Saturday, February 28, 2009

Merry ME's Day Off

"How can there be so much difference
between a day off and an off day?
Unknown


I spent all day yesterday at the hospital with my father. He needed to have his pacemaker changed. We were told the procedure wouldn't take too long. It was supposed to be like driving your car into a stall at an old fashioned service station. Out with the old, in with new. Zip, bang, boom.

We checked in at 10am and then waited until after 2 for the surgery to begin. Fr. Georges sat with me the whole time. He helped make the time go faster. With Georges on one side of Dad's stretcher, me on the other we prayed, we talked, we laughed, we dozed. Still, the minutes seemed to stand still. There's no doubt that sitting in a curtained cubicle listening to the beep, beep of the blood pressure machine and seeing every other patient in the room be rolled away to the procedure du jour is a little like watching corn grow. All that sitting made us tired!

I awoke refreshed today to the sound I've come to recognize as the morning revelie of the pileated woodpecker who is drilling a major hole in the telephone pole outside my bedroom window. He is a magnificent bird. Think Woody Woodpecker and you've got a pretty good idea of what this guy's big red pileus looks like. I'm afraid of what he's doing to the pole but I don't want to say anything in case there is a nest inside. I won't be happy if the top of the pole falls off and we lose electricity, but I'll be way, way more upset if the utility company were to fill up the hole and there were baby woodpeckers inside it. I'm doubtful that this is possible, but I'm going to keep mum for a while longer.

Dad's new pacemaker must be working okay, because he slept like a baby. I fixed him brunch then turned him over to my sister for the afternoon. Sweetie and I were taking a day off. Sort of.

First we made a few stops to buy bread, veggies and fruit. Then we headed to an outdoor art show. The sun was warm but not unbearable. The blue sky was full of puffy white clouds. The same clouds that will bring rain and cooler temperatures tomorrow. Today it was quite delightful to be soaking up the Vitamin D and time away.

There were lots of cool things to see and covet. We checked out every jewelry maker looking for something made of "almandine." Almandine is the garnet like stone that has become Sweetie's wizard persona's gem of choice. I'm thinking it was a good thing that we couldn't find an almandine ring, because it would have been really expensive. Sometimes it's more fun to just look and not find so you aren't disappointed when we can't afford you find you can't afford the gem of your dreams.

We made the mistake of not getting a snack so by the time we headed for home, Sweetie's blood sugar had dropped. He gave me a kind of "hrumph" when I asked him to take my picture, not once but twice. Then Sweetie turned Grumpy called a passing motorist who happened to turn onto the street crowded we were crossing the "A" word. At this point I figured the afternoon's magic spell was broken. It was time for Cinderella and Cinderfella to get back to the real world.
[Photo: Merry Me standing behind a cool metal tree with black birds on it. That's the blackbird near the top of the photo that didn't quite make it into the shot! ]


[Photo: Sweetie smiling, but thinking "if she doesn't hurry up and snap this photo, I'm going to pass out."]


Still, it was a delightful way to spend a few hours. I'm grateful.
Merry ME

Thursday, February 26, 2009

International Pajama Day

"There should be a law that there's a pajama day every few weeks.”
Alyson Hannigan
Should I be embarrassed to admit it is almost 4:00 pm EST and I am still in my pj's? Should I confess that this is not the first time this week this has happened? What exactly constitutes the making of a habit? More than twice?
As habits go, there are some that could be worse but few as comfortable as I how am feeling. I wonder how close I am to actually being called a sloth. Then I think it's my house, my body is covered, no one but Dad and Sweetie are here to see the sloth so does it really matter what I wear? Then I ask myself what about those kids who walk down the street with their pants hanging down around their thighs and I ask myself am I on the verge of becoming something I detest? Then I think about what a good day it's been so far and I have to attribute some of it to the ease I'm feeling.
It's not as if on the days I decide to get dressed I clad myself in clothes that are so very different from my sleeping suit. Jeans and a T-shirt are my basic "big girl" attire. I have two pairs of jeans that are several years old and broken in to just the right shade of blue with threads that barely stay together.
This morning (morning being a relative term that could include any hour between 10 and 2!) I turned on the kitchen radio as I cleaned the bird cages. I've found that Ernst (the prize-winning German roller canary), Ewell and Hoppin' John (beautiful Lady Gouldian finches who haven't won any contests but would sure to be finalists on an Avian version of American Idol.*) like to sing along with the radio. For some reason that makes no sense to me, they especially like country gospels. Go figure!
So there I am wearing flannel bottoms and a sleeveless t-shirt, with my elbows deep in sudsy water full of bird paraphernalia. The birds are on the table not even looking at the bowl of lukewarm water that is there to entice them to bathe in something other than the little water cups that they drink from. The doors to the kitchen are closed to keep out the bird hungry cats who look innocent enough yet are anything but. Aretha Franklin comes on the radio. I've got the beat. I start dancing around the table with moves I thought were long forgotten. My booty starts shaking. I'm in the groove.
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T," sings Aretha.
"Right on!" sing I even though I'm running out of breath. Is this how Jane Fonda got started I ask the birds who have still shunned the bath water.
I guess you had to be there, but it was quite an enjoyable romp. I'm trying to make the most out of this staying close to home so Dad won't get lonely thing. Maybe I'm on to something.
I find, however, I'm a little late. Apparently hanging out in one's pajamas is not a new thing. Here I am getting all excited about International Women's Day only to discover I've totally missed out on SUPER International Pajama Day. Oh well, there's always next year ... or tomorrow for that matter!
you'll discover #1 that I'm not alone in my pajama wearing and #2 people who like to hang out in their pj's also apparently like to knit! Who knew?
For those of you who have to get dressed up to go to work, I hope you'll allow yourself a Pajama Day on the weekend. There's something very freeing about it. Enjoy!
Merry ME
* Gouldians are the perfect example of what God can do with his Divine paint brush. I think they are known for their beauty not their song. But when one decides to sing, he puffs himself up - chest up, back straight, head thrown back and lets out a whistle that makes the German Roller take notice. I don't know if it's better to listen to them or watch them sing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I WANT ...

2/25/2009

There aren't many things on my bucket list but visiting the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, CO is near the top. I want to go on an all girl pilgrimage with my sister, my daughter, and my nieces to this Rocky Mountain shrine.

Photo: http://web.mit.edu/barkowit/www/Aspen/DSCN1336.JPG

IWD Blog Party Theme Song

"... in this quickening light,
with the dawn of each new day,
let us look for love."
John Denver

I was reading a blog this morning where the author was recalling the music from 1968. She mentioned the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Procol Harem. I read through the list and was dismayed to find no mention of my all time fave - John Denver. What's up with that? Was I the only one who spent a great deal of my teenage angst on the fact that I wasn't Annie; that John wasn't singing directly to me?

I don't remember the year but I was cool enough to join some other girls at a Beach Boys concert. My first such outing I believe. I was stuck in the nose bleed section of the Coliseum barely able to see the floral design on the "Boys'" shirts. I think my first clue that I was out of my league and totally un-cool was the fact I expected to sit with my hands in my lap and listen to the music. Oh sure, I would have clapped my hands, or tapped my feet, but standing against the rail, pulling at my hair and screaming like those California boys were to die for seemed a little bit over the top to me. Did I do it? Sure. I was always one to blend in even if it meant screaming like a fool. To this day, I don't get the hullabaloo that goes on during a concert that everyone paid an extraordinary sum to attend.

I never went to a John Denver concert. I had an opportunity to do so shortly before his death. I think, however, I had crossed an I'm-too-old-for-that-kind-of-nonsense line. Sitting on the ground for hours before an outdoor concert only to have people stand up and scream blocking my view didn't appeal much to me. Party girl that I am, I opted to stay home. Then the guy went and flew his plane into the ocean.

In "American Pie," Don McLean sings about "the day the music died." I know it's not about a goofy folk singer with shaggy hair and hippy glasses. But I cried when I heard the news of Denver's untimely death. For me, the music did die that day.

I have a letter stuck away in one of my journals that I wrote to Denver when I was in one of my biggest funks. I wrote it as I sat in the middle of the living room floor crying over the loss of my love, sunshine on my shoulder, and a country road to take me home. I think it was a letter thanking him for immortalizing my life in his songs. (Is that what psychologists call being narcissistic? It's all about me?) I wanted him to know that when he sang, he was saying the words I felt but couldn't find. In my overly dramatic way, I was thinking of ending my life and wanted the letter to be one of those found in my belongings. It sounds stupid now, but it was very real then.*

At that time John and Annie had broken up (no more believing in fairy tales for me) so his songs were full of gloom - just like my life. I listened broken-hearted for him, for me and for lovers everywhere. "How can I leave you again," he sang about leaving Annie to play his music. I changed the words to "how can YOU leave me again?" about my husband leaving for yet another deployment.

Yes, he sang some sad songs, but he also sang "Wide Montana Skies" and "I Want to Live." Songs that even today I associate with smiling and keeping me in this world. The former was one of those songs that you turn up loud and push repeat so it plays over and over again. The drive to school wasn't very long but several teenage girls and one mom got our blood moving with that little ditty.

"I want to live" became my mantra. When I considered a bottle of pills a way out, or a looked at a kitchen knife wondering if it was sharp enough, I repeated softly to myself "IwanttoliveIwant to liveIwanttolive. As I moved from dark back to light I made a quilt that symbolized my inner butterfly breaking out of her crysalis and embroidered those words along the border. Writing John Denver a letter to say he'd saved my life didn't seem so far fetched.

Fast forward to this week. I grabbed a JD Greatest Hits cd and went for a ride. I needed to put some space between me and the boys. The songs filled my car, wrapping me in a blanket of bittersweet but comfortable memories. There were no teenagers in the car with me, but I belted out "wide Montana skies" if I was singing in the Morman Temple.

Then quietly, almost reverently Denver began to sing:
"There are children raised in sorrow on a scorched and barren plain ...."

When he got to the verse with these words ...
"We are standing all together, Face to face and arm in arm ..."

I had an immediate vision of all the women in the world singing this song, for themselves and their children.

I thought of the young girl in Pakistan I saw recently on the news whose fiance had thrown acid in face when she refused to marry him and how she's not ashamed to show her scarred but still beautiful face on TV.

I thought of a girl who was raped, shot and left for dead telling her story to a jury so that the attacker would spend 125 years in jail.

I thought of the women of the Sudan and Darfur who live in refugee camps because their homes have been destroyed by invading armies.

I thought of Native American women who live in hovels with no running water or electricity.

I thought of the Appalachian coal miner's widow who feeds her kids Mountain Dew because she can't afford milk.

I thought of International Women's Day and all the women around the world who struggle to live.

As I took my foot off the brake and moved forward I decided "I Want to Live" should be the official IWD Blog Party theme song. I'm not computer savvy enough to know how to link up with You tube or vice versa so I'll just give you this site and you can go there and take a peak. See if you don't agree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuB3_HLcFfk

Hoping that each of you will feel sunshine on your shoulder and smile for the man and his music,
Merry ME

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I WANT ....

2/24/2009

I want to hold this boy and his new puppy in my arms and remember when he was just a few weeks old and smelled like Johnson's Baby Lotion. I helped to raise him for the first five years of his life. He just turned 13. Where does time go?

When I look at this picture my heart overflows with love. ME

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pisces

"Setting healthy boundries means sometimes saying, "No."

According to the most recent newsletter from Three Sisters Spirit (http://www.sisterspirit3.com/ a fun site you should visit if you haven't already) the sun entered the sign of Pisces on Feb. 19th. I'm not exactly sure what that means as I'm not real into horoscopes but I found some of the stuff Dani wrote to be not only interesting but frightfully accurate.

For instance, "Pisces is the most emotional of the signs. Since there are no boundaries between them and the world around them, they often feel everything -- absolutely everything. Differentiating between what they feel and what someone else is feeling, especially someone they care about, is their greatest challenge."

For anyone who knows me, I'm guessing the part about being emotional is not exactly new news. I pretty much wear my feelings on my sleeve. Unless you are a moron, or perhaps, and engineer, you can read my moods like you would a barometer. Smiles and dancing means I'm feeling good a la James Brown. Hiding my tear stained face under the covers is a sure sign that I'm am more than a little blue. And slamming doors, using 4-letter expletives and swinging a baseball bat could be a pretty good sign that you might want to consider walking on the other side of the street.

That part about not being able to diffentiate between my feelings and someone else's is as close to a zodiacal (I made that word up!) home run as you can get. I think I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. One time in a 12-step meeting a fellow stepper described himself as a "chameleon on plaid." I think this is the absolute best description of a person who has no boundaries. In fact, I was well past 30-something when I even heard the word boundaries associated with feelings and emotional well-being.

I've worked on boundary issues. I've read Co-dependent No More a dozen times. Yet, an innocent comment can be made that shows me just how far I still have to go. I think it might be easier to wrap myself in barbed-wire fencing to protect myself from others' thoughts and judgements than it is to keep healthy emotional boundaries.

For instance, last night after dinner, Sweetie brought up a subject he has been ruminating on for a few days. Something along the lines of "we are born with with everthing we need to know about how to get along in the world. If this is true, then why are we always learning new things - or struggling to know new things?"

Since I believe we are all born with the spark/breath of the Divine One in us, then it follows that we are born with everything we need to know. For me Love is the key. In our human-ness, however, we lose sight of the love because we are bombarded with too much stimuli and too many negative emotions. Being true to the love is a moment by moment task that most aren't able to maintain. I suggested that even Mother Theresa found herself angry or hateful at times. Probably not for long, but long enough to have moved away from love.


Then Sweetie, looks at my dad and asks what he thought about all this. Whether he feigned ignorance or didn't hear because he wasn't paying attention I don't know, but it took a few times to get a responce. Maybe we should have left well enough alone.

Here's what Dad had to say: "I think this discussion is futile so why should I participate. I'm an engineer. 2+2=4. There's no point in speculating about something that has no answer unless you just enjoy the exercise.


What I heard: That's a stupid question. I'm not interested. Talking to you is a waste of time.


My reaction wasn't totally over the top, but I felt my stomach quiver (as if someone were knitting in there - see http://byrdonfire.blogspot.com/2009/02/getting-grounded-against-stress.html). I thought I was going to cry or throw something.

What I said: I consider having conversation - even lofty, non-answerable conversation - a way to stay connected to you. I want a connection between us.

He said: "I feel connected when we sit across the room from each other in silence."

I thought: "Huh?????????" Clearly there is a lack of communication here that doesn't have anything to do with Dad's hearing aid.

I want my dad to change who he is to accommodate my feelings. I want him to be nice, communicative and friendly towards me because it makes me feel like I'm worthy. On the flip side, I don't always want to accommodate him. Is giving him the space he needs to be as negative about life as he wants to be any skin of my back?


The missing boundary, as I see it, is the fact that whatever my dad says/thinks seems to affect MY truth, who I am, what I feel. And the opposite of that is also true. Very little of what I say or think seems to have any bearing on my dad. In the end I get my feelings hurt because I seem to have no boundary - no voice. I have a voice, but I give it away. He's always right - I'm always wrong.


Note to self: Merry ME, this is pretty screwed up thinking even for a fish!

Back to last night's put down. In order not to explode, I changed the subject, and, as is par for the course, took a shower. I moped. I chewed on some anger. I slept fitfully and had a dream about pushing my father UP stairs in a wheelchair, with water swirling around us on both sides of the stairway - very hard going, to say the least. This morning as I tossed it all over again, and watched some horses who were close enough to a fence to touch, my mood lightened. I think I took myself back to that place of love which started the whole thing.

Mtr. Theresa is reputed to have said, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." Saving the money I might spend on therapy, I asked myself what would I do for a stranger with whom I have no vested interest? How would I care for him in his waning years?

Hmmm. I'd sit with him. I'd empty his bedside commode. I wash the bedclothes. I'd listen. I'd try to be present. There would be natural boundaries neither I nor the stranger would cross. There would be a two-way street of respect. The love that is born in each of us, that may be lost in his linear world or my emotional ocean, is not gone. If given a chance it can light the darkness of our differences.

Why is it so hard to do the same for the man who raised me? Why am I always on my guard and so quick to react? Big questions. Maybe that's what Dani meant when she wrote in her newsletter, "It is time to withdraw and limit some of your social activities so that you can pay attention to the larger issues that direct your life. "


Funny, limiting my social activities is just what my father has proposed.

Mulling it all over and thinking I could use some feedback,
Merry ME

Friday, February 20, 2009

International Women's Day Blog Party Reminder

March 8, 2009
IWD is a major day of global celebration
for the economic, political and social achievements
of women past, present and future.


In the days since deciding to host an International Women's Day Blog party, I've spent a lot of time in thought about the women I know. Zeroing in on just one woman to acknowledge as having had a major impact on my life is much more difficult than I thought it might be. It's good, I believe, to think back over one's life and remember the ones who have helped make us who we are and who we still might be.

I asked the men in my life what women they might pick. My father, ever one to challenge a perfectly good thought, thinks everyone will naturally pick their mother, so what's the point? Has any one woman had any more impact on a girl than her mother, he asked without looking up from his dinner plate.

Sweetie acknowledged that his mother had an impact on his life but in a very negative way. It wasn't until he was older that he could embrace that negativity and use it as a driving force rather than a hindrance. As if to prove to his mom he wasn't a loser, he became a winner. (Makes me think of the Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue!) Still, if he had to pick an influential woman he's not sure he'd pick his mother.

When asked, Cherish suggested that it depends on where a girl is in her life. For example, a mother might impact a younger girl's life or one just becoming a mother herselv. However if said girl is in college trying to discover her future path, then maybe she will be more influenced by a favorite author if she wants to be a writer, or scientist if she wants to be a doctor, or film critic if she wants to go into film making. Out of the mouths of babes, I thought. Good point!

To me it's a given - mothers are the primary force behind most women. For good or for bad, our mothers do wield a great deal of power. My own mother, gone for 5 years, still lives in the shadows of my life.

Even though it seems a bit like being a control freak, I thought I'd make some IWD Blog Party guidelines. The bottom line is if you want to come to the party, please do. And bring any woman/women (the more the merrier) you feel like bringing.

  • She can be a woman from history or down the street.
  • She can be young or old.
  • She can be alive or long deceased.
  • She can be powerful who roars so that people take notice, or someone who moves mountains with quiet gentleness.
  • She can be related to you or someone you'd like to meet one day.
  • She can be in any line of work or play.
It's your decision. The only restriction I'll put on your pick is that be a woman. That's not to say that men aren't important but it is, after all, International Women's Day.

On that same note, I realize that my first broadcast email about this party was only sent to women. I had women on the brain and didn't think much beyond that. After talking to my menfolk, I realized that I had really narrowed the playing field. I think it will be interesting to get a masculine perspective on the importance of women in their lives.

So spread the word. Ask the questions ... what woman has had the biggest impact on your life? What woman would you like to acknowledge by name or by deed? Then come back to this blog on March 8 and tell us who the women are by leaving a comment. You don't have to join anything. You can comment anonymously, but I hope you don't.

I'm excited. I hope you are too.
Merry ME

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I WANT ...

2/19/2009

I want to tiptoe through a tulip field with my sweet baby girl. And when we've taken in all the beauty we can possibly hold we'll stop for a spot of tea. Just Wendy and me whiling away the day - no cares, no worries.
Ahhhh serenity, ME
"Babies! What a wonderful way to start people!"
Mary Engelbreit

Here's the newest member of my extended family:
Christopher Carson
Warner
aka "Kit"
Born: Feb. 18, 2009, 2:29AM, 8 lbs 9 oz.
ProudMom & Dad: Steve and Aly
Proud Grammy: Aunt Letty

Welcome to the world Little Kit.

May God bless you with love and joy and laughter for all your days.

Sweetie

"Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall."
Oliver Goldsmith
My Sweetie has started on a new journey. Or maybe it's an old journey that is just taking a new path. Regardless, I think it's fun to watch the process.

A few weeks ago he facilitated a 7-week class at a local high school. The class was put together by Junior Achievement to help students begin thinking about a career path. It was not just a "what do you want to be when your grow up" class, although that was certainly a part of it. Sweetie had the teens thinking and talking about morals, values, and personal truths. Sadly, it was a hard concept for some of the them to grasp. As is often the case, the teacher's eyes were opened to new vistas, at the same time as the students. At the end of the 7th week, Sweetie had made a good impression, if not a home run. Known to the students (behind his back til the last class) as Col. Sanders, Sweetie gave the juniors and seniors some sweet tasting food for thought. The seeds of a good future have been planted. Now they just need tending.

The experience was a positive one for my Sweetie. He went back to his JA advisor excited to be given another opportunity(s) to teach, mentor and coach. It is my humble opinion, but I believe it with my whole heart, that these are the things this man was put on the earth to do. He struggles sometimes with his identity and purpose. Like most of us he often asks the question "who am I?" or "why am I here?" His life's road has been a bumpy one. He's not always made good choices, but he's persevered. When he needed to he took some time out, re-grouped, then set out again to find his way.

In the years that I've known him, I've seen Sweetie blossom as has he found his niche - his life's purpose. First he tried on coaching like one might try on an expensive new coat. An I-know-it's not-me-but-I'll-try-it-just-for-fun kind of experiment. As if standing in front of a full-length mirror in a store dressing room, Sweetie turned one way, then another, checking the size and weight of the future on his shoulders. To his surprise, coaching fit. He began to feel at home in his own skin, perhaps for the first time in his life.

So he studied. He coached; he was coached. He studied some more. I watched as he learned to trust in his abilities. The lessons he was learning to help others were working on him, from the inside out. It's not all been rosy. He's had set backs. He's not been bombarded with clients. The country's economic situation often excludes the extras. It doesn't seem right, but at this time a life coach seems more like a luxury than a necessity. Yet Sweetie keeps plugging away.

Tomorrow he goes to another school with the same JA curriculum. This time Sweetie will be walking into a classroom of kids who have actually been labeled "losers," so his approach will be a little different. He has decided to wear a wizard costume, lovingly handmade by ME. The ones who seemingly have nothing more to lose but everything to gain should sit up and take note as Sweetie becomes the personification of everyone's "inner wizard" - the one who's magic lies in defeating the demons of doubt and criticism. His goal is to do for just one of those troubled kids what no one was able to do for him. His prayer is to show someone who is lost in a forest of doubt, despair, anger and sadness, that there is a way out. There is a Buddhist proverb that goes something like, "if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking." By sharing his own story as well as the JA information, Sweetie is going to show the kids that is possible to keep moving forward even when all odds are against you.

Another proverb says, "When the student is ready, the master will appear." We have no way of knowing, but I'm betting that tomorrow is will be the first day of a new journey for the students AND the master. If Sweetie is able to speak to the heart of just one of those present, then I think the words will echo back to his own knowing place. The place that needs to trust he's going in the right direction.

Stay tuned,
Merry ME

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I WANT ...



2/17/2009
I want a DQ hot-fudge sundae covered with whipped cream and nuts. Yum!

Somebody's Got to Do It

(I got sidetracked, but then what's new? ME)

"All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial."
Christopher Marlowe
I had to get up early for some lab work and to play taxi driver. When I got home I was delighted to see what a beautiful day it had become. A hint of chill in the air, but the sun shone brightly and big lazy clouds streaked against the sky. A good day I decided to take dad out to the new National Cemetery. Normally I try to avoid tasks like this. To me it seems like my father spends an inordinate amount time thinking about his death. I try to balance that by encouraging him to live. Perhaps in the end it all evens out. I think, however, that my looking on the sunny side only serves to piss him off.

Whether it is stumbling around on his walker, trying to predict when "the cancer" will get him, or counting his money, Dad's mind is never too far from his imminent demise and the details that goes along with it. Lately, deciding where to have his cremains interred has been a puzzlement to him.
At first he thought the Peace Garden at the church where he has been a member for over 40 years. Dad has done a lot to dress it up and make it presentable. The "Patty" oak has grown several feet in the years since it was planted as a memorial to my mother. It stands as a silent sentinel at the front of the garden. Dad is afraid that the church is going to fall to ruin and the garden paved over to make room for another Burger King. I don't think that will happen. Still I guess it's possible that it could be, God forbid, taken over by the Baptists!

Next on Dad's list of earthly places for everlasting rest is Arlington National in DC. Personally, I like this idea. I feel like Dad's 25+ years of service have earned him a spot among the heroes. I feel like it would be a dignified burial. It would not be, however, particularly easy (or inexpensive) to get there. This is where pomp and circumstance collides with Dad's practicality. He is most likely going to make a decision based on dollars and cents, even if he's going to be in a box.

Phase One of the local national (is that an oxymoron?) cemetery hasn't been opened long. Sadly it was doing a booming business today. From what I saw, it looked like the people in charge are quite efficient at getting the job done. In the time we were there, they did two internments and had a cortege lined up for a third.
I was taking some pictures when a rifle salute blasted the stillness sending shivers down my back. I noticed that as the bugler began to play Taps, the flags began to blow in the breeze, as if to stand at attention for those few minutes of the ceremony.

My Dad stood and stared at the surroundings for much longer than I thought was possible. In his silent and stoic way, Dad took it all in. He nodded to the Chaplain who walked past us. He gazed at the rows of white headstones, the casket being lowered into a vault, the dried winter grass and the flags flying at half mast. (FYI: It's lowered 30 minutes before a funeral and kept there until 30 minutes after.)
I looked around myself, but I also watched Dad as he observed what was happening around him. I couldn't help but wonder if he was remembering his days in the military. The smell of diesel fuel on a Navy transport ship, Seabee duty stations, a pretty girl with a hibiscus behind her ear and Naval Academy friends who have already been laid to rest. I know he misses them. I think he's ready to be with them. Does he seem angry all the time because he's been left behind?

It was a nice day. Kind of bittersweet, yet nice. Now Dad has something new to think about. I hope whatever decision he makes it will bring him peace.
Merry ME

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I WANT ...

2/12/2009

I want TV news crew to stop invading people's privacy in the middle of a humongous tragedy. Little Haleigh is still missing. Keep praying.

Postal Woes

"I have received no more than one or two letters in my life tht were worth the postage."
Henry David Thoreau

Dear President O'Bama,

I'm sorry to be sending this letter by email but I don't feel like I have a choice.

I've just left the local Post Office and discovered that it costs almost $25.00 ($22.85, but who's counting the pennies?) to send my children 2 small boxes of Valentine cookies. Quite frankly I was a little shocked. Sadly, I considered keeping the cookies, eating them myself, and sending a nice e-card instead. Somehow, that just doesn't feel (taste) the same.

I am writing to you to see what exactly can be done about the continuous inflation of postal rates. Can it possibly be true that a square inch of sticky paper will soon cost the letter-writing consumer 44 cents? Even considering some of the pretty stamps that are on the market, I think the cost is a bit on the high side.

I like technology as much as the next person. I realize that computers have made communicating with each other in this country and around the world so quick and easy that snail mail has become obsolete. Even though I was once President and founder of the now defunct Down With E-Mail (DWEM) club, I have become as attached to my Internet provider as you have with your Blackberry. Yet, I continue to look forward to the daily offerings my mail carrier, Merlon, brings to my front door. Like my faithful Labrador, I still feel a twinge of excitement as the mail is dropped through the slot. I enjoy getting catalogs and magazines, but if it would help save the life of a tree or make the price of postage go down I'd give up my subscriptions. I'd even be willing to go to on-line banking and bill paying. I'm afraid, however, that when all the downsizing is done, it would be a case of less is more, i.e. less mail requires more postage per letter.


I don't think that a mother should be asked to stop sending goodie boxes and greeting cards to her children just because the government can't effectively run its postal service. There is great maternal delight in mixing dough, baking and decorating cookies that her children have been enjoying for well over 30 years. There's also a special feeling a mom gets when she wraps each cookie in saran, gently lays it in a box and covers them all with Styrofoam peanuts. I don't know about other mothers, but I know that the waiting in the slow-moving line at the Post Office doesn't bother me as much as usual when I know that in a few days my kids are going to get a box filled not only with cookies but love. (Okay, I admit it, I'm not a patient waiter, especially in a crowded PO at noon when each and every person there stands knee deep in cardboard boxes and the same organization that wants to charge an astronomical price for shipping said boxes only schedules 2 clerks instead of the required 5) Are mothers across the country going to be asked to put a price on their love? How much is it worth - $5? $10? I think $22.85 is nearing my limit.

Let me ask you this, Mr. President. When was the last time you stood in line a few weeks before Christmas, without your Secret Service personnel keeping watch for overworked and disgruntled postal workers, to mail a five pound fruit cake to far away family? When you were asked to pay more for the postage than you did for fruits and nuts, did your heart skip a bit? Did you shake your head and plead for postal mercy from the bedraggled person on the other side of the counter?

I've been known to make an extra batch of cookies for the clerks at Christmas time. It sounds like a bribe and perhaps it was. But it was in the spirit of the season. You'll be glad to know that the men and women who work for you, are above bribery. The treats usually brought smiles but never a lowering of fees.

I will close this appeal by saying, I hope Malia and Shasha will never be away at college pulling an all nighter and wishing for a goodie box from their mom and dad who cannot afford the postage. The government has bailed out bankers and car companies. You've put a cap on White House employee salaries. Please consider tweaking the USPS before Easter. My $13.00 stimulus check won't come close to covering the cost of sending chocolate bunnies and jelly beans to Seattle.

Good luck and God bless.
Sincerely,
Merry ME

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I WANT ....

2/10/2009

Tonight I want 5 year old Haleigh Cummings to be found safe and sound. It's been almost 24 hours since she was last seen. Why do these things happen? O Lord, please let it turn out ok.

Praying hard,
ME

MyFOXTampaBay.com

Monday, February 9, 2009

I WANT ...

2/9/2009
“One must always have one's boots on
and be ready to go.”
Michel de Montaigne


I want these yellow boots. You can't tell from the picture but they look like they have a case of multi-colored measles. I'm not exactly sure I want them. I just do.

I'm not sure when or if I'd ever wear them. Sweetie sees me wearing them when I'm working in the yard. But that would assume that I spend enough time working in the yard to warrant the forty dollar price tag. I'm guessing not! Also, might I point out that these boots are made of rubber and come up to my knees. I'm guessing even if I did feel like working in the yard in the middle of a hot Florida summer wearing the boots I would be asking for an ugly case of foot fungus. Heat, sweat and rubber don't always mix well.

There is, however, the possibility that these boots might come in very handy when living in Florida during the hurricane season . If the nearby river flooded its banks and the water started rising, and I had to crawl up on my roof to be saved, I think these boots are cool enough that any mission minded rescuer would have no problem spotting me. And if my children were watching the national news and saw someone being hoisted onto a helicopter carrying 2 black cats and a dog and wearing spotted boots, well then, they'd know I was safe.

I'm making a pretty strong case in favor of the boots. Still, in the back of my mind I hear my daughter lecturing me on my spending habits. Are rubber boots what I really need to spend my money on right now? Probably not, but a girl can dream, can't she?
Polka dot loving, Merry ME

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I WANT ...

2/8/2009

I satisfied the urge for nachos today. Rather decadent I admit, but oh so good.

Tonight I look around the room and want to get it picked up so I don't have to face it in the morning. How hard can that be? The problem is one of the baskets that has to be emptied is full of stuff that needs to be ironed. I don't mind ironing, in fact I kind of enjoy it. But I'm not in the mood to do it tonight. Guess I'll just move the basket around and make myself think I've cleaned the clutter!

Yeh, I know, I'm easily convinced!

International Women's Day

"All I was trying to do was get home from work."
Rosa Parks

I received a bulletin from Women to Women International announcing the upcoming International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8, 2009. According to the information, IWD "is a time for women around the world join together in celebration of the intelligence, strength, courage and beauty of women. Since it's inception IWD has been a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world without regard to their national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political differences."

Personally I've never heard of this day but in doing some research I find it has been celebrated for almost 100 years. The very first IWD was held on March 19, 1911. March 19. Hmmmm. That date sounds familiar!

Women to Women International suggests that individuals hold local events to celebrate women and to the raise awareness of the global food crisis. So I got thinking. I'm a woman. Why not host some kind of an Internet IWD/Merry ME birthday celebration?

How does this sound? In the next month be thinking about a special woman who has made an impact on your life, or in your world. It could be your mother, your aunt, or your daughter. It could be a friend, a teacher, or a co-worker. Maybe it's the clerk at the grocery store who always remembers your name and never puts the bread on the bottom of the bag; or a woman you know who is battling breast cancer but still manages to volunteer at her child's grade school. Maybe it's the angel who came into your life when you needed her most then seemed to vanish when you were back on your feet. I believe each of us knows someone we could write about.

I'll use my blog as a place to collect your tributes. On March 8th just leave a woman's name and a little something about her and you picked her in the comment section. Spread the word, if you have your own blog keep the party going.

Be thinking it about it. I'll give you a reminder between now and then. I'm excited! Hope you'll join in the celebration.

Here's to women the world over and you too,
Merry ME

For more information go to: http://www.womenforwomen.org/events-supporting-women/international-womens-day.php


or http://www.internationalwomensday.com/first.asp

A few more words on anger

"Sticks and stones will break my bones,
but names will never hurt me."
English Proverb

I think this little ditty was made up by a mother who had to deal one too many times with a crying toddler who had been teased at the playground. It sounds good on paper, or coming out of a loving Mom's mouth, but in reality it is "ca ca." It has been my experience that broken bones mend in about 6 weeks. A child's psyche, on the other hand, can stay bruised for years. I don't remember much my older sister said nice to me. Yet I remember well being called "Toothpick" "Stringbean" and "Spider Legs." Oh sure, today I'd love for someone to call me by those skinny person monikers, but it isn't going to happen. These days I'm often reminded by someone who who should know better, about the size of my rear end.

Name calling just to be mean and nasty is just that -mean and nasty. I'm not sure why but for some reason people take a ghoulish delight sometimes in being nasty. And when one is good and angry - you know that red hot anger when steam starts coming out of your ears - calling the object of that anger by a name accented with four letter expletives is downright therapeutic. Not real grown up, but helpful.

I was just reading my list of blogs. I like to go to one, then branch out from commenter to commenter. I always find something of interest to keep me entertained. One of my first stops today was Fire Byrd's site. (http://byrdonfire.blogspot.com/) On Friday she wrote about a little run in she'd had with an insurance agent. Having recently been treated for breast cancer, the GUY on the other end of the phone seems to think she'll be an insurance risk long after her doctors have pronounced her cured.

While there are, I'm sure, kind and courteous people who work for insurance companies, this chap was not one of them. I understand that insurance companies are in the business of making money at a sick person's expense (pun intended!). Still you'd think the people they hire to handle the phones would at least be polite when they are sticking it to a customer. Most of the time I try to be tolerant of people who have to talk on the phone for a living. It can't be easy even if they get to wear one of those fancy little earpiece/microphone thingees. I do, however, draw the line at gentility when talking to an insurance rep. I think you have to go in with your dukes raised or they will mop the floor with you.

Here's what I loved about "Byrdie's" post and the 22 comments followed. To start off with, Byrd called the guy on the phone a "mindless spotty oik." I'm not sure what that is, but I think it has quite a ring to it. In fact, I know a few people I'd like to try it on! Many of FireByrd's followers, all friends and loving supporters that I've noticed is a common characteristic of blog watchers, came through with cyberhugs, advice, and more name calling. Each name, I think, is better than the last: little shit, bastard, wanker, and my favorite "fuckwit." These slams all have a bit of what I might call a British edge to them, as opposed to the typical American epithet, "asshole."

Reading Byrd's blog on the heels of writing a very dignified post on anger, I am thinking she might have her emotions tamed a bit better than I do. Sometimes, it's better to just let the steam off instead of trying to intellectualize everything.

So what names do you use?
Just wondering,
Merry ME

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I WANT ...

2/7/2009

I want a big plate of nachos dripping in cheese and chilies, and guacamole. An ice cold beer would be good to go with them, but I'd settle for an iced tea.

Dad got off schedule today because of the funeral. He wants popcorn for dinner.

Guess I'll have to wait for the nachos. Just as well. They'd probably give me a stomach ache.
"Do not teach your children never to be angry;
teach them how to be angry."
Lyman Abbott


I was having a conversation with my son recently. Actually, he was wound up tight as a drum so he was talking and I was mainly listening. I marvel at his grown-up take on life. There was a time I wasn't sure he'd survive adolescence, let alone be able to talk about it with intelligence and candor. I marvel at the things he says and wonder when he got so smart!


In this conversation he said, "Our anger doesn't go away. I've just learned to tame it."


Huh? This wild ass, quick-triggered, you-don't-know-who-you're-messin'-with madman has learned to tame his anger? That made me chuckle. But I realized the very fact that he's still alive and not doing time in prison is because he has tamed, if not all, at least some of his demons.


Later on I started thinking about what he said. I wanted to disagree. If anger doesn't go away why have I spent so much time and money in a therapist's office I wanted to ask. I'm a true believer in the power of talk therapy. Even the parts where you have to go deep down inside and touch the burning anger of your soul. I have been working from the belief that when you do this, the anger will go away. Could it be that I was wrong?


Then I started thinking about what made John so angry when he was a kid. Did it come from my side of the gene pool. I remember that my ex had a slow fuse but a quick burn. His ears and face would turn a deep red, his teeth would clench and the set of his jaw was enough to make most people back off. His anger never lasted long and could be curbed with a cold brew. I saw his mother once throw a chair at a sliding glass door. I'm not sure if she was angry or downright crazed. Mostly I think of my in-laws as being more bark than bite.

The mild mannered women from my family of origin, on the other hand, can cut you down with a black-eyed stare or a tongue honed to steel-edged sharpness. Could it be that the unresolved anger of my foremothers who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower still resides in the DNA of every generation since?

Could having English/Irish ancestors forced to leave hearth and home to make a new life on virgin New England soil explain why I can get so angry, so fast. I've been trying to tame my inner demons for as long as I can remember. At the same time, some of my earliest memories are of my mother looking like a woman possessed going after someone with a well-worn and perfectly aimed flip flop. I grew up swearing I would not duplicate my mother's penchant for anger. And I grew up falling far short of that goal.

There is a button that sits somewhere between my gall bladder and my spleen that gets pushed when I least expect it. I don't know what I hate more, the anger itself or what it does to me. My sisters and I have all developed our own anger style. Some scream, some use words dripping in hurtful venom, some hit, some retreat in silence. At least one of us stomps off in a huff, and does all of the above before deflecting the anger back to the gall bladder area from where it came.

Depression, say the experts, is anger turned inward.

"I don't do anger" I said to a trusted therapist.

"Mary," she responded, "don't ever say that again." "You do anger, and that's why you're here."

Who me? And whether I'm 5 or 50 anger still scares me. Whether I'm the rebuked or the rebuker, I hate what anger does to my soul. So why can't I stop it?

Maybe John is right. Perhaps anger doesn't go away. Perhaps the lesson I need to learn today, tomorrow and the day after that is that my anger monster, like the lion in the circus, must be tamed. Before I let the lion circle around me thinking he is king of the cage, I must let it roar. I must look at his big teeth and sharp claws, then, with skill and mastery, I can put my head in his mouth. I don't have to be afraid, because I am the one in charge. Anger must be felt and dealt before it threatens to eat everything in it's path.

Out of the mouths of 35-year old babes or wise sages like Lemony Snicket, "Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them."

How is it that my child got so smart, and the mother is still learning?
Merry ME

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chicken Soup

"The meat taken should be that of hens or roosters
their broth should also be taken
because this sort of fowl has virtue
in rectifying corrupted humours."
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimonides

Fr. Georges was with Anne when she drew her last breath (See "We Are Spirits" post below) That night at church, Georges was visibly worn out. Even when you believe that death is not an end but a beginning, letting go is no easy task. "I felt it in my heart," he told me as we sat together in the quiet church. Because he cared so much, I think he felt a physical pain as well as an emotional one.

A few days later Georges was sick. Sore throat, coughing, sneezing, aching, fever sick. He needed a nurse, or at the very least a good dose of chicken soup. Merry ME to the rescue!


I talked to Georges yesterday and he was feeling better. He said he was sure it was the soup. I wonder what it is about chicken soup that restores a person to good health?


According to an article by Nanci Baren* healers began prescribing the broth of the fowl as long ago as the 12th century. Noted Jewish philosopher and physician "Rabbi Moshe ben Maimonides used his 'fowl brew' to treat such things like hemorrhoids, constipation, and even leprosy. He strongly believed and especially praised the brew's healing power for respiratory illnesses like the common cold."


Breaking chicken soup down to its natural essence, scientists will tell you that chicken soup is full of amino acids, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and anti-oxidants. But one doesn't need a Bunsen burner to know that it is the warm, chickeny goodness of the soup that makes you feel better. When heated to perfection the broth keeps you hydrated, while the poultry vapors open up stuffed sinuses.


However, the combination of chicken, carrots, onions, and celery is no pharmaceutical elixir. No, the fowl broth needs a little something extra to work its magic. Georges says he thinks the special ingredient is love. I think he may be on to something.



Merry ME
* http://reacharticles.blogspot.com/2008/08/does-chicken-soup-have-healing-powers.html

I WANT ....

2/6/2009

I can't think of anything special I want tonight. Maybe to float down a long lazy river on a hot summer afternoon. Or to sit on a porch swing, in the same afternoon sun, sipping iced tea and looking across a green meadow.

The more I think about it, the more I think want some solitude.

Just me, myself and I. Mmmmmmm.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I WANT ....

2/5/2009

Earlier this evening I wanted to smack something. I wanted to smack something really, really hard. Like the sound a bat makes as it hits a ball that you know is going to fly out of the ballpark.

WHACK !

Instead, I went to my room, slammed the door, let out a roar and counted to 100. Then I began to blow the steam off.

Eventually it was time for dinner and I had to come out of the cave.

I ate dinner, played cards, and did the dishes. I ate 2 bags of popcorn while I watched a dumb movie where Woodie Harrelson played a gay guy with a southern accent (except he sounded more like the Godfather than Col. Sanders) who wore fancy schmancy double-breasted suits and a wig.

Now it's time for bed and the smacking urge has left me feeling tired.

I want to get to the point in my life when I can let a stupid comment pass by me like the ball soaring over the grandstand. I want that to happen before my father dies. I don't want his power to make me insane hanging on forever.

Unpleasantly sulking ME

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I WANT

2/4/2009
"A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen,
is that you can take it to bed with you. "
Daniel J. Boorstin

I want to go to crawl into bed, hunker down under a load of blankets and read the book I started last night about a puppy that was adopted by a Marine in Iraq. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it has a happy ending.

Nighty nite,
Merry ME

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I WANT ....

2/3/2009

"Falling in love with someone isn't always going to be easy
... anger .... tears ... laughter.
It's when you want to be together despite it all.
That's when you truly love another. I'm sure of it"
Unknown*

For some reason known only to the universe Sweetie got upset today over a bottle of Gingerale. I didn't understand the question he asked, and he got mad because I didn't understand. I think. Maybe it was something else altogether. Maybe it was me. May it was him. Who knows?

Here's what I've learned. It's not so important why the Gingerale set him off. What's imortant is that we can exchange unpleasantries, take a time out, then have a conversation that consists of forgiveness and hugs.

This is how I know we're good together. We both value communication more than the "mad" silence that follows heated disagreements. I think we've both found great success in our ability to have a meeting of the minds without calling the other person a big fat butthead. This is a good thing!

I want to perfect my communication skills with others, i.e. my father. I don't know for sure but I think there are some trust issues that go along with it.

*http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/want/

We Are Spirits

So far this year I've attended 2 funerals. There will be another on Saturday. Sometimes I go to funerals out of respect for a friend who's lost someone close. Or I go because someone in the church has passed away. If I believe we're one big family, then it's only right to grieve as a family and to celebrate as a family a life, even if I don't know that person. The home-going celebration this weekend will be for a person I've known for several years. We weren't extra close but I'll miss her.

I've watched her age; seen her body and strength gradually fade away. She spent the last few weeks in the hospital. For a couple of days, she rallied. Then she left this world and those of us who loved her are left with hurting hearts.

I don't know what happens when we cross from this plane to the next but I have an idea that works for me. I went to a psychic a few months after my mother passed away and she told me that when mom crossed over her parents were there and so was a man with an "M" name. My brother-in-law, Mick, died in 1975. My mom always thought he was special. I love that he was there to welcome her to the other side.

In my mind's eye the process is kind of like what you see at the end of a marathon with crowds of people lining the street cheering the runners home. Encouraging loved ones who have already finished the race smile and clap. As the runner crosses the finish line, and stumbles on wobbly legs, there's someone there to hold them up. Love adds the strength needed to get to the place where the eternal bowl of oranges and ice water await. I am comforted by this vision.

I like to think that when Anne was taking her last few breaths she wasn't looking back. No, she was staring at her beloved Jack who was there with open arms urging her home.

The funeral I went to last week was for the step father of a man I've known since we were in high school. That time in a kid's life when fathers, especially step-fathers, are at best necessary nuisances. I don't recall much warmth and understanding between Fred and Pete. Yet over the years, as Pete stood by his wife (Fred's mother) during her long battle with Alzheimer's, I think Fred saw a different side of the man who had been a thorn in his teenage side. In his eulogy, the Pastor spoke of a man of kindness, generosity and integrity. He didn't mention anything about Pete withholding the keys to the car for reasons unknown to the kid who felt deserving.

It made me wonder why it is that we have to go to funerals to find out about people. Why do we start reading the obituary page with great regularity after we pass the age of 50? I realize that the not-so-good traits of a person are usually not spoken at a funeral oration. [Although I have seriously considered saying, when the time comes, "you might not know this about my Dad but he could be a real horse's ass." I doubt I'll say it, but that doesn't make it untrue.] Why does a person have to die for us to take the time to acknowledge what he/she means to us? Shouldn't we be about the business of knowing and loving people in their lifetime, not just on the day they are laid to rest?

At Pete's funeral, the pastor quoted Benjamin Franklin. I came home and looked up quote. I think it is just about as good a way to say farewell as any. I share it with you for no other reason than I have funerals on my mind.



We Are Spirits
To Elizabeth Hubbart
DEAR CHILD, PHILADELPHIA, February 22, 1756.

I condole with you, we have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life; 'tis rather an embrio state, a preparation for living; a man is not completely born until he be dead: Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals? A new member added to their happy society? We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God -- when they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure -- instead of an aid, become an incumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way. We ourselves prudently choose a partial death. In some cases a mangled painful limb, which cannot be restored, we willingly cut off -- He who plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely since the pain goes with it, and he that quits the whole body, parts at once with all pains and possibilities of pains and diseases it was liable to, or capable of making him suffer.
Our friend and we are invited abroad on a party of pleasure -- that is to last forever -- His chair was first ready and he is gone before us -- we could not all conveniently start together, and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and we know where to find him. Adieu
"A new member of a happy society - a party of pleasure that is to last forever" ... how can I be sad about not seeing Anne's smiling face or hearing her sing again. It sounds like she's in a good place.
Adieu,
Merry ME

Monday, February 2, 2009

I WANT ....

2/2/09 As I was driving a friend to the hospital at an ungodly hour before daybreak, I noticed a billboard advertising the Powerball Lottery is up to $55 million.

I want to win that jackpot.

I know that sounds greedy. But really, except for paying off my bills and setting myself up a nice little retirement fund, I think I'd give most of it away. I'd be one of those people you read about who let the money slip through her hands.

But just think of the change I could make in the world with that kind of money. No it wouldn't be permanent. No there would still be wars and poverty and mean people. But maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to paint rainbows in the life of people who know nothing but rain. God, I think that would feel so good.

I know you need to teach a person to fish rather than giving him a plate of sushi to eat. How fun would it be to give fishing poles to people the world over? Poles, and worms, and nets. I'd make sure there was a cast iron frying pan to cook up their catch, and throw in some lemons and dill for a flavor.

I love dreaming!
Merry ME

Everything old is new again

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that
they can grow separately without growing apart."
Elisabeth Foley


Am I beginning to sound like a broken record? Thinking, reading and writing about "connecting with others" is the on-going theme in my life these days. So, I have to ask, was it the law of attraction, serendipity or what I call a "God" thing that I made this fabulous re-connection with a good friend from my past?

Let me backtrack a little bit.

Surely it's no surprise to anyone that I got way behind doing all the traditional holiday chores. I got a roast (sans the plum pudding .... who eat's plum pudding these days?) on the table but not until after the New Year had been rung in and the confetti cleaned up. I could tell by the way my days were shaping up that I should not even consider getting Christmas cards in the mail on time. I opted for New Year's cards. I just mailed them last week.

Here's where the "woo woo" begins. I had to look up an address in an old address book that was buried in a drawer under a pile of papers. Obviously I haven't touched that book in ages. Why that day? As I flipped through the names I had a flash of memory about a woman I haven't seen in ages. Why her? Why now? Wondering if she'd even remember me, I made an immediate decision to send her a card just to say hello. I'm really glad I did.

A couple of days later, C. sent me an e-mail and said, of course she remembered me. Does that mean a)she does not suffer from menopausal induced memory loss like me, b)I'm unforgettable, or c) the connection between our families, though frayed from lack of use, is not broken?

You know the saying that goes something like, "some people come into our lives and leave quickly, others come and leave footprints on our hearts" ? Well, I think that's the way it is with C and me.

We met back in the mid-1970's. I don't recall the actual meeting, maybe it was our kids who first broke the ice. But I remember well the day my husband drove our family into the driveway of the new house he'd bought us. It was in a city I'd never seen, devoid of any people I knew. I can't say I was particularly happy about this aspect of the commonly known navy "adventure." After checking out our new digs, wondering how I was going to keep my toddler from falling down the steps or through the balcony railing to the living room floor 15 feet below, we hopped back in the car and I begged to go "home." Instead, Jim drove to the local 7-11 and placed a phone call to his new Executive Officer.

"Yes, sir" he said, hanging up the phone.

The look on his face said it all. The ship he was reporting to had just come out of dry dock and would be leaving the very next day - WHAT????- Jim was expected to be there. Which meant, of course, Mary, the adventureless Navy wife and mom, would be expected to hold things together, unpack boxes, get settled and not fall to pieces. I was young. I was still maleable. I could still be bribed with the promise of new furniture!

Jim left. I coped. What I can say now only with the beauty and wisdom of hindsight was that his leaving, forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I was braver than I thought. I explored my new surroundings, often getting lost. But in getting lost, I discovered new things and places of interest. What seemed horrible then, really does sound adventurous now. I think it is fair to say that I didn't play the glad game back then.

Good golly, Miss Molly, I sure can wander far from my point!

The P's lived catty corner from us. They had four kids, two large dogs, and a fence. Since both our husbands had duty on sea-going vessels, C and I soon began doing things together. We piled all 6 kids onto the floor of her seatless Chevy van and went places. We walked the neighborhood at increasing speeds before powerwalking became popular. We learned to decorate cakes (a seldom used talent but looks good on a mom resume!)We spent hours at the community pool.

Besides having all those kids under 7, I think the thing that sealed C. in my mind as a woman to admire, was the fact that she refused to spend 6 months at home alone while her husband was at sea. Before he left, she piled his stateroom up with diapers, baby food, clothes and supplies. Then she packed the kids and followed the ship from port to port. In my mind, C. always had the patience of Job - what she calls, "having her feet on the ground." Not much could ruffle her feathers. I, on the other hand, spent those years of constant deployment, just about featherless from anxiety.

C. did in two days what I couldn't do in months - potty train my son. It was C, I called when the toilet overflowed and poured water out of the bathroom, through the hall, and into the living room (the child wouldn't sit on the toilet but oh how he loved to throw things in it and flush. Go figure!). C. knew the ropes at the Navy dispensary and how to tire kids out by letting them run up and down Mt. Trashmore.

As happens in Navy communities, our paths took different forks. We went North, the P's went West. You try to stay in touch but the comings and goings keep all but the very best friendships from fracturing. Then one day we got the word, we would be moving to CA. For me, the only good news that came with this set of orders was that the P's were already there. I was going to a strange land, where the earth shook and the freeways were known for their speed and congestion. The common denominators ... I was NOT happy, the ship would be sailing soon after we arrived and C. was there to show me around town. We weren't as close as we had once been. Life somehow got in the way. The kids were all in different schools, C was going to school, husbands stayed real busy, Mary was depressed. Still we got together when we could. C and I began to share a budding love of fabric and quilting. In the midst of my darkness, I could see that C. was a beacon of steadfast calm. When her oldest son became deathly ill on a skiing trip in Utah, I don't think I ever saw her lose her cool. She was patient, unflappable and, unlike me, able to keep her wits about her while her world turned upside down. That's what I always loved about her. Being so emotional in the face of her calm stirred my insecurity soup pot, but she showed me how strong and capable women can be. A vision I needed to keep in front of me at the time.

[I realize as I write this, I know/have known some strong, courageous women. And I'm thinking how blessed I am to belong to such a sisterhood. ]

Fast forward several years. On the day John got married, I was standing at the back of the church, wringing my hands and guess who walked in. You got it, the P's. It was awesome!

I only saw C. once more in recent years. When I heard her voice on the phone yesterday, I felt time stand still. We picked up where we left off and I was transported to her house in Virginia Beach with the smell of tacos cooking and kids playing in the background. Today, the kids are her 10 - count 'em, TEN!!- grandchildren.

And here's where the serendipity comes in. C's had some pretty hard times lately. Her 38 year marriage that withstood so many trials, is coming apart at the seams. Just when she needed a friend to talk to my letter was delivered to her door. I don't believe in coincidences. I think that letter was hand carried by the angel in charge of helping friends be friends no matter how much time has gone by.

During our 2 hour conversation we talked of the past, about our kids - who's doing what, etc -and we each shared who we are today. We shared parts of our lives, our truths, our pains. But mainly we opened the door to a future of phone calls and emails and renewing our friendship. How cool is that?

Here's to new old friends,
Merry ME

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I WANT ....

2/1/09 I want to remember the phone conversation I had with a long time friend. So much time has passed since we last spoke. So many things have happened in our lives and the lives of our children .... 10 grandchildren have been born! We talked, laughed, reconnected. It was divine.

Holding On

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
Havelock Ellis*

I am so not computer savvy. I don't have a clue how to link one blog to another inside a post. Other people can highlight a word and when you click on it, you are transported to the site they want you to see. Personally, I think it's magic.

After I read a recent Bedlam Farm post, I really wanted to know how to do magic. Katz posted a picture of what he calls "the last leaf in the forest." One brown leaf, clinging by an invisible thread to an empty branch in a starkly barren New England wood. It's a rather amazing photograph. Amazing that the leaf was able to stay connected to that tree even in the midst of so many odds. As if to say to the world, "don't count me out yet."

Amazing also that the man was there at the exact right moment to capture the beauty, strength and resiliency of the leaf. I wonder, is it possible that having its picture taken for posterity was why the leaf was there? So it could be a reminder to those who are at a place of giving up, that hanging on is the better alternative.

Like the dandelion in my previous post, I'm struck by the similarity of the lone leaf and scads of people who try to survive in their own bleak forests of fear, doubt, heartache, illness, or poverty. For reasons too numerous to count people everywhere are feeling alone, left to fend for themselves, or maybe just hanging on to whatever life they know by fingernails of faith and hope. In our singular worries we often close the door on the rest of the world, making the fear even greater. Our computers, cell phones and blackberries create a false sense of connectedness. Ironically at the same time we need more human contact we settle for less.

If I've learned anything in my lifetime, it is the truth of the too often used saying, "this too shall pass." I've been like that leaf, holding on by nothing more than a prayer. Yet, when the time was right someone I trusted at a gut level convinced me to let go of the old way, and make room for something new. This is the natural order of things. Day follows night, spring follows winter, and, if we're lucky, chocolate cake follows a dinner of tuna noodle casserole.

Letting go is hard to do. Each of us has to learn for ourselves when it's the right time to hold on and when it's okay to let go. I wonder, is that my Dad's daily stuggle? His wife and most of his friends are gone to the big green forest in the sky. Yet he is still here - hanging on. Kind of dried up and brittle but with all his faculties and enough strength that he hasn't yet released his hold on this life. When will that day come? Will it be a storm of illness that knocks him off his center? A gentle breeze that whispers, "come with me"? Or will he just let go and flutter to the place where souls go to be rejoined with loved ones?

Come Spring the frozen NY forest that Katz photographs is going to be abundant with foliage again. The trees will be full of leaves and buds and birds and buzzing things. In other words, life will return. It's what makes the holding on so important. If you let go too soon, you miss a lot of life. I recall that in the bleakest days of my depression, my world was devoid of color. I only saw things in shades of gray. What a joy it is today to see beauty in dandelions and love in a bag of chips (see post below). Life isn't always easy, but the Pollyanna in me has the glad game for a back up.

Because I live in Florida I can't quite fathom what the northern states experience with snow storm after snow storm. But still, I've seen enough brown grass and wilted ferns in the last few weeks. I'm anxiously waiting for spring bulbs to bloom. Don't you know they are pushing their green stems up through the frozen ground getting ready to make a joyous debut? That's the way God works, I think, just when you've seen all the brown (or snowy white as the case might be), the world explodes in color.

Wishing for you strength to hold on and cheery colors in your life,
Merry ME

*British sexologist, physician, and social reformer.

P.S. In 1982 Leo Buscaglia wrote a book called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf with a similar message as to what I've written. According to the jacket cover, it is a "warm, thought-provoking story about how Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons and the coming of winter. It is a beloved classic that has helped thousands of people to come to grips with life and death."