Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spider Web Wisdom



"Humanity is a spiders web.
Touch the web at any point and the whole web vibrates."
Maithri Goonetilleke*

Since I live in Florida, I should be used to gigantic bugs; I'm not. The Palmetto bugs, aka roaches that skitter across the garage floor when the overhead light is turned on give me the willies. This year's mosquitoes look like they could care off a small child. All the rain and sun make Florida a bug's paradise.

I don't mind the little ones. I enjoy watching the lizards scamper to and fro. I think this must be breeding season because I've seen a number of baby lizards not much bigger than my pinky. Yesterday while in the pool I saved a frog that was so tiny I was surprised he could even swim. He rested on the tip of my finger catching his breath, then hopped back to life when I put him near a blade of grass. I'm glad I did not have to try to resuscitate the little fellow because I might have inhaled him or snorted him up my nose.

Florida is buggy. I get that. But I'm always a little surprised when I come out in the morning and see something like the spider in the picture above. I've never seen one of these spiders crawling around on the ground. Only in these monster size webs. This one spread several feet from bush to bush. I know nothing of how spiders spin their webs, but it is a skill that both attracts my attention and makes my skin crawl. (This picture is not very clear because I didn't want to get so close that I fell into the web and was stuck there with that man eater thinking he'd won the spider equivalent of the lottery.)

There I was being all grossed out by the spider and its web when I read yesterday's Soaring Impulse blog post. As most of them on this site do the words brought me to the point of tears as well as gratitude for the people in the world who are not afraid to share their love and talent. Many people, ME included, see the world's problems as being so large as to be insurrmountable, which translates to being untouchable.

How can any of us hope to make a dent in the AIDs crisis, or end global poverty, or bring about world peace? But how will these things ever get done if we lament our shortcomings instead of stepping out in faith - one hand reaching to another to another to another. After seeing the spider web in my front yard, I could imagine how true Maithri's father's words really were. If I gently placed a finger anywhere on that web (not that I would) it would vibrate across the bushes.

Last night I was given the opportunity to talk about the Guild of the Christ Child, the outreach ministry I started at my church, to a group of about 10 little kids. When I first started speaking I was looking at blank stares; bored kids just waiting for me to get finished so they could play. Thankfully, they were polite enough to act like they were listening. I thought I'd lost them as I read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible. But as soon as I pulled out some strips of muslin and compared them to a newborn sized onesie they began to get my point.

What really got them, though, was the hay. I passed around a big ole handful of scratchy, stinky hay, then a nice soft blanket. I think every one of those kids got the idea. How hard it must have been 2000 years ago for a homeless mother and baby, and how hard it might still be today. We talked about being homeless and hungry. And we talked about reaching out to people with as little as a penny or a prayer or a smile.

I believe it's true what Mother Theresa said: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." Some people will do great things, but the vast majority of us will only manage the small things. Small things that will make the web of humanity vibrate with love. Love the size of a humongous spider.
When my talk was finished the kids, prompted by the adult leader, said "Thank you Miss Mary" in unison. Then as I was packing up my props - the blanket, hat and hay - this little girl came up to me and tapped me on the knee. I turned to her and she looked up at me with big brown eyes, smiled and hugged my legs. I had been trying to tell these kids that the source of all love, whom I choose to call God, does speak to each of us. Not in words so much as a feeling we get in our heart. As that child hugged me, I think I heard a voice from heaven saying loud and clear, "Good Job, Mary."
May you touch and be touched by love,
Merry ME

http://www.soaringimpulse.com/Everything that is good and beautiful, Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Look who has a new car!!!!

"Driving a brand new car feels like driving around
in an open billfold with the dollars
flapping by your ears as they fly out the window."
Grey Livingston

I've been a little (okay, a lot) out of sorts lately. My trusty old van got to the point where every time I drove it something else would go wrong. That would lead to my damsel-in-distress persona having a complete meltdown, which would lead to Sweetie putting some kind of mechanical bandaid on the car and an emotional bandaid on me. In the last few weeks it also meant getting my money's worth from my AAA membership. Let's face it free towing is not really free towing when you've paid a membership fee for over 25 years. It's good to know, however, this damsel has that ace in her back pocket.

The van would get a ride to the fix-it shop and I would look out the window to the empty spot in the driveway, then send up prayers that the cost of the repair would not be more than my credit card could handle. Sometimes the van just sat in the driveway giving me the evil eye just waiting for me to get in, buckle up, and want to go somewhere.

Over the years this vehicle has been a faithful servant. It has taken me many places, more times than it's left me stranded. There was, however, that one time in the parking lot of Raiford prison,(Don't ask!) that still sends shivers down my back. Still there comes a time when even the most faithful of cars must go to that great rust heap in the sky and damsels must begin the process of finding new transportation.

There's been a lot of talk in the news recently about the degree of torture administered to terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. I guess everyone has their own definition of torture - water boarding, electric shock treatment, having a mammogram, taking kids for routine dental exams. For me the very thought of car shopping makes me want to tell everything I know to anyone who'll listen.

When I was married to Texas Jimmy car buying was a sport. Invariably he'd get a tripped out convertible model of some snazzy European sports car and I'd get a (I kid you not) a Nash rambler with no heater. Oh sure, we lived in Florida so the heater was not a real necessity, unless you are trying to take two little kids to the dentist in the middle of winter.

Let's face it. I'm a girl. My genetic make up is all about making a home comfortable - nesting. I believe that God gave the "y" chromosome to hunter/gatherers for the sole purpose of seeing to it that the little woman back in the cave had safe, reliable, affordable transportation - be it a woolly mammoth or a Chevrolet.

As the time neared for my love and I to start looking for a new to me I honestly tried to act like a grown up. I wanted to feel good about my ability to not only search for a new car but get the best bang for my buck. Yet, when I saw Sweetie, notebook and Buyer's Guide in hand, I knew I was out of my league and in for a long day. I tried playing the glad game - "the good thing about going car shopping is that we have a hall pass for the whole day" - but the dark clouds that were sitting right over the Cassat Avenue Chevrolet dealership took away some of my glad. Note: It is not easy or fun to car shop during torrential downpours.


Before the rain started we did make contact with a salesman whom my sister promised "would not laugh at me if I started to cry" and "would do me right". We also spotted a few cars that were too big, too small and maybe just right. My idea of letting my checkbook do the talking was nixed by Car Shopping Sweetie. We still had Fords, Hyundais, Kias, Dodges, Suburus and a plethora of whatevers on the Car Max to see. And test drives for comparison. In other words we were just getting started. So was the rain.



I won't bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say we played the game for several days. I whined and pouted. My Sweetie was all business. He denies that there is an actual game being played, says it's more like a coded style of communication. If you know the right code, or look, or secret handshake your salesman knows immediately if you are a serious buyer or just a looker. Honestly, I never knew which I was! But Sweetie did and I just tagged along splashing in the puddles!


Finally, we narrowed our search down to a silver Chevrolet HHR Basically there was no choice. All signs were pointing to one particular automobile. We took it for a test drive, left it in the lot so we could think about it some more, worked out the financing with the Bank of Dad, then sealed the deal.

Except for one little, teeny, tiny problem. There was an error in the account number given to the bank transferring the funds from one financial institution to another. Thus said funds were sent to wherever lost money is sent until, after in-depth research it is found. But before one can do that one has to go to one's personal bank two days in a row, speak to several representatives from both banks on the phone, have a general hissy fit, consider patricide, break out in a hot-flash leaving one dripping in sweat which frightens the 23-year old branch manager whose high heals could be considered lethal weapons. By the grace of God and the good nature of "Tonya" (Dad's new best friend) at the end of the second day the saga of the missing money was almost over. Based on a promise and a prayer I signed my name 15 times on almost as many pieces of paper and the car became mine (assuming, of course, that nothing else goes wrong with the $$$ transfer. If that happens, I suspect we'll be on the Repo man's list and I'll be headed for Chattahoochie)


Here is a photograph of Howard, the salesman, and me. As you can tell I'm so busy telling Howard to look at the camera I was completely unaware of how unbrushed my hair looks. We had been waiting for about three hours for the paperwork to be computed and finalized. I was a little punchy. Sweetie was hungry and Howard mainly wanted to get the car of the lot so he'd get his commission. He's a really nice guy, but I sure hope I don't have to see him again anytime soon.

It's been quite some time since I've driven a new car. According to the guy who went around checking the tires for bumpy spots, and calculated the number of miles per gallon we got as we drove around the block, aka Sweetie (anyone who can multiply in their head and drive a car at the same time is a man among men) there are 2 owner manuals; the whole shebang and a Cliff-notes version. There is also a book for maintenance records, how to program/use the OnStar features and something called XM radio. It is presumed by the car salesman, my dad and my significant other that I am going to read these books. I think the chances of that are about as good as Sweetie winning the Lottery tonight. I'll learn the basics - how to program radio stations, how to load and eject a CD and how to adjust the direction of the air conditioning (or heater - yes, it has a heater - I checked!)



Typing this blog post has taken almost as long as finding a new car. I'll finish up by sharing these pictures taken from the sun roof of my fancy schmancy new automobile. Note: I was stopped at a red light when these photos were taken. While driving, both hands firmly grasped the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 position. Sweetie, who was driving behind me said I was going a little fast, but it felt like Granny was driving to me! Granny who has a secret desire for speed.

Wishing for you a sunny day and a roadster that works,
Merry ME

Monday, July 27, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

"A hospital should also have a recovery room adjoining the cashier's office."
Francis O'Walsh



I've mentioned before I'm not a very political person. I usually work from my heart not my head. Maybe I shouldn't admit this but I don't even know if my political beliefs fall into a Democratic or Republican purview. I am, however, a patriot. I honor our flag and way of life. I believe in our system. I just think our system is a little bit screwed up right now. I leave it to the pundits and politicians to fix it. Is that like asking a fox to guard the hen house?


Up until now most of the country's problems have been something I've heard about on the news but haven't really experienced on a personal level. Recently, however, I've seen how hard it is for people to find a job once they've been laid off. A few I've known have been luckier than others. I've also watched as family members struggle to pay for prescription drugs they need yet can't afford without insurance coverage. And if it weren't for the cost of health insurance I'd be a married woman rather than Sweetie's "significant other." It's kind of sad when life choices come down to a choice between the proverbial rock and hard place.


Unfortunately, the double whammy of mortgage and health care crises hit even closer to home this week. A young couple I know are losing everything they have. Even though they have insurance, the cost of medical treatment over the last few years has eaten away at their financial stability like a termite in a carpenter shop.


I listened to part of the president's recent press conference. Although he is much easier to listen to than his predecessor, I am not sure I can trust much of what he says. I put more stock in actions than I do words. Actions that reap rewards for everyone, not just the privileged few.


President Obama is quoted in last Thursday's Times Union* as saying, " [This isn't about me.]This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day .... this debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait any longer for reform." At least he is right about that; waiting for reform is no longer an option.


I sit here in my own little cocoon and wonder what I can do to help the couple mentioned above. I'm not in a position to offer money or advice. While my prayers may not be falling on deaf ears, I do wish the Great Healer in the sky could work a little faster. After careful consideration, I have decided to do the only thing I know to do - write. I'm going to add my letter to the stack of mail that sits on the president's desk. My ego is just big enough to think that maybe my letter will be the one that turns the tide and pushes the man behind that big desk into a higher gear.



May you be blessed with health and co-pays you can afford,
Merry Me


* The Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, Morris Communications Corp., Thursday July 23, 2009, pg. A-3

Farm For Sale - Be Still My Heart

"Adventure must start with running away from home."
William Bolitho



It's been coming for awhile. Yet I was still a little bit surprised and a lot sad to read The Bedlam Farm Journal today and find that Jon Katz has put his farm on the market. He has whittled away his livestock over the last year. This weekend the sheep and donkeys went to their new home. For now the chickens are going to stay as well as the two cats. And of course all 4 dogs.

In one of his recent posts Katz talked about his need to have a simpler life. That's funny, I thought to myself. In my mind, moving to a farm is a simpler way of life. It goes to show just how much I know about farming. If you read any of the Journal's winter posts, saw the pictures of snow and ice that wouldn't quit, and could imagine frozen mud and manure then you'd know that I should know that farming is probably anything but simple.

Still, I fantasize about running away to a farm.

Once in my life I wanted to run to the circus. Then I got a little too old, fat and arthritic to fly on a trapeze in a sequin suit. I might be able to pull off riding on an elephant's back in the opening parade, I'm just not sure about that Vegas-style head piece the ladies have to wear. It makes running away to join a circus sound more like work than fun.

Another time I seriously considered running away to Hawaii. I don't know what I thought I would do there but living the island life, wearing nothing but a muu muu and with a sweet-smelling flower behind my ear fulfilled some kind of exotic dream where all my problems would float on the ocean tide that gently rocked me to sleep.

Most of my running away fantasies have come and gone. I've learned enough about myself to know that running away is just another way of sticking my head in the sand or singing la la la. I've been in therapy long enough to know that running isn't the way to solve my problems. It's better to face them head on. It's when I'm faced with another pile of laundry, a broken down car or my father giving me the evil eye that the urge to run is hard to resist.

The problem is I'm sometimes too practical for my own good. Were I to move to a farm, with all my imagined amenities - a garden where I would pick my own salad and chickens to produce my breakfast it becomes quickly apparent that even in my dreams I'd be the one who had to do all the work. There is a good chance that Sweetie would be in charge of clearing the snow-covered (if we move north) or mud-soaked (if we stay south) driveway but I have no doubt that one of our first farm purchases would be a big ride-em tractor thingee just for that purpose. The manual labor part of farming is the usually the part I skip over to sit in a rocking chair on my big ass porch and watch the grass grow (or Sweetie cut it!) I really just want to be surrounded by green countryside and a way of life that doesn't feel so complicated. My genetic roots are shouting, "take me home, country road" and I've never lived in the country a day in my life - go figure!

I first heard about Jon Katz on the Oprah show. He was promoting his book, Running to the Mountain, A Midlife Adventure. I knew I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon so I lost myself in others' running stories. They have all been good reads which have only fueled my fantasies. Here are some of the books I've read over the years. I have enjoyed the stories, the writing, and the places I'll never see. That's one of the nice things about a book. You can go to different places, and never get out of your pajamas!

A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson
Fifty Acres and a Poodle A story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Still Life with Chickens, Starting over in a house by the Sea by Catherine Goldhammer
Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte
The Good Good Pig, the extraordinary life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery
Eat, Pray Love, One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert


[Photo by Jon Katz]

If you are interested in buying Bedlam Farms you can contact: Ginny Tremblay of Alan Brown Realty in Greenwich at 518 692-2328. According to Katz it has a beautiful Civil War farmhouse, four tip-top barns, two with water, one with water and heat, three fenced in pastures (all with fresh water), an unfenced pasture up on a hilltop, and a half-mile path into the woods. 90 acres.

If you are planning on running away remember what Mary Englebreit says: "No matter where you go, there you are."

Wishing for you a green meadow for sitting and dreaming,
Merry ME

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wounded Warrior Project

“I feel very positive about the Wounded Warrior Project.
They present you with opportunities you don’t even think about when you’re in the hospital. You try new things, new activities.
It helps very much because, when you’re injured, you don’t know what you’re
going to be able to do.
And through WWP, you get a sense of pride, a sense of belonging,
a sense that you can still do things in the world.”
Javier Alvarez, USMC*
"The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a non-profit organization aimed at assisting those men and women of the United States armed forces who have been severely injured during the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world. Beginning at the bedside of the severely wounded, WWP provides programs and services designated to ease the burdens of these heroes and their families, aid in the recovery process, and smooth the transition back to civilian life."

I hadn't heard of the WWP until recently. In September, the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, in conjunction with the WWP, is sponsoring a retreat for about 30 warriors. They put out a request to local quilters to make patriotic quilts so that each person attending the retreat would find a quilt on their bed upon arrival at the camp.
No one had to twist my arm. I searched through my fabric "stash" then headed straight to the store to find matching reds, whites and blues. There is nothing in the world that soothes my rattled nerves like cutting up pieces of fabric and sewing them back together again for a totally different look.
Cut. Sew. Press.
Oh how I love a quilting mess!
I can't quilt by hand anymore so I've had to make peace with having my tops machine quilted. It's as close to the real thing as I'm going to get these days. I've found a lady in town who has a long arm quilter set up in her living room. Dad and Sweetie have driven to her house with me but both refuse to get out of the car. Personally I think they are being a little stubborn. But maybe they are just being frugal. I'm pretty sure once they see how the machine looks sitting in the middle of the room, they'll want to rush right out and buy me one.
When I took the tops to the quilter last week, I had no idea how I was going to pay for them. I just knew they had to get done. I made an announcement at church about the WWP retreat, asked people to write letters and pray for the retreat participants. I also asked for donations which is something that does not come easy for me. In a matter of minutes, just like miracle of the fishes and loaves, my pockets were stuffed with greenbacks. I had more than enough to pay for the two quilts I had made, plus one more if I get busy cutting up more fabric. Throw me in that brier patch!
There is something that feels so good about making a quilt for somebody else. It must be because I love them so much myself. I still wrap myself in a red and white Lone Star quilt that my grandmother made years ago whenever I'm feeling a little fluish. And when I'm feeling blue, I curl up under a quilt that whose well-worn muslin is soft and soothing. Sweetie likes to sit in his recliner with a quilt pulled up to the tip of his nose. Even the cats seem to love a quilt, as if each patchwork beauty in the house is there just for a fussy feline's fancy.
At the risk of tooting my own horn I just wanted to share these quilts with you. It seems like a small price to pay for the sacrifices these warriors have made for me/us.

Wishing you a world at peace all wrapped up in a pretty cotton quilt,

Merry ME


For more information, please call (877) TEAM WWP (832-6997) or visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

*Alvarez did three combat tours in Iraq during his military service seeing extensive fighting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods;
and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard (1903-1985)

My Sweetie has never met a loaf of bread that he didn't like. He'll eat it slathered in butter, smothered in jelly or wrapped around a mustard covered hot dog. So when he picked up an old copy of Mother Earth News and read the article "5 Minutes A Day for Fresh-Baked Bread"* he nearly started salivating. The article's first paragraph said things like, "easy," "no kneading," and "your house will smell like a bakery." It also said "Baking bread at home saves hundreds every year. With this easy method, each loaf will only cost you about 50 cents and 5 minutes a day." Sweetie was sold. We were about to embark on a bread making adventure.

First thing we had to do was buy a baking stone. Then some flour for the dough and cornmeal for the stone. Then some yeast. Our first loaf of bread was going to cost way more than 50 cents. But we weren't just making bread. We were adding a whole new dimension to our relationship.


"Great breads really only require four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt." Working in tandem Sweetie and I divvied up the recipe - he was in charge of the water and salt. I measured out the yeast and flour. Sweetie stirred the ingredients while I attached the dough hook to my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time. "This step is done in a matter of minutes and yields a wet dough ..." So far, so good.

Next the dough had to rise for two hours. I love watching dough rise. It's like magic. One minute you have this little ball of goo in the bottom of a bowl. A little while later you go back and find that a living, breathing blob has just about outgrown the biggest bowl in your kitchen inventory.

This recipe does not have the punch down stage - one of my favorite parts of bread making. Punching bread dough seems so much more civilized than smacking somebody in the nose. All you have to do is put the covered bowl in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours or a few days. "Relax," the instructions say, so Sweetie went outside by the pool to read and I did some sewing while the dough continued to do its thing.

With very few exceptions our dinner hour is 7 pm. Because I was going out and the soup was almost done, we decided we couldn't wait. We moved right onto the next step. The part where you make a neat little boule or "artisan free-form loaf."


"Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands." Uh, excuse me, how exactly do you get more flour on your hands when they are glued together by the dough ball from hell? While Sweetie sprinkled enough corn meal to feed an army of Purdue chickens on the cookie sheet we were using as a pizza peel, my sister dusted me with flour. Still the dough didn't really want to stretch as prettily as the picture in the magazine. After all the flouring and stretching the dough needed a rest - so did I!

It takes a "forward jerking motion of the wrist" to slide the dough ball from the pizza peel to the baking stone. As I jerked my wrist the corn meal flew all over the oven but the bread didn't slide. I jerked a few more times and it finally came loose. One more JERK and it ended up on the stone as directed. One down, one to go. The second loaf needed more of a push than a jerk but it made it to the stone not the bottom of the oven. Sweetie set the timer for 30 minutes and I left for church. "When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crack, or "sing" when exposed to room temperature air."


Sweetie read this morning about a New Jersey woman who sold home baked apple cakes to raise money to pay her mortgage. I think we're going to have to practice a bit before we can hope to sell our yeasty hockey pucks. This won't be a problem because we've got lots of dough resting and waiting in the refrigerator. Since Sweetie gets up with the sun and way before me, I expect to wake up in the morning to the smell of fresh bread toasted and slathered in butter.

Happy baking,
Merry ME

5 Minutes a Day For Fresh Baked Bread, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Mother Earth News, December 2008, pg. 46-51

Monday, July 20, 2009

Please Read

"If you really want to change a culture,
to empower women,
improve basic hygiene and health care,
and fight high rates of infant mortality,
the answer is to educate girls."
Greg Mortenson*


Now that our warriors are spread throughout the Afghan countryside I have wondered and worried about Greg Mortenson's school building progress. My aunt sent me this NY Times article and, naturally, I want to share it with you.

When I get all caught up in my own tiny life, when buying a new car seems like the most important thing in the world - buying a new car and making meatloaf and bleaching pee-stained jockey shorts - I forget to see the much bigger picture.

I forget to see the look on the face of mothers and grandmothers whose children have to dodge bombs to get to school - if a school even exists. Like reading the Soaring Impulse blog this article shook me out of my "it's all about ME" world for a few minutes. It made me smile. It made me want a new number 2 pencil and a black/white Composition book. It made me want to learn something new. Can you remember when learning new things was exciting and not a pain in the arse?




Please take a moment to read what Friedman has to say. I'm not a real political person. I know there are two sides to the question of war. My emotions guide my thoughts. If I were in charge of the world I'd ask everybody to lay down their guns and pick up a book (or a ball, or maybe an orange crayon). And I'd look those mothers in their big brown eyes and promise that one day soon their little ones would know peace.




Wishin' and hopin',
Merry ME


* Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at at Time
http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/27837.Greg_Mortenson

P.S. I found this video at Amazon.com:
http://www.amazon.com/Listen-Wind-Greg-Mortenson/dp/0803730586/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248125625&sr=8-3

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now - Part IV

"Your mind knows only some things.
Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything.
If you listen to what you know instinctively,
it will always lead you down the right path.
Henry Winkler

Where was I?
Oh yeh, mid-whine ...

So to put it all together, I realize now that my voice has always been there. Buried deep perhaps under layers of fear, doubt and shame, but there nonetheless. From the time I was 15 I only spoke in places I felt really safe - a psychaitrist's office, to start with. As I got older I found reguge in 12-step meetings, church, my Sweetie's arms, and most recently my writing.

For most of those years I never trusted my own voice or believed that anything I had to say was important. Likewise on the outside chance that I could think of something worth saying, I didn't trust other people not to put me down or make fun of me. Yikes, I was a big ball of fear and anger. What does that spell but depression?


If I only knew then what seems so clear now. I can't go back in time and change things but here are some things I can try to do now that might put me back on a footing equal with that girl I used to be.

  • I can wrap my heart around skinny, nerdy Mary and give her the high five she deserved back then. I can be her cheerleader and coax her into telling her stories. Better late than never, right?
  • I can learn to give as much credence to my own voice as that of others. Whether other people agree with me or not, I have a right to speak my truth.
  • I can pick and choose what is important enough to me to debate.
  • I don't have to raise my voice, or stomp my feet, or cry to be heard.
  • I can practice the golden rule of listening - Listen to others as I would have them listen to me. In other words give people, no matter their age, my full attention by using my eyes and heart as well as my ears.
  • I can keep writing.
  • I can stop looking for approval in all the wrong places.

Like a lot of other challenges I put before myself, these sound easy enough. I suspect, however, I'll have trouble with putting them in practice. But for today (and the last week) I've got the awareness going for me. Change can't really begin to take place until there is an awareness.

I'm an old dog trying to learn a new trick,

Merry ME

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Couldn't Help Myself

AN ODE TO ORANGE
"Orange is the happiest color."
Frank Sinatra




Sun kissed fruits dripping juice down your chin
A field of pumpkins on a brisk October day
Flames of a camp fire, gently licking a puffy marshmallow
Sweet potato pie
Field fresh cantelope on the breakfast table
Orange red and orange yellow Crayola crayons
Salmon swimming upstream
Coral on the ocean floor
Gerber daisies
Macaroni and cheese
Sunflowers dipped in red food coloring
Spaghetti o's
Sharpies
Layers of rock in the Grand Canyon
Tropical flowers on a tropical isle
Kente cloth stripes and waves
Georgia clay
Eastern mud salamanders
Byrd's floral treasures
+
Key West sunsets
Highway construction safety cones
Tangy, hickory flavored BBQ sauce
Earthy smelling Cyprus mulch
+ +
Orange Nehi
Floppy orange sun hats
Orange streaks across a morning blue sky
Orange fairy wings!!
Here's hoping your day has a little orange in it.
Merry ME

*Photo by Keywest Johnnie

Playing

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect
but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.
The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. "
Carl Jung

Last night I took a break from looking back and being all serious. Seriousness was boring me. The light of my epiphany dimmed by all that dark brooding. I'm not finished with it, just going somewhere else for a bit.

So I got to playing with templates and gadgets and changing the look of my blog around. Not sure it's what I want yet, but I like the different look - at least for now.

The new pictures on the side bar are my "awards" from Fyrebird. After my "self-indulgent twaddle" a few posts back, my friend from across the sea sent me something to dress up my blog. They are not awards in the sense that I have the best blog, or most meaningful thoughts, or craziest ideas. They are more like trophies for being ME from someone who knows how important that is. I'm honored to place them on my blog and blessed by such generosity. We ask that you look but don't touch.

Another blogging friend is helping me design my own award - to keep and to give away. More on that later.

As for the angel, I just love her face. Hopefully without sounding too narcissistic, she reminds me of me, little me. The me who still believes in miracles, happy endings and that love can build a bridge. (OMG, I now have Naomi and Wynona Judd singing in my head! Can you hear them too?) What I'd like to do under the angel if I can figure out how is add a list of people who could use a little extra love right now. Kind of like a big ol' group hug/prayer. If you know someone in need and want to add them to the list I will gladly include them. If you want to add a particular note of gratitude or plea for help I'll include that too.

Thinking and writing and thinking some more about having and using my "voice" reminds me that while speaking my own truth is important, it is just as important to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I want to offer this blog as a safe haven, I'm just not sure how to do it yet. My creative juices are percolating and if you have any ideas please let me know.

I see by the clock it's almost Dad's breakfast time. I can hear the walker slowly making its way down the hall. I can smell Sweetie's handiwork in the kitchen - egg topped hash browns. The cat is rubbing against my leg suggesting with feline determination that I get up and let him sit on the spot I've got all warmed up. My senses are in full gear. The day has begun.

Wishing for you a day that "fills up your senses, like a walk in the forest ......"
Merry ME

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now - Part III

"And you can break yourself free
from your hereditary patterns, cultural codes, social beliefs;
and prove once and for all that the power within you
is greater than the power that's in the world."
Dr. Rev Michael Beckwith


It is probably no surprise that my report card became the standard I used to measure my worth. I didn't play sports and wasn't musically inclined. I hadn't yet learned to express myself with thread and fabric so my artistic talents were of the elementary school variety. I could draw my favorite landscape in my sleep - upside down V's for mountains, a big circle with alternating long and short lines for a sun, and mutli-colored tulips in a row.


On report card day the custom for my sisters and I was to lay the evidence of our periodic accomplishments (or lack thereof) on the kitchen counter. Piled next to Beefeater's gin, dry Vermouth and jar of Spanish olives the report cards mingled with the day's mail like offerings on an altar 'til the grand Pooba got home from work and began his evening relaxation rituals. First things first ... a kiss from mom and an ice-cold cocktail, then the news of the day.


I wouldn't say I waited with bated breath, but there was usually an air of anticipation on those long afternoons. There was a lot more riding on those grades than how much knowledge had been crammed into our heads. What was most important for me was Dad's nod of approval. Like a dog sitting at its master's feet, ball in it's mouth and tail wagging, I yearned for a pat on my head and a word of praise. What I usually received was a mixed bag of validation and teasing; my father's form of humor.


Have I mentioned I was rather sensitive? I didn't quite know how to take teasing. I still don't. When one hand gives a bone and the other takes it away, what was this dog to think? I always came back for more, yet at the same time wondered if my A's were good enough? If I good enough?

The almost silent partner in the grade card scenario was my mom. I don't remember ever seeing her look at the card. Yet somewhere between her afternoon chores and making dinner she must have perused each card and made her comparisons. I guess it's inevitable for parents to make comparisons when they have a houseful of kids. Although this is not a scientific observation, I suspect that over time the children probably grow into their perceived personas. The smart one, the athletic one, the funny one, the pretty one. The whiner, the achiever, the pleaser, the manipulator.


In my memory Mother never lavished praise my top notch report card. She was of New England Puritan stock who didn't really lavish anything unless it was melted butter on a steamed lobster. Instead, in a kind of back-door acknowledgement of my achievement she would say something like "your sister is the smart one, if she'd just apply herself." I don't think my mother's intention was to deliberately provoke sibling rivalry. And until this afternoon, it never dawned on me that her comparisons might have had a negative impact on my sister. All I knew was that this sister was smarter than I was and application was the name of the game.

Back in 1963 nobody, including me, knew that I needed things spelled out for me:

G-O-O-D J-O-B M-A-R-Y.

I wasn't good at interpreting adult humor or grabbing at the carrot dangled in front of me. I stayed confused.


Still time marched on and the school year progressed. I kept raising my hand, working hard and lapping up the Mrs. Carden's. When people called me "teacher's pet" I thought it was a good thing! At the end of the year my efforts were rewarded by being picked as the elementary school equivalent of valedictorian. I had to make a speech to the assembled body of students, teachers and parents. I wonder now how I ever walked on that stage without peeing my pants or throwing up or both. Maybe I still had enough bravado in me that made me actually think I could pull it off. What, pray tell, does a 12 year old have to say about life and learning?


Anyway, I did it and I didn't black out or have to be revived. I also won a "good citizenship" award which looked like a medal a soldier might earn on the battlefield - gold medal with an impression of George Washington's head, all tied together with a red, white and blue striped ribbon. My name was repeated several times during the commencement proceedings. It was my 15 minutes of fame and I was loving it.


I admit that I probably got a little puffed up (who wouldn't?). Puffed up never really went over well in our house. Being puffed up, even if it was deserved, put a target on your back and made you fair game for of the sharpest of tongues. After the ceremony as my father settled in for the night, cocktail in one hand, half-smoked Viceroy cigarette in the other, his comments about my achievements and performance were more in a teasing, put down vain than complimentary. They were not unkind, but not really kind either. The "Mary Reynolds" show drew more jeers than cheers.


And that my friends (drum roll please) is the point of this whole diatribe. For I think it was that night of teasing, when I'd been honored and acclaimed in public, but laughed at by the people who mattered most, that I made the connection that the reward of putting myself out there was not worth the cost. I didn't feel the pride I had earned; that was rightfully mine. I felt shame. I think that was the night I turned my thoughts and hopes and dreams inward and started to hide my own light.


To be continued ....


It's a sad little story but the ending isn't so bad. Stay tuned.
Merry ME

*Founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center, headquartered in Los Angeles.

Can You Hear Me Now - Part II

"The voice of the intellect is a soft one,
but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing."
Sigmund Freud


As I was writing these final words on a blog post last week: "fulfilling a deep need I have to have a voice and be heard" an internal light bulb flashed on. Just as quickly life and a flu bug grabbed my attention and I never got back to my epiphany. The thought kept returning, however, so here I am trying to make sense of it.

A little background...
This may be a story I've already told, if so, please forgive the duplication and bear with me.

One of my most vivid childhood memories comes from the year I was 12. I was in the sixth grade. I was taller than my classmates, skinny and shapeless. My head resembled that of a coconut, due in part to one of my first visits to a beauty parlor without adult accompaniment. Okay so I probably didn't know what to ask for, but the the fact is also true that the hairdresser was not yet skilled in the 1960's style made popular by Vidal Sassoon. I think it was supposed to evoke a wispy, windblown look - something light and airy. Instead my cut looked more like the work of a child who experimented with scissors on her own head. With clumps of hair missing and others standing at attention like a Marine recruit, my mom and I had similar reactions. Think Edvard Munch scream. To top it all off I added my own bit of burgeoning flair by sweeping what hair I did have off my forehead with one of those stretchy headbands that looked like the ribbing from an old T-shirt. It's easy to see why fifty years later I still have hair issues.


Since my last name began with an R and I was above average in height, I usually found myself assigned to a seat in the back of the classroom. Unaware of my myopia and astigmatism until I failed my first eye exam, I taught myself how to squint just right to see the blackboard over the tops of my classmates' heads. On that first day of sixth grade, however, I threw caution to the wind and plopped myself down in the number one seat of row number one, unabashedly eager to learn. I hadn't yet developed my fears success or failure. When the teacher asked questions I forgot about the lack of hair on my head and the abundance of hair on my unshaven legs. I was the first to raise my hand. Because I was one of five at home competing for parental time and attention I think I had developed a quick trigger. I was excited to be called on and pleased to know the right answers.

Throughout the year I aced spelling tests, wrote stories, learned long division and practiced cursive writing. I don't think I was aware that I may be a little bit (okay, a lot) nerdy or that my classmates must have groaned every time they saw my hand go up. I soaked up learning like a sponge. I trusted myself and my abilities. My efforts were validated by straight A report cards and resplendent reports from a teacher who was impressed by me. I glowed in her delighted limelight.

Like War and Peace this story is too long for one sitting. I've decided to break it up for your benefit and mine.
Merry ME

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Miscellaneous Musing

"Patience is the art of hoping."
Marquis de Vauvenargues *

Asclepias curassavica -Tropical Milkweed

aka Butterfly Weed, Bloodflower and Mexican Milkweed


Last night I watched this really cool show on the Discovery Channel - Wild Pacific. There was lots of interesting information as well as some photography that begged the question, "how did they do that?" Back-to-back episodes were followed by an hour long show answering just that question.

Even now that I know what camera he used and what he was looking for, I am still unsure how the underwater photographer was able to catch the perfect picture of a surfer inside the perfect wave. How the guy kept from being pummeled by the wave he was photographing is a mystery to me. The reason, perhaps, he's famous and I'm not.

Another featured artist specialized in wildlife photography. Wildlife as in finding penguins in the middle of a New Zealand forest (huh?), lizards that have been around since the days of the dinosaurs and birds who are quite handsome when they dance but cannot fly. After walking around the Galapagos Islands for days, he was ready to give up on his subject ... penguins who live about as far away from Antarctica as you can get but survive on the fish brought to their front door by the cold waters of the Humboldt current. Unlike me who would have bitched and moaned and longed for a tall glass of ice tea, this the guy (and his trusty Ecuadoran guide) didn't give up. Finally, one day his efforts were rewarded. He was the first ever to photograph what happens inside a penguin nest when mama has come back home with dinner s (and when a crab want to play). It was pretty amazing footage.

All this was on my mind this morning as Sweetie cooked bacon and Dad filled in a crossword puzzle that quite deceptively (in my estimation) asks for answers but leaves out enough spaces and the puzzler is supposed to be able to figure out which letters are missing... what's that all about. Basically I had nothing to do so I sang a little made up ditty and I looked out the kitchen window. I was amazed to see, for the very first time, a monarch butterfly dining on the milkweed bush I planted just for that purpose. It's been there for 6 weeks and I haven't seen one caterpillar, cocoon or butterfly. I grabbed my camera and went out to capture the moment. Of course, the butterfly I wanted to photograph flew away when the door slammed shut behind me.

Undeterred I took up residence under the bird feeder, behind the pool pump and waited. This monarch was apparently pleased to find the flowery smorgasbord all to himself. He kept coming back for more, paying no attention to me at all to. I soon found the problem with photographing flying insects. They are constantly on the move. Even when they have their proboscis stuck in a milkweed bloom they seem to be a-flutter. I have a point and shoot camera, not one of those with fast forward clicking action. I was always a frame or two behind the perfect shot.


[Photo: Look close at the center of the picture. Those black fuzzy lines are the markings on the butterfly's wings.]












My back and knees began to ache. The morning sun beat down on me giving a hint as to what the temperature of the day might be. Birds squawked over my head to let me know I was interrupting their breakfast. Still I kept my focus. Patience was the name of the game. I waited - if not for the perfect shot, at least one where the butterfly was visible.

[Photo: A little bit more of the wings are nearly visible.]




[Photo: Sweet success!!! Plus a little help from zoom and crop.]

Sweetie and the pool man stirred me from my photographic reverie. Dad still need his coffee. Photo or not, life goes on.


Here's hoping your day will be filled with butterflies and sunshine. And if you are stuck at a red light behind someone who doesn't realize that he needs to pull up closer to the crosswalk in order for the light to sequence in your favor, may you find yourself with patience to spare.

Merry ME

* Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues, (1715-1747), French moralist, essayist and miscellaneous writer.

I wonder if that is what they say about me when I'm gone. She was a "miscellaneous writer." Would that mean that I write about a varied of topics or am just plain unfocused? ~me

P.S. As if you haven't figured it out yet, I have no idea how the spacing on this blog works. On my end, before I publish, everything looks evenly spaced. Once I hit the publish button, gremlins from inside the blogosphere do their thing and what you see on the screen is all mumbo jumbo. Some lines are scrunced up together and others have too many spaces. I'm going to stop trying to figure it out and concentrate on spelling and grammar - two things I have a little more control over ... not much but some! ~me, again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Self`-in*dul"gent,
a. Indulging one's appetites, desires, etc., freely *

I just read Fyrebird's blog for today. Actually it wasn't an actual post. It was more of a note to say that she'd deleted the post because it was "self-indulgent twaddle." I've decided to say a few things about that PLUS add my own bit of self indulgence. Hopefully I'll make a case that indulging one's self isn't all that bad.

Dictionary.com had a couple other definitions of "self-indulgent" but I chose the one above because it did not include descriptive words like excessive or without restraint. I think it's these adjectives that give self-indulgence a bad rap.

I've been co-dependent for as long as I can remember. That's psychobabble for carrying about others more than yourself. I've always considered being a mom and being co-dependent to be the same thing. When you're a mom you learn real quickly that someone else's needs and desires come before your own. After awhile you get into that mindset. It becomes a natural state of affairs to put your own needs on the back burner and forget to turn the stove on!

Recovering from co-dependency is a gradual process of getting re-acquainted with yourself; finding out, perhaps for the first time in years, about your own likes and dislikes, becoming assertive and setting boundaries. In other words learning to indulge your own ideas instead of someone else's.

In my experience stepping up to the Merry ME plate included some self-indulgence. And, yes, I'm sure I have at times been excessive in that respect. Hopefully with practice I've been able to come to a place of balance. Not when it comes to things like triple-layered mousse-filled Godiva chocolate cake covered in ganache or and extra hour or two in a darkened room with a quilt pulled up to my nose, but mostly I try to indulge myself when I think I need it! I suppose that is subjective isn't it!

I don't know what Bryd's twaddle was about. Only she can rightly determine if it was self-indulgent or not. That's the beauty of the delete key - one strike and it's gone like it never even happened. Unless, of course, you tell everybody what you just did! I'm pretty sure Bryd knows her blogging friends are accepting of her whether she twaddles or not.

A slight change of subject but self-indulgent nonetheless.

I don't recall what blog road I took to get there but An Aerial Armadillo has become one of the blogs I love to browse. Today, for instance, there was a whole list of suggested reading material along with the question: Are you secretly seduced by the cover of a book…..….or is it the title that whispers suggestively to you? I haven't done it yet, but I'm going to have to take myself to Barnes & Noble and do a little experiment. Cover or title? Title or cover? I'm not sure how I pick a book. If you are interested I suggest you visit the blog, check out her book list and leave a comment. Personally I'm pretty intrigued by a book called Pigs in Heaven.

While you are there take a look at her side bar. She's got a lot going on there. What intrigues me most is the number of blog awards she has accrued. It got me to thinking where do blog awards come from? Who gives them? What criteria do they use? And, rather self-indulgently, I ask myself why don't I have any? Can you hear little Merry whining, feeling sorry for herself and neglected? The fact that perhaps I haven't done anything to deserve an award is far from my whiny rampage.


Before you stop reading because you want to smack me, let me acknowledge that in the time I've been blogging, I have received an award - a great award. An "I love your blog" award. Terri St. Cloud passed it on to me back in November 2008. I managed to lose it for awhile which I hope doesn't make Terri think I don't care. But it also begs the question is there blog award etiquette - like how long do you leave an award on your blog which in essence toots your own horn? More self-indulgence or pride of ownership?

I know I sound like a big baby but I feel a little jealous of the Aerial Armadillo. I also don't feel too deserving of such awards. It's kind of like wanting a hug but feeling the hugger should know to hug you without you having to ask for it. A hug, or a kiss, or an award is not quite the same if you have to ask for it. Is it?

Waa ... waa ... waa...

The cool thing, and I mean really cool, is that in just one week two blog buddies have published post on their blogs "For Merry ME." After all is said and done, and I've bellyached til I'm blue in the face, I have to say these bloggers made me feel like a queen, like I matter.

Hmmm, I say to myself (who may or may not be listening) does this suggest that the only way I feel like I matter is if someone acknowledges me in some noticeable way, i.e. an award? What happened to looking in the mirror (or my blog) and saying to myself, "Damn, Merry Me, you're doing a fine job. I'm proud of you." Is that self-indulgent or self-caring?

I don't toot my own blog horn much. But Sweetie does. He's all the time telling people about my blog and inviting them to read what I have to say. It's pretty clear I matter to him. I don't use my blog as a way to raise money for worthy causes, though I am proud of those who do, and I try to help them out with money, prayers and kind words. I hope other people know how much they matter to me, even if I never ever see them.

I think I've come full circle. For me the blogosphere is a world where people connect. Not so much as in the days of yore when flowery letters were the communication choice of the day. If friends want to engage in self-indulgent twaddle, so be it. If other people get or give awards for doing what they do, so be it. Mainly I'm testing my writing wings. I'm giving myself a place to lay my words out there for whoever drops by. It seems a little self-indulgent, but it's also kind of, sort of, just maybe, fulfilling a deep need I have to have a voice and be heard.


All puffed up and nowhere to go,
Merry ME

P.S. My new motto: If you don't get an award, give one. I'm going to start thinking about my own award to give out. Probably I'll start with me!!!!!

*self-indulgent. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved July 07, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/self-indulgent

Sunday, July 5, 2009

In case you were wondering!

"Now if I had a needle and thread; As fine as I could sew
I'd sew my sweetheart to my back; And down the road I'd go.
Here! Rattler, Here! Here!; Here! Rattler! Here!
Recorded by Grandpa Jones

I took LG's (see comments on previous post) advice and googled Ol' Rattler. Was I in for a surprise. Turns out Ol' Rattler was a dog not a snake. When I mentioned this to my father he shook his head in surprise and wonder. "Who would ever think Rattler was a snake?" he asked like one of those Hee Haw guys standing out in the cornfield wearing faded overalls. Apparently I've been away from my mountain roots way too long.

It also turns out there is way more to the Ol' Rattler song than my father remembered. It's almost poetry! However, there is not one mention of our fair country, or Independence Day or even apple pie. For this reason I still question Dad's choice of patriotic songs. Clearly he's just having fun with me!

If you don't have anything better to do, like clean the bathroom or wash the car go head and click here and have a listen. WARNING: It's a catchy little tune and you just might feel the need to get up and stomp one foot while you slap the other leg to keep the beat.

Hee Haw!
Merry ME

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I'm Proud to be an American

"You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave"
George M. Cohan



I asked my Dad yesterday if he had a favorite 4th of July song. Without missing a beat he said,"Call Ol' Rattler from the Barn." If you are scratching your head and wondering about that you are not alone. That is the same reaction my sister and I had. First we asked him to sing it; then we asked the obvious question, what does it have to do with the 4th of July.

And sing it he did: "Call ol' Rattler from the barn. Here Rattler! Here Rattler!" As far as I can figure there isn't really a tune, just a kind of HeeHaw kind of beat. You know the kind that makes you want to clap your hands and tap your foot.


If you knew my Dad you would have been surprised to see the smile on his face as he sang. For reasons unbeknown to me this song seemed to tickle his funny bone or, more likely, stirred up a memory he didn't feel like sharing.

My dad, who pretty much has an opinion on most any subject, stated vehemently that Ol' Rattler is as good as any other because there are no definitive 4th of July songs. I know, you're screaming out what about "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful" or "You're a grand old flag?" which is exactly what my sister and I yelled. I even burst out in a chorus of "a duck may be somebody's mother ...." which I have to admit made his point rather than mine because what in the heck does a duck have to do with the 4th of July?


"Nope," he responded to every song we mentioned. "Those are patriotic songs, not 4th of July songs," he said adamantly, which in effect threw down an invisible gauntlet. I intended to google it and come up with at least one song that is indisputably linked to today's holiday just to prove him wrong. Before I got around to that I realized he'd done it again - hooked us right into a dumb ass debate where there is probably no answer. Like most dad/daughter debates in this family, there was only going to be one winner; that was going to be the person who didn't raise his voice, lose his composure or demand to be "right". Our Dad/daughter differences are usually solved not by agreeing to disagree, but by the daughter stomping off muttering cuss words under her breath. Dad doesn't have to be right because he can outwait us every time.

In my heart of hearts, I feel certain that John Phillip Sousa wrote at least one march specifically for the 4th of July. But in the spirit of love and freedom of choice I defer to the patriot patriarch and will forever think of "Call Ol' Rattler from the Barn" as the quintessential 4th of July song.


Speaking of J. P. Sousa, I'm going to reveal a little known Merry ME fact. I have a special place in my heart for the March King. I don't know why exactly but I do. Has anyone but me seen the 1952 movie, Stars and Stripes Forever, more than once? I must have been a kid when I first saw it and have sustained a secret (guess it's no secret anymore) crush on Robert Wagner ever since; even when he was married to Natalie Wood I lusted after the man who won me over by playing the Sousaphone. Okay, so maybe he didn't really play that instrument, but I was a kid and I was easily if not musically impressed.


In all truth it was not any particular instrument that thrills me when I hear the Sousa's music played by a sharply dressed Marine Corps band. It is the overall performance. In my book it is patriotism personified. The flag waving, the drum beating, the piccolo trilling, the drum major leading the band's way across a parade field with high stepping precision. Be still my heart! I feel a swoon coming on.





[Photo: Self portrait of Sweetie and I. How damn cute is that guy?]


Alas there was no military parade in town that I could convince anyone to attend with me. I had to make do with something closer to home. In years past a patriotic band of neighbors have gathered on a communal grassy circle with decorated bicycles, golf carts, dogs and children to await a local fire company to lead the parade down Weller Ave. - our main street. This morning the tradition continued with a slight variation of the route taken. While the engine's red, white and blue lights flashed and a tape recorder blared standard parade music (not one mentioned a rattler or a barn), a quick prayer was said by the city councilman who lives in the area followed by a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance .


Once the formalities were out of the way the parade began. I had it arranged that the route would come right by our house so I festooned Dad's wheelchair with striped crepe paper and put it the driveway for grand stand seating. Because I didn't really want to run the risk that Dad might decide he likes to be pushed, I momentarily weighed the options of wheelchair or walker. Standing, however, even for a short parade, really wasn't an option for Dad. The wheelchair won out.


Each of us dressed in our best patriotic attire; even the dog agreed to a wear a scarf though she was not quite sure what the occasion was. Once we heard the music on the other side of the block, we positioned ourselves for the most advantageous view. [Photo: Eat your heart out Dorothy!]


When the fire engine made its way around the curve I felt a shiver of excitement and pride. As if we were watching a military homecoming parade in New York City, we all hooted and hollered and waved flags at people we don't even know - a caravan of people who not only love their mother country but enjoy getting out to meet their neighbors.

Lately the city where I live has been more like something out of the wild West than of the genteel south. But today, there was no sign of animosity or trouble. Neighbors, young and old, male and female, Republican and Democrats walked together waving flags and hands. It was a reminder of a kinder, gentler time.

During his Naval career, my father participated in dress parades as both inspector and inspectee. Even though this wasn't exactly the same kind of parade I wondered what memories he might have had as people passed by and turned their heads to meet his gaze. Maybe none. Perhaps he was just enjoying the show.



A couple people came up to Dad, introduced themselves and gave him a great big 4th of July hug. I was trying to take pictures but like always was a second or two behind the of best photo ops. I didn't get it on film, but the thing that moved me to tears was when a young boy, maybe 10ish, walked right up to my dad without any sign of shyness or reserve. For a moment, the clock turned backwards. Like in the days before fist bumping, this kid who didn't know my father from Adam, held out his had and Dad returned the favor. In that handshake I caught a glimpse of what this holiday is all about ... remembering, respecting and honoring. God bless America!




Here Rattler! Here Rattler!
Merry ME


P.S. Here's another quote I really liked. When I'm a grown up writer I want to be just like Erma Bombeck.

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4,
not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers
who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle,
but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,
the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.
You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."
Erma Bombeck

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summertime Scenes

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes,
and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.
A few of those days and you can become drunk with the
belief that all's right with the world."
Ada Louise Huxtable*
Since it's the first of the month Sweetie and I headed out with our full bank account and long shopping list to see if we could come out even at the end of the day. I took my camera with me thinking I'd capture a plethora of summertime scenes to answer the question posed on Molly's blog.
Alas, I was undone at our first stop - Sam's Club. The parking lot was crammed full of a combination of people just like us (with first of the month money in their pockets) and holiday shoppers. The one picture I didn't have the nerve to take was of a woman checking out with one of those huge baskets full from bottom to top with hot dog buns. Not a weenie in sight, but enough buns to serve the Russian army. Obviously this lady had drawn the bread card for the holiday picnic.
From Sam's we went to Lowe's to look at gas grills. Another photo op missed - Sweetie drooling over some humongous cooker with vents that looked like submarine periscopes stuck in the up position. After giving the grill serious consideration and gently caressing its rust-resistant porcelain steel top, my very practical Sweetheart came to his senses. Even with a free container of propane thrown into the deal, the chances of us ever using the total cooking space on that thing were pretty slim so it really wasn't cost effective.
Had Sweetie had the camera in his possession he might have taken a picture of me in the fabric department of Walmart. I have a whole slew of coupons for Joann Fabrics, but I still made an honorary pilgrimage through the aisles of discount fabrics. Buying fabric is actually a year-round exercise, but selecting reds, whites and blues for some patriotic quilts made it feel summerish.
I considered taking a picture of Patricia, our checkout lady whom Sweetie lovingly described as a goofhead. In her defense she had apparently just been written up for some minor offense by her supervisor. Thus she was much more interested in making her own list of grievances to throw back at management than carefully packing our reusable bags. As it turned out neither we nor she were in the mood to argue over a coupon that said "Free" in big bold letters, but 24 oz size in itsy bitsy type. It's summertime and the livin' is easy, unless you are working at Walmart and your line is backing up over a 48 oz. item.
Later on in the day, with the groceries put away and Sweetie cooling off in the pool, I went looking for a new bathing suit. The one I've been wearing for an untold number of years has apparently lots all it's stretch. Even though my mom wore an old-fashioned Speedo tank suit left over from when my sister was on the high school swim team for more years than anyone can remember, I decided if I was going to force myself to do laps and aquatic stretching exercises I was going to look good doing it.
You can tell it's been awhile since I bought a bathing suit because I nearly fainted at the price tags. Who in their right mind would buy a $90.00 suit even at half price? I think I finally understand why mom wore that old rag for so many years. Since being in my right mind is often in question I loaded myself down with suits of various sizes, mostly in black hoping for a slimming affect that would negate the fact that that I was trying on suits designed by Delta Burke, i.e. suits for the larger sized woman.

I guess I'm pleased that nothing fit quite right; or should I say nothing fit the way I thought a $90.00 suit should fit. I figure for that price I'd appear slimmer and trimmer than I did.
At the end of the day Sweetie decided against the grill and I decided against a new swim suit. We stuck to our financial goals and stayed within our means. This is a good thing.
As the lazy, hazy days of summer linger on I'm curious, what are your summertime scenes?
Merry ME

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

For Sorrow

[Photo by Dale Dressler (c) 2005*]


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another,
'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis

My blogging friend, Sorrow Grey, reached out across cyberspace yesterday and touched my heart. How does that happen? That someone I don't actually know knows me well enough to put a comment on my "Refuge" post that made me smile, cry and feel blessed?
Please go back and read her comments and check out the John Denver songs she mentions. I have seriously never heard of these songs and I thought I was the most devoted of Denver devotees. The songs are really, really special. But more than that is the one who 1)took the time to read my post 2) related to what I said 3)remembered what I've written in the past of my connection to John Denver and 4) knew how his songs would take me to a place of peace. How cool is that?
And then, on top of all that, this sweet lady puts yet another song on her post for Merry Me.
I hope that I can someday repay the favor - or pay it forward as Sorrow does with her creations she sells on Etsy.
For now, I say a humble prayer of gratitude for friends, songs and a happy heart.
May each of you be blessed with peace,