Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Weird Is This ???

In the past days, I've had a couple middle of the night calls from across the hall. I've been meaning to write about what I've learned. In fact, I have written on the blank screen of my brain. But visits from hospice personnel, lunch with my sister, laundry and much need naps brought on by adrenaline-provoked sleeplessness have kept me from putting the thoughts in order on the computer.

This morning I turned on the computer, thinking I would read over what I've written. I opened up my blog and was surprised to find nothing new posted since Wed.

Uh, H-E-L-L-O! Sometimes it's a toss up whether to laugh at myself or worry!

Now, the problem as I see it is trying to remember what I wanted to write!

Happy Saturday morning!
Merry ME

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finding ME

"A good cheerleader is not measured by the height of her jumps
but by the span of her spirit."
Author Unknown

I got an email this afternoon. The kind that have several short inspirational stories. I don't know if any of them are true or where they came from, only that they've undoubtedly been around the world a few kazillion times. One of the stories made me laugh. Another brought tears to my eyes even though I've read it before. The following made me say, "awwwww!"

"Jamie was trying out for a part in the school play. His mother told me that he'd set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen.
On the day the parts were awarded, I went with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement. 'Guess what, Mom,' he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me.....'I've been chosen to clap and cheer.'"

I no longer need to wonder why God put me on this earth! I've been chosen to clap and cheer!

I love cheering people on.
I love clapping!
I love jumping up and down and high-fiving and saying, "good job".
I love to see other people succeed.

My (ex)in-laws used to tell the story of Mamaw wetting her pants because she'd get so excited watching her son run around the far end of the track and head for home. I'm that kind of a cheerleader!

Oh, and do I need to mention that tears stream down my face, too?

Take tonight for instance. Father/Brother Georges came by after church. That's not so unusual. He nonchalantly hugged us all (I love the way he kisses my father and says, "Luther, I love you) then blurted out the news that the thing we've all been waiting for for 14 months - his immigration papers - have finally been approved.

Woohoo! This is a really big deal. It means he can stay in this country. It means he can leave to visit his sick mother in Italy and get back into this country. And it means he can start talking seriously about finally marrying his Canadian fiance. The piece of the puzzle that is still missing is the one marked J-O-B. But now that he's got his visa, I can concentrate my prayers on his finding gainful employment.

Talk about cheering and clapping. All of us whooped it up. Even Dad. It was great fun.

Over the years I've struggled with the question of "who am I?" I think everybody does. Maybe now that I'm in my middle years the answer is becoming clear.

Mother, daughter, lover, sister, nanny, friend, caregiver, writer, quilter, dreamer, cheerleader. All the parts are coming together and I'm liking it.

Hey, Merry ME - you rock!

Monday, May 25, 2009

I don't call it Random Thoughts for Nothing

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge
and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you,
you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”
Winnie the Pooh

1. I find just about all the wisdom I need to have in simple little quotes by Winnie the Pooh. Although he is a bear of very little brain I find him wise beyond measure.

2. It has been raining off an on for a week. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud this morning but I think I see some more dark on the horizon coming our way. I don't really think it's fair to complain about rain. But then I haven't been flooded and no trees have fallen in our yard. We did notice a few wet spots on the dining room ceiling last night, which may mean a tiny bit of a leak in the roof. I am feeling grateful that it was not a torrent of rain that came poured into our recent birthday celebration.

When you l ive in Florida you get used to the rain. But unless it's a hurricane brewing we don't usually get extended periods of precipitation. Most of us can count on a quick hit and run thunder storm in the afternoon. That's just part of the Floridian ambiance. The long drawn out rains, or heat, or cold, seem to put people on edge. I think it's because they are used to having too much of a good thing. Or maybe it's because they are weenies. Who knows?

This, however, is what happens when a week's worth of rain meets a hundred year old oak tree.

And this is what gratitude looks like when you find that the hundred year old waterlogged oak tree that was standing in your yard when you left for work has fallen and miraculously missed your house. I'm guessing it's way cheaper to replace truck parts than a whole new roof.

3. I'm back to knitting baby hats. There is something both pleasing and relaxing to know I can pick up some yarn at the beginning of some TV show that serves as background noise and have a finished project by the time the nightly news comes on.

I'm not a very accomplished knitter, I can't Y/O or do a cable stitch, but I can K1, P1. I don't quite understand the whole gauge thing - as in the calibration it takes to figure out that if one is knitting with a particular yarn, x number of stitches and x number of rows will = x number of inches. With that information you are supposed to be able to vary the size of the needles or number of stitches to make the item you are knitting the size you want it to be. I tend to use the needles and yarn at hand. Thus my baby hats are a variety of sizes. All are small, but some smaller than others. Or as in the case of the last one I made, bigger than the rest. I think I'm going to start carrying a hat or two with me and when I see a baby I can ask permission to try on one on. That's really the only way I'm going to know if I'm knitting for premature or gigantic babies.

The problem is, after making over 100 hats, I feel like I need to branch out some.I'm a little bored with plain hats. Instead of learning a new pattern, I think pom poms might be nice. There is, however, one small problem with this out-of-my comfort-zone decision. I have discovered that I am pom-pom challenged. If you look at this photo, you will see what I mean. My 2nd attempt, which I have chosen not to photograph because it looks remarkably similar to this one as well as something the cats think they have done in and need to drag around the house to showoff their yarn-killing prowess, is no better. Sadly this is about as good as I get. I have conferred with my sister who could win a pom pom making contest. Since I'm doing everything she said to do, the only thing we can figure is that I'm not wrapping the yarn enough times around the piece of cardboard. Good Golly Miss Molly, how many times is enough?

4. Speaking of cats, here are a few cat photos I've taken recently. The first could be a Starkist Tuna commercial. The only fishy smelling food these black beasts get is what is left in the tuna can after dumping it into a bowl for human consumption. Like Pavlov's cats they come running and salivating at the sound of the electric can opener. Photo #2 is one of the 8 cats that live across the street. I've thought about putting Spay/Neuter reminders in the neighbor's mailbox but I doubt that would make for neighborly relations. Photo #3 is Carol O'Dell and her 20 lb. cat. He doesn't usually come out to visit but when the writing group was there working on our vision boards he became part of the group.

5. And one more comment before I turn my thoughts to dinner. In April of 2007, I wrote a post about Boob-eez. A product that was invented by a 10 year old girl to keep her budding breasts from showing through her t-shirt. Last week I got this comment: "I am now 12 years old and finally found your sight! i am so thankful to have someone care about my product, and just to let you know, they are great for woman like you! once again, thanks! carlie christenson" I was thrilled that this yound entrepreneur took time out from her marketing campaign that has apparently put Boob-eez on the map all over the world to write me a note. In the two years since I first wrote the post, I'd like to think I'd gone on to loftier thoughts and writings. But here I sit wondering what did Carlie mean - a woman like me?

That's enough randomness for one day.

Merry ME

Memorial Day, May 25, 2009

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace"
John Lennon

Something happened last night that was a little out of our usual routine. Actually it was a lot out of our routine. PBS had a Memorial Day salute that started at 8:00pm. When I pulled out the cards for our nightly game of Rummy, Dad said, "Let's go watch the show."

"Whoa," I said to myself surprised that something shook him out of his normalcy. I also sent up a private prayer of gratitude that Sweetie thought to mention the show.

So there we all sat, together in one room, eyes and ears peeled to the TV. I have to admit I am a sucker for a military band. I won't go so far to say I'm orgasmic when I hear the USMC piccolo player "triple tongue" his/her solo of the Stars and Stripes Forever. But I am not ashamed to say I cry almost every time I hear it. (Not being a good enough flute player to do that song justice is one of my life's disappointments. Oh well, life goes on!)

We sat quietly, as if in church, listening to the music and stories of fallen heroes dating back to the Civil War. We paid our own silent tribute to men known and unknown who have died preserving this country's freedom. And when the Battle Hymn of the Republic played, I heard dad singing, barely above a whisper, "glory hallelujah." I tried to freeze-frame the moment. Only time will tell if I am able to remember it.

I come from a military family. I was married to a man with aeronautical "right stuff" - a U.S. Naval helicopter pilot. I have known and loved both men and women who wear the uniform(s) of our country. I am lucky in that I have only on a rare occasion known anyone who lost his/her life while in service.

Today, I give thanks to the people who fought and died; to their families - the backbone of the American soldier, the reason they do what they do; to the ones who right this very minute are in harm's way. I pray that God will bring them home safely and that the day will come when, we can all live in peace.

Today I acknowledge with love and gratitude
these members of my family (in no particular order) who answered Uncle Sam's call:
RADM. C.E. Aldrich, USN
CAPT. L.S. Reynolds, USN
CAPT J.D. Ellington, USN
LT. Mick Shrock, USN
CDR. Stephen D. Shrock, USN
LCDR. C.E. Aldrich, II, USN
LCOL. D.S. Aldrich, USMC
J.A. Ellington, USA
CAPT. Stephen Warner, USMC
Specialist Jack D. Cook, USA
Jack D. Cook, Jr., USN
Russell Luedke, USN
CDR. Blair Gibson, USN
LT. Ron Drew, USN
C.L. Reynolds, USN
"Stud" Reynolds, USA (Civil War)
Earl Reynolds, USA
J.C. Webb, USA
Kevin Kreuger, USN
J. Todd Green, USN
Lauren Webster, USA

I also extend the same sentiment to those friends with whom I shared the military experience. We shared the good times and the bad. Together we laughed, we cried together, we drank too many rum and cokes, we sang God Bless America, we traveled through Europe, moved back and forth across the country and watched our babies grow up. There are way too many of you to name here. I think you know who you are. Thank you for your gifts of friendship and service.

I conclude with this quote by Mastin Kipp from "The peace that we seek can only be brought forth by shining the light of love on the dark side of our fears and knowing we must do the same for anyone we consider an enemy." If you want to read the whole post go here.

Praying for the day we'll live in peace regardless of our color, our religion, our sexuality, our politics, etc.

Kumbaya, Merry ME
P.S. This post got my dad to thinking about relatives who served in the military. He came up with 2 names but little information about them -Jaunita and Emma Francis, both nee Reynolds, Jaunita, he thinks was in the Woman's Army Corps and Emma Francis in a military band - or maybe she just played for the USO! She had something to do with a band!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind.
If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. "
Arthur Somers Roche

For the summer, my writing group is going to venture away from Panera's and writing assignments. Carol has hopes of stimulating our creativity. Her ideas are based, I think, on The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Today, in honor of Carol's birthday we met at her house for lunch. Time away with a writing ladies. How cool is that?
Apparently, to my messed up psyche, not so.
First of all it meant rearranging a doctor's appointment for Dad.
Then I had to make sure my sister would be home while I was gone.
Then my car, which has been in the shop three times in the last two weeks, lost its serpentine belt which meant I had to use Dad's car which always makes me nervous.
And, did I mention that the rain we prayed for on Sunday has been coming down in a slow steady torrent for two days with no apparent end in sight. Did Key West Johnnie predict hurricanes or floods?
Added all together I felt like maybe the get-away gods were plotting against me.
Still everything fell into place.
There was really no reason for me to wake up this morning with anxiety rising almost into the panic stage. My inner scaredy cat voice kept saying, don't go, but that seemed silly to sound minded ME. I wanted to go. I deserved to go. Everything was lined up, there was nothing to be afraid of.
Well, the rain and the miles and dad's car sort of combined into something to be afraid of. But I've driven in rain before. It wasn't really a stay home rain. Buck up, I told myself.
Then my scaredy cat voice whispered, how do you know this isn't a god-wink you should listen to. Are you sure you want to tempt fate? Dang it all. Should I go or not?
I insisted I go and I'm glad I did. Once there, I relaxed. My fingers gradually unclenched from grabbing the steering wheel as if for dear life. Sitting on Carol's screened porch with good food, good friends, and the sound of rain coming through the trees was about as much reason as I needed to be grateful for pushing through my fear. I didn't think about Dad or what was going on at home. I pushed away the scaredy cat voice that sat on my shoulder laughing at my ability to socialize. I concentrated on my time away.
Then it was time to come home. The drive was just as wet and messy. But knowing I was heading back to my comfort zone made it oddly less stressful. I drove like the grandma I am. A lone, isolated, scared grandma.
Now I'm back home and feeling safe. As far as I can tell nothing bad happened when I was gone. I've got my jammies on and I'm settled into my place on the couch. But I'm also feeling icky. My head is a little achy and my stomach feels queasy. Is there such a thing as a panic hangover?
I can't figure out what it was that scared me so. The rain? The distance? The women? No one to be in charge of but ME? I can see that I'm becoming a bit of a recluse. The kind that can spend time in Walmart or Publix (see last post) and smile at strangers, but doesn't feel comfortable outside of her own private Idaho.
That's really weird isn't it? I had such a nice, girly day, I want to be feeling happy. For some reason I kind of feel like crying. What in the world is wrong with me?
Stranger than fiction,
Merry Me

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bet you can't eat just one.

"It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholics the will is amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor, though it often remains strong in other respects. My incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was explained."
Bill Wilson*

My name is Merry ME.
I'm a chipaholic.
I have am powerless over Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
My life is becoming unmanageable.
I have to admit that at times in my past I drank one too many shots of tequila. I held on way too long to relationships that zapped my soul of energy. I had a love/hate relationship with food so that I dropped to my goal weight of 115 lbs, before facing I had an eating disorder I got high from endorphins let loose in my brain from spending hours at a gym. There is no doubt that if I hadn't been too afraid to try drugs I would have met one that I enjoyed beyond what was good for me.
Luckily, I also spent years in the comfort and company of 12-steppers, who like me were seeking a better way to live life, so I today I know what recovery feels like. Until recently I believed I had successfully battled most of my demons. Then, like a fool, I tempted myself beyond what was intelligent or even humanly possible to forgo. There is a reason, the old Lay's ad has undoubtedly gone into the annals of commercial history. Every addiction begins with one little taste of some forbidden fruit. As when Eve took that seemingly innocent little bite from that juicy red apple, one thing leads to another and before you know it you find yourself kicked out of your particular Garden of Delights and on skid row.
I don't recall the actual moment I fell for Satan's encouraging words, "Go ahead. Try one. How can it hurt anything?" I may have been hungry at the time (Lesson learned - don't grocery shop hungry or without a list) but chances are I was just curious.
I admit that since my care giving job has become a 24/7 thing, when I get a hall pass to shop for food I stretch the time in the store out as long as I can. I wander up and down each aisle lost in a trance enjoying the stroll as if I were in a tree lined park. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but unless I'm pushing one of those carts with a sticky wheel I am able to tune out most of the activity around me and focus on nothing in particular. I no longer need Tampax, Pampers, Ensure or Bud Lite, but I check out those shelves anyway. That might give a bit of a hint as to how long I spend on the snack aisle.
So there I was weighing the options of plain or wavy chips, searching my coupon wallet to see if I could save a few cents. I moved out of the way for a woman who was headed straight for the frozen pizzas. To my great delight, not knowing what was in store for me, I came face to face with what I thought was a new product. Lays Kettle Cooked Original chips. The bag looked innocent enough. How was I to know this one purchase was going to lead to middle of the night cravings and made up excuses such as "Potato Chip therapy" a sure cure for most anything that ails you - emotional or physical?
As with any other addiction, I decided to ease my pain by sharing with others. I unashamedly offered these little darlings to my Sweetie and the others who live in the house. Realizing too late that this was a mistake, I am now to the point of wanting to stash bags of chips in places I think no one else will look for them ... under the bed, in the linen closet, behind the toilet.
I recently read this review** of the chips in question. It is no surprise to me that it was penned in anonymity in accordance with the 12-step format."Nonetheless I was totally surprised by how much I enjoyed these chips."
I read on: "After I ate and enjoyed a 2¾ oz bag of the Lay's Kettle Cooked Original Extra Crunchy Potato Chips I thought for sure that the ingredients would be horrible since the chips were so good. But I was surprised to see that there were only three ingredients listed, potatoes, sunflower oil, and sea salt, no preservatives, no trans fat, and nothing unnatural."
For a while this bit of nutritional information curbed my feelings of guilt. No preservatives? No trans fat? How bad can this overwhelming desire to stuff crispy fried, sea salted potatoes in my mouth be?
Anonymous continued: "A normal serving is only supposed to be around 1oz but I ate the whole bag. [The whole bag?! Yes! I knew it, it's not just me!] The entire bag of chips has 420 calories, 22g of total fat, 3g of saturated fat, 6g of polyunsaturated fat, and 13g of monounsaturated fat. There are also 310mg of sodium, 50g of total carbs, 3g of fiber and 5g of protein. The chips also contain iron, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, and Vitamins C and B6. [A veritable pharmacopoeia!]
Concluding with, "I didn't know that I ate that many calories from that one bag, but these chips were delicious so it was worth it."
With that statement alone I rest my case. Not that I'm advocating overindulgence or binging or flagrant chip chomping. Like the spider said to the fly, I simply suggest you try one, just one Lay's Kettle Cooked Original Extra Crunchy potato chip and see for yourself what heaven tastes like.
Don't say you weren't warned,
Merry ME
*c. 1939, AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill's Story, p. 7

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 Hurrican Season


According to KeyWest Johnnie, this is going to be a bad year for hurricanes.
There may not be a lot of landfalls but there will be a lot of storms.
My son, the prognosticator - who knew?
Merry ME

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Terri

"There is a wonderful mythical law of nature
that the three things we crave most in life
- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -
are always attained by giving them to someone else."
Peyton Conway March

Today is my blog buddy's birthday.

If you read my blog on any kind of regular basis you already know that Terri St. Cloud is one of my favorite people. It's kind of weird to say that because we've never met face to face. But there's something about Terri that makes you feel like you've known her forever whether you've met her or not!

Terri is open, caring, interested, interesting, funny, thoughtful, creative, loving, and generous. If she thinks you need something, she drops whatever it is she's doing and lends a listening ear. Even over cyberspace, you know she's sitting there tuned into only you.

How do you repay a person like that? What kind of present can you give? I think her boyfriend, Bob, has topped us all by giving her the sky! Go on over to her blog and read about it! In fact, while you're there why not add a Happy Birthday greeting to the comment section? Tell her I sent you.

Terri, as you are fond of saying, today I bow down in gratitude for all the blessings you have bestowed on me. May you continue to grow in love and spirit as you share your heart with others.

Be Blessed. Know Peace.
Happy Birthday, my friend,
Merry ME

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lunch with a Friend

"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but moments."
Rose Kennedy

There is a woman at church to whom I'm greatly attracted. Her family has been attending the church for as long as my family (well over 40 years). I went to school with her son, but my only memory of him is walking through a sticker patch to get to the university across the street where we attended Sunday school. Boy that memory alone tells you how things have changed! For one thing the sermons must have been really long, because it took for ever just to get to the SS classroom, let alone learn any Bible stories. And what parent today would let their school aged children go traipsing off across a major thorough fare. Today it's a well-traveled 4 lane road today, maybe back then it was only big enough for a horse and buggy.

But I digress. My point was that even though I've known the family for a long time, I have not had any real contact with Beth until recently. I was busy taking care of my mother and she was taking care of her husband. It seems like after they both passed away there was more time for Beth and I to chat.

By today's commercial standards Beth would not be called a beauty. Personally, I think she is one of those people whose beauty goes way beyond skin deep. I think she may be the most regal woman I've ever known. In fact, I think she is the only woman I've known who could be called regal, in a Grace Kelly kind way. Though she walks with a limp, Beth is nothing less than statuesque. Her white, white hair is always tied in a knot on the back of her head. (I imagine her letting it down before bed, sitting at a vanity table and brushing it 100 times, like in old time movies.) Her smile is subtle, her eyes twinkle. She is a water color artist, reads just about any book she can get her hands on, writes poetry, and oh by the way knows all there is to know about Florida mosquitoes! I think her life's dream was to go to medical school, but like many women her age, when opportunity knocked, she was knocked up. She was married for over 60 years and raised 4 children, with whom she seems to be very close.

Beth is the kind of woman I would like to be. Maybe I'm getting there but it feels like I've got a long way to go. Unlike me, she doesn't say "one of these days I'm going to .... " Instead, she does it. Which is why I've been invited more than once to share a meal with her.

She's been promising me one of her watercolors for months (because I blatantly told her I wanted a BB original! Subtlety has never been my strong suit). She made me promise that I would tell her the truth and if there was nothing I liked she'd paint some more to choose from. Well, she called on Monday and we set a date. Lunch at her place. I kind of felt like I'd been summoned by the Queen. Not a mandatory command performance, more like something that you get excited about and dressed up for.

Of course, I was late, but not by much. Ha! (Unlike in horseshoes, I think late is probably late) I cut some gardenias from the back yard to take to her. As I was walking out the back door I noticed the good smelling flowers were covered in itsy bitsy black bugs. My sister assured me gardenias always come with these little critters, they're part of the charm. So I wrapped a wet paper towel around the stems and flew out of the house minutes before I was due at her apartment.

When I arrived she was sweetly sitting in her chair comparing water color drawings of the "Old Turtle" books we both love. She put the gardenias in a vase and didn't even seem to notice the bugs so I breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, there is the possibility that since she's studied insects her whole life the bugs made the flowers that much more special.

Her apartment is on the 8th floor, pretty high up. We ate lunch on the porch which over looks tree tops and has a kind of sideways view of the river.
[Photo: A view of a thunderstorm brewing.]

It wasn't too hot so dining al fresco was quite pleasant. We ate chicken salad, fruit, and croissants. A simple fare, followed by macaroons. Macaroons ! How oh so yummy!

We chatted about our kids, and traveling, and swimming, and making scones. She tantalized me with talk of butterfly gardens, arboretums and nature paths - all within driving distance. After lunch we looked at pictures of her recent trip to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Let me just say ... I WANT TO GO THERE!!!!

Then it was on to the show. Beth had laid a bunch of her watercolors on the bed so I could see them. All over her apartment are pictures painted by fellow artists and teachers. It was a veritable watercolor showroom.
[Photo: So many too choose from.]

I took my time and looked at every picture. I zeroed in on three favorites right away. One seascape, one of purply-blue hydrangeas and one of a tree. I hemmed and hawed. I liked each picture for different reasons.

Finally I zeroed in on the tree. [See photo] I have a thing for trees. When I told her which one I wanted, she smiled and said, "that is my favorite." I felt like I'd won the lottery! So it's a done deal. She's going to frame the picture and
bring it to me on Sunday. Christmas in May! How fun is that!

We talked a little more about writing and drawing and poetry. Then it was time to leave. It really was a divine little interlude. I came home thinking I should be about the business of having that tea party I keep talking about. Ladies and flowers and mom's silver tea set. Yup, I'm in the mood for some female companionship.

Feeling girly. Feeling blessed.
Merry ME

P.S. I don't know if I mentioned this in an earlier post so I'll just write it again.

A few weeks ago in church, I noticed that Beth was looking particularly happy. She told me she had spent the weekend with a couple of ladies she'd gone to high school with. They'd even had a slumber party and watched old movies. OMG, can't you just picture that? I wish I'd been a fly on the wall!

Heaven's Song

"Music is God's gift to man,
the only art of Heaven given to earth,
the only art of earth we take to Heaven."
Walter Savage Landor

Sweetie and I went to a concert on Mother's Day. The African Children's Choir put on an amazing show. I've been thinking the Hispanic music that has infused our church services with a salsa beat and toe-tapping rhythm would be a good match for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But it has nothing on this group of talented and enthusiastic children. As soon as they opened their mouths, I was taken to a place of wonder and reverence. Not to mention I couldn't keep my hands from clapping and my bootie from shaking. There's just something about a drum beat that gets me going! A drum beat, a lively song, and a group of angels singing it.

I don't know for sure, but I believe that this is what Heaven sounds like. Go here. And if you ever get the chance to hear this choir, you won't be disappointed.

Feeling blessed,
Merry ME

Monday, May 11, 2009

Per Last Post

I found this and hope that when the time is right the people I know who are hurting right now will be able to read it with clear eyes.
"To let go isn't to forget,
not to think about, or ignore.
It doesn't leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret.
Letting go isn't about winning or losing.
It's not about pride and it's not about how you appear,
and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past.
Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts,
and doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness.
It's not about giving in or giving up.
Letting go isn't about loss and it's not about defeat.
To let go is to cherish the memories,
but to overcome and move on.
It is having an open mind confidence in the future.
Letting go is learning and experiencing and growing.
To let go is to be thankful for the experiences
that made you laugh,
made you cry,
and made you grow.
It's about all that you have,
all that you had, and all that you will soon gain.
Letting go is having the courage to accept change,
and the strength to keep moving.
Letting go is growing up.
It is realizing that the heart can sometimes be the most potent remedy.
To let go is to open a door,
and to clear a path and set yourself free."
I don't know who wrote this, and I don't know where I got it. I put it in quotation marks so you'll know I'm not trying to plagiarize.
Merry ME

Broken Hearts

"We must fill ourselves up with the gains and losses of love." *
Rabbi David Wolpe
Something really, really tragic happened last week in Sweetie's family.
Something really, really sad happened last night in mine.

There is no way to put both losses on a par with each other. They happened in different ways to different people. Still I think they'd both read off the scale of anyone's tragedometer.

It's not the first time, and even though I pray it is the last it probably won't be, that Sweetie and I find ourselves as parents wanting to make everything "all better" for the children we love so dearly. We want to say the right words and kiss away the pain away. Knowing that there is nothing that can be done, no words that can be said and no kiss mighty enough to mend broken hearts doesn't make the wanting any less. While it may be true that time heals all wounds, the saying is about as trite as words can be. Personally, I think anyone who hears those words in a time of loss has the right to say the "F" word and more to whoever says them.

Time does seem to diminish pain. If you break your leg after 6 weeks or so you will probably be good as new. However, if your heart has a big old spike run through it, time seems to slow down to a snail's pace and mending begins to feel like walking through quicksand. Every step may be taking you to the other side of the quagmire, but each is almost too heavy to bear. What do you say to the person who is justifiably thinking more about the stone weight than the passage of time?

I think when children are born parents naturally become undefeatable. Mothers and fathers the world over do everything in their power, and then some, to meet their infants' every need. Undaunted, they go without food or sleep, change biohazardous waste products, and stick something ... anything ... suckable in tiny mouths. Pacing the floor they gently rock or prodigiously pat the little one until it feels comforted. As the child matures some, parents can add hugs, kiss booboos, and chase away nighttime monsters. Health practitioners might totally disagree with me, but I believe that there are few childhood maladies that cannot be cured with a DQ cone dipped in chocolate.
It gets a little trickier when the child in question becomes half child and half adult. Parents have to maneuver a slippery slope of saying/doing too much or too little. Mostly the up and down challenges of everyday life - striking out on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, failing the driving exam, receiving a dear " ____ "(you fill in the blank) letters, and unfinished college papers - can be made better somehow with good listening skills on the parent's part and a nap on the child's part (or maybe that should be the other way around).

But when your child is an adult, lives his or her own life, makes his or her own decisions and manages quite well without parental influence, well, it is very hard to feel like a parent with super-hero powers. There's not much a parent can do when their adult child is nursing a broken heart except to provide a safe place for the child in question to vent his or her pain, frustration, fears, anger, sadness. Doing this and NOT envisioning the child that you once held on your lap, is difficult but not impossible. It just feels impossible. And it feels so ineffective.
We've all had pain in our lives. The people to whom this post refers have known more than their fair share. I consider myself a woman of faith, but I'm not above railing at heaven and screaming why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some people get lucky while others step in poopoo? Sadly there's no answer to the question.

At times like these I fall back on some of the books I've read about loss and grieving. Rabbi David Wolpe wrote a whole book that attempts to find answers to life's hardest question.

"Loss," says Wolpe, "is formless and grief must be shaping.
Loss, a deep loss, is chaotic, cavernous;
it resounds in the hollows of the soul.
It rages, and nothing can tame it.
Ritual seeks to give us order and structure.
Understanding what we have lost,
we can find a place for the memory inside us."

Indeed, the universal truth, that a person in pain cannot see or hear at the time, and a parent need not waste his/her breath sharing, is that the experience, no matter how awful it is, will at some point in the future make you stronger. This was brought home to me today by that wise but not-so-famous philosopher, Keywest Johnny. "Remember," he said, "she grows stronger with every blow!"
It's true. There is definite strength of character in these "kids." I have seen them rally time after time. I know they will do so again.
I also know that as long my name is "Mom" and Sweetie answers to "Dad" we're going to keep trying to find the right words to say to make their lives all better. While we're at it I think I'll keep a tub of Bluebell all natural vanilla ice cream in the freezer just in case of emergencies.

Merry ME

Making Loss Matter, Creating Meaning in Difficult Times, Rabbi David Wolpe, Riverhead Books, New York, pg. 117

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Toot! Toot!

"It ain't braggin' if it's true."
Jack's Pappy

I've had a little bit of a writer's block lately. I have to blame it on my other muse. There is something so pleasing about buying fabric, cutting it into pieces, then tediously sewing it all back together again. I can't quilt by hand anymore as it hurts my thumb. But I can still sit at the sewing machine and make a big mess! The only thing missing is my mom standing over my shoulder, silently watching and nodding her head in approval.

I made the stoles that these two priests are wearing. Mtr. Judi is wearing the white one I gave her for her recent ordination. I presented Mtr. Gloria, who is the Spiritual Director for my pet project, the Guild of the Christ Child, with a "baby" stole this morning in honor of Mother's Day.

I'm not sure if it was a sin or not, but I felt a heart full of pride as they stood behind the altar wearing my creations. Sometimes I just have to toot my own horn!

Merry ME

272 Years Collectively - But who's counting?

"The aim of Life is to Live,
and to Live means to be Aware,
joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely,
Henry James

Dona Rosa turned 100 years old two weeks ago. She is a little tiny thing, but she walks with more zip in her step than I do at times. Isn't she beautiful. I've never known anyone who lived to be 100 so I consider myself blessed to know her. She never shies away from my camera. Her smile says it all. I hope when I'm 100 I'll be able to be as much of an example of the good things in life as Rosa.

This is a picture of my Dad and a friend at church who share the same birthday - Nina May as it is known in our family. Dad turned 92 and Leland isn't shy about saying she's blessed to be 80 years young.

I complain a lot about my Dad being a bit of a curmudgeon, but this picture shows that he has not lost his ability to smile at a pretty lady.

I've got enough aches and pains of my own to realize that the older one gets the harder it is to feel good. Bodies weren't made to last forever. What's in a person's heart, however, is passed on from generation to generation. When I look at my dad, I see my Grandmother's smile, hear her say my name. Life is a continuum. Life is a blessing.

Feeling grateful,
Merry ME

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Furry Black Beasts

"The trouble with sharing one's bed with cats is
that they'd rather sleep on you than beside you."
Pam Brown

When Sweetie's cat, Caht, came to the end of his 9th life, I didn't think there would ever be room for another feline in our bed. But it appears that "Cry Baby" aka Her, aka Girl Cat, has persisted and in doing so has made herself Queen of her Universe. She follows Jack around from room to room, making herself comfortable wherever she deems appropriate. I've noticed if I go to bed after the two inseparables have already hunkered down I am given a feline evil eye if I try to take ownership of my pillow.

On the other hand, Scaredy Cat, aka Him, aka Boy Cat has taken a liking to me. He is still very

skittish but thinks I am, excuse the pun, the "cat's meow"! I don't know what standard of measurement he used, but he has determined that our special times together are most enjoyable when I sit on the toilet or floss my teeth. On these occasions he jumps into the bathtub and finds something with which to amuse himself until I'm through. He is also particularly fond of having 6am conversations. He meows in my ear, picks at my quilt until I put a hand out to scratch his head. I think I can say with some authority that he's been flung across the room enough times that the kneading and sucking on my flabby arms has come to an end. I may be his best friend, but I'm NOT his mother.

With not one, but two cats, in the house life is good.
Merry ME

P.S. Black Beauty still maintains the position of #1 Dog.

Monday, May 4, 2009

God Winking? Maybe

"There's no such thing as chance.
And what to us seems merest accident
Springs from the deepest source of destiny."
Johann von Schiller

SQuire Rushnell defines a "God Wink" as a personal signal or message, directly from a higher power, usually, but not always in the form of a coincidence. *

I have to wonder if my life is being bombarded by coincidence, or is God acknowledging my desire to change a pattern of financial behavior, and thus winking excessively to get my attention? Some people believe that God is involved in every detail of our lives. Others believe that He/She gave us free will so whatever happens, happens and we have to live with the consequences while He/She sits back and watches the show. Some people say there are no coincidences. Others believe "Poop happens." Some people believe our destiny is determined by the stars.

My belief system is probably a mixture of all of the above. And sometimes, on top of everything else, life just has to slap me up against the head and say "pay attention!"

Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:
  • After publishing my last post, I checked my email and found this:

Word of the Day for Monday, May 4, 2009
tyro \TY-roh\, noun:
A beginner in learning; a novice.

  • Here's my horoscope for today: "Working with a partner, you can get cash. Pay off your debt and build up a bit of savings."
  • Jon Katz wrote in his blog this morning: "... I believe in change. I want to learn and grow. I want to move slowly, thoughtfully, and savor my life."
  • Another blogger wrote: There comes a day when we finally decide that we’re ready to let go of the parts of our past that aren’t in alignment with who we are today.
  • And my friend Terri St. Cloud wrote a post today about breathing out negative energy and emotional black snakes. Terri says, and I have to agree, though I might have picked a different metaphor (unlike Terri, I'm not particularly enamored of snakes), we've all got snakes in our past and at some time we have to just say "so what" and leave them behind. When I read, "so I decided that I was gonna concentrate on the now and what I had now." I felt myself nodding and agreeing. It's how I felt after I decided I had to deal with my $$$ issues.

What do you think? Coincidence or maybe a few spiritual nudges to sit up and take notes? I choose to believe all signs are pointing me in a new direction. This is a good thing!

Hope you're tuned into your own coincidences,

Merry ME

*When God Winks, How the Power of Coincidence Guides your Life, SQuire Rushnell, Atria Books, New York, 2001

Learning Something New

"Money will come when you are doing the right thing."
Mike Phillips
[I don't know who Mike Phillips is, but I hope he knows what he's talking about. m]

A few weeks ago I had a meltdown in the middle of Applebees. As usual in the middle of a lunch date with my sister who also happens to be a CPA my dad started discussing his finances. Usually I can tune this conversation out. I have mastered the art of looking interested in the dollars and cents of my father's estate while I "la la la" in my head to whatever tune I make up.

This afternoon, though, was different. My buttons got pushed big time. It doesn't make any real difference what was said, because my reaction took precedence over everything else going on in the restaurant. I said too much. I hurt his feelings. He hurt mine. She retreated to that place she has always retreated to. The waiter kept checking to see if we wanted our bill and people in the booth next to us sipped their water and enjoyed the show.

I came away feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Yet, I sensed some change coming on. It was small, maybe the size of a celery seed, but I remember telling myself, reacting like this is no longer okay with me.

Sweetie gave me a safe place to discuss what happened and what I could do differently. I was in the awareness stage of what will hopefully be a lifetime change.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that discussions centered on or around money will cause an almost immediate reaction in me. I don't know the root cause. Maybe someday I will go there. But for now it's only important that I realize that these discussions cause me to feel ashamed, unworthy, and less than. These feelings come from a place deep down inside me. The way I learned to keep them at bay is to steer far away from anything that sounds remotely close to a financial discussion.

Bank balances? Credit card debt? Insurance? Savings? Retirement funds? Plans for a rainy day? Like an ostrich whose tail feathers are exposed because its head is so far in the sand, I dig into my safety net of denial. I refuse to go there.

Have I mentioned that I'm a grown woman, not three years old?
How is it possible that I've been in therapy for most of my life yet never addressed this thread of intense feeling?

For now that's a moot point. What is important is that I begin taking the steps I need to to make some changes.

So .... drum roll, please .... yesterday Sweetie and I had financial "come to Jesus meeting." The dining room table was covered with bank statements, bills, stacks of papers to be filed and the dreaded yellow legal pad with a heading printed in Sweetie's neat handwriting - BUDGET.
While he made columns on the paper, I organized files by year - some of them back as far as 2002. Taking baby steps, I let myself look at the paper and get a feel for what it represented. On one hand, it was nothing but paper. How can I be so afraid of pieces of paper?
On the other hand, the seemingly impossible task of ever being debt free loomed large in front of me. I concentrated on the job at hand. I sorted. I stapled. I filed. Sweetie wrote down the numbers.

As the afternoon, wore on I could see we had begun to make progress. We got ourselves organized. No longer, His and Hers, but "our" financial papers are now filed together in a drawer in Sweetie's desk - not strewn across three rooms in stacks upon stacks of paper that could easily represent the lives of several trees.

As close as Sweetie and I are, we've left this component of our relationship to fend for itself. But now I don't feel so alone. I feel like a member of a team. If I'm the mountain climber, then Sweetie is the person on the other end of the rope making sure I don't fall off the cliff. And when he's attempting to scale heights he hasn't reached before, well, I'm his cheerleader!

The bottom line isn't pretty. We declared a moratorium on extra spending. While I am not quite ready to do what Dave Ramsey calls a credit card-ectomy, my "babies" have been put away for safe keeping.

And here's the good news. I did all this without emotion. No tears. No stomach ache. No pouting. As we discussed our future - what we will do and where we might go after my caregiving role is completed - I was cool, calm and collected. A few times, I detached and looked down on myself, in order to see how I was fairing. Everything was good. I think I proved to myself I could do this.
I'd like to end this post on a happy note, but as long as I'm confessing, I'm going to give "the rest of the story..."

Later that evening, I provoked a couple incidents. What looked on the outside as a snide remark about my ability to communicate, was, I think, my inner demons trying to have the last word. Even though there was nothing remotely connected between having liver and onions for dinner and having a plan for our future, when I stormed out of the room and threw myself on the bed cussing the man who was making dinner because I couldn't stand the smell of liver I had to wonder if this was post traumatic stress acting out? I couldn't get to sleep fast enough. I had to put some space in between my crazy self and my sane self.

When I got up, the demons were either gone or back in their hiding places. I've still got a lot of work to do. There is talk of having a "Garage Sale." In the past the very words have caused an erratic heart beat. But worse than that I have to find the courage to sit with my father and make peace with his need to plan for my future after he's gone. It sounds like and feels like a control issue. But I believe in my heart it's a lot more about love. He just uses a different language than me.

Weird, I know.

Wish me luck,
Merry ME

Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm a Robin Red-Breast !!

In response to FireByrd's comment on my previous post:

I kind of wondered why she couldn't tell the bird was red, because if she clicked on the photo like I suggested she could see that he's sitting there in all his red glory.

Hmm, I thought to myself. And followed that questioning sigh with a click on the photo. Nothing happened. I tried it again. Nothing happened. I tried it on the previous, previous post. Nothing happened. Then, I went back one more and got to the pretty lady in the hat, clicked and sure enough it got bigger.

We all know I am technologically challenged. Many of you are probably laughing at my ineptness. The thing is, I'd already posted the photo, clicked on it, and saw that the process worked BEFORE I published for good. What happened between then and when Byrd read it, I have no clue.

So I started over. I deleted the picture, then re-uploaded it. It seems to work. The picture gets larger, and you can see the bird close up in all his glorious "cardinal" red coloring.

Sorry Bryd, to think for one tee-tiney moment that you might be more challenged than me. I knew in my heart it was not possible. What I didn't know was that my blog is simply one more place where I have to use patience.

Hoping it works or everyone who reads my blog is going to think I am a nut case, which may or may not be true, but I prefer to think of it as creatively eccentric!
Merry ME