Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Ripples

"We don't have to feel helpless.
We can help.
Our small actions together will ripple outward."

I'm so darned bothered by this whole oil spill. By the spill itself, by the news coverage, by BP, by not knowing what's the truth and what isn't, by the thought of oil covered sea life and tar-ball covered beaches, not to mention a big ol' hurricane heading straight for the mess. And I live hundreds of miles away. I can't imagine what the people who have seen it, breathed it and lived it every day since the pipe broke must feel.

But here's the thing. I/you/we can sit around and wring our hands or moan and groan about not being able to do anything or we can do something. And one something is to visit again. Or if you haven't been there check it out today. I go several times a day. I've bought three pictures, which means I've donated $30.00 which means I've personally paid for enough Dawn dish detergent to clean 3 birds ($10=3 bottles, 3 bottles cleans one bird). That's not nothing! I'm doing something. Plus I've got some really cool art that I wouldn't ordinarily even been exposed to. I'm reminded of The Starfish Story - for those 3 birds I made a difference.

When I went to the site this morning, I fell in love with this drawing made by Ryan. He is 5 years old. He loves to draw and he wanted to help the fish by making this picture. It was done in magic marker and is 3.5"x2.5". How absolutely cool is that?

I know there are a kazillion people and concerns around the world that need help. I know each of us has to pick and choose which one we want to contribute to and how much. It's a personal decision most have to make with their heart as well as their head. Even if you can't donate to this cause, I encourage you to go look at the art. I find it quite delightful. It never fails to make me smile.

Wishing for you a summer day by the sea, with the smell of coconut oil wafting on a light breeze that keeps you from getting too hot as you hunt for the perfect shell,
Merry ME

P.S. Donation Details and How it Works:

Each sketchcard on this blog is $10.00. The $10.00 is a donation to help the animal victims of the Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil Spill. Every penny is donated. The two Non-Profits that are benefitting are The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You can purchase a card if you donate directly to one of the non-profits and email me the confirmation and your address to The artist will mail you the signed card.

Artists - email for info

Monday, June 28, 2010


"Instead of bland, it's spicy and fragrant
with the flavors of lime and citrus
which are natural and healthy and add zing."
Elizabeth Simon

This may look like an ordinary bowl of salsa. In reality it is a bowlful of, to use the words of Sweetie a self-proclaimed salsa aficionado,"perfection". Personally I think it was a tad on the fiery side as evidenced by the smoke coming out of the ears of people brave enough to try it.

What I think is important to note about this bowl of dragon's breath is that it is homemade by little ol' ME. I used Weneki's recipe but without knowing it, apparently kicked it up a notch. I did not do this intentionally. My goal in adding the extra chilies was to add volume, not heat. I also increased the amount of onions and tomatoes and lime juice. Perhaps my mistake was in not bothering to measure anything. I got into a real chopping rhythm.

Chop, chop, chop ... toss in the bowl. Chop, chop, chop ... toss in the bowl.

I considered the project more art than science.

I also admit that I didn't stop to consider that Anaheim chilies have their own bit of spicy attitude. I thought they were the just distant wanna be cousins of the heated peppers, not the "real thing." Had I known this was not exactly the case, I may have added more tomatoes and less sizzle.

I would like to point out what you cannot see in the picture. Yes this salsa was pretty. Yes it was spicy. It's best feature, however, was the delicate seasoning of cilantro. Not any cilantro. Homegrown, right out of the garden, fresh cilantro. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. There's a new girl on the block. She can grow it, chop it, mix it, chill it overnight and dish it up in a festive bowl. My, my, my what a sense of accomplishment.

My first attempt at gardening may not include a "wow" factor. So far the tomato plant I have hanging in a Tospy Turvy planter looks something like a sea creature created for a Japanese B movie - all legs. Sadly it holds only one ping pong ball sized green tomato which I feel sure is going to drop off the vine before it has even a hint of red. The watermelon, cucumber and squash plants could have a dose of storybook Jack's bean magic. They are growing in circles with little viney feet that cling to anything and everything in site. The fence, another plant, and poor St. Francis who is just standing there trying to add some reverence to the plants gone wild. The beans are quietly and efficiently doing their bean thing. Bottom line, not one flower or fruit in the lot. I guess that's the beauty of herbs.

Wishing for you a day full of spice,
Merry ME

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Big Chill Moment

"When the night has come
And the land is dark,
And the moon is the only light we'll see,
I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid,
Just as long as you stand, stand by me."

Last week Patty put up a link to a video that I really love. I have played it over and over again.
In a rare moment yesterday, I found myself alone. Dad was asleep, Sweetie in the pool. I decided I needed a some music to go along with the solitude. So I set my computer on the ironing board (which sits in the middle of the room, next to the ironing pile with the supposed intent to inspire me to get the job done, ha!), turned up the volume and started dancing. All by myself, feeling the music, letting the beat guide my movements.

In my reverie I didn't hear Sweetie come in the back door. I sensed rather then saw him. My heart became aware of his presence. I opened my eyes and the man I adore was dancing with me. Neither of us spoke. We didn't need words. We let our bodies do the talking.

If you read my blog on a regular basis you can probably tell I've been sort of hard to live with lately. Sweetie told me I'm would up tighter than the broken garage door spring. The whole time I'm trying to be loving, patient, and compassionate I'm also a bit more than tired, moody, harried, anxious, with a dash of anger thrown in to the mix to keep things interesting. Mostly my Sweetie is tolerant and helpful. Sometimes he gets angry too. Usually we know how to communicate pretty well, but sometimes an undercurrent of unspoken anger gets us out of sync. Not the kind of anger where verbal arrows are flung at each other or the chill in the air can refreeze the Arctic icecap. It's more a kind of blase pissiness that makes you want to call each other poopoo head instead of kissing each other goodnight. And when you do kiss your lips hardly touch and you fall asleep before you say "I love you more than ......."

The good news is that, for me and I hope for Sweetie, all that icky-ness evaporated while we danced around the room. Later on, when Dad fell we worked together in a renewed harmony to make sure he was okay. We're a team, Sweetie and I. A good one. Sometimes life gets in the way and one or the other of us forgets. I'm glad we don't forget for long.

I think I can guarantee that if click here you are going to stop whatever it is you are doing and start to dance. Enjoy!

Wishing for you somebody to stand by you when you're not feeling your usual sunny self,
Merry ME

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Day in My Life

Would you like some yogurt or some Jello?
What's yellow?
I didn't say yellow, I said Jello.
I guess yellow yogurt would be peach or apricot. Both of those would be good.
I'll take peach.
Sorry dad all we had was pineapple. Would you rather have Jello?
What's yellow?

And so goes the third day of Dad taking a different, i.e. stronger, pain medication.

Yesterday started at 445am (not my best time) with Dad trying to figure out where he was - where everyone was. I know from experience there is no un-confusing a drug confused mind, so I stayed up with him, answering questions that had no answers.

About the time he went back to sleep, it was time to get up, take another pill (Nurse #2 says not to stop giving them. Keep on schedule. They are timed release. It takes 3 days to get into his system. The goofiness will dissipate) and get dressed so we can get to the cardiologist on time.

Somehow we both rally at the same time. I make the necessary wheelchair to car and vice versa transfers and stuff the wheelchair into the back seat. Even in the middle of concern and frustration and an all-consuming drowsiness, my Pollyanna voice that has been on vacation for a long while, tells me that if I have to do this maneuver very often, I am sure to loose the droopy flaps that dangle from my underarm. This is a good thing, though right now I'd trade arms of steel for a short nap with the sounds of the ocean wafting through my head instead of adrenaline charged thoughts of what next.

The doctor says, "Luther, you're looking really good." I look at the doctor, then at my father, then back at the doctor. I realize this man is only interested in one thing - how Dad's heart/pace maker are working. I know it's good news. I'm glad to hear it. Still I was hoping for something more along the lines, of "Luther, you're a goof ball. I think you'd better lay off that medication." It's probably a good thing he didn't say that as I may have embarrassed myself with by kissing his feet or trying to act cool with high fives and fist bumps.

For the first time in a long while, it took longer to get to the doctor's office then it did for the exam. We got what we went for, we passed inspection and we left. Thoughts of In and Out burgers traipsed through my head, making me realize I had not eaten.

Once home, Dad laid back down to sleep, and sleep some more, and then sleep some more. Each time he woke up, his legs were a little weaker and his mind kind of like that yellow J-ello, all squiggly. It was only a matter of time before he fell.

And fall he did. No one saw it but Jack heard it. We found Dad slumped on the bathroom floor wedged between the toilet and the wall. I've seen drunks like that in my day. I think Dad might have gone right back to sleep if we'd left him there. It took both Jack and I to lift him up. Dad's left leg won't hold any weight at all. But his engineer's mind, befuddled or not, gave instructions on how and when to lift. Back in his chair he mosied out to the table to sit and stare. There was a lot of staring going on.

At dinner, which consisted of pizza for Jack and I, and one bite of pepperocini pepper for dad who thought he was eating pizza crust, Jack tried to pull a promise out of Dad that he wouldn't try to stand up on his own, that he'd call for help. It's hard to even describe the conversation that came after that. In fact it wasn't a conversation so much as something along the lines of Aristotle defining the word promise. Several hours later Dad was still sitting at the table. His audience was up and moving but Dad looked to be in a kind of fugue state.

By the time he got back to his bedroom, refusing hands on help and irritated by my style of let-me-do-it-for-you-so-you (I)-can-get-into-bed-before-midnight caregiving. I was reduced to sitting in a chair with my back to the bathroom reading a book, but listening to every sound as if I had Spock ears. Jack was also on watch, but didn't have the same uptight countenance as me. I kept looking at him like I wanted to kill something, and he just smiled back. Smiled! What there was to smile about I'm still not sure.

To make a really long story not seem as long as yesterday actually was, I'll just say he finally plopped into bed, closed his eyes and went to sleep. Hibernating grizzly bear kind of sleep. Until 4 am when he called my name and I popped up out of bed like a Mary in the box.

"Help me up," he said as I walked in to find him crumpled between the bed and the bedside commode. I had to call Jack to help. Jack wasn't smiling now. I doubt I was either, but something about the whole thing pushed Dad's tickle box. He lay in a heap with a big old smile on his face.

Oh please God, I prayed, let him go back to bed. After about an hour, my prayers were answered. We both slept for a few more hours when I had to get up, and start filling him with more medication. He has suggested we call hospice and ask if we can exchange the pain medication for 3 stiff shots of whisky. Personally, I think I'd like a shot of Jose Cuervo with a wedge of lime to suck on.

Wishing for a sense of humor during hard times all wrapped up in yellow - not Jello,
Merry ME

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Blog

"A man should hear a little music,
read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate
the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There's a new blog in town you might be interested in seeing and participating in. My friend, Fyrebird, over in England started it. In just the few days it's been up and running it has already got some pretty fantastic photos up.

Beautiful World is "a place to see our world from around the world."

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But I don't think you'll be disappointed if you make it a daily habit to stop by and see what other people around the world see. In my limited blog experience I know several photographers who consistently make me say "ahhh" or "wow" or "awesome" or "how did you get that shot?". You know who you are. Don't be shy. Hop on over to Beautiful World and sign up.

Once you see the quality of the photos you may chuckle to yourself to think that I have signed on to be a contributor. What's that saying about even a blind elephant finding a peanut now and then (a standard used by my X)? I know very little about apertures, F-stops, light and shadow. I have a simple point and shoot camera that I carry with me on the off chance I may see something that moves me. Mostly they make me think I've got a lot to learn about photography.

I wanted to put music to this post. Alas, I have no clue how to do it. Instead, you'll just have to put on your imagination cap and listen closely to the late great Louie Armstrong singing "It's a Wonderful World." About the only thing missing would be a nice glass of cold lemonade to sip while you're enjoying at the pictures.

Wishing for you a world full of beauty,
Merry ME

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crossword Puzzles

"How lucky I am to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard."
Winnie the Pooh
[A.A. Milne]

I think there has been a changing of the guard at our house. I'm not even sure when it happened. One day dad had the puzzle book, the next day I did. It may look like there was an official handoff, but it was actually a gradual thing.

For years when my father sat at the kitchen table sipping on lukewarm coffee, he occupied his head and his hands by doing crossword puzzles. His birthday, Christmas, Father's Day, the standard gift from at least one of his daughters, sometimes more than one, has been a book filled with New York or LA Times Sunday crosswords. They are stacked up on the bamboo table at the end of the hall. When he finishes one book, there is always another one to replace it.

Even though I have an affinity for words, I always thought crossword puzzles, at least the one's Dad likes, were way out of my realm of expertise. If I'm a first grade puzzler, Dad has a PhD in the subject. My style of puzzling includes using the dictionary, looking up the answers in the back of the book and doodling on the page. Pen in hand, Dad can usually fill in the blanks before I can get to the answer page. If not, he ponders. You can almost see his brain working, like one of those Mousetrap game mazes where the marble drops from a plastic boot, into a cup which spills over into a trough, rolls through a wheel then rings a bell. Dad has a brain chock full of word definitions and doesn't need google to pull one from the cerebral shelf where they reside. Basically, I'm way out of Dad's puzzle league.

For a long time our habit was that I'd do the weekday newspaper puzzle while dad worked in his Simon and Schuster "Mega Crossword Puzzle book." He had dibs on the Sunday puzzle. This was fine with me because I could rarely complete anything past Wednesday. It took me awhile to even figure out that the puzzles increase in difficulty as the week progresses. For a long time I thought it was my brain power that diminished from Monday through Friday, which still might be part of the problem. Anyway, the Sunday puzzle was/is over my head. But one day, while waiting for Dad to get ready for church, I crossed an invisible boundary. I studied the across and down clues until I found one I could answer. Then I tried another, and another. As the weeks went by, Dad got slower and I my ability to fill in the blank squares got better. Now I'm not saying I always filled them in correctly, but by the time Dad got to "his" puzzle it was partially done.

And so it went. When Dad worked the newspaper puzzle I'd work in the book. When he'd work in the book, I'd pick up the newspaper. I traded a pencil for a pen; Bic erasable at first, but I've moved up to a Sharpie. It makes corrections difficult to read but let's face it, a Sharpie will always be my writing instrument of choice.

Some of Dad's habits remain steadfast. He sits at the table three times a day even if he doesn't eat anything. He has a cocktail at 6pm every evening, followed by dinner and a cup of coffee which lately he's let get cold. He wants company but not necessarily conversation. So while he sits I puzzle.

Sometimes I can draw him out of his whatever reverie he's in with questions like "what's a four letter word for ....?" or "How do you spell ....?" or "Who wrote Stormy Monday?"He can't remember when he took his last pain pill, but nine times out of ten he'll give me the right answer to the puzzle, sometimes in French or German. A few years ago I would have scoffed at the idea that my father and I would share the fine art of crossword puzzles. In fact I might have scoffed at the idea of us sharing anything but punches - word punches, but painful jabs nonetheless. Now I kind of look forward to the time we spend together at the table.

My parents had a 1950's kind of relationship. Dad worked outside the home. Mom's domain was inside. That changed some when mom got sick, but for all the time my sisters and I were growing up, we looked to our mother for how to do "girl" things. Mom taught us to sew and cook, how to put on lipstick, make a bed, and fold fitted sheets. It never occurred to me (and I think I speak for my sisters) to ask Dad how to use a hammer, or a power saw, or a lawn mower. We were never invited into his hobby world of photography, aquariums, guns (thank you Jesus) and Heath kits. I always thought it was because we were girls, and girls did girl things. Maybe it was because we didn't ask to be included. Maybe we should have just joined in without invitation.

When my Dad passes to the great beyond, there will be a lot of time spent divvying up his things. It gives me the creeps but they've got to go somewhere and that's what family's do, isn't it? Take small, sometimes insignificant things of a person's life - a coffee mug, a pocket knife, a pen that writes upside down, an out of date red dictionary with print so small it can barely be read, an engraved money clip - and hold onto them in order to keep the person close for just a little bit longer. Then after the sadness has eased and the mind begins to let go, the things are shuffled around in drawers and only brought out on occasions when the heart remembers.

There's still a stack of crossword puzzles on the hall table. Dad might not, probably won't, crack the cover. But I'll leave them there for the time when I'm sitting at the kitchen table with nothing else to do.

Wishing for you time spent well with someone you love,
Merry ME

Cartoon copied from:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Affordable Art

"It is the greatest of all mistakes
to do nothing because you can only do a little -
do what you can."
Sydney Smith

Like most other people I have been horrified by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, yet feel helpless to do anything about it. It's so big. And let's face it, in the larger scheme of things, especially when it comes to oil spills, I'm so small. Thinking I could my part to help the last time I got my hair cut, I asked Charles if he was collecting hair to put towards the mopping up efforts. Alas, he was leaving that up to the dog groomers in town so my shorn locks went into the trash can. And I'm left to wring my hands and rail against modern man(and woman) for ruining the earth. [Apparently dog hair stuffed into pantyhose make a pretty good oil sucker-upper. Who knew?]

Then I read Tessa's blog, which led me to the Ripplesketches blog. It's a place where artists from all over the world are contributing small original works of art which, for a donation of $10.00 to one of two non-profits to help the animal victims of the oil spill, can be yours. Ten dollars doesn't sound like much compared to the millions already spent and still adding up. Ten dollars is just a drop in the oil bucket. But in the short amount of time the blog has been up and running, the total contributions have gone over $3000.00. That can buy a lot of panty hose. Over at Bedlam Farms blog, Jon Katz is always talking about making art affordable for the everyday person. The Ripples site has done that, plus they are raising money for a good cause.

I've been watching the blog for a few days, scrolling through the pictures and marveling at the number of different images all saying basically the same thing ... the turtles, pelicans, hermit crabs, dolphins, and other sea creatures are the real victims of the spill. Most of the pictures I covet have already been sold. But new ones are coming in every day. You really must check it out.

On that same note, my father and I took a drive today. I wanted to do some running around, i.e. chase away the cabin fever, and he didn't want to stay home alone. So we compromised. He tagged along and I promised not to dawdle. It wasn't quite what I had in mind, but it worked. Half way to the beach we passed this humongous construction site where they are making an overpass that looks like it's going to have 6 lanes of traffic. That's bad enough. But what really got to me is the mess that they are making for as far as the eye can see on one side of the intersection. The road we've have been using to get to the beach since forever (or at least since I've lived in Jacksonville) is no longer two lane, and no longer lined by piney woods teeming with Florida flora and fauna. The trees have been mown down to make room for what looks like another parking lot. It isn't an accident or even a natural disaster. In my book, it's even worse ... a big man (and tractor) made mess. I felt a bit nauseous and a lot sad looking at all that brown and missing the green trees and the different colored birds.

My dad seems to think it wouldn't have happened if there wasn't some commercial market for it. He's probably right. Somebody, somewhere has enough money and enough say so to defoliate, de-populate and de-beautify another of Mother Nature's masterpieces. No matter that there are apartment buildings, houses and shopping centers sitting dormant and decrepit down the road.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for progress. If the city is expanding and we need to build new things fine. But it seems like for every new shopping center that is built, the same company should have to dig up the cracked asphalt and re-forest an old one.

With all that on my mind, this is the Ripplesketch picture that spoke to me this afternoon. Isn't it awesome? And it's mine for just $10.00. Woohoo! I love red birds!

It is done by Susan Sanford, an illustrator and animal lover in Northern California. Her blog is and her illustration website is

I've learned that when you give, you usually get as much or more back. Today, I traded ten dollars for a smile. A small donation but a big reward. And hopefully, in the near future there will be some less oily pelicans because I did small thing with great love.

Wishing for you the knowledge that ... "We don't have to feel helpless. We can help. Our small actions together will ripple outward."*
Merry ME

* from the Ripplescketch website

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What color is your day?

Sitting next to my Dad's bed tonight I saw this Target ad.
I don't know how it happened that she is on TV, but I'm pretty sure the "Mary" in the commercial is my inner child.

Do you ever feel like dipping your feet in pink paint, or frosting a cake with your hands or wearing fairy wings?

I do!

Wishing you a day filled with the color of your choice,
Merry ME

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How does your garden grow?

Another day. Same room. Same Chair.
Today, however, Dad is up. He moves slowly, but under his own steam. As Sweetie would say, this is a good thing! He got to the bathroom unaided. I heard him singing a little ditty he must have learned many years ago while at the Naval Academy.

Boy cat is asleep at the foot of the bed as if keeping it warm for his sleeping buddy. I noticed yesterday that the cat spent as much time, maybe more if that is possible, curled up in the bend of Dad's knees. It made me feel hot just to look at it. But there is something sweet about seeing these two together.

Dad awoke this morning with a list of instructions. Not a long list, just things to do that we didn't do yesterday.

Get the car fixed.
Call the bath lady.
Check on the breathing machine.

I add my own ...
Change the beds.
Wash the sheets.
Empty the dishw
Check on the garden.

The garden! I haven't told you about the garden.
When my cousins were here the menfolk put their heads together and arms into gear and built me two small garden boxes. I directed them to be placed near the fence on the far side of the yard, where the sun shines brightly most of the day. Maybe too brightly when the temperatures reach 100. I lined the boxes with newspaper and filled them with dirt. If the cats from across the street were watching they must have thought they'd found litter box Nirvana. While Sweetie read a book on square foot gardening I played in the dirt.

Jill and I transplanted my bean, radish and sunflower seedlings. The beans are already beginning to wind their way through the fence. Except for one radish holder-oner nothing survived the transplant. Graft vs host complications or operator error? Nothing a trip to the Home Depot/Target garden departments couldn't fix.

One box has my beans, a tomato, a squash and the radish. I think gardens are supposed to have nice neat rows, of nice neat plants, clearly marked as to what they are. It is probably no surprise that my garden is more of a hodgepodge! I've sprinkled some more seeds in there just to see what might come up.
[Photo: I hope I'm a better gardener than photographer. Up near the fence where you can't see for the shadow is a line of beans!]

The other box contains my attempt at herb gardening. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Plus some basil, a cucumber that may or may not survive that didn't fit in with the
vegetables. Some dying dill, lavender and oregano which clearly did not survive too much heat, over zealous watering or a combo of both. I've also added in some Zinnias and Black-Eyed Susans because I have this vision of flowers and herbs all growing up together in a collage of color and smell. [Photo: St. Francis sits atop the sodden remains of a lavender plant. I think I'll leave growing that aromatic jewel to my sister in Washington.

I'm fairly sure if these gardens actually produce produce it will be more at the hand of the Great Gardener in the Sky rather than my lame attempts at being a nature girl. Still, I walk out there every day with hose in hand, and a heart full of expectations. [See Pam's blog.] Just seeing my beans reach towards the sky makes me smile. They don't stop to think how far they've got to grow. They just plant their bean roots and grow their bean leaves knowing that one day, they will blossom into everything they were meant to be. I think there might be a lesson in there somewhere!

Sitting at the computer isn't checking anything off my lists, so I better get moving.

Wishing for you Sunflowers and Zinnias to brighten your day,
Merry ME

Monday, June 14, 2010

Opportunity Knocks

"Out of clutter, find Simplicity.
From discord, find Harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity."
Albert Einstein

Dad hasn't gotten up yet.

He woke up an hour ago, downed a handful of pills with half a glass of juice, ate some banana bread, remarked that it could use a lot more nuts and a little more banana couldn't hurt it, had his nails trimmed, then went back to sleep.

Before closing his eyes he asked me to stay nearby. My first thought, was ugh. Of all the places to sit in this big old house the chair I'm in is perhaps the least comfortable. Yet here I am, in the middle of difficulty trying to find the opportunity. It occurs to me, if I really want to be a writer, then sitting in the quiet of this room, with my father's rhythmic breathing next to me, the dog's snoring behind me, the clock ticking off the minutes each sounding like a metronome guiding the beat of my heart, there is no better time or place to seize the opportunity to write.

I'm reminded of Zub's story about his art professor and the chair.

"Looking back on the class, it taught me as much about life as it did about art. So much of how we view the world is simply a matter of perspective. And when you realize within everything lies something worth seeing, the only true crime is not taking the time to notice it."*

So I sit here and look around the room. I feel like I know it by heart, yet if I had to could I find my way around in the dark?

For as long as I can remember a king sized bed, set into a corner dominated the room. Big, heavy pieces of furniture, a dresser and armoire painted green and made to look like they had been antiqued (a popular technique of the 60's) sat on either side of the door. They haven't moved (except when dad ran into them recently with his new power chair trying to maneuver his way through the door) since they were placed there 48 years ago. After mom died, dad got a hospital bed he move up or down with the touch of a button. Tables, and desks wrap around the far wall, making a convenient place for his stuff. From one end to the other there is very little open space. A battery charger, wadded up Kleenex, socks, a flashlight, checkbooks .... that kind of stuff. Turn the corner and you get to the computer desk, then the TV. In a quirky bit of I'll-make-it- work engineering a battalion of surge protectors and extension cords snake their way like the Mississippi River heading for the now oil-covered Gulf of Mexico to the opposite wall to the only two sockets he can use . Dad says the cords don't stick out enough to cause a stumbling hazard. I guess I can agree with that, because I usually trip over his wheelchair, bedside potty chair or this recliner I'm in, way before my toes could come in contact with a stray electric cord. The man who can barely stand up any more has yet to stumble or stub a toe. Go figure!

The room was painted a soft sea foamy green several years ago. Like most things in this house it could stand a good scrub and a fresh coat of paint. Though it's hard to tell because Dad has covered almost most every one of the walls with his own gallery of pictures and memorabilia. I wonder if he looks at the photos anymore or if they are just there, like the Kleenex and bamboo back scratcher taking up space.

As an aside, Sweetie mentioned last week that the pristine walls in our newly painted bedroom could use some pictures. I'm usually pretty good at covering the walls with mementos, but for some reason, I like seeing nothing but the fresh paint. Do you think clutter around one is indicative of a cluttered life? Sweetie, aka Felix, has taken to calling me Oscar as in Oscar Madison of the Odd Couple fame. I could take offense but I know he's right. This apple doesn't fall too far from her tree.

4:45 PM
Dad has been up, eaten, read the paper and is now sleeping in the den. I think he could be living my dream life. I like to sleep, he tells anyone who will listen. I also like to sleep. But I think there must be a difference in sleeping because you like to steal a few moments (hours) in a cozy bed with a good book that acts like Sominex and sleeping all day because your body just doesn't have enough umphf to get up and moving.

Yesterday Dad was surrounded by a bevy of priests who prayed over him and anointed him with oil (he's had enough of this oil put on him lately so that he'd brown just like a Thanksgiving turkey if stuck in an oven set at the right temperature! Egads! Is that sacrilegious?) They continue to pray for his good health to be restored and for a long life. I used to get embarrassed when he told them that he'd lived long enough and that wasn't really what they should pray for.

But I stood in that circle, with my hands on his shoulders and I finally understood what he meant. My prayer is that the Beloved One in the Sky will bless him with courage to face what's coming, no pain, and not so many days that he ends up languishing in a room surrounded by pictures of the ones he once loved instead of being in Heaven with them.

Wishing for you eyes to see opportunity that surrounds you,
Merry ME

* From Zubin's self-written eulogy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Different Point of View

It is no surprise that taking care of my father is a lot like taking care of my children when they were young. Someone on NPR said the other day that life is a continuum. I don't really know what that means, but I think her point was that we are all alike, some just further down the road than others. Therefore there is a child in all of us, no matter how old. When they are just starting out, a child's natural inquisitiveness hasn't been altered by society's rules. They live in the moment. Often to the embarrassment of the adult in charge, little kids say the most outrageous things at the most inopportune times. I've found out the hard way, that the same is true of a certain old person I know. Sometimes he says things that I think are better left unsaid.

Dad has been telling stories lately of his youth. The one that makes us all chuckle, no matter how many times we've heard it, is the time his mother, a very prim and proper Southern lady hosted a meeting for the Methodist Missionary Society. (Imagine Aunt Bea from Mayberry fame all dressed up with her flowered print shirtwaist dress, white gloves, hat adorned with tulle netting with a pocketbook on her arm, and all the town ladies having coffee in her small but genteel living room.) Dad, just a little tyke, walked into the room. Paying little attention to the ladies, he proceeded to pee in the fireplace as if that was where he relieved himself all the time. My grandmother must have gasped. I think this might have been a time when women got the vapors! I can only imagine that some of them did. When asked why he did it, he looked at his mom with those baby blue eyes and said, "well, Mother, you do it all the time." Funny, as clear as that recollection is, he cannot remember what happened after that!

At the other end of that continuum is the old man who is not shy about telling anyone who will listen his "pee" problems. I guess after you've lived 90+ years you have earned the right to shed the filters and say what you please. On the other hand I don't think that gives an old person the right to say mean, hateful, hurtful things. Polite is polite no matter what the age.

Geez, I didn't mean to get off on that tangent.

My point is that there is much to be learned by spending time with children and old people.
Whether watching a person's light just begin to blaze or slowly burn itself out, it is a privilege I think we often overlook. I am always running here and there, cooking, cleaning, shopping, blogging. I don't stay still much. When I stop I sleep. Since I am always moving it's hard to see what the one I care for really needs. I'm not talking about food, another cup of coffee, or dry pants. I'm talking about the look-into-his-eyes-and-really-see-him-and-his-world kind of attention we all crave. On a daily basis, my concern is my father. But I never fail to see the look of little ones in tow at Wallmart, being dragged along on a tired and harried mother's journey to get the errands done so she can finally get home and put her feet up before she has to do it all again. I can only imagine how hard it is for parents to make ends meet and still sit in wonder with children who are just learning to explore the world. When was the last time you spent time looking at the universe from 24 inches off the ground. As an aside, examining what I thought was an giant ant hill, I found a hole yesterday down under a tree that might have been big enough for a white rabbit to fall through!

Since my father got himself a new battery-powered wheelchair he has taken to motoring out to the end of the driveway with his evening cocktail and sitting there. I admit, at first I thought it was pretty cool for the person who decries the advantages of fresh air and sunshine to agree to go out for a walk. Then I thought it was a tad bit weird to just go out and sit. Alone. Last night, I quit looking at it from my point of view and tried to put myself if not in his shoes, then at least his line of vision.

The heat of the afternoon had dissipated some. If you were still enough you could feel the tiniest of breezes. With the work of the day finished, the birds and squirrels were beginning to sing evening lullabies to their little ones. A few dog walkers came by, tuned into their Ipods but nodded neighborly hellos. From where he sat Dad could look at the house he's lived in for almost 50 years. I can only guess at some of the memories that went through his head in that quiet half hour. My dad isn't the kind of guy you'd see sitting in a lotus position, hands folded in prayer, saying "OM". But as I watched him I was pretty sure he was in a peaceful state of meditation. Who knew?

Wishing for you eyes wide open to the wonders of your world,
Merry ME

P.S. I saw this video this morning on Patty's blog. She got it from TheDailySpark. Where it originated I don't know. But I think I'd give my right arm, to have been there for the filming.

P.S.S. Bartleby, the baby lamb at Bedlam Farms is growing up fast. You can check him out at Katz's blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Possible Dreams

Note from ME: I know that there are hundreds of people out in the world who are doing what can only be called "God's work." Giving of their time, energy, money, love, and hope so that in some small (or large) way they will make a difference. Not for themselves, though that is most definitely a by-product of giving, but for the unfortunates who cannot do for themselves. On any of the blogs I read there are stories that will twist your heart into pieces and provoke you to dig deep into your pockets to give. I am moved by all of them and can't wait to win the lotto so I will have the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. For now, what I can do is share some of the stories with you. Maithri Goonetilleke's tales from Swaziland are some of my favorites. To be sure they are heart wrenching but the man's spirit is like a river of cool, clean water that runs through a desert, changing lives and offering hope.

"Hope is not a dream,
but a way of making dreams become reality."

Maithri has been in Australia for awhile doctoring. Recently he made his way half way around the world back to what I, without really knowing, call the work of his soul. That's not to say doctoring sick people anywhere isn't a soul calling. However, the work he does in Swaziland may just be the reason he was put on this earth.

If you read his blog, you will soon discover that this kind, gentle man is a modern day bionic
man. Only instead of robotic body parts he is a combination angel/superhero/doctor/fundraiser/
poet/friend/ice cream buyer/laugh maker/miracle worker. He enters into some of the most poverty stricken places on earth, works his magic, and leaves the children and GoGos feeling, if possible, less poor. Some barely have food to eat, or a roof over their heads, but Maithri gives them nourishment called hope.

In a recent post he said: "Sometimes it seems that the problems of this world loom over us like deep unshakeable shadows. But the reality is that in the face of even the most unimaginable despair, hope can find a way."

It's true isn't it. In the darkest of places, all it takes is one candle's worth of light/hope to see things differently. In my opinion, Maithri is way more than a candle. He's more like one of those gigantic spotlights that sends a humongous beam of light into the air and moves back and forth announcing the grand opening of a new Chevy dealership. Only his light announces Love not four wheel drive.

On top of all this goodness Maithri can also string together words that make the writer in me swoon. For instance: "a sublime sense of hope burned like the sun around her." OMG! Sublime sense of hope ... can't you feel it?

It is hard for me to even imagine what it must have been like to sit at the feet of and listen to the great and gentle leaders of the world - Jesus, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. I believe, however, that to be in Maithri's presence, even helping him work in the mud and dirt, would be a spiritual experience.

These are hard times for everyone. Money is nice, where would we be without it? I admit to getting excited every time Sweetie buys a lottery ticket. I have plans - big plans - for all those dollars he's going to win someday. Yet even in the hardest of times what I think works better than money is a smile, or a hand to hold, or a shoulder to lean on. No, of course, that isn't the same as food in your belly, or a place to sleep out of the cold/hot. But I believe that community starts with a smile. Have you ever noticed how another person's face will light up, if you make eye contact and offer a simple smile.

We all have a light in us. We all have the power to create hope for ourselves or others. We can all, in small ways or large, "love the world into change." If not the world, how about our own back yard, or neighborhood, or city, or country? If you can, why not make a donation to Possible Dreams, or the charity of your choice. If you can't then how about volunteering at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. If you can't do that why not bake some cookies for a neighbor. And if you can't do that, simply offer the next person you see a "sublime sense of hope" by giving him/her a moment of your time and a smile.

God bless you, Maithri, for your example and inspiration.

Wishing for each of you enough - enough + a little left over to share,
Merry ME

Photo and quotes used with permission.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Too Much Information?

A certain someone I know had a colonoscopy today. He is not very happy, though I'm expecting his good humor to return now that the procedure is over and there is food on his horizon!

Other than the thought of some guy coming at your nether regions with a long tube and a camera, the problematic thing about this test is the prep. Once you've eaten nothing but broth and Jello for 24 hours and drunk enough "go lightly" to make you think your stomach will explode , and then the broth, Jello, go juice and what feels like the lower half of your colon come spewing out of your bottom the exam itself is a, shall I say, a piece of cake! And besides they give you enough sleep medication to knock you out to the point that you really don't care what's happening down there.

I can say that because I was not the person having the procedure done. No, I am the person who up until a few years ago swore she would never consent to such indecencies, and made other people swear they'd a)hide her in a safe house until the doctor forgot about her or b)put her out to pasture rather than make her have the test. Now that I am no longer a "virgin" I try to be as supportive of my loved ones as I would have them be of me.

Yesterday I may have failed in this endeavor. I may have made a joke or two at a certain someone's expense. And I admit it was bordered on cruelty to eat Beach Road fried chicken in front of him when all he could eat was un-naturally flavored chicken broth. In my defense, we had company. They had to eat. It was a toss up whether to be mad or laugh at a certain someone whose inner 2 year old grabbed a biscuit, covered it in chicken gravy and looked at me with defiant eyes, as if to dare me to say anything. What could I say?? It's his colon not mine.

But here's the deal. As bad as colonoscopies, pap smears, mammograms, and other lookie-loo tests are, they are not as bad as having cancer. My certain someone knows this. I know it. And so do you. I've changed my mind. I no longer want to be put out to pasture. When the time comes around again (sooner rather than later because a family history of polyps) I'll do my best to drink the cocktail and act like a big girl. I'm not saying I won't complain, or whine, or make everyone else around me aware of my discomfort. Hell that's half the fun!

And when that time comes, I hope the person waiting to drive me home is surrounded by reading material and magazines better than my choices today. Since this was a VA clinic it would not have surprised me to find a Soldier of Fortune magazine, or an Army/Navy Times. What I found, instead, was a newspaper dated last Friday, as well as outdated issues of Popular Mechanics, Salt Water and Camping Life. Most intriguing to me, however, were Western Mule and Moose periodicals (Two separate titles!). Who knew there was enough information about either subject to have ongoing magazines written about them. Apparently there is a lot of interest in Muling. In fact, if you are anywhere near Shelbyville, TN in the coming weeks, you might want to plan on attending the 19th Annual Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show.

It's a great big world out there folks. It's not all doom and gloom. Anything billed as a "great celebration" has got to run a close second to the greatest show on earth! Only with mules, not elephants!

Wishing for a cornucopia of fruit flavored Jello,
Merry ME

FYI: Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. If everybody aged 50 or older had regular screening tests, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.