Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dandelion Wisdom

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Marcel Proust



Here's what my horoscope for today said:
"All you need is love. Bring it to the front and give it top priority. Then spread it around."

I feel like lately I've been really in tune with a universal message to open my eyes and my heart and my mind to all the good that is around me. To show love, feel gratitude, and share hope is to feel the connection that unites each of us on this planet.

The message is plentiful in the daily blogs I read. Like today over at Honor Yourself, Terri wasn't feeling so good still she got this great insight from staring at her bowl of oatmeal. As she began thinking about some friends who were facing big health issues, she stopped thinking about her own sore throat, and moved from there right onto gratitude. I don't know about you, but when I don't feel good, I start acting just like a little kid... life is all about me and my comfort. I don't think I could ever get to a place where I am grateful that my throat feels like it's on fire and little razor blades are poking in it! But Terri did, and when I read about it I could feel the "Yes"!

At Bedlam Farm somewhere in NY, Jon Katz is battling a long, cold winter. He writes about things that would make me weep - temperatures in the minus column, broken pipes and rebellious sheep. Yet every day he and his dogs willingly venture out into their icy world to discover "an awful winter can be beautiful." Jon is a writer and photographer. Unlike me, he's doesn't like to bitch about how cold he is on a continual basis. (I'm menopausal and live in Florida - I suffer at the opposite end of the thermometer.) He looks for and finds the beauty of the sun's light glistening off a frozen droplet of water. " (Thomas) Paine reminded me that so many people have survived so much worse than I face on the worst day, and that is a good perspective," Katz wrote today. Sharing that perspective makes me want to keep it going.


Sorrow over at http://walklabyrinth.blogspot.com/ wrote yesterday of the difficulty in being present and grateful for the blessings we have now and not scared about the future. Let's face it, the future is looking a little glum these days and it's hard not to go into panic mode. I've found panic mode totally erases gratitude. So Sorrow bakes cakes with/for her kids and plays with clay to produce really cool (though decidedly strange) mugs. In doing so she not only "find(s) humor, and a place of peace in the eye of the storm," she makes people like me smile. Smiling erases panic mode.



With all this on my mind, I took advantage of a pretty day. I said the magic word, "Walk" to dog, grabbed her leash and my camera and headed out into the neighborhood. While Beauty sniffed every bush between here and the end of the street I searched the old neighborhood for new sights. I discovered this patch of dandelions. In the middle of dried up leaves and bushes turned black from a recent freeze, this one tenacious weed bloomed like it was queen of the world.


People are kind of like dandelions, aren't they? They grow where they were planted. They go through life trying to be their best selves, doing what they were meant to do. They are strong and resilient. They don't know they are weeds until it is pointed out to them by the snub of the well-manicured lawn. Yet like this little beauty, on a good day, they just can't help turning their faces to the sun and smile even the world around them is kind of icky.


Feeling the love and spreading it around,
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo

“When you can't have what you want, it's time to start wanting what you have.”
Kathleen A. Sutton
Even though I no longer feel the need to test myself with National Blog Post Month, I still get a monthly reminder from them. Besides the annual November post every day event, they've added a monthly theme to encourage people to continue the daily posting. I usually ignore it.
But I'm a little intrigued by February's topic.
Want.
The people over at NaBloPoMo offer these little enticements to make it easy:"Want can be defined several ways: as desire for possessions or experiences ("I want a bike," "I want to learn to fly"); as sexual desire ("I want you"); as a lack or deficiency ("Too many people live in want of basic necessities").
Thankfully February only has 28 days. I guess if I were going to go for it, this would be the month to do it. I wonder are there 28 things I want enough to write about them? What if there are more? That would make me sound kind of greedy wouldn't it? Whatever happened to being satisfied with what you have? I learned the hard way that the grass on the other side of the fence is a tad bit greener because of all the manure over there!
I don't know about next month, but tonight I want a nice hot shower and to crawl into bed.
May all your dreams come true,
Merry ME

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Jimmy

I drank caffeinated tea last night so my mind was still a buzz way past my usual lights out time. As I watched the clock turn over from one day to the next, I realized it was the 65th birthday of my X ... x-husband, not x-friend. Even as time marches on, I find myself re-thinking many of the times we spent together. What a blessing it is to remember more of the good times, the joy and laughter, than the long dark days of a dying relationship. Again, I must qualify that statement by saying, that the marriage failed, but the relationship is still on track. We've both moved on, have new partners and drastically different lives. Still we share 20+ years of friendship, 2 children, 1 grandchild and many friends. Somewhere along the line the strict military man I married developed an "open mind" and a kind of gentle understanding.

I don't know if I can come up with 65 reasons why knowing Jim makes me smile, but in the AntiJen spirit of birthday posts I'm going to try:
1. Back in the earliest days of our relationship, the man could run. I met him after he had graduated from college and hung up his track shoes. But I remember well the time I saw him fly down the street in a friendly little race with his nephew. His ability to go from zero to mach speed was most impressive.
2. In his own words Jim is a gambler and poet extraordinaire. In my words, he has a knack for making words rhyme. He's never met a casino where he didn't leave more $$ than take away!
3. Jim was a helicopter pilot. He had the right stuff.
4. Jim had a military career to be proud of.
5. When he got out of the Navy he went back to college to get his teaching credentials. The day he seriously considered punching one of his students in the nose wass the day he gave up teaching.
6. Jim is the only person I've ever seen actually stand in the hole under a car's hood where the engine is supposed to go. That being said, looking at the nuts and bolts and parts that were once the very heart of MY car, he refused to ask for help reassembling things.
7. When I was about 17, my mother told me, in front of my soon to be husband, "never say I told you so." He never forgot those words of wisdom and often reminded me of the wise counsel. It's hard not to say "I told you so" when your car is in a kazillion pieces and the man fixing it is asking you to call automobile 911.
8. Jim was born in Arkansas but considered himself to be a native Texan. He could ride and shoot with the best of them. All the neighborhood boys under the age of ten were most impressed as Jim took aim at a baby rattlesnake on our front stoop. I stood in the background screaming like a fool.
9. Jim introduced me to the Grand Canyon. For this I will always be grateful. Wendy also remembers "the time he told me to look up at the stars at the G.C." It doesn't get much better than that.
10. Jim was a world traveler but rarely remembered to pack his razor.
11. When we were married Jim's cooking abilities didn't stretch much past "Egg in the middle". Once he was on his own he quickly learned to expand any meal with the addition of peppery hash browns, guacamole, lumpia, or chicken/pine nut salad.

12. Did I mention Jimmy loves visiting Las Vegas?
13. Jim once rode down the Washington/Oregon coast on a bicycle.
14. Jim was a good son to good parents. They taught him to appreciate the beauty and fun of a summer vacation.
15. Jim often traveled by train when he was on his college track team. He said it was the best sleeping he ever had. There are 3 people who share his last name who will heartily debate this topic whenever it brought up.
16. Jim likes to ski on water or snow. We went sledding once in what can only be called an ice storm. At the time, we found it curious that no one else was weathering the cold, or that all the sled businesses were closed. We enjoyed having a giant hill to ourselves. It was shortly after seeing the "Private ... Do Not Enter" signs, that the father/daughter team went shooting down an ice-covered hill in a plastic saucer with no brakes. Jim broke his thumb - swelling to three times its normal size and turning a delightful shade of purple. Wendywas grateful her life had been spared. John and Iwatched from the warm confines of the car.
17. Texas Jimmy and his son-in-law, Zubin, were sports enthusiasts who never missed a chance to bet on March Madness teams.
18. Jim loves Christmas decorations. The bushier the tree, the shinier the ornaments, the brighter lights, the more presents, and the bigger the stockings the better.
19. We shared some lovable pets - Ruby, Pebbles, Mr. Burnes. Jim had a soft spot in his heart for all of them, even though they were not always able to control their bodily functions when they got in close contact with his flight jacket.
20. Jim has never met a can of beer, glass of wine or bottle of Scotch that he didn't like. He once took a taste-testing trip around Scotland with real Scotch drinkers. He was way out of his league.
21. According to his daughter, Jim is not above "doubling up to catch up." I am not sure what this means but I'm guessing it has something to do with the game of Blackjack. Or maybe it has to do with #20!
22. Jim loves to smell good. He's especially fond lemony and woodsy scents, though he's been known to use Aqua Velva in a pinch.
23. Jim is a lover of fine bowls.
24. Nobody loves black pepper more than James. Have a glass of water ready when you're eating your first bite of his hash browns -- they're always generously doused with black pepper. As are just about everything he makes: eggs, soup, chicken, salad,...
25. He likes to wave to everyone in the neighborhood.
26. He's the best Dad you could ask for -- he's generous, and always wants what's best for his kids. Even when they're goofballs, he sticks by them. (we)
27. If he comes to visit you, you better have beer, wine, pepper, splenda, coffee, and a bag of chips on hand. And electronic Yahtzee in the bathroom!
28. Jim has a special fondness for good books - especially when there is a nail-biting mystery involved.
29. Jim is always up for a good time.
30. Being from Dallas, Jim is a loyal Cowboys fan.
31. Shortly before our 2nd child was born we went car shopping for a family mobile. Has anyone out there ever heard of a Nash Rambler? I was so preggers when we took the test drive, I couldn't even fit a seat belt around my middle. We lived in Florida and it summer time. I was all of 20 years old, should I have known to test heater - the NON-EXISTENT heater? Soon after John was born James went out and bought himself a 2 seater, convertible MG. What can I say?the man can not be resist a nice car!
32. Jim has always been fond of the penny loafer. [Photo L: These are not Jim's feet. But the photo shows that the apple does not fall from the tree when it comes to stylish shoes. Besides, this picture always makes me laugh.]
33. "Is this the party to whom I'm speaking." If he said it once, he said it a million times!
34. While I remember Jim letting the kids sit on his lap and put their hands on the steering wheel, Wendy remembers her Dad teaching her to drive on Telegraph Canyon Road in San Diego. Apparently he paid no mind to the fact that she started bawling as soon as we got on the road with other cars.
35. Another driving memory for Wendy is the time he drove over the dead cow in the minivan on the way down to Vegas
36. Jim also tried to teach me how to drive. I was 16 and much more interested in looking good than driving good. One summer night on a lone stretch of Pensacola highway, he let me take the wheel. I managed to keep the car moving as long as I didn't have to change gears. Pulling over for a little kissy kissy was our downfall. I steered into the soft sand where we got good and stuck.
Some more Wendy reminiscing:
37. How cool he looked in his flight suit.
38. The way he let his pet parakeets fly free at his place in DC
39. His odd taste in cats (and how they're almost always named Bubba)
40. Sitting next to him at the blackjack table
41. Long conversations about how we'd spend our lottery winnings
42. Watching him burble a pea
43. His Inspector Clouseau impression.
44. Shotgunning a beer with him at Aunt Linda's.
45. If we're going to talk about his impressions, then I've got to mention how he was always able to sweep me off my feet when he whispered in my ear like Pepe Le Pew.
46. One time at a grown up Christmas party a British foreign exchange officer got drunk and, for some reason still unknown to those who observed it, doused Jim with the contents of the punchbowl. I've never seen (and doubt I ever will) a man who showed such great restraint. Why Jim didn't kill the guy I'll never know. Maybe it had something to do with foreign relations and being an officer and a gentleman. Or the fact that his Commanding Officer was watching.
47. At his bachelor party Jim announced that he was going to walk on water. He ended up in muddy water up to his knees. The same muddy water from which they were eating clams. I know ... gross. A couple of months later one of our good friends was diagnosed with encephalitis - or mercury poisoning -which could have come from, you got it, infected clams. Jim bore a striking resemblance to the flight surgeon at the time. Our friend lay on a stretcher, not knowing if he was on his death bed or not. Jim bent over him long enough to hear the guy ask for water. A nurse asked if could have a drink (something that could have caused another seizure) and Jim gave her the go ahead. What did he know? Gratefully, the water eased a parched throat and did no other damage.
48. Jim probably didn't blink an eye when being asked a medical question. He came by his knowledge of all things medical through his genes. His father, a would be mortician, completed the first year of school which mostly consisted of anatomy and physiology. He dropped out of the funeral business, but never lost his ability to diagnose most illnesses. This ability was passed down to his son. It never made much sense to me, but I saw it in action more than once.
49. For instance, when all other medical treatments fail, rub Vicks Vaporub on your chest, cover with a clean, dry T-shirt and take a nap.
50. Jim loves naps.
51. When Jim was in Officer Candidate School, he was offered a deal he thought too good to pass up. If he joined the band, he would not have to stand in the ranks during inspections. In spite of the fact that the only musical talent he possessed was that his father played the clarinet (see #47) he signed up for the band. His instrument of choice turned out to be the cymbals. How hard can it be to play the cymbals? Well, harder than the novice officer knew. He got the marching down. He got the beat down. Yet he never quite mastered the art of clanging the cymbals together on an angle, preventing the inevitable suction cup effect if done wrong. Jim didn't stay long in the band.
52. Jim never shied away from a driving demonstration. He's driven along high mountain passes in Spain, winding narrow paths in Malta, back roads in the Philippines, and through snow drifts near Seattle.
53. For the 30 years Jim spent in the Navy, his motto was "I'm a Naval Aviator". As if that would answer any question.
54. If Jim happens to be in a place with wild animals, i.e. squirrels, deer, bears, he doesn't hesitate to offer a peanut, even if he's standing under a clearly marked DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE sign with a forest ranger standing close by.
55. Uncle Jimmy is beloved by many.
56. Fine china, Waterford crystal, and Lladro porcelain all hold a special place in Jim's heart.
57. He has also been known to go a little bit crazy over Bath & Body Works lotions, a certain Brookstone massaging chair, Abercrombie & Fitch sweaters, Enya CDs, Panasonic electronics with lots of lights and buttons, and cameras with multiple lenses.
58. Jim had an annual first day of school ritual that still makes the blood run cold of family members who were forced to listen to his "Good morning song." He's lucky to have survived to his present age. He could have easily been done in my a new pair of school shoes thrown with great force across a bedroom.
On that note, I'm going to end this post. It's way too long and I'm risking the ire of my current Sweetie who doesn't understand how it is that Jim and I are even on speaking terms. But really how could we not be. We lived through good times and bad, childbirth, cross-country moves, depression, deployments, family vacations in a VW Rabbit, and late night dancing at Mr. C's. Maybe it wasn't meant to be that we'd be married til death do us part, but I'm glad we can still be friends.
James, here's to you, Happy Birthday!
Merry ME
(Photos by Wendy)

Hi Ho Silver Away!

"I am still under the impression that there is nothing alive quite so beautiful as a horse."
John Galsworthy


"Swallowtail" commented on my last post. I love when that happens! Even when I have no idea who the commenter is. It's weird, I know. but I love that the Internet has made this gigantic world seem like we're all next door neighbors. Since I believe turnabout is fair play (in a good way) I checked out Swallowtail's blog (http://meatpieandluna.blogspot.com/). There was some very interesting information about redwood trees which she cleverly connected with Obama's inauguration.

I quote: "The Inauguration Ceremony was for me, an inspiration. Perhaps the biggest and maybe most difficult task before us, is the one of learning to live in community. For instance, the Redwood does not slough-off the Poison Oak from climbing to great heights up her magnificent trunk. No, Poison Oak takes her secrets toward the sky, and blazes bright red every fall, a little closer to the high blue! "

Ah, yes, living in community. This seems to be the recurring theme of my life. Learning to be compassionate as I care for my father. Writing from my heart and being willing to accept praise and critique for what it is - friends helping me to be a better ME. Getting better at communicating with my Sweetie. Feeling the generosity of others. Witnessing love. Watching people be brave. Feeling proud and excited as my countrymen carry forth the torch of liberty and freedom. Praying for others and having them pray for me. Ah, community....


I went on reading Swallowtail's blog and came across this picture of her granddaughter, Mary. It was Mary's first time on a horse. Is it poetry in motion or what? Look at the flourescent orange cast and the red boots. Grandma wrote that this horse riding beauty is the family's newest member of the "Cowgirl Up! Clan"

I don't know what the Cowgirl Up! Clan is all about, but I've got to say it sounds like a fun group to hang with and I'm a little envious. Alas, I have to admit that I'm afraid of horses. I think they are beautiful creatures. I love looking at them. But I'm too scared of their size to get close enough to even rub my hand over the equine elegance.

I've had a couple bad horse experiences in my lifetime. I lost my virginity in the backseat of a Ford Mustang. I realize this doesn't quite qualify as a horse experience, but let just say it wasn't that great!

Before that there was the time a friend and I saddled up to go for a trail ride. For the life of me I can't remember why in the world I ever said this was something I would, or could, do. It must have been an adolescent peer pressure thing. Not unlike the previously mentioned Mustang incident, I got on that horse without having any clue as to what to do next. Things like how to hold the reins, how to make the thing go or, more importantly, how to make it stop were all Greek to me.

My memory of this event is a bit foggy; not from lack of brain cells, but from amnesia-causing fear. What I do remember is the angelic looking demon stood still while I mounted then took off like greased lightning. All I could do was hang on. I'm not sure how far or how long the ride lasted. What had to have been only minutes seemed like an eternity. We stopped for some reason known only to the horse in the middle of the woods. My steed seemed to think he had made it to horse heaven. That's all of the story I can recall. Obviously, I survived the nightmare. However I made a lifetime pledge to myself never to do that again.

I've heard it said that in order for one to conquer their phobias they have to feel the fear and do it anyway. I actually have fantasies about taking riding lessons; about owning a pair of red pointy-toed boots, tight fitting jeans and a blouse with snaps instead of buttons. I won't totally rule out one day in the future sitting astride a horse again. I'll keep galloping across a sun-swept prairie, with the wind blowing through my hair on my bucket list. But if the truth be told, I think I have a far better chance of getting lucky in the backseat of a Mustang than ever joining the Cowgirl Up! Clan.

Ride on, Little Mary, you rock!
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Election Day 2009

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer,
but the right answer."
John F. Kennedy


What a day! History in the making! Excitement is in the air!


Is it the height of Pollyanna-ism to think a good speech, and a sea of humanity seemingly all of one mind can make a big change in this country of ours. Will we wake up tomorrow and return to business as usual? Or will our hearts and minds hold fast to the excitement of this historic day?



I've lived through history-making days before. I know where I was on the day John Kennedy was killed, when men walked on the moon. I remember wanting to throw up on the day the Challenger blew up and feeling numb with disbelief on September 11th. My memory isn't what it once was but I hope I carry the hope I'm feeling today for President Obama, for his family, and for our country well into the future.
I know one man cannot make the changes that have to be made all by himself. I want to believe, however, that the momentum he's been building to reach this day is going to give him the oomph he needs to turn baby steps into giant strides. I want to believe that a million+ people amassed on the D.C. mall created a flood of positive energy that will turn a tide of negativity.


Strangely, as I ate dinner last night I was presented with an omen. I don't usually read tea leaves, or see images of saints in the peanut butter I spread on my English muffin. Still when I reached into the potato chip bag and pulled out a greasy heart-shaped morsel, I knew it was a sign of good things to come.

With a hopeful heart I look forward to being a part of what comes next. Merry ME

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meditation

This poem came to me via the Soul Flares Newsletter back in December.
In light of the funeral I attended today, and the daily task of caring for my dad,
it feels appropriate to share it as I end this day and head to bed.
* * *

We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted.
We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid.
We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation,
and need to be recalled to our best selves.
We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose,
and cannot do it alone.
We need one another in the hour of success, when we look for someone to share our triumphs.
We need one another in the hour of defeat, when with encouragement we might endure,
and stand again.
We need one another when we come to die,
and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey.
All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.
George O'Dell

(Photo: Some of the people I need in my life)

Good night,
Merry ME

Letters from an Open Heart 12-15-08
http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001nX3IMCjjS6WCL5Lt-TtuTKS4Ch4uHyWPxPyEW9pxtHJ5UzTlo97P_qxDZJM6ehs1niMMsg9TGRWT9S5TU5aobuEIbV3J3OWt61wy5VS9C1CdiPDfnZMrZvfgJSQYgPA1LoBD4xgbYUnSqcmKmCt52efdasBiAUQYCzwm1wml3dw=http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?_qxDZJM6ehs1niMMsg9TGRWT9S5TU5aobuEIbV3J3OWt61wy5VS9C1CdiPDfnZMrZvfgJSQYgPA1LoBD4xgbYUnSqcmKmCt52efdasBiAUQYCzwm1wml3dw=

How Far to Heaven?

"When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices.
When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries. "
Ancient Tibet Buddhist saying

I just got home from a funeral. A member of my new church family was killed this week. A man driving a hijacked car at top speed rammed into her. She was not wearing a seat belt. She died instantly. Is it horrible to think this was a blessing? The instantaneous part, I mean.

She was 23 years old. She was just leaving work at the end of the day. She was going to pick up her two children from day care. In an instant one life was gone and many others were changed. Parents, grandparents, and friends are left to try to make sense of the loss. A man who has already had a few serious brushes with the law will go to jail for a long time. The police will have to second guess their high speed chase procedures.

What I can't get out of my mind is her children. Both under 4, they are too young to conceptualize death. All they are going to know is mom was there that morning and gone that night. I think my heart actually hurts just trying to fathom that kind of misfortune.

At the risk of sounding like "it's all about me," I've been asking what is my lesson in this? Seems like there's been a lot of dying, or talking about it, going on around me lately. Is that just the way things happen, or is the Man upstairs trying to tell me something? Sometimes I go through my days in a bit of a self-absorbed trance - not paying attention to things outside of my small space. Today, as I sat in a church packed with mourners, I realized how inter-related we all are. What happened to Amanda and her family, in some small way happened to me. Just like I was touched somehow by the heroic life saving events that took place on the Hudson River. The bombs ripping apart lives in Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan diminish me, even if they are hundreds of miles away.

I believe we are all connected. Is it a connection of the heart or the spirit? Who knows? But when you hurt a part of me hurts also. When you are touched by joy, I know it somehow ... or should, if I'm paying attention.

Before the funeral I was thinking of Amanda's children. Wondering what anyone can possibly say to them to make them understand. Dumb question I know. I went to my book case and laid my hands on a book* I haven't read in years (serendipity or dumb luck?).

It's about a question a young girl asks her Nanna about her grandfather who has passed away.

"Is heaven very far?" A simple question not easily answered.

In an effort to teach a life lesson, the book's Nanna takes her granddaughter's hand. Together they walk into the nearby "lush green meadow." They look at the sky, smell the aroma of wild roses and dance to the orchestral sounds of their surroundings. Nanna explains if you look closely the gifts of heaven can be found right here on earth.

I hope if one day Amanda's children ask the same question, they will get this answer:
"Forever and always, inside all around,
Heaven is everywhere heaven is found.
Listen with glad ears, see with love's eyes
Give wings to your heart, and cherish the prize!
Forever and always we dance to the sound,
For heaven is everywhere heaven is found."

Words won't bring their mother back to them. But, prayerfully, the time will come when these children will know their mother is not so very far away. She is the angel that sits on their shoulders. She is air they breathe. She is the whisper in their tiny ears. "I am here little one. I love you."

Wishing a little piece of heaven for each of you,
Merry ME

*How Far to Heaven? by Chara M. Curtis, Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc., Bellevue, WA., 1993

Friday, January 16, 2009

Misty Watercolored Memories

"As care givers it is so easy to be caught up in the activity
of giving care that life moves on
and we are less aware of our own
feelings, memories, desires, prayers.
A picture, a song grabs us, captures us
and at least for a few moments or minutes
we honor ourselves through reflecting our personal memories. "
Jack Cook

Dad needs new glasses. He can get them free from the Navy. Despite the price of gas going up, he opted for hard-earned (25+years) and no cost over right-down-the-road at the mall. (Does anyone but me see a strange kind of synchronicity in discussing hospice and getting new glasses all in the same week?)

We've been barking at each other a lot over the last couple of days. Elizabeth Kubler Ross might say we're experiencing the anger stage of grief. More likely we've both just realized that we are running out of time to master the fine art of communication so we keep trying. I've found, however, when we hop in the Luther-mobile, turn the radio up and head down the road, there is a comfortable quiet between us.

We've been to the dispensary before. It was a drill to see if either of us could remember the routine. Funny how some things never change! Military procedures vary little over the years.

We found the clinic. While waiting for the paperwork to be done, Dad got a far away look in his eye. "I know it was real," he said, "but it was so long ago that my time in the Navy almost seems like a dream." I suggested if he went out to the quarterdeck of one of the ships at the pier and smelled the combination aroma of diesel fuel, salt air and boat juice it would all come back to him. He replied with a hearty no thank you.
After talking to a guy in a flightsuit who was also waiting for his own new lenses, I began to wander down my own memory lane. Twenty years of life as a Navy wife flashed before my eyes:
  • Wives club meetings; long lines at the commissary ... dispensary ... gas station;
  • officers and gentlemen in khaki colored uniforms;
  • Helo pilots in green flight suits and patch-covered flight jackets (my ex getting chewed out by an admiral for wearing his off the base);
  • deployments that seemed to last forever;
  • a water-bearing appliance (refrigerator, toilet, washing machine) breaking down on day two of said deployment with me sitting in the middle of the floor adding my tears to the growing puddle;
  • standing pierside holding onto small children waving American flags as an aircraft carrier pulls out of port for said deployment, tears of lonliness running down my cheeks long after the ship disappears over the horizon;
  • being reminded by another waving wife who had seen more ship departures than I could yet imagine, that the big gray watercraft in front of us was a "ship" not a "boat" (I wondered then, as I wonder now, does that distinction really make a difference to a 2 year old!);
  • standing on the tarmac, holding onto small children, waving American flags as a squadron of helicopters flies home in formation, tears of joy and relief rolling down my face;
  • attending PTA meetings, Cub Scout camp outs, and parent/teacher conferences alone; sharing the "adventure" - praying it would soon end;
  • moving across country or across the street too many times to count.
For a few minutes, memories swirled together in a kind of patchwork melange. When the nice man (what, no Navy nurse barking orders and demanding to be called mam? What's the Navy coming to?)behind the desk told us that Dad's glasses would be mailed to him in a couple of weeks, I was jolted from my reverie. Remarkably many of recollections, once raw and painful, had lost their bite. Like my father, those years seem almost like a dream. A dream I can look back on and smile, not a nightmare I thought would never end. Yes, there were hard times. Times when I cried myself to sleep. Times when I blamed Uncle Sam and John Paul Jones for every one of my problems.
It's true, however, what the sages say about time. It does heal wounds. I know this because even though the times were rough, what I remember now are the people that helped me get through them. Even when I thought I was all alone there were other women who shared the challenge of being married to a man who was married to the military. Somehow we survived, individually and collectively. Some of the marriages fell apart, that's no big surprise. But women of character survive and move on. Barbara, Peg, Catherine, Becky, Julia, Carole, Diane, Donna, Pat, Cheryl and others whose faces I can still see but whose names I've long forgotten. Bless them!
Wow! All that remembering and a pair of glasses too. Luther and I enjoyed the time together. I think it was a good day.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like singing "Anchors Away"?

Merry ME

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."
John Leonard

My father laments that the hardest part about living to be in his 90s is that he's outlived most of his friends. He shares an occasional lunch with some of the men he used to work with, but there aren't many close, true friends left. The ones that are still here aren't in any better health than Dad - some are worse. Lunch dates have to be scheduled around doctor's visits and naps. It's got to be tough. Dad uses the word lonely a lot.

This week was an exception. One of his buds, who has recently been missing-in-action, called to invite Dad and I out to lunch with him and his daughter. I was pleased for Dad. Kind of anxious for me. This not-so-social-nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I was happy that the men were going to get together for the first time in months, but the thought of making small talk with a person I didn't know wasn't too appealing. I didn't have an excuse NOT to go, so I pulled up my big girl panties and, if nothing else, looked forward to the Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi and cheese biscuits. A girl can get through just about anything life throws at her if she has a warm and delicate cheese biscuit in her back pocket.


My selfish fears were put to rest as soon as we walked into the restaurant. The smiles on the men's faces laid the foundation for the hour ahead of us. Old friends, embraced. Their daughters tentatively shook hands, but we both knew we were only there as witnesses to a long overdue catch-up gab-fest.

Well, okay, maybe gab-fest isn't exactly what transpired between one old guy who couldn't speak above a whisper and another who forgot his hearing aid. On occasion, either Patty or I worked as a translators to help clarify the point being made. Mostly we exchanged pleasantries and smiled. I ate biscuits. (I decided that the reason the woman sitting across looked to be in better shape than I am is because she drank water (as opposed to coke) and only nibbled one teenie biscuit half. )

The men discussed the engineering firm where they'd met so many years ago. "Just between you and me" one would say, then go on to tell a story about co-workers who could nicely be described as "pushy." At one point they shared brief medical histories. "That's what I have to look forward to," said Dan, looking across the table at my dad. We all kind of winced. The unspoken message being old ain't for sissies.


Like Cinderella's clock that chimed midnight, the call of the men's afternoon nap was not to be ignored. We finished sharing a huge dessert then made our farewells. We promised to get together again soon. One man grabbed his cane, the other his walker. They posed for a picture as the daughters looked on, knowing they were a part of something bigger than lunch.

I learned my lesson. Life is not always about me. (Could this really be true?)Maybe making small talk so someone I love can speak the language of his heart, is one of those things that people in relationship do for each other. I'm glad I was there to hear it.


Signing off, Merry ME

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Glad Game - Part II

I don't know how to write this without sounding all smug. So I'll say right up front please forgive me and "Toot! Toot!" as in tooting my own horn! There was an article in today's newspaper about the baby shower. It was also a lot about me! My picture is on the front page of the neighborhood section. I think it's true what the say about the camera adding pounds. I don't think I'm really that fat. My hair dresser is going to comment on my need for a trim and Dad might ask when I'm going to get a new pair of shoes, but all that's beside the point. The article was a really nice write-up about what will hopefully become a really big event to help really little ones in need.

When I got out of bed, Sweetie told me about the article. And he told me I'd already gotten a congratulatory phone call. I wondered, before my head swelled to gigantic proportions, who gets up and reads the paper before 8am on a Sat. morning. Then I read the article and felt all tingly! I hope that's pride for a job well done, not conceited-look-at-me tingly. I believe there is a fine line that divides the two.

Then my sister read the article and I got another phone call. Then to top it all off, and the whole point of this post, Dad got up and made his way to the kitchen.
I tried to stay in the present moment, but my inner child took me back to the time when I was in the 6th grade and was chosen to address the graduation exercises. I was 12. What could I have said that had any great importance? I was picked to speak for my elelmentary school accomplishments, not my oratory prowess. I felt proud.

But what I remember most about that day, was not the good feeling, but how I felt when my Dad made what I can now call a smart ass comment about the ceremony being "all about Mary. "It didn't come across to me then, or now, as a compliment. It hurt my feelings. I stuffed the pride into that place where I keep momentary pleasures that shouldn't see the light of day.

I've learned that this is just Dad's way. Doesn't make it right, or good, but it is what it is. In his own words, "I only tease the ones I love." As if that makes any sense to an adult, or the highly sensitive and extra needy little girl.

So I waited as Dad looked first at my picture, then read the article. I held my armored shield in front of me to deflect any of Dad's "loving" barbs. Everything was quiet. I may have held my breath. Then it happened....something to be glad about.

"I'm proud of you, Mary." He said it. And he said it like he meant it. I think Little Mary Carolyn would have done a double back flip if Big Mary didn't have all those extra camera pounds. Pollyanna Mary, stopped in her tracks and relished the moment.

In the big scheme of life it's truly the little things that matter most. I doubt Dad even has a clue, but I think a long time festering sore on my heart began to heal this morning. God, please don't let me forget this.

To my faithful commenters: Girls, save your pea shooters for another time. Today GG deserves a pat on the back. Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks.

Smiling,
Merry ME

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Glad Game

"Positive thinking is a muscle that atrophies.
The Glad Game is a mental exercise to bulk up the good attitude
and spend some relaxing time thinking positive thoughts.
It gives a good calming energy." *

We had a discussion at dinner the other night. It could have been a full-fledged argument where lines are drawn in the sand and big people act like little kids who either throw their peas or say something hurtful like "nanny nanny boo boo." Thankfully it kind of blew over instead.

I started it. After a phone conversation with a newspaper columnist, I was feeling pretty high about the article she wrote about the recent baby shower. She did a great job of taking my enthusiastic ramblings and turning them into coherent sentences. Plus she made me sound a tad bit like Mother Theresa! I got a little puffed up. It must have been the bragging that set things off.

My dad, who likes to keep me in my place, suggested that it was too bad all the work and generosity would be so short lived. He's an engineer. He looks at things with his head. I see with my heart. We stay at different ends of whatever stick the world uses for measuring reality. In this case I can see his point even though I don't agree. Babies are hopefully going to grow and grow fast. The 100+ newborn onesies we're giving away won't fit very long. And we all know that land fills are full of disposal diapers. However, does this reality negate the the power of the giving?

In the past, Dad's negative response to something that means so much to me would have cut me to the core. Sadly, I would have accepted his negativity as the truth. But this whole baby shower thing has been such a POSITIVE experience for so many people (and the gifts haven't even been distributed yet) that Dad's curmudgeoness has no power to hurt me.

Anyway Sweetie called Dad on his nay saying. Yikes! My stomach started to lurch a little. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Then Dad said something that made no sense at all to me. He asked what it means to be a Pollyanna. The tide turned and the subject changed.

It wasn't until later when Sweetie told me that he thought being called a Pollyanna was a derogatory thing that I realized Dad was trying to twist the knife he'd stabbed into my happiness. The dig went right over my head! I decided to Google Pollyanna and see what I was missing.

I remember watching Haley Mills in the Disney Movie. Back when I was about 10 I think I wanted to be her. She was cute, she could act, she had an English accent - what's not to love? All these years later, the only thing I can remember about the movie is that Pollyanna was always happy. It was her infectious sunny personality that turned all the grumpy people in her town into happy neighbors. I had no memory of the "Glad Game" which apparently was a major part of the movie, until reading what Wikipedia had to say about it.

It seems Pollyanna's optimistic attitude was the result of her father teaching her the Glad Game. It "consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation." It reminds me of a quote by Abraham Lincoln that goes something like - a person is only as happy as they make up their minds to be. When I was in my blue period, that statement really bugged the poo poo out of me. I tried really hard to be, if not happy, at least less sad and it didn't always work. I don't believe depression can be cured by having an attitude adjustment. But, with lots of therapy under my belt, I do believe looking on the bright side is just as easy as seeing the dark side. It's a glass half-full kind of thing. (Which is another saying that used to bother me, but I think I was just crabby all the way around and there weren't too many positive sayings that appealed to me. Although I did think the lyrics of most of Jimmy Buffet songs had great psychological significance. "If you ever wonder why we ride the carousel, we do it for the stories we can tell." "Come Monday it'll be alright." "Let's get drunk and screw." But I digress ....)

Even though I didn't know it, I think I've been playing the glad game. I'm not always good at it, but I try. It's like having a gratitude journal. Some days I'm grateful to be alive. Some days I'm grateful to be alive with the blue sky above me, a warm house to call home, food in my belly, a Sweetie to love, books to read, pets to pet, kids to love, sisters to hug, water that's hot, Cokes with ice, quilts to snuggle under and a pissant Dad to care for.

Perhaps Sweetie is right. Maybe I should be insulted by being called a Pollyanna. But every time I think about being compared to that happy little blond dynamo, I feel kind of honored.

Hoping you have something to be glad about,
Merry ME

* http://www.pagehalffull.com/humanyms/?p=817, 6 Nov 2006

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Loving You

"Love comes naturally, in unexpected ways, without any permission."
Unknown
Have I told you lately how much I love you?

Probably not because I've been driving all over town, and thinking of the kazillion things I need to do to get caught up. It's only the 6th day of the new year and I'm falling behind. I don't want to play catch up all year. I need to get busy now.

Anyway, just so you know. If you are reading this I'm sending love across the air waves or however a computer disseminates information. If it's love that makes the world go round I hope you are feeling dizzy! Cause it's not just me that loves you. Take a look around.

Love is in the blue sky, the snow drift, the cat at the end of your bed, the smile on your child's face, the soup on the stove, the smell of the wood crackling in the fireplace, the bird's song, the dog snoring at your feet, the song on the radio that makes your foot tap, the light that just turned green ....

Yes, my friend, you are loved. I thought I should say it out loud.
Merry ME

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dreaming - Part III

"A news story should be like a mini skirt on a pretty woman.
Long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting. "
Anonymous
(linked to a Texas newspaper editor)


I was interviewed today about the baby shower. Being interviewed is way different from interviewing - the side of journalism I know a little bit about. With lots of time to think of how I want to say something, I can usually get my thoughts into a somewhat readable order. I got so excited today talking about the baby shower, I did a lot of talking with my hands! Not easy to do on the phone, but I did it.

I went to church this afternoon to try to organize all the donations. There is so much good stuff I felt like I was in Babies R Us. Onsies and nightgowns. Socks and blankies. Hats and bibs. Oh my goodness, it was enough to make this grandmother wish her ovaries were all dried up! What is it about a Carter's baby undershirt that makes me want to rub it across my cheeks? The soft cotton fabric and the not-yet-puked-on smell makes me weak in the knees. I wonder if heaven smells like Johnson's & Johnson's baby lotion.

My heart skipped a beat when I laid my hands on a crocheted blanket and bonnet. I knew the lady who made it. She's about as crabby as they come. The first time she yelled at me I wanted to tell her to go *#!* ..... not real Christian, I know! But since that time, I've wooed her with kindness. I've listened when she fussed, and kissed her when she was done. I've broken through her hard crusty exterior and peeked into her tender heart. She's had a hard life. I give her the benefit of the doubt. She has arthritic hands so crocheting a baby blanket was really hard for her. But she did it. And for the first time in about three years she joined in the party. Watching her smile made me smile.

I don't know who's going to get that blanket. I'm pretty sure, however, that the love that went into it is going to keep that baby extra warm.

It's hard to tell a story like that without getting all emotional. Not sure if that will sell newspapers!

Still flying high and loving it,
Merry ME

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dreaming - Part II


"We never know how far reaching something
we may think, say or do today
will affect the lives of millions tomorrow."
B.J. Palmer

Don't you just love it when the planets align and all your planning comes to a successful end? Today, with the help of lots of great people, the 3rd annual baby shower went down in history as the biggest and best yet. Maybe I should be patting myself on the back but, really, all I feel is extremely grateful. Okay, throw in some pride for a job well done, but mostly awe for how well a plan can come together when everyone is working for the common good.

One of my favorite Christmas stories is a children's book, The Last Straw by Fredrick Thury. It's about an old, crotchety camel who is asked to join the Magi's caravan. Along the road people load him down with precious gifts for the baby king. By the time he makes it to Bethlehem, the old camel's back is ready to break. His knees buckle just as a child lays a piece of straw on the top of the pile. When he looks up he is nose to nose with the baby whose smile seems to take away all his pain.

I love this book. I read it every year. I asked Sweetie if he could turn the story into a skit for baby shower entertainment. He told me he would, then proceeded to do nothing. I tried to act like I wasn't concerned. After all, our relationship is based on trust isn't it? The more I nonchalantly questioned his progress, the more Sweetie retreated. Or so it looked to me.

I learned today I had no reason to fear. Sweetie pulled it off. While I'm pretty sure that the camel costume coming from my sister's church in Washington state was divine intervention, Sweetie and his cohorts did everything else. It was awesome!

Like a little kid who got everything she asked for from Santa, I'm going to bed at the end of this long day feeling happy. My heart is full. There's still work to do - lots of packing and shipping. But for tonight, all's well that ends well.

Here's hoping you'll dream big. And that all those dreams come true.
Merry ME

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dreaming

"Dreams are illustrations ... from the book your soul is writing about you."
Marsha Norman


In the days before Christmas three years ago I had a vision. When I closed my eyes I could almost put myself in the Bethlehem stable of Christian lore. As if I was looking on from the hayloft I watched as the young girl gave birth surrounded (as the story goes) by oxen and cattle and a donkey or two.

Wait a minute I thought. She's 14 years old. She's far away from home. She's laboring for the first time. Having babies is women's work. Where are the womenfolk to help her? Was Mary's betrothed going to be of any use when her contractions start coming fast and furious ? Or would he wring his rough carpenter's hands and pace around the barn?

I'm guessing it's one thing to be told by an angel that you're about to give birth to a king; and something else all together to be pushing the little Prince of Peace through the birth canal without your mom to wipe your brow. Do you think a heavenly host of angels singing "Glor-or-or-or-ia" in the background was a comfort or distraction?

I admit it ... sometimes I get a little carried away with my imaginings. But it was this vision that "birthed" the idea of having a baby shower in honor of the young Biblical couple. If anyone deserved a party it would have to be Mary and Joseph. All the gifts would be donated to parents in our own neighborhood who might find themselves in similar circumstances (without the donkey of course!) I got a few key people at church to sign off on the idea, and it came to be just like I imagined it. In front of an almost lifesized creche we gathered to sing, pray and gift. It was pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

Fast forward a couple of years. While preparing for the now "annual" event, I got an e-mail advertisement from the Southwest Indian Foundation. To my horror I learned that babies born on the New Mexico Indian reservation come into this world to parents that live below the poverty level. "Mothers do their best, but many live in hogans with no running water and no electricity. Dirt floors and small stoves for heat. Life is hard," wrote Bill McCarthy, CEO of the foundation. (http://www.southwestindian.com/)

Not long after that I got an email from Save the Children with this shocking information: "Each year, at least four million babies die during the first month of life, representing 40 percent of all deaths to children under five. While death rates among all children under 5 have declined in recent decades, newborn death rates have changed very little." I picked up a pair of knitting needles when I read that something as simple as a hat could save a newborn's life. (http://www.savethechildren.org/newsroom/2008/knit-one-save-one.html)

In my mind's eye pictures of waterless Native American homes, African mothers cuddling premature babies the size of Barbie dolls, and handmade caps piled high on the President-elect's desk mixed with the Christmas story like a waring blender set on high. It was in that moment the baby shower idea grew into "The Guild of the Christ Child."

Talk about miracles! I didn't hear any angels singing, but I swear I heard the small still voice of the Creator of all things good. Babies are dying all over the world and I believe I was tasked, just like that other Mary, to do something about it. But what can one person do?

Here's how Bill McCarthy answered that question. "Little by little....we can help. It seems daunting, but really, one baby at a time."

Tomorrow the 3rd Annual Baby Shower will be held. In addition to the regular gifts of clothes, diapers, and formula for our downtown mission, over 65 shoebox layettes have been put together with items donated by local school children, other churches, parishioners and perfect strangers. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people I don't even know. I get goosebumps thinking about the babies whose lives we'll be able to touch.

I close this post with the words of Sophia Lyon Fahs, "Each night a child is born is a holy night.
A time for singing. A time for wondering. A time for worshipping."


To that I say a hearty "Amen,"
Merry ME

Thursday, January 1, 2009

... another begins

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning
but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
Hal Borland


I went to visit some long-time friends today. Identical twin girls whom I first met when they were just toddlers (39 years ago!) are all grown up with children of their own. It was fun seeing them. It was fun being surrounded by the energy of children, not an old person. I learned that it's not being a parent these days.

I know what you're thinking - has it ever been easy to be a parent? Probably not. But, today I heard about living with juvenile diabetes, autism, sensory overload, ear aches and teenagers. Thank goodness for grandparents!


While I was driving home I listened to an NPR interview with an author who wrote a book about old people and wisdom.* Along with obviously trying to sell a book, the interviewer asked this question of his radio listeners:

Wisdom is _________.

How would you fill in the blank?I'm going to ask the question at the dinner and see what kind of answers I get. Personally I think the words of "The Gambler" are as good a definition of wisdom as any ".... you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run ..." That pretty much covers all circumstances where being wise counts most, don't you think?

Hoping you'll find wisdom in the year ahead,
Merry ME


*Writer Henry Alford talks about searching for wisdom by criss-crossing the country to interview people over the age of 70. His findings make up a new book entitled How to Live: A Search for Wisdom From Old People. http://www.timeout.com/newyork/articles/books/70172/old-joy