Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 30

"I don't think you ever stop giving.
I really don't.
I think it's an on-going process.
And it's not just about being able to write a check.
It's being able to touch somebody's life."
Oprah Winfrey

Le Chat Noir Writers Circle @ the Sulzbacher Center

Here we are at the end of NaBloPoMo. As I look back to the beginning, I think I may have gotten off track a little here and there, but kept writing nonetheless. There are several other people who bring me joy that I didn't write about. Like Akasa Wolfsong; Stephanie Darnell, Maithri Goonetilleke, and Queen Dani. Each of them in their own way have shared their truths with me. They have lifted me up when I was down, given me hope and often made me laugh. It's possible that my old friend "grief" has been a common thread in our blog relationships. Each of these big-hearted bloggers has offered his/her own personal grief journey to make a difference for themselves and others. I, for one, have been the recipient of much love and compassion.

Another common theme that all the bloggers I've written about share is their desire to give back to their community and the world. I spent most of this day at a local homeless shelter with some of my writing buddies organizing their library. We collected over 20 BIG boxes of books which seems pretty amazing for a small group like ours. And we had help from our local Panera Bread Company who let us put a collection box in their front lobby. Sorting and shelving books is a lot like sorting underwear, so my hands just picked up where they left off in Oklahoma. When we first looked at the piles we felt a little overwhelmed. But once we took a breath and dove in, there was a real sense of accomplishment as you see the work taking shape. Doing for others, feels good from the top of your head, to your tippy toes.

In the days ahead when you are feeling frantic about buying the right gift for the right person, don't forget to consider donating to charity. It doesn't have quite the same feel as unwrapping a diamond ring, or cashmere sweater, or shiny new bike. But knowing that your money has purchased a goat or chicken to help sustain a whole family is a pretty awesome feeling. And what about making sure people in drought-stricken countries get clean drinking water? Once some friends of mine gave me a Mother's Day gift of a sewing machine for a woman in another country so she could start her own business. I have to say it was one of the best gifts I've ever received. Partly because there was so much love in it, and partly because I know how good it feels to have a sewing machine and turn pieces of fabric into treasures.

Here are a few suggestions, though I'm sure if you look in your own back yard you will find a place to give:

The Wedding Ring Project at Tough Angels: Our goal is to assist in creating safe havens for women and children of violence in developing countries, providing information to educate them about HIV and supporting them in restoring dignity, hope and promoting healing.

Heifer International's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.
Episcopal Relief and Development

Possible Dreams International empowers rural and remote communities in areas of extreme poverty and/or high disease prevalence by engaging dynamic rural community networks and offering compassionate holistic care in the form of emergency relief and sustainable development solutions.

Episcopal Relief and Development: is an international relief and development agency and a compassionate response to human suffering on behalf of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

The Oaks Indian Mission, by God's grace, partnering with Christian communities and tribal nations prepares Native children to lead and serve.

Women for Women International: helping women survivors of war to re-build their lives.

Charity Water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Today I'm grateful for a home I can call my own. I'm grateful for recovered health, and I'm grateful for my son John who came into my life 38 years ago and has kept me on my toes ever since.

Wishing for you time shared giving to others.
Merry ME

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 29 Chapter 2

Last summer sometime Sweetie and I went to Mt. Dora. While there I tried on some shoes, sandals, as I recall. They were quite expensive so I was in luck when they did not have my size in stock. When I got home I checked on Zappos for the same shoe. Again Lady Luck was on my side and the shoe was unavailable. A sign I think that the shoes were not meant for me.

Well, ever since then I've been getting ads from Zappos that excitedly tell me new Rieker styles are available. "You asked for it and we've got it.," it says in the email subject line. I have never once been tempted to buy the shoes they are suggesting. Rieker shoes may be very comfortable. They me be stylish in Europe. But in my book they are overpriced and on the ugly side.

I know at my age, it's okay to forgo style for comfort. Old lady feet that are prone to plantar facitis need "substantial" sturdy, i.e. ugly shoes. I get that. But this ugly?

I think it's possible this ad was made for the Wicked Witch of the West, not me.
However, if by some chance this is your style I suggest you hurry on over to Zappos and get yourself a pair because according to the ad, they are going fast. At $135.00 a pop, I highly doubt this, but you never know. I've never been an icon of shoe fashion.

Merry ME
P.S. Writing this I realize that my foot is feeling better. Maybe that podiatrist knew what he was talking about when he said to stay off my feet.
P.S.S. Since I've written 2 posts today that brings my number for November to 30. Have I finished NaBloPoMo?'s not over til it's over.

NabloPoMo - Day 29

When I was in the 7th grade I played the flute in the band. I was all about learning to read music, practicing, and playing in front of people. Something happened during the summer between the 7th and 8th grades. I am pretty sure it had to do with BOYS. I looked at my skinny self, whose boobs had not yet grown to their full potential, and playing spin-the bottle with no knowledge yet of French kissing. I began to feel self-conscious. I had an older sister who, in my book, was everything I was not. She was way prettier, could make her hair do whatever she wanted it to, had a flair for make-up, knew how to talk to boys, challenged my father's rules and dared to risk being "bad" if she felt like it. I began to measure my worth by how I compared to her. I wanted to be daring and sexy (okay 8th graders back then were anything but sexy, but they tried at least to be appealing to the opposite sex) and popular. I also needed to be a good girl at all times to win my parents' approval. I lived with the constant chatter of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.

I didn't pick up my flute once during that summer. When school started again, I felt geeky. My fingers slipped on the keys and I couldn't keep up with the music. The day we had to play in front of the whole band in order to determine our seating assignments, I froze. My hands sweat so much I could barely hold on to the flute. My shallow breathing couldn't make more than a squeak come out of the instrument. I tried several times to start on the right note - B flat, I still recall - and never got it right. Mercifully, Mr. Toney, moved on to the next player. I ended up in the last chair of about 10 flutes. It was the beginning of the end of my music career.

The end came later that year when band competitions were mandatory. I'm not sure which could have possible been worse - playing solo or with a group. I joined in with 3 other girls for a quartet. As luck would have it, a college student down the street could play the flute like a pro. She tutored me for weeks. I could play that piece backwards and forwards. I was ready for the competition. Until I came down with strep throat. I was sick, as in really sick, not just in a state of panic sick. I didn't attend the competition. My group had to back out which basically made me persona no grata. I was deflated and relieved at the same time. It would be 30 more years before I'd put myself in that kind of a position again.

And I've always wondered, as if there aren't more important things to take up the empty spaces in my brain, what might have happened if I'd tried to play that piece? Can you be so scared that you make yourself sick enough to need antibiotics and a series of B12 shots?

The reason I'm even bringing this up (in case you're wondering) is because I've been organizing the first Le Chat Writers Circle Give-Back-to-the-Community - a book drive for the homeless shelter in town. For weeks I've been driving around with books weighing down the back end of both cars. And now here I am in bed, the crud having moved from my head to my chest, passing through the flaming tunnel that was once my throat. On a much smaller scale, it is flute contest deja vu. Not so much the performance anxiety, but the feeling of letting others down.

Is it better to get up, get dressed, wrap a scarf around my neck and go, putting everyone else at risk of the plague? Or is it better to stay home and let it happen without me? Do people want a leader who walks into battle with no thought of her own health? Or will they thank the Lord for my good judgement? Who am I letting down - me or them?

Deep questions for a rather soggy brain. I think I'll take a swig of cough medicine and ponder while I sleep. I'm pretty sure if I completely turn this day over to recovery, tomorrow I'll be hefting and alphabetizing books to beat the band. (Pun intended!)

Today I'm grateful for the sun shining through the blinds making a nice warm spot of the floor for Suzi, the Nurse Dog, to sleep. I'm grateful I survived the 8th grade.

Wishing for you an opportunity to move beyond life's embarrassing moments,
Merry ME

Monday, November 28, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 28

November 28.
Two days left and I will have successfully completed NaBloPoMo 2011.
But here's the thing, I've been coughing and sneezing all day so I'm having a hard time finding something to write about. I look around me and all I see is balled up Kleenex. I know that's gross but when you don't feel good and you're going through tissues at a rapid rate, it's just easier to toss them on the floor instead of crossing the room to the trash can.
Hey wait a minute. I just had a brilliant idea come flashing though my totally congested head. If I can't go to the trash can, then maybe I should bring the trash can to me.

Anyway, here's what I've been thinking about today, brought about by all the Kleenex. In the last year of her life, I started tucking my mom into bed. To make sure she got there safely but mostly so I could kiss her good night and share the last few minutes of the day with her. Mom had several rituals she performed every night. Dad called them a "habits." Both of them used the well-practiced routines, I think, like a check off sheet so they didn't forget anything. The last thing Mom did after she slipped under the covers was to check her Kleenex supply. She would pull two or three tissues out of the box, fold them neatly and tuck a couple under her pillow. But she always saved one to wrap around and under her fingers on her left hand. That way, if she woke up needing to blow her nose, she always had a tissue. She had little piles of folded tissues all around the house.

You know how when your kids were little and it was bed time and even if they were dead tired they could rally just as you were corralling them into the bathroom to brush their teeth. Suddenly there was a list of things they forgot to do, or needed to do, or didn't want to do.
I didn't kiss Daddy.
I want a glass of juice.
I'm hot.
I'm cold.
Where's my blanket. I can't go to sleep without my blanket.
He/She is bothering me.
Tell me a story.
Leave the bathroom light on.

When I first started helping Mom to bed and she did the Kleenex thing, I actually thought she was stalling for time like a kid. That's a crazy thought for a couple of reasons. #1 she was the mom and could go to bed any darn time she wanted. #2 Her routines were run by the clock. Unless she wasn't feeling well, and sometimes even then, Mom was in her pajamas and blue velveteen robe and slippers by 10 pm. She sat in her chair with a glass of milk and a handful of pills on the table beside her which she downed slowly as she watched the TV show of the night. She might doze off in the chair but refused to go back to her room before the start of the 11:00 news. Stalling wasn't necessary because it would have upset the whole rhythm of the night. Eventually I understood that the Kleenex thing, the routine, was part of her comfort zone. I think as people get older their habits become so ingrained that not to do them causes undue stress. And who needs any more stress when you're old?

Dad was just as meticulous in his nighttime routine.
Radio on. Check.
Night light on. Check.
Bedside commode in the right place. Check.
Kleenex in his nightshirt pockets. Check.
Say the Lord's prayer. Check.
Kiss me goodnight. Check.

I didn't realize it until this afternoon how important Kleenex was to my parents. Funny how ordinary things can bring them to mind.

Today I'm grateful for long-standing comforts like Kleenex and Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.
Wishing for you a routine to follow when you want to feel safe, and courage to step outside the box when you're feeling daring.
Merry ME

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 27

The Good News:
Sweetie is feeling better.

The Not-So-Good News:
His bug hopped across the room and landed on me.

I started sniffling last night. Feel achy all over today.

Decided to wash all the linens in an effort to kill a few germs. Guess that's what they call closing the barn door after the horse is out. In between loads of laundry I watched movies on TV. A whole Sunday dedicated to Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. I'm not sure it gets much better than that. Well, it would be better if I wasn't feeling icky.

Today I'm grateful Tylenol.

My wish for you is a mild flu season,
Merry ME

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 26

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes."
Henry David Thoreau

My Sweetie has been sick for 3 days. The sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, can't sleep or breathe kind of sick. I've considered calling the Vicks people to offer him up for a Nyquil ad. Seriously he looks like Santa has gone to bed and may not get up in time to deliver presents around the world. His eyes have lost their twinkle. His normaly perfectly coiffed white hair is all curled up on top of his head and matted in back where it meets the pillow. Girl Cat thinks his big round belly, piled high with quilts is the perfect place to take a nap, until Sweetie coughs and sends her flying into the air looking like one of those scared Halloween cats. The sunlight reflecting of his cherry red nose rivals that of Rudolph. Used tissues that missed the trash can, OTC apothecaries, and empty juice glasses are piled up next to his chair where he lies, contemplating his Last Will and Testament.

Whatever the bug is, it's going around. Typical for this time of year. The family holding hands for grace around a food laden table is a breeding ground for germs. That whole thing about sneeze or cough into your elbow flies out the window of your consciousness when you are stuck in a mile-long line at Walmart with Black Friday deals overflowing your cart. Serious shoppers can't even find an elbow so they cough and sneeze wherever.

I've had a similar bug twice this year already. I've had a flu shot and a pneumonia shot. I load myself up everyday with Vitamin C, and no one could say I don't get enough rest. Airborne is my new best friend. Because even though there is no one around for me to play Florence Nightengale over - no kids, no old person - I'm still of the mindset Mom's don't get sick. I will long remember what the house and kids looked like after I'd had the flu for a couple of days and my then-hubby was left in charge of things. I vowed never to get sick again. Let me just say this as nicely as I can, the man prided himself on being a Naval Aviator (which to all Naval Aviators is just a step below God). He could fly a helicopter into and out of a potato patch with nary a scratch to the bird or crew, but he had no skills whatsoever feeding and corraling small children. I know now it really doesn't hurt a kid to eat Fruit Loops for dinner, not to take a bath or to wear the same clothes for 3 days in a row, but at the time, I'm pretty sure I stuffed some tissues in my sleeve and took over before the board of health condemned our house.

All that to say I really don't want to get sick. I'm keeping my distance from Sweetie, which seems to be okay with him because he's a leave-me-alone kind of sick person. If it weren't for the aforementioned germs, his illness is the perfect excuse to join the masses looking for deals. Whatever happened to all those blue masks people wore to prevent the spread of Swine flu? Maybe I'll dig one out.

Today I'm grateful for good health. It's one of those things you don't really appreciate until you can't move out of the recliner without your whole body crying foul.

My wish for you this first day of the Holiday Season is good parking karma.
Merry ME

P.S. Can anyone tell my what that quote means? It's kind of deep, don't you think? Perhaps Thoreau had spent too many days alone in the woods.

P.S.S. The picture above is an old one. I am not so insensitive that I'd take a picture of a person on his death bed. Okay, maybe I am a little insensitive because I did consider it. But the man is finally breathing with some kind of regularity and I didn't dare disturb him.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 25

Plaid potholders from

One of my favorite authors and bloggers is Jon Katz, who has succeeded in leaving the big city life behind for a farm in NY. He announced at the beginning of the week that many independent business people were going to go up against mega-businesses for holiday shoppers' dollars. Plaid Friday vs Black Friday. I think it is a grand idea. As much as I adore getting lost in Barnes & Noble and Joann Fabric I also love to wander around small, homey bookstore or quilt store where a curious cat roams the aisles and maybe there is a tray on an antique library table where you can get a spot o' tea.

Both Katz and his wife participated in Plaid Friday. He signed books and took orders by phone - no computer person to direct your call. She made plaid-backed potholders. I haven't had my sewing machine out in ages, but I imagine that making plaid potholders has got to be rather soothing.

I have always like plaid. I think I have some Scotch genes from my mom's side of the family which may acount for my plaid fancies. More likely it is because my mother was known for buying dresses in stair step sizes from baby to teen. I think there was a plaid jumper that I wore for several years because hand-me-downs kept coming!

So I'm in a plaid mood tonight:
Blackwatch plaid kilt
Argyle sweater, socks
Plaid boxers
Burberry coat
Tam O' Shanter
Madrass shorts
Gingham curtains
Duck tape (I't not your father's duck tape)
Wellington boots
Pink plaid cupcakes (
Forever Plaid (a very entertaining play)
Vans and flip flops
Flannel sheets
Dog coats
Cashmere scarfs
Buffalo plaid shirts
Flannel lined jeans
Fur lined flannel hat with ear flaps
and last but not least - Scottie dogs (which aren't exactly plaid, but always make me think of a red/green/black MacGregor tartan

Today I'm grateful for movement, no sitting around whining.

Wishing for you a soft and cozy flannel blanket to snuggle under on a cold winter day,
Merry ME

P.S. Don't forget to support individual, community, independence and creativity.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 24

"Can you be truly grateful for
in your life?
Even the circumstances, situations
and/or people that are challenging?
Christine Hassler*

Here it is 2:00pm on Thanksgiving day. I am up, showered and dressed. I've walked the dog, made stuffing, peeled potatoes and stuck my hand elbow deep into a turkey carcass. Oh, happy day!

About five last night I started flying around the house like a winged monkey in the Wizard of Oz. I frantically, vacuumed the whole house. I got down on my knees to clean cat puke stains that have mocked me for a month. I let the sweat drip off my brow like I'd run a marathon as I wondered what was wrong with me. Then I had the tiniest of flashbacks to a time after I'd first been diagnosed with depression.

I'd been laying around worrying my mother about my moodiness for days. All of a sudden as if stuck in the butt with a cattle prod, I got all crazy about cleaning my room. And when my poor mother ventured in to see what was going on, I let her have it. I was angry. Really mad. Mom was the person who took the brunt, thinking I'm sure I probably needed an exorcism.

What was I angry about? I haven't a clue. Maybe I couldn't find a sock. Or maybe my bed sheets were ruffled. What I know now is depression is often anger turned inside where it can simmer. Then one day when you least expect it, a volcano of emotions erupts and comes spewing out. It doesn't doesn't really need an earthquake tremor to start it, just one more itty bitty insignificant nudge.

Ahh, I told myself yesterday. I'm feeling angry. And my anger fueled me into action, at least for an hour or so. In that hour, I accepted the anger for what it was. Nodded my head to all the reasons I feel angry when the calendar and TV ads are telling me I'm supposed to be feeling grateful. Even when I am grateful, I know its luster is a little dimmed by the anger that buts up against it. I decided as I vacuumed, I was going to cook a turkey and all the fixings even if it's just Sweetie and I that eat it. His idea of starting a new tradition by eating at Boca de Pepo just felt less right than sitting at an empty table. Does it sound like I'm crazy? It feels a little like I am. But at the same time, I kind of feel like I'm getting closer to saneness than I would be if I did nothing.

I get a message from "The Daily Love" every morning. Yesterday I read an article by Christine Hassler that challenged me to feel grateful for everything - not just the tangible or good things. What? I'm supposed to feel grateful that I can't remember important stuff, that I bite my Sweetie's head off because MY side of the office looks like a paper bomb exploded and I can't find what I'm looking for on HIS side of the office? I'm supposed to feel grateful that my foot hurts, the dog poos in the house and the birds fling seed on the floor I just cleaned? Seriously, am I supposed to feel grateful my father died and left me feeling abandoned, scared and purpose-less?

Hassler's answer to those questions would be yes. "Instead of thinking something else would be better, move into faith that what is happening is what you actually need the most even if it doesn't feel like it. Trust me, if things were supposed to go differently they would have."

Aha! Lightbulb moment: What happened to your trust and faith, Merry ME?

In another Daily Love message, Rachel Sat Siri Dogherty in her article Gratitude for it All! wrote:
  • "There is always great sadness and great joy existing simultaneously in life.
  • That relationships with their deep and profound commitment, require the same trust of the unknown that every other area of lie demands.
  • There is always great light and great darkness in one's life.
  • Tears move to laughter. Stillness transforms into great activity."

Lightbulb reminder: There you go, Merry Me, the ying and the yang, the ups and downs, the blacks and whites of life are ever-changing. You must learn to go with the flow and perhaps live in the middle.

And one more thought. This one by Alana Sheeren: "Be honest where you're at." [That of course, assumes you know where you're at!] The intensity of grief does not last forever but it is what you're living with right now, and it can resurface powerfully at times like these. The more you're able to be present with your emotions, the more you give the people around you permission to do the same. As challenging as that can be for everyone, it is also a gift."

Light shining in the darkness moment: The intensity of grief does not last forever, Merry Me. So take your little one's hand, let her know you're a team. She's not alone and neither are you. Your life is full. Find a reason to be grateful for all of it.

Today I am grateful for the memories of people who are no longer with me in body or spirit. People who challenged me, inspired me, made me cry and made me laugh. People who loved me the best they could. People who lit my path by holding my hand in the darkness.

Wishing for you a very blessed and grateful holiday,
Merry ME

"Gorging on Gratitude" Christine, 11/23/2011
"Gratitude for it All!" Rachel Sat Siri Dogherty,
Picking Up the Pieces thoughts from Life After Benjamin" Alana Sheeren,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 23

It's the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Nary a whiff of pies cooking for me and my spouse.

And that my friends is about as poetic as I can be.

I think I'm learning something about myself - don't know yet if it's good or bad. In years past I've whined about the stress level of everything that goes into holiday celebrations. The grocery shopping for all the food to cook. The crowds. The decorations. The gifts to buy and mail. All that on top of the regular to do lists.

So here I am the day before T'day not doing one of those things. It's past 1 pm, I'm still in my pjs, and, I'm ashamed to admit, I'm still in the sack. I hear lawn mowers and weed whackers outside the window. Neighbors and dogs and birds are all up and about. And here I sit. Not the least bit stressed and not liking it so much. But also not wanting to do anything about it.

Is that me complaining of not having stress? What? Doesn't anything make me happy? Do I want the big to do and all that comes with it? Or do I want a quiet, reflective time with a piece of pie and a cup of tea? Will I sound completely nuts if I tell you I DON"T KNOW what I want?

I've been thinking about the kids at the Oaks Mission. Wondering about what Thanksgiving is like for the kids who don't have a home to go home to. There was a woman there whose quiet, gentle presence has stayed with me since our return home. Arlene, was the cook. Twice a day she prepared meals for fifty or more people. They weren't gourmet meals. When you're trying to nourish a passel of kids from 5-18 plus hard-working grownups, I suspect you think in quantity, not quality. [Please, don't take that to mean the quality was sub-par. It wasn't. It just wasn't Martha Stewart's version of cafeteria food.] The meals were made up of homey classics - macaroni and cheese, hotdogs and beans, chicken cooked in various ways, spaghetti, and my favorite Indian Tacos.

In fact it was the fry bread tortillas that endeared me to Arlene. I don't know why. I was just taken by the way she slapped a glob of dough between her hands until it flattened out to the size she didn't have to measure to know it was right. Perhaps the recipe and rhythm was passed down through the DNA of grandmothers who mixed and slapped the same dough and cooked it on a hot rock. Maybe it was just so routine she could do it in her sleep. Either way, as her hands moved back and forth, back and forth, she took on the look of an angel. Not a singing hallelujah angel, more like a mother whose hands and heart meet the needs of her children in everyday ways. It called to mind women of by gone days who spun wool, made quilts, churned butter, plucked a turkey and swept never ending dust from her planked floors, their hands both roughed up and worn smooth by their work.

Arlene came to work every day and prepared meals for children who called the mission home. Her mundane kitchen chores and the taste of her carb-laden dinners might be the very thing these children will recall when they have homes of their own. How one woman said I love you every time she dished up a spoonful of comfort food.

Today I'm grateful for our Puritan mothers who somehow found the courage to say, "sure I'll go." [That's not to say I'm particularly proud of everything that happened once the Mayflower knocked up against Plymouth Rock.] Those hearty women, I think, were the backbone of this country from day one. I'm often scared of my own shadow and don't much feel like an adventurer, but I've got the blood of women who said "yes" in my veins. I'm also grateful for time. It just feels important to me right now. Time to do and time to be still.

Wishing for you cranberries and pecans,
Merry ME

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 22

"Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities."
Sue Atchley Ebaugh

I'm getting a really late start. Not sure where the day went, but it's just about gone.

I've told you before about my writing group, how much it means to me. Our meeting yesterday was small but packed full of information. You know writing is so much more than just putting words on a computer screen. There is so much to learn. When we "Chats" get together we laugh as much as we learn, which is like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

Individually and collectively, this group of writers is pretty talented, and gutsy. I'm learning it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there. Writing is one thing, you can do it in the wee hours of the morning in your pjs. Or you can do it in a coffee shop or while waiting in the hospital. Ah, but it's the saying "please read this and let me know what you think" and the willingness to hear what needs to be done to make your work even better that takes courage. And then if you are really serious about being published, you have to go one step further and submit your work to people and places with the power to lift you up or crush you like a bug. The thought of that makes me weak with fear. That's why I still only take baby steps.

The more I am with others who show me how courageous they are, the more I think I can be brave too. Yesterday when my friend Amy called to say the book she's been working on for 2 years (at the rapid pace of 9 words a minute) has been picked up by an agent, I was as happy for her as I would be for myself. Yikes! An agent! She's on her way. I swear I could do the happy dance all over again. If you want to get a feel for Miss Amy go check out her blog.

On the heels of this information, I got a Poets and Writers newsletter today with this TED video by Elizabeth Gilbert. I swear, if you have any creative aspirations at all, you have to watch this. Gilbert really "spoke to me" about what it means to be creative. I KNEW what she meant when she talked about being a vessel for "genius" to flow through. It made me realize that I am a writer, and it's okay to say that out loud. That information and $5.00 might buy me a mocha something at Starbucks. But more than that it adds to my courage account. Like throwing pocket change into a jar at the end of the day, moving in the direction of my soul's voice is adding up. Maybe, just maybe, one day I'll have an agent too! And if I don't? Well so what, I tried, right?

Today I'm grateful for good news and I'm grateful for supportive friends who inspire me to be more of ME.

Wishing for you a glittery stairway to the stars where your dreams await,
Merry ME

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 21

"God turns you from one feeling to another
And teaches you by means of opposites
So that you will have two wings to fly,
Not one."

Ever felt like you were on a see-saw, sometimes at the top, your feet dangling in the air, and sometimes stuck at the bottom waiting for the person on the other side to come down so you can go up? Ever been on a see-saw when the person on the other side was bigger than you, and could hold you up in the air even when you wanted to get down? Or what about the teeterer who bounces you even when you ask in your nicest voice for her to stop? Moooommmm! She won't let me down.....

Hmmm.. Sorry. I got a little carried with memories of the playground!

I think my point is, drum roll please, lately I'm feeling a little like I'm on a see saw - either up or down, not spending too much time in the place in the middle. Perhaps this isn't the best of metaphors, because I just realized the middle of the see-saw is where everything is balanced, but nothing really happens. Life is in the going up or going down.

Oh My God! I'm a philosopher!

I read a friend's blog the other day where she talked about the transitions we have to make in life, that before we can get to the next place we have to let go of where we are. It reminded me of a daily meditation I read and carried around in my wallet years ago. It talked of the transitioning moment for trapeze artists. That few seconds they are twisting or somersaulting through the air. Having let go of one swing and not yet reaching the other, there is nothing holding them up but their own momentum. Well, that and a lot of training and prayers. It's that moment just before the audience cranes their necks towards the top of the big tent and whispers a communal "ahhhhhh" when the hands of one flyer meets the hands of another. Growth, said the unknown author, is what happens in the transition. You are not where you once were, and not yet where you want to be. In order to move on, you have to let go. Unless you are me whose transition period is rather like Suzi's when she's looking for the perfect spot to pee. She goes back and forth, around and around -sniffing, pausing, considering, rejecting - before deciding as if by some internal pee compass where to final stop and do her business.

I'm sure if I went back and read this blog from the past year, I'd see where I've moved forward and back, around and around, seldom staying put for more than a moment. I'm not sure I've reached my perfect spot yet, even knowing that the perfect spot is ever changing. Suzi has the whole back yard to pee in. Sometimes she goes in one corner for a few days in a row, then moves somewhere else. I've got the whole world - or at least the whole of my piece of the world. (Does that make sense? A whole of a piece?)

Are you wondering where I'm going with this? Well, I'm not really sure except that it seems like a good thing to hang my hat on for the next few weeks. The days are going to start moving even faster than they have been, stress levels are going to rise, parking spots are going to be at a premium, the cat's gonna knock the balls off the tree but life is going to go on. There are going to be days when I'm up and days when I'm down. And hopefully there will be days when I'm blissfully sitting on life's fulcrum, balanced in the moment, taking it all in.

Today I'm grateful for remembering something from 20 years ago which perhaps means my brain is not as dried up as I have been thinking. I'm grateful for the smiles that come from the long ago dreams of a little girl who pictured herself in a pink sequined leotard, flying through the air with the greatest of ease. I'm grateful for the ups which inevitably follow the downs.

Wishing for you moments of transition that will take you to new places, or perhaps back home again.
Merry ME

(I'd include poo in that statement except she has recently decided the best poo spot is in the dining room - nice.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 20

[Note: File this under things that don't make sense but turn out good.]

Standing For Those Who Stood For Us
Patriot Guard RidersAdd Image

Yesterday, after lying around all day, I got out of bed and went to the screening of a movie about the Patriot Guard Riders. Mainly I went because it was a fund raiser for the Jacksonville Branch of Wreaths Across America. Have you ever seen one of those pictures of a cold wintry day where the ground is covered with snow and all you can see are granite headstones in a National Cemetery decorated with a green wreath sporting a big red bow? Well that's thanks to Wreathes Across America.(Actually it's thanks to Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine who has been making the wreaths since 1992). I called the cemetery here, where my father and mother are buried and asked about it. Like a frog hopping from one lily pad to another to get to the edge of the pond, I made a few more phone calls, and a few emails and found out what I needed to know to make sure the Reynolds headstone will have a wreath this year. That led me to the Ralph "Drem"Terreault, Assistant State Capt, NE Florida Help on the Homefront Rep of the Patriot Guard Riders, who led me to the movie screening.

I have been in the midst of the PGRs before but didn't know about their mission until last night. A few years ago I went to the staging ground of a local fallen soldier whose funeral was being threatened by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Oklahoma. Even though I was one of only a few in a sea of thousands who was not wearing black leather and sitting on a motocycle va-rooming to beat the band, I could feel the energy, the expectation, the dedication to duty, the respect, as if a multitude of patriotic hearts were beating to the rhythm of a Harley's engine. On that day, the "wackos" (as they were called in the movie) did not show. The hearse carrying a flag draped coffin made it to the church without incident, by driving through a corridor of solemn-faced, leather-bedecked motorcyclists and flags whose stripes and stars seemed to salute in acknowledgement of the young man who died for their colors.

As I sat there before the movie started watching a slide show of PGR venues, I did have second thoughts about being there. I mean seriously, was I just asking for more tears? Maybe so, but at the moment I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be. I was in a room where patriotism and love of country meant something. Two rows behind me sat a Medal of Honor winner Robert Ingram. Also in the small theater (with some of the comfiest seats I've ever sat in) there was a representative of Gold Star Dads (whose mission is to support each other in the loss of their sons and daughters) retired service members whose tired faces mirrored the worn leather vests they wore. There were kids and moms and a few other curiosity seekers like Sweetie and I.

Quite frankly, I cannot tell you about the movie. It's something you have to see for yourself. I will tell you that I squeezed my eyes tight and plugged my ears so I wouldn't have to listen to some of the vitriol spewed from the mouths of so-called Christians. And I'll tell you that tears streamed down my face for a good portion of the movie. Yeh, I know, what's new? I can also tell you that I was both embarrassed and proud. Embarrassed to have been a part of the generation who let men and women come home from Vietnam worse than unsung heroes. I was not in the group protesting the war, but I was not in the group that honored their service, either. I was embarrassingly silent. Last night I was made proud by what some of these same men did 30 years later, AFTER they'd been spit on, cussed, denied jobs or lost jobs because of PTSD induced alcoholism and drug abuse, who still to this day warn people NOT to sneak up behind them for what they might do out of instinct.

In August of 2005 when American Legion Riders Chapter 136 from Kansas heard the WBC was going to protest at the funeral of Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea OK, they established a mission statement which "included getting the families' permission and contacting Law Enforcement and Motorcycle groups in Oklahoma. They agreed their ultimate goal was to get veterans involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not relay on other states to do the job" to limit the intrusion of the WBC. Within weeks the mission statement was refined and a call went out to individual riders and groups across the nation to join and ride with the PGR. Today over 250,000 PGRs give to others what most didn't get when they returned home - love, respect and welcome home. Vietnam Vets who learned not to talk of their time "in country" have found a place to "belong, to comfortably interact with others who were like them and a road back to reason and healing."

I'll say that again. Healing. A little late perhaps, but recovery nonetheless.

I was a different person walking out of the theater than the one who walked in. I can't tell you exactly how or when this happened. But for me, there was another step in healing from my grief. I was reminded that this sadness I carry around with me is something that can't be bottled up, it has to be worked through. In essence I heard strangers say "do what you gotta do to get through it." I also got some insight about my father, the veteran. Why military service was so important to him. Why it's important for me to continue to honor that service, and his almost-OCD behaviour when it came to flag etiquette. And, even though I totally do NOT get the whole war thing, why it's important to be grateful for and respectful of the men and women who go into harm's way every single day so that those of us who are back here on red, while and blue terra ferma can enjoy the freedoms we all too often take for granted. Someone bestowed the title of "greatest generation" on men of my father's era. No doubt they deserve it. But I gotta tell you there are men and women in every generation who become great beyond measure when they put on the uniform of their country. Are their some bad apples? Sure. Are there lots of heros? Sure. I think in the end they deserve a lot more than an evergreen wreath on their grave. They deserve the respect, honor, and remembering the wreathes represent.

Today I'm grateful to the PGR's for the work they do. I'm grateful for the flag that stands out in front of my house. I'm grateful for the people who will take the time to lay over 3500 wreaths on gravesites at Jacksonville National Cemetery next month.

Wishing for a time when every Johnny ever sent to war will come proudly come marching home again.
Merry ME

Patriot Guard Riders, A Film by Ellen Frick

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 19

"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it,
you will live along some distant day into your answers.
Rainer Maria Rilke

How many times can you to be blasted with headlines about Kim Kardashion's life before a) you start a "We are the 99% (who don't really give a damn what's happening to any of the Kardashions, or Justin Bieber for that matter) Movement" or b) stop reading the stories ?

How many times can you watch Say Yes to the Dress and ask a) $10,000 for one dress? or b) why would anyone include her mother-in-law-to-be, her father, her 4th cousin once removed and her gay friend in her dress-buying "entourage"?

How many times can you try on sweaters in Florida that were made for wearing somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon line without figuring out a) you look like The Pillsbury DoughBoy wrapped in yarn or b)they are just hot flashes/melt downs waiting to happen?

How many times does your dog have to tear the newly installed screen in the back door so she can scratch on the wooden door which is the dog equivalent of ringing the doorbell before you a) remove the screen door or b) ignore the bad behavior and reward the good, i.e. wait til she has gone to sleep in the sun before you call her in ignoring the look she gives you that insinuates you are a rather dense dog parent?

How many days in a row can you lay your hiney in bed past noon and a) vow to get up at 7 am tomorrow and start and exercise program or b) feel like a giant slug?

How many times do you have to tell your Sweetie you feel at sixes and sevens before he a) stops loving you anyway or b) tells you to grab a five or an eight and get a grip?

How many times do you have to put down and pick back up the emotional baggage you've been carrying around for most of your life like it's a gift from Louis Vuitton himself before you a) have it surgically removed or b) just leave it there and don't look back like the day you put your first born child on a school bus bound for Kindergarten?

How many times are you going to wish things were the way they used to be when a) how they used to be wasn't so great and b) things aren't really so bad right now?

"The answers, my friend, are blowin' in the wind,
the answers are blowin' in the wind." *

Today I'm grateful for the luxury of lying my hiney in the bed as long as I want. And I'm grateful for the aroma of potatoes and onions cooking in bacon grease coming from the kitchen at the other end of the house which is enticing enough to get up and start my happy day even if it is already half over.

Wishing for a you answers to all your questions.
Merry ME

*Blowin' in the Wind lyrics by Bob Dylan

Friday, November 18, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 18

"they know me in a way no one else ever has.
they open me to things i never knew existed.
they drive me to insanity and push me to my depths.
the are the beat of my heart,
the pulse in my veins, and the energy in my soul.
they are my kids."
terri st. cloud

By a series of serendipitous events, Terri St. Cloud crossed my blog path a few years ago. Terri is kind of like a lightening rod. She attracts and invites people into her world on the premise that they are doing something to make her feel better. When really, what's happening is she is all about doing for others. Through bonesigh arts she shares her story of self-discovery, lighting the way for those who feel stuck in their own darkness. If you know Terri, you know what I mean. If you don't, then you just have to hop on over to her blog/site and rest in the branches of her white tree for awhile.

Terri has done a lot of inner child work. In fact to know Big Terri is to know Little Ter. Her work in this area encourages me to do the same. It is basically all about learning to re-parent one's wounded inner child. When I think of Terri, I can't help but think of her in terms of both the child and the parent. She easily slips between the two worlds. It's Terri, the parent I want to tell you about today.

"every time I looked up at Noah or Zakk,
I was so glad to be out there with them.
the smiles that passed between us, the laughter,
the just being a team.
it was absolutely being a family in the truest sense.
I knew it. and it felt great."

Terri has 3 sons, or apes as she affectionately refers to them. Josh, Noak and Zakk. It's perfectly understandable for a mom to be proud of and want to shout out to the world about her kids. Terri's no different in that respect, only she seldom takes any of the credit herself. I haven't met her sons so I can't speak from personal knowledge. But I gotta think a lot of who they are as adults has to do with the way they were raised by Terri.

First of all she home-schooled them. In my book, that takes a special kind of person. I'm guessing her natural curiosity was as much a teaching aid as any manual she might have used. Then there is her willingness to be open and forthright about her emotions, her creativity, her business, her view of the world, and anything else she considers important. Her lead-by-example style must have been the fertile ground the apes needed to develop their own character. This is evident by the fact that even though Terri wanted them to follow the traditional, i.e. safe, go-to-college path, each of the boys opted to follow Terri's entreprenurial endeavors. Hard as that is, they saw her succeed which helped cast away their fears. I'm sure it helped to have a cheerleader mom like Ter on the sidelines.

So who are these men?
Well, Josh, the oldest, is a musician/entertainer. He's one of those guys who doesn't know a stranger. He is also a guitar teacher with students from 8 to 68. Terri calls him, "an old soul with a big heart." What is it they say about an apple not falling far from the tree?

Next there is Noah - the middle child - who is known as the "peacemaker". Noah is the "out front" man in business he shares with his brother Zakk. He is a photographer and designer of web-based company.

Zakk, is the techie behind the scenes. Got a computer problem, Zakk is one to call on.

Each of these guys is a businessman. But that doesn't tell you much about their heart. They work separately and together giving to their community whether it's raking a neighbor's yard, or sharing hope with someone they know whose having a hard time. Did I mention they like to take day trips, instead of expensive vacations, with their mom of all people. All 4 of them packed into one small car with the radio blaring Stevie Ray Vaughn. [Excuse me for sounding cynical, but I've been stuffed into a vehicle with 2 kids and a husband oblivious to the friction in the back seat, so day trips have never been my cup of tea. The fact that Terri and her boys do this on a regular basis is one of the reasons I know she's made of special stock.]

I love to read on Terri's blog that she and the apes are spending time together, because I like to vicarously share in their joy. Seriously, this family has the spirit of Norman Rockwell even if they sit around a table full of vegetables and tofu instead of some kind of roasted fowl. You don't have to be a Musketeer, to be all for one and one for all. You just have to pick up a snow shovel, slap on a mustache, or pull a welding shield down over your face and jump into the fray.

Today I'm grateful for families who share laughter, tears, love and time together.
Wishing for you time spent with people you love,
Merry ME

P.S. For a more up, close and personal feel of the boys here are their individual web sites. You have to admit, they are pretty talented.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day 17

Editor's Note: I've moved off my "People Who Bring Me Joy" theme for the day.

"Life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday."
Kahlil Gibran

I'm not even sure what that quote means. I think I'm trying to tell myself not to look to keep dwelling on the past. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of that. I mean I'm not in denial about the past, I am trying to work through some of my "issues" but I'm not dwelling there instead of moving on.

The thing is, it doesn't take much of anything to send me right back to a place of sadness, whether I want to be there or not. Like yesterday, for instance. I went to the doctor for a checkup. No big deal. Only a couple questions about my hurting feet and a shingles vaccine.

The doc comes in and says how you doing? First of all, if you're sitting in his office on a table covered in tissue paper that crinkles every time you move, the chances are pretty good you're NOT doing so good. Most of the time you're there because you don't feel good, right? Why ask? But that wasn't the case for me yesterday, so I said I'm doing pretty good. I ask my questions, he listens to my chest, by-passes the discussion on my weight and I don't "go there" either. Then as he sits at his computer typing in my prescription renewals, he says, rather blithely, obviously making small talk, not looking for a much of an answer .... "what are you planning for the holidays?"

7 little words. That's all it took to start the tears silently rolling down my face. I'm not so good at faking this grief thing. And the holidays are already screaming, "Be happy!" "Be grateful!" "Spend money!" "Gather your family around you and eat too much!" "Ho! Ho! Ho!" "Fa la la la la!" Each and every time I'm reminded that the "you better not pout, you better not cry" time of the year is just around the corner, I like pouting and crying, usually at the same time. I feel sad cause everything is different this year. Po'd cause everything is different. Sad cause I miss how things used to be, which has got to be all about my inner child's memories, not my tired old Scroogy ass adult. And mad because I want to "Fake it til I make it" but can't stop the tears from falling and being reminded that I'm a lousy faker.

It was also time to see my shrink for Rx refills, so basically yesterday was a double whammy. I tried to brace myself, but sitting in the quiet of his office, in a leather chair worn in by patients over several years, I felt safe enough to say, "You know I'm not doing as well as I'd like." You can't reach a lot of resolution in a 15 minute appointment. But really, what could either of us say that was going to bring about resolution anyway? I'm on a path that is going to take some more twists and turns before I round a corner where I'll be able to let go of the hand of sadness, leave my father's ghost where it belongs and more forward. I would like to think that each step I've taken since saying goodbye on that January afternoon, has been in a forward moving direction, not back. The truth is probably more like being Max's partner on Dancing with the Stars, going forward and back, twirling around in circles, dipping and leaping in a dizzying dance that I can only hope to follow so I don't fall on my ass. Only I'm wearing comfortable fat-hugging yoga pants not a sequin dress.

According to the doctor who traveled this road with me after my mother died, my father still takes up a great big space in my psyche.

Is that space gonna get smaller as time moves on? Yes.
Is the day going to come when I can think about, talk about my father without it feeling like I've just picked a scab off a very tender sore? Yes.
Do I believe that? Kind of!
Does that make it easier right now? No.

So I move through each day as it comes. I get up, make the bed, write, run errands, walk the dog, go to church, smile and greet people. And sometimes I cry. Sometimes I pray for what was, then pinch myself so the pain will penetrate grief's numbness and remind me of the more realistic view of the last few years.

I'm not so selfish that I'd wish my father's last years, months, days back on him. He is where he wanted to be. What I seem to be grieving as much as the loss of his larger than life image in my little girl's mind, is the fact that the little girl who, in his own words, "brought our family together," no longer knows what her place in the world is.

The past is gone. The present is moving at the speed of light. And the future is kind of scary. My little girl asks, who will show me the way? Who will hold my hand? I know the answer is me, but since I'm still having to get used to that concept, my positive delivery is not so good.

And this my friends is what steam of consciousness writing is all about. Perhaps I should delete this post and start over, but I'm not sure I could do any better.

Today I'm grateful for the book I'm reading which distracts me enough so that I don't dwell in the dark place. Cause even though you might not belief it after reading this diatribe, I am surrounded by light.

Wishing you a day of peace,
Merry ME

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NabloPoMo - Day 16

Angels around us, angels beside us, angels within us.
Angels are watching over you when
times are good or stressed.
Their wings wrap gently around you,
whispering you are love and blessed."
Angel Blessing

Ashley Van Zant

I've been working with Shands Hospital for the last couple of years in connection with the Guild of the Christ Child. They have a program called Little Miracles. Every few months I'll load up my car with shoebox layettes and take them down to my friend Ashley Van Zant. It's a toss up which I love more, seeing the shoeboxes wrapped in baby colors ready to be given to moms who might not even have a onesie to take their newborn home in. Or visiting with Ashley.

Even a few minutes with Ashley is like taking a double dose of feel better medicine. She's one of those people who, even when she's having a hard time (and believe me she's had some hard times lately), she makes you feel like you are the only person in the world and you can take up as much of her time as you need. That's what she brings to the bedside of each of her patients.

Ashley is a nurse. But she's much more than just a nurse. I can't name them all, but there are lots more letters behind her name than just RN. More than that I think she is one of those angels God sends down to walk among some of the neediest people here on earth. And here's the neat thing, she loves her job. How many people do you know that can say that? "

"I feel honored to be able to do what I truly love and have a passion for and get paid to do it."

Supposedly she is only a part-timer but ask her husband about that and he'd have to disagree. She admits she rarely gets home until hours after her normal quitting time. Ashley's side of the maternity ward is not always the happy side. Some days she spends her extra time just lending an ear or a shoulder to mom's who are waiting to have their babies, or mom's who have lost their babies.

"My dedication and compassion is to those that may be encountering financial, health care issues, or infant health problems, along with other issues, some feel like they have no one there, even to talk to, much less confide in!"

Ashley has an office that's not much bigger than a large closet. It is full of books, pictures, baby gifts and a collection of angels. Co-worker, Charlene Brazeale, told me "it has been a pleasure working with Ashley throughout the years. She is a joy, to come to work with every day. She always has a smile no matter what the situation, has always been their for her patients - 100%." I suspect everyone who works with Ashley would say the same thing.

I don't get to see Ashley as often as I'd like to. But every time we get together I feel like I've been touched by an angel.

Today I'm grateful for people who go above and beyond what is expected of them.
Wishing an angel to watch over you,
Merry ME

P.S. The little Miracles Program was started in 2000 in response to the high infant mortality rate in Duval County. Since it began, Little Miracles has assisted over 30,000 mothers.