Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Hum"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
The self same well from which your laughter rises
was often times filled with tears."
Kahlil Gibran

The other day in the car where he was pretty much a captured audience I asked Sweetie, "Am I funny?" When he started to laugh I had one of those moments where you instantly have 2 thoughts at the same time and in that same instant need to process them both AND pick a reaction. He laughed. I thought to myself, well damn I must be funny if just asking him brings on a guffaw. And I also thought, he's laughing at me, not with me. I chose to believe the former because it was a sincere laugh, and didn't seem to be a stalling tactic.

So he tells me I can be funny. Really funny. And what's funny about that is that I'm not sure I can see it. Which is the whole reason I asked him in the first place. Because in the span of a couple of weeks people have been telling me I'm funny, that I make them LOL. So I've begun to wonder what it is I say or do that is so funny.

I don't think I'm the stand up comedian kind of funny, or the pratfall kind of funny. I'd like to think I'm the Erma Bombeck kind of funny. Gentle, g-rated humor. Sometimes when I'm really in the zone, in a writing frenzy, I crack myself up. And I've been told I've done the same for some of my readers. I love the feeling I get when someone laughs at something I've said (that is meant to be funny not an embarrassing faux pas).
"A sense of humor has survival value;
life is more endurable when one has a sense of humor."
According to my new Bible, Homecoming by John Bradshaw, two emotions are unique to infants - laughter and weeping. Aha I said to myself, laughter and weeping ... my two best friends.

I have a memory, maybe just a seed of a memory, that as a child I used humor to deflect tense situations in the home. While other family wheels squeaked for attention, for some reason known only to the little girl that was me shaking inside her proverbial boots, it fell on my shoulders to make my parents laugh. They couldn't be mad and laugh at the same time, right?

By the time I was a teenager and diagnosed with clinical depression, I may have forgotten how to laugh. I cried a lot, though, which is the other side of the same coin. I don't mean to say that for the last 40 years I have not laughed; I've been depressed, not dead. My question today is, have I always been funny?

I don't have a memory of when my children were testing out their own developing sense(s) of humor. I am pretty sure I was the "stop laughing" kind of mother when giggling at the dinner table was on the verge of making milk come flying out of someone's nose. And I KNOW I was the kind of mother that found no humor at all in a midnight raid on a pickle jar. I'm glad to say, however, when I was a nanny I was less uptight, and I was able to tap into my inner child's humor as well as my that of a three-year old little boy whose imagination and delight was infectious. Today, I'm glad to say (breathing a sigh of maternal relief), my children can tell a great story and have laughs that rival angels singing.

Over the years I've been writing this blog I think I've re-connected to the sense of humor the Divine Comedian gave me. Not so much as a defense mechanism, or in a self-deprecating way, but because I seem to have an eye for the quirky. Quirky makes for great story-telling. For instance, yesterday while we were at the Farmer's Market there was this mini-dumpster mover with "No Cardboard" spray painted on the dumpster it was moving which happened to be full of nothing but cardboard boxes. Okay so, this wasn't side-splitting humor. There was no 5 foot metal chicken involved. But it made me chuckle. I'm finding whether it be a simple little snicker or an out loud chortle, it feels good to laugh. And I kind of like being "funny."

Today I'm grateful for time spent listening, learning and laughing. I'm grateful for an understanding Vet, and I'm grateful for new insights on old behaviors.

Wishing for you something that makes you laugh til your sides hurt,
Merry ME

John Bradshaw, Homecoming, Bantam Books, New York, pg. 35

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grief - The Saga Continues

[Note: I wrote and posted this a couple weeks ago. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and decided to pull it off. Not sure why but it just didn't feel right. Well, since them, I've done a little more digging and reading and have totally embraced the whole wounded inner child philosophy. I'm sure every one who's ever read it thinks John Bradshaw's "Homecoming" was written just for him/her. As a way to get past the sadness that seems to have settled on my shoulders, I've embraced this work with the goal of reconnecting with and reparenting my inner child who, for whatever reason, was wounded and neglected somewhere along the way. ME/me]

"So like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us."
Gaston Bachelard

To say I've had an epiphany might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I think I may have a new understanding of some different aspects of grief I've been experiencing. I'm not sure if this is the right place to work through it. Is it appropriate? Is it private? Does anyone need to know but me?

Many of you have been with me on my journey through caregiving and death. You've laughed with me, cried with me, comforted and encouraged me. It does feel safe to ask you to continue to tag along as I continue my search for inner peace and serenity. But I also understand if you've gotten rather bored with my trials. Believe me there are many days I feel the same way.

About a month ago I got so sad that I knew I needed some help. Remember the trips to the physician and cardiologist? Well the help I really needed was to get back into therapy with someone I can trust and try, once again, to get to the bottom of my sadness. If you are scratching your head and saying something like, "her father just died, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out she's going to be sad" I agree with you. But I also know that this deep, deep sad feeling that overcomes me at times like a shroud, is caused by more than just the loss of my father. Add to that the loss of my mother, my job, my identity and you've got a roiling stew of compound grief. So I've hooked back up with a woman who has helped me in the past.

Today was my 2nd visit. What's going on, she asked, and so it began. As it sometimes happens in therapy sessions it was an hour of twists and turns that somehow in the end began to make sense.

Ginny gave me a great example of how the grief journey might look if the object is to get from point A (the loss) to point whatever -B, D, E, R, T, or Z (a place of acceptance). She spoke directly to my level of understanding. She said grief is like the children's book, Going On A Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen). Are you familiar with the story? I knew the title but not the story, so after my session I went straight to B&N and bought it. [In my book, emotional therapy should always be followed by retail therapy or a chocolate ice cream cone. If it's a particularly rough session, both would be appropriate.]

A brief synopsis of the story is that a dad and his kids decide it is a beautiful day for a bear hunt. Along the way they encounter obstacles - tall grass, a river, mud, a big dark forest, a snowstorm and a cave - which they cannot go over or under. They must go through them. Each trouble spot has a full page of sound effects - squish, splash, stumble trip, etc. I won't tell you the end, but you can probably guess that somewhere along the way they have an encounter with a bear. Grief, says my beloved, trusted therapist, is like the bear hunt. I can't go over it or under it, I have to go through it to get to the other side.

As I began my search this afternoon, with the big bag of losses slung over my shoulder Ginny gently pointed out that I am also grieving the loss of hope. The hope that if I'm good enough, quiet enough, happy enough, smart enough, fill-in-the-blank enough my parents will love me the way I need to be loved. AHA!

Now that they are gone, I have to examine that "please love me more" way thinking and find a way to block out the critical-not-enough voice I still hear that sounds very much like my father. My dead father. The one I lived to please right up to his last breath. The one I gently cleaned and dressed before he was wheeled away on a cart. The one whose "I love you" usually came with a rather large "BUT" attached to it. The one who died and left me stranded physically, spiritually and emotionally.

So now what? Well it seems I have to quit looking for love in all the wrong places and learn to be the parent(s) my inner child has longed for. You see my adult persona is perfectly aware that my parents loved me the best way they knew how, that they provided my sisters and I the things we needed to have a better life than they had, and that playing a blame game now is not only useless, it's pointless. My job is to love and care for myself, i.e. my inner child. And I can't go over it or under it. I have to march right through that scary place. Because I'm the parent now. I'm the one I have to look to to say to Little ME, "there, there, sweet girl, it's gonna be okay. "

Let's throw in a little woo woo to spice up the story a little more. For the last six weeks I've been taking a women's workshop from my favorite Queen Dani. How does a woman grow into her sovereignty? One of the steps is to look at a picture of herself when she was just a little girl, when life was good and she still believed in happy endings, and say, "what is it you need now?" And then be quiet and listen for the response. The picture above contains the letter I wrote to Little Me (Carolyn) promising her I'd take care of her. That was three weeks ago, before I even had today's revelation.

And there was last week's meltdown over the silver tea set when I realized on a gut level, my parents are gone. Gone. GONE. There are no more hoops to jump through for love which leaves me asking, does that mean no more chance for love?

It's also interesting to me, in the way of timing, that a few opportunities have been placed in front of me to dig into things on a spiritual level. Is it a coincidence that it is all happening at the same time? Or is it just that for the first time in my life I have the opportunity to learn how to take care of me. Mother Mary, caregiver extraordinare, doesn't have a clue how to care and nurture herself. Ironic isn't it. And sad.

Today I'm grateful for safe rooms, Aha moments, picture books and a big box of Kleenex. I'm thankful the guy swinging 100 feet in the air tied to a rotten tree limb hanging over the pool in my back yard didn't come crashing down. (A story for another day.) And I'm grateful for children at church.

My wish for you today is that you give yourself the gifts of love and attention that you would give others.
Merry ME

Friday, August 26, 2011

Be Prepared

"I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best."
Benjamin Disraeli

I found myself missing my father today, ironically for a reason that drove me crazy when he was alive. In fact, I feel certain there were times when a hurricane was brewing in the Atlantic and it was still unpredictable, that I swore my father's "be prepared for the worst" motto was a little over the top.

Dad had a plan for just about everything he did. And if he didn't have a plan but a new circumstance came up, he'd sit at his desk and make a plan even if it took him a couple of days. In one of the boxes I went through when I was cleaning out his stuff I found ledgers filled with itineraries, expense estimates, miles traveled, etc. from trips he'd made in the 1940's. Dad was nothing if not prepared. And when it came to hurricanes his list of things to do was fairly long.

In recent years he was no longer able to do most of them, so the responsibility fell to Sweetie and I. At the beginning of June, we dutifully filled a designated closet with supplies like water, food, coffee, plastic tarps and toilet paper. We had batteries and repeatedly checked each flashlight to make sure it worked. We placed candles and matches around the house. We filled the bathtub with water. We threw any yard paraphernalia that might fly through a window into the pool. Which was a little redundant because all the windows could be boarded up with shutters that Dad stored in the garage. And Dad wasn't shy about being the only boarded up house on the block a couple days before the final path of a hurricane was predicted.

The last storm that passed by here blew hard enough to knock down electric and telephone wires. In essence once this house is shuttered up tight and has no electricity it turns into a hot dark cave where the sweaty people inside have no hope of sleeping because the stagnant air hangs like moss on the trees that might fall down. And let's face it, what is there to do in a situation like that except try to sleep away the hours/days until the JEA team restores electricity. This is the main reason Sweetie and I are not anxious to go through the drill of pulling the shutters out of their hidey hole in the garage that is much less organized than when my father was in charge of how it looked. We don't do well in cave situations.

My son Johnny still lives with us which is a bonus when things need fixing. He should have been a meteorologist. The guy follows the weather channel like Suzi Q follows the scent of whatever it is she's chasing. He can tell that storms are forming when they are nothing but a tiny swirl of air somewhere over the ocean. He tracks hurricanes and claims to have a pretty good record of predicting where they will go. The point of telling you that is you'd think having my own personal storm chaser giving me advance warnings I would have started preparing for the worst. Knowing Johnny lives in the highest room in the house, thus being closest to falling trees, I take him seriously but I still haven't made a list or checked it twice. I don't know where the flashlights are and there is no water in the bathtub.

And that is why my father crossed my mind today. It's not that I don't feel safe with Sweetie and Johnny here to take care of things. It's just that I felt a little safer when Dad was in charge. Which is better to be safe in a jail of our own making or a tad less confined and free from the strong desire to strangle a 90 year old boy scout? Here's the difference between my Dad and Sweetie. Both men were in the military. Both pay very strict attention to detail. My father was a civil engineer, in charge of buildings and maintenance. Sweetie was a food inspector. His area of expertise falls more in the area of making sure there is enough to eat, rather than boarding up the windows. I know that Sweetie would protect me with his life, but I'm not sure he has a plan on how to do it.

The last I heard Miss Irene was not going to hit Jacksonville, though it is possible we'll get some strong wind and rain. This might not be good news for our neighborhood. For some reason 3 big oak trees decided to drop humongous limbs last week on perfectly calm, windless days. Who knows what could happen if given a little more of a push?

What you can't see in this picture that the limb hanging from the proverbial thread is hanging right over our swimming pool.

Today I'm grateful for memories. I'm grateful for men who know a lot more about securing a house than I do. I'm grateful for a slight drop in temperature, and I'm grateful for the beauty of a purple rose.

Wishing for you smooth sailing through whatever storm you may have,
Merry ME

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toot! Toot!

"Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets right behind ..."
Seventy Six Trombones from The Music Man

Can you hear it? Can you hear me tooting my own horn like a whole brass band? Today I received my first royalty check for "Saying Goodbye." (See sidebar). It wasn't a large check, only $ 10.79, but it lifted my spirits pretty high off the ground. I am now, whether I want to claim it or not, a writer ... a paid writer. How cool is that?

An interesting note came in the email that announced my earnings. Saying Goodbye is being used in a course on "The Psychology of Grief" at the College of Idaho.

The anthology has received praise from reviewers and other readers, and it is being used in the classroom at the College of Idaho as part of a course on “The Psychology of Grief.”
Here's what Professor Jan Adams had to say:
“This is a book that meets a need for teachers of death and dying classes. Most of the books currently available are either directed at people who are going through a grief process due to the loss of someone important to them or are fairly dry academic type books that focus on the physiological (and some psychological) aspects of dying. This book gets to the heart of what I have been focusing on in my course – that life is filled with loss of all kinds and we can learn from each one and ultimately experience life more fully. The stories in this book do a wonderful job of showing that out of loss there are new beginnings. I recommend it for any teacher of death and dying classes. I also recommend it for anyone who is struggling with a loss – no matter what kind.”
So there you have it, horn-tooting and advertising all in one blog!

Today I'm grateful for unexpected gifts, for friends and family who have walked this road with me and encouraged me along the way, and for an "I told you so" from the Divine Compass who has been pointing me in the direction I didn't even know I wanted to go.

Wishing for you the opportunity to follow your rainbow AND find your pot of gold.
Merry ME

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On the Road Again, Part 3

I can't believe I forgot to tell you what I remembered while washing my hands before making dinner. You never know when or where you might find some little tidbit of wisdom you never knew before. It happened for me on Saturday afternoon in the women's room of a Bob Evans restaurant in Leesburg, FL.

As I was washing my hands I noticed a little sign stuck to the bottom corner of the mirror. I figured it was the obligatory, employees MUST wash their hands sign, you see in all public restrooms. I'd like to think that employees employ this rather simple task without being reminded EVERY time they walk in the bathroom but I guess when you're messing with stuff like EColi it's better to remind than pay the consequences.

So I was looking in the mirror at myself which is very narcisstic I know, but I can't help myself. When I pass a mirror I always give my chin a quick once over so I can cover up if I should find a stray hair that has somehow grown a quarter of an inch since the last time I checked. After deciding that my chin was sufficiently denuded, I zeroed in on the sign. It wasn't a big sign so I hadto look close to read it. Here's my take on what it said.

In order to kill the germs on your hands before you go back to work or to eat you should lather up for 20 seconds. Coincidentally this is the same amount of time it takes to sing one verse of Old MacDonald's Farm. [Sweetie just timed me and I did it in 23 seconds] This means while you are washing your hands you should also be entertaining whoever is behind the locked doors with a moo moo hear, or an oink oink there, or a baa baa, etc. Sure you could sing it to yourself but seriously, what's the fun of singing this song without really getting into it.

Since I just learned this nugget of washroom wisdom I have not actually tried it. I can't wait til I'm standing next to a little girl who has to stand on tip toes to reach the faucet to practice my new clean hands technique. She'll probably look at me like I'm "stranger danger" and she'll look around for her mom, but won't it be cool if she joins me singing. It could be like a bathroom Old MacDonald flash mob.

I wonder sometimes who makes these things up? Which came first the fact that 20 seconds is the allotted time to sanitize your hands or that it just happens to take Old MacDonald's chicken 20 seconds to complete her cluck cluck verse. Seriously, who figures this stuff out? Men in blue suits sitting around an advertising board room table? IT people who have completed all their tasks and need something to do before designing an even smaller cell phone that can text, email and remind you to wash your hands? Maybe it was a mother who, at her wits end, sang Old MacDonald over and over again while trying to get her 2 year old to tinkle on a strange potty and when it came handwashing time, she just kept singing?

So I'm wondering, do you sing when you wash your hands? Do you think you will now? I suspect you might because as much as you'd like to forget this information it's going to pop into your brain next time you're in the bathroom. That's the way of random trivia. Try remembering where you put your glasses or car keys. That might take you all day. But I'm betting next time you tinkle you're going to be warming up for your hand washing solo.

Today I'm grateful for things that are just plain silly. I'm grateful the earthquake rumbled but didn't tumble anything down. And I'm grateful for seeds of a new adventure being planted.

Wishing for you a song that makes you smile,
Merry ME

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Any Day Now!

"Mommies are just big little girls."
Author Unknown

Photo by: Jan Treague
(downloaded from FB)

My granddaughter looks like she is about to pop. At 37 weeks she is counting the days until Gracie comes out and play. Can't say I blame her!

Today I'm grateful for new life, new love, new beginnings. I'm grateful for awarenesses that can bring change. I'm grateful for slow-cooked, pot roast that makes my tummy smile.

Wishing for you eyes to behold the bounty of each new day.
Merry ME

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On The Road Again, Part 2

"Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful
because you have lived in it."
Edward W. Bok

Sweetie and I made it home safely, but not without some excitement. The funeral was held in an historic Episcopalian church, red door and all, with only about 7 rows of pews on either side of a main aisle. The church was overflowing which was a great tribute to the woman who was being remembered. Over 170 people whose mean age was probably around 75 and girth, well let's just say large, were packed in like sardines. Walkers and wheelchairs and canes were left in the back of the church. It's never a good sign when an ambulance is called and one of the attendees is taken away on a stretcher before the service even starts.

[As an aside, it's clear that central Florida, is a haven for people of retirement age. The mobile home parks were only outnumbered by the number of cardiologists advertising on big billboards along the highway.]

I was uncertain as to how I might react at the funeral. Not because of the suspected fireworks, but because southern funeral songs tend to be the ones my dad loved to sing. Sure enough when Tennessee Ernie Ford began singing "Whispering Hope" via a cd player, my eyes began to leak. I did pretty good til they got to In the Garden. It'll probably be a tear jerker for years to come.

Before the final prayer was said, my Sweetie, asked to speak. As the brother of the deceased's first husband (who was father to 4 of her children) he spoke of how proud his brother would have been to see how well Peg raised her children. His words were short and sweet and appreciated by the family. Well, most of the family. As we were leaving the oldest daughter, who everyone agree has issues, decided Uncle Jack would be a good target for some of her anger. I didn't hear what was said, but I saw the steam coming out of Sweetie's ears as he casually walked away. And that is the whole point of my even telling this story.

I watched with pride as my husband diffused what could have been a ticking bomb by simply not engaging. He's a man who knows when to speak and when to walk away. It was really kind of alarming to see so much anger in a person. I suspect underneath the it all there is a great deal of sadness. Now that both her parents are gone, I wonder will she ever be able to let go of the hurt. Or will she go through the rest of her life like a fire-breathing dragon? And I couldn't help but think, as I often do, the same about me. I'm seeing more and more clearly how with my parents gone, it's time for me to let go of childhood hurts and come to a place of peace. It's probably something I should have done a long time ago. Not sure how hard that's going to be, but I'm going to try.

Even with the outside temperatures hot and humid, and the emotional temperature inside the car also pretty high, Sweetie agreed to take me to a place I've wanted to go which just happened to be just down the road and through the orange groves from where we were. It's called Bok Tower. All I knew of it was it had this gigantic carillon and you could sit on the grass and hear the music from anywhere on the grounds. What we discovered was another historic landmark, some beautiful gardens, delightful music and great photo ops. Sweetie got to try out his new camera and I got to channel my inner Molly (a photo taking blogging friend who is a kazillion times better than me). Here are just a few:

Coming around the bend. The Bok Tower towering over the landscape.

Self portrait: Merry Me in the orange groves

The strangest lily pads I've ever seen.
Sweetie thought they may be man-made,
but if you look real close you can see they are au naturale.

A feisty little squirrel sitting on a branch saying cheese.

Two big cuties enjoying a park bench and music.

Unfortunately, we weren't prepared for the amount of walking or the heat. Plus there were some big black clouds on the horizon that reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, so we didn't stay as long as we would have liked. We've put it on our list of places to see again when the weather has cooled off some. It's quite beautiful if you ever need a destination in central Florida that does not include amusement parks.

Storm brewing.

Today I'm grateful for prayers and hymns and memories. I'm grateful for the man I call Sweetie. I'm thankful for time away and I'm grateful for a home to return to.

May your own special touch make the world where you are a better place.
Merry ME

Friday, August 19, 2011

On the Road Again

Greetings from Winter Haven, FL, the old home of Cypress Gardens soon to be new home of Legoland.
Sweetie and I are on a short road trip. We're here to attend a family funeral. Not the best of occasions to jump in the car and go, but not the worst either. I say that even after having been warned of the possibility of dysfunctional family fireworks exploding on or near church grounds tomorrow. I guess every family has to have a little drama.

The thing about a road trip in Florida is that all the roads look pretty much alike. Six lane highways lined with pine trees packed full of cars coming and going in all directions. The I4 corridor through Orlando is a particularly slow stretch of highway. Once you turn off I95 you can pretty much plan on stop and go traffic and all vestiges of the word expressway to disappear. Sweetie did all the driving which is a good thing because I might have been hypnotized before we passed the St. Augustine Outlet Mall. There were, however, some interesting cloud formations.

When we got to our destination, the Best Western Hotel, we were one of 3 cars in the parking lot. Apparently it's a slow weekend in Winter Haven. Sweetie asked for, and got, an upgrade to a room with a king sized bed, and a microwave. We are sleeping in style - or would be if the bathroom fan weren't making so much noise. I've flipped every switch in the room yet there seems to be no way to turn the dang thing off (or on for that matter). Could be it's meant to be part of the ambience, or maybe it was the concierge's private little joke.

If the fan is a bit of a nuisance I must say the bed makes up for the white noise of the fan. The royal berth looks like something Snow White might have encountered when she walked into the dwarf's cabin if Grumpy got mad and left for awhile. Six little pillows placed neatly in a row looked too darn cute toeven consider laying one's head down and messing them up.

Then I walked into the bathroom to find not just folded towels, but folded towels with a bit of a flair. I don't usually think there's much photographic opportunity in motel rooms (I like to stay in family haciendas) but I was inclined to grab my camera and call upon what little picture taking skills I have to document the decor.

The only thing missing is Miss Suzi Q and something made of chocolate. I think I might be hearing the call of a Snickers bar coming from the ground floor vending machine even over the sound of the fan.

Today I'm thankful for time alone with my Sweetie, safe driving, Keywest Johnnie, aka the Dog Sitter, and unexpected pleasures.

Wishing for you time spent with those you love before it's too late,
Merry ME

Monday, August 15, 2011

"A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature.
You can't get it by breeding for it, and you can't buy it with money.
It just happens along."
E.B. White, The Care and Training of a Dog

The Humane Society of Jacksonville has come a long way since the days of over crowding and stinky cages. Now you don't just pick out a dog or cat you like and take it home, there is a process you must go through. New pet owners are screened and matches are made in a similar fashion to online dating. Instead of the HS calls it Meet Your Match. To participate in the service prospective adopters need to take a compatibility survey, again not unlike E-Harmony only they don't ask questions about you most romantic fantasy. The adoptees are also assessed - Couch Potato, Constant Companion, Teacher's Pet, Wallflower, Busy Bee, Goofball, Life of the Party, Go-Getter, Free Spirit - so at the end of the day, you should be able to hook up with the ideal pooch or kitty for your personality and life style.

When Sweetie and I were looking to adopt a dog, we didn't pay much attention to the survey. We knew we were couch potatoes and figured the adopted dog would be so grateful to have a new home it would adapt to our lifestyle. It seems like that's the way it used to be. Big mistake. And not necessarily one of our own making. When we fell for Suzi Q's big brown eyes and take-me-home smile she had yet to be assessed. We concentrated, instead, on her cuteness, not her Meet Your Match assessment. They guessed her age to be around 4 so, in our way of thinking (obviously off base) we figured she was a teenaged dog, not a puppy. Teenagers like to sleep a lot, right? Or at least they like to sleep late in the morning.

What we have since learned is that Suzi could easily fall into almost any of the categories except perhaps Teacher's Pet "who loves to learn and lives to please." Suzi does enjoy watching us try to teach her something, as if we are her own personal entertainment troupe. She is not, however, moved to fetch or come or shake or lie down or pee outside on command.

As a form of exercise I knew I needed as much as the dog, I began a daily routine of both a morning and evening walk. Suzi has come to expect it and anticipates the smells and friends she might find on the way. If I try to sleep past 6 am she is right there by my bed suggesting in animated dog language that I wake up, there are things outside worth smelling. Walking at a brisk pace seems to be more for me than for her, and she quickly lets me know this walk is all about the sniff not the exercise. Unless there is something to chase, then it's no holds barred and my shoulder is yanked out of its socket. I've begun sleeping with an ice pack on my neck to relieve the repetitive strain.

This morning I decided to film our journey. Here's a small taste:

Let's go!

First stop about 20 yards down the street.

One delightful smell after another. Life is good.

Wait, what was that? A garage door opening? Let's go back and investigate.

I can wait just as long as you can.

Home again! There's a cookie on the other side of this door. I can smell it!

Today I'm grateful for a dog with little brains and a a lot of love to share. I'm grateful for portable carpet cleaners and enzyme action detergents.

My wish for you is the ability to see past an obstacle and follow your heart (or nose as the case may be.
Merry ME

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Party is Over

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves 'who am I to be
brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?'
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others."
Marianne Williamson

Indeed the tea party and all the anxiety that went along with it is over. It was a long week. I spent time in fear and one night I felt incredibly sad. Yet, in the end I let things happen. I can't say that I actually relaxed until about 5 minutes after the party started, but I was able to let people help, take suggestions as well as compliments, feel proud, and enjoy seeing my vision ("my" being used very lightly as I believe it was divinely inspired) becoming a place of faith and fellowship. Nota to mention a room full of pretty ladies dressed up and sipping tea from china cups.

To those of you who reassured me that this would be the case once I got myself out of the way, I say thank you. I can't promise that I won't need the same encouragement next time. Still I think the words sunk in.

Besides hosting a party, and all that entails, there were personalities to deal with. I worried that I had said or done things to hurt someone's feelings, or caused them to be angry with me. I pleaded with others not to say something to someone in an effort to ward off a possible eruption. This may be my biggest coup, because I stuck to my guns on this one and in the end it turned out perfectly. Yeh, the Divine Tea Drinker was watching over us.

One thing I was not quiet prepared for was the wave of sadness that washed over me when I dug through the closet and unwrapped Mom's tea set. I've used it since she passed away. I expected it to be like unwrapping Christmas ornaments after getting the boxes down from the attic. You know that thrilling feeling of memories from the past and anticipation for the future. Instead it was like a punch in the gut. I sat with a sugar bowl in my lap as Keywest Johnnie looked through Grammy's silver and tried to guess the value. I looked at the tray given to my parents as a wedding present and had, as if for the first time when in reality it was about the gazillionth time, a realization that they are gone - for good. I went to church looking for comfort but barely made it home before a torrential rain of tears engulfed me. I reached out to the one person who I thought might be able to tell me what I wanted to hear... that I wasn't crazy, that grief does come in waves, that it might always hurt, but the hurt isn't always as bad, that it was okay to cry. Thanks Weneki.

So to the tea party.
  • I think there were about 60 people present - 59 ladies and one brave gent! Like the Bible story of the fishes and the loaves, food and drink seemed to multiply every time I wandered away from the table.
  • Eight tables were individually decorated keeping to the theme of "Joy". Like the game of telephone tag, I told one person, and she told another and before I knew it, volunteers were picking up on the vision I had in my head but had trouble describing.
  • The speaker was fascinating. The subject was, Mary, the mother of Jesus and how we can relate to her today. I realized how drawn I am to this woman, how that endearment has led me to starting the Guild of the Christ Child ministry and how others have stepped up to the plate to help. There is much to ponder in the days ahead. Mostly I was left with the idea that Mary was a "Hope Bearer". Ironic, isn't it, that someone like me who at times feels bereft of all hope, strives to be and honor the Hope Bearer with whom I share a name.
  • The ladies were so pleased with the whole tea/hat/girly party thing going on they want to make it an annual affair. My heart was happy, my mind quick. I suggested to a few they do it next year and they said okay. How cool is that. [Note to self: Ask for help. Leave the help alone. ]
  • And then there's my Sweetie. He stuck by me as I road this week's roller coaster. When I was down he comforted me (seriously the man does not seem to mind snot on his T-shirt), when I was worried he encouraged me and when I was feeling good and proud he stood beside me and encouraged me to see the good in me.
Today I'm grateful for a job well done. I'm grateful to the people who helped me pull it off. I'm grateful for the smiles on the faces of women whose names I don't even know. I'm grateful for the gifts given so we can turn around and give them to moms and babies who need them. I'm grateful for people to lean on and learn from. And I'm grateful for a sterling silver link to my mother who I think would have loved everything about the party, but mostly the opportunity to wear a hat.

My wish for you (and ME) is this: Listen to that soft, still voice that speaks to you and sometimes sends you on a journey you aren't quite prepared for. Believe you will be prepared along the way. Be open to the teachers who are put on your path. Rejoice and give thanks in place you end up.

Merry ME

P.S. I have some pictures to share but they are in the process of uploading/downloading.
P.S.S. I have no idea about the font size and line spacing of this post. I think it has something to do with copying that quote from another source. I can't figure how to change it. Sorry if it hurts your eyes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Speak No Evil

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
My parents

I grew up hearing this adage quoted over and over again. Funny thing is, now that I'm an adult I realize the two people who repeated it to their children had tongues like vipers that could spit venom a foot away. As I grew up I learned how to say nice things, how to say not-so-nice things, and how to be quiet in the face of lightening quick mean retorts. The best mean things I say are always shouted at the top of my lungs in the privacy of my car, about an hour after an encounter. Preceded by tears and followed up by tears.

Yesterday I had a few opportunities to perhaps stick up for myself, be assertive, make decisions that worked for me and in general take control. Instead I shivered in my shoes and cried. All day I felt embarrassed, weak and inefficient. I felt like Little ME was expecting me to do something and I didn't know what to do, but stew. It wasn't until I was in bed that I was able to let out a rather combustible FU. As if that would fix anything. I can't say I really felt any better, but I did go to sleep.

What I was not understanding was how some people just barge right in and say anything they feel like. Is that an attribute I should strive for? Is that being assertive? Even if the "anything" said is not necessarily mean, and might be said to help not hurt, I still don't get it.

So here's what the universe is putting in my path today:

"Things don't go wrong and break your heart
so you can become bitter and give up.
They happen to break you down and
build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be."
Charles, "Tremendous" Jones,
via The Daily Truth

the goal can't be just to get thru them.
the goal has to be to get thru them while strengthening the heart.
getting thru them and keeping our potential in mind. not losing site of who we want to be.
using them as some kinda tools. soul shaping tools.
and if we can't get that far with them, at the very least,
not letting them take the goodness out of our hearts.
Terri St. Cloud on today's

Yesterday I fought off the urge to apologize for something I'm not even sure I did.
Today I think I'll take Little ME's hand and use the energy fueled by anger to skip around the house. I haven't skipped in a long time and it uses up more calories than sitting in a chair watching HGTV, which for some reason, I've started watching. If asked why, I'd probably have to answer, a la George Mallory*, "because it's there."

Today I'm grateful for a husband who might not understand me, but says nice things like "go ahead and cry it out, maybe you'll feel better." I'm grateful for an opportunity to learn new behavior. And I'm grateful that the air was way less heavy with humidity than it has been. I may have even felt a slight breeze.

Wishing for you a circle of people that say nice things,
Merry ME

* I always attributed this quote to Sir Edmund Hillory. Live and learn!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tea Anyone?

"Good intentions are at least, the seed of good actions;
and every one ought to sow them, and leave it to the soil and
the seasons whether He or any other gather the fruit."
William Templeton, Sr.

I had every intention today to start baking for a tea party I am hostessing at church next Sat. Instead I seem to be in a small state of panic and feel on the verge of a rather lengthy boohoo.
I am really not sure what's going on. I'm going to ramble a little and see if something becomes clear. If you have any insight, feel free to leave me a comment.

So a few weeks ago I had this great idea to have a tea party at church on the day before a big celebration for St. Mary. Since that Mary is the one I picked to honor through an annual baby shower held just after Christmas, one and two equaled, in my mind, 15 or "let's have a party." Sometimes I get these ideas, speak them out loud, attribute them to the Holy Spirit or voices sometimes considered mental illness. And truly, it is not the ideas that are bad. In fact, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I'm a damn good idea person.

The problem comes when I try to execute the idea. I've found over the years that this is all right if I'm planning some small gig at my home. It's when I jump in over my head, say at church, that I soon feel like I'm drowning in my own creativity.

Make a plan, my father used to tell me. I did. Problem is the plan is in my head. I can see how I want things, what to make, how things should look, etc. The trouble starts when I need to ask people to help. Because, even with a picture in my head, I don't know how things are going to turn out until I'm done. It doesn't help that I'm an Indian, not a chief. It doesn't help that I have control issues. It doesn't help that I can't stand conflict. And it doesn't help that delegating my ideas would be like Michelangelo telling someone who really, really wanted to help that he could have the itty bitty corner over in the next room. Not because he doesn't trust that painter, or appreciate the help, but because until the ceiling is complete he doesn't know how it's going to look, so how can he tell the person what he wants where?

Last week someone who is going to help decorate tables asked me what time. Time? I have to have a schedule? Then this morning, our priest, who has delicately stepped out of the female fray decided he wants to know what's going on. I get that, he's the priest, captain of his religious ship, he doesn't want any screw ups. So I get an email this morning with questions, ideas, directions (gentle nudges, but directions just the same) and I started freaking out. My stomach knotted up and the tears pooled just under the surface of my bottom lid so a dog barking, a stuck grocery cart or two many choices of honey could start them running down my cheeks.

I can't blame these feelings on grieving. I can't blame them on my father, though, in reality it could be his fault I feel this way because if he hadn't gone and died, then I'd be taking care of him, not offering to step out of my private box or worrying about details and money.

It might sound, that I am a glory seeker and don't want to share the party planning because I want everyone to say, "oh what a nice party, Merry gave." While that would be nice, all I really want is to set stuff out (without worrying if other people are doing it right, as if my way is the only right way), then leave and hope that good feedback will trickle back to me, that the ladies will have a nice time. I really don't like to attend my own parties. Parties in general make my stomach churn. I don't think I'm anti-social, but I appear that way don't I?

So now I've poured it all out there and my stomach is still upset. I don't feel any clearer on why I'm anxious. I don't know what kind of pep talk to give myself. I've thought it might be an inner child issue. I've promised Little ME I'll keep her safe and listen when she's unhappy. I'll stick by that except I don't know why she's unhappy. It could be a financial issue, money topics always make my stomach churn. I've spent more than my fare share trying to make my ideas a reality. That's what I do. I could have just written a check to the Guild of the Christ child and never mentioned a tea party to anyone. Is there a right or a wrong there? Probably not.

I know this is stupid. But I think I'm going to grab a box of Kleenex, hop into bed and turn on HGTV. Maybe after a nap I'll feel like experimenting with chocolate mousse filled cream puffs.

Today I'm grateful for a my creative brain. For everything there is a season. Some are idea people, others are detail oriented. I'm grateful for my mother's silver tea service that I'm going to dig out of the locked box in the closet and polish to a heavenly glow. And I'm grateful for this blog and faithful readers who come back even when I whine. You will come back won't you?

Wishing for you this day a warm cup of tea and a scone. Unless of course you live in the part of the US where the heat wave is making even the thought of hot tea atrocious. In that case, I wish for you a tall glass of iced tea with a sprig of mint and a shortbread cookie.
Merry ME

Thursday, August 4, 2011


"The song remembers when."
Trisha Yearwood

I've been doing pretty good in the missing Dad department. I still get weepy at times, and occasionally hear him call me in the night. Last night I had a dream of an old friend whom I haven't talked to in way too long a time, and I offered to help her with her husband. A part of my brain knew he'd been gone for several years, but the dream part of me was trying to figure out what to do with Suzi when I left. The interesting part to me was how fast I was ready to jump right back into caregiving. Mother Mary????

This morning I attended the funeral of a man who was a member of our church for several years. I think of he and his wife as Southern Gentry. They both stood straight and tall He saw battle on Guadalcanal. A few years younger than my father, he was still part of that generation. I'm not knocking the generations that came afterwards, but in my mind there was something different - special - about those men and women who grew up during the depression, served their country well and always carried that pride with them, no matter how old or feeble they got. Every Memorial or Veteran's Day we could count on Luie to come to church dressed in his military uniform. The fact that it still fit was surprising. His devotion to God, country and home, however, was never in question. His back and shoulders were straight, his shoes always spit polished, his medals sparkled on his chest.

I knew they'd play the Navy hymn this morning. I was kind of braced for it. But I hadn't thought of any other music which could start the flood of tears rolling. All it took was a recording of George Beverly Shae singing "How Great Thou Art." It was one of my father's favorites. I can't say for certain but I think he was probably rocked to sleep as a baby to great country hymns rather than lullabies. So I listened for a few bars, then my mind went to dad, lying in his bed listening to cd after cd of his favorite gospels. I realized I haven't played either his Tennessee Ernie Ford, Willie Nelson, or Alan Jackson cd in the 6 months he's been gone. I wonder, would they comfort me or just make me sad. I'm a little afraid to find out.

The Navy Hymn has been a favorite in our house for as long as I can remember. It was a common thread in the fabric of the lives of my grandfather, my father and my ex-husband. It is a prayer for God's hand to calm the waters and protect the men who work on the sea. The original poem written in 1860 was set to music in 1861. Since then some verses have been changed and others added for inclusion of different arms of the Navy, ie US Marine Corps, Navy Nurses, Submariners, etc.

[Somewhere on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, I think.
Maybe it's the Philippines, or Guam]

My father was a member of the Seabees. His construction battalions were often the first sent into war zones to prepare landing strips, dams, roads, and barracks for those who soon be fighting. He often told the story of shaving one morning when several Japanese zeros flew over his windowless barracks low enough to make eye contact. I'm not sure he got any closer to battle than that, for which I thank the Divine Seafarer who calmed the seas. However, he was known to reiterate W.T. Sherman's statement that "War is Hell" so I'm sure he saw way more than he ever talked about.

[I'm not sure who all these guys are,
but my Dad is the guy sitting down looking like he's on a Sunday fishing trip,
not surrounded by the big brass.]

Today as I think of my Dad and remember the life of Luie Fuller, I close with this verse of the Navy Hymn added in 1960 by R.J. Dietrich.

Lord, stand beside the men who build
And give them courage, strength and skill.
O grant them peace of heart and mind,
And comfort loved ones left behind.
Lord, hear our prayer for all Seabees,
Where'er they be on land or sea.

Today I'm grateful for the men and women who go into harm's way to defend and protect the freedoms we (ME included) Americans often take for granted. I'm grateful for the music that calmed my father's fears as he transitioned from this life to the next. I'm grateful for the privilege of knowing Luie Fuller and his wife, Mercedes.

Wishing for you today, the opportunity to revel in freedom and peace.
Merry ME