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.


Merry ME

Tuesday, November 27, 2007




Silk shirts with no buttons

High heels


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


“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


"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


"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


"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.

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


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


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

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I came to the computer to post something before the night got away from me. I didn't know the computer was still hooked up to my camera downloading pictures. Had I known this I might have been able to stop the roller coaster before it started.

Before I realized what was happening, the cable connecting the computer to the camera knocked the camera into my cup of tea. The cup fell to the floor, spilling tea across the floor. The computer hit my "funny" bone which sent a shiver down my arm, causing two of my fingers to be momentarily numb. That's when I discovered the cable still attached to the computer so I unhooked it. I yelled something unkind at my sweetie. Seems like even if he couldn't have helped he could have offered moral support - "Oh, darling, I'm so sorry you've hurt yourself. Here let me help you clean it up. You just sit there and get the blood moving in your fingers again. No really. I mean it, let me fix things for you. No, no - I'm not paying any attention to this wickedly British tv show." ....

I got down on my hands and knees to wipe up the spilled tea. And that's when I discovered the camera, business end down inside the cup that was mostly empty but not completely. If my arm wasn't tingling and if I wasn't feeling a little pissy, I might have thought it was funny. There was really no way to reproduce the whole scenario including the slam dunk camera in the tea cup.

Instead I started crying. I handed the dripping camera to one of my sisters. With the precision of a brain surgeon the battery and photo card were removed. They didn't look wet. The on/off switch worked which is a good sign. I guess, like me, we'll only know how it will work tomorrow after a good night's sleep.

I can't bear the thought that my dear little Canon Elf might have met a watery demise. I know there is a silver lining somewhere around the catastrophic gray cloud, I just can't think of it right now.

Merry ME

Saturday, November 10, 2007


"Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick, at least we didn't die;
so, let us all be thankful."

Today at our house it's going to be Thanksgiving. I know it's Sat. not Thursday and it's the beginning of the month, not the end, but it is the day when our family has gathered from coast to coast so we're going to be grateful (dammit!) and eat our way through the many blessings we can count, and some then some. [At last count there were three pies on the counter, two pumpkin rolls in the fridge and brownies on the way. That's six things on the gratitude list already and we haven't even gotten to the turkey who gave his life for us.]
Five girls together in the house last night felt, as expected, both weird and good. For one thing, even though we're sisters there is always a getting to know one another period after being separated for a long time. Each sister's family stories need to be repeated as often as a new person enters the room. By the time we went to bed, I think we had all the formalities out of the way and were well on the way to being sisters again.

Here's what's kind of strange for me. I couldn't help but notice we've all grown up! I mean, I know in my head we are all in our middle lives, more on the menopausal end of the spectrum. Yet, I've still got a mental image of us as young girls. The time and the children and the dysfunction, etc. is not even in the picture. So when I look at the photographs of us sitting around the same table of our youth and see gray haired mature ladies I ask myself, when did that happen? [Photo L: This is a love seat, not a full-length couch but I still think the days of all of us fitting on one couch are gone!]

I have to add the conversations alone have changed to reflect our ages. Instead of talking of who we're dating, what's the latest fashion trend, and where we're going to "par-tay," we're weary eyed at 9pm, discussing chin hairs, dry skin and going to bed. Dad and Jack sat at either end of the female dominated table and were suspiciously quiet. Could it be that they were savoring the scene - one big happy family? Or that they simply were not up to the challenge of taking on five of us at once. Also, as predicted, mother's spirit hung about in the room. For some reason, I started a sentence and found myself saying "Mommy". I haven't said that in years. Jack said it was the only the beginning of all the regression that would be going on this weeken.! I wonder if we'll be sucking our thumbs and fighting over pacifiers by the time it's all over. [Photo L: Too much female energy for Jack who has retired to his chair to watch some manly TV show like football or wrestling!**]

In an effort to keep things on track (i.e. control the situation) I was up and down, flittering through the kitchen into the dining room, and back to the den. Like a butterfly, I had trouble settling in one place. I got a handle on the whole family picture taking thing [See previous post] by buying matching pjs and charging my camera's battery. Yet when it was determined that the turkey would have to be in the oven by 9am I timidly passed off the turkey preparation baton to Jean, the only sister who would be up at the crack of dawn. Because of her tendency for early rising she was picked to make the dressing and stuff it in the bird. Of course, I had celery and onions chopped up, directions explicitly written down waiting for her on the counter, but still, I let her do it.

When she woke me up to ask a couple of questions - to paper bag or not - I did get up to see how things were coming along - NOT to check on her! What I found in the kitchen was almost a scene out of "The Big Chill." I say almost because Jean was alone in the kitchen and the music blaring from the radio was not a 1980's soundtrack but David Crowder singing Christian rock songs. Jean was dancing, singing, worshiping and cooking all at the same time. It was a pure moment, and I'm sorry to say I ruined it by trying to surreptiously get it on film but when my camera didn't work right, I let out a less than worshipful "&%#!damn!"

In the time Jean has lived here, I've discovered something I never knew about her. She has inherited a lot of Dad's engineering genes. She looks at a potential problem, thinks on it awhile then comes up with a very workable solution. It's fun to watch. It's even more fun to see how tickled she gets with her own creative solutions.

I hear the wheels of Dad's walker coming down the hall. Guess that means I need to take back the apron and wooden spoon. Breakfast orders will be coming fast and furious. Jean is getting her nails done. Things, for the moment, are back to normal.

The smell of turkey roasting and cinnamon rolls baking mixed with bathroom aromas of sweet smelling soap, hair spray and toothpaste - a few more things to add to the gratitude list. There are a few things missing, like the pitter patter of little feet, cheerios getting soggy in a bowlful of milk, waiting for Santa to appear on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, potato peels clogging up the disposal. But, hey, the day is young and who knows what might happen yet!

Gotta run, the kitchen awaits!

My wish for you today, and every day, is that your eyes are open to see the blessings put before you, and that your heart is open to receive them,

Merry ME

* This Buddah quote cracks me up. Not sure why.
** I made that up about wrestling! Poetic license!

Friday, November 9, 2007

"The torch of love is lit in the kitchen. "
Author unknown

Does life get any better than this? My favorite sister is here to visit with. The smell of cinnamon, ginger and cloves wafts from the pies baking in the oven. John Denver is on the radio singing of wild Montana skies. Flour and sugar, mixing bowls and measuring bowls are scattered across the new kitchen counters, a veritable baptism by flour. God bless the kitchen. God help me to remember the moment when it's cold and I'm lonely. Life is good!

Merry ME

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Together Again

"Sisters share the scent and smells - the feel of a common childhood. "

Pam Brown

The planets have all aligned. Dad opened his checkbook. Tomorrow, for the first time in five years all five Reynolds sisters will be together. It will be a short visit. We'll do a lot of eating, take a lot of pictures, eat some more and tell a lot of the same stories that have been told for years.

I think it will be the first time since my mom died that we've all been together. That in itself will make it feel kind of weird. But as you can tell from some of my previous posts, my mother's ghost sits squarely in the center of the action.

Since I've been voted the "Kitchen Maven" I'll be wearing two hats. Part of me will be Middle Mary, daughter #3. Another part will be my mom personsa, trying really hard to do/make everything just like she would have done it. I'll be the daughter who wants to fuss at Dad for some of his curmudgeony ways, and I'll be the lady of the house who defers to the him.

I feel an identity crisis coming on. But I'm so looking forward to having some life in this old house. It will be loud. It will be chaotic. It will be frustrating and fun at the same time. Need I mention the amount of female energy that will fill the rooms?

Sound like fun? I'll keep you posted,

Merry ME

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Mom Memories

"Pleasure is the flower that passes;
remembrance, the lasting perfume."
Jean de Boufflers

I opened my eyes this morning to the sight of my sweetie standing in front of the mirror tying his tie. I'm not telling any tales if I let on that he is a tiny bit "anal". You know pens and pencils lind up in a row; underwear drawer stacked neatly, briefs never touching T's; grocery coupons cross referenced by use and alphabetical order. This man is all about neatness. (Just like me!) Need I say when it comes to tying his tie it is a task he does not take lightly?

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there like to watch a man shave or tie a tie? I'm guessing Dr. Freud would have a field day about the psychological meaning of such. Just so you don't think I'm really weird, I can assure you I don't get any kind of sexy feelings when I watch these procedures. Neither do they make me think of my father in some Greek-like Oedipal way. I just think there is something about the observing that calms me, makes me feel connected.

I can remember having the same warm fuzzy feeling watching my mom prepare for a cocktail party. With her hair still up in tight pin curls she'd expertly apply her make-up. Nearing the end of this rare but practiced toilette, mom would slip into a red chiffon dress that her daughters covet to this day. Donning her crystal star earrings and necklace was a sure sign she was almost ready to greet Dad at the back door, chilled martini in hand. All it took to finish was a light spray of 4711 on her pulse points, and, my favorite, the application of her lipstick.

First she'd pucker up, just a little to straighten out any lip lines that might make the lipstick smear. Then carefully as Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, she'd move from one outer corner, up to the top lip cleavage. She'd carefully repeat the same on the other side of her mouth. By smacking her lips together just the tiniest bit, she'd prepare her bottom lip for full coverage. It would sometimes take two swipes of the color stick but when she was finished her mouth was neatly outlined and shimmering red that perfectly complimented the dress. A final blot on a tissue and she was ready for looking pretty and kissing little ones goodnight. The kiss left a painted lip mark on our cheeks. Mmmmmmmm ... I can almost feel her feathery-light lips now.

Funny how memories pop up when you least expect them.

Merry ME

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Yikes! I just looked at the clock and I only have 64 minutes to get this written and posted to maintain the NaBloPoMo goal. Yikes! Why did I put it off all day?

Probably because I just didn't know what to write about. I spent the day cleaning and ironing. I even straightened a shelf in the bathroom closet. My sisters are coming for a visit and while I don't think they'll even look in the bathroom closet, I thought it was a good opportunity to put all the first aid bandages and creams in one spot. I got the back of the house done today; will shoot for the front tomorrow. By the time sister #1 gets in, we'll both be too tired to care if things are clean or not. But it might not get done again for awhile. And if anyone cuts themselves or gets some other kind of booboo, well I'll know right where the first aid paraphenalia is. How's that for organized.

Can you tell I'm stalling? I'm down to 57 minutes. Damn!

Okay, here it goes. I heard a man on the radio today talking about Ron Paul. I've seen bumper stickers for this guy but have to admit I didn't have a clue as to who he is until today. Seems he's another Texan running for President. [An aside ... are we really ready for another Texan as president?] Apparently he made some huge amount of money for his campaign fund yesterday which probably has Hillary locked in a closet nervously counting her campaign coins, as if anybody could catch her when it comes to funding. That's all I know about it. In the course of the commentary, the radio man used the word juggernaut.

While I have heard of the word before I couldn't have given a definition off the top of my head. And to be honest, I don't think I've ever used "juggernaut" in a sentence. Which got me to thinking about the word, in the same way as when I have a scab, and it itches so I scratch it and it bleeds, and then scabs over again, and itches .... well you get the picture. For about an hour I couldn't stop thinking about the word juggernaut. Which led me to thoughts of cosmonaut, astronaut, and aquanaut.

When I googled all the words I found that the last three have the "naut" suffix in common, which means they have to do with travel. But juggernaut is a word unto itself - no suffix added at all. It is derived from a sanskrit word that has to do with the Jagannath Temple, which is one of India's most famous. It's known for its annual procession of chariots carrying statues of Jagannath.

From what I can tell this was a big ass procession and at times worshipers fell under the wheels of the gigantic chariot or were killed in stampedes. This caused the British colonials who sat back sipping their gin and tonics as the parade went by to use the word "juggernaut" to refer to "other forces of unstoppable, crushing forces."

I guess if you really think about it, since a chariot is a kind of traveling machine, and the "Jagannath" was riding on the chariot a juggernaut could hold its own with the other "naut" words I mentiond. I mean, if you replace the n's in the middle of the word with "uggers" then you'd have jugger-nath which is only two letters shy of juggernaut. The it would only be a short stretch to say that the jugger- and the astro- and the cosmo- all have the "naut" in common.

So now that I know what the word means, I still don't think I would ever use it in a sentence. Would you?

Done with minutes to spare.

Merry ME

Monday, November 5, 2007

The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."
Albert Einstein

The house is very quiet today. It's an odd sort of quiet. It's peaceful yet surprisingly uncomfortable.

Oddly the motion of household sounds has stopped. A bird song flutters by from one end of the house; country music classics from the other. Neither are too loud; both just barely audible. I can almost touch the quiescence.

My sweetie started a new job today. He left the house in a handsome blue suit, carrying a brief case and an air of confidence. When the door closed behind him, it felt a little reminiscent of the first day of a new school year. My kids would kiss me goodbye (hmmm, maybe it was more tolerated me kissing them) then walked to the bus stop on their own, leaving me in the doorway wondering what to do with myself.

Here's the disconcerting thing. My kids are long grown. And when Jack was working from his home office, it's not like he made a lot of noise. So why is it that the house feels so quiet today?Could it be that his presence, even behind a closed door, was enough to keep me company? Maybe I am feeling lonely?

Well, I'm just going to have to get over that! Cause quiet is a good thing. Peaceful is a really good thing. Think of the things I should be able to accomplish with nothing to distract me but my own prattlings. Think of the chores I can get done. Think of the projects I can finish. Think of the closets I can clean and the laundry I can fold.

The trouble with quiet when one isn't used to it is that it can be soporific instead of energizing. The bird song resembles a lullaby. Dolly Parton's chorus is just repetitive enough to induce sleep. Unlike Einstein, I think the quiet has stilled my creative mind.

I think I need a nap!
Merry ME

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I think this post will be twitteringly short. I've had a sinus/eye/tooth ache all day which only stopped bothering me when I slept - which happened to be all afternoon.

My sweetie and I have been experimenting with different bedding styles. We've gone the traditional bottom sheet/top sheet/bedspread route for most of our time together. Recently, however, it came to my attention that I am a cover grabber. I don't really believe this. But since once I close my eyes I am asleep, I can't very easily come to my own defense. I have to take the word of the person next to me with blue lips who is rolling me off his share of the blanket.
Looking for a good solution, Jack suggested we use a king sized top sheet. I had to wonder why we hadn't thought of this sooner. Except that the sheet drags the floor this solution has worked quite well.

Then I got a wild hair. I washed the linens from the top of the bed to the bottom. Even the mattrass pad. What's that all about? Fall cleaning? Sometimes when I do this, I get to feeling unruly and only re-make the bed half-way. I'm well into my 50's, yet sometimes still feel the need to rebel against my mother's long list of housekeeping rules. Risking a good night's rest without benefit of military cornered sheets, we went to sleep on a crisp clean bottom sheet covered only by a quilt.

A clean, good-smelling, well-broken in and comfy quilt. Yummmmm.

I love quilts. I love the feel and smell and history of old quilts. I love the feel and freshness and life to come of new quilts.

I could write pages about cutting up pieces of old or new fabric, then sewing the pieces back together to form a pretty pattern. But I won't. Suffice it to say, that a quilt is about as close to nirvana as it can get for me.

Unless you add a cat to the mix. Quilts and cats. Does it get any better than that?

On that note, I think I'll crawl into bed.

"A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars."
Author Unknown

Sweet dreams,
Merry ME

Saturday, November 3, 2007


"It seems to me that the problem with diaries,
and the reason that most of them are so boring,
is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails
and speculating on cosmic order."
Ann Beattie, Picturing Will, 1989

While perusing through a NaBloPoMo "friend's" blog I came across an interesting question. Perhaps it was only interesting to me because, when it comes to text-messaging lingo, I'm a little out of my league. No, a LOT out of my league. Aimee Greeblemonkey (don't you just love that name) asked simply: Anyone twitter?

Twitter? What the hell is that?

After looking on her site for some examples of twittering and getting her email definition of "short blurbs about your day, under 140 characters" I had to stop and think about how many characters I use in a blurb, a post, a day. The number has got to be startlingly high. I also decided after spending most of yesterday on my Princess post, either I am going to have to shorten my entries or give up my goal of posting every day in November. I'm losing momentum and it's only day 3.

You see in my mind, my last post was very clear - being a princess is not a bad thing. But instead of simply writing, "being a princess isn't a bad thing" I had to go around the block, down the street, and through an alley to get there. [That last run-on sentence would be a perfect example of what I'm talking about.]

And then, even when I get my thoughts on paper in some kind of order, there is that whole re-write thing. While I'm sitting here on my butt making examining each sentence time and again, my chores aren't getting done. Last night I was saved by my real life Prince Charming. Just as I was finishing up my thoughts on princess-ship and was nearing the point where I could tweak the final sentence and push the publish button I realized I was going to have to stop to make, eat and clean up the evening meal. That's when my sweetie jumped into action and offered to do the cooking so I could finish the writing task at hand. You gotta love a man like that! But I suspect he'd get a little tired of my blogging if it interfered with too many meals.

To admit I have very definite "delusions of grandeur" would be an understatement. I've finally put two and two together and come to the conclusion that this is probably why my stints as a daily journal keeper have never been very long. I get hung up on the end product way before the chapters are written. Kind of like seeing myself on the Oprah show telling the lover of good books how much I appreciate getting a Nobel prize for Diary Writing before my book is out of my head and on paper. Even in my most vivid imagination, I realize there is quite a long leap between "Dear Diary ... " and a writing prize of any sort. Still my perfectionism and grandiosity take over somewhere after the first "Today I ...."

This is probably why the quote for this post jumped out at me when I was googling about writing. I quite found the balance between trying to make my uneventful life seem eventful (or at the very least laughable) and making sense of the world's happenings.

As long as I'm dissecting my writing style I might as well add that in my journalism class I was instructed that short sentences are better sentences. For whatever reason, this seems to go contrary to my natural rhthym. If I were a dancer, I'd wear flowing voile scarves and twirl around the stage with barefeet. If I were an artist, I'd paint big bold curlicues in vibrant colors. But I'm a writer so I write in lengthy, rambling, but hopefully meaningful, circles!

Where Dr. Suess would write"I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am," the Merry ME version would go something like this. Sam, green eggs and ham don't really suit my fancy. I mean really, some foods are supposed to be green, like broccoli, spinach and pistachio nuts; but eggs? Does anyone out there like green eggs?

And like the person who can't see the forest for the trees, I often get lost in the words and forget the story. Like now, for instance. I kind of forgot where I'm heading with this post.

What I'm trying to say is this: I need to learn to twitter!

Merry ME

Friday, November 2, 2007

Princess Primer

prin·cess (prĭn'sĭs, -sěs', prĭn-sěs'). A woman regarded as having the status or qualities of a princess.*

This is not just another photo of some costume-clad goombas getting ready to trick or treat. It is actually, in my opinion, a picture of a Las Vegas showgirl witch, Underdog, and one strong, independent-minded princess. She may look like just another Snow White wanna be, but Miss Kisa B. has made a not-so-dwarflike statement by donning the satin dress and tiara. I can almost hear her shouting, "I am Princess, hear me roar!" or something to that affect.

"Huh?" you ask. Let me back up a little and give you some background before giving you the Merry ME version of Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story."

There is, in Seattle, a small imaginative band of trick or treaters who for the past three years have united in a joint costume effort. The group consists of both adults and children. When the children were younger, with easily pliable minds, it was clearly the adults who ruled the costume roost. One year they were a whole crew from the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, Willie Wonka, Grandpa, Oompa loompas, and a Mr. Slugworth). Last year they formed a Speed Racer coterie (3 Speed Racers, Trixie, Chim chim, and Sparky).

Alas, things changed when the girls became more secure in their own personalities, more vocal about their likes and dislikes. It was the demise of the ensembles when the youngsters decided to take an individual approach to the holiday. One wanted to dress up as a witch while the other liked the idea of being a princess.

Apparently, the princess thing did not go over too well. Seems there are some uncharitable preconceived princess notions in the group. My own, anything but prejudiced, daughter included. I was a little shocked when Wendy told me she was secretly pleased that Kisa had seen the light and given up the idea of being a princess. She had decided, instead, to don a pointy black hat and join the band of witches. I realize that the costume thing is just that - a one night pretend affair, not necessarily a true statement of who you are. But still, I felt like Kisa might have had a bit of witch peer pressure going on. And isn't that the fate of the youngest child, to always be at the mercy of the bigger sister and grown ups? I felt a kinship with the almost princess. I was a little sad that the witch contingent had won out.

"What's wrong with being a princess," I asked my daughter, who has a bit of royal blood running through her veins. Not the fancy dressed, dripping in bling kind of royalty. But the kind where everyone knows she's special! With an exaggerated hrumph, Wendy told me that the whole idea of a young girl identifying with the heroine of a story who is only a heroine because she is rescued by a prince is offensive. "Well, yeh," I responded, "but what about Princess Grace of Monaco? Xena, the Warrior Princess? Princess Di? Queen Elizabeth I (she was a princess first)? Those were all pretty strong women in their own right.

I understand in this modern era that the premise of being rescued by a dashing prince and living life from that point on in a state of bliss might be a stretch of even a child's imagination. But hey, wait a minute. Just because the story ends at "happily ever after" it doesn't mean that the royal couple lives a struggle-free life; or that the princess is relegated to the royal chamber to watch soap operas, polish her tiaras and fight off the photo seeking Paparazzi.
Take Cinderella for instance. The poor girl had to face years of torment by her stepmother and sisters. No doubt this is how she developed her "true grit," her take-it-as-it-comes-think-fast-on-her-feet-take-some-kind-of-action-even-if-means-riding-in-a-pumpkin gumption; a must for any Princess. I have a feeling the dashing dancing Prince of the storybook fame was attracted not just by Cinderella' s beauty, but by the independent air with which she carried herself.
Cinderella also made the most of her shabby circumstances. She befriended singing mice and droopy-eared dogs. When a magic-wand waving fairy appeared, the tattered princess-to-be believed in the goodness and magic the woman had to offer. I suspect being a good judge of character is right up there at the top of a princess's resume.

I have a feeling that both Prince Charming and Cinderella were aware of relationship pitfalls. Once the newness and excitement of their honeymoon wore off, I'm guessing the couple employed the services of a Royal Relationship Wizard. Unlike the fairy Godmother, this master of intimacy used no magic. Instead, he undoubtedly used the "Partner's in Life" Couples' Assessement program. He instructed them on the benefits of good communication; the importance of being good listeners. By putting this information to good use, Prince and Cindy were better able to communicate not only between themselves, but also with the royal family (i.e. the Queen-in-law), their royal subjects, and the Tabloid reporters. As in all relationships, good communication is the key to understanding.
For whatever reason, at the last minute Kisa decided that in her heart of hearts she did not want to go with the flow. She did not want to be a witch after all. She wanted to be a princess and that was that. Perhaps the whole princess thing is just a passing fancy. But who knows, maybe Miss Independent Thinker is well on her way to developing life skills she will use regardless of whether or not she ever meets Prince Charming. I think it's pretty clear, Miss Kisa is going to be just fine.

Princess Diana has been quoted as saying,"Being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be." But this looks like one happy princess to me.

May all your dreams come true,
Merry ME

*The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language