Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon, Blue ME

I had every intention of redesigning my blog space for the new year. I had a quote all picked out. I was thinking of a word to inspire me in 2010. Patience was the one that kept coming back to me.

Patience! Ha!

My computer has been acting up. I've tried two new batteries, talked to people in India who tell me the computer is not registered to me (something I already knew), changed the power adapter, and still got a big black screen with a warning that said something like,

"I'm dying."

In my mind it was like the Wicked Witch melting after Dorothy through water on her.

I went to bed - the only place to deal with the kind of serious frustration and anger and, yes, depression brought on by the loss of my dear friend. I know it is unreasonable to be so insanely angry, or to cry my eyes out over a piece of hardware. It says to me, perhaps the universe knew what my word should be before I did.

Patience. I'll try. I'm not very good at it.

Happy New Year!
Merry ME
(from my father's computer)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things That Moved Me in 2009

"Cherish all your happy moments:
They make a fine cushion for old age."
Booth Tarkington

When I think back over the year I realize that a failing or selective memory can be a good thing! I recall more good things than the those that caused me grief. Here is my "Things That Moved ME" list for 2009. It makes me realize that life is good!

In no particular order:

1. New friends
2. Guild of the Christ Child baby shower
3. Seeing my Sweetie get sworn in as a Guardian ad Litem
4. Generosity in action
5. Red, white and blue quilts
6. Maithri Goonetilleke
7. Tulips
8. Almadine Stone Wizard
9. Barak Obama and his family in the White House - gardens, swing set, Bo
10. Stainless steel refillable Sharpies
11. Four generations in the house at one time.
12. My writing group
13. Re-connecting with friends I haven't seen in years; feeling as comfortable as ever.
14. Elliot, Alice and Ivy Jane
15. Father/Brother Georges
16. Watching the reunion between Dad and Genie
17. Nablopomo success
18. Two black cats
19. Blog friends
20. "The Blind Spot"
21. The 4th of July parade coming right past our house
22. Christmas eve children's octet and dancing girls
23. Time spent with my two favorite girls, Weneki and Linda Lu
24. Seeing the Xmas lights in St. Augustine with my Sweetie
25. Being gobsmacked by Susan Boyle
26. Handmade shell windchimes
27. Gratitude beads, mantra bracelet, pottery cup and plate, "It Matters" mug,
28. Clean, cool swimming pool on a hot summer day
29. Homegrown rosemary, basil and thyme
30. The smell of lavender
31. Bedlam Farm photographs
32. Coach Jack's Tuesday Treasures
33. Being available to someone in trouble
34. Robert!
35. Rex Rowan giving his mother's eulogy
36. Parenting discussions with KW Johnny
37. Ashley's cheerleading championship
38. Nighttime ritual with Dad and Boy Cat
39. This quote:
"What we can do is to live out our lives as best as we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings." Barak Obama, Eulogy for Sen. Ted Kennedy

40. Watching Weneki participate in the TrekWomen's Series Triathlon. "You go Girl!"
It's been quite a year!
Wishing for you good memories and dreams for your future,
Merry ME

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bonfire of the Vanities

"You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?"
Carly Simon

I'm so vain, I often think this song is about me!

It's not that I think I'm hot or strut around like everyone should be looking at me. Mostly I believe the opposite and try to keep the lowest of profiles. Not being noticed is what I try to be. Still, I've never met a mirror I didn't like. The reason being I hate to be teased and/or embarrassed. God forbid I should have something green stuck in my teeth!

I grew up feeling pretty insecure. I was taller than my sisters and most of my peers. I was skinny enough to be called "toothpick" by the people whose opinion mattered most to me. I wore glasses before little black glasses were cool. I lacked the ability to use make-up to improve my teenage nerdiness. My father often assured me the blue eyeshadow I used to make my eyes look sultry or flirty, looked more like the bird poop.

But over the years I kind of got into my own groove, at least as long as I could check myself out on a regular basis, i.e. passing by store windows, the 3-way mirror in a dressing room, the rear-view mirror while stopped at a red light. I didn't stare at myself or make pouty lips. I'd just do a quick glance to make sure that everything was as it should be.

Then I hit my 40's and something called peri-menopause. Just like when I was 12 and my mom handed me a book to read published by the Kotex company I was suddenly on my own to learn what my hormones were going to do next.

Night sweats ... check.
Mood swings ... check.
Hot flashes ... check.
Chin hairs ... chin hairs? This is a joke, right?

Apparently not. There I was at work one day and my co-worker reached over and yanked a black hair off my chin. I had an immediate conflict of emotions. While I wanted to crawl into a hole because I was so embarrassed, I was also grateful that the offending hair was taken care of.

That's when I started paying even closer attention to my face. I dare say I spend as much time in the morning facing the mirror as Sweetie did before he stopped shaving. I stretch my cheeks taut, and contort my chinny, chin chin this way and that, ever on the look out for any stray whiskers.

Will someone please tell me how it is if I go to bed at night relatively hairless, I can wake up with stubble? Okay, so I exaggerate a little. It's not stubble exactly, but a bristly coarse hair at least a quarter inch long can be just as upsetting. And why is it that the hair on my legs has almost quit growing and I have little hair under my arms, but my chin suddenly sprouts hair like it's been hit with a shot of Miracle-Gro?

Every Monday I change my father's bed linens, bathroom towels and give everything a good coat of Lysol. There is a full-length mirror on his bathroom door, so naturally I check myself both going and coming. Yesterday to my horror, I discovered, not one, but two, of these cat-like vibrissa just hanging out on my chin as if they belonged there.

There are many stages of womanhood. I think I've successfully maneuvered my way through all of them with the exception of menopause which seems to go on and on. I think when it is finally over I will have earned the right to sit, wrinkly, wizened and whiskered in some rocking chair dispensing wisdom to young girls who seek the meaning of life.

But until that time comes, I will continue keep my tweezers handy.

Wishing for you a reflection in the mirror that makes you smile,
Merry ME

P.S. According to Pamela Redmond Satran author of the book, How Not to Act Old, "the only thing more boring and unseemly than discussing getting your period is discussing not getting your period," [pg. 35] so I thought this talk of menopause and chin hairs might be uncool. However, if you Google "chin hairs" you'll find it is a very common topic. Go figure!

Monday, December 28, 2009

In My Book, Honessty is the Best Policy

"A half-truth is a whole lie."
Yiddish proverb

I told a lie.

Well, actually someone else told a little white-ish untruth. Then I went along with it. Then, in an effort to keep it going, I embellished it.

My stomach started hurting. I couldn't look the lie-ee in the eye. I felt icky inside.

In the end, I think the truth came out, but I can't be sure. I wasn't there. Funny, I was around for the lie, but not the truth.

I don't like to veer off the path of truth. This was a good reminder.

Feeling contrite,
Merry ME

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twas the day after Christmas ....

"One of the most glorious messes in the world
is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.
Don't clean it up too quickly."
Andy Rooney

..... everything is quiet and laidback.
All's right with the world.
Here's are some pictures that make me smile.
What is it about Christmas that makes people want to put on silly hats?

[Sorrow, close your eyes!
Apparently I was right on when it came to cooking a $50.00 piece of steak. Good thing!]

[My "Pig of Happiness" collection]
Wishing you happiness and joy and a fun hat to wear,
Merry ME

Friday, December 25, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Christmas Day 2009

Christmas circa 1955*
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
John Lennon, Happy Christmas (The War is Over)
And so this is Christmas!
After all the shopping, baking, singing, decorating, laughing, eating, stressing, wrapping, and merry making another Christmas Day is upon us. There is so much to be grateful for and happy about. Everything is not perfect but it is as good as it is going to get for today.
The house is quiet, except for the sound of Dad's walker moving slowly down the hall. I can smell the balsamy eucalyptus scent of the wreath that hangs over the mantle. The stockings are filled waiting for people to gather around and see what's stuffed inside. The table is set for a family meal, dysfunction is knocking at the door. Grabbing just a few minutes to herself the cook sits here with her computer trying to think of a new way to say Merry Christmas.
By writing this blog I've noticed that I've paid way more attention to the merriment and holiness of the season. I've opened my eyes and ears and heart to the sights and sounds and people around me. I've read and witnessed how other people take/make the time to celebrate. For sure it is a crazy time of year. There is way too much focus put on the buying of things, and I've been caught up in that too. Still, I've tried to stay focused on the importance of giving - not things so much as my time and focus. I haven't always succeeded, but I've come closer than I expected to.
Here are some other thoughts I'd like to share with you on this blessed day. I couldn't decide which I liked more, so I decided to include them all. Enjoy:
"Merry Christmakwanzakah!
No matter what path you walk on in your life,
religious, spiritual, atheist, yogic, nature,
or none of the above
I feel that today is a very special and symbolic day.
Far too often we use our differences to divide us.
This group believes this, this group believes that -
look how different we are.
And while variety is indeed the spice of life
and different points of view all help
to push us forward to see the many sides of life;
I think the most important thing to focus
on this Holiday season,
this Christmas is what our similarities are.
We may have a million differences,
but if we can find even one similarity
that is enough of a bond to rally
and unite around.
My belief is that the one thing we all share,
above anything else,
is the strong desire to Love and be Loved.
This is what moves us, binds us and keeps us moving.
To feel love in action is to feel and be alive."
Mastin Kipp, The Daily Love

"There will be no peace
in the word at large,
or the world in which you
live until you are at
peace in your heart.
Seek your peace in all
the areas of your life,
leave no soul unfound
or love left unspoken"
jdc, 12/25/09

"May the spirit of Christmas bring your peace
May the gladness of Christmas give you hope
May the warmth of Christmas grant you love."

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas
if you stop opening presents and listen."
Author unknown
attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

"Do not be afraid;
for see - I am bringing you good news
of great joy for all the people ..."
The Christmas angel
(Luke 2:12)

So to each of you who visit me here at Random Thoughts I thank you for the lessons you teach me. I thank you for your examples, your words, your humor, your comforting comments. May each of you be filled with the special joys of the season.
Merry ME

(Ed. Note: Back when my Dad was in his photography phase he took pictures and made his own Christmas cards. When we cleaned out closets a few months ago, I found a box full of old photographs, and contact sheets. This picture, sized 11x14, was in the box. I did not intentionally crop out my sister, Jo. The picture was way too big for the scanner and this was the best I could do. The little girl looking quite angelic is the child I know as Little ME)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Christmas Eve

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
Dr. Seuss

This afternoon I was treated to the sight of my very own Santa, (aka Sweetie) as he loaded up his sleigh (no reindeer, but a great sun-roof) with gifts for his GAL kids. In his typical fashion (a little on the OCD side) he made several lists and checked them over and over again. Finally last night everything was marked and ready to go. Today he drove all over town delivering things to these kids who have sort of stolen his heart, even though he's not supposed to get attached! Between feeding homeless people, contributing to a church food drive, and shopping for some pretty need kids, I think Sweetie and I have done a great job of setting the tone and living out the meaning of Christmas. I must say it feels pretty darn good!

Dad and I went to church tonight. The Hispanics know how to liven up a service. We sang the traditional Christmas eve carols - O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and Hark the Harold Angels Sing. But interspersed with a children's choir where the soloist forgot most of the words (it was priceless!) and liturgical dancing we also sang a few rousing choruses of Cantemos (a traditional Venezuelan carol) and Feliz Navidad! I had to look twice to make sure Jose Feliciano wasn't in our midst! Also, I've never heard a preacher get an ovation for his homily! The pomp and circumstance of a "high" mass was missing, but not the message. The story of Christmas always gives me goose bumps.

You may not believe this, but I've still got presents to wrap. What was supposed to be a night of quiet contemplation is surely going to turn into something just short of an all-nighter with paper and bows and ribbons all over the floor. I kind of wonder, since it will be there again tomorrow morning, if I could do away with tonight's step and put bare boxes under the tree.

Na, that would be way too Grinch-like.

And we've already got a bit of a grinch stand-off going on so I better make my own gaiety while I can.

Tonight I wish for you time to be quiet; time to listen for the sound of reindeer paws on the roof, or the sweet sound of a baby's peaceful sleeping, or angels singing, or a merry Ho! Ho! Ho!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Merry ME

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Remembering

"The advantage of a bad memory is that
one enjoys several times
the same good things for the first time. "
Friedrich Nietzsche

Christmas Eve eve - December 23rd - my mom's birthday. I guess people don't still have birthdays after they've passed away. Yet it seems to me the day should not go by un-noticed.

The 23rd of December has traditionally been the day everyone in my neighborhood lines the streets with luminaries. I know it's all about sharing the holiday with neighbors but to me it's like having a big birthday celebration.


There's a Bible verse that says something along the lines of not to make a face when you are fasting, and don't make a big deal out of giving to the poor. The beauty of these acts is that you don't call attention to them.

Well, I've never been one to let an opportunity to toot my own horn pass by. I did an act of kindness today that made me feel pretty good and wonder if I'd been taken advantage of at the same time. What do you think?

As I was coming out of the drug store, there was a couple sitting on the sidewalk who of course talked to me before I could pass by unnoticed. They were obviously weathered, probably homeless, and in need of something. I listened to the whole story about not being from around here (the Massachusetts accent gave that away), not having a job, just getting out of the hospital (wristband still in place), sleeping outside and being hungry. In my best "Sorrow" impression, I asked if I could buy them something to eat. Their eyes lit up and they eagerly said they would split a cheeseburger from the joint across the street.

Jumping on my white steed (or small gray Chevy, as the case might be) I smiled like a Christmas elf as I whipped back into five o'clock traffic. In a moment of greater charity than was probably warranted, I bypassed Wendy's and went to the BBQ joint next door. I got meat and vegetables and big glasses of tea. I was feeling pretty good when I got back to the drug store until I noticed the people were gone. I felt a little frustrated that my good deed wasn't turning out so well. Undaunted I decided to drive around the block and see if I could find someone who wanted 2 chicken dinners with all the trimmings!

Again I pulled out into the traffic. I soon spotted the couple standing in front of Wendy's no doubt thinking I'd scammed them instead of the other way around. But I waved them down, handed them the food, delighted in my own tenaciousness and made one more left hand turn into the busy roadway. At the red light I watched as the couple crossed the street and leaned up against a building to eat. The woman dug right in. The man, however, began to walk away. Where was he going? I felt a little sad as I watched him head straight for the liquor store. Forget the iced tea, I guess nothing goes with BBQ chicken like a nice cold brew.

All I could think to do was offer up a prayer that wherever they are on life's journey they will be blessed and maybe one day if they are able, they will pay it forward. Call me naive. Maybe I should have been more upset than I was, but I'm pretty sure my heart was in the right place. I think maybe my mom looked down from heaven and smiled on me. And that's what I want to remember about today.

Wishing for you enough food to fill you up and a warm place to sleep,
Merry ME

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Egads! Only 3 days to go!

"Think what a better world it would be if we all,
the whole world,
had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon
and then lay down on our blankets for a nap."
Robert Fulghum

I haven't been out of my pajamas in two days except to get dressed to take some gifts to be mailed, naturally at the last minute! My list of things to get done before Friday seems to grow in direct proportion to the lessening of time to do it all in. Is this a law of physics or something more sinister and grinch-like? Or just a very unorganized Merry Me?

I actually felt like I accomplished a few things yesterday. But today I shudder to think what I still need to do. Like planning Christmas dinner! Or better yet deciding on a day to have it that works well into everyone's schedule. After buying the $50.00 piece of meat my father requested on Saturday my dinner plans came to a screeching halt!

Today, in between chores, I'm wondering what to do about Christmas cards. Or more accurately, since I've decided to send New Year cards, what to do about the year end letter that people write and stick in their cards.

Christmas card senders come in a variety of types don't you think?
First there is the person who picks out a beautifully glittered winter/Christmas card, with a dignified message inside and the name of the sender machine engraved in red script letters. No note. Nothing. It's a nice reminder of people you don't know well or haven't seen in awhile.

Then there are the cards that come with short notes, pictures, and smiley faces. The kind that warm your heart and remind you of people you haven't seen in a while.

There are cards that come with all the above plus a letter typed on Christmas paper that fills you in on a year of happenings in the sender's life - kind of like a year end Cliff Notes.

Over the years I've done all of the above as well as declared it a card-free season. My excuse might have been that I was trying to be environmentally conscientious, or the postage was too high. The truth was most likely something along the lines of running out of time and energy.

My plan is to sit down in the week between Christmas and New Years and leisurely address cards to send to people who I want to remember, and those I would like to have remember me. My debate with myself is whether or not to write a universal letter or short individual notes. I believe the notes to be more personal, but the "writer" in me hates to give up the wonderful opportunity to put words down on paper. However since a lot of the people included on my card list also read my blog, isn't a year-end letter rather redundant. And just a little more narcissistic than I care to admit being?

Then there's the desire to make a "Things That Moved Me This Year" list - a la Weneki. The making of this list is a great exercise in remembering and gratitude, plus since I like getting one from someone else, I assume others would like getting mine.

Decisions. Decisions.

For now, I really must go take a shower and move on to the next thing on my To Do List. It has to do with food and the rumbling in my tummy!

Today I wish for you reminders from people far and near who have touched your life. May the glittery cards and family photos make you smile.
Merry ME

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Angels Among Us

"All God's angels come to us disguised."
James Russell Lowell

It's funny, I think, or strange or kind of weird - whichever word you want to use - when you are standing in line at the grocery store and before you know it, the person in front of you is telling you something that you know, in your knowing place, is not just random stranger speak. It's more like something you're pretty sure God wants you to hear.

This happened to me the other day when I was running helter-skelter from one store to another, and trying to polish silver and bake blueberry muffins during the in-between times. Actually standing in a longish, slow-moving line was a kind of reprieve from the hustle and bustle. I actually rested for a few minutes, though I doubt my tired legs considered it much of a break.

"Oh dear," said the woman if front of me half-way through emptying her cart, more to herself than to anyone else. "I've forgotten my Dad;s ice cream." Looking at me, she asked if I minded if she ran and got it while we waited.

It wasn't a problem for me, so she left. I continued to unload her cart, thinking it would be my act of kindness for the day. She came back carrying one half gallon of chocolate and one of vanilla. Just what I buy! She smiled as she skooched by me back to her basket and commented, "the newspaper in the morning and ice cream at night are the highlights of my Dad's day."

I easily related to that. So I struck up a conversation by asking if she is a caregiver, does she live with her dad; nosy questions that didn't seem nosy at the time. Her answers were yes and we kind of compared notes. As her groceries were nearing the end of the conveyor belt she said, "I consider it a privilege to take care of my dad."

Cough, cough, sputter, sputter. That was me trying to grasp what she'd just said and how to respond. I was speechless for a moment. But right there in front of the tabloid newspapers and People Magazine, I realized that I'd been talking to an angel. How else was God going to get my attention? Write across the sky with a Divine Sharpie? No, I think He used that woman to remind me, in the middle of all my busy-ness, that my real life focus is the privilege of taking care of my dad. Perhaps not the only focus, but the job he's set before me.

Somehow it sat better coming from the Heavenly Father, rather than the curmudgeon who reminds me on a regular basis that he is - or should be - my priority. If he had his way, writing groups, parties, church work, relationships with myself and others would all take a backseat to that job. I believe God wants me to have the other things in my life too, but doesn't want me to forget, or be too hard on Grumpy Grampy!

All that awareness happened in a split second, which is actually another miracle because I'm usually slow on the uptake. I thanked the woman and it was her turn to be taken aback! For what? she asked. And I explained I was grateful for the reminder. That indeed, being with my father at the end of his life, hard as it is somedays, is a privilege. There are lots of people who don't get that gift on either side of the relationship street.

Now my task is to remember. Not to mention being more aware of the angelic messengers that hover around trying to keep me on the path that lies ahead.

How about you? Had any angelic encounters lately? Participated in any miracles?

Maybe we're more tuned into angels during the holiday season. With all that singing, how could we not be? I'm pretty sure, however, that the gift of an angel's presence is not a seasonal thing. Just look at a newborn baby as it sleeps, or the wonder on a child's face when he sees the ocean for the first time, or a soldier's gratitude as steps back on home soil, or a mother's smile as she hears her child's name called at graduation, or the family that gets home in time for Christmas in spite of winter storms, or the husband and wife who after 60 years of marriage crawl into bed, wrap their bodies into a natural spoon shape and say goodnight in each other's arms.

To me angels are just another way of communicating God's most precious gift to us dimwits here on earth. It's L-O-V-E the angels are saying. Love with all your heart they tell us over and over again. As long as it takes for everyone to get the message, I think there will be angels to remind us.

I wish for you chance encounters and surprise messages. Mostly I wish you love,
Merry ME

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Time Spent with Sweetie

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season,
that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones
in sharing centuries-old traditions
such as trying to find a parking space at the mall."
Dave Barry

Sweetie and I took off this afternoon for some last minute Christmas shopping. If the truth be told, it was really the start of the shopping, not the end. Knowing that we should have had a list to check twice. We should of had a plan all mapped out so we'd know where to go and how to get there. But, in the spirit of the Magi we decided to set out to follow our own star and see where we it might lead us.

It couldn't have been a more perfect afternoon. We did a few errands then headed south for St. Augustine. Left in the capable hands of my sister, and knowing Dad had the prospect of the battery holder he's building to keep him occupied, I trusted that he would be fine. I put all caregiving thoughts on hold. I relaxed into the peacefulness of just Sweetie and I with time on our hands

Once we hit the outskirts of the nation's oldest city, we had a few thousand more people to contend with. But what's Christmas shopping without crowds and looking for a parking place? Sweetie maneuvered the nation's oldest cobblestone streets managing to avoid pedestrians who stepped out in front of moving cars because the sidewalks were packed. I began to take in the lighted trees and shop windows. I felt the stirrings of that excited kid feeling. What is it about millions of little shiny lights that makes things seem so magical?

We found the restaurant that had been recommended to us and ate delightfully delicious plates of pasta and homemade bread sticks right out of the oven. We wandered in and out of souvenir shops, not buying so much as peeking in to see what there might be.

Right off the bat I fell for a purse shaped like a Christmas tree. Not knowing a Mary Frances handbag from any other, I walked right in and asked the price - a mere $250.oo with a discount of questionable percentage (some signs said 30%, some said 50, as if either would make much of a difference.) There's not too many times a year one can actually use a Christmas tree purse. And it was so dolled up with glitz and glam that one would have to be going to the theater, or sneaking into a White House gala to really get away with it. But still it was tres magnifique so I put it on my wish list just to see what Santa is capable of!

Sweetie got a little tired but waited patiently for me as I enjoyed the sights and sounds. Not to mention the smell of fudge. I realized I'd over done things when I came out of a shop and my true love looked frightfully cold and nearing a 10 on his I've-had-enough-meter. We headed back to the car which we'd parked in a lot with no attendant to collect the $9.00 fee. A Christmas miracle to be sure!

I ran across the street to get a picture of the lit up trees while Sweetie warmed himself and the car. Then, driving past horse driven carriages as they clip-clopped down the street, we headed for home. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Wishing for you time spent with the one you love,
Merry ME

Friday, December 18, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Festive Flowers

Daniel Roselle

At Christmas time I believe the things that children do.
I believe with English children that holly placed in windows will protect our homes from evil.
I believe with Swiss children that the touch of edelweiss will charm a person with love.
I believe with Italian children that La Befana is not an ugly doll but a good fairy who will gladden the heart of all.
I believe with Greek children that coins concealed in freshly baked loaves of bread will bring good luck to anyone who finds them.
I believe with German children that the sight of a Christmas tree will lessen hostility among adults.
I believe with French children that lentils soaked and planted in a bowl will rekindle life in people who have lost hope.
I believe with Dutch children that the horse Sleipner will fly through the sky and fill the earth with joy.
I believe with Swedish children that Jultomte will come and deliver gifts to the poor as well as to the rich.
I believe with Finnish children that parties held on St.Stephen's Day will erase sorrow.
I believe with Danish children that the music of a band playing from a church tower will strengthen humankind.
I believe with Bulgarian children that sparks from a Christmas log will create warmth in human souls.
I believe with American children that the sending of Christmas cards will build friendships.
I believe with all children that there will be peace on earth.

I believe at Christmas time poinsettias are nice. As are bright red Amarylis bulbs blooming tall and proud. However, after receiving a bouquet from my sister, I have to say red and white tulips, with a bit of fir greenery thrown in, top my favorite list for holiday flowers. They really are quite divine. Who knew tulips weren't just for springtime?
Thanks to you Linda Lu.
Wishing you the flower of your choice to brighten up your day,
Merry ME

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Making Memories

"The whole of the holy life is good friends."
The Buddha (to his cousin Ananda)

[Photo by Jack]

I find it hard to believe that I haven't been at my blog since Monday. Needless to say the last two days were a whirlwind of activity. Final decorating touches, last minute runs to the grocery store, 10pm kitchen floor mopping, then the party itself. Both nights I poured my aching self into bed and fell into deep sleep punctuated only by leg cramps. I remember having parties before but don't remember being so tired. I have a feeling the weariness is a combination of physical and emotional exhaustion. Still, I had a wonderful time and think my guests did too. I'd like to be more confident, more Martha Stewart-esque, but that probably comes with having a large staff to do all the work!

When it came right down to it, my timing was perfect. Everything was done when the first guest appeared; everything, except pinning on the corsage Dad sent Sweetie out to buy at the last minute. I felt loved and cared for by both of my boys who were being pushed into the background for a few hours.

As the ladies arrived I began to feel festive. My habit has been to prepare everything then force myself to stay present and be a part of my own party. But this group really makes it easy to feel included. The house took on a festive air as the women, dressed in bright holiday colors, exchanged greetings, drank tea, laughed, ate cookies, shared stories, and pet the dog.

Someone told me I looked calm. In the middle of it all, I stopped to reflect and I think I was calm. Well, up until it was time to serve lunch. Then I got a little nervous just because of the logistics. However, I learned that when you get a bunch of women together one of them is going to know just how to serve the soup (from the kitchen) and salad, (at the table) and when to bring out the dessert.

I made magnets with quotes on writing from famous authors. Each person got one and we went around the table reading them. It was interesting to see how each woman seemed to get a quote that fit her to a T. After lunch we went back to the living room to get the work of the group. We had four or five stories to critique. As always there were plenty of laughs and a great amount of helpful comments. I'm learning to accept that people can offer suggestions and it doesn't mean my work is shit. It's not all one way or another. And I'm learning to trust that I have a talent for writing. It's not a flash in the pan. It comes from inside me and, imagine this, is REAL.

All that said, today I am in the middle off post party depression! Mostly because everything that was so lovingly arrayed now has to be placed back in the closet where it reside for another 10 years. I had forgotten how beautiful a silver tea set could be but the whole time it's been out, polished and gleaming in the twinkling lights, I've been afraid of a home invasion. And of course that means that meek and mild little Mary would be forced into her Superhero persona and attack with an unknown strength when someone tried to take the tray that was given to my parents on their wedding day. No way, Jose, you're not getting that tray! And then I'd be dead. No wonder I'm depressed!

[Photo: Boy Cat trying to decide if he wants coffee or tea!]

It's kind of like Christmas morning spent with little kids. All the build up, all the anticipation, all the waiting, and then in a matter of minutes the beautiful wrappings and bows are all over the floor and the "gotta-have-it-toy" Santa brought has been discarded for the box it came in. The let-down is almost programmed to happen.

I've got enough to keep me busy, though. I've got Christmas shopping to do! And package wrapping! And standing in line at the Post Office. Oh Joy!

Wishing for you good times with good friends,

Merry ME

Monday, December 14, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Baking

“Marge, it's 3 AM. Shouldn't you be baking?"
Homer Simpson

I started baking this morning almost as soon as my feet hit the ground. I've rolled, cut, iced, sprinkled, until I can't see straight. I've still got Gingerbread men to frost. The thing that worries me is I only made one batch of each kind of cookie. In years past I would have had much more to show for a day's work. Obviously I'm slowing down! Oh well, as Scarlett O'Hara believes, there's always tomorrow!

While the cookies are baked, they are not neatly plated. Nor is the kitchen put back into any kind of order. I still have work to do.

However, if you want to see a prize-winning array of beautiful Christmas baking, hop on over to my friend Sorrow's blog and look at hers. I almost swooned when I saw it.

Wishing you a cup of tea to drink with a big ol' sugar cookie covered in multi-colored sprinkles,
Merry ME

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The problem with today's kids ....

I hooked back up with the Belchers this afternoon for a couple of hours of Christmas shopping at what Jacksonvillians consider one of the biggest malls in the country. Or maybe it only seems that big because it is like walking from Jacksonville to Orlando. Regardless of the size it was totally packed with people. The line in Abercombie was out the door, which was a good thing because the music would have driven me out in a matter of minutes.

Each of us had a place we wanted to go, but, as luck would have it, everyone okay a quick visit to Barnes and Noble. Robert wanted to check out some "rock and roll," Laura was looking for a CD by someone had recommended, and I was hoping to find a copy of John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album. We all went in different directions.

I headed straight for the Christmas music. A young and energetic sales girl offered to help me. Thinking I would save some time, I said asked where I'd find John Denver. She looked at me and without blinking an eye said, "Denver? How do you spell that?"

I was momentarily startled then I started to chuckle. The girl went straight to the computer to look up John Denver as if he was of Bing Crosby vintage. As soon as I turned to continue my search elsewhere the girl got about as far as D-E-N-and gave up! I wonder if she would have had difficulty spelling the Gorillas?

What, may I ask, is the world coming to?

Merry ME

Countdown to Christmas - Joy! Joy! Joy!

"While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about."
Angela Schwindt

Yesterday was dreary, damp and chilly. If we lived above the Mason-Dixon line we'd have had several inches of snow. Instead, we enjoyed the rainfall we've been needing - just not all at one time!

By noon, the house was clean and sparkling with candle light. All I had to do was wait. And wait. And wait some more. Then I heard it. The sound of a car in the driveway and footsteps on the sidewalk leading up to the front door. I peeked out the mail slot and instead of seeing the two little baby brown eyes that used to look back at me I saw the long, lanky, holey jean-clad legs of the man/child I'd been waiting for. I opened the door and there he was. Be still my heart!

He walked right in, gave me a big hug and there you have it. A perfect Christmas! How good it was to see his parents too. Smiling, laughing, reminiscing. What a way to spend a dreary afternoon. I can't say Robert was exactly talkative, but he wasn't totally quiet either. He seemed to know when to interrupt the adult conversation with a teenaged zinger. His comments were like exclamation points at the end of a sentence.

We exchanged information of all the people in our lives - who's been sick, who's had joint replacement, who's going where to school, etc. Of course, I grabbed my camera and tried to take some self-portraits. As usual, I'm a little off!

Then we took an actual trip down memory lane. We went to dinner at the Japanese Steak house where we used to go on a regular basis when I was Nanny and Robert was only 3 years old and more impressed with feeding the koi in the fish pond then men throwing knives in the air! I think the fish must have been the same ones from years past, but like Robert, they had increased in size!

In between memories of things we'd done together I garnered information like Robert doesn't really care much for school, but thinks he might want to be an engineer or produce video games when he grow up. No more ideas of joining the army. He's not much into sports, but is still a Tampa Bay Buccaneer's fan. His music likes lean towards Rock & Roll (so you like Elvis, I asked! It was a joke! He looked at me like I just stepped out of an alien space craft!) His favorite groups are, and I quote: Cage the Elephant, MudVain and The Gorillas. The Gorillas? I think he might have been pulling my leg, but I did not ask to listen to his playlist. How would this lover of John Denver react to Cage the Elephant?

I learned that one can sit in his own room, hook up to a laptop computer and play video games with someone in another state. Part of me is wildly impressed and the other thinks it is technology gone berserk.

Back at the house Sweetie rescued Robert from the nostalgia (God, I love that man. He always knows just the right moment to ride up on his white horse!). My two "boys" went in another room and talked about books. Before the night was over Robert had his nose in one of Sweetie's favorite books. I almost swooned with love for them both.

[Photo: No more pictures, please!]

[Photo: Okay, just one more!]

And then they were gone, into the cold rainy night. But not without promises of phone calls, pictures and emails. Maybe I'll see them this afternoon, but they've got other people to visit. I must be grateful for the time I had.

I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating. When I was a mom, I was pretty uptight. My husband was gone a lot and it seemed the whole responsibility of molding and shaping a child's future was in my hands. I worried a lot about what other people thought. I sometimes neglected to see the unique features of the children I loved so dearly. I did the best I could, but I struggled.

However, when I was Robert's nanny, I looked at the world through his eyes. I learned to listen for the sound of the garbage truck, and rain splashing in puddles. I learned to play castle, and "I'm a rock ...." Instead of stifling her in an adult's body I let my inner child grow as Robert grew. It was an incredibly special time in my life. And I'm pretty sure, even if he is way too cool to say so, it was special for him too. Excuse me while I toot my own horn, but I think this is what blessings are all about. When you give you get. And when you get you give.

Wishing for you a child, any child, with which to share the joy of life,

Merry ME

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Robert is Coming! Robert is Coming!

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
Laura Ingalls Wilder

In one of my past lives - about 10 years ago - I was a nanny. I took care of a child from the time he was a month old til he was 5. If my mom hadn't needed more of my attention I would have stuck with the job probably a lot longer than he would have needed or wanted! I doubt he would have wanted his nanny tagging along with him to middle school!

The family moved away and I havent seen them for a couple of years. I'm told Robert now stands taller than his mother - around 5'7"! Today, as a special holiday treat, the whole Belcher gang is coming to Florida. It is a rainy, icky day. But I'm all warm and fuzzy inside. I can't wait to get my hands on that child and wrap him in a Nanny bear hug. The kind that he'll hate and complaing about!!

I have no idea how to talk to a 13 year old. He's never been much of a talker. He's into video games of which I don't even know a name. Unless retro games like PacMan and Donkey Kongare fashionable again I'm going to have to wing it! I suspect he'll sit on the couch, not speaking while his mom and dad and I catch up. He'll be bored to tears and eventually get antsy. That's when we'll go out to eat at one of our favorite restuarants.

I hope to have some pictures to share later.

Wishing for you good memories of favorite people and good eats,
Merry ME

Friday, December 11, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Lists

"You will achieve grand dream, a day at a time,
so set goals for each day -
not long and difficult projects, but chores that will take you,
step by step, toward your rainbow.
Write them down, if you must, but limit your list
so that you won't have to drag
today's undone matters into tomorrow.
Remember that you cannot build your pyramid in twenty-four hours.
Be patient.
Never allow your day to become so cluttered that you
neglect your most important goal
to do the best you can,
enjoy this day, and
rest satisfied with what you have accomplished."
Og Mandino

Photo: In case you ever wonder about what Santa does on his day(s) off. He sits around in his spa robe and checks his list which is now computerized and much easier to cull.

Today I have lists on my mind. Probably because I should have made one (or more) weeks ago to keep me on track. I have several half-finished projects, most of which lead up to a luncheon I'm having on Wednesday. Usually my writing group meets at Paneras but in a moment of festive frivolity, and perhaps a bit of foolishness, I offered up my home for a holiday lunch.

The thing is, I'm really focused on it. I can't think of what to buy people for Christmas, or when to get cards written, or how to fit baking and vacuuming into the next few days. Did I mention I'm having company on Saturday? I keep telling myself it will all get done, because in my experience it will. But like standing out the check out counter searching for my check card, with a hundred dollars worth of groceries in bags before me and a line of grumpy customers behind me I have to panic a little for good measure. And I must also tell my inner Martha Stewart to lighten up. I am NOT going to make pastel colored royal icing for my cookies then individually place silver dragees (those little silver balls that crack your teeth) along the edge. Not in a box, or with a fox; not in a house and not with a mouse.

Oh God, now I'm channeling Dr. Seuss

So instead of finishing up at least one of my projects, I made the mistake of sitting down at the computer. Because I was thinking of how much easier my life might be if I made more lists.

One of the Christmas traditions that I have grown to look forward to more than dreamy possibility that Santa might bring me a winning Powerball ticket and wipe away all my worries, is Weneki's annual Favorites list. A few years ago she began including her "Things that Moved Me" and "Top 10 Movies" in her Christmas cards. Gradually the lists have grown to include favorite live shows, songs, food and drink, all in 8pt font.

A lot of the movies, bands and songs I've never heard of. Actually make than most of them. It's fun, however, to see that she not only enjoyed them but can remember them! Her things that moved me list never fails to move me. My daughter doesn't live a magical life without pain or sadness, but she never fails to make a list at the end of the year where she blesses the goodness in her life.

Last fall I watched my woman/child achieve a spectacular physical goal for which she'd trained for 9 months. It was like watching a person I'd never seen before. How can that be? How can a mother not know her own child? The reality is that even though I've known her since she took her first breath, my daughter has grown into a beautiful and remarkable woman. This is no surprise, yet it takes my breath away when I realize I've missed so much of transformation.

Is this a stage of parenting that I didn't know about? And how does it compare with a father/daughter relationship that seems to have never left the oedipal stage? Just when I feel like a grown woman who can manage life's ups and downs, my dad says something that makes me feel 3 years old. It's kind of weird, don't you think?

On another note, I think the quote at the top of this post is going to be my mantra for the New Year. I'm not a goal maker - no surprise there! But I like the idea of moving towards my own personal rainbow!

But here's another one I liked almost as much by novelist/journalist/screenwriter/children's author and comic writer, Neil Gaiman:

I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school.
They don't teach you how to love somebody.
They don't teach you how to be famous.
They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor.
They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer.
They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind.
they don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying.
They don't teach you anything worth knowing.

Perhaps the last line is a tad exaggerated, but I think the point is well made. How can one find their own rainbow, and not know some of life's important lessons? Maybe that's where a good list comes in.

Wishing for you time enough for holiday projects, lunch with creative friends, remembering things that moved you this year, and visions of a rainbow with your name on it,

Merry ME

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time out for a Public Service Announcement

"Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars.
It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return.
It is estimated that approximately 3 million incidents
of domestic violence are reported each year in the United States."
Diane Feinstein

It feels very weird to be concentrating on a season that is supposed to be all about peace and joy and goodwill toward men when so many women and children are suffering from all kinds of abuse the world over. I don't know the numbers, or the statistics. I'm not even sure the exact definition of abuse - domestic or otherwise. But today I sat with a woman and listened as she cried out her painful story.

In the three years that she's lived with a man he has beaten her down to a place that she no longer knows her own truth. At one point I interrupted her story to ask if he'd hit her. She told me no, but I kind of wonder if that is the truth. But then why would he need to use anything other than his words? They did as much to hurt her and didn't leave any marks on the outside. No her wounds are internal.

I asked her to promise me that she would not go back. She couldn't do it. Even as she talked to me she kept one ear peeled for his phone call.

I asked her to let me take her to a woman's center right around the corner. She said no.

I asked her if she would see a doctor because of her depression. She refused.

But she said it would be okay to share her story with the one person I felt might get through to her- my Sweetie. He pulled up a chair, faced her straight on and let her talk/cry/rage/and cry some more. He got out of her that she has a plan of sorts - to move to New York. He was able to get her to talk about herself. I won't go so far as to say she could do it in a positive way, but we could see the dim spark of her spirit emerge for just a moment or two. It's there, we just have to keep fanning the flames and keep it burning.

Eventually she talked herself out. I held her in my arms and her breathing calmed a bit. I convinced her to eat something. Then she left for work. I don't know if or when I'll hear from her again.

After she left I felt sad. My spirit hurt. I realized that what I believe is true. When one woman hurts, we all hurt on some level.

A man through a plate of food at me once. Put his hands around my neck. Called me names. Embarrassed me by his wild rantings. I called the police, kicked him out of my home, moved away from him, changed my locks, cried, and raged. But I didn't let go of him until I knew, deep down knew, that I would be okay without him, and he would be just fine without me. It took a lot of time, work, prayers, mistakes, and friends to get me to that point. Every journey begins with a single step.

Last week my friend said okay when she was told to leave. It was the first step on a path to recovery. Today my beautiful, firey, sweet, scared, fragile yet strong friend took a 2nd step, she broke the silence, she trusted us with her story. My prayer is that she will be able to keep moving forward and not look back.

If you are in an abusive situation, please hear these words:
It is NOT your fault.
You are NOT stupid.
You are NOT crazy.
Do NOT be afraid to tell someone.
You CAN get out.
I PROMISE, there IS help out there.
Praying for a world where women and children no longer go to sleep afraid.
Merry ME

Countdown to Christmas - Christmas Tree

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall."

Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

Ignoring for a minute the obvious starboard tilt to this tree, and the fact that the tree is not really a tree, but the top section of an artificial tree my parents that has perhaps seen one too many Christmases, does you see something amiss with this picture?

I'll give you a hint.

It is the three strings of lights that are on the floor no longer shining like they were when they were on the tree just 5 minutes before the picture was taken. I won't bore you with the picky little details like a new string of lights blowing, not one but 2 fuses, or the fact that the lights had been wound in and around the artificial branches not twice but three times.

It was about this time that I started to blow a fuse and called my very own SuperElf to the rescue. He's the one who discovered the burned out fuses. Excuse me, but when did Christmas lights start coming with fuses? And why, oh why, should 3 strands of cool burning (is that an oxymoron?) indoor lights need a fuse? Aren't they suppose to be cool? How can they get so hot they blow a fuse?

I know it's not good to cuss at inanimate objects any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. It just feels wrong to interrupt a chorus of angels singing and drummer boys drumming with a string of expletives that would send one not-so Merry ME right at the top of Santa's naughty list. I must say, however, that it feels really good to let the little blinking lights know exactly who is in charge.

I left the mess and the blue air surrounding the pathetic tree to make and eat dinner. Then I went back, tried once more, gave in, accepted imperfection and voila! It is done. It is kind of sad looking, does not smell of a pine forest - or any kind of forest for that matter - has a big bare spot and a list, but it is what it is and will suffice for this year.

As I put the final jingle ball on the lowest branch to test the willpower of two black kitties who want me to believe they could care less about lights and balls that glitter, my father walked through the room. I'd already added the Patty star to the tree (from my mom's 1st Christmas tree in 1921) not knowing it was tradition for him to do it. There was something about the tree that made him stop. He sat down on the table and stared at the tree.

"That's a pretty tree," he said, with a tenderness I'd not heard in awhile. "It's getting to be the season if this old house could talk it could tell some good stories." I wonder what stories he was remembering?

I left to send an email, but Sweetie stayed in the room with Dad. I can't say they had a real conversation, but from where I sat (and listened) it was if an unspoken truce had been called. A kind of Christmas peace.

So what if the tree is as fake as Pamela Anderson's boobs, it worked a miracle in my house tonight. And isn't that what the holidays are all about.

Wishing you lights that work and peace-filled memories,
Merry ME

Monday, December 7, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Unconnected thoughts

" should appreciate the small joys of everyday
and try to make more of them,
life is for savouring the tiny-satisfying-making you happy things
as well as the large occasional joys."
Daisy Lupin

I must be in one of my manic stages. I'm walking from room to room, picking up here, dusting there. I've actually begun washing the crystal and plan on polishing the silver. An annual event that is time consuming but I like the way everything sparkles when it's done. Of course I might have put it off til after the holidays had not a fine layer of dry wall dust settled on everything - even inside the china cabinet.


I had a very strange dream last night. What I remember most is that cutie Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and Ford truck commercial fame putting tape across his mouth BEFORE kissing me. I do believe my knees buckled anyway. I'm not sure what brought us together, perhaps the thought of the aforementioned chore, but I was still laughing when I woke up with a ferocious leg cramp.
In that same dream I was also bitten, not once but twice, by a copperhead snake. Surely there is something phallic about that but I suspect the pain I felt was the tightening in my calf. To his credit, mouth-taped Dirty Job Mike somehow called my mother to tell her he thought I would be late for dinner.

Do you think a dream like this could qualify me for a few days of R&R at a nice, relaxing, spa-like retreat center, i.e. loony bin?


Lately I've written a few stories for my writing group that feature, what else, the relationship between me and my father. Last week one of them was being critiqued by the group. I listened as someone read a portion out loud. It really is different to hear your own words read by someone else - a good technique to polish one's writing skills. I was pleased with what I heard, and even surprised by the depth of caring that was apparent.

Why, I wonder, can't we live in harmony the way I write about it?

A couple days later I had an epiphany of sorts. I think I write about my fantasy father. The one who is going to love me no matter what. One who I don't fight with all the time. The one it scares me so much to lose. Perhaps like dreams, I write to balance out the struggle.

In one of his posts today Jon Katz wrote that grumpiness is a disease. I think he may be right. I think my Dad might have it. Sadly, I think I may also have a few of the symptoms.


Things I learned from my cats:
If you want something, don't sit around and wait for it to come to you, go get it.
My girl cat is the total opposite of her scaredy cat brother. When she wants a hug, she climbs up in you lap like a 2 year old, plops herself down, curls into a ball and says with nothing more than furry body language, "Hello, you can love me now." When she's had enough she leaves without so much as a goodbye, yet I think we both feel better.

She has also decided I'm not capable of going to the bathroom alone. If she is not fast enough to join me and gets locked out, she'll sit patiently til the door opens, waiting and listening. Kind of like what I do when my father is in the shower.

Boy Cat did very well during his second venipuncture visit to the vet last week. His blood cell numbers went down which is a good thing. The really good news is it didn't totally freak him out. Well, it did while he was at the vet's, but once home he has remained almost friendly. He has decided to tag along with me when I say good night to my dad. There we all sit every night around 9:30 ... Oprah on the TV, Dad tilted up in bed, me on the portable commode and Boy Cat in between us getting love pats on both ends. It is a scene I hope I won't forget. For a few minutes every night there is a peaceful harmony among us. If I were an angel I might even interrupt the silence with a few glo-o-o-or-ias!


Yesterday I got a really cool surprise. A long-time friend of my daughter and my blog mentor sent me a candle that smells like fresh cut grass. That's the kind of thing she does. She picks up on things you have long forgotten and brings them back to your memory when you least expect it. It was a delightful gift and I was very pleased. Isn't it fun to surprise people?


I hear crystal wine glassed calling my name. I must get back to my chores. Thanks for listening.

Wishing you a day filled with surprise kisses, unexpected hugs and peaceful harmony,
Merry ME

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Snow

"When it snows, you have two choices:
shovel or make snow angels"

This afternoon I entertained myself with a mini-craft project. I covered some wooden snowflakes about 6 inches in diameter with glitter. It probably would have been a lot more fun had I enlisted the aid of someone around 5 years old. Then there would be glue and colored glitter all over the table and rug as well as the snowflakes. Not having a child to play with I did the job very neatly and saved lots of glitter for the next project. I must say, as I look across the room at the snowflakes dancing to the rhythm of the overhead fan (don't tell Dad!), I am beginning to feel a little more Christmasy!

I live in Florida so other than on very rare occasions I do not see much snow. This has been a rainy weekend and the temperatures have dropped into the nearly frigid 60 something degree zone. In the sun it probably reached the 70 degree mark. A lot of people are shivering, wrapping their arms around their bodies and stamping their feet as if to keep their blood from freezing. Call me crazy or chalk it up to a lack of estrogen, I am actually enjoying the cold snap.

That said, however, I do not necessarily envy the people who live where the cold wind blows and snow drifts pile up along the roadside for months at a time. But at Christmas time it just seems like there should be a light covering of glistening snow covering everything in a kind of purifying ritual.

Sweetie and I occasionally like to live on the wild side by throwing open the bedroom window letting the cool air surround us. Then we throw an extra blanket and snuggle in. Sometimes I look over and all I can see of Sweetie is the very tip of his nose. But I know under those quilts is a great big smile. I think the man may have been an Eskimo in another life!

The front that brought cold-blooded Floridians to the point of pulling out their long underwear and Ugg boots, was most likely the same one that dropped a load of snow on Bedlam Farm. Last year I read Jon Katz's winter reports with a sense of disbelief and awe. It put a lot of my living on a farm fantasies in the proper perspective. But when I see pictures like this, all I can do is see the beauty of the moment. (Photo: Jon Katz, 12/6/09)

Seeing beauty in a snow drift instead of something that has to be shoveled could be as easy as talking nice to it! According to research by Dr. Masaru Emoto, human thoughts directed at water before it is frozen, will result in water crystals that will be either beautiful of ugly depending on the thought. I find this video pretty darn amazing.

Wishing for you happy thoughts and the winter landscape of your choice,

Merry ME

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Kindness

"The joy of brightening other lives,
bearing each others' burdens, easing other's loads
and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts
becomes for us the magic of Christmas."
W. C. Jones
I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen. It really wasn't on my list of things to do but the dry wall dust made it mandatory. It was kind of a pain, yet at the same time it felt good to be moving. I can't say it sparkles but I know it's clean from top to bottom. Good Job, Cinderella!
After cleaning, Sweetie and I made our first of the month trek to the grocery store. So now, on top of having a clean kitchen, all the cupboards are full! This is a very good feeling indeed.
A few weeks ago Sorrow posed a question that has kept me thinking. "Now that you've seen the invisible people," she asked, "what are you going to do about it?" About the only answer I can come up with is to respond with kindness when I see an opportunity.
Yesterday I passed a person sitting on the sidewalk in the rain surrounded by 3 shopping carts overflowing with what must have been the accumulation of all this person's possessions. I noticed a nurse (a person in a white lab coat) talking to the person. A couple hours later the person was in the same spot. (I think it was a she but I don't know that for sure.) She must have been soaked and chilled to the bone. Someone was still talking to her, but I think it might have been someone different.
When I got home I had a conversation with Sweetie. I wanted to go back with a blanket, or a thermos of soup. Something, but I didn't know what. Reluctantly I went about my business and left the person in the hands of someone else. I didn't feel exactly right, but I wasn't sure what would.
This morning Sweetie was buying donuts. He noticed a young couple looking at the sweet confections and counting a handful of change which probaby would not suffice. At first he walked by and got into the car ready to leave. Then, remembering our conversation and Sorrow's admonition, he went back and offered the couple enough money for a few donuts for breakfast.
Christmas time can be a stressful time. Rushing here and there, searching for a parking place, standing in line on tired feet. Sometimes all it takes to change a Grinch-like feeling to one of contentment is do a random act of kindness. You may not be able to shelter all the homeless, or feed all the hungry. But every now and then you can reach out and touch someone's life with a pleasant smile, a kind word or a sugary little treat.
Wishing for you the sweet satisfaction of a compassionate and generous spirit,
Merry ME

Friday, December 4, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Decorations

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles."

Unlike some of the members of my family I'm not really a betting woman. But I'm pretty sure if you ask a group of women when is the best time to have the kitchen ceiling painted, 99% of them would NOT pick three weeks before Christmas. My idea of festive decorations does not include plastic drop cloths, strips of dried paint stuck on the counter tops and the smell of paint instead of cinnamon and cloves.

I have made my peace with the yellow and white speckled house. My father is collecting bids to have it painted and when he decides on one it will be done to his specifications. It's his deal not mine.

On the other hand as the kitchen maven who is expected to cook and clean I feel a little resentful to have to turn my "space" over to Paul the handyman and his assistant Robby. I'm not totally ungrateful that the big spot in the center of the dinette is being fixed. I guess I'm just happy that it wasn't done right the last time (when I did it) and the fact that "let's git her done" thinking is messing with my trying to be jolly mood swings.

Complaining about it isn't going to do me any good. And I must admit that the finished product looks pretty good. It's the white dust and paint spatter that is now going to have to be addressed before anything else. Also, I'm feeling a bit of a paint-smell headache working itself around my eyes and into my sinus cavity. I'm not sure what I'll do with the birds this evening. They are in the bedroom now but come time to hop into the sack they will need a place that is out of the way of sickly but still predatory cats and paint fumes. It's cold and rainy outside. They may just have to spend some time in the bathroom! I will not be happy to wake up in the morning to find the bird boys lying with their tiny legs up in the air. There is a reason canaries are sent into coal mines ahead of the miners. I don't want to test the poisonous gas smelling potential of a bird who sings a pretty good version of Jingle Bells.

I had hoped to write about decorations today. Alas, they are still upstairs in the closet. This year might very well be the year I've been threatening for years - the year without lights and ornaments and fake evergreen. It might just turn out to be the year of bright white paint!

As you pull each of your favorite decorations out of its storage box, I wish you time enough for enjoying and remembering.
Merry ME

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Countdown to Christmas - Dreams

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads."
'Twas the Night before Christmas

When was the last time you laid awake, straining to hear the sound of jingle bells and reindeer hooves on the roof? The last time I had visions of sugar plums (what exactly is a sugar plum?) dancing in my head,I think it was a nightmare about getting locked in a Christmas cookie factory where an evil elf kept speeding up the conveyor belt that passed in front of me, a la Lucy and Ethel. Maybe that's not exactly true but I can say that there have been times when my Christmas baking has taken on factory proportions and I have resembled an Evil Elf covered in sugar and flour.

It's been way too many years since I was a kid trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, but I can remember the excitement, the wishes, the knowledge that the one thing I really wanted was going to be sitting under the tree the next morning. I don't think I ever had any doubt at all. I believed and I do not remember being disappointed.

Now that I'm grown up I have grown up dreams ... an end to poverty, goodwill to men/women, and a world at peace. What would it be like to wake up on Christmas morning to the sound of church bells ringing and all the news shows cancelled because there was nothing bad to report?

Speaking of dreams here's a quote I found over on one of Sweetie's blogs:

"The happiness that moves you to follow your dream,
is pale in comparison to your joy when that dreams comes true."
Hmmm, maybe tonight I will try to dream about dreams.
Tonight I wish that all your dreams come true,
Merry ME

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent Countdown to Christmas

the four-week period that leads up to Christmas —
is a series of events designed not to
delay the celebration of Christmas,
but to enhance it.
It’s a kind of delayed gratification that culminates in a …
satisfaction that is all the richer for the waiting."
Joan Chittister, Listen with the Heart

Sunday was the first day of Advent which for Episcopalians, like me, is supposed to be a season of quiet expectation leading up to the glories of Christmas. It is totally opposite of the secular frenzy that started before Halloween this year. I'm never very good at Advent discipline. I've tried having my own quiet time to read and meditate. I'm sad to say this usually puts me to sleep. For 3 years I actually led an Advent group study at my church. This was waaayy out of my comfort zone but I felt like I got a lot out of it. I was able to really focus, for at least an hour once a week, on being still.

Advent came right on the heels of finishing up my month of gratitude. Since I was on a pretty good roll, I decided I'd try to weave a kind of advent expectation into my December posts. It won't be so much from a religious point of view as just a way of taking the sights and sounds of this festive season, in no particular order, and thinking about how they all go together as we head for Christmas morning.

You may have already noticed, that I didn't conceive this idea until after I wrote last night's post on music. Oh well, it will work itself out - I hope.

_ _ _ _ _

Sometimes I surprise myself at how bold I can be. I had a friend who referred to my "boldness" as being "nosey"! I'm not good in a crowd of people. I hate cocktail party small talk. I'd much rather go one on one with someone over a cup of tea. That said, I struck up a conversation this afternoon with a perfect stranger in the grocery store parking lot.

I pulled into a spot. Directly across from me was a car with a Christmas tree tied to the top. It was all tied up in netting but it didn't look like a huge tree.

Every year we have this friendly family debate about whether or not to have a real tree or use the sadly misshapen tree that rests in a box in a closet for 11 months out of the year. It doesn't quite smell of mothballs, but it also doesn't smell the least bit piney. But lets face it. Real trees are cut way too early, so they are on the verge of being dried out when you buy them. Not to mention the cost. Those green fir (read - prickly) boughs and balsam scent do not come cheap. The final, and most convincing, reason not to get a real tree is the dried up needles that get stuck in the carpet. There comes a point in every housekeepers life, when she says enough is enough. For me, it is still vacuuming up Christmas trees needles in June.

The main reason to go artificial has got to be convenience. The Christmas season has gotten so busy, frantic really, that it's just easier to haul the box out of the attic than to gather the family together, go to the tree lot, make a joint decision on ONE tree, then tie it up, bring it home and put it in a stand. All that and it still have to be decorated!

Oops, I got sidetracked!
So this woman was sitting in the car with the tree on top. Her window was down, so, as I passed by I asked her where she got her tree. She told me the street and said she got a good price - slightly under $50. (Right then I opted for the fake tree.) I commented on how you could already smell it.

The woman's face lit up as she began to tell me a story that made me think .... this is what Christmas is all about. She had just gotten custody of her grandsons - 4 year old twins. They'd never had a Christmas tree. She was going to give them one. I wish I could describe the smile on her face. It was like an angel's. I felt myself smiling. "God bless you," I said as I walked away. But I'm pretty sure he already had. Strangely I felt blessed, too, by a freshly cut tree and a grandmother's smile.

Wishing for you chance encounters with heavenly beings. Expect a miracle!
Merry ME