Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Amy & Frankie*

It is with great excitement that I announce the brand new web site of my friend and writing buddy Amy Quincy. Please go check it out.

Amy has a degree in Creative Writing which may have taught her the ins and outs of writing technique, but I think she was born with the innate ability to tell a good story. Amy's terrific sense of humor comes across loud and clear in each of her stories, even when the subject matter could be considered anything but funny.

Amy is an inspiration to me. In my opinion anyone who decides to bike around Europe by herself is both brave and a little crazy. Amy is a "just go for it" kind of gal. Her enthusiasm is infectious. After spending just a few hours with Amy, I was almost ready to tell Sweetie I was all for buying that RV he'd been eyeing so we could see America a la Charles Kouralt. Thank goodness I came to my senses on the way home. Amy is the kind of person who likes adventure. I'm the kind of person who likes to read about her adventures!

I can't wait for Amy to finish her memoir. I know it's going to be a best seller, how can it not be? It's got drama, suspense, humor, family dysfunction and a dog named Frankie. It's also got honesty and guts. For a little taste of what is to come, go check out Amy's site. I think you'll find I haven't exaggerated. Tell her I sent you.

Here's to following your dreams even if the dreams get a little skewed,
Merry ME

P.S. Okay I did exaggerate a little. Amy does have a few faults. For some reason I can't begin to fathom, she lines her books up by size and subject matter, the food in her freezer is neatly labeled and she even admits to organizing her junk drawer. What's up with that?

* Picture by Pat Hazouri. I stole it from Amy's site. Hope that's not copyright infringement.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chaos Theory Revisited

"In hard times we think that no good thing
can happen out of all the difficulty.
Then, imperceptibly at first,
some good makes a small beginning."
Pat Livingston
Lessons from the Heart

If I could get to it - if I could even find it - I'd pull out my well-read copy of Pat Livingston's Bless this Mess to remind myself that there is a theory that in order for something to be born, there must be chaos first. I'd remind myself that what I see around me, piles upon piles upon piles of stuff, is really just the start of making an old home new; of making the house where my parents spent 49 years of their lives a place of new beginnings for Sweetie and I.

Of course, if I were to find the book, I'd have to stop crying long enough to be able to see the pages clearly. And I'd have to find a chair that didn't have 14 boxes teetering on top of it like the leaning tower of Pisa so I could sit. And I'd have to find a quiet place without hammers banging nail strips into beautiful but in need of some TLC parquet floors that are about to be covered by new carpet. I guess I'll have to come up with my own chaos theory. Or just hope for the best.

I know things are going to get better. The walls that have been painted look and feel and smell clean. The bathroom that Johnson is re-doing may not be so clean that you can eat off the floor but it is bright and shiny and begs for a new toilet and vanity to complete the look. It's amazing what some Spackle, sandpaper, paint, Clorox and elbow grease can accomplish.

I look around at the mess and see potential. I also see what used to be. I feel excited and sad at the same time. I want to move forward but I keep looking back over my shoulder for what was. Talk about chaos. My mind is awhir with emotion.

Six years ago when Sweetie and I moved in with Dad, we tried to set some ground rules. We didn't want to be guests in Dad's house. We hoped to make it a home for 3 all of us. At the time it sounded like a grand plan. I can see now that it was really just wishful thinking. How could we have expected someone who wanted to stay in his "own" surroundings until he died (rather than go to a "home"), who was a retired military officer who never gave up giving orders and expecting them to be saluted and completed with a crisp, "Aye, Aye, Sir," who was the Lord of his own manor to acquiesce any more control and space than he did and still keep his hold of the life that his house represented. We lived with a constant butting of heads. Sweetie was more diplomatic (most of the time) than Dad but they often went at each other like those rutting territorial rams you see on nature shows. The kind that run at each other and butt their giant horned heads together until the other was knocked unconscious or gave up. I threw my own tantrums to try to get my own way (which, I think I thought was a way for all of us. I was after all feathering the nest for 3.)

Maybe it was all about ownership. But maybe it was something more than that. Maybe Dad just didn't have the energy (or desire) to see his surroundings thrown into this state of chaos. When I considered laying new carpet, I thought about how pretty it would look, and how the pile would feel under bare feet. I gave no thought to moving every piece of furniture that had been emptied of every picture, plate, sweater or book. I didn't think about how hard it was going to be or what a gigantic mess it was going to make. I think my father knew (as fathers do) what I was missing. And I think he just wasn't up to the challenge of the work or the letting go. Old, dirty, smelly dog-enhanced carpet was, after all, what he was used to. And getting rid of that, in a way, was getting rid of lots more than just dirt. Yeh, sure, he'd have had memories of my mother vacuuming before a dinner party, of cats puking, of mud-covered dogs rolling on their backs, or grandbabies learning to crawl. Memories are great. But they aren't tangible. You can't hold on to them or look at them when your brain begins to lose it's hold on things that happened in the near past.

For Sweetie and I new carpet, or moving the dining room around, or changing paint color was freshening up. For Dad, I believe now, it was too much change. He didn't want to let go of the last vestiges of the life he knew. To us it seemed like he was being stubborn, or mean (and granted there was some of that). Now I think (and regret that I didn't understand) he was holding on tight with both hands not to control "us" but "his" time and memories.

So it is with both sadness and delight that I watch 2 men crawl around on the floor tacking down new carpet. I can already see a change in the brightness of the room. (I can already see where we're going to have to paint!) But my tears fall as I think about the man who left me this big house with all its headaches and all its memories. I am grateful for the gift. I hope I'm up to the challenge of making it a home for a bunch more years.

If a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step, perhaps the making of a new home begins with a newly carpeted but firm foundation. I think we've got the best of both worlds. Geez, that makes me cry too. Where did we put the Kleenex?

Wishing for you a little old mixed with a little new,
Merry ME

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To ....

... only, I really don't want to. I just can't help it.

I tried to post something last night. Every time I thought of what to say my eyes started leaking. My tears are always at the edge of my eyes ready to fall these days. My birthday was no exception. I was gifted with delightful presents, kind thoughts, and much love. It felt ungrateful to cry. So, I basked in the birthday limelight birthday, then wept in silence when no one was around. I just couldn't write much.

Except, of course, at church where I'm like the spiritual version of Niagara Falls, I'm feeling a little less boo-hooy today. I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you everyone who did so much to make my special day special. I've pretty much made it known that birthdays, mine in particular, are for celebrating. Yet, as my day approached, I didn't think I was going to be up to it. But, I was pleasantly surprised and my mood lifted with every card that came in the mail. On Friday when not one, but two, bokays arrived I felt my feet gearing up to do the happy dance! Yesterday I received books, a CD, a new camera, a hand-made mug and several birthday songs left on my answering machine. As I unwrapped each gift and listened to each song, I felt wrapped in love, which, not surprisingly, made me cry!

I also felt a kind of sadness I couldn't explain until last night. I finally recognized it was Little ME, aka Carolyn, who was so sad. My grown-up adult persona understands about loss and grieving. But Carolyn only knows she felt sad and lonely. It was the first birthday she'd ever had without her parents being in this world to share the joy of the day. There would be no phone call or birthday hug or reminder of what happened on that day so many years ago. No mom to tell of crossing over the bridge twice from San Francisco to Oakland in one day. No dad to give a pinch to grow an inch. I'm 59, feeling like an orphan and wanting to crawl up into my Daddy's lap and have him tell me everything's going to be okay. Only he's not here. While I'm sure that someday everything will be okay, right now, birthday or not, it doesn't feel like it. Boo hoo.

As my grandmother, a true believer in making the most of every birthday, would say I'm beginning my 60th year. It looms large and feels kind of scary. One of these days I know I'm going to peer through my tears and see all kinds of adventure and opportunity waiting for me. All I'll have to do is pick up my feet and walk in the direction of my hopes and dreams. That's what birthdays are for, aren't they? To awaken the child in us who can still make wishes come true by blowing out candles.

Thanks to all of you. I am blessed. Not just on my birthday but everyday.

Wishing for you a big piece of cake even if it's not your birthday.
Merry ME

Lost Things

"My roomate got a pet elephant.
Then it got lost.
It's in the apartment somewhere."
Steven Wright

A few days ago I wrote about trying to organize my stacks of paper and make my desk not only more accessible but better looking. Sweetie followed my lead and got about as far as I did. We filled several trash bags with unnecessary things that we once thought were necessary. The very things that may indeed still be necessary but we won't know it until we're looking for it because we need it. That is the reason I keep so much crap. What if I need it?

There was no Masterpiece Theater on last night but I was so stuffed from over-indulging at Carrabba's that all I could do was sit in my chair and flip through channels. I suspected if I went to bed, the bread/pasta/cake combo dancing the tango in my stomach might just explode. I ended up on TLC watch the Hoarders show.

That is one very sad program. It is disgusting in a sad way. To think that people become so cluttered by things and emotions they can't let go of made me stop to look around at my own mess(es). I'm a long way from being a hoarder, but not so far away from the need to clean up, and let go. I used to think I was a pretty good letter goer. I can throw things into a dumpster faster than someone can jump in after them. I've thrown things out in anger, disgust, depression, weakness and maybe even in strength. I've tossed away things I should have kept, and kept things I should have tossed.

Take the Christmas decorations, for instance. I hauled about 6 king sized plastic containers of decorations up the stairs for storage. With each box, I wondered if I needed all those ornaments. But only a Grinch would get rid of family heirlooms, right? Okay so they probably aren't heirlooms but they do hold a treasure chest full of memories.

I got a little off my point which is today was the day Sweetie and I were going to check signing up for homestead exemption off our To Do. Sweetie got the information on how to register on line, then began a 2 hour search for one of the papers we'd need - the deed to the house. He was sure he could put his hand right on it. Remember Sweetie is an organizing fool? In fact I think he's too organized and that's why he couldn't find what he was looking for. Deed was probably sub-filed under House which was filed under Merry ME. While he tore through his files, I sat at the computer filling out the form. Maybe I should say trying to fill it out. It's not that the questions were hard, I just wasn't sure of the answers.

For example: If one has been divorced for 20+ years is she single or divorced? If your divorced, doesn't that mean you are single? Why the distinction? And what about if one has signed her name one way since 1970 but she's listed on the deed with her birth and middle names - not her maiden name. How should she sign?

In the big scheme of things neither is a big deal, but I closed the computer and decided I'd take all the paperwork down to the Property Assessor's office. This decision meant I needed to join Sweetie in the hunt for the missing deed. He fussed. I fumed. I raised my voice but the paper we were looking for stayed lost.

Well, not actually lost, because in a fit of "let's just throw our organized selves on the mercy of the court and show them the Trustee Deed Sweetie put his hand on within 20 seconds of opening the file drawer." That's when we looked at it a little closer. In the upper right hand corner, there was a stamp on it that said it had been registered. AND it had a raised seal on the last page. Could this be the paper we were looking for all along?

Don't you hate it when that happens? As Shakespeare might say, much ado about nothing. Yet both Sweetie and I had frustration hangover, felt "wrong" and needed a chill pill. After that we had a nice little walk through downtown administration buildings and got to see Cubie World at it's finest. Seriously, some of those offices have NO windows. By the time we got to the place we were going, it took all of 5 minutes to file the application.

As an added precaution for ever losing the un-lost deed again, we had 2 more copies made. Sweetie can file one. I can file one, and we'll put one in a safe deposit box. Doesn't that sound like overkill? And doesn't it sound like the kind of logic a hoarder might have used in the beginning of her addiction?

Quoting old Will again, all's well that ends well.

Feeling grateful for the well-organized legally single/divorced man I'm married to in the eyes of God, and Laura, who works in the Property Appraisers office who was not only fast and efficient but very kind. All that while working in a room without a view.

Wishing for you a place for everything and everything in its place,
Merry ME

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

"Moonlight and roses are bound to fade
for every lover and every maid
the bond that holds in any weather
is learning how to laugh together."

A year ago today, Sweetie and I stood together at the altar of a small Southern church and promised our lives and love to each other. It was a long year with many ups and many downs. Still it was one of our best.

I've cried a lot lately. Sweetie is always there offering me his shoulder and a dry tissue.

Tonight we treated ourselves to a movie and allowed ourselves to laugh.

Laughing, I think, is a great way to start our 2nd year of marriage.

Here's to you, my love. Here's to us.

Wishing for you a happy heart,
Merry ME

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Miracle Baby

REUTERS/Yomiuri Shimbun

Just when you thought it could, and surely would, only get worse, a miracle occurs.
This four-month old baby girl was found amid the rubble and reunited with her parents 3 days after the quake.

I have shied away from news reports of the Japanese disaster. It is too big for my mind or heart to comprehend. All I can think to do is pray. Perhaps, that prayer and the millions of others is the source of this miracle.

May the Divine Miracle Worker be with you as you go through your days,
Merry ME

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Monday

I spent the morning practicing my waiting skills. I didn't do half bad. I might not have noticed the heat and gnats in the sandy southern car lot if I'd had a crossword puzzle or book to occupy my mind. Mostly it was fun to watch my son pick out a new truck. Well, not a NEW truck, exactly, but new to him and running, which was more than you could say about his old van that died on his way to work this morning. Mondays are never good days, but you know it's gonna suck when you're driving down the expressway and your car slows to a stop with only enough oomph to get it to the shoulder of the road before pronouncing last rites.

Neither Johnnie nor I are much into "negotiating". I pretty much wanted to flash the biggest wad of money I've ever had in my hand and say take it or leave it. Since it wasn't my deal to make, I left it up to smooth talking John. We did the old, "let us think about it" then left kicking ourselves before we'd traveled a block, because John was sure he had passed up a really good deal. After a phone call home, a Coke, a U-turn and a prayer Johnson has a man-sized truck and a big smile on his face.

Since I spent the better part of the day away from home, I made myself head into Dad's room to see what could go out in the trash tonight. I've read a lot about de-cluttering lately. How to do it, the psychology of it, etc. so I knew it would be hard. I didn't expect to find 20 years worth of calendars that my father kept with almost every day of his life noted therein. Like the days in 1995 that he mowed the grass, fertilized the azaleas or planted mums. Or the time my mother got sick in 1990. The number of times they went to Tennessee, or the commissary or the hospital. Not diaries so much as a snapshot of my father, a pack rat who kept good records. Each calendar was a place he could return to refresh his memory.

It wasn't easy to work into a rhythm of tossing things out because I kept stopping to read. It's weird to think that a person's life can be summed up in a stack of calendars. The tears slid down my cheeks in silent salute to the man who never managed to impart this attention to detail trait to his middle daughter. The daughter who will pile them all together and gently lay them in a black plastic trash bag then say a prayer of thanksgiving for Dad and his notes.

Wishing for you a life lived your way,
Merry ME

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Retail Therapy and Hormones

There is nothing like a catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency somewhere else to make me stop and feel not only blessed but grateful. I am only one of the millions around the world watching in horror as news shows play videos over and over again of the too big to be believed devastation. I want to reach out. I want to help. I want for everything to go back the way it was.

That is the way of disasters. That's also the way of loss and grief. I want everything to go back the way it was. In the beginning I was so numb and in shock that all my brain could do to handle the enormity of the chaos was shut down. When the numbness began to wear off and I began to feel again, it was almost too much to bear. Like the nuclear reactors in Japan, I could feel myself teetering on the edge of meltdown. Like those boats and cars and buildings flying about like tinker toys, I felt like I was being swept away on waves of pain. There was no way to get my footing and nothing to hold on to.

In the last week I have been living in the state of total denial. Not of my father's death, that's right there in my face every day. No, I spent all day, everyday finding something to do outside of the house, which, may I say, without meaning any disrespect to the Japanese, looks like an earthquake hit. Talk about chaos. I can figure no way to make sense of it all. So, I (along with Sweetie, my driver)have been to every furniture and bedding store in town. The best defense is a good offense, right? The way to clean up a mess is to bring in more? Hmmm. Dr. Phil might be asking right about now, how's that working for you, Merry?

(Please pause here for a moment, while I search through the stack of magazines I have to find the paragraph I read a few weeks ago that hit home for me.)

Found it. In the March issue of Oprah there is an article by Martha Beck, called The Buying Diet.* The eye-catching headline told me "eating to soothe your anxieties and disappointments isn't healthy - and neither is heading to the mall. Although there are several things Sweetie and I would like to have to make Dad's house, our house, mostly I've been shopping (not necessarily buying) to relieve my stress. The stress and anxiety that comes from walking through this litter-strewn house and not having the energy to do anything about it. I'm blaming my stress on the fact that I'm just beginning to grasp the notion that it wasn't just my father that died. It was my purpose, my call, my daily routine, my identity. I was Luther's daughter and caregiver. Now who am I?

Back to the Beck's article: "Researchers found that stressed women secrete a different hormonal mixutre than men. Adrenaline and testosterone, to be sure, but it is mixed with much higher leverls of hormones like oxytocin that prompt "tend and befriend" behaviors - nesting, feeding and grooming. Men's stress response says 'fight or flee!' Ours says 'Fight or flee - and make sure everyone has a nice warm sweater.' There's a reason why, when anticipating nerve-racking social events most of us [women] go directly to 'what will I wear?' It's the same reason we may react to an argument by redecorating. Or, in my case, when faced with cleaning out my father's room so it can be repurposed (i.e. used by Sweetie and I) I'd much rather be wandering around Mattress One playing Goldilocks. (This one hurts my back, this one hurts my leg, try this one, Sweetie, I think it's just right.) It's good to know I have one more thing to blame on my hormones rather than poor self-motivation techniques.

Sweetie asked me last night if I felt he is rushing me. Me? Feel rushed?
Actually not, I seem to be happy living in shopping LaLa Land. Here's the weird thing. I've noticed in the last few days, I am feeling a tiny, eency weencie bit more energized. The idea of washing walls, and putting a fresh coat of paint on them is kind of appealing. Ah, the aroma of Mr. Clean mixed with Volatile Organic Compounds! Thank goodness the weather is on a warming trend so I can throw open the windows and paint with abandon.

But first things first. The desks have to be emptied. The books pulled off the shelves. The furniture moved. The rug pulled up. Perhaps with all that disruption my parents' ghosts will also leave the room. The Chinese say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Perhaps the same can be said for lassoing big pieces of furniture and the sense of loss that fills that room. One box at a time, it'll get cleared out, but I have to take that very first step.

Fight or flight? The jury is still out.

Praying for order to be restored in my life, your life and the world,
Merry ME

*The Buying Diet, Martha Beck, The Oprah Magazine, March 2011, pg. 48

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unexpected Delights

"The water is your friend.
You don't have to fight with water,
just share the same spirit as the water,
and it will help you move.
Aleksandr Popov

Today water was most definitely NOT my friend. In fact, today, water kicked my butt.

It is said that it takes 21 days to start a new habit (or is that break an old one?). When I joined the Y I really wanted to add swimming to my routine, to make it a habit. Maybe not daily, but at least 3 times a week. The pool is open from 5am to 9:30pm so you'd think I'd be able to find an hour sometime during the day to get my swim in. The trouble is I haven't zeroed in on an exact time. I just go when the spirit moves me. This is where I make my mistake.

Yes the pool is open, but that does not mean there are always lanes to swim in. And if there are lanes that have not been roped off, there are sometimes as many as three people swimming in them. I don't mind sharing with one person. Two is getting way too complicated for me. One day last week I waited for 15 minutes, wet hair dripping, goggles and swim cap at the ready for a lane to open up. I kept my cool. I'd already inhaled the smell of chlorine and my body was like Secretariat in the gates just itching to get free and start moving. It was worth the wait.

On Tuesday, I arrived a little late. The lanes were full and half the pool was closed for family swim. Dangit, I said to myself as I looked at the clock. I had an hour to wait. The family that was taking advantage of half the entire pool consisted of a toddler about 2 ft. high, a mother who sat on the side of the pool and a father and a swim teacher. I was pretty sure this child was not going to be using the deep end of the pool. I figured I could still get in and tread water or kick my legs from the side.

I asked the lifeguard for permission. He told me to ask the teacher. She told me to ask the lifeguard. I was beginning to lose my cool. What was it going to be rage or tears? The teacher's final answer was the old,"if I let one person do it, everyone will want to so I can't let you in the water on this side of the ropes."

Fine, I said. Fine! Fine! Fine. I was out of the pool area and into the locker room and out the front door whipping by he perky red-shirted guy at the desk who told me upon check in, "just think how good you're gonna feel in a few minutes." I considered stopping to tell him just how good I felt. Then I realized he might point out to me that the Y is much more than a pool, and offer to lead me to the nautilus machines or enter me in a spin class. I decided it was better to just cool off at home.

A couple of electricians were at our house at 8 o'clock sharp this morning. Since I had to be up anyway I put my suit on and headed to back to the Y aiming to get there before the morning classes started. Surely there aren't any swim classes before 9am. Wrong! I opened up the door to the pool area and saw only two lanes open and, as before, they were packed full with serious lappers. There was no room for this pokey girl to swim. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

I noticed other ladies, most older than me, smiling and saying hello, putting on float belts and getting into the water with the enthusiasm of kids at recess. Then, they noticed me. I must have looked lost or helpless. A very trim and obviously fit petite woman introduced herself to me and invited me into her "deep water fitness" class. Come on, she said, it's a lot of fun. Come on, said the few of the others like we were already old friends.

What the hell? What did I have to lose? Vivien, the instructor, handed me a belt only to find it didn't fit around my waist. Nice, I thought to myself. What am I doing here? The 2nd belt also needed some letting out but I got it fastened, grabbed my noodle and headed for the deep end of the pool with about other 20 ladies bobbing up and down like ocean buoys. Not one wore a swim cap, a couple wore make-up. They all wore smiles. I think it was the smiles that kept me in the water.

Let me just say that working with a styrofoam noodle is not kid's stuff. Oh I suppose riding it up and down the length of the pool with arms circling forward, then back, and legs moving as if on a water treadmill could have been considered fun. Then Vivien got serious. Stand on it, she yelled from the side of the pool where the noodle she was standing on laid perfectly still on solid ground. It was either me or the noodle under the water, neither at the same time. I looked around at the other ladies. Several were much more coordinated than I am, their hair still dry, makeup looking good. A few, like me, were having trouble balancing. Still others were still riding the noodle around in circles perfectly enjoying doing their own thing.

One lady near me kept offering encouragement and suggestions. Vivien kept coming to my end of the group saying, Good Mary. Keep it up, Mary. Well, I'm hear to tell you I stayed for the whole hour. Before getting out of the pool, Sylvia (we exchanged names!) told me of the water aerobics classes held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - same time, same place. She gently let it be known that these classes are a little easier. Do you come every day, I asked. She nodded her completely dry head as she proudly told me she is 75 years old. Good Golly, Miss Molly, my legs were cramping, my neck hurt and I looked like a drowned rat. With her red lipstick and pearl earrings Sylvia looked like she could go straight from the pool to tea.

Maybe there's something to this water exercise. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it was just what I needed.

Wishing for you a friendly smile when you're feeling pooty,
Merry ME

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feeling Sad

"Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak
whispers the o're frought heart
and bids it break."
Wm. Shakespeare

When I started this blog, I titled it Random Thoughts because I didn't have any idea what I was going to write about. I liked the idea of having a place where I could come and pour out the contents of my brain at any given moment. I love having this space to write, create, vent, laugh, cry. I love how having a blog has connected me to so many people. At a time when I had to circle the wagons and hunker down with the demands of caregiving, I was blessed to have friends and bloggers to share my journey so I didn't feel so alone.

I realized today that my thoughts are no longer random. Grief has taken over my heart, soul, mind and body. No big surprise there.

I want to be gentle with myself. I want to give myself permission to feel what this journey is all about. Journaling, I think, will be good for me and could, perhaps, be good for others. The thing is I don't want this blog to turn into a big long obnoxious sob fest or rant. While that may be what I need, I'm not sure it is what you, my "fans" will care for.

I feel stuck. Should I start a new blog - Griever's Anonymous? Or should I write in one of my many empty journals, or on the numerous little note pads Dad received and kept from every fundraising organization looking for a five dollar handout? I feel pretty sure I won't write in two places, so if I choose the latter, do I just say TTFN (ta ta for now) to the people I've grown to love here? Is my grieving personal or could it help someone else along the way?

I'm learning one of the side effects of grief, is my inability to make a decision. My brain is mush. The other night I told Sweetie I wanted a snack but couldn't even choose between ice cream or popcorn. (Knowing chocolate ice cream trumps popcorn every time is a no brainer, I rest my case.)I went to bed without either, which probably isn't a bad thing. Still it would be nice to feel like I can still think beyond mary, mary bo bary, banana fana fo fary ....

I have experienced loss several times in my lifetime. I know grief is a passing thing, though not passive. I know there is another side, a future full of opportunity and adventure that waits for me. The problem is right now I am having trouble releasing my grip on the past. I haven't just lost my father. I feel like I've lost a way of life, my purpose, my sense of self, my vision, my goal. Now what? I ask myself with little or no clue how to answer the question.

Can you imagine one of those water toys kids play with on a hot summer's day. It's a hose with lots of holes in it, so when the water is turned on full blast, they can run through a delicious spray of water that lasts the length of the hose. That's what I feel like. I've got lots of holes in me, and I keep leaking tears of sadness, tears of loss, tears of goddammit why isn't there a lane to swim in. I leak in church, I leak when I read cards and emails, I leak when the lady from the insurance company offers me a good deal. In other words I'm a big baby boohoo.

Is that the kind of blog you want to read? I'm not sure it is the kind I want to write. I beg your kind indulgence as I make this transition. If you've got any helpful suggestions feel free to comment.

Not so Merry ME

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Girl Scout Project

One of my blog friends, Caroline Mary, is a Girl Scout of the highest order.

I didn't last one day past my nightmare week-long experience at Camp Chowenwah when I was 12. I learned how to weave a sit-upon from newspaper, bed down at night in a tent where sounds of bugs, critters and other girl scouts who were smart/experienced enough to go on such a camping adventure with people they knew and thus talked and giggled all night whilst I, who was on my own, tried to sleep but couldn't for the noise, and right an upside canoe that I had to purposely flip over so I could experience a) flipping it back or b) hold on to the hull until I could be rescued. I never, NEVER, learned to eat cold grits and scrambled eggs. Girl Scouting remains one of my life's traumas better left for the psychiatrist's couch. So much so that while in Savannah recently I steered way away from the Juliette Low house where the founder of the Girl Scouts once lived. That squircle was better left unexplored!

The good news here, is that I won't go on about my scouting experience. The good news is that Caroline Mary and her troop (with Troop Leader, Sally Sunshine of Wisconsin bakery fame) are taking on a really big project. I salute each of the girls with my three fingered, Girl Scout salute and ask you to check out Caroline's blog. Maybe you would like to help.

Rock on Caroline,
Merry ME

Here Comes the Bride

“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb.

It isn’t something you get.

It’s something you do.

It’s the way you love your parnter every day.”

Barbara DeAngelis

Today, in just about 7 hours, one of my very favorite people, my sister Linda, is going to marry her one time boyfriend/domestic partner, Ron.

Although I don't remember Ron from their high school dating days, I do remember sitting on the stairs peering through the banisters when Linda would leave the house all dressed up for a date. No doubt I was singing something like Linda and Ron, sitting in a tree .... as bratty little sisters (I know it's hard to believe, yet true!) are wont to do.

Theirs is one of those go your separate way/have a life/find each other through the Internet/rekindle lost love/live happily ever after stories you read about. Ron popped back into Linda's life shortly after my mother passed away and my father had hip surgery for the third time. My father was difficult to be around on a good day. At that point in his life, grieving and hurting, he was much like a grizzly bear everyone hoped would go into hibernation until he could "come out and act nice!" I think Linda left here thinking she'd had it with men. Been there. Done that.

Enter Ron. Enter friendship. Enter possibility.

Ron brought with him a love for the outdoors, a desire to spend time doing things together and a heart willing to try again. After Ron's traveling home burned down in one of this gi-normous southern California fires, they moved in together and have been that way ever since. Some things are just meant to be.

As has been stated here before, my father had strong opinions about two people living together. Even sound, rational, financial reasoning which was the cornerstone of my father's thinking, carried no weight. On her last visit to see Dad Linda told him of her up coming wedding. With that announcement she made him a very happy man. Strange as it might seem, God's timing is always right.

There is one problem I have with Linda and Ron tying the knot today. It is personal, selfish and even on the bratty side (once a little sister, always a little sister). I'm heart sick that I am sitting in Florida, not in Washington helping the bride bake her own wedding cake. I get teary-eyed just thinking about the couple not having any of their family members standing up with them to clap and yeehaw as Ron and Linda say "I do."

I'm remembering, however, my own wedding that took place just about a year ago. It was private, beautiful and ideally suited for us. I think this is the way Linda wanted it to be. Feeling sure there will be a big family shindig in their future I honor their request for simple.

If I were there, I'd raise a crystal glass of sparkling cider and offer Terri's poem as a toast. Instead I put it here, for everyone who is in a relationship to read and share with the person they love.

A Vow to my Partner

by Terri St. Cloud


i will be mindful of the act of loving you

every day of my life.

i will not take you for granted,

but will keep my eyes open to the treasure

that you are,

allowing room for your individuality

and your own uniqueness.

i will not try to bend you to my ways,

but rather open myself to your ways as being

part of who you are.

i will embrace all of you.

the dark places along with the light.

because, together,

those parts create the being that i love.

i will accept you,

respect you and admire you.

and if something comes between us

to make me stumble with this,

i will go to you and ask your help

with my struggle.

i will bring my challenges to you,

looking for your thoughts and support

and i will return that support to you freely.

when i’m hurt, i will believe in your love for me,

i will bring you my hurt,

and together we will grow from it

and then put it aside.

i will share all of myself with you,

for I know to receive your entire heart,

you must have mine.

together, we will work,

we will play,

we will laugh,

we will grieve,

and we will find our way.

together we will live gratitude

together we will touch love.”

Linda Lu, I wish you and Ron all the happiness life can offer. I'm not sure that anyone deserves it more than you. May God surround you with trumpet blowing angels this afternoon. Know that you are loved beyond compare. Here's to you. Here's to love.

Your sometimes bratty little sister who is very lucky to have you in her life,

Merry ME