Monday, November 30, 2009

Gratitude - Day 30

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward

I was just over at the NaBloPoMo site and the few lines I read indicate that a lot of every day posters have already finished the assignment. Being the kind that swings from over-achieving (finish early) to under-achieving (typing right up to the last minute) for once I seem to be stuck right in the middle!

Today I'm grateful for a few things.

First of all, for my son, KeyWest Johnny. Today is his 36th birthday. I wish he was here so I could give him a big hug and make his favorite dinner. It's been too long since I've seen him up close and personal.

I can remember vividly (which in itself is a reason for gratitude) the night I sat in a big 12-step circle with other people who were all there for the same reason - relief, understanding and hope. A man I didn't know told this horrendous story of his child's behavior that ended up with a shouting match and police sirens. Then he said, "but I'm grateful for that because otherwise I never would have found this group."

Grateful? I thought the guy was crazy. In fact I thought everyone there was crazy! It took me awhile to figure out I was as crazy as they were!

My point is this: even though having a son may have caused my hair to turn prematurely white and may have driven me to the brink of madness at times, I am so grateful for the son I have. From the day he was born, Johnny was a square peg that I tried to push into a round hole. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get him to force him into being something he was not. I think I did not only him, but me, a disservice. He has become a man I can be proud of. Happy Birthday, Johnson.

Today I'm also grateful for my vet. She is very tender and caring with me as well as my pets.

And I'm grateful to all of you who have read my month long thank you note. May you know gratitude. May you speak gratitude.

Wishing you a quiet and peaceful night,
Merry ME

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gratitude - Day 29

"Touch the earth,
love the earth,
honor the earth.
her plains, her valleys, her seas.
Rest your soul in her solitary places."
Henry Beston

I'm grateful today that this month is almost over. However, blogging every day has been more joy than burden. Sometimes (often?) I am just rebellious enough to want to break the rules and do my own thing. Having a theme has been easier for me than I expected. I can't say that my entire outlook on life has changed because of gratitude but it has improved, if only for the time I'm writing. Part of the trick of gratitude is awareness. Another important aspect is also holding that awareness in your consciousness long enough for it to make a difference.

We say grace every night before dinner. We've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Some nights it's heartfelt to look at all the blessings before me and give thanks. Some nights I sassy enough to just say "Grace" and dig in. During this month of gratitude, at least I've slowed down some. Stopped to see the roses as well as smell them.

Today was the first day in 3 years that Fr./Brother Georges was not in church with us. It made me a little sad as I missed his big smile, bear hug and delighted voice saying, "Hello my sister" in his unique Syrian/Italian/Spanish accent.

There is something special about him that speaks more than his broken English. He is first and foremost a man of God, there is no denying that. He takes his job very seriously but does not flaunt it. He showed me what it is like to be humble and forgiving. He showed me that it is possible to be angry and not have steam come out your ears. Every time I see him together with my father he shows me how to love unconditionally.

Georges went to another church in our diocese so he isn't moving away. He is still an adopted member of our family. He'll be around to talk to, laugh with and feed for awhile. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that something else will come along. If it does, I'll be face with saying a goodbye that make me cry just to think about it.

There is a saying that goes something like people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I think maybe the Divine One put Fr./Brother Georges in my life for all three. For this I am blessed and grateful.
Wishing for you a quiet place to count your blessings and a friend to share them with,
Merry ME

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gratitude - Day 28

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order,
confusion into clarity...
It turns problems into gifts, failures into success,
the unexpected into perfect timing,
and mistakes into important events.
Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Melody Beattie

I'm grateful today for an email I got from a blog friend. It's a little strange to be thankful for something that makes your stomach tighten and tears run down your face. Yet, even as I reacted in fear, I knew what she was doing was opening a door to my heart. By honestly sharing her own story she showed me a way to change the way I see some things in my life.

I'm grateful to Sweetie for knowing without words that something big was happening. He listened and comforted. He made some suggestions and encouraged me to look fear in the face and make some changes.

I'm grateful for some really cool salt and pepper shakers my sister gave me last night. If we win the lottery tonight I plan on being at Pier One tomorrow when the door opens to buy bowls, and plates and glasses to match them. For now I treasure the gift Jean gave me. It was the look on her face as much as the gift. She was so excited, she couldn't wait til Christmas. That's how I like to gift people - to be as excited about the giving as hopefully they will be at the receiving.

I'm grateful for time alone with my man. We weren't actually alone because we were surrounded by lots of shoppers as we moved from one store to another. Even if he's on one side of a store and I'm on the other, I like knowing we're in the crowd together. Can you be separated and together at the same time? I think so.

Wishing for you courage to face your fears, and someone to hold your hand while you do it,
Merry ME

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gratitude - Day 27

"Everyday, think as you wake up:
Today I am fortunate to have woken up.
I am alive.
I have a precious human life.
I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all my energies to develop myself
to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings."
His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

This has been a very quiet day that I've used for re-writing a story I first penned right after my mother passed away. Today, I'm grateful for the gift of story-telling and hope to get better and better. It would be nice, too, if I could get faster!

Like most things, when I get caught up something, everything else gets put on the back burner. I look around the room where I've been sitting and it's clear the only way it's going to get picked up is for me to put this computer in a closet, lock it up, and give the key to Sweetie til it can pass inspection. Of course I will do nothing that drastic, but I could at least clear off the couch so that there is room for someone else to join me without impaling themselves on the telephone. I'm grateful I'm not held to a stricter code of cleanliness.

I'm also grateful that my sister sent us home with enough leftover turkey and ham for some delicious sandwiches this afternoon. I don't usually get too excited about leftovers, but turkey I think is as good the 2nd day as it was the first.

Most days I bemoan the fact that I don't have a magic pot of money from which to draw. At the end of the month my checkbook is pretty well emptied out. For this, on Black Friday, I am grateful. Since I am easily persuaded to do things that are not always in my best interest, I'm grateful I have not succumbed to the television ads and the stack of newspaper circulars drawing attention to gigantic money-saving sales where I would spend money I don't have. I'm pretty sure there is not anything I want badly enough to wrap myself up in blankets and sleep on the sidewalk outside a store until the doors open and people rush in. But I always feel like I might be missing something. Tonight, the news shows will be full of stories about the shopping madness and I'll be grateful I stayed home. That said, I might sneak out after dinner to pick up one or two items just to say I helped out the economy!

Wishing for you good food in your tummy, warm socks on your feet, and $$$ in your wallet,
Merry ME

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gratitude - Day 26

Photo: Father/Brother George, Russ, my sister, Judy

"Forever on Thanksgiving Day
the heart will find the pathway home."
Wilbur D. Nesbit
As Thanksgivings go, this one was different. Not bad different, but a little off. Probably because I had nothing to do. I baked pies yesterday and that was my contribution. Over at my sister's house they were busy all day. Like most Thanksgivings since the Pilgrims sat around the open campfire, there was a bounty of food to be grateful for. And like most Thanksgiving everyone over-indulged. But oh, it was all so very good.
Since I wasn't cooking I gave myself holiday hours at home. I got up long enough to feed my father his breakfast then mosied on back to bed. I felt a little guilty, but couldn't find the energy to do much about it. After noon, I pulled myself up and attacked the pile of ironing I'd put off for too long. Sweetie and I watched another Sandra Bullock movie and had a few good laughs before it went all haywire. I cleaned the disc, cussed the machine and gave it a good whack for good measure, and the move started back up. I'm grateful for the sound of my love's laughter.
My sister's house was as full of people as it was of food. My dad didn't waste any time handing out presents. He's been in the "what do you want after I die, well take it now" mode lately. I find it really hard to be around him when he gets like that. I want to scream at him, I want you now, not your stuff later, but that's not going to happen unless I totally lose my cool. I continue to pray for my lip to stay zipped.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, my Dad pulled his newest 9mm something or other out of his walker bag and showed it to my nephew. As if by magic every man in the house (except Sweetie who stayed back and shook his head) drew near to give this special gun the once over. It was promised to Adam, but he can't have it til Dad has gone to the big shooting range in the sky.
Next he calls Daniel over. Daniel was given (to keep now) a rather large and scary looking hunting knife and it's matching whet stone. Again the testosterone in the room surged. I didn't hear one of the girls in the room say ooh or ahh!
I sat off from the crowd and wondered if I was in a movie. Could this really be happening? On this day set aside for giving thanks, my father is handing our instruments of destruction, as casually as he drank his glass of wine. Weird. I swear it was just weird!
I've wondered for a few days now why my father seems so mad at me. He says things that verge on the rude side, if not out and out mean. What have I done I ask myself over and over. Tonight I had a thought - maybe he's mad at me because I seem always to be mad at him. And that I cant deny. Well, always may be extreme, but I bet steam comes out of my ears on a regular basis. Which came first the chicken or the egg? His anger or mine?
All of it makes me sad. And like I told Sweetie this morning, it's not that I am NOT grateful but I've having trouble FEELING grateful. I know I am surrounded by more blessings than I can count. Still I feel kind of sad. Is this grief? Stubbornness? Selfishness?
Deep questions that only a piece of pumpkin cheese cake can help answer.
On this night, when there is so much to be thankful for, especially the fact that even though he is a bit cranky my dad is still alive and king of his castle, I wish for you the knowledge of all that is good in your life topped with a big dollop of whipped cream.
May your hearts be full of love, and joy and peace,
Merry ME

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude - Day 25

"Sully and I both believe that gratitude is a two-way street
and we do our best to give back the outpouring
of support and gratitude we have been so fortunate to receive.
Lorrie Sullenberter
(wife of US Air Flt. #1549 pilot, Sully Sullenberger)*

Today I'm grateful for rain. It's been dreary and overcast for two days. Today if finally rained. Not a gully-washer but enough to have to use the windshield wipers.

I'm also grateful for canned pumpkin, an apple-peeling Sweetie, and an oven that I don't have to tend by throwing logs on the fire. Looking at the mess I made after making 3 pies and 4 loaves of pumpkin bread, I think I am also pretty thankful for an automated dishwasher. I'm not a clean as you go kind of cook. When I've finished a big baking project the kitchen pretty much looks like a flour bomb exploded in the middle of the room.

I'm grateful I am not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. That job is going to my sister this year. All I have to do is show up with a pie and smile! The pie is made so I've got plenty of time to work on the smile!

On another note, I have a confession to make. After that post yesterday about mom jeans and comfort and Tim Gunn being a nunu- head, I pulled out my oldest pair of jean today and took my dad to the doctor, not thinking, or caring how I looked. The zipper worked, the denim was well faded, thus soft and there was room for my thighs to stretch out. Comfort was the name of the game.

Sitting in the waiting room I took note of the stains all up and down one leg. Then while sitting at a red light, I realized I could pull up a whole handful of denim at my thighs and still have room for the comfort I was declaring. Hmmm???? Had I gone beyond the comfort stage to the dowdy, what-was-she-thinking stage. I felt almost compelled to step into the 3-way mirror and fuss at myself.

Alas, I think Gunn and Oprah might be on to something. Comfort doesn't have to mean sloppy. Not that there is anything wrong with sloppy, but it's more of an indoor look, don't you think?

To my dear Firebyrd: Girlfriend, if I could afford cashmere sweaters I'd trade in all my comfy old sweatshirts. Alas, that isn't going to happen. But I'm glad you can step out in style.

Tonight I wish for you a kitchen that smells like cinnamon and ginger and a pie to share with someone you love,
Merry ME

* "Forever Grateful", Woman's Day, November 17, 2009, pg. 44

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gratitude - Day 24

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."
Thornton Wilder

Dad is a creature of habit. As soon as he is finished with his nightly ablutions, he hops into bed and turns on the TV. He turns into channel 3 and leaves it there waiting for the news whether he is awake or asleep. Sometime during this hour I tuck him in, put drops in eyes, and make sure he has water and pills for the night. All that done, I've started holding his hand for a few minutes and watch some TV with him.

The CBS nightly line-up changed recently. Now instead of listening to Dr. Phil rail at people, and, in my opinion, exploit them for his own gain, we watch Oprah. I have mixed feelings about Oprah. But I like her 100% more than Dr. Phil. Last week her guest was Tim Gunn, fashion guru although I'm not sure why. The show was all about making over men who, in the opinion of their loved ones, needed help with wardrobe and de-hairing.

Gunn lamented, and Oprah agreed, that Americans seem to dress for comfort. This is apparently an absolute fashion no-no. One subject in question was "mom" jeans, or in this case, "dad" jeans - a la President Obama. Forget that a pair of well-worn jeans is comfortable, according to Gunn it is cause for the fashion police to lock you in your room til you come to your senses. How, I ask, does Tim Gunn know this? I am sure he would never be caught dead in a pair of jeans. Even the straight legged, dark blue, no sags, jeans that he was touting.

What is wrong with comfort? I'm at a point in my life where comfort is not a dirty word. I see women wearing pointy toed, 4+inch heels and I wonder how they even stand up, much less walk. I have traded most of my dress shoes for brightly colored Birkenstock sandals. I'd also rather wear a soft cotton brassiere than something that strangles my boobs and makes them look two-sizes bigger. If both my feet and my breasts were wrapped up so tight, I'd be one very unhappy girl.

You can probably imagine that I am a "mom-jeans" wearer. I looked at a pair of my old standby jeans this morning and tried to judge my appearance the same way as Stacy and Clinton of What Not to Wear. No doubt if I stood in that 3-way mirrored booth wearing my jeans, a sweatshirt, and my Birki's I'd be chastised til the cows come home. Strangely as that thought passed through my brain, another took its place. My favorite pair of jeans has probably seen as much history as a dining room table where families gather for dinner and holiday festivities. How is it that Gunn and other fashion dictators do not take things like this into account?

I'm all about letting others do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt anybody. If women want to wear tight shoes, tight bras, or tight jeans so be it. But I'll go for comfort every time. Today I'm grateful for jeans with room to breathe. The perfect pair of pants to wear when sitting down at the Thanksgiving table!

Wishing for you the comfort of your favorite things,
Merry ME

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gratitude - Day 23

"Happiness is the spiritual experience of living
every minute with love, grace and gratitude."
Denis Waitley
Most of my readers will remember that Christmas before last I came across a small book that made me laugh out loud. Before the shopping season was over I'd bought around 30 Pig of Happiness books and given them to everyone I know plus a few I don't. The pictures crack me up; mostly the simple story goes right to the heart of peace and joy. It doesn't have to be the holiday season to heed this message, but it is a good time for the reminder.
So imagine my surprise and excitement to find the PoH author, Edward Monkton, now has a web site. Checking it out this afternoon made my heart open up like a tulip on a sunny spring day. It made me laugh all over again. So it's no surprise that finding this fun little site is on the top of today's gratitude list. See the post below, and be prepared to smile.
On a much different note, I am also grateful to be able to say that even though I don't see my kids very often, they are alive and well. They are responsible, kind, funny, enterprising adults who make me proud. Today I held a man in my arms who lost his son earlier this month. His pain was palpable. He says his wife is even worse, filled with guilt for not doing something more or different. It must be a universal mother's instinct to feel guilty when her child, even a grown child, hurts. An aorta aneurysm, however, is way more powerful than even a mother's love. I pray the day will soon come when she can accept the truth of that.
I've experienced a lot of loss, sadness and grief in my life. In the words of Churchill, I know that the only way through hell is to keep going. I know that the passing of time will somehow relieve some of their pain. I also know that you can't say that to someone who is grieving (though some people do). All you can do is put your arms around him and let him cry. I'm grateful I was able to do that.
And one more thing.
Please read Sweetie's comment on my previous post. We discussed it last night. For me, the jury is still out. As a GAL he's seen a lot more of the "real" world than I have. I can understand what he says about his kids not even knowing what gratitude is, much less feeling it.
However, I like that Eisenstein says "[gratitude] informs our deepest spiritual intuitions." Maybe it's my Pollyanna nature, but I want to believe that each of us has the potential for heartfelt gratitude. It is part of our divine spark, born in our cellular makeup. What do you think?
Wishing for you a day of happiness and gratitude,
Merry ME

The Pig of Happiness

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude - Day 22

"Evermore thanks."
Today my gratitude is centered on the fact that I did NOT lose my debit card.
I don't know how ladies carry tiny little handbags and still know where everything is inside it. Perhaps the point of having a small purse is so you don't have to carry everything except the kitchen sink with you from place to place. I seem to need the comfort of a crammed full purse.
I've tried purses that are made with all kinds of pockets and slots for organizing purposes. My problem is not being organized in the first place, it is staying that way. Back in March I spent my dad's birthday money on a Vera Bradley bag, with a matching wallet and credit card case. I have pockets around the edge for pens, and keys, and phone, and notebooks. The wallets are neatly arranged and I've learned what goes in each one.
The problem occurs when, after using a card, I fail to put it back in its appointed slot. I often just slip it into one of the pockets along with receipts, loose change and stray pieces of paper. About once every couple of weeks, I have to go to the very edge of panic before I sit down and replace each item in its appointed place. I'm sure it doesn't sound like it, but I'm much improved!
As I was running around this afternoon, Sweetie kept his usual cool. He seemed to think I would work it all out on my own. And I did! Ta da!
More on the subject of gratitude.
I found an interesting article in the November/December issue of Spirituality& Health that Sweetie bought yesterday during our after movie excusion to Barnes & Noble. According to the author, Steve Lawler, "the most common tool for tough times is a personal version of the phrase 'I count my blessings' or 'shift into gratitude.' The great spiritual traditions all teach the value of gratitude. "*
Lawler quotes philosopher, Charles Eisenstein:
"We are born helpless infants, creatures of pure need with little resource to give, yet we are fed, we are protected, we are clothed and held and soothed, without having done anything to deserve it, without offering anything in exchange. This experience, common to everyone who has made it past childhood, informs our deepest spiritual intuitions. Our default state is gratitude: it is the truth of our existence."
Tonight I wish for you a place for everything and everything in its place.
Merry ME
* Shift into Gratitude - 17 Tools for Our Times, by Steve Lawler, Spirituality & Health, November-December 2009, pg. 49

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gratitude - Day 21

"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life
actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate
and value into your life."
Christiane Northrup
Tickets - $13.25
Drinks & Popcorn - $18.50
Spending time with my Sweetie enjoying a great movie - Priceless
Today I'm grateful for Netflix and On Demand.
I'd forgotten how expensive it can be to go to a movie. It's been a long time since we've been to an actual theater to see a movie. It's been a long time since we've seen a movie as soon as it hits the streets, not months later when the DVD is available. Usually Sweetie and I spend our time away from the house at Walmart or Publix, killing several birds with one stone, i.e. running errands, re-stocking the larder, getting the car washed, going to the library and spending time together pushing a shopping cart. Because I really wanted to see The Blind Side - the new Sandra Bullock movie - we threw caution to the wind and opted for entertainment rather than chores.
In my book it was a very good decision. It was fun sitting in the darkened theater stuffing buttered popcorn in my mouth. I don't know what it is about that stuff that is so much better than Orville Reddenbacher's but it is addicting. Perhaps it was the artery clogging oily butter substitute that kept my hand digging into the bag like a dog in a litter box.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. In my opinion Bullock was at her finest ... pretty, funny, strong, courageous. I found myself wishing I was as gutsy as the woman she portrayed. I'm not sure how Tim McGraw got the part of the dad, but it was good to see him without his hat. Each of the actors was believable. Because I'd seen a trailer and new it was going to have a happy ending, I was able to relax into my seat. Still, I cried some out of both joy and sadness.
I especially liked seeing Kathy Bates. Her part wasn't all that big, yet they had some close ups of her face. She is not a beauty by Hollywood ingenue standards, and is older than a lot of actresses. But she is so comfortable in her aging womanhood. I decided I'd really like to be like that.
So now, we're home and it is time to get back to work. I need to make some dinner to soak up that pool of grease rumbling in my stomach.
Wishing for you time away from your regular routine with someone you really like,
Merry ME

Gratitude - Day 21 Addendum

I receive a day newsletter from a couple of BeliefNet web sites. Like me they are in a gratitude mode. Earlier this week they published the mother lode of gratitude quotes. Today they offered a gratitude quiz. Figuring I have improved my gratititudeness by so diligently journaling every day, I took the test. On a scale of "ungrateful to highly grateful" I scored "right smack in the middle - thankfully average with room for improvement." Apparently I'm in "the top third, going through life blessing everyone and everything." I'm wondering if I'm passing so many blessingsaround what more do I have to do to reach the top?

Here's a link to the quiz in case you're interested:

Merry ME

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gratitude - Day 20, Addendum

Another quick thank you goes out to Miss Molly of Molly Blogs. (See comment below).

I'm grateful for the hearty chuckle she gave me. Here I am fussing and fuming about our now clean but spotted house. It's spotted because several layers of paint have been removed, along with the dirt, grime and mildew. A certain someone in the house, who will remain nameless but who is quick to point out it is "HIS" house and "HIS" checkbook that pays the bills, only wants to re-paint the front of the house. Because, and I quote "the paint is only for aesthetics - not structural purposes. No one sees the back besides us, so why paint it?"

One reason I've stayed inside sleeping is because I can't bear to go out and see this yellow and white eyesore. However, after reading Molly's comment about the pink house with the purple door, I'm thinking maybe polka dots aren't so bad. We can start on the back of the house where no one will see it! How fun! Great idea, Molly!

Ooh! Ooh! I just had another idea. Maybe we could paint it with blackboard paint and get big pieces of sidewalk chalk and color to our hearts content. The rain would keep the walls cleaned off, so there is no telling what masterpieces we could create.

And even if we leave the back unpainted. I want a purple door.

Thanks Molly! You win the prize for making Merry Me smile!

Wishing for each of you, a box of colored chalk and a big ol' sidewalk (or house) to decorate.

Gratitude - Day 20

To know when you have enough is to be rich beyond measure.
Lao Tsu

The grizzly bear awakes, feeling a tad less sleepy but still rather grumpy. I'm not sure what's going on. Usually a nap, or two, or three, can revitalize my good humor. Truth be told I'm most likely just feeling sorry for myself, tired of trying to change what obviously cannot be changed. Whine. Whine. Whine. It was better, I'm sure that I secluded myself.

Yesterday in the periods of wakefulness between snoozes, I lay in bed counting my blessings. It helped I think. I'm thankful for, I said to no one but me:
  • the house I'm in (the one which is currently being pressure washed and turning yellow/white polka dotted)
  • the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • the bed in the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • the sheets on the bed in the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • the pillow on the bed I'm in the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • the quilt over the sheets on the bed in the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • the black cat sleeping with me on the bed in the bedroom in the house I'm in
  • ..... and so on.
After dinner, before turning in for the night, I received a phone call from the Project Director of The Southwest Indian Foundation. We worked out the details so we can include some of the Navajo reservation hospitals in our Child Guild of the Christ layette donations. I was telling him what we include in the shoebox and the conversation turned to diapers. Most of the women on the reservation, he told me, used Pampers because they don't have water nearby for washing cloth diapers. They have to haul it in.

Excuse me, but we were talking about America, not a third-world country. No heat? No electricity? No clean water? My selfish, pea-sized, whiny heart cracked open. Today I will add to my list. I am thankful for:
  • The polka-dot house I live in
  • The electricity in the house I live in
  • The water in the house I live in
  • The central H/A in the house I live in
  • The washer/dryer/dishwasher, bathtub, and sprinkler system at the house I live in

Mr. Esparza also told me just what needed to hear, "even with everything you hear on the news, people are good." I was glad for the reminder of one of my own beliefs.

Gratitude, I'm learning, is not just about knowing what I have. It's also about being aware of what other's don't have. The awareness increases my gratitude and makes me more generous to others.

Wishing for you eyes to see all the blessings in your midst and a heart that's open to the plight of others,

Merry ME

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gratitude - Day 19

Today I'm grateful for sleep.
Somedays it's just better if a grizzly bear pulls the covers up over her head and succombs to the blessed relief of sleep.

Merry ME

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gratitude - Day 18

"When I first open my eyes upon the morning meadows
and look out upon the beautiful world
I thank God I am alive."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes when I first open my eyes upon another day, I say, "Oh God, not again!"

When I first opened my eyes upon today's morning I was being summoned across the hall by my dad.

"I need to take a bath."

Judging by the smell of poo in the room and one look at the bedside commode, I'd say he was right about the bath. His leg has been acting up so what I wasn't sure about was whether or not I was going to have to climb into the shower with him, like I do the dog.

Right off the bat I knew I was grateful for two things .... Clorox and room deodorizer. Later I said a prayer of thanks that Dad was indeed able to shower unaided. The day may be close when that isn't the case. It isn't here yet. This morning, however, there was a bit of discussion about how to help him pull on his pants.

"Here, let me help."
"You're in my light, I can't see what I'm doing."
"If you let me pull your pants up you don't need to see."
And so on....

It may sound like I'm trying to do too much for my dad. Hovering, and taking away his independence. I don't think that is the case, though I suppose my motives should be questioned. In the last week two of my elderly neighbors have fallen and landed right smack on their faces. One lady looked like a poster child (senior?) for elder abuse. The good news (and cause for gratitude) is that neither broke any bones. Thank you, Jesus!!! The reason I try to do things for my father is because he often looks like a plastic PlaySchool Weeble Wobble and I am selfish. Toy Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down or so the ad used to say. 92 year old wobblers, aren't always so lucky. I'd rather help him before the fall instead of picking him up after. According to a left-brain thinker who has each hand hold and step planned to a "T" before he moves, he doesn't need my help in walking across the room, climbing into the shower, or as previously mentioned putting on his pants. I can only hope he's right.

Another reason for a smile, i.e. gratitude, today is Dad's canary. According to the man who raised Ernst (short for the family tradition of naming every canary we get Tennessee "Ernie" Ford) he is a champion German Roller. I think this means that he's supposed to be able to make 4 different bird sounds on command. In fact he doesn't sing quite like the others we've had. This bird's song has more of a Bavarian lilt to it!

That's when he's actually singing. When birds molt they stop singing. Ernst is on his 3rd or 4th molt of the year. I think it has something to do with the number of hours of daylight he gets. Since he resides in the dinette where all our meals are served, he keeps human hours, not avian. Contrary to a few of my nicknames (Robin Redbreast or Cuckoo Pigeon sister) I'm not a bird, thus have little knowledge of what it feels like to have feathers falling out all the time. I think it might be itchy because all three of our birds scratch themselves a lot. Which, I think, is also the reason Ernst loves his bath so much.

He totally cracks me up. I put clean water in his cage first thing in the morning. After he's had his breakfast and mid-morning snack he hops over for a little drink of water. As if testing the water, he sticks his beak in first. Then dips his head a little further in and splashes some water on his shoulders (do birds have shoulders?). Next he jumps from perch to perch trying to decide what he's going to do. He knows and I know what his decision is going to be, but this is apparently part of the Tyrolean Bird Bathing Polka. Eventually he throws caution to the wind and jumps in, sits for a minute soaking up the complete divineness of the water, then unreservedly begins to dunk himself with great bird delight. Water goes everywhere. The other birds are often encouraged to follow suit with their own finch version, which is a lot like head banging but water is involved. The cats often sit nearby watching the show. Probably thinking how nice it will be to eat a clean bird, as opposed to a scratchy bird.

I am often at the table with dad doing our morning duet - dueling crosswords. I must say watching Ernst take such pleasure from something as simple as a bath, makes me grateful for the opportunity to make his life so good. Some seed, some fresh broccoli and clean water, does it get any better than that? I'm guessing if you're a bird, the answer is no.

Wishing for you time for a nice leisurely bath, help drying your back if you need it and something to make you smile.
Merry ME

P.S. I'd finally had it with the paragraph spacing on blogger, and the fact that sometimes the space demon would rather double space sentences for no apparent reason. I went to the help line and found several other bloggers who have the same complaint and none of them seem to have cracked the spacing code. There were a few unkind opinions of the little man who lives inside the Blog site and controls how the post that one has just written, likes the way it looks, and publishes only to find it all askew for all the world to read. I'm grateful to know it's not just me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gratitude - Day 17

"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude."
Karl Barth
Today was a first for me. Well not actually a first, but the first in a long time. I had some women over for a planning meeting for the Guild of the Christ Child and lunch. I'm not a really fancy-schmancy entertainer but I can set a pretty table. I served two kinds of quiche, and a pretty green salad. Actually one of the guests made the salad, all I had to do was throw it in a bowl and toss the dressing on it. I found the whole process to be quite enjoyable. There is something to be said for sitting around a table eating and gabbing.
I enjoyed the company but after the ladies left I wondered something about myself. Am I anti-social? I don't see how that word would really apply, because the very act of having a luncheon is contrary to the notion isn't it? I mean if you go to the trouble to invite people to share a meal with you, then you can't really be anti-social can you?
So what is it when in the middle of a conversation going on around you, you decide you'd really rather be some place else? I decided there was too much negative talk going on. The kind where there is way too much discussion about who did what and who said what. I tried to change the subject but somehow it kept going where I didn't want to go.
The good news and the reason I'm grateful today is I turned out some good food. I haven't made quiche in a coon's age. I combined two different recipes then added my own twist! Usually I stick close to what the recipe says to do. For some reason this morning I was adding garlic, splashing on lemon juice and acting like the Merry ME version of Iron Chef! Right now the kitchen is a mess, but the yellow roses still look pretty. I may just go sit at the table and read my book.
Speaking of my book. I finally got to Izzy and Lenore by Jon Katz in my queue. I have followed Katz's blog for so long I figured I'd already know what was in the book. I must say I am sorry I didn't move this one to the top of the pile sooner. There's just something about reading a good dog (or cat, or pig, or sheep, or donkey ....) story. And Katz has a delightful storytelling way about him. I've been in an on/off email correspondence with him since reading his book Running to the Mountain. If I ever write a book and go on Oprah and get really famous, I hope I can remember to be open to my readers the way Katz is.
I'm also grateful for dad's hospice nurse. I watched and listened today as she spent time with him. She's quite gifted. We are blessed to have her.
Today, I wish for you some good food, good conversation and a good book. Life seldom gets much better than that.
Merry ME

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gratitude - Day 16

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust
Today I'm grateful for little things. I had a fun conversation with Weneki until my cell phone decided to die on me. Even though I really feel like throwing the damn thing in the swimming pool and watching it float to the bottom, in the spirit of gratitude I'm glad to have been able to talk to her as long as I did. She had a few delightful stories to tell me, one of which made me laugh right out loud. And made me remember when she was eight years old. Those were the days my friend .....
Smiling, in my book, is one of the ways my heart says thank you. Here's a list, in no special order, of some of the things that made me smile today:
  • duck holding
  • movie watching
  • birding
  • nose honking & pacifier stealing
  • 1st rate hotels with remote control curtains
  • buying all the equipment to make T-shirts then changing your mind
  • house cleaning (not the act of but the end result!)
  • the smell of roses (even though I'm pretty sure it's a spray and not the real thing)
  • hearing about Grumpy Gertie running in the rain then rewarding herself with one of the biggest cinnamon rolls I've ever seen

  • my new old lady duster
  • dad telling me he'll make some bean soup
  • dad telling me he'll go to the grocery store with me in order to get the right kind of pinto beans (Good thing, cause I didn't know there was a variety to choose from. I thought pinto is pinto.)
  • taking my neighbor to the urgent care doctor and not having to worry about dinner because Sweetie was in control
  • hearing the happy in my daughter's voice
  • finding the lavender sachet had burst inside my pillow case (it looked and smelled like a lavender bomb had exploded!)
  • crawling into a bed with fresh, clean linens and reading my book
  • this picture!

Wishing for you something to smile about even when the world seems to have gone berserk.

Merry ME

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gratitude - Day 15

"The thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing."
Henry Ward Beecher

Today I'm grateful for people who know how to listen. Those special ones who stop what they are doing when they sense you've got something you need to get off my chest. Listeners don't just hear what you are saying, they take it in. They are quiet, yet focused. They acknowledge what you've said but saying it back to you to make sure they heard right. They encourage you to speak from your heart by saying something along the lines of, "you look like you need to talk" or "I'm here if you need me." They wait patiently until you are through with your rant without interrupting with their own thoughts. When they sense you are finished they check with you by saying, "this is what I heard, is that right?" or "is there more?"

Driving down the road today for a little retail therapy I thought about how important it is to me to not only speak my truth but to have someone listen. This is the gift of many trusted therapists. Last night my own personal coach, aka Sweetie, waited for me to open up about how I was feeling. When he could sense that I was shutting down instead he gently and tenderly encouraged me to trust him. And I did. I spewed out my anger and frustration and grief and pain like verbal vomit. He listened. I cried and cussed. He listened. I took a breath and he waited. It was just what I needed.

You'd think it would be easy to listen, but it is really quite an art.

Wishing for you someone to listen when your heart speaks,
Merry ME

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude - Day 14

"I thank God for my handicaps for, through them,
I have found myself, my work, and my God."
Helen Keller

There I was after dinner last night discussing have a Christmas party next month. I asked Dad questions about things mom used to have at her annual party; the more we talked the more he remembered. We were just getting to the like guest list when the phone rang. I talked for a few minutes, hung up, sat back down ready to pick up where we left off, when POW, like a cartoon balloon out of nowhere, everything about the evening changed.

I should have seen it coming. Dad had mentioned his lack of sleep the night before. I'd seen him scrunched over his desk figuring and refiguring. He looks like a cross between a Dickensian Scrooge and Scrooge McDuck of Disney fame instead of my dad. When says something along the lines of, "is this a good time to talk?" the acid in my stomach floods my gut and fills my esophagus. My heart beats to a fight or flight rhythm. My feet decide flight is the better option before my brain even knows what's coming. It's always about money. And when my father wants to discuss his finances with me, I dread what issues are going to come with it. Will it be how inept I am at handling money? Will it be that Sweetie and I aren't married? Will it be about making plans for my future of which there are none?

For any sane or rational person these topics are not life-threatening. But for me they are. I don't know why, and to be honest, I don't think I want to. I just want the topic to go away and never be discussed again.

Sweetie and I listened to his proposal(s). I scribbled a few notes. But in actuality I could not see or hear for the fear and anger that was coursing through my veins like Sherman through Atlanta.

I don't know what the outcome of the conversation will be. All three of us have headed to our separate corners to think about it. But I know it's time for me to act like a grown up, hold my inner child's hand, convince her we'll get through it and deal with it. That's what I need to do, what I want to do is go to sleep.

I don't usually dip into other people's medicine bottles. Last night I found a sleeping pill and downed it like it was a shot of Tequila. Perhaps I should have opted for Jose Cuervo instead. I slept some and then some more. The cat tried repeatedly to wake me up, yet each time I rolled over giving myself over to Somnus (the Greek god of sleep). It was 11:30 before I stumbled out of bed and a shower. I beat Dad by half an hour. Apparently, after getting things off his chest he slept soundly.

When I looked in the mirror I was not happy with what I saw staring back at me. All day I've been feeling angry, sad, and tired. I've been playing old tapes in my head, thinking lots of negative stuff. That's what anger does to me. I don't know how to express it, I hate to feel it so instead of beating a pillow with a baseball bat I beat up my psyche til I can cry myself into oblivion. Okay so I know this about myself, what now?

Well I'm reminded again of the 12 Steps of AA.

Step 4 =Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves; Step 5 = Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs; Step 6 = Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character and Step 7= Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Lately I've been real good at judging my father's mood and character. Tonight I see very little difference in his grumpiness and my own. I get really frustrated when it appears he has no clue as to who I really am. In a moment of clarity this afternoon, I realized the same could be said for me about him. I am as stuck in my ways as he is in his. It is appropriate then to start one of those inventories 12 steppers talk about and see where it leads me. One thing is for sure, I'm ready to be released from the bondage of my anger. I'm just not exactly sure how to say (and mean) here it is God, you take it and keep it this time.

Now what does all this have to do with gratitude? With my vision so clouded over you'd think I couldn't see a blessing if it kissed me on the cheek. You'd be partly right. I've had to look, but not too far.

During the conversation from hell last night, I wrote on my paper: Jack (aka Sweetie) is a saint. By that I meant that he knew just the right words to say and when to say them. Unlike me who was seething in the corner trying to make myself invisible, he listened to what my father had to say, acknowledged his concerns and fears, diffused an atomic explosion, and knew when to draw the conversation to a close. I'm not sure how it was possible but in the moment of mixed emotions for me, I felt even more love for Jack. For this man's presence in my life I am extremely grateful.

I'm also filled with gratitude and surprise and love for a certain potter who out of the blue sent me one of her precious creations. She reminds me that while there is some healing that comes from looking inward, there is fulfillment beyond measure by reaching out in love and generosity. Especially when there is not reason other than to say "it matters." I am blessed to be a recipient and promise to look for opportunities to play it forward.

I'm touched with joy by an email I got today from a woman I know only through the blogosphere. However, I'm pretty sure we were sisters in another life. Our stories are way different yet at surprisingly very similar. She has opened herself to me and offered me a place to feel safe enough to do the same. She reminds me of the gift of girlfriends.

Lastly, if you are still with me because I have certainly lived up to the name of this blog and rambled on, I'm filled with a strange kind of love and thanks for my $700 cat and his sister. Boy cat waits til I'm in a quiet place then comes to me on his terms. He purrs, rubs, kneads, puffs up his tail and in a very feline way touches my heart. Girl cat on the other hand is like a baby. She cries to be picked up, follows me into the bathroom, waits for me to sit down, then rubs her head on my shoulder and cheek. When all the world seems dark and bleak, there is nothing like the unadulterated attention of a furry creature.

Blessings abound. I am grateful.

Wishing for you surprises in your mailbox, something furry to lie next to and enough introspection to turn your frowns into smiles,
Merry ME

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gratitude - Day 13

"Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot."
The Hausa of Nigeria

In typical morning fashion I asked Dad how his night went. I try to get out of him how he is feeling but he's let me know on more than one occasion that he doesn't expect to ever feel good again so there's no point in asking him because it just reminds him he feels lousy. It's rather convoluted but I'm learning not to say, "Good morning, Dad, how are you?" Instead I say stuff like, "how did you sleep?" [I don't know, I was asleep.] or "how was your night?" This morning his answer was "Lousy." Like fingernails on a black board this kind of response is enough to set a daughter's teeth on edge.

Like a fool, I bit. I took the conversation to the next level instead of asking what he wanted for breakfast. [I don't know. What is there? As if the menu ever changes.] Why was it so lousy?

I didn't sleep a wink.

Did you take a sleeping pill?

No when I couldn't sleep it was already too close to morning and I didn't want to be too sleepy when I got up.

Oh so now you're sleepy because you didn't sleep.

That's right.

He did not go into detail (my first reason for gratitude today) but offered that he had lot of things running through his mind. This can only mean that there is soon to be another discussion about how I'm going to live after he's gone. Good Lord, please keep you hand across my mouth.

I also had a little trouble falling asleep last night. I found I was running through the alphabet trying to name fruits. Some letters, like A, B, C are fairly easy, i.e. apple, banana, cherry. But I struggled with Q, U, Y and Z. Surprisingly, like a bolt from above, quince came to mind as I turned my computer on just now. I really don't have any idea what a quince is but I feel like it is a fruit people make jelly out of. Quince jelly, right? But unless you go for adjectives like ugly kiwi, yummy guavas and zesty lemons, I defy anyone to come up with fruits that starts with those letters.

My friend Sorrow posed a good question in yesterday's comment section. Is a nut a fruit?

But enough of that ....

Even Pollyanna might find it hard to find something to be glad about or grateful for after watching the movie from Netflix that has been in the house for 2 weeks. I turned it on while I did my stretching. [Speaking of stretching, I should feel grateful that my leg is getting better, but in my humble opinion, laying down on the floor and lifting my legs up and down and to the side, does nothing more than exacerbate the problem. This is contrary to my doctor's assurances that stretching is the ONLY way I'm going to get better. ] Turtles Can Fly is a 2004 film written and directed by a Kurdish Iranian filmmaker. It was the first film to made in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Knowing this I should have guessed that it was going to be grim. I mean how can a movie that takes place in a refugee camp, on the eve of the American invasion, with orphaned children as the main characters collecting mines to sell for pocket money be very uplifting? Naturally it addresses all kinds of war questions - religious/ethnic rivalries, no schools, rape, kids carrying guns bigger than themselves, wounded and crippled people living in tents and bombed out tanks, and the haunting of the soul sof those who live through it all.

Indeed I am grateful that neither I, nor my kids, nor anyone I know has ever had to live in such an environment. Still, my heart aches that there are children in this world where this is a way of life. I'm noticing that this is kind of a recurring theme in my gratitude posts. As Sorrow has so aptly pointed out, now that these people and situations are no longer invisible to me, what am I going to do about it? What can I do about it?

Today, I will thank my lucky stars for green grass, blue skies, and a life that is way way better than I give it credit for.

Wishing for you on this Friday the 13th good luck, good friends, good news and above all else a world at peace,

Merry ME

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gratitude - Day 12

“If we perceived Life with reverence,
and understood our evolutionary process,
we would stand in awe at the experience of physical life
and walk the Earth in a very deep sense of Gratitude.”
Gary Zukov

I'm not a student of the Bible. No big surprise there! However, my sister and my brother-in-law can quote chapter and verse on just about any subject. Whether I agree or not isn't really the point I'm trying to make. I just think their knowledge of things biblical is pretty amazing. Some people take the Bible literally; every word and idea is straight from God. Some people give the scholars and transcribers more leeway.
And then there are some skeptics like me. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a beautiful book, filled with wonderful stories and great principals to live by. I don't know a lot about ancient history, but I'm pretty sure that the book we have today was inspired, yes, but also put together by patriarchs of old who kept or tossed stories depending on the mood of the day.

Thus we come to Eve - and the point of this post. As I was making my father's lunch - a banana, sitting on a bed of lettuce, slathered in peanut butter and mayo (the banana, not the lettuce) - I got to thinking about fruit. Which took me to a place of gratitude. Strange I know, but true.

Where would we be today if Eve had not bitten into that apple? Assuming it was an apple, and not a metaphor for something else. Does that mean that forever and a day the world would be without the sweet delicious taste of a crunchy apple on a crisp Fall day? Or apple pie, apple crunch, apple cider, apple fritters, or, my favorite apple turnovers. Mmmm, lightly browned puff pastry oozing with an apple cinnamon filling, drizzled with a powdered sugar frosting? If Eve had waved that ugly old snake goodbye, left the apple where it hung and went to snuggle with her Sweet Adam, would there be no apple pieces in our Thanksgiving dressing?

Thinking about Eve and apples, makes me wonder, why was that tree forbidden? And why was that fruit picked. I mean this lady lived in Eden for goodness sake. Think of the fruit trees that must have abounded there (Abounded? Is that a word?) Why was the apple singled out? Would things have turned out differently, i.e. no pain in childbirth, no PMS, no bunions, etc, if the wiley serpant had led Miss Eve to a peach tree?
All this thinking of fruit reminds me of Zubin. His middle eastern mother introduced way more fruits to him than I did to my kids. My household only knew the basic delights of the aforementioned apple, oranges sliced in quarters for mid-game soccer relief, and on occasion bananas that turned black before they were eaten. I did, however, teach my kids to like carrot cake, but carrots aren't considered fruit are they?

On the few occasions I went to visit, Zubin would give me a hard time about drinking too many colas and eating too few fruits. For awhile Weneki was on my side and our doubled up forcefield could repel most of his arguments about why fruit is better for you than coke. Sadly Zubin passed away leaving Weneki to choose her own food groups. I couldn't help but notice on my last visit that my goal-setting, triathlon participating daughter is now a major fruit eater. And not a picky one either. Her aunt happened to bring her bags full of Washington cherries, peaches, tomatoes, and banana muffins. This child of mine, dug right in and chomped down on them all.
I thought eating tomatoes like apples was a Southern thing. I know Zubin must smile when he looks down from Heaven and sees his beloved's face dripping with peach juice.
If you haven't already figured it out, today I am grateful for not just apples but all fruit. In Jacksonville the orange and lemon and grapefruit trees are nearing the picking stages. There's a place in town where you can pick your own; that sounds like it might be fun. But I thought that about blueberry season too. I guess, if the truth be told, my favorite fruit to pick would be apples - right out of the bin at the grocery store.
Besides fruit, today I'm also grateful for cooler temperatures, memories of Zubin, my Black kitties who have completely different ways of saying it but tell me every day how much they like living here, and laptop computers. Where would I be without them?

May your day be filled with the fabulous fresh aroma of something fruity baking in the oven,
Merry ME
P.S. For some really strange reason I can't get that game out of my head that you play with kids on a long car ride after you've counted license plates that start with the letter "M" and sung every verse of Old MacDonald. You know the one, "I'm going on a picnic and I'm going to take ...
an apple. The next person names a fruit that begins with a "B" - blueberry ... and so on.
If you went on a picnic, what fruit would you take?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gratitude - Day 11

"As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that
the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them. "
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Veteran's Day. A day to stop and remember those men and women who have given their time, their energy, their very lives for this country. For you and for me. Since the 1770's, on battlefields close to home and in lands far far away with names too hard to pronounce, they made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
I have never been to a parade in Jacksonville, so I decided this would be the year that I would go downtown and see the southern salute to Veterans. I've been talking it up for a week, but the dark clouds and the idea of being too far from a bathroom helped convince my my menfolk to watch the festivities on the evening news. Undeterred, I headed to town without any idea what to expect. I kind of knew where to go, but wasn't sure which streets would be closed or where to park. I ended up parking in the $8 lot not knowing there was free parking 2 blocks away. As luck would have I ended up just a block away from the grandstand. And I was early enough to have my choice of tree planters to sit on!
Before the parade started it sprinkled some. Then the sun came out, as if to add its own nod of gratitude to the veterans being celebrated. It was a great parade. Lots of military units were represented, flags, floats, and even a few high school bands which was a surprise because I thought extra curricular classes like band had been cut due to lack of funds. There were representatives from the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and USO, as well as Veterans of Foreign Wars, Filipino Vets, Vietnamese Vets, motorcycle riding Vets, submariner vets, WWII & Korean vets, nursing vets and the group I could easily relate to, Navy Wives .... "it's not just a job, it's an adventure!"
It was a blissful two hours. Not exactly quiet (who knew big old base drums could vibrate the air right down to your toes?) but it felt good to be totally distracted and not think of what was happening at home. I enjoyed the sunshine on my face, the little kids playing in the puddles, the quiet but proud man standing next to me, the servicemen dressed in cammies holding babies in their arms.
It's easy to take the military for granted. Oh sure, we hear a nightly report on raging battles and casualties, but unless you are one of the family members counting the days til your soldier or sailor comes home you don't really think about it on a daily basis. At least I don't. But I've been on the other side of the fence. I've cried at both leave takings and home comings. Even surrounded by a cadre of families facing the same deployment it feels like you are all alone. As you wave goodbye, you take a deep breath that you don't releaese until you see that man (or woman) of yours walking back towards you.
Much has been said about the recent tragedy at Ft. Hood. There's no way to make sense out of something so senseless. For me, one face stands out more than the rest. It's that of Pvt. 1st Class Aaron T. Nemelka. He was all of 19 years old. When I look at the picture of a pimply faced kid, dressed in a uniform sitting in front of the flag he was eager to honor and defend, I have to ask, what is wrong with a world that thinks it is okay to send our babies into harm's way? It really doesn't matter if the babies are American, British, Japanese, Chinese, Israeli, Russian, Afghani, Iraqi, Somali, South African, Venezuelan, or Mongolian, when one dies all mothers in the world know what it feels like.
Tonight I am grateful for my grandfather, father, ex-husband, Sweetie, uncles, brother-in-law, nephew, niece, cousin, and many good friends who served honorably and by the grace of God came home in one piece. And I pray for the safety of those uniformed men and women who are sleeping tonight too far away from their loved ones.
Wishing for you and for me a world at peace,
Merry ME
P.S. I'm also grateful for the years of recovery from cancer my friend Mandy has under her belt.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gratitude - Day 10

"If you can't be thankful for what you receive,
be thankful for what you escape."

After writing yesterday about the Berlin Wall, the idea of personal walls has stayed with me. I think there was a time in my life when I barricaded myself behind walls of insecurity and fear. Perhaps even depression was a wall that kept me from truly living; kept ME protected from boogie men - real or perceived.

Today, I think my walls are more like sliding doors, not so rigid as a brick wall, but something I can still hide behind. Or like a turtle. I can stick my head out, check my surroundings and if I don't like what I see, I can pull myself right back inside.


I was still dreaming when I heard Dad call my name ... Mary! It didn't have the usual degree of urgency that most early morning calls have so I kept dozing. Then I heard it again and knew it was time to jump up and start moving. Today was bath day so all he really needed was for me to stand by at the ready outside the bathroom door while he showered. Like Goldilocks, I crawled into his still warm bed, Girl Cat joined me and we snoozed as we waited - one ear open cocked towards the door.

Soon after Paul the fix-it guy appeared on the scene, followed by all kinds of banging and clanging and vacuuming. I knew I was feeling kind of tired and funky, but my horoscope pretty much said it all when it told me to lay low. I figured that meant stay away from other people, grabbed my purse and left the boys at home to deal with the noise. Funny thing about walls, they can keep me in as well as people out!

Recently my vision has been self-centered. It's all about me, isn't it? But in the last 2 days I've noticed a homeless woman, two guys sitting on the side of the road, looking rather disheveled, and a man with only one leg driving his wheelchair with the stump of an arm.

I found I couldn't look at any of them in the eye, but watched their movements surreptitiously as I was stopped at a light. I felt a combination of feelings - sadness, pity, and guilt. "There but for the Grace of God" ran though my mind. I'm lucky to have a home to live in and a car to drive. I'm blessed to have good health, albeit with a few aches and pains.

Today, even though I feel kind of blue, I am still grateful for the things that fill my life with richness and pleasure. I'm reminded of a saying, attributed to an unknown Confederate soldier:

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”
Today I wish for you a place to rest and blessings to count yourself to sleep,
Merry ME

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

"I like the construction of sentences and the juxtaposition of words-
not just how they sound or what they mean,
but even what they look like.
Don DeLillo
When not spending time on shed construction my Sweetie has been hold up in his office creating blogs. I've just visited two of them and he told me he has a three in the works. I don't know how he's going to keep up with them all, but I know that each of them will be interesting and thought-provoking. I encourage you to check them out. And be sure to leave him a comment or two.
Welcome back, Sweetie!
Merry ME

Gratitude - Day 9

I don't think it's enough to just say "God Bless America."
We must say "God Bless the World."
Marianne Williamson

I grew up hearing about the Berlin Wall. But since it wasn't exactly in my back yard, I didn't pay much attention to it. It seems like every history class I took in school ran out of time towards the end of the year so I didn't study too much post WWII history. I'm embarrassed to say I don't really know why it went up or why it went down. I do know that Germany and the world are better for it.
The rock in the photo above is my piece of the rock. A friend, who is much more politically motivated than I, made a pilgrimage to Berlin and I was lucky enough to get one of the souvenirs.
Today I'm grateful for the people who work(ed) together to make changes in this troubled world.
Perhaps one day there will be no need for walls to separate people and ideologies.
My wish for you on this historic anniversary is that you will find the courage to knock down the walls that keep you from living your dreams,
Merry ME

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gratitude - Day 8

Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way,
but the recurring acknowledgement
of what is working in our lives can help us
not only to survive but surmount our difficulties."
Sara Ban Breathnach

Shed Making - Part 4

Today I am especially grateful for the completion of the shed from hell. Sweetie hurt his back last go round so were at a bit of a stand still. This afternoon the weather was perfect, not too hot with a nice breeze. In other parts of the country autumn is all about falling leaves. In Jacksonville a nice breeze means falling acorns. So as Sweetie stood, drill in hand on a ladder he also had to dodge acorns, some of which were like teeny tiny missiles.

With both of us feeling good we picked up where we left off and didn't have too much trouble. Screw, washer, drill. Screw, washer, drill. Nut, washer, bolt, drill. Well, you get the picture. At the back of the shed we discovered that the whole thing is slightly out of square, which of course means that the roof is slightly out of kilter. Sweetie looked at me and I applied a tried and true Ellington-ism ... it's close enough for government work!

After lying in the dirt to take a picture, I felt something biting me on the butt. Just a small spider, my helpful checker outer proclaimed. SPIDER! Of course all I can think about now is the possibility of having a brown recluse bite on my ass. By tomorrow morning, I may not have an ass at all! Will this be a bad thing?

As we neared the end, fastening the last of the screws, I was on the ladder taking dead aim with the drill, Sweetie was holding three layers of sheet metal together. Whirr! Whirr! Whirr! Then calm as could be Sweetie says to me, "uh, could you get the screw out of my thumb?" Yikes! Then he started laughing and I called him a nasty name. Between the flesh-eating bite on my butt and a bolt through his finger I figured we were going to have to spend the rest of the afternoon in the emergency room.

But all is well. The project is complete. It it already packed full of old paint cans, and rusty drain snakes. If it were up to me I'd throw the crap away and leave the shed empty. I know however that as soon as we throw something away that will be the something that Dad hasn't seen or used in 30 years but wants, and wants now.

When I was up on the ladder I had time to think about the ladies who went to work in factories during WWII. Struggling as I did to put the nut on the end of the bolt, I figured I would not have made it as Rosie the Riveter. I have no musical talent to speak of unless I'm in the car with the windows rolled up and the radio turned up loud, then I sound quite a bit like Tina Turner. Had I chosen to join the army back then, I would not have made it in the band either. I finally decided I would have been the girl in the USO who passed out donuts, coffee and cigarettes. It was not the toughest of jobs but someone had to do it!

Another thing I find myself being grateful for is answered prayers. I don't know the details and I hate to jinx it, but it looks like Father/Brother Georges may be given a church right here in Jax. There has been some very serious talk about him leaving the country and going back to Italy. That made me sad to even think about it, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the today's rumor is true.

Lastly I'm really grateful for a bed to crawl into. I'm tired enough to go to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Actually, I'm grateful for the pillow also. When I think about the people who will go to sleep tonight on the ground - no bed, no pillow, and maybe no blanket I must admit I am blessed beyond measure.

Wishing for you someone to hold your ladder, someone to joke with you, and someone to lay his/her head down on the pillow next to yours,

Merry ME

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gratitude - Day 7

"Earth's crammed into heaven
and every common bush afire with God."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Leigh
Today I'm grateful for reminder of something very important to me from a past life. Well, not actually a past life, as in re-incarnation. But in the life I lived before I moved back to my Florida home back in 1995. One of the things that helped save my life and return to me some sort of sanity was being involved in a 12-Step group. I participated in CoDa (Codependents Anonymous) and Alanon before settling into a group for family and friends of drug addicts - Naranon.
Before those meetings I had turned my back on any form of religion and had no relationship to speak of with any kind of higher power. Actually I did have a twisted, angry relationship with an old fashioned God who sat on a throne in heaven and meted out punishment to all sinners. Since I was pretty sure I was a mighty sinner, I stayed away from this almighty finger pointer unless it was to rage back at Him for deserting me.
I soon found out that 12-step programs are based on a very spiritual concept - that of a higher power. The first meeting I attended I almost through up when everyone began holding hands and saying the Lord's prayer. I would have gotten up and walked out except that I was on the opposite side of the room from the door and I was too much of a people pleaser and too afraid to call attention to myself to do so. Once I wrapped my mind and my heart around the spiritual side of the program and worked through the steps I found a place of great comfort in the meetings.
I also made some really close friends. I willingly took a leap of faith and opened myself up to a group of strangers. The surprise was that no one judged me or my poor choices. Instead they nodded their heads in full understanding ... they'd "been there done that." They cried with me, laughed with me and hugged me. I learned to speak out loud in front of a group of people. I learned to share my secrets, character defects and pain. And I was loved in return.
As I type this I remember that Saturday night was meeting night. I haven't talked to most of those people in years. But I have a few girlfriends from that group whom I should pick up the phone and call. I'm so very grateful for their friendship, I think I should tell them so and see what's going on in their lives.
I started thinking about this subject because of reading Dani's blog. Dani and I have become blog buddies. We've exchanged emails and found that we have a lot in common. Not the least of these is our love for Terri St. Cloud. Dani quoted the 11th step:
“Sought through prayer and meditation
to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,
praying only for knowledge of His will for us
and the power to carry that out.”
and called it her personal favorite.
Prayer, meditation, conscious contact with God. These are things that can really get lost in a day that is filled with to do lists, caregiving, doing the laundry and blogging. Like Dani, I'm better at praying and asking for things then being quiet and listening for an answer.
With the news of the last couple days, I have increased my heavenly pleas for peace in this world. Who else but a power greater than all of us is going to be able to change the minds and hearts of men and women that share this planet? It will take all of us working together to make it happen. And to do that each of us might have to sit in silence and listen for "His/Her will for us."
I don't mean to sound all religious here. I have learned/am learning what works for me. While I don't know what will work for you, I feel pretty sure that each of us is created with a Divine spark and our souls are continuously looking for an opportunity to be reconnected. Wherever that is for you I encourage you to go there and listen for the small still voice that will guide you to a place of peace.
And we all said "Amen"!
Before I close this post I have to say I am also grateful for the sweet, buttery taste of avocados mixed with just the right amount of tomato an onion to make a delicious bowl of guacamole, and piping hot tortilla chips fresh from hot grease for dipping. Sweetie and I tried a Mexican food restaurant for lunch and I have to say I'm still pleasantly stuffed. Ole!
Wishing for you some time of peaceful silence and a yummalicious snack,
Merry Me
[Photo: This picture is from an email entitled God's paintbrush.]