Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Be sure to watch "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Thursday, October 1st, where an organization I care about, Women for Women International, will be featured. Tune-in to the "Oprah" show this Thursday to hear Oprah's call to action and to see how we can actually change the course of history in our lifetime for women and girls around the world.

Oprah, inspired by New York Times best-selling book "Half the Sky" by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn will deliver a call to action to women. This eye-opening hour reveals powerful stories of women overcoming adversity to realize a better life for themselves.

Check your local listings for channels and times and invite friends and family members who aren’t familiar with Women for Women International to tune in. I hope you will watch!
Merry ME


Does anyone out there know how to fix the spacing on this blog site? I type, double space between paragraphs and publish. Much to my dismay somewhere between the writing screen and the published screen gremlins attack the spaces so that when you see it, there is no space at all between paragraphs.

At other times, for no reason that I can fathom because I do it the same way every time, I get too many spaces. What's up with that?

Then, as you can tell (and so can I because I've already previewed it) the spacing is perfect. Just like I typed it. Weird. Weird. Weird.

If you can help, please advise.

Feeling space challenged,
Merry ME

A Step in the Right Direction?

"God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalms 16:1
Last week when the Hospice social worker was here dad and I got in a discussion that was deep and painful. Even the lady whose job it was to keep us focused got a little lost. It wasn't so much like a volcano that suddenly erupted; more like a pot of water you put on the stove. First it gets hot, then little bubbles start to come to the top, then it's boiling away. To continue that metaphor, as we talked I believe all three of us looked for a lid to keep the hot water from splashing over the top.
I cried - nothing new there. Yet through my tears I couldn't help but notice how uncomfortable my father was. It was clear emotional discussions are not his forte. He couldn't keep his hands still, or look above the table cloth. In typical fashion when he is not at ease, Dad tried to end the conversation by saying it was not needed.
In spite of the pain of the moment I had a clear image of how things have always been in my family. Emotions are negated, closed down, stuffed away. Give my dad a problem to solve that involves math, money, or logic and he's the man for the job. Throw something a little more emotional his way, i.e. unwed pregnancy, death, illness, divorce, and he's just not sure what to do beyond taking the initial steps to smooth over the troubled waters. Once the wound is scabbed over, no one mentions it again.
For example, in 1967 my 17 year old sister got pregnant. As was the custom in those days she was hustled off to finish school have the baby, and put it up for adoption. She lived close enough that we could go visit her which we did once or twice during that long summer. I still carry around a vision of her sitting at the top of a slide that ended in a motel swimming pool. Seven or eight months preggers, big as a proverbial barn, becoming an adult before she was ready, laughing like the kid she still was. We all enjoyed what I thought was a very strange family vacation. I also thought that I was the only one who thought it strange. It was not the first time I wondered what was wrong with me.
When the holiday was over we said our goodbyes, got in the car and drove home. I don't know what my sister did. Did she cry? Breathe a sigh of relief? Cuss my father? Beg someone to let her come home? I only know that no one in the car driving home said one word about the "situation." However, it wasn't long before I had my first real bout of depression. Although I'd like to believe my parents addressed this situation from an emotional point of view in the private, but they certainly never did with the daughters at home. At the time I knew two things. It was NOT okay to talk about it. And, for me, it was NOT not okay to talk about it. I was not comfortable seeing that the emperor was not wearing any clothes, and I was certainly not bold enough to suggest it to anyone. I learned to play the game. (Not well, but the best I could)
Coming back to the present, as the social worker tried to bring us to a place of quiet, if not peace. Dad bravely asked if there was such a thing as father/daughter counseling (my stomach lurched - wanting and doing are two different things) and also mentioned he'd like to have a conversation with a man of the cloth.
All this leads up to the fact that as I write this Dad and the hospice chaplain, Grant, are at the kitchen table. Sweetie is outside "watching" his son disassemble an old and reassemble a new shed. I'm in my bedroom, feeling a light weight off my shoulders. I won't deny that a part of me is a little worried that I am somehow the cause for my dad's spiritual pain, that I'm not the daughter or caregiver he needs to see him through his final days.
I know that worry is unfounded. I know this step that Dad has taken is part of his process. Dad needs a plan, a road map. I believe his asking for spiritual guidance, his willingness to talk about what's on his heart, is a part of his letting go. I pray that the chaplain can answer his questions and bring him peace. I don't know what will happen next. I think this is one of those times I have to just let life take its course.
Wishing for you a willingness to speak from your heart and someone to listen,
Merry ME

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feeling Mean

"Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.”
Bill Watterson

Dad announced last night after saying grace, "I feel mean."

Forgive me for saying this but I thought was what's new?
Then I realized the fact that he was announcing his mood was new. So I listened and tried to figure out what was going on. He wouldn't (couldn't) elaborate. I asked if he knew why he felt that way, he said no. I asked if there was anything I could do, he said stand back. I quit asking.
We ate, like most nights, in relative silence. Jack and I discuss our day's events, never intentionally excluding Dad. He turns a deaf ear on any conversation that does not begin with an extra loud effort to get his attention. DAD!
If asked, he'd tell you he feels lleft out, like a third wheel.
If asked, I'd tell you he's as free to jump in as anyone else. He chooses to play his woe is me card.
Dad has pretty much made it known that he does not like to be asked:
How are you feeling?
How did you sleep?
Are you okay?
Can I help?
His main answers are I don't know and no. For a man of words he is strangely reticent to use many of them.
When Dad made his announcement I wonderded "what did I do now?" And after that, how can I fix this? That's my co-dependent inner child for you. Everything is always her fault and she's got to think fast to restore good will and humor in her environment so she can feel safe.
I thought back over the day and figured out that I hadn't done anything. Dad was fine when he went to bed for a nap and not so fine when he got up. It may have been a dream, or a pain, or something as simple as getting up on the wrong sided of the bed. Regardless it wasn't my problem. I let him eat quietly. Played the normal game of cards and beat him but not by much. I didn't bring up any sensitive subjects. Mainly we were quiet. Hard for me to do sometimes. This was a good lesson.
After doing our nightly rituals, I sat with Dad for a few minutes and asked one more time ... still feeling mean? Yep. Can I do anything? Nope. I held his hand as we both listened to whomever it was that Oprah had on. Normally Dad isn't a touchy feely kind of guy... or doesn't appear to be.
I've noticed though, that he's less shy about holding hands. It works as a connection to others that he can't get any other way.
I didn't ask him if he's still feeling mean this morning. I figure I'll find out one way or another soon enough. I did wonder, however, if we should devise a mean scale. You know like hospital nurses use. If one is no pain at all and ten is unbearable-give-me-drugs pain, where are you today. We could substitute mean for pain and have a similar scale. If one is feeling like a pussy cat and ten is a daughter-eating lion, how mean are you? It might just work.
The funny thing is it might work for me too! And if "mean" isn't the emotion of the day, how about sad, happy, scatter-brained? What I'd really like is one of those charts they have in kindergarten rooms that has circle faces with lots of different emotions drawn on them. Like the smiley face guy gone berserk! I'd put it on the refrigerator and have some way each one of us could designate how we're feeling at any given moment. Since we're using a kindergarten model we could use alphabet magnets that stand for our names - S for Sweetie, Q for Queen, C for Curmudgeon, etc.
I think this is a pretty good idea, even if I do say so myself. I also think I'm the only one who would use it. Maybe putting the chart in the bathroom where I could see it at the beginning and end of each day it would serve a better purpose. Maybe not worrying about how mean Dad is, but taking note of how I am is a more productive use of my time. Chances are Dad isn't going to get a whole lot less mean. Hopefully I'll learn to be mean-free anyway.
Wishing for you gold stars and smiley faces,
Merry ME

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dirty Jobs ... Someone's got to do them

"All women become like their mothers.
That is their tragedy.
No man does. That's his."
Oscar Wilde,
The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

I would consider my mother a girly girl. When I was little (and not so little) I loved to sit on her bed and watch her get ready to go out. My parents party a lot but, usually at Christmas there were the mandatory office parties to attend. I remember that she had two really special dresses. One was red chiffon, with a full skirt that swayed back and forth when she walked. The other was her basic black cocktail dress. It was made of crepe, and hugged her curves in an A-line style. My dad had (has) a bit of a shoe fetish. Since mama was petite she would wear pointy-toed high heeled shoes, most often bought by my father. I think her dress up shoes were always black.

On the afternoon of her rare night out, Mom would primp. She washed and curled her hair in the days before blow dryers or curling irons. Over the years she used rag curlers, bobby pins, stiff scratchy rollers and soft spongy ones. She applied what little make-up she wore with the precision she'd learned as a teenager performing in Little Theater. Once that was done she'd pick out her jewelry. Before everyone pierced their ears, mom had earrings that screwed into the back of her ears. Like the shoes she crammed her toes into, I think the pain the earrings caused was the price women paid for beauty. A few of my favorites were the crystal stars andthe single pearl that dangled from a diamond bow. Each was part of a set that had a matching necklace.

Once her jewels were in place she would carefully pull on stockings. attach them to a garter of some kind and daintily slip on her shoes. Next came the slip then the dress. Once dressed, she pulled out all the rollers and brushed her hair. Unlike the coifs I ended up with after wrapping my hair around the same curlers, Mom's hair seemed to fall into place. Finally she gave herself a light spray of 4711.

Then came the bright Christmas red lip stick. First the top lip. Dragging the color from the outside in, she'd paint the left side of her mouth, then the right. The next step in the well practiced ritual was smacking her lips together, just hard enough for any excess from the top of her mouth to neatly outline the curve of her bottom lip. Then she'd fill in the holes with a few swipes from the tube, careful not to color outside the line. Finally, she'd grab a tissue, kiss it once and voila, there she was. Ready for Dad to come home, exchange his office shirt for his party shirt, have a martini and be on their way.

I learned how to play dress up from watching my mom. Mostly I wear blue jeans. I don't even own a little black dress, or a red one for that matter. But come the holidays, much as I dread parties, I yearn for a fancy dress to wear.

The same woman who could primp herself into a 1950's style diva, could also get down and dirty. I've seen her with her hands elbow-high in a turkey carcass. I've seen her pick apart a whole lobster and not leave anything behind but the empty carapace. Melted butter glistened as it dripped down her chin and fingers. She didn't wipe anything off til she'd eaten the very last big of lobster goo from inside the tiniest legs. Give the woman a plate full of raw oysters and she was seriously in heaven. My mom could go head to head with Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) when it comes to cleaning up animal poo, vomit, dirty diapers (the cloth kind that have to be rinsed and swirled in the toilet before being laundered), bloody things and squished bugs. In the course of her lifetime she not only cooked but actually touched pieces of meat like liver, lamb kidneys, and tripe. In the years before she passed away when one of the few jobs left for her to do in the kitchen was feed her cat, I watched as she scooped up what wet, tuna-smelling food was left in the bowl with her bare hands. All for getting the job done, Mom shunned a paper towel, or the kitchen sponge. One, two, three. One minute in the bowl, the next all over and between her fingers. Gross.

Recently I had to take one of my cats to the vet. I was encouraged to add some wet food to his diet because a)he's a little on the thin side (which might have more to do with being pushed away from the food dish by his sister than what's in the bowl) b) it's a way of keeping him hydrated and c) it isn't as bad for his teeth as I'd been told. Needless to say both cats have blessed the day this woman became their vet! I bought a stack of cans, opened one up, put a dollop in two bowls and let them go at it.

To my surprise and chagrin the little feline prima donnas don't seem to like to eat protein-rich turkey, beef or tuna "fillets". They lick all around them getting the juice off (not unlike Patty the Lobster girl) then leave the rest behind. No problem, I have a food processor that will fix that. Whirl, pulse, voila - cat food puree. So the vet is happy and the cats are happy. In an effort to keep the dog from filling up on cat food, I picked up the bowls. Neither was empty. What the hell, I thought, reaching in with my unprotected hands unadorned or and scooped the fishy gruel. At that moment I could feel my mother's hand patting me on the back.

As a mom myself I've had to face a variety of dirty jobs. My hands, like my mother's, have gone places where brave men fear to tread. I've had to eat those words every daughter says at some point in her childhood - oooh gross, I'll never touch that. My fingers haven't fallen off.

But let me make one thing perfectly clear, I'm not now, not sometime in the future, not ever going to touch (or) tripe.

Hoping that you have a box full of plastic gloves for days when life turns a little bit dirty,

Merry ME

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weneki's Triathlon

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
Sally Edwards*

For three days I have been writing about the experience of watching my daughter, Weneki, participate in her first triathlon. I say first because something tells me she might be doing it again next year. The ideas are out of my head and onto paper. Like a homemade loaf of bread the story is in the resting stage after being kneaded and shaped. I've covered it up for awhile before going back to it for yet another rewrite.

I have never seen a triathlon in person so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that my determined daughter had been training for nine months - swimming, running and biking building up both her physical and emotional muscles. This race would not only be a test of her ability to perform in three race venues, it was the culmination of a task she'd set before herself.

On that chilly morning over 800 women gathered singly and in groups to await the start of the race. I was wrapped in a long sleeved fleece as I watched the women parade around in swim gear that ranged from Speedo tanks to full body wet suits. There was way more on the minds of these ladies than body image. There was every age, shape and size. Besides my daughter, I zeroed in on women with gray hair amazed that any one in my age group - or older - would be attempting this feat. I was also very aware of the temperature. It was pretty damn cold. I couldn't figure how any of those ladies was going to be able to jump into that lake and even make it to the first buoy.

After a brief pep talk by the race spokesperson, and some high-fives they took off in waves. Wekeki was in the 7th group to start. As she swam her way through frigid waters and sea grass her rooting section waited for a glimpse of her to come up out of the water. After 21 minutes she sped past on her way to the next venue - a 12 mile bike ride.

As I waited I thought back over the recent years when Weneki struggled to make a life for herself after her husband died. She'd spent 10 years devotedly caring for him. After he was gone she learned how to climb, took up hiking, made new friends. From where I sat on the other side of the country, it seemed as though she maneuvered herself through a grief period with grace. Gradually she learned to be okay in a world without her beloved. Like everything else she's done in her life, she made it through this period in her life with a combination of good humor, hard work, and determination.

Yet nothing quite prepared me for the woman I watched compete in the triathlon. I kept wanting to tell people "she gets it from me" like the mom in Dirty Dancing, but she had clearly surpassed any physical prowess I might have had back in the day. She does come from a long line of fast runners on her dad's side of the family. I think the guts and will power were hers alone.

She whizzed by us to the transition area where dropped her bike and started the 3 mile run. Look at that baby go, I thought to myself. Look at all those babies go. My god, I never realized how electric a group of women with a single goal could be. The air was alive with estrogen! Since I've never been in a race environment before I can't say for sure that it would be different if the competitors were men instead of women. I believe, however, that a "sisterhood" of women, though still competitive is kinder and gentler in some way. Individually the racers pushed themselves to their personal limits. Collectively they kept an eye on their sisters, willing to lend a hand if needed.

One by one women crossed the finish line. It was an awesome sight to see. When Weneki came running down the chute I thought for sure my heart was going to leap out of my chest. It was such a treat to be there see my woman/child triumphantly finish reinvent herself. The can-do spirit was everywhere around us. Caught up in the spirit of the day, Weneki's friends toyed with the idea of signing up for next year's triathlon. Onlookers seemed to want a piece of what the racers had achieved.

While this day was all about a physical challenge, I think there is a time for each of us to dig deep and find out what we're made of. Since I came home I've been asking myself questions like ... Is there something you've always wanted to do but didn't believe you could? Is there a prize you desire that only comes from hard work and determination? Are you everything you want to be?

I don't have the answers yet. When I do I hope I've learned a few things from my daughter.
What about you ... when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Wishing for you a goals and girlfriends and a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow,
Merry ME

*TrekWomen's Triathlon Series Spokeswoman for the Trek Women Triathlon Series and CEO of HeartZones USA

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

"To get away from one's working environment is, in a sense,
to get away from one's self;
and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change. "
Charles Horton Cooley
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to the other side of the country to visit my daughter. Actually it was more than just a visit. It was an opportunity to witness the dynamic, awesome transformation of the girl I once knew into a woman capable of setting a goal and crossing the finish line with vigor and grace. The growing has been happening for years, I just haven't been around to watch. In my mind's eye Weneki is often still that
little brown eyed, chubby-cheeked baby I held in my arms. In reality she is an athletic beauty to behold.
At the beginning of the year Weneki set before herself two major goals. First of all she returned to college for a nine-month course that proved to be daunting but not un-doable. Second, she began training for the 1st annual Trek Women's Triathlon. More on that later. It deserves a whole post in itself. It was an inspiring day for me on many fronts.
I flew home on the red-eye flight. I hit the ground running as soon as I entered the house. Dad had breakfast to eat and there was a little sparring to be done which I'm sure was just his way of welcoming me home. Yeh, right! I've got the third load of laundry in the washing machine and dishes to be put back on the shelves. For now I'll just list some of the highlights of a delightful weekend.
  • Finding out that when the airline says that you can have one bag and one carry-on, what they really mean is you have to lug the bag on the plane with you or you have to pay $20.00. I sent up my first prayer of the trip. One of thanksgiving that I had packed light ... for me.
  • Finding out that the gate my plane taxied into at 8:20 am was across the airport from where my connecting flight was due to leave at 8:30 am.
  • Discovering that they don't call it "bullet" train for nothing. Hold on, said the canned voice from some overhead speaker. What should have been said was "hold on tight." I know this because as soon as the train shot forward so did I. The only thing that stopped me from propelling towards the front of the train at the speed of light was the man in front of me. Still, I almost ended ass over suitcase. I knew to hold a little tighter, plant my feet and lock my knees when told of the upcoming stop. Like an example of some law of physics, when the train stopped, the man in front of me was thrown backwards almost knocking me off my feet one more time. I guess turn-about is fair play!
  • Hearing the man beside me snoring so loud he woke himself up then tried to act like it wasn't him!
  • Being greeted by two of my favorite people in the whole world and knowing the adventure had begun.
  • Remembering what it's like to ride up hill and down with a girl also known as Rolling Thunder.
  • Holding and feeding 5 week old babies and knowing that God knew what he was doing when he created babies. The only flaw is that they don't sleep much!
  • Re-connecting with a good friend.
  • Filling up my senses at Pike's Market. French bread. Fresh vegetables. Flowers everywhere. Giant lobster tails. Lavender. Jewelry of every sort.
  • Getting up at 5 am to get to the race site in plenty of time.
  • Hearing the girl who was lost in thought and nerves one minute, laugh and chat with other competitors the next.
  • Seeing the goosebumps on Weneki's shoulders as she waited for her wave to hit the water. Being there with her cadre of cheerleaders at each point of the race cheering her on. Smiling at the fact that she was smiling.
  • Seeing women of all shapes and sizes and ages cross the finish line. Seeing tattoos where breasts used to be. Seeing a young boy join his mother as she came down the home stretch.
  • Watching my daughter become a champion as Van Gelis played on the loud speakers.
  • Walking around a city that scares me because of its size yet calls to me because of its energy. Soaking up the cool temperatures. Catching a slight whiff of autumn in the air.
  • Laughing. Crying. Saying goodbye.
  • Falling asleep somewhere over Montana and waking up in Atlanta ... almost home except for the fact that might flight was cancelled and I had to wait an hour and a half for the next plane.
  • Standing on the sidewalk and watching as Sweetie pulled up to the curb. Feeling oh so glad I went and oh so glad to be home again.

Wishing for you a place to visit and a home to return to,

Merry ME

Thursday, September 17, 2009


"Folk music gives comfort to a dark night."
Mary Travers

Sweetie broke the news to me this morning that Mary Travers, of Peter Paul and Mary fame, passed away. "I'm beginning to understand what Luther means when he says all his old friends are gone," he said with tears in his eyes.
Travers' death coming on the heels of losing Patrick Swayze is kind of like a double punch to the gut. Who doesn't have memories of these two celebrities? Where were you when PPM sang of leaving on a jet plane? Saying your own goodbyes to someone who left all too often? Wishing for that ring that might keep them tied a little closer to you? Or do you think of being young, and dancing in the streets with flowers in your hair to music that spoke of political and social injustices? Where have all the flowers gone, I still wonder to myself?
I admit that Dirty Dancing was a corn ball movie. Swayze may have made a name for himself in movie circles but he was no Cary Grant. Just a sexalicious good dancer that made me swoon every time I see the movie. I mean it, I could watch that final scene a hundred times over.
He swaggers into the farewell show. Heads turn, tension fills the air. He walks up to Baby's chair and takes her by the hand. He looks her father square in the eye and tells him, "nobody puts Baby in the corner." But the best is yet to come. When Johnny and Baby get up on the stage and the music starts and their bodies begin to sway together to the beat of the song and their hearts, and their feet move in tandem, well it just makes me weak in the knees. Then when it's time for the coup de gras - the lift they practiced throughout the whole movie - all he has to do is look at her. She knows the question without words. She nods and they go for it, right down the center aisle. OMG. Its too fabulous for words. I can't tell you if it's the dancing or the dancers that thrills me more. The pottery scene in Ghost is pretty darn sexy, but I go for the lift every time. Not sure what that says about me!
Another reason I like this movie so much is because it always reminds me of the day I met the young man who would become my son-in-law. Of all possible things to discuss when you meet the guy your daughter is smitten by, dumb ass dance movies is probably not the best. Zub was polite but adamant. He hated it. He was never able to get past the schmaltziness of the movie and see the beauty that I saw. I stuck by my guns and even reviewed a few scenes with him. Weneki sat behind Zub giving me the evil eye and cut the crap signals which I totally ignored. I was having fun. Zub was not put off by my teasing. He held his own - giving as good as he got.
I am a little sad tonight to know that two more of the people I've loved are gone. But my loss is heaven's gain. I can't help but think of Zub and Mary Travers and Patrick Swayze sitting on some cloud together having a strange but real meeting of the minds. Their earthly struggles have disappeared. They shine, each in their own way.
Wishing for you a song and a dance to make you smile,
Merry ME

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mixed Messages

"Mixed feelings, like mixed drinks, are a confusion to the soul."
George Carman

Playing cards after dinner with my dad has become a nightly ritual. Sweetie leaves the table to read, Dad finishes a bowl of ice cream, the dog and cats get their treats and I shuffle the cards.

The game is Gin Rummy - we think. It may just be rummy; or maybe just gin. Mainly it's deal out cards, make runs, match suits and try to go get rid of all your cards before the other person. It fills the hour that it takes Dad to drink his coffee before heading back to his room.

We sit at the kitchen table where we eat most of our meals. The table is too big for the space so I feel cramped. It is on the other side of the oven, so I feel hot. We do not play a lively, cut-throat game of cards, throwing down insults or dares. It's more like we're playing a championship round of Texas Hold 'em in a sterile room in Vegas. There is very little conversation. One would think this is because we are concentrating on our cards. The truth is we've run out of things to say.

I'm not very comfortable with silence. It always feels heavy to me - oppressive. I've known the time silence at the kitchen table was a sword delicately aimed to do the most damage. To fill up the void, I usually jabber away about something ... anything. I've found, however, that talking during these card games is nothing more than an exercise frustration. Dad feigns hearing loss but I'm pretty sure he can hear most of what I say. He chooses not to respond. My words trail off and mingle with the after-dinner smells.

Why do I continue this ritual you might ask. Good question! He spends most of his days in the solitary pursuit of filling in empty spaces in a book. Not much conversation going on there! He won't get up and go back to his room early even though he could probably fall easily to sleep. For years his habit has been to sit at the table after dinner. I believe changing the habit would require more energy than he has. So I guess I sit with him because I don't like seeing him look so sad.

Last night I told him I'd play cards with him if he'd smile and act just a little but glad that I'm there.

"Do you really think I have anything to be happy about?" he asked.

"Well, yes, I do." And that's not being Pollyanna-ish. I don't expect him to guffaw and slap his leg and two-step around the table and be crazy. It's just that his dour and gloomy outlook on life is wearing me down.
Actually, this proved to be kind of an aha moment for me. Another realization that Dad is just plain tired of living. His vision is skewed. Not from macular degeneration. He simply can't see beyond the kitchen table.

We played a few more rounds. Dad was winning. In fact he was skunking me. I could blame it on the thoughts that were spinning in my head, but the truth is he was getting all the aces, I was getting deuces! So I said to him, "You know Dad, you could just stop eating and hurry this process along." I don't consider this a good option, but it is an option.

Without skipping a beat, he throws down his last card, and says, "Why would I do that? I'm not unhappy."
Huh? Did I hear right? It's no wonder I'm a little bit stressed. Is he just messing with me? Is he happy or not? Unhappy or not? Does he even know? The more I think about it, I realize he really has no idea what he's feeling. He is caught between living and dying. He's tired of living but for all his bravado not ready to die either. The things he has to anticipate have dwindled down to an occasional lunch out, a country ham biscuit, and playing Rummy. So, like a fairy Godmother granting his every wish, I sit at the table and deal the cards.

Wishing you a hand full of aces,

Merry ME

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Dare or Not to Dare .... That is the question

"Don't dare to be different, dare to be yourself
if that doesn't make you different then something is wrong."
One of my daily routines is to visit blogland. I check out what other people have to say. Rather than reading the newspaper I prefer to jump from blog to blog to find what's going on in the world. That may sound impressive but I don't read political blogs. I go sites where creativity is shared and awareness of social issues is a priority. Some of the blogs I go to are just fun. And like picking a piece of chocolate out of a Whitman's Sampler I never know what I'm going to find when I click on a new blog.
Recently I found this site:
Here's the first paragraph I read that pulled me in. Author Natasha Kogan wrote: Two years ago one of my most precious, life-long, “I can't believe this is ever going to happen” dreams came true – I wrote a book (The Daring Female's Guide to Ecstatic Living) and found a publisher who decided to skip the rejection letter this time and give me a shot.
I've been giving some serious thought lately about actually trying to have something I've written published someplace other than the church newspaper. It is a thought that I have entertained over the years, but never truly believed possible. I get all puffed up when someone says to me "you are a good writer" of "you should write a book" but I take them seriously. I'm not sure it is in my nature to actually put myself "out there" in any meaningful way. Now this is the complete opposite of what goes on in my head in the wee hours of the morning when I'm sure I'm alone and won't remember anything anyway! That's when I sit with Oprah in her big comfy chairs, or around her dinner table with other "real" writers and share ideas. I've been known to see myself on an Oslo stage accepting a Pulitzer Prize for Literature, trying to thank everyone who encouraged me to dream. No ... more like to dare to make the dream come true.
Dreaming comes easily for me. It's the next step, the daring or believing, in the dream where I get hung up. This is actually a good thing, because I'm pretty positive even if I believed I'd never have the nerve to pursue the dream. Some people are brave. Some are big chickens. I fall into the latter category.
I've been afraid for as long as I can remember. The last time I recall daring to do something out of my comfort zone I was in the third grade. I had a boyfriend, George Couch, who I thought, at age 8, was about the cutest thing I'd ever seen. I didn't know anything about having boyfriends or what it involved. I just knew I liked being around this guy and he seemed to like me. He made me laugh. He promised me plastic rings from gumball machines for every finger and toe.
I lived on a secure Naval Station and George lived on the other side of the tracks, though at the time I had no idea what that meant. In order to get on the base one had to have an ID card to show the guards at the gate. One day little ol' skinny, scaredy cat ME and my best friend Lisa, devised a plan to sneak George on the base. (Good Lord, my first daring deed was something akin to a terrorist plot!) I don't know how it worked. If I entertained the guard with my glib 8 year old banter while my friend secreted George past the gate, or if we just told the truth, showed my ID card and walked through like we all belonged on the base.
Once over that hurdle we did what kids do. We went looking for adventure. It took us all over the base, near Lake Michigan, through Officers' quarters, around enlisted men's barracks and into explorable tree-lined gullies. At one point we were at the top of a huge grass covered hill. Or should I say I was at the top of the hill, watching as George and Lisa made plans to leave me there if I didn't get up the nerve to run/fly down as they had just done. I'd obviously used up all my daring at the guard gate. What was probably nothing more than a small incline looked like Mt. Everest to me (if I knew what Mt. Everest was, which I probably didn't). Running down did not look like the best way to descend.
"We're leaving," shouted my best friend and my boyfriend looking a little too cozy together for my liking.
"Geronimo," I cried and threw all caution to the wind (which would be a repeating scenario in my life when it came to impressing the man du jour). I took off down that hill and built up momentum as I went. Soon, looking like the downhill skier experiencing the agony of defeat, I was toppling head over heals toward the bottom of a glacier that seemed to never end. Once at the bottom, I lay in a crumpled mess. George, impressed beyond belief, came to my rescue. He asked if I was okay. As if I came down the hill exactly as I had planned, I assured him I was just fine. When I stood up, trying to act cool and put weight on my right leg at the same time, I knew something was not quite right.
However, the afternoon light was growing dim. Our day's adventure was coming to an end. We still had to figure out how to get George out the same gate he'd come in. As we plotted my ankle began to swell. And swell. It was soon too big and painful to walk on. All thoughts of anything but explaining to my parents what I had done left my pain-enhanced brain. George was on his own. I headed home making up what sounded to me like believable lies.
Before dinner, it became clear I had a major boo boo that needed attention from the emergency room. Dad gave up his nightly cocktail and as it turned out his dinner. As in all military dispensaries the lines were long, the wait for X-rays interminable and the actually cast application took forever to complete. I know this because I was stripped down to my white cotten Carter's Spanky pants in front of a young sailor and given nothing with which to hide my modesty.
Dares, be damned. It took several years before I succombed to the lure of an alluring dare.
You'd think writing a book that would get me on Oprah would be a piece of cake to Merry Me, Girl Adventurer. But I learned that day that adventures aren't all they are all cracked up to be.
Now I'm beginning to think I've outgrown my Chicken Little Persona. Who knows, maybe I'll start believing this writing thing is a real possibility.
One of the greatest sources of inspiration for living your life as a true Daring Female is learning about other Daring Females who are chasing their passions, exploring their creativity, taking a stand, or pushing their own boundaries.*
If you go to the Daring Female website you'll find a page filled with other women's dares and dreams. Some sound pretty basic and simple. Others sound way too daring for me. But the thing is, each of the women quoted has not just had the dream. They have the intention to change their lives. Big or small, I applaud each and every one of them.
Slowly getting up my nerve to put my pen where my mouth is,
Merry ME
P.S. What's up with this blogger spacing? It has a mind of its own that I am unable to influence.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grandparent's Day (A day late ... the story of my life)

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles,the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be."
Shel Silverstein

According to the Hallmark calendar yesterday was Grandparents' Day. I didn't pay it much attention. My granddaughter lives miles away, my adopted grandson lives just about as far. My grandneices and nephews live on the other side of the country. With no one to play with or bake for or babysit, or spoil I often feel like Grammy is just another name.

This morning, however, I was nudged towards remembering that out of sight doesn't always mean out of mind. Being a grandparent is a special blessing. Even if I'm not right in the faces of the little (and not so little anymore) ones or going to school plays, sitting in the front row clapping and hooting like a fool I hope I they know I'm watching as they grow. And praying that their successes will be many, their failures few.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Thank God for kids" by the Oakridge Boys. It's not really a Christmas song but it seems that is the time it is most often played. It gets stuck in the country music queue somewhere between Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer and a Redneck's 12 Days of Christmas. In my humble opinion it should really be up at the top of everyone's music list. Whether it be Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, or the 4th of July, thanking God for kids is something we should all do at least once a day every day.

So I suggest you stop what you're doing (after you finish this reading this blog!) and click on the YouTube video herein. It's an old video as you'll notice as soon as you see the guy with the long beard. Today his hair is snow white. But, like grandparents, being old is not always a bad thing. It just means we've been slowly aged and mellowed - unlike parents who are quick on the draw when it comes to saying "no" whether the questions asked is "can I have another cookie" or "can I have the car keys." When you get to the final scenes in the video where one of the OR boys is up to his nose in balls, think of me. I know those ball things at Chuckee Cheese and fast food joints are nothing but breeding grounds for a new strain of virulant flu, but I have a kidlike desire to do a swan dive every time I pass one by. Again, isn't it a grandparent's job to see the fun of the moment instead of the boogey man behind the corner?

Today I give thanks to the big Grandparent in the sky (who not only created kids but keeps them in His/Her tender embrace) for these precious grandkids:

Ivy Jane
(Feel free to add to the list.)

Remembering God couldn't be everywhere so he invented grandparents,
Merry ME

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Think I Can, I Think I Can ...

If you can give your son or daughter only one gift,
let it be enthusiasm.
Bruce Barton

Over the years I have been called upon to cheer my daughter over the finish line, and pump her full of confidence. Weneki is a can-do girl who likes to make things happen her own way. Most every project she starts she finishes, on her own timeline. However she oftens needs a little motivation along the way.

That's where I come in. I've gotten pretty good at listening to her cry, then encouraging her to trust her own abilities and take the first step. When she was little we often read "The Little Engine That Could" by by Watty Piper, George Hauman, and Doris Hauman. I think we had both the original hardback version and the Golden Book in our library.

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can" has long been one of Weneki's mantras. Or maybe I should say it's been one of my mantras for her!

When I mentioned before that Weneki likes to do things in her own sweet time what I actually meant was that she is a world champion procrastinator. She has a well-developed ability to put off writing papers or working on a major project till the last minute. Somehow after an all-nighter of hard work on her part and many prayers for a miracle on mine she completes that assigned task. She's been working from this same script for as long as I can remember. I think she must have gotten it from her father's gene pool!

Dr. Phil might ask how's this working for you? And Weneki might answer, so far so good. I, on the other hand, would probably give a different answer all together. Something along the lines of "she needs therapy!" When Weneki was in college, just before she gave in to the pressure and began an assignment she would call me, dump all her built-up anxiety, get the aforementioned pep talk, hang up the phone and get to work. Since the assignment was hers, not mine I usually got to keep the anxiety.

I remember clearly the night I thought I was going to have to drive from San Diego to Los Angeles to pick her up from school. She was a freshman and had not yet perfected her system. I truly thought she was having a breakdown. I was ready to pull the mom card and insist she stay home with me where she belonged. Who needs a college education anyway? I paced the floor. I considered calling my sister to act as a surrogate mother. I considered calling a medical clinic for an intervention.

It proved to be a long night for both of us. I was bone weary the next morning. When I called to check on her progress and to remind her to have a suitcase packed so she'd be ready when I got there the phone rang off the hook. No one answered. Damn! I knew I should have called the campus security office. I continued to call off and on during the next day or two. Finally Miss Weneki picked up the ringing phone and told me she'd been celebrating. Celebrating? I asked just a tad incredulous. What was there to celebrate? That she was a nutcase who had to drop out of school because she didn't know how to manage her time.

It's been a few years since this incident occurred and I'm sure I said it with more diplomacy and tact than that, but I can assure you that is exactly what I was thinking. As it turned out my daughter finished her paper on time, turned it in and quickly forgot all about her mother who was waiting in the wings to swoop in and rescue her from life. This scenario was replayed several more times over the course of her college career. I got to where I could just listen, not panic and remind her of the Golden Book's magic words ... I think I can, etc.

In January Weneki enrolled in a 9-month class to study project management. (I know, it is a little ironic. In her favor, I must say that when it comes to things other than house cleaning my daughter has learned not to procrastinate quite so long.) Let me just say it's been a rough nine months. Back in April, I was considering reprising the pack-your-suitcase-I'll-be-right-there speech. In July I was seriously concerned about her physical and mental health. Last week, I detected a desire to be done with the class but very little performance anxiety. This I thought was a major improvement.

Last night I got the call. "I'm done," she exclaimed with well-deserved pride.

"Whoohoo" I cheered, noticing that I suddenly felt a weight off my shoulders!

Now you might think that this woman child that makes me so proud would be content to rest on her laurels. I'd have to tell you to think again! As if going back to college wasn't challenge enough Weneki also started training for a mini-triathalon at the beginning of the year. Next Sunday there I'll be standing on the side of road with a bag of oranges, some Gatorade and a big ol' sign that says:

I know you can. I know you can.

Once a mother, always a mother.
Merry ME

P.S. Weneki has been awarded her 2nd Merry ME You Rock Award for Excellence. The first one was mainly because I think she's the rockingest rocker I know! A mother's perogative. This one is for stepping out of her comfort zone, sticking to her goal(s) and finishing her class.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Caregiving 101

"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way."
Marvin Minsky

It's been an interesting day.

Last night Sweetie declared that "we" were going to a Caregiver's Conference put on by our local Community Hospice. Oh goodie, I thought. It's Saturday, I get a hall pass for most of the day and I get to sit in a room and listen to a bunch of lectures on caregiving. It was like sitting in the choir loft and knowing there was going to be a really long sermon! What can they possibly say about taking care of a grumpy old man that I don't already know?

My alternatives, however, were not much better - heading for Walmart or staying home and having a meaningful relationship with the vacuum cleaner. I didn't put up much of a fight. A day away from the house with my remarkable Sweetie sounded pretty good even if it was starting at 9am. Not an ungodly hour, but a certain someone likes to get to places early to scope them out, so it meant a 7 am wake up call. Oh God!

All in all it was an interesting and informative day. There was far too much sitting in one place. By the end of the morning lectures I had was nursing a headache from cocking my head to a weird angle so I could see the power point presentations. It was all worth it though, because the highlight of the day's event was the 45 minute one-woman show by none other than Carol O'Dell, author of Mothering Mother and facilitator of my writing group.

All the other speakers stood behind a microphone and spoke with little or no animation. Carol pushed the mike out of her way and woke that crowd up in her first 30 seconds. I know her to be a fantastic writer and story-teller, but I've never seen one of her "shows." It was everything, and more, that I imagined it would be - funny, poignant, straight-forward, irreverent, informative, fast-moving, and truthful. Carol took care of her mother who had both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease so she knew what she was talking about. She didn't pull any punches. What was funny today may have made her cry when it happened a few years ago. Still she refers to caregiving as dumpster diving - looking for hidden treasures among all the trash.

Because I was going to "learn how to take care of an old man" Dad was pretty okay with my being gone for the day. Because I had "permission" to go I didn't feel a lot of guilt about leaving him. Even though my sister is every bit as capable as caring for Dad as I am, I often carry a 20 pound bag of guilt over my shoulder when I'm not here. Some of it is self-inflicted, some encouraged by the man who reminds me on a regular basis that he's paying me to take care of him. It's a little on the lines of the "I brought you into this world, and don't ever forget it...." speech most of us have heard a hundred times.

As I sat through the days lectures I realized how lucky I am to have a Sweetie who understood the need for me to attend this conference. And how really lucky I am that he sticks by me and supports me in this caregiving journey. I didn't actually realize until today that I've been saying "I'm" a caregiver for all these years when in fact "we" are caregivers. It's not a journey that I'm taking with my Dad and Sweetie is just along for the ride. It's a journey we are taking together.

I just got a visual of the Wizard of Oz characters dancing down the yellow brick road arm in arm. Each of us has our own journey yet we are on the same road. On any given day our relationships - Sweetie and I, Dad and I, Dad and Sweetie, plus my sister, the dog and the cats - are co-mingled. We are seldom alone.

I sat with Dad tonight after he crawled under the covers. I poised myself on the commode next to his bed, held his hand and shared a rare and peaceful moment with him. He shared some feelings with me which is highly unusual for an engineer of left-brain thinking. I was quiet, which is also highly unusual. I embraced the moment for what it was ... a diamond in the dumpster.

A good ending to a good day,
Merry ME

9/11 Remembered (A Day Late ... The Story of My Life)

We cannot know for certain how long we have here.
We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that
will test us along the way.
We cannot know what God's plan is for us.
What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can
with purpose, and with love, and with 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 know that we spent it well;
that we made a difference;
that our fleeting presence had a
lasting impact on the lives of others.
President Barak Obama speaking at Sen. Edward Kennedy's Funeral

I spent some time yesterday remembering the tragedy and horror of that September morning 8 years ago. However, I couldn't bring myself to watch the news or find any new words to express my thoughts.

Before I went to bed I read Dani Sutliff's "Remembering 9/11" blog post. I was moved to tears. She wrote so beautifully everything I wish I had said. When I asked her if I could re-print it here, Dani graciously gave me permission to do so. I had it all ready to go when I decided that was cheating. I want you to go to Dani's blog and get to know her. Although Wisconsin is not close to anyone or anything I know I'm trying to figure out a way to get there to visit Dani's store, Three Sisters' Spirit. From everything I read it's the kind of place I can get lost in and still go back for more.

Here's the link to Dani's blog. Please check it out.

And here's a portion of a prayer she wrote that pretty much sums things up for me:

Hold us close to your heart, Father, Mother, God,
through our tears, and through our sorrow,
may we all see a new vision of a new tomorrow.
May we always remember

And may we also learn to live in peace,
Merry ME

Friday, September 11, 2009

Random Acts of Kindess

"Kindness is more than deeds.
It is an attitude, an expression, a look,a touch.
It is anything that lifts another person."

Perhaps kindness is a purple vase of purple flowers sitting on the table waiting for you when you come in from a quick trip to Walmart that ended up being not so quick because you had to wait in the 20 or less EXPRESS line for 15 minutes.
Perhaps what makes the kindness extra special is that the purple vase with the purple flowers arrived on a day that was not special in anyway. Not a birthday. Not an anniversary. It was just an ordinary Thursday.
Perhaps what makes the kindness incredibly special is that the purple vase with the purple flowers came from a person you only know on the Internet, yet you feel like you've know her your whole life. Or wanted to know her, because she is the person you aspire to be.
I believe random acts of kindness could make our world, if not exactly peaceful, a little easier to maneuver. Like that proverbial pebble that gets thrown into the river of life, one act of kindness can send out ripples of kindness that passes from one person to another.
On this anniversary of one of the most horrific deeds in history I think we can honor those men and women who lost their lives doing what they do in an extraordinary way on a not so ordinary day by practicing kindness. See if you can't find some way to lift another's spirits today. It doesn't have to be grandiose or cost a lot of money. It can be as simple as a smile or a heartfelt thank you.
Maybe it's nothing more than letting the tired woman in front of you in the 20 or less lane stay where she is even though you've counted the items in her cart twice and you know that she knows there are 25 items and instead of being pissy you compliment her on the kid she's with.
What goes around comes around.
Thanks Terri, you made my day. I hope I can return the favor.
Wishing for each of you a purple vase filled with purple flowers.
Merry ME
P.S. Don't wait for someone to buy those flowers for you. Buy them yourself. And while you're at it buy one for someone else.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Caregiving Lesson

I've learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.
Jack Welch

Dad doesn't do a lot these days. Standing for any length of time hurts his back so he sits. He eats. He does crossword puzzles and he sleeps. In fact he sleeps so much during the day he's started waking up around 3am unable to go back to sleep. Anyone who has lain awake during those early morning hours knows there is nothing to do but recite multiplication tables, invent a health care system that will really work, or worry.

My father is a creature of habit. After doing the same thing for several days in a row his body and mind are pretty much trained to continue doing that thing without giving it any thought. Depending on what the "thing" is the habit can either good or bad. Drinking a Manhattan before dinner or eating chocolate ice cream after dinner every night come hell or high water is considered a habit that has no ill consequences.

However, Dad is less than comfortable lying awake staring at the ceiling watching the big red digital numbers change three nights in a row. Last night he decided to nip this burgeoning habit in the bud. Knowing that giving up some of his afternoon sleep time would also mean that I might have to give up some of mine I suggested a pharmeceutical remedy. Perhaps a Tylenol PM might would help him sleep through the night.

"Someone told me not to take Tylenol," he countered.
"Oh?" I questioned, "how come?"
Dad ends the conversation with "I don't know, but I know I'm not going to take it."

"Okay, what about the sleeping medication provided by Hospice?"
"When did they prescribe that?"
"When they threw out all your outdated meds."
"Oh, let me see it." As if seeing the bottle or the pink capsule would help to make the decision whether to take it or not.

"I think I'll try it," he says as he pops the pill in his mouth, takes a slug of water, throws his head back and swallows.
"Good night, Dad. Sleep well. I love you."

Walking down the hall after my shower this morning I glance into Dad's room to see if he's awake. He's out cold, but in the recliner chair next to the bed, not tucked in where I left him last night.

"Why are you in the chair?" I ask knowing it's a dumb question.
"That sleeping pill worked too well," he croaked in a Zombie-like stupor.
"I peed all over everything." And with that bit of information he went back to sleep.

Grabbing up soaking wet underpants, sheets and blankets I begin my day. I find myself staring at the clock. The thumping of the blanket in the washer keeps time with the minute hand as it ticks off the time. The buzz of the dryer informing me the sheets are dry startles me from my reverie.

I hope this isn't going to become a habit.

Caregiving Lesson Learned: Unless you want to spend the day cleaning the bed from the mattrass up don't suggest sleeping pills. Maybe a cup of warm milk would be more appropriate.

Learning as I go,
Merry ME

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is it just me ....

... or is the universe trying to make a point?

I just hit the post button to publish the last thing I wrote about, among other things, how our perceptions form our reality.

Before closing my computer and trying to make a very real pile of ironing turn into nothing more than illusion, I read my email. This one may have gone around before but this is the first time I've seen it. The subject is:Experiment- worth the read. Here's what it said:

Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The violinist played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.Four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw the money in the till and, without stopping, continued to walk.Six minutes after that, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.Ten minutes later, a 3-year-old boy stopped to look at the violinist, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.Forty-five minutes later the musician played. Only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 people gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace.He collected $32.00.One hour later he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the finest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.Two days before Joshua Bell had sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.00 each.
This is a real story.Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro Station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.
The questions raised:
In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the finest musicians in the world playing some of the most beautiful music ever written with one of the most magnificent instruments ever created, how many other things are we missing?

I went to Snopes to check on the veracity of the experiment and found it to be true. In fact the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize in the feature writing category for the story about the experiment. You can read for yourself at ://

So, I have to ask myself, is there something to this stuff about perception? What would I have done had I passed by Joshua Bell playing the violin in a crowded station? I'd like to think I would have stopped to listen. But on any given day, I often hurry about my business paying little attention to what's going on around me. Then I remind myself about the cards I had printed up. Perhaps I'm not always as oblivious to my surroundings as I think. Maybe I just have to open my eyes and ears a little bit more and take in all the beauty around me. Is that what the Handbook meant when it talked about not putting any limitations on myself?[See post below]

Looking at the ironing pile and realizing I'm only limited by the number of items to be pressed. Bring it on!
Merry ME

For Terri

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world,
the Master calls a butterfly."
Richard Bach

I started thinking about the Joni Mitchell song, Both Sides Now, when I read today's "Cloud" post over at Honor Yourself. Terri often writes about her morning walks. Before I'm even thinking about starting my day, Ter is up and moving. I'm not sure how far she walks but I'm guessing it's a lot further than my legs would be willing to take me on a regular basis. Terri isn't just a speedy, let's-get-this-thing-over-with kind of walker. Along her well-worn path, she stops to talk to her neighbors, check on construction workers, and commune with nature. When she gets to the half-way point, what she calls her "good morning world" spot, she turns around and heads back for home. But not before standing there, on the edge of a busy street and taking in the beauty of each day. Rain or shine this imaginative woman can somehow convince herself that she is "in Vermont, and the car sounds can be a river" by just looking up at the trees and sky.

Last week, as Hurricane Danny churned by our coastline, there were some pretty heavy storms around Jacksonville. The skies were alive with lightening shows and thunderous booms. The dark clouds looked like something out of a 1950's monster movie. I'm not sure why, but it always seemed to be storming when the lab-made creatures come to life. I guess things are just scarier on a dark, rainy day.

The fun thing about having a new car with a sun roof is I've got something cool to look at when I'm stopped at a red light. Dark and ominous or light and airy I've seen some pretty remarkable cloud formations. In honor of Terri and her ability to see beyond the clouds here are some photos that give meaning to the song. Can't you just hear Judy Collins singing in the background?

"Rows and flows of angel hair,
And ice cream castles in the air,
And feather canyons everywhere,
I've looked at clouds that way."

But now they only block the Sun,
They rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow,
It's cloud illusions I recall,
I really don't know clouds, at all. *

As I read it instead of sing it, the words are actually kind of depressing, aren't they. But I'm reminded of one of Sweetie's favorite books which isn't depressing at all. In fact it's kind of free floating letting you make of it what you will. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach is a book that I have to admit is a little over my head. I like my philosophy spoon fed, a little at a time. Illusions premise is that all reality is nothing more than an illusion we create for our own learning. Our realities are based on our perceptions.

Hmmm. Am I sitting on this couch typing or do I just think I am? Hmmm? You can see why I'm easily distracted and go straight to picking my cuticles when people begin to discuss topics like this. I'm pretty simple minded. If you can touch it, it's real. If you make it up, it's illusion.

That said, one of the neat things about Illusions is the accompanying Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul. To garner the great knowledge from the pint-sized book all you have to do is open it to any page and there you'll find all the information you'll need. "Hold a question in your mind," instructions Bach. "Now close your eyes, open the handbook at random and pick left page or right." *

Like Terri at her "good morning world spot," Sweetie used to start every day by opening up the handbook. Is it coincidence, or reality or illusion, that two people I love, know how and when to stop and open themselves up to the beauty and intelligence of the day. Then, prepared for what comes their way, they put one foot in front of the other doing what they have to do to make their world - our world - a better place?

Before I end this post, I think I'll try it. I've got my question (what do I need to learn today?) in mind. My eyes are closed. Hold on while I search the handbook for my answer.

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours."

Now that's food for thought!

Wishing for you a day filled with puffy clouds, silver linings and no limitations,
Merry ME

* Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell, Clouds album, Elektra Records, 1969

*Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul, by Richard Bach, 2004, Hampton Roads Publishing Co., Inc.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Good News

"The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news ...
and it's not entirely the media's fault,
bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news."
Peter McWilliams

In the last week I've heard stories about a girl who was kidnapped and held captive for 11 years, a family of eight killed in a mobile home park just up the road, and a Sudanese woman being jailed for wearing slacks in public. That doesn't take into account hurricanes, firestorms, or health care debates.

It's not easy playing the Glad Game when there is so much bad stuff going on in the world. Just pick up the newspaper or turn on the tellie and you are apt to get sick to your stomach at the creepiness that exists on this planet. Except for doing the daily Jumble I've pretty much given up even looking at the newspaper. I'm trying to keep my depression at bay, not make it any worse. I call being news-challenged good self-care. Other's might call it living in LaLa land. And, in all honesty, they may be right. By it's very definition LaLaland is a happy place!
So I have to ask isn't there any good news out there?
Apparently there is. I happened upon The Cliff one day and have since gone back every day to see who's doing what for their neighbors in the Charlotte, NC community. The blog's mission is to print the latest news and information about non-profits. It is "a part of Charlotte Mission Possible - a joint effort by local media outlets to help Charlotte residents understand the charitable needs of the community and then find ways to help meet those needs." That's a lot of words to say it's all about people helping people. What a concept!

Although there are typical philanthropic stories about rich people donating thousands of dollars to a worthy cause, there are also heart-warming reports of kid run lemonade stands, book collections for schools in high risk areas, Jazzin' for a cure, Yoga-thons, golf tournaments, Lunch 'n Learns, and giving back to the community photography sessions. If there is a cause that needs funding in Charlotte every day citizens are stepping up to the plate and making dreams come true. I say The Cliff gets a great big "You Rock" award from Merry ME.

I also read an article recently about two guys from Purdue University known as the Compliment Guys. Last year Brett Wescott decided he wanted to do something nice for people. His idea, which quickly caught on because it obviously makes people feel good, is to stand on a busy corner of the campus and shout out compliments to people as they walk by. Cameron Brown soon joined in the 2-hour Wednesday afternoon sessions.

"Everybody has something to compliment. Everybody has something good in them. It just takes a second to find it," said Brown who shouts things like ' Cool headphones, great coat, or I dig your goatee."* to students and faculty who are passing by. Can't you just imagine how cool it would be to be walking along, head down, forehead furrowed, thinking about a History paper that's due tomorrow and you haven't even started it yet or what to say to your jerk boyfriend who you caught cheating, or realizing you'd just missed your period for the 2nd month in a row, or you'd found a tiny little lump in your breast, or how you were going to stretch your food budget to cover the cost of the beer you promised to take to that night's study hall, and some cutie patootie on the street corner shouts out, "Hey! Nice socks!" I gotta think that would put a bit of a giddy-up in my step. Now expand that thought off the college campus and make it happen anywhere. City Hall, the bank, a doctor's office, MacDonalds - well you get the point. It's bound to make for a happier world. Good going, Compliment Guys - You Rock!

I'm not trying to steal the boys' thunder cause I'm pleased to be on the same wave length. Back on Aug. 26 I wrote that I had an idea of passing out business cards to people complimenting them on their work. In a rare follow-up of one my grandiose ideas, I ordered some pretty purple cards that read:

I just wanted to let you know I think you're doing a great job! Thank you.

My problem is now that I have these cards, I'm feeling a little shy about handing them out. I'm much more comfortable with anonymous giving. And while giving is pretty much always good, handing out compliments anonymously kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?

One of the things I like about the blogosphere is that there's a lot of good news to be found.

Go to any of the blogs I follow and you might not always find a happy story. But you'll hear from people of strength, character, and courage. You'll find colorful pictures and artwork to brighten your world. You'll realize you're not alone in this crazy world; that on any given day there's someone else to share your joy and your pain.

I don't know about you but I'd much rather read about the dogs of Bedlam Farm any day than hear one more Senator who probably doesn't even have to pay for his insurance try to tell me what he/she thinks is best for me when it comes to my health care.

Merry ME
*American Profile, Sept. 6-12, 2009, pg. 4. Hometown Heros by Marla W. Aldrich

P.S. Here are some other good news sites you might want to check out:

Baby It's Cold Out There

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads.
Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it."
Rosalia de Castro*

[Werner Herzog on Mount Erebus. Photograph: ThinkFilm/Everett/Rex Features *]

Sweetie and I watched an incredible documentary this morning. Encounters at the End of the World is an Oscar-nominated movie about the Werner Herzog's journey to Antarctica. It is hard to say which was more incredible - the landscape, the people, the work being done or the photography. It's one thing to be a trained diver/scientist/vulcanologist/physicist/biologist and another to be the guy who is picked to film everything that is going on in minus degree water/weather.

Here I am fussing about the tales my son tells me about his adventures in Mexico when there are other mothers in the world who watch their sons swing from a rope over a roiling sea of lava into an active volcano crater. Is it adventure or stupidity that causes people to step off a perfectly sound mound of ice into a hole that goes straight down beneath an ice cap? As amazing as that was to see, the whole time I sat on the edge of my seat, I knew there was another person doing the same thing with a camera strapped to his shoulder. Is this kind of daring a hold-over from fighting off saber tooth tigers?

I haven't had too many real adventures in my lifetime. In fact, I try to steer clear of things that other people get all excited about. Like shopping at 5am on the day after Thanksgiving or shooting of fire crackers on the 4th if July. I have yet to figure out what is "fun" about either. When my then-husband drove me (5 months pregnant)through the Pyrenees mountains in a car that had neither a seat that locked into place or, might I add, seatbelts, I feared for my life. He called it a driving exhibition. As I've grown into middle age I've become comfortable with my "chicken-little" persona. I don't need to risk life or limb to prove myself to anyone - especially me.

However, give me a good sale at Joanne Fabric and I'm there! Like the Antarctic scientists peering through microscopes looking for clues to the beginning of life, I can get lost in rows of fabric hoping to find just the right print at just the right price.

Another place of pure adventure for me is the inside of a good bookstore. I like them all. Large chain stores or small independent book sellers. I like the smell and feel and atmosphere of a place that is lined with book shelves. In the movie today a scientist lay on the foreboding ice flow with an ear to the ice listening to the symphony of sounds seals were making several feet below. Bundled up with only her nose and ear open to the elements, the woman seemed oblivious to everything else around her, even the frigid temperatures. Plopped on the floor in the children's book section of Barnes & Noble I can lose myself in a similar fashion. The picture books draw me in. But I also enjoy the sounds: mom's reading Dr. Seuss rhymes to toddlers, Dad's helping beginner readers sound out words, or kids begging for one more book. The cacophony of sounds appeal to my adventurous side!

Adventure like beauty must be in the eye of the beholder. Some jump out of helicopters or into blazing firestorms to save lives and feel the rush of adrenaline. Some climb mountains while others while others are content to read about their experiences. Some photograph the exploration icy underwater canyons so people can sit in the comfort of their living rooms and marvel at the wonders of this world.

Every great adventurer, I think, needs to have someone back home waiting to "hear all about it." That person may wring her hands in worry or be grateful for the solitude while the globe-trotter is gone. But once home, sitting on a big woolly mammoth hide placed in front of the fire the cave dweller listens to the sound of adventure satisfied to listen to the stories and gasp at all the appropriate moments.

To each her own,
Merry ME

*Personally, if I don't know where the road leads, I'm not going down it!But I liked the quote. ~m