looks of these guys they had not read anything more than a treasure map in years. Certainly not a copy of Fast Food Nation; unless it was the chapter that talks about how MacDonalds like to hire only teenage girls. Maybe they were on a pillage and plunder reconnaissance mission.

Once my journalism class lectures kicked in, I remembered I was supposed to be asking the 5 "W" questions - who, what, where, when and why. I'm embarrassed to say, I left without finding out who these rogues actually were, but the rest of the story (a la Paul Harvey) is this: The whole crew was headed for Hope Haven's Children's hospital to do a presentation to a group of special needs kids who had just finished studying about pirates. Turns out they were good pirates after all, which sort of makes this tale even harder to believe, doesn't it? Whoever heard of good pirates?

All this happened in a span of about 4 minutes. They don't call it "fast" food for nothing. Ha! I hopped back in my car, grabbed my Coke and headed home, totally amused and satisfied. Not with the drink, but with the degree of humor I have managed to find in this world if I just look for it. Recently I've seen 1) a cockatiel walking across the road, 2) a teeny weeny frog which I'm sure was God's way of telling me that my pet canary was going to be okay in his new heavenly perch, and 3)hamburger-eating pirates. I've got to agree with Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame, when she said, "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

Signing off and wishing you, not only the sweet and simple things of life, but the ability to hold them dear.

Merry ME

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A mind is a terrible thing to lose

There are days I have trouble remembering things. Sometimes it's relatively little things like where I put my keys or glasses. On other occasions I have trouble recalling where I parked my car. It kind of scares me when I realize the high pitched squeal I'm hearing in the back of the house is the tea kettle I left on HI in the kitchen. Oops!

I've heard from a lot of people recently that forgetting is something that goes along with the agin process. It has been explained away by stress, menopause, medications, misfiring brain synapses and, of course, the one thing all of worry about, early onset dementia. I'm glad to know it's not just me. That little piece of knowledge doesn't help me find things, but it's good to know I'm not alone in my forgetfullness.

I read an article in Newsweek that there is a test that can determine if you have Alzheimers. The point being that if you start medication as soon as possible you can slow, not cure, the disease. I've thought about asking the doctor for the test; then I wonder if a)I really want to know or b) would I just forget it anyway? I also think there could be danger in just putting that fear out in the universe. If the law of attraction works, I'd rather attract the winning lottery numbers than know the numbers of my DNA profile.

This past week, I had an experience that helped me determine once and for all that I either need to start writing notes to myself and pin them to my blouse or bite the bullet and clean out my purse. Writing notes to myself is not a new thing. For one thing, I love notebooks, journals, and little pads of paper. My daughter knows this (and, sadly, has developed some of the same symptoms of my paper addiction). She is one of my biggest, and best, suppliers. She also encourages the notewriting by including a list of her "Top Ten Movies of the Year" and "Things That Moved Me" list in her Christmas card every year. I've plagarized this list making, so naturally I need a place to keep track of the things that move me. There's not a chance in a million I'll remember from January to December, no matter how moved I am.

I've chosen for this project a small notebook, encircled with a red rubberband, that fits nicely into a pocket in my purse. Fits nicely, that is, if I remember to put it there after I'm finished jotting down my thoughts. As paper pads go, this one is not at all fancy; it is functional. There are no pretty pictures, quotes or inspirational sayings to trigger wordy entries. When I open this notebook (don't tell anyone but sometimes, I manage to do this while driving) I've got to "git 'er done"!

One day last week, my sweetie was parking the car for quick trip into Barnes & Noblle when I noticed the car in front of us had a terriffic bumper sticker. It made both of us smile. It had a picture of a red Heart-man with out-stretched arms and a big smiley face. "This is your brain on hugs" was the message. I get all happy just thinking about it now.

Well, as we go into the book store Sweetie asks for something to write on. (I might add here, that if I had cleaned out my purse like he suggests on a regular basis, I would not have been carrying a pen or piece of paper and he would have had to scratch out his thoughts on an old candy wrapper we picked up of the van's floorboard.) I reached right into my purse full of goodies and handed him the aforementioned notepad. He drew something on it and handed it back to me.

And that's where the memory stops. I couldn't tell you what I did with that thing if I was duct taped to a straightbacked chair sitting under a bright light. I know this because a few days later I had something important to write in it (kissing woodpeckers) and I couldn't find it.

Thus the search was on. I looked through/under/around everything in my purse. I went to both cars and stood on my head to get a full view of what was under the front seats. I went to the Lincoln and did the same thing. All to no avail. I checked the pile of papers on the table next to where I sit, the basket full of papers next to where I sit, and the kitchen counter. Nada. I rechecked all those places.

I accused my sweetie of misplacing the notebook. I considered strip searching my father and blamed the dog for letting a notebook thief into the house. I was slowly going crazy. Like a sore with an uneven scab, I kept picking at the edges of my memory wondering where the damn thing might be.

It's not as if it was valuable to anyone but me. Who else would need to know the things that moved me in 2007? It became a matter of principle. I really believed I had not misplaced the thing, that it was going to show up. I was having no luck proving this to myself.

I prayed to St. Anthony. I called the Bird Vet, Roadhouse Grill, and Mammogram clinic begging for someone to check their lost and found boxes. No luck. I noticed my sweetie standing on his head inspecting the under side of the car seats. (God bless him, he even emptied the trash can of it's fast food litter.) Still nothing.

So I gave up on it. I threw my hands in the air and gave up the search. There comes a time when a person has to accept defeat. Feeling dejected but lighter somehow without the weight of forgetfulness on my shoulders, I joined my dad and sweetie on a trip to Lowes to look at new kitchen designs. Then we went to Steak and Shake. And that's when it happened.

I opened my purse, and yup, I caught the slightest glimpse of the notebook's red binding. Unable to contain myself, I let out with an enthusiastic "Woohoo!" I found it!" It was there all the time, right where I put it. I confess I accused my companions of being in cahoots and setting fire to my very short fuse, but both denied ever touching my purse or the notebook. They looked so innocent, I had to believe them.

Here's what is pretty incredible. I've had this same purse for about 18 months. I never even knew it had a pocket in the side behind the pocket I knew about. It's not like I found a hundred dollar bill, but still I was pretty happy. I love that notebook. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to keep from losing it again.

This afternoon I was reading an article in the July/August issue of the AARP Magazine. It was entitled "50 things you need to know by 50." Number 9 on their list is "Find Your Keys" and it was suggested by Michael Solomon, findologist. Findologist? Where has this man been all my life?

I believe there is a silver lining to every dark cloud. I'm just kind of wired that way. I didn't lose a notebook, I found a new pocket in my purse. If I am losing my mind, well, hey, there's a findologist out there I can call to help recover it!

Merry ME

P.S. In case you are interested "#9. Find your Keys. Do you usually put your keys on your desk, then grab a snack? Look for the keys in the pantry. See, life is full of routine motions; items get lost when wires get crossed. To stay on targer while you search, repeat (out loud) "keys, keys, keys." If all else fails, look in your car. Cars are the Bermuda Traingels for lost stuff." Pg. 53

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Nightly News

I don't pay a lot of attention to the TV news. Even though I might one day call myself a journalist, days go by without me looking at anything in the daily paper other than the Jumble. I haven't really buried my head in the sand so much as I've become selective about how much negative energy I let in under my skin.

Let's face it, one can only hear so many stories about war, death, tornadoes that destroy whole towns, kidnappings, celebrities going to jail, and politicians not going to jail before she has to throw up her hands and say "enough". I asked my journalism teacher why the press is so focused on the negative and, sadly, his response was because that is what sells.

Wouldn't it be nice to think that there is enough positive stuff going on around the world that people would pay to read about it? I'm a bit of a Pollyanna, but I think it would work. Alas, I'm also enough of a cynic to wonder if there's that much good left on this crazy planet.

Tonight's news really pissed me off. I even sent an email to ABC and told them I felt like I'd been jabbed with a hot poker. It wasn't that tonight's reports were so much worse than other nights, I think maybe I'd just had my fill for the day.

Before I get carried away on my own personal rant, I want to turn things around and say how pleased I was by the "People in the News" report Charles Gibson gave before signing off. Two teenagers testified before Congress this week about their rather amazing Internet venture. They raised over three hundred thousand - THOUSAND - dollars to benefit people in Darfur.
And they did it by challenging friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends (you get the picture) on the Internet to donate money for the relief of some of Africa's most forgotten (if not forgotten, then neglected) people.

All I've got to say is this: Nick Anderson and Ana Slavin, you rock! Thank you for your generosity and kindness. You have planted the seed of hope not only for the people of Darfur, but also for those of us in this country who have grown weary of the day in and day out poop reports. And everyone knows that all it takes for a seed to grow is a little ray of sunshine and lots of manure. God bless you.

Want to read more or donate? Go to www.savedarfur.org
Merry ME

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Happy Feet

Just after I posted our thoughts on marriage, I received this ad from a friend. I think it should be added to the list, just in case it strikes a chord with someone. Being a Birkenstock lover myself, I think it has some value to be considered.

"Nationwide study shows uncomfortable shoes lead to divorce."

Well, we don't actually have any research that proves this theory. But we believe it.
Happy feet make happier Dads. Happier Dads make for happier families. Happier families lead to fewer divorces. Makes sense to us. We'll do the research later.
That's us. Saving the institution of marriage one pair of sandals at a time.
Happy Father's Day.

©2007 Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc.P.O. Box 6140Novato, CA 94948

Bumpy Tree

I haven't been a Nanny in more years than I was one. Yet, I felt a familiar sense of excitement when I saw 6 tree-trimming trucks and equipment drive into our neighborhood. I was both thrilled and curious to discover that the trucks parked in the vacant lot behind our house.

The buzzing sound of chain saws in action compelled me to take a closer look. Doing so, I was reminded of a little hand in mine as we set off for one of our many "truck watching" adventures. I was also interested to see how many trees would be felled; what would be left of one of the few remaining verdant oases in our neighborhood. Mostly, however, I was worried that one tree in particular had been marked for destruction.

An aside (stick with me, here): Lately, I've been looking for trees to photograph for a book I have in mind. It is an ABC book (I love ABC books) with all the letters formed by tree branches. I haven't gotten too far because, as you might expect, its easy to find a branch-shaped V, or Y, or even a W. But try as I might I haven't found any B's, G's, or Q's yet. It's possible that my book project may be bigger than my tree knowledge or photographic skills. (See the "Y" in the picture?)

So as I walk through the neighborhood, I'm often looking up rather than forward. Out of habit, I even looked up when searching or my missing black cat. It wasn't very likely that he'd appear over my head, but then it wasn't very likely that a Cockatiel would walk across the street either. {See earlier post}

Walking down the private lane behind my house I discovered this huge water oak. What makes it unique, at least to me, is the way it is covered in bumps, as if it suffered from a severe case of some kind of tree pox. I was fascinated by the tree. I immediately wanted to take its picture - if not for my alphabet book, for posterity, or a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer kind of story about a tree with bumps and how all the birds and squirrels loved it best. Believe me this tree has a story to tell.

That was a couple of weeks ago and I never went back with my camera. I lazed about in the knowledge that the tree had obviously been there for a hundred years or more, it wasn't going anywhere. Then, I heard the chain saws. Yikes!

I ran into my neighbor's yard to get a closer look. I was relieved to see that my bumpy tree had not been touched. But there was some serious de-greening going on. The men with hard hats and chainsaws were all business; cut it, move it, throw it into the chipper. What was once a majestic oak, was diminished to mulch size tree detritus in a matter of minutes. Interestingly, I noticed a smell of something akin to dog poopoo rather than sawdust. Maybe that's the difference between oak trees and sweet smelling pines.

I admit to being rather fascinated by the sights and sounds of the destruction. At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder if the trees were hurting as their limbs were whacked off in big chunks. Do trees cry? What about the birds and squirrels and lizards and other animal life that were made homeless in the time it took to say "Timber" (which by the way, the cutters never said even when one branch came precariously close to a limb-mover's head).

Is there a prayer to be said for fallen forest friends? What's going to go in the place of the downed trees? Where is Al Gore when you need him? I'm not sure of the answer to these questions, but at least I'm asking them which I'm pretty sure nobody else was doing. The song that keeps running through my head is a Joni Mitchell tune about paving over paradise to put in a parking lot.

After all the sawing and chipping was quieted I asked the tree men what was going to happen next. "Don't know, mam," came the reply, "we just cut 'em down." Then I pushed my luck one step too far. Obviously men who cut down trees for a living don't want to spend time chatting with possible tree huggers.

"What about the ozone layer?" I asked with enough seriousness to make the chainsaw weilding workers think I was a Green Peace looney tune possibly equipped with handcuffs and chains. The guy didn't spend any time trying to come up with a courteous answer, he went right for my jugular and said, "why don't you buy yourself a Toyota and get rid of that gas guzzling automobile you're driving?" (My dad's car, not mine. I'm just the chauffeur.) Hmmm, I thought to myself, he's got a point there.

The good news is that I've been back to the scene of the crime to check out the degree of damage done. My big bumpy tree still stands, perhaps with a tear in it's woody eye, but majestic and vertical all the same. Take a look for yourself. Pretty cool, huh?

I love this tree.

Merry ME

Monday, June 4, 2007

66 Thoughts on Marriage

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” Paul Sweeney

My dad doesn't seem to want to wake up today. He roused himself at his normal time and got dressed for church, but he didn't make it very far past his napping chair. I worry that there's something wrong physically, but my guess is that his need for sleep is more of an emotional escape. How many times have I just crawled up under a blanket, assumed the fetal position, and prayed for blessed relief from memories or sadness. I think I recognize the signs.

Sixty-six years ago today, on a distant Hawaiian island, surrounded by family, friends, the smell of Pikake blossoms and other tropical flowers, my mom and dad were married. My mom has been gone for four years, but that doesn't make the memories of that day go away; some things remain in clear focus even when you can't remember what happened yesterday. Sometimes it helps to talk about it; sometimes the only remedy for a lost love is sleep.

Between us my sweetie and I have a few failed marriages under our belts. We've been on both ends of a broken heart - breaker and breakee. Still, either out of naiveté or stubbornness, we steadfastly hold on to the romantic ideal of one love and the perfect marriage.

Perfect marriage? Is that an oxymoron? I think not. Perfect, as is beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What works for me, might not work for you. Even though I used my parents' longstanding marriage as my own barometer for success (or failure), I finally came to realize the measurement of their relationship was really only meant for them. I’ve decided if a marriage meets a modicum your needs, whatever they may be, then you can call it successful by your standards and no one else needs to be the judge.

In honor of the young couple who pledged their lives to one another over six decades ago, my sweetie and I have put together a list of 66 thoughts on marriage and couples whom we have admired over the years.

1. Know what you require in a life partner (your standards for) – Do not compromise.
2. Companionship: This will develop over the years, but you should have a sense of its possibility soon after you meet your “soul mate.”
3. Know what needs you expect a life partner to fulfill – be willing to negotiate.
4. Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is the music of the soul and can soothe a hurting heart.
5. Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder: There is a Jewish saying that goes something like this, “Joy shared is doubled; sadness when it is shared is cut in half.”
6. Know what you want to do with a life partner to have fun.
7. Home is where the heart is. Make wherever you call home a comfortable/sacred place to be.
8. Bill and Cheryl Roop: Navy couples know what it means to live in a place just long enough to feel settled then get marching orders to move onto another duty station. In my mind Cheryl was about as agreeable in this regard as a saint. At times, she even seemed eager to set up housekeeping in a new or distant land. I always admired her ability to do so without the boohooing and complaining that accompanied my moves.
9. Longevity: “Til death do us part” is the tricky part of the marriage vows. None of us knows when we will experience the forever goodbye, so when you make that pledge, live every day together as if it might be the last.
10. Army Ranger James J. Regan and Mary McCue: A picture of Mary lying across her fiancĂ©e’s grave was on the front page of the Memorial Day issue of the NY Times. Like the shot heard round the world, in 1774, the picture brought home to many the ultimate sacrifice faced by this country’s soldiers and the people they love and leave behind. Three months after his death, her love for him lives on in a way we cannot only see but feel.
11. Talking to one another is fun, learning to communicate is essential.
12. Communication is not always about words.
13, Mike and Julia Bruner: When I was in their company I was very aware of how they communicated with their eyes, their hands, their smiles.
14. Expect the best from your partner - give your best to your partner.
15. Norman Rockwell families, like Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, don’t really exist but are something to believe in.
16. Dave and Ann Aldrich: “I didn’t know what a family was ‘til I married Ann.”
17. Know how to be in your space - learn how to allow your partner to be in theirs.
18. Clarence and Gertrude Aldrich: My grandparent’s marriage is not one that looked good on the outside. He played around; she drank too much. But when she died, Clarence gave my aunt a rolled up scrap of paper that he’d rescued many times from the trash. It was a silhouette of his young bride. “She was beautiful,” exclaimed Aunt Letty remembering not the young girl my grandfather married but the weathered woman her mom had become. “Yes, I know,” Clarence replied, “she always was.”
19. Hug often, kiss for any reason, hold hands - even in bed before you fall asleep.
20. Show respect - give respect.
21. George and Ethel Cook: As the story goes, George proposed to Ethel by showing her his bank book balance. In an era when actions often spoke louder than words, Ethel was given the promise that George would provide for her.
22. Set boundaries early - maintain your standards.
23.Listen more than you speak, learn more than you teach, know when and how to do both.
24. Scratch an itch, rub a back, massage shoulders, get ice, locate the heating pad.
25. Be quiet, speak softly, hold a hand, laugh and shed tears together - be real.
26. General Colin and Alma Powell: There is a story about how General Powell handled a particular reporter who was looking for a bit of tabloid sensationalism by asking an impertinent question about the mental status of the general’s wife, Alma. Without missing a beat, the answer came loud and clear, causing a hush in the crowded room. “Sir,” said the general, “when someone you love is in hell you do anything you can to get them out.”
27. Take care of yourself so you can care take when needed.
28. Zubin and Wendy Mehta: Without knowing what was in store for them, W&Z opted to get married in the small chapel of a Seattle hospital. From there they flew to Arizona and Zubin was operated on to remove a large mass from his brain. He didn’t move his body after that, yet they learned how to care for each other in ways not many of us will ever master.
29. Watch an old movie together - even one you've seen umpteen times before.
30. Harry and Sally: Romance doesn’t get much better than that!
31. Share the covers (and the pillows). Don’t forget to say, “good night.”
32. George Burns and Gracie Allen: I love that George Burns always closed his performances by saying “Good night, Gracie.” It’s as if he was saying keep my side of the bed warm, I’ll be there soon.
33. Go where asked, do what you can, be fair, agreeable, and strong.
34. Jim and Barbara Drager: This couple personifies for me the concept of “partnership.” Throughout his naval career and beyond, their marriage was a team effort. He knew he could leave for months at a time and, not only would his immediate family would be well cared for, so would the families of his shipmates and colleagues. They shared in life’s challenges and windfalls. 35. Give a card, for no reason. Give a gift for no reason. Accept either with grace and thanksgiving.
36. Look for joy; find it - share it - hold it in your heart as a memory.
37. Take pictures, in your mind, and on film - one or the other may fade.
38. Jack and Edith Ellington: Fun-packed summer vacations were paramount to this couple’s definition of family.
39. Be pleasant to your in-laws.
40. Earl and Dorothy Keifer: Two big hearts, one happy family.
41. Accept differences. Applaud similarities. Appreciate both.
42. King Edward and Wallace Simpson: In the face of unpopular opinion, Edward listened to his heart; not easily done but often worth the price.
43. Pick it up, even if it isn't yours. Close it, even if you didn't leave it open.
44. Albert and Florence Cook: A family of yours, mine and ours. Ever happy, ever faithful.
45. Put things where they came from, even if you think they should go somewhere else.
46. Jessie and Florence Elsenheimer: Always room for one more.
47. Relinquish the remote in football season, and when it's over. Share.
48. Ross and Nettie Cook: Loved, missed, remembered with respect.
49. Speak for yourself; defer when you can't.
50. Know what's true before you share a story with someone else.
51. Turn gossip into a prayer for healing.
52. John and Abigail Adams: In a time when history was being made every single day, this couple remained close by writing letters. Sadly, written correspondence is a forgotten art that has been replaced by cell phones and instant messaging. R U OK is not quite the same as "how do I love you let me count the ways."
53. Be grateful when a prayer is answered.
54. Aaron and Kellie Cook have lived through botched surgeries, cancer scares, and go-in-through-your-nose-to-remove-a-benign-brain-tumor-operation. Oh sure, they get scared, but they never forget to pray or to laugh.
55. Do for yourself what you would have someone else do because you are afraid.
56. Earl and Liz Stewart: The parties, the laughter, the love. Remarkable.
57. “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” Simone Signoret
58. Carmine and Angela Torreiri: He is so big, she is so small. Loved each other through it all. Never said quit.
59. Wade and Ruby Tapp: He made it, she spent it. They loved and laughed, always.
60. Find strength in your partner; give strength to your partner.
61. Luther and Patty Reynolds: My parents had a pretty typical “he brings home the bacon, she fries it up in a pan” marriage. When my mother was felled by a stroke, my Dad learned how to do just enough of the things she couldn’t do that she still felt useful and productive. They learned to balance the marriage teeter-totter in more creative ways than the tried and true.
62. Perseverence: “Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.” Amy Bloom
63. Ed and Letty Warner: My Aunt Letty said recently, as if just realizing that so many years had gone by, “Ed and I are about to have our 50th anniversary.” I think she was both surprised and pleased.
64. Commitment: “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” Doug Larson
65. Sam and Helen Howard: Towards the end of their long married life, they lived in separate rooms in a nursing home. Although Helen's body was ravaged by age and her mind by dementia, Sam never failed to have someone roll his wheelchair to his wife’s side so they could share meals together.
66. “Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”Mark Twain

Feel free to add your own thoughts. Merry ME and Jack Cook

Saturday, June 2, 2007

What do kittens, 6 year olds and Irish dancing have in common?

Part III: Irish Dancing

The only thing better than having a six year old in the house again (see Part II) is having one's granddaughter come to town. The transition from entertaining a shy kindergardner to a thoroughly modern, make-up wearing, on-the-verge-of-teenager sophisticate was a bit of a challenge, but when I see Ashley Megan walk through a jet concourse my heart skips a beat. Her energy is infectious and, seems never-ending (Maybe because I go to bed too early?). She can talk up a blue streak about things I have long forgotten or have no clue about. Who knew there's a difference between "going out with," "dating," and "going steady"? Or the fact that mascara now comes in $40 tubes. (What happened to the little girl who used to wear Tinkerbell lipstick?)

If Gabrielle looked at me with a kind of wonderment, as if even though I was a grown up she judged that I had fun potential, Ashley's sideways glances were a wee bit harsher. On more than one occasion, I caught her giving me one of the same looks I might have given my own grandmother. A "you don't know anything!" stare that is a combination of disdain and how-do-you-function-without-this-bit-of-information. It makes me kind of wonder how I do!

Ashley is on the thin side. Her Abercrombie jeans are marked with an "s" for slim. But what she lacks in meat on her bones, she makes up for with solid muscle. When she isn't at school, the mall, or babysitting her younger siblings, my favorite Super Girl stays busy cheerleading, doing gymnastics, or playing football. One minute she's standing on two feet, the next she's on the ground with her legs splayed in opposite directions, toes perfectly pointed, in a split which looks completely undo-able to me. This nimble one executes these un-natural looking body positions with the greatest of ease. Because of her size and know-no-fear attitude Ashley is the go to person when the cheerleading squad needs someone to jump on a mini-trampoline, do a few aerial spins and end up on the shoulders of girls at the top of a pyramid who are going to catch her ankles as they shout "Go Team Go!". It boggles a grandmother's mind, and like her father's antics when he was her age, I'm probably better off not knowing about it.

One of the other been-there-done-that accomplishments of Ashley's short life, was a year or more of Irish Dance lessons. When she began to show me some of her Riverdance routines, I felt like the mother in Dirty Dancing after Baby does some of her finest Mambo moves in the movie's final scene. I heard myself saying, "she gets it from me." (And yes, in case you are wondering, as I said it Ashley flashed me one of those looks!)

You see, I love to dance. In fact, there are times when I think I must have been a dancer in another life. I don't even know if I believe in re-incarnation, but it would answer a few questions I have about myself. How else can I explain the times when the sound of an Irish pennywhistle or Celtic harp start my feet tapping. My shoulders straighten up, my arms cling to my side but my feet move fast and furiously to an ancient rythm they've obviously danced to before.

Or take my instinctive desire to know more about Native American culture and art. Is it possible that on those nights before a great buffalo hunt, when drummers circled a bon fire and the mystical tune of flutes and rattles drew men and women out of their teepees, I (one of the chief's lithesome daughters, no doubt) led the woman's circle dance, lost in the music and in touch with my inner turtle?

Appalachian clog dancing has Irish roots. Some of my mountain ancestors must have filled my gene pool with the spirited dance DNA. I feel sure I am just one in a long line of dancing ladies who tapped, or clogged, or boogied their way through the generations.

Yes dance is in my blood and shows up whenever the music of life plays. Why else would I have stayed tuned in to that dumb ass Dancing with the Stars show, feeling the need Rhumba or Cha Cha Cha my way through the many commercials?

Alas, I learned early on in my childhood that dancers are graceful, light on their feet and glide rather than clomp across the wooden boards of the dance floor. I'm not being self deprecating, but honest, when I tell you I've always been a teency weency bit clumsy. Like it or not, it's true. And picking a spot and staring at it when you're spinning around so you don't get dizzy - well, that never worked for me, I always got a but wobbly. Imagine a new-born colt, who has just mastered the art of walking on still knobby-kneed legs, trying to run across an open field. You can tell, that there is the potential for grace there, it just hasn't been developed yet. I'm a little embarrased to say, I'm still working on grace. Over the years, I kind of decided grace isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Every once in awhile it's good to let loose and shake ones booty to a musical beat heard or unheard.

I'm not sure how it happened so fast. The people who filled the house for my Dad's 90th birthday have come and gone. The house is quiet again except for the sound of the washing machine. But good memories remain. Thoughts of little ones and dolphins and dancing granddaughters and birthday candles remind me of my many blessings. And for the first time in weeks it's raining. Really raining, tropical storm rain without thunder or lightning or wind. I couldn't resist going for a walk, splashing in a puddle or two. Then, before I even realized it was happening, I was humming a song of gratitude to the Great Rainmaker in the sky, and dancing in the glorious rain. Who needs grace at a time like that?

I conclude this lengthy post, with the words of Leeanne Womack ... whatever your circumstances, or whenever you hear the music you love, "I hope you dance!"

Merry ME