Monday, October 31, 2011

Candy Corn - Love It or Leave It

"All the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911."
Lewis Black (Stand-up comic)

In a few hours I hope to be able to say that I made it through the Halloween season (which started somewhere back in July) without buying or eating one piece (bag) of candy corn. There is still one more trip to the grocery store that stands in my way of victory. But I hope to cut it short by leaving Sweetie in the car with the engine running. That way I won't be able to stand and stare (drool) at the bags of orange and yellow and white globs of sugar that make my teeth hurt just looking at them.

I cannot say exactly why I like this candy so much. It doesn't have the appeal of any kind of chocolate, peanut and caramel mixture. Yet, for me it is as impossible to eat one (or one handful if we're being honest) of the triangles as a Lays potato chip. I wonder, is there really some place in my sugar crazed brain that thinks that when I'm chowing down on candy corn, I'm really eating a freshly roasted, buttered and salted ear of corn?

According to Wikipedia (and we know we can trust them) candy corn is "primarily sugar, corn syrup, artificial coloring (what that isn't real yellow and orange?) and binding. What is left over after the primary ingredients is not so appetizing wax. Wax? [OMG I'm having flashbacks of summer days drinking fake fruit juice out of a mini soda bottle then eating the bottle. ] A serving of Brach's candy corn (19 pieces, but who's counting?) packs a walloping 140 calories but here's the good news - no fat.

I Googled Candy Corn this morning and found, to my amazement, that there are some out there who seriously detest the stuff. They even call the people who give out this treat which has been around since the late 1800's mean names. According to Shawn Norris of candy corn heads his list of "10 Biggest Candy Fails." In essence a list of the worst "treats" to hand out to scary looking goblins who knock on your door begging for candy then apparently have the gumption to diss what is put in their king-sized pillowcases. I'm not sure I can put much stock in Shawn's candy assessment, however, because he also includes Tootsie Rolls on the list. Seriously, if I were on a sinking ship and had to choose between taking TR's or CC with me on the lifeboat to a deserted island, I think the boat might be waterlogged before I made up my mind. There's just something about working your back teeth into the tough chocolately outer layer of a TR. Eventually when you have salivated long enough to turn the gooey mess into something chewable, the hint of chocolate you taste is worth the effort. Sure your jaw begins to ache after the third or fourth piece, but again the taste seems to outweigh the work and the pain.

Alice Lausdale ( CC at the top of her "Five Things to Hand Out If You Hate Kids" list. She even suggests that trick or treaters dump all their candy corn on the offending "Treaters" lawn. I'm a little offended by this. I don't hate kids. I just happen to like CC. And it seems a little harsh to put CC on the same list as raisins or bible tracts. However, I must confess here. I rarely if ever hand out candy corn. If the stuff happens to jump off the shelf and into my basket and makes it all the way home to my kitchen counter, well then I'm going to reward it's tenacity by eating it, not giving it away.

All that said, there is a bright side to my beloved striped candies. They are just the right size and color for making Halloween crafts. Now given the choice between eating the sugary nuggets and stringing them individually to hang on your mantle or over your doorway which is going to attract sweet-toothed varmints. I've tried stringing popcorn and cranberries in an effort to make an old fashioned Christmas. As I recall cranberries are juicy and more popcorn ends up on your lap than the string. Getting a sharp needle to go through the point of a sticky triangle seems like more effort that it is worth.

Other crafting alternatives involve a glue gun. Again, I think it would be easier to hand some fake spider webs and be done with the decorating.

Ah, but look at this - candles surrounded pretty candies. This is my kind of decoration. And if the wax drips into the candy, well, will I even know?

Perhaps as a child I enjoyed the whole get dressed up and go hobgobbling around the neighborhood. There may even have been a time in my life when I drank beer instead of eating candy in the graveyard down the street. As an adult - an old fuddy duddy adult - I think Halloween is just another ploy that merchandisers throw at the uncontrolled desires of kids and adults who remember the good old days of sheet covered ghosts and bobbing for apples.

Cecelia Hanley of CBS Atlanta wrote last week that Candy Corn "is as American as Apple Pie." and that "when it comes to candy corn, people either love it or hate it." I'm on the side that hates to love it. Hanley quotes Nicole Stokesbury DePalma when she wrote on FB, "I totally consider candy corn an actual vegetable during the fall season." Even I think this is a pretty big stretch. What side of the sugar debate do you fall on?

Today I'm grateful for the sweet things in life.
Wishing for you treats but no tricks,
Merry Me

Friday, October 28, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Again

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
The secret of getting started is breaking your complex
overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks,
and then starting on the first one."
Mark Twain.

I first started blogging after reading my daughter's friend's "Just Jenni" blog. She had signed up for National Blog Posting Month and I was pretty impressed that she could think of something to write about every single day of the month. I've tried it a couple of times - I can't even remember how many - and I think I only successfully completed the challenge once. Well, here it is almost November again and I've been getting notices from NaBloPoMo announcing (daring?) that the contest will start on Tuesday. During NaBloPoMo t
here is no posted theme other than to write something every day during the month of November. They have joined up with BlogHer so I'm guessing there will be lots more serious bloggers than I am used to running with.

Last week my writing group facilitator has been telling us that it's important to write a little every day. She challenged us with ten minutes or 1000 words, even gave us prompts for 14 days. I have noticed that giving me these kind of suggestions is similar to my father telling me to save money. It makes me want to do the exact opposite even though it isn't hurting anyone but me. Crazy.

In the case of writing I kind of freeze. I spend all day at the computer but I can't seem to put ten words together on a blank page. I'm not sure how I'll ever get past the unknown writer stage on my path to becoming a famous author if I can't even flex my writing muscles a few minutes every day. Alas, I see that writing, in my case, is like doing situps. If I had a daily routine, eventually I 'd have abs of steel. Right? Okay maybe not of steel, but at least stomach muscles that boast a little firmness. If I disciplined myself to write for 10 minutes a day, just think how strong my writing muscles could be.

So, I know it may sound a little fool-hardy but I think I'm going to sign up for NaBloPoMo. I've got some ideas of what to write about. And I have 2 weeks of prompts if I get stumped. For inspiration, I have friends like Terri and Pam who seem to effortlessly post to their blog every day. Hmmm, I just realized they both walk every day too. Is there a pattern there I should be wary of?

Now that I've put it out there I already feel the pressure to stick to it. Please wish me luck. And it might not hurt to add a comment every now and then to spur me on. You can be my cheerleaders when I've got the the ball but don't feel much like running down the field.

Today I'm grateful for big salads and steamy baked potatoes.

Wishing for you incentive to put your best foot forward in the direction you want to go,
Merry ME

Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking Back - Part 4

"God is the friend of silence.
See how nature
- trees, flowers, grass - grow in silence:
see stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence ...
We need silence to be able to touch souls."
Mother Teresa

Some of the unexpected delights of my trip to Oklahoma were the number of opportunities for silence. One of our main goals was to interact with the kids there. We all know kids are anything but quiet so I didn't really think about silence. At first I missed the music I had expected would accompany our journey - modern day praise songs, or old fashioned hymns.

[Finally after not-so-patiently waiting and clicking the button about 6 times, this butterfly opened its wings and said, take your best shot.]

After the first day, I heard music in the somber cooing of doves, creek water dancing over stones, a light breeze whistling through the tree leaves, and the sound of stillness as little girls fell asleep. Though I wasn't prepared for the holiness of early mornings with dew still on the grass, a harvest moon rising up over the trees, sparks flying up from a pep rally bonfire rising to heaven, I knew them all to be a symphony played by the Divine One's orchestra. When Sweetie and I were alone in the clothes closet, the rhythm of our hands working in tandem resembled a chant by Gregorian monks. Who knew the sounds of silence could be so moving?

If those weren't hymns enough, my heart smiled every time the children voted to sing the "Johnny Appleseed" song before dinner. Tears trickled down my face when a girl we'd barely met handed Sweetie and me a cross she'd spent time coloring. Need I mention there is no song more holy than the sound of children laughing?

And there was also the sound of kindnesses shared.
  • People at Fr. Georges's church making us feel at home.
  • A United Airlines ticket agent, saying, "I'll take care of it."
  • A fellow team member saying to me, "you see old and unfit, I see wisdom."
  • A young girl sheltering another with the warning, "she's shy."
  • Hands held out to help the "wise" ones in and out of the crowded van.
  • Zo's impeccably good manners.
  • The "Beep! Beep!" of the cart driver as he made his way through the airport.
  • A parking attendant's smile.
  • My own bed saying "Welcome, Traveler, come let me wrap you in the comfort of home.
There were indeed many blessings to be had on our trip. Perhaps none so great as the silence that gave us a chance to hear the words of our heart.

Today I'm grateful for "the things I need. The sun, the rain and the appleseed."

Wishing for you moments of golden silence,
Merry ME

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking Back - Part 3

"There are a whole lot of historical factors
that have played a part in our being where we are today, and
I think that to even begin to understand our
contemporary issues and contemporary problems,
you have to understand a little bit
about that history."
Wilma Mankiller
(First female chief of the Cherokee Nation)

On our last afternoon at the Oaks, most of the Good Goers team climbed into a well-used old truck and headed down to the place where a concrete foundation had been laid at the beginning of the week. Near the edge of the creek, an earthen overhang sparkled with dancing reflections of the water, was the site where original Cherokee elders prayed. The foundation was the beginning of a worship center that would be built by other teams coming to the mission. Our task was to clear away brush and weeds and rocks. Within minutes of arriving at the spot the sound and smell of gasoline-powered weedwackers broke through the reverent silence.

Each of us went at our own pace, whacking or raking or picking up sticks.

Hope declared herself a litter picker upper, which was a rather unique way of getting to cool off by walking in the creek. Our leader, Steve, accomplished one of his goals by finding a spear head in the pile of dirt that had been displaced for the concrete.

Eventually a fire was started to burn away the debris. The dry timber burned well, but the green vegetation pretty much just smoked. Still, as with most fires it kind of mesmerized all of the tired workers who braved big ugly spiders to rest in the holiness of God's outdoor sanctuary.

As promised on the first day at Oaks one of the house parents, Travis, whose lineage goes all the way back to the Trail of Tears, joined us to tell stories. Like most early historians Native Americans traced their heritage and beliefs through the tradition of oral story telling. His slow, mid-western drawl and flair for oratory, made Travis a natural. It was as much fun for me to watch the others as it was to hear Travis. While the kids tried playing some stick ball, Sweetie and I slowly made our way back to the dorm house.

Friday night at the mission was all about the High School football game. Most people hurriedly ate their dinner, donned sweatshirts and walked across the street to the field. Sweetie and I knew there was no way we'd make it home if we didn't get our bags packed and settle in for the night. But we could hear the loudspeaker announcing play and a low score for our team from our room, so we weren't totally anti-social!

~ ~
Before turning in every night, our team met for a recap of the day and some prayers. Each of us was asked for our "picture" of the day - something that moved us or spoke to the task we were doing. I found it interesting how we had a different pictures even though we'd all pretty much done the same thing all day. What really impressed me was how even the two children on our team (Hope age 9 and Zo age 8) sat without fidgeting and always spoke from their heart. After the trip was all over, and we'd gotten home and I'd rested my feet which cried "Uncle" somewhere near the B concourse at the Houston Airport, the memory of the kids was my picture of the week.

A week spent with and for children was like a magic elixir for my heart. I told myself I would leave all expectations for the week at home in Florida. But a part of me still expected (wanted) some kind of life-altering experience, a Moses moment, if you will. I really hoped God would tell me of His plan for my life. Alas, no visions or sky-writing. Just a knowing that the Divine One uses each of us where we are. The service I do right here in my own back yard is as important as traveling to third world countries.

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity to do something so far out of my comfort zone. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned, for time to draw closer to my Sweetie. I'm grateful to the people of Oaks Indian Mission who have stepped up to the plate to make a difference in the lives of the children they serve. And I'm grateful to Good Goers for all the work they do.

Wishing for you unexpected blessings,
Merry ME

Note: You can't really tell from this picture but the object of stick ball is to catch a little ball in the itty bitty cup of the sticks (think LaCross) and pass it around to others on your team (think football) and somehow try to fling the ball to the top of a really high lodgepole (think basketball). Stickball was a way to dispute smaller grievances without going to war. Men from disgruntled tribes would meet in a field that was hundreds of yards long. It's been said that anything short of murder was allowed on the field - biting, crippling- tackling, etc - and players did die on occasion. The point of the game was to score a pre-determined number of goals. The game was never called for inclement weather. Even if a few players were killed in a game it was considered better than going to war. Usually men played but there were times women were allowed in the game. From the sounds of it, the women were given the advantage.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Looking Back, Part 2

"You never know where a blessing can come from."
Teena Marie

On our 2nd full work day at the Oaks, there was a choice of three projects: to finish painting one of the dorm houses, to paint picnic tables or to organize the house that serves as a clothes closet for the mission.

Okay, it's not really a whole house, more like a large shed. And "organize" might be too big a word for unpacking, sorting, and sizing about a kazillion pairs of underpants and socks. When it comes to "organizing" however, my Sweetie considers himself a world champion. I would say that I run a pretty close second but some of you may question the veracity of that statement because of the stories you've read about my propensity for clutter. While the rest of the Good Goers team grabbed paint brushes, Sweetie and I sequestered ourselves across the campus. The closet is full of donated items from bedding, to jackets, to shoes, to towels, to jeans and backpacks. And did I mention underpants?

I didn't know that when you return something to Walmart it is sent to a central Return Center instead of being put back on the shelf. Maybe there is a plan to how the returned items are packed up and sent out to places like the Oaks, but it seemed pretty willy nilly to me - as in dumped in a box and mailed. When we walked into the room where we would be working, we couldn't see anything but mangled cardboard boxes and dead spiders on the floor. Other teams had worked here so there was a basic layout as to where things should go, but in my humble pot-calling-the kettle-black opinion it looked like an underwear bomb had been detonated. After two days, organized boxes overflowed with neatly folded underpants, but the shelves still seemed dwarfed by the contents.


There is really no way to start a project like this, other than just dig in. Sweetie went first. It took me a little longer to get up my nerve to open the first box. After awhile we both got a rhythm going and we worked non-stop til lunchtime, then returned and kept going til dinnertime. It wasn't what you'd call "hard" work, but steady. We talked a little, but mainly just shared the time together in convivial silence.

In the quiet I became aware of two things. Blessings, really. As I stood knee deep in undies, I realized I've never once had to stop and wonder where my next pair of underpants might come from. I thought of the kids who live at this mission (or homeless shelter, or ghetto, or you-fill-in-the-blank) who sometimes lack the very basics. Food and shelter would undoubtedly rank first on the scale of basic necessities, but covering one's body, which is a way of keeping it holy, is right up near the top. I would think that for children who have been abused clothing would be a kind of protective armor. I've been blessed in my life to have not only have clean underwear when I needed it, but a dresser drawer to store it in. Seems weird to say, but I now understand that blessings don't have to be huge miracles. They come in all sizes and colors and sometimes have Superman on the front. Blessings don't always have to come from wealthy donors or over-zealous missionaries. They can be as simple as a pair of panties neatly folded by loving hands.

I also became aware of the fact that although Sweetie and I have been together for close to seven years and sometimes feel like we've been to hell and back, this might have been the first time we worked side-by-side with a common goal. In the past our habit has been to divide and conquer. I felt blessed to spend this quiet time with the man I love.

There were a couple other times during the week that I saw Sweetie as if with new eyes. One night at dinner, I listened to him talk to a young girl and watched as she opened up to him. Another night, during arts & crafts time, I watched Sweetie share a coloring book with one of the kids. Neither of us could even remember the last time we colored. As a light-hearted banter took place about whether or not it is better to color inside the lines or out, I felt our inner children settle into the moment. Perhaps my favorite moment was when Sweetie, aka Grandpa, let a young girl decorate his face with stick-on jewels. It's hard to resist a man all decked out in sapphires.

Gratitude is that place in the heart from which blessings flow.
Merry ME

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Looking Back, Part 1

"One's destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things."
Henry Miller

The forced replacement of Cherokee Indians from Georgia to Oklahoma was aptly named The Trail of Tears. Not just for those who made the trek, but also for those hearts that break a hundred years later upon hearing the story. In my opinion there is no better place to live than the US of A. That said it doesn't take away some of the black spots in the history of our great country. It is estimated that over 4000 of the 15000 Cherokee who were transplanted to what was called Indian Territory (in the present day state of Oklahoma) died on the march. Standing on/near the spot where so many Native American people ended their tearful journey made me weep with shame.

"I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot,
but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew."
~ Georgia soldier who participated in the removal

On Wednesday (Oct. 12) of our trip, the Good Goers team spent the day at the Cherokee National Museum. We were ushered through a typical Cherokee village and a museum full of artifacts, art, traditional crafts and historic records.

When I walked in the door of the museum a wooden sculpture by Willard Stone took my breath away. Exodus is part of a trilogy of sculptures. Although it depicts a Native American mother with a baby on her back, I immediately thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus and how she must have had her own trail of tears as she followed him to the cross.

Near the same area of the museum entrance there was a cross section of a tree that was just a sapling when the Cherokee arrived in Oklahoma. The tree fell down a couple of years ago in an ice storm. Dates and important events were marked on the age rings of the tree. Apart from the rest of the group who were looking at native-made souvenirs, I stood next to the tree and prayed. With my hand gently caressing each ring, I felt as if it was speaking to me. Not so much in words as in feelings. I imagined a cross-section of my own heart. Concentric circles representing good times, others when it felt wounded. Yet, in the stillness of the moment I had a knowing that the Creator always walks with me, like the wind and rain and sun on the tree. It feels especially true this year as my personal trail of tears leads me from my past to my future. I'm aware of the hands of the Divine Comforter wrapped around me, holding me close.

The Cherokee were part of the 5 tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee Creek, Seminole, Chicasaw, Choctaw) that were known as the "civilized." They lived in permanent structures often inside palisades to keep out raiders. Our guide said most people are surprised to see they didn't live in tee pees.

We watched a man make arrowheads from a piece of rock with nothing more than an antler, and another showed us how his bows and arrows were formed. Demonstrating his talent for accuracy, his arrows flew straight and fast into a target across the compound that I could barely see.

Women made baskets for cooking and carrying. Like the sea-grass baskets we saw in Charleston, each were intricately made for both functionality and beauty. We sat inside a large lodge where community decisions were made, tried to imagine scoring goals at the top of a pretty tall pole on the stickball field and stood outside a church - a large circle with a fire pit in the middle. This is where stomp dances were held. Men and women (with turtle shell rattles on their legs that weighed several pounds) danced and prayed around the fire from sundown to sunup. Their prayers floated to heaven on the rising smoke. We also walked through a more modern village that depicted what it life might have been like after the Cherokee settled in Oklahoma.

After eating an al fresco lunch of ham sandwiches and scarfing down chips and homemade cookies, we packed back in the van and headed for the 5 Civilized Tribes Art Gallery and Museum in Muskogee. It was hard not to sit and stare and be awed by the talent represented there. Although I came away without emptying my wallet, I fell in love with a picture by Native American artist Troy Anderson called "Daughter of the Sun" - a young Indian maiden surrounded by red birds. Whenever I see redbirds, I think of my grandmother. Since the day was spent looking back, I felt like the painting was a reminder to me of the people in my life who are no longer here.

I think this post is longer than a boring slide show. I'm not sure how to wrap it all up. In many ways the day linked together the past history and present day life of the mission children. Many of them have been abused and broken through no fault of their own. Their stories are full of tears and heartache. But at night, after dinner when I sat on a picnic bench and watched them run and play and laugh, I began to understand how important the work of the mission is. Started by Moravian missionaries who traveled from Georgia with the Cherokee then passed through the hands of the Lutheran church, the Oaks Indian Mission is now a private entity and has to raise all it's own funding. To say it is a daunting task would be an understatement. The work we did was nothing special, a coat of paint here, some weed whacking there, but it humbled each of us on the team. For five days we lived Mother Teresa's words ...

"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money.
Money is not enough, money can be got,
but they need your hearts to love them.
So spread your love everywhere you go."

... and it easily did as much for us as it did for those we served.
Stay tuned!

Today I'm grateful for reminders of things past and hope for things to come.

Merry ME

P.S. Not sure how I neglected to mention one of the best parts of the day. For people who were 3 days into fast food withdrawal, a stop at Cherry Berry, a self-serve frozen yogurt store, was a particular delight. I'm from the school of thought that says if you're going to eat something cold and covered in sprinkles, you might as well go all the way with real cream and sugar and "just say no" to the yogurt. However this stuff was so good, I was fooled into thinking I was eating something decadent. With so many choices of flavors and toppings, it was no surprise that there was a steady stream of customers coming in the door and the Good Goers returned to the mission refreshed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jog

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel
until he comes home and rests his head
on his old, familiar pillow."
Lin Yutang

We arrived at the Tulsa Airport this morning around 10:30 and set foot back at home around 9:30pm. One uneventful but very long day. An angel disguised as a Continental Airlines ticketing agent managed to get us on an earlier flight out of Tulsa which cut the wait in the airport by about 2 hours.

Sweetie called the planes we flew on puddle jumpers. I call them sardine cans. Flying today is all about getting from point A to point B with few frills. But we made it home safely and that's really all that counts, which is easy to say now that I've stretched my legs and gotten most of the kinks out.

I know I promised tales of our adventure and I will try to recap the week in the next few days. I've seen and learned many new things. I stretched some muscles I didn't even remember having. Some of my beliefs have been challenged. We met some wonderful people and breathed in lots of fresh air. I'm glad to have made the trip and glad to have come home.

Tonight I'm grateful for safe travels.
Merry ME

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 4

Just got the password for the Internet this evening. I'm really too pooped to write much. My idea of blogging as the week progresses has come to a screeching halt. All I can think of is to crawl into bed and rest my weary feet.

The team was split into two groups today. I was in the half that finished painting one of the dorm houses - 3 women, Sweetie, and a 9 year old. After spending so much time with a paint brush in my hand last spring, it came back to me pretty quickly. We've still got trim to do which I could cause me to say "ugh" but I've learned painting is a lot -LOT - easier than what the other half of the team did. They got the concrete assignment. And it wasn't just pouring concrete. It was hefting 80 lb. bags on and off a truck just to get them to the right spot. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have lifted one 80 lb bag, let alone a whole pallet full. I'm feeling pretty grateful tonight that I didn't get picked for that team.

There is something about my appearance that makes 8 year old boys challenge my abilities. Last night when kids were running around like kids do, playing basketball and doing arts & crafts, "B" sidles up to me and says, "So Grandma wanna play some football?" It wasn't the question so much as the look in his eye that told me he didn't think I could do it. Of course he was right, but I didn't want to tell him so. Thankfully the footballers were on the other side of the field B left me coloring with the girls.

So this morning, the youngest member of our Good Goers team, Lorenzo, who has enough energy to make the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker, challenged me to do some sit ups. Then he said, "oh, you're old." Well, yes, I am old, and have some extra pounds to crunch, but I got down on the ground while Lorenzo held my feet. He promised not to laugh if I couldn't do one sit up. And I said a silent prayer I wouldn't toot. It took me three tries, but I got my top half up and over my bottom half. It's hard to know who was more surprised, me or Lorenzo.

After painting came dinner and more crafts. I got out the fabric and paints I'd brought with me. With the help of several young girls, we made a couple banners. It proved to be another lesson for me to release my need for control. When you've got kids and paint in the same vicinity of each other, the chances for a neat, orderly project kind of go out the window.

Needless to say it was a long day, but a good one. I'm grateful for Divine Intervention when it came to team choosing. I'm grateful for the feeling of a paint job well done. I'm grateful for fresh air and light sprinkles of rain. I'm grateful for this opportunity.

More tomorrow.
Merry ME

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 3: Part 2

First Good Goers meeting to find out how the week will go.

"B" our guide for the afternoon.

Overlooking the field where the Union Army camped for about 6 months.

The original Spring House constructed where the Trail of Tears ended.

No one has explained yet why they stopped here.

Resting after a lengthy hike through the woods to the creek.

Arts & Crafts after dinner.

Day 3: Part 1

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,

To visit the fatherless and widows in affliction

and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
KJV James 1:27

Fr/Br Georges told me last night that when God calls you, you know it. You feel it. I won't deny I feel parts like my life have been Divinely orchestrated. Then there was also that time, when I was sure God put something before me, and like Eve with the apple, I tasted it. I learned a lot from that experience and it put me on roads I never would have traveled on my own. But I'm not sure it was God that did it. So I still have the question, how does one know if one is "called" to do something by God?

Part of my experience is that things sort of fall into place. And while there has never been a lightening bolt in the sky to point the way, I have experienced little signs of reassurance. For the last week my email, the readings in church, time spent in therapy and listening to music, the theme has been loving others, being aware of children and letting go of fear.

Here I sit in Ramada Inn anxiously waiting for the clock to tick down the hours so I can begin this new adventure. Like a kid of Christmas Eve I have no idea what to expect. Will there be must-have toys from Santa or a chapter book from Mamaw? And yeh, that's driving me a little bit crazy. I'm worried about the details but so looking forward to the adventure. Sweetie, aka Bawana(?) and I are in matching Good Goers T-shirts the color of faded autumn leaves after they've been lying in the street for awhile. But we're ready to open ourselves up to new things like springtime tulips looking for the sun.

I have no idea what the computer situation is going to be at the mission site. I hope to report back but you may not hear from me til next Sunday. For some unexplained reason I feel like I'm channeling the Lone Ranger.

Hi Ho Silver, away!

Merry ME

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 2: Part1

"A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances.
A complaining soul complains even in paradise."

Sunday. 7am:

So I was standing there in front of the wall to wall mirror in the bathroom of the Ramada Inn. Can't decide if the lighting is especially bright to show up all imperfections or to just wake up weary travelers.

My hair wasn't looking so good. I knew the TSA had a requirement of 3 oz. bottles. I knew they were supposed to be tucked into a 1 quart ziplock bag. What I didn't know was that you were only allowed 1 of these bags. Yes, I was trying to pack minimally, but a girl still needs way more than ONE little bag to hold her cosmetics, shampoo, creams, lotions, pills, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. (Normally I wouldn't be carrying bug spray but it was on the list of things to bring. I'm really hoping I don't need it but who knows, maybe Oklahoma mosquitos haven't heard yet that the seasons are a changin'). Before I ever left my home town, my ziplock bags were stuffed even fuller than before and my hair care products were disposed of. In the spirit of love sharing, Sweetie agreed to let me use his shampoo.

Back at the Ramada, I prepared myself for the day with all the tee-tiny little bottles of citrus smelly things. My hair is clean and I smell like an orange. But without mousse and Boost and spray, I really hate how my hair is behaving. Then I remembered I'm about to embark on a mission trip where the children I will see may not have any of the things I take for granted. I have never seen real poverty up close and personal. And I'm hoping that the place we we're going to is not as bad as pictures of orphanages in Haiti or Africa. Still, I told the woman in the mirror with the uncooperative hair to chill out and remember the purpose of being here was not to look good but to love good.

Before leaving for church, I happened to notice Sweetie's opened suitcase. It became clear to me that the reason he can fit so much more stuff in his carry on bag is because he rolls his undies, his socks, his shirts into little tubes and secures each with a rubber band. His shoes are in bags. I do fold my clothes, and try to use the limited space efficiently, but I've never banded them just so. I should be careful about what I say because I know he'll read this. However, according to my friend Amy being organized is a way to lessen your stress, and since I'm way more stressed than my Sweetie, I'm betting he has a schematic tucked into a compartment in his briefcase of where each item of clothing goes. Me, it's more like toss it up in the air, and when it falls in the suitcase, shut it quick.His


To be continued....

Day 2: Part 2

Spent the day in the company of Fr/Brother Georges. His St. Luke's is a beautiful church and like the St. Luke's where I worship at home, mostly peopled by an older group of people. But there are some kids there and they flocked to Georges who hugged them and blessed them and welcomed them to the altar. As usual, Georges' heavily accented English was a little hard to understand but his message was still the same. God Loves You. After church we went to Georges' new house. I couldn't help but think how proud my father would be of his "adopted" son.

It was a good day. Now it's time to crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep. I have no idea what to expect of tomorrow and the week ahead. That's the point isn't it? To welcome what lies ahead with a heart full of love. I'm ready.

Today I'm grateful for friendly people with lots to say. I'm grateful for good food and good company.

Stay tuned.

Merry ME

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 1: Part 2

"All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well."
St. Theresa of Avila

Two Gumbas on the Park 'n Ride bus

I'm not sure why it is but sitting in an airplane all day is pretty tiring. Well, we did have to hike a few miles from one concourse to another in the Charlotte airport, so I guess we did get some exercise. We got smart by the time we got to Houston - grabbed one of those carts that beep, beep down the crowded hallways. Not once, not twice, but three times. Sweetie's hip was beginning to tire and my foot giving me a fit. Yessiree, we're going to do just fine at the Oaks - if our assignments are along the lines of answering phones! I have to admit I've had a few what in the hell are we doing moments.

When we left home, a Nor'easter was brewing. The rain stopped long enough for us to get up into the air and above the weather. There were a few bumpy spots along the way but my stomach only flew into my throat once. Tulsa, from what I can tell, doesn't look too much different from home. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80's all week. So much for autumn! (Not much need for my bonesigh arts sweatshirt.)

Sweetie might disagree, but I think I've done pretty good on the letting go of control. I do admit, however, that every time he took out his homemade green envelope that housed all our pertinent travel documents I chuckled a little. For all his organization, it took both of us to figure out which boarding pass went with which leg of the trip.

Today I'm grateful for the trail mix I packed so we didn't have to purchase the $4.00 airline version. I'm grateful for golf carts and drivers that know their way around the airport. I'm grateful for GPS which, I have decided, is one of the century's greatest inventions, and I'm grateful for a big ole' bed to rest my travel weary body.

Stay tuned,
Merry ME

The Adventure - Day 1

I'm not sure I can really call today's junket an adventure. Going through an on-line ticketing agent my Sweetie, who loves to get a deal, found us a flight to Tulsa, via Charlotte, and Houston. Just a little bit of a round robin route. We found out yesterday when picking our seat assignments (which couldn't be done til 24 hours before which basically meant all the good seats (i.e. free) were taken.) We will be sitting in what the airline refers to as "choice" seats. Mainly because we can choose to pay $26.00 a piece or not fly at all. And in case you're wondering, the answer is yes. We do have to pay for checked luggage and probably a bag of peanuts and a coke. Except for the soda, this shouldn't be a problem. We have stuffed carry on luggage to its maximum capacity and I have enough snacks stowed away that should we get lost enroute, we will not starve.

It is a little surprising that I'm sitting hear writing on the computer when normally I'm running around helter skelter, picture Chicken Little, "the sky is falling". Sweetie is checking everything twice. I'm practicing NOT being in control. That said, I do still have shoes to put on, a last trip to the bathroom, the dog to console and cats to treat. So I'm going to sign off.

Today I'm grateful for new vistas.

Stay tuned,
Merry ME

Friday, October 7, 2011

Turn. Turn. Turn.

"To everything there is a season and
a time for every purpose under heaven."
Eccl. 3: 1-8

I'm typing this post on a MacBook which I have had for almost 2 years. I won't say my arm was twisted but without my nephew's nudging, I probably wouldn't have bought it. I know how to turn it on, write/save documents, import/export pictures and scope out the world-wide web. Beyond that, I have no idea what an app is or does. I hate the way you can move your finger up or down across the screen to get to different screens. I had to have a pimply-faced but technically-savvy teenager at the Apple Store turn that feature off for me because I was continually hopping places like the Easter Bunny without a GPS. I never knew where I was going, how I got there, or how to get back to my document. I don't own an Iphone or Ipad. I don't want to depend on something smarter than me that isn't human. I had a friend once who would rather "fight than switch" from her beloved MACintosh computer. She could make that thing sing!

Yesterday the TV, radio and Internet were abuzz with the news of Steve Jobs' death. The world lost an innovator, entrepreneur and spokesman for creative heartsong. People openly mourned his passing. Indeed, his genius changed the way things are done around the world.

I also got this video from my friend Pam yesterday. She wanted me to envision her standing in the woods, under a canopy of trees, arms joyfully spread out to receive the beauty and music of the universe.

At first glance these are two different subjects but I saw their similarities in the cycle of life. Jobs lived and flourished and made a difference. Autumn is that time of year to accept that all living things come to us with a Divine expiration date. Our task in this life is to use all our gifts to make a difference, to add some color to our little corner of the universe and then when our time is over, to let go with grace like golden leaves dancing on a Fall breeze.

"A time to be born. A time to die."
Turn. Turn. Turn.

Yesterday's news is old news. When I turned on my computer this morning I was greeted not by mournful testimonials of a pioneer's life but by the faces of determined, brave, intelligent, women whose gift to the world is not technology but peace.

AP Photo

Don't get me wrong. I'm not dissing technology or men. My personal belief is that women were placed here by the Divine Creator to bring life and love to the planet, to nurture that life in a way that will reflect the divinity of all and it will be women of peace who make the biggest change to this world. I'm moved to see these women being recognized, not just in their own neck of the woods, but the world over.

"A time for war. A time for peace.
Turn. Turn. Turn."

To be fair I am a little disconcerted by some of the terms used to describe Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakku Karman. Words like activist, warrior, protester, Iron Woman, and Mother of the Revolution don't sound all that peaceful. But maybe when you are playing a man's game you have to play by a man's rules. Perhaps to get somebody's attention you have to be a revolutionary, a protester, or warrior. Do you remember from history class how a "shot heard round the world" started our the American Revolution of Independence? I'm sitting here at my desk, today, thinking another salvo has been fired, but not from a gun, or a rocket. Instead a community of "gogos" (Swazi for grandmother) dance arm in arm in the moonlight and sing a song of peace to their children and their children's children.

A time to break down and a time to build up.
Turn. Turn. Turn.

My prayer is that yesterday's energy devoted to remembering Steve Jobs will be used today to celebrate women in every land. May each of us commit to a higher vision and join together in peace.

Merry ME

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye ... Again

"Every goodbye makes the next hello closer.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you must be aware that I have said a lot of goodbyes in the last few years. Actually, I think I've said more than the average number of lifetime goodbyes.
Quick see ya laters
Angry F U's
Silly Ta ta's
Deep heartfelt, won't see you again til we meet in heaven farewells.

Let me just say this up front, I think goodbyes suck. I suppose there can be good goodbyes, but mostly, for me, they are less than good and teeter on being badbyes.

I will probably interrupt this post for one more. One more that leaves me feeling weak in the knees and sad as can be. My baby sister is moving today. Not so far away that we can't see each other after an 8 hour drive (as opposed to my other sisters that require an 8 hour plane trip), but not right around the corner either. When I pull up my big girl panties and see the move through her eyes, I can feel her excitement. As she watches her belongings pile onto a truck, she must feel like Christopher Columbus adding the last of his provisions to the Santa Maria before setting sail for new land. An adventure, to be sure.

At the same time, I realize it is my inner child - that scared little girl sitting in a corner seeing her mother with a suitcase in hand and hearing the back door slam with no chance to say, "wait, wait, please don't go. I'll be good. Dad didn't mean it, or even a simple goodbye"- who feels the sadness that sits just under my heart, filling the area under my ribs. Again, my adult knows that mom only drove around the block until she could cool down, the the suitcase was for effect and that even if she hated the whole fam damily when she walked out the door she loved us enough to always, ALWAYS come home." (Well, until that day in October, 2002, whose anniversary is round the bend and may be part of the reason all this feels so raw right now). My little girl never quite got the hang of letting go.

So that's kind of where I'm at right now. I should be gearing up for my own adventure. I'm about to start my own packing. Yet my heart is heavy. I think the Universe is aware of how I'm feeling and that's why I'm being bombarded with a lot of how to overcome fear messages. Because seriously at the heart of the matter is fear.

Over at Terri's blog I read this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of Terri's favorite authors:
'Three things differentiate living from the soul versus living from ego only.
They are: the ability to sense and learn new ways, the tenacity to ride a rough road,
and the patience to learn deep love over time......
....It would be a mistake to think that it takes a muscle-bound hero to accomplish
this. It does not. It takes a heart that is willing to die and be born and die and be born
again and again.'

I think I've got the tenacity thing going on. Most days I'm more patient than the average bear (barring a long line in a "fast" food joint). It's the learning new ways that comes hard for me. Usually I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new venture. My comfort zones, even when they have become dark and cramped, still provide a safety net that new things don't provide. Seriously one of my favorite things at the circus is to watch the trapeze artist's fall from the swing into the net then back flip over the side before taking an Olympic-like ta da!

"It takes a heart that is willing to die and be born again" is the very heart of every universal message I know: From Christ to Mother Nature to Windows XP. Something/someone has to die before before new life/ technology can take root. It is the truth that is told in every falling leaf of Autumn, and every tulip that blooms in the Spring.

Every goodbye brings the next hello closer.
I can't say I'm grateful today for the opportunity to test tenacity and patience, but I am thankful for the awareness. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have shared love and acceptance with my sister. My heart smiles with gratitude when messages come to me from out of the blue.

Wishing for you a new hello for every goodbye you have to say.
Merry ME

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The 3 G's

"Grief and gratitude are kindred souls,
each pointing to the beauty of
what is transient and given to us by grace."
Patricia Campbell Carlson
(Letter to a Friend)

I've been collecting quotes for about as long as I remember. I've got journals full of them, and computer files galore. The same with recipes written on the backs of napkins, and cut out of newspapers. My intent was always to go back one day, put them into some kind of order and collate them into a book. Not an original idea, I know. And now the task has become so daunting that I'll probably just keep on collecting. One day my children will toss them out along with my father's minutia that I can't seem to part with. Adding a quote to one's blog isn't original either, unless you're the Bloggess and make up your own that go viral. But I like to share!

The quote above came through my email on Sat. from's Word for the Day. The three G's - grief and gratitude and grace - are the coexisting emotions that continue to ebb and flow through my life these days. Lately, even though I count my blessings on a routine basis, and have felt the Grace of One greater than I, my heart feels heavy with grief - again? still?

Inner child issues for sure. Seems like every time some past stuff gets churns up, I can point right back to the scared, sad little girl inside of me. For instance, where I live Beach Road Chicken bills itself as the best fried chicken in town. They might also be able to claim the quickest way to a heart attack, as I'm sure the yumminess of their chicken, creamed peas, french fries and corn nuggets has to do with artery-clogging cholesterol-filled lard. Since my family took up residence in Florida BRC is a staple when out-of-town company comes to visit. It's good and it's easy. It used to be cheap, but like most things cheap has gone the way of 25 cent a gallon gasoline. But sometimes a girl just has to fill up on stuff she shouldn't eat. Would you think better of me if I tell you I also just purchased 6 of the largest, reddest Honey Crisp apples I've ever seen?

So last night I'm standing there waiting for my chicken order to be processed. It wasn't too busy, the Monday night footballers had already come and gone. I sat on a bench and looked at the rooster decor thinking of the many times I've sat on the same bench. Then a perfectly innocent looking man walked in, strode up to the counter and placed an order for livers and gizzards ... my father's standard order. I didn't want to cry. I felt stupid getting all emotional over chicken gizzards. But then I remembered that the last thing my father ate (and disliked because he disliked everything he'd ever loved except Manhattans). It was about a week before he passed away and the memory flooded over me like a Pacific Tsunami. The lady who has been serving us for as long as we've been dining on BRC had to have noticed the tears running down my face. I'm sure she's not the first or last as my sprinkling system is on its own timer, but still I was embarrassed and made a hasty getaway (not so hasty that I didn't get my chicken.)

I'll go along feeling less sad about Dad, sometimes for days, then out of the blue I see something insignificant like the slide boxes on my closet shelf and go into a funk. I am also facing another loss. My sister is packing up all her stuff and moving to TN. Either her mountain roots have called her home or she's running away. It doesn't really matter why, it just makes me sad on the one hand while I'm excited for her on the other. If I were an octopus I'd have an emotion for each hand. Still if you've got to be somewhere in October, no better place to be than the red and yellow and brown and orange covered Smoky Mountains. There's always the chance that this move will not be permanent, she's never lived outside this city, but I hope she'll roam through the mountain paths, sit beside forest waterfalls, find peace at a job that fulfills her and settles into where she is meant to be. If that happens, the three G's will embrace inside my heart.

While it feels like there is always something to stir up sadness in me, I am also filled with gratitude and heavenly grace. These are the gifts I try to focus on. I give grief her voice, but try not to stay in the dark place. This is one reason I'm looking forward to spending 5 days with a bunch of kids. I need to remember how to play and laugh and be goofy instead of being so serious and fearful all the time. I need to throw off the mantle of mourning so I can enjoy a game of Uno, fingerpainting and exploring. I'm not sure what that will feel like or look like. But it's time for me to try to find out.

Today I'm grateful for awareness which is the first step to change. I'm grateful for Le Chats Writing Circle which will meet today and send me home laughing in spite of my moody old self.

May your chicken be extra crispy and your apples be extra juicy.
Merry ME

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Countdown Begins

"You can't stay in your corner of the Forest
waiting for others to come to you.
You have to go to them sometimes."
Winnie the Pooh

Six days and counting until Sweetie and I head out for adventure. With very little to go on, we are growing more and more excited about this giant step outside our comfort zone. For me, it's not just about being going somewhere new or around people I don't know, which has always given me pause. No, I'm beginning to realize that this is a beginning step in moving away from the life that I've know for 15 years. It's a start to shedding some of my grief, and putting my toes in the deep end of new experiences.

I'm both anticipating and worrying about the whole trip. I've always been an anxious traveler. You know how Santa has to check his list more than once. Well that's how I am with my ticket and boarding pass. I'm a mess until the plane's wheels are tucked safely under its belly and we are climbing skyward. Then I cover my head with a blanket, tune out the flight attendant's warnings and hopefully sleep until we are land at our final destination. I've just checked our itinerary. I think if we were in a race with a wagon train heading west the wagons might win. Let me just say it's going to be a long day with opportunities galore to spend time in uncomfortable airline seats.

According to the information we've gotten from the organization sponsoring this trip, we are about to embark on an adventure. They even put it on their logo: Good Goers Mission-Based Adventure Travels. They also mention achy muscles and bug bites, but I'm choosing to focus on the adventure part. Their literature states that a Good Goers trip will test your courage, obedience and faith while at the same time offering a rewarding opportunity to impact lives. Like Suzi Q performing for a Milkbone, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves for the promise of a reward for me and the people I will meet.

So, where is this adventure to take place, you ask?

We are going to the Oaks Indian Mission in Oaks, Oklahoma, in the heart of the Cherokee Nation.
The mission was started in 1838 by Moravian missionaries who traveled the Trail of Tears with the Cherokee. Today, the Oaks now provides residential care for 30 private, tribal and state placed children between 5-18 years old.

I can't tell you why this feels right to me but it does. I've always suspected I was an Indian maiden in a former life. I can remember reading about the Trail of Tears in school and feeling a pain in my heart at the hardship these brave people must have endured. And I've spent time (not enough, but some) in the Smokey mountains. A place many Cherokee originally called home. It's fitting, somehow, that in seeking to serve God and His people, my first trip would be to the place where genetic remembering of our Tennessee roots could be a bond.

In six days I have to be psyched and packed and ready to go. I think that will be enough time if I don't dawdle much longer here at my computer. As I asked before please keep your positive energy flowing our way.

If I fill myself up with gratitude I won't have any room left for fear.

May you find adventure in unexpected places.

Merry ME