Monday, September 22, 2008

"Sometimes you've got to let everything go - purge yourself.
If you are unhappy with anything ...
whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it.
Because you'll find that when you're free,
your true creativity, your true self comes out. "
Tina Turner

A ligustrum tree grows outside my kitchen window. What started out as a bush has grown into a lush, branch-filled tree. To humans, the ligustrum looks like your basic tree with a brown trunk, green leaves, and, in the spring, sweet-smelling white flowers. But to the animals that live in my backyard, the tree is a veritable wonderland.

As I wash the dishes, I can watch my own version of the Animal Channel. I'm never sure what I'm going to see. The view is such that I can see right into the middle of the tree where squirrels and a variety of multi-colored birds eat the seeds they've culled from the nearby feeder. Most days the squirrels are on the run, using the maze of branches as a speedway to get from point A to point B. At times, however, the more virile of the scraggly-looking males sits on a limb right in front of the window waving his tail in my direction as if it were a luxurious fur worth swooning over.

Creatures with wings, however, find the tree more of a multi-purpose co-op. The trunk bears rows of wholly rings drilled by a brilliantly red-headed woodpecker. Finches, titmouses, bees and butterflies flit in and out of the leaves looking for food, rest, or fragrant, pollen-filled blossoms. Our resident brown thrasher rests under the leafy canopy to shiver and shake himself dry after a dip in the birdbath. Cardinal hatchlings, out of the nest and not yet in their full color, use a limb's camouflage to roost while they wait for mama to magically provide an avian version of a happy meal - something already chewed and processed. Yum! The jays use the hard bark of a preferred branch to crack open sunflower seeds.

I often toss peanuts to the ground just under the tree. I rarely see which backyard guests scoop up these treats, yet they disappear within minutes. To my amazement, as I washed breakfast dishes this morning, a jay settled on a branch right in front of me. In its beak was a whole peanut, shell and all. Birds are normally too skittish to stick around if they sense someone is on the other side of the glass. This bird, however, was clearly more concerned with his trophy-sized nut than being watched by me.

I'm not sure how, but this jay was able to balance on the branch and hold onto the peanut at the same time. He pecked at the shell until it cracked it open. Like a runner about to cross the finish line, the jay new he was almost home free as he joyfully retrieved the protected nut from its covering.

But wait! Both the jay and I noticed a problem at the same time. The nut was too big to eat in one bite. If he continued in his time-tested manner to throw his head back and drop the nut down his gullet, the bird was sure to choke. He needed to pare the peanutty morsel down to an edible size. To do this he had to hold the nut in his beak and bang it on the tree. However, because the best nut-cracking leverage was right between his toes, the jay would undoubtedly lose the shell and possibly one more nut. Clearly this was the bird equivalent of the classic have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too dilemma.

What to do? Hold on or let go? Let go or hold on?

I know that feeling. I understand about holding on to stuff that may not work for me anymore. I can relate to wanting to let go of something, but not quite being able to pry my fingers loose. Lately I've become aware of just how much holding on I do. I have a stockpile of past grievances, old heartaches, outdated beliefs, and self-righteous anger. Like the jay's half-empty peanut shell, none of them do me much good if I want to savor a moment's joy.

Why is it so hard to let go of things like unfulfilled dreams, ideas that no longer make sense, unrequited love, and credit cards? If I could loosen my pinched heart and clenched fists, just imagine all the good stuff I'd be able to embrace. Like my bird counterpart, I already know the truth; that one can't have it all. In the end one must make a choice. Yet knowing and doing are often two different things. Dang it, even when it hurts I seem to want both the entanglement and the freedom. My therapist calls it codependence. I call it fruitless... a waste of energy...weird.

Birds, I've noticed, are not so emotional as dish washing window watchers. Birds hop around a little, squawk a lot, but in the end make a decision based solely on what it will take to survive. Thus, the jay shook his head, dropped the empty shell, swallowed the half-nut, and flew off for more.

The lesson to be learned here has less to do with peanuts and way more to do with freedom. I hope it wasn't lost on me.

Merry ME

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yeh, But .....

"Let’s laugh to the point of tears–
not laugh at each other
but at life and all it throws our way."
Carol O'Dell

It's almost 11:30 on a Sat. morning. The house is eerily quiet - peaceful. The dog has refused to go outside or eat breakfast because Dad is still asleep.

I know I should go back and check on him. I should at least stand at the door and see if the covers are moving up and down with his breathing. But right now, I'm kind of reveling in the solitude. If he's asleep he can't say anything mean to me and if he's dead ... well, God forgive me, it won't matter if I let him lie there for a few more minutes while I prepare myself for what comes next.

I remember one day from years ago, when my mom was still alive. I slept upstairs and kept my own schedule - sort of. Usually Dad got up before, or with Mom. I know he thought he was protecting her (from what?), doing right by her, but I also know she enjoyed the quiet morning time to herself. She couldn't explain this to him, so she learned to live with it - suffered in her silence like a pro. But this one morning, she'd gotten up earlier than anyone else. She'd made the coffee, and like me, reveled in the quiet. By the time I appeared, however, she was getting nervous. I'm sure she'd been back to check on Dad several times. The fact that he was sleeping so late was unusual; the "what if" kind of scary.

"I think he's gone," she managed to say to me like the old days when aphasia hadn't stolen her ability to shape sentences. We both gulped and walked down the hall, we walked right up to the side of his bed and he didn't move. Yet ever so slightly his rythmic breathing became noticeable under the sheet. He was deep in sleep. That blessed sleep that caregivers and mothers dream about but seldom get.

So, this morning, instead of going back to check on him, I sat in the quiet moment and treated myseslf to a Blog Read-athon. I checked my favorites to see what people were saying. Terri St. Cloud, as always, told a story of love that made my heart want to sing. Terri posted a journal entry about me yesterday. How cool is that! That lady has a way of reaching out to people that goes beyond the normal meaning of friend. She oozes love.

Then I caught up on a few days worth of posts at Carol O'Dell's site. What Terri is to love Carol is to writing and caregiving. She knows what to say and how to say it. She touches other people by simply telling her story, then listening while you tell yours. She's the living example of "walking in another's moccasins." When it comes to caring for an aging/ill/hard-to-deal-with parent, she's been there. Lived it. Savored it. Learned from it. Shared it. Used it to propel her forward, rather than letting it hold her back. Let's face it, to me, she's the queen of inspiration.

In her post "Parents Can Do the Funniest Things - The Lighter side of Caregiving" (Sept. 17), Carol writes that it is helpful to caregivers to try to find the "funny" in each day. Even though I read her post with interest, and believe what she says is true, the tired, crabby, what's-funny-about-living-with-a-grumpy-old-man side of my otherwise cheery personality can't help but yell from the rooftop (if I were on the rooftop) "Yeh, but".

"Yeh, buts" are a way of totally denying everything a person just said. Saying, "yeh, but" at the end of well thought out and presented arguments or advice is the equivalent to singing "la la la" in your head while a person is talking about insurance or financial planning. It basically says thanks but no thanks for those words of wisdom.

As I read what Carol had to say about the lighter side of caregiving, I found myself thinking, yeh but ...
  • what's funny about the man who never smiles?
  • what's funny about the man who tells you every single night when he's through treating the dog that he's going back to the bedroom. (Well duh, where else would he go. Go already.) Is that funny or anal retentive?
  • what's funny about the man who says "where'd you hear that crap?" when I've just given my best positive attitude speech?
  • what's funny about pee-soaked underpants all over the bathroom floor?

I could go on and on, but guess what .... I hear myself saying, "yeh but" to my own "yeh but."

You see I know, in my knowing place, that Carol is right. If I open my eyes to the glories of each day, I'll find funny, or beauty, or peace. Last night, after Dad said something to me that totally hit me the wrong way, I got up from the table and took a shower. (I wonder how many showers I would take in a day, if every time he pissed me off, I stripped off my clothes and stood under a barrage of hot water?) As the water washed away my anger and frustration I started singing a made up song. As I sang, my mood began to swing back the other way. I think I may have discovered a whole new kind of therapy. For me, it's not new, but for others, may I suggest you give it a try!

I know what you're going to say ... yeh but!

What about the water bill? Who's going to wash all the wet towels? What about my psoriasis?

On that note, I've got to get moving because I hear movement in the back of the house. I need to close the computer and fix brunch for Dad and the dog. Now that's funny - brunch for the dog! Ha! ha!ha! Do you think she'd like a mimosa? Ha!ha!

I may not be laughing, but at least I'm smilin'

Merry Me

Carol O'Dell:

Terri St. Cloud:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Am or I Do ???

"Just as a hand becomes calloused to toughen sensitive skin,
so does a human doing become insensitive to “feeling” the emotions of those around him."

I woke up this morning thinking maybe I've got things backwards. Perhaps I've been putting too much pressure on myself to "do" something - something that produces not only success but identity. Maybe I should stop trying to define myself and just "be" myself; be rather than do. Hmmmm??????

Instead of saying "I'm a lover," I can say "I love." Rather than define myself as a giver, I can simply give. And instead of worrying about whether or not "I'm a writer" I can just I write. Somedays I write more than others, but writing is what I do not what I am. Wow! By simply switching a couple of words around, I feel like there is less pressure to perform... and perform well, of course.

Seems like as long as I can remember I've tried to be what someone else wanted me to be. Over the years I lost I site of what I wanted me to be. Or how to even be me. Weird, huh?

One time in a 12-step meeting I heard someone say, "I feel like a chameleon on plaid," and I knew exactly what he meant; constantly redefining oneself to suit the surrounding environment(s). No wonder I feel tired all the time! No wonder I find it impossible to sets goals, because the goal changes with each person I'm trying to please. Eventually, people pleasing takes on a life of it's own and soon the core person, the me down in my gut, gets lost. Or if not lost, easily distracted.

Even for a co-dependent queen like me, bits and pieces of the "real" Mary rise to the surface on occasion. I know because that's when I feel alive and energized; when I stop worrying about what others think - at least for the moment. So the question is how do I tap into this "me" energy? How do I release my dependence of what others think or say and learn to trust myself? Sounds like work! Ugh!

Human being rather than human doing is not an original concept. Dorothy Neddermeyer, PhD, says, "It's not what you're doing that counts the most. You can do all of the right things to establish connection or relationship, but if you have the belief that you are not valuable, this will come across in your body language as lack of confidence. People will sense (feel) your doubt and, in turn, will also doubt you. Conversely, if you are steadfast in your belief about yourself and believe that your knowledge, skills, product and services benefits people, you will notice a different response from them. The confidence and ease you feel about yourself and your business is demonstrated through your body language and people will respond to you with confidence."

Belief in myself - now there's a novel concept.

Still exploring,
Merry ME

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Author, International Speaker and Inspirational Leader specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing. Dr. Neddermeyer empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening. Article Source:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Am

"When I discover who I am, I'll be free."
Ralph Ellison (Novelist, Essayist, Short story writer)

I AM ......
  • a girl
  • a daughter
  • a sister
  • a wife
  • a mother
  • a grandmother
  • a quilter
  • a reader
  • a friend
  • a Christian
  • a listener
  • a cook
  • a caregiver
  • a homemaker
  • a dreamer
  • a lover of babies, trees, ocean waves, mountains, sweet songs, mystery novels, photographs, Coca Cola, girly movies, dancing, colorful birds, butterflies, friendly dogs, fancy stationery, Sharpie pens, a certain boy with blue eyes, mechanical pencils, soft, cotton fabric, crackling fires on a cold day, roasted marshmallows, Fall foliage, the smell of lavender, stained glass windows, cats, tulips, long, hot showers, precision haircuts, comfy quilts, purple roast beef, birthdays, flannel shirts, well-worn jeans, Birkenstock sandals, colorful socks, run-on sentences and more ....
But I'm not sure I'm a writer.
I went to my writer's group last week. I felt a little like a fake. I felt like a wannabe, not an actual "am". I enjoyed being there - who wouldn't? Smart, funny, inquisitive, earnest women from different walks of life who share a common passion for writing. But, of course, I felt guilty for taking up space that could be filled by a "real" writer.

I went back over my notes from the first meeting. These women, who knew me only by an essay I'd shared with them, seemed to "get" me. The me that rests deep inside but tries to come out by telling stories. They encouraged me. They said things, like "of course, you are a writer."

After a few get togethers I felt brave enough to say it. "I am a writer." I tried it on for size. I wasn't sure if fit. I walked around for a couple of days trying to get used to the idea - like breaking in a new pair of loafers. I liked the sound of it, but wasn't sure it was for me. As I tried to live into the title a strange thing began to happen. Words that I had once been so sure of started to disappear. I ran out of ideas. Writing turned into thinking about writing, then turned into I'll do it later. My inner critic laughed as she asked, "who did you think you were kidding?"

My computer stalled. A couple hurricanes blew through town. Depression came knocking. Life happened. But no words.

Maybe it's not the words that are gone, but the passion. That's what I noticed at the meeting. All those ladies were alive with a writer's spirit. Where is mine? I know what it feels like, that burning inside to get thoughts out of your head and down on paper. The excitement of having the words flow like water, coming together in a good first draft. The other ladies had the passion and the typed up printed pages to show for it. I had nothing.

Does writing have it's own rhythm like everything else in life? A kind of ebb and flow of words, ideas, stories? Am I in a slump or am I just kidding myself about being a writer? Am I putting too much emphasis on the title and not enough on the work? Am I trying to be too many different things at once, or have I yet to actually figure out what I am?

Perhaps I should go back to the beginning. Everyday I should write what I see out the window, or why I'm grateful, or what I'm going to make for dinner; it doesn't matter what, just write.

According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary "a verb is a word whereby the chief action of the mind [the assertion or the denial of a proposition] finds expression." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I believe writing is a verb. It takes action - putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, to be a writer.

I better get busy!
Merry ME

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hurricane Schmurricane!

"Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity."
Henry Hartman

Meteorologists have placed what they called Hurricane Ike's "cone of opportunity" right over Key West. Uhh, that would be the same Key West where my son lives. My son who says that even if there is a mandatory evacuation, he's not going anywhere. Not the words this mother likes to hear.

I have to laugh, however, because that's the same thing my 91 year old father says. "I'd rather be stuck in my own house than on I-95 going nowhere!" Even though there is some geriatric logic to that, I can't stop thinking about the four days we spent without electricity (i.e. air conditioning and ice) when Hurricane Fay blew over and dropped 12 inches of water on us. I wonder if locking the doors and heading inland at the first sign of rain isn't the best answer. Alas, there is very little chance that I'll ever find out. I come from "be prepared" and "batten down the hatches" stock. And it looks like I've passed this trait on to the next generation.

Johnson works for a hotel that sits on a tiny spit of land that is the southernmost tip of the United States. The hotel will most assuredly be sitting under a ton of water if the island is hit by a Category 5 storm. John says if he leaves emergency officials won't let him back on the island til the water subsides. Since he's in charge of the hotel's clean up crew leaving is not an option. Instead he'll move a few belongings, his lizard and guinea pig closer to the action and keep watch as the ocean waves and the dry land become one.

I think deep down he might be a little scared; the healthy kind of scared where you have respect for your opponent. But mostly he's talking to the storm like it's pest in a bar picking a fight. "Bring it on, Ike! Gimme your best shot! I dare you!"

What's a mother to do? Even though he's grown and old enough to make his own decisions, I worry. I wring my hands. I say a prayer. But I also remember things about my son that go a long way to convince me that he'll be okay.

Take for instance, the time when he was 4 years old. His favorite outfit consisted of a homemade Superman cape and red rubber boots. Morphing his heroic personas into a kind of Super/Spiderman combo, he carried a rather long piece of cotton twine everywhere he went. I don't know what kind of rescuing my pint-sized paladin imagined he could do with that string, but he never left home without it. In fact, carrying the string with him was a precursor to what became a lifetime characteristic of being prepared.

On one particular day, the string came in handy. While driving on a road less traveled, dodging oversized potholes, we heard an alarming clunking sound coming from under the chassis. I got out to take a look, followed closely by the young boy who apparently knew more about cars than his mother and her shopping companion. He pointed to the bent tailpipe lying askew under the car.

"Shit," I muttered to myself.

In an era that pre-dated cell phones my friend gave voice to the ineffective question that all damsels in distress ask,"What do we do now? We're stranded."

"Let's use this string to tie the pipe to the car," said the only person in the group who possessed Y-chromosome driven DNA. His man genes miraculously provided a knowledge of automobile repair that the adult women could only admire.

From that time on, we could usually count on John to have just the right idea and/or tool to rescue someone, usually himself, from precarious situations. I admit, a lot of them were the kind that a mother would rather not know about until years after the fact. Such as:

  • Taking over the driving from his sister during a serious winter whiteout - she had a license, he did not.
  • Doing roof repair in tornado conditions
  • Working on NC's outerbanks in the middle of hurricane
  • Being close enough to smell the smoke and see the flames when a plane flew into the Pentagon
  • And the most recent incident that had something to do with a fishing tournament, a broken boat engine, shark-infested waters too close to Cuba for a mariner's comfort, and and the now-grown superman donning his scuba gear to check the underside of the sputtering engine. Yikes!

To John it's all in a day's work. To me it's the reason I bite my fingernails.

Praying that hurricane season will soon be over, Merry ME

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Wendy!

"Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time."
Jean Paul Richter (German novelist and humorist)

Dear Wendy,

In honor of your special day here is my wish for you:

1. A sunny day with blue skies and big, white, puffy clouds

2. Crow sightings

3. Oolong tea in a pretty cup

4. Celebratory phone calls

5. Dog hugs and kitty kisses

6. A new hoodie

7. A long soak in a warm, bubbly tub

8. Fresh fruit of your choice

9. A handcrafted felt purse

10. A tall frosted glass of delicious iced tea

11. Baby coos and smiles

12. Good music

13. Chocolate chip cookies

14. Time to ponder old memories

15. Homemade guacamole

16. Sunflowers

17. Chocolate chip cookies

18. Time to dream new dreams

19. A cake full of candles

20. Money in your pocket

21. Kodak moments

22. Something silver

23. A gathering of good friends

24. An urban walk

25. A nap!

26. Michael Connelly books to read

27. Cousin capers

28. Brown things to warm your heart

29. Pork chops and applesauce

30. Crispy clean sheets topped off with your favorite quilt

31. Pillows fluffed just so

32. Smiley faces and laughter

33. Birthday balloons

34. A hike along a tree-lined pathway

35. A day off of work

36. A pedicure

37. A day to celebrate you.

My special daughter, delight in all the glories and blessings this day brings your way. Never forget you are loved.

Loving you and missing you,