Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Ahead Part 4

Things That Moved me in 2011

The final hospice experiences: gentle nurses, wise doctors, "Manhattan" communion, friends' visits, holding Dad's hand, Brother George's phone call, washing Dad's body, gently and reverently dressing him, saying goodbye.

Sunflowers
A green blanket
Pomp and circumstance of burial in a National Cemetery
A hootn'nanny songfest
Seeing the granite headstone for the first time

-----

Johnson's many talents
Squircles
Traveling with my Sweetie
Napping on a screened porch while rain fell gently through the mossy trees
Le Chat Noir Writing Circle
LCWC recital
The Hair Whisperer
Grasping the concept of the "communion of saints"
Seeing Suzi's brown eyes through the cage and knowing she was the one
Traveling to Paris, picking sunflowers and lavender without leaving home
My Family Tree
Boy Cat donating blood
Declaring my Sovereignty
Weneki blowing out all 40 candles
Bok Tower Gardens and Carillon
Amazing Gracie
Visiting Brother George's church and home, seeing him settled and happy
Kids at Oaks Indian Mission
Sister Jean finding a new "home"
Watching Johnson and Crazy Maizey together
Watching Crazy Maizey with Bob the trainer
Collecting books for the Homeless Shelter
Wreathes Across America
Patriot Guard Riders
EMDR sessions in the safe embrace of Ginny, Linda Lu and Aunt Letty
Painting, coloring, collaging
"Grace" by Michael W. Smith
"Christ the King" by Dan Fogelburg
Amy and Frankie
The smile on Weneki's face after finishing a triathlon
3 deserving women winning the Nobel Peace Prize
My Oki bear
Holding Little ME, looking her in the eye and saying, "You don't have to be afraid. I'll take care of you."
Being a part of the circle of women whose love, encouragement, understanding, cheerleading, and spiritual knowing have been a candle in my darkness
And last, but not least, my Sweetie who has not left my side for a moment. I don't think I could have come this far without him.

Today, December 31, 2011 I am grateful for all the above and more. Mostly I'm fall on my knees in gratitude to the Creator God for all my blessings, even the ones that didn't feel so much like blessings at the time.

Wishing for you some quiet moments to reflect on the year past.
Merry ME

Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Ahead Part 3

Last night I decided my word for the new year would be:
FOCUS
It just sort of came to me a few days ago and I've been ruminating on it for awhile. To make sure it was the word that would best fulfill my intentions for the new year, I looked it up in the dictionary

Dictionary.com defined focus in several ways - most having to do with light and lenses and refraction which I confess, I am not so sure what they means. One definition is even associated with Geometry which is for sure not my intention. Another with geology - the point of origin of an earthquake.

While my intention for the new year is to see things more clearly, and perhaps that could lead to an earthquake of new ideas and creativity, the definition that speaks most to me is the verb form: "to concentrate, i.e. to focus one's thoughts." Yup, that's what I want to do in 2012. I want to concentrate more on things that are right in front of me. I want to focus on where I lay my glasses down. I want to focus on eating less and traveling more. I want to focus on finding ME, while at the same time, focus on others.

This is not a startling epiphany, and maybe I've said it in 100 different ways since that fateful day, but it came unbidden into my mind as I walked the dog this morning. It appeared to be in sharp focus. When my father died, parts of me died too. This whole year I've mourned the loss of the man who shaped me, the way I think, and how I act, as if the Divine Sculptor handed him some clay the day I was born and said, "here, go to work." Now I'm not giving all the credit for who I am to my father. DNA, nature vs nurture, outside influences, my soul peeking through and my reflexive/rebellious proclivities all added to the composite which is ME. However, for most of my life, who I believe I am, because of or in spite of, has been seen through the lens of my father's desires and opinions. With that lens gone, I've had a hard time seeing myself. Who am I is a question I've asked myself several time this year. No wonder Little ME feels scared and alone. Physically and emotionally I feel lost. Yet, coincidentally, I also feel closer to a higher power. Perhaps with the clouded over lens removed, I'll be able to see the true essence of the girl Spirit meant to be.

As I continued reading the definition of "focus" I found synonyms listed interesting as well - center, core and heart. When I looked up the definition of core I was amazed to find this: " the inward nature, true substance or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal illusory. And for heart: " the center of the total personality especially with reference to intuition, feeling, emotion." Its synonym is "essence."

So in the days, weeks and months ahead of me, as I intentionally lay the mantle of grief aside, I hope to see ME more clearly by concentrating on my core, my heart and my essence. With that thought in mind I went to bed and had all sorts of weird dreams where my father figured prominently. My father and moving furniture!

The first email in my inbox that did not have to do with advertising or sales contained this quote from the Daily Love:
"Where focus goes, energy flows. And if you don't take time to focus on what matters, then you're living a life of someone else's design."
Tony Robbins, peak performance coach, entrepreneur and best-selling author.
Another coincidence? You decide.

Today I'm grateful for the willingness to join dots together to get a clearer picture of how I want to live my life.

May you be blessed with vision and heart.
Merry ME

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Ahead Part 2

I guess I'm not the only one using these last few days of 2011 to look back and take stock. My pen pal and blog friend Molly, commented on my last post about a site she found. Cortney Carver of bemorewithless suggests making a love list:

"Instead of firm goal setting or setting resolutions, make a list of the things you’d love to do or start doing in 2012. A new year allows for a fresh start, clean slate or new approach. Actually, you can create those things for yourself anytime, but a new year is a special invitation to be bold, brave, and different.
Make a love list for 2012 including every possible thing you would like to consider in life, love, business and relationships. What would you really love to do in 2012? What would you like to see? Who will you be and who will you be with in 2012?

Before you start your list, eliminate the roadblocks and dream killers. This is not a list for accountability. You won’t be crossing things off or crying over your undone tasks at the end of the year. Instead, use your list to fuel your creative pursuits and to encourage routine breaking behavior. Let your love list remind you what is most important in your life."

I kind of like this approach. I'm always saying I'd like to do this, or I wish I could do that, but often get distracted by the minutia of life and sadly, due to a few less brain cells than I once had, often forget the things I thought might be fun. Making a love list, like picking a word for the new year, can help set the intention in a more positive way than making resolutions you probably won't keep anyway. Seriously if the choice is between "Lose 20 pounds" and "I'd love to color a picture with every crayon from a brand new box of 64" which are you more likely to do?

Another list I'd like to make before the year ends is the one my daughter calls "Things that Moved Me." Weneki has been making this list for years and added some categories like shows, and movies. Every year I look forward to her Christmas card, not just to see the picture(s) she picked but to read her list(s). I do admit, however, that sometimes when I read it I feel like I live under a rock because most of the bands, many of the movies and some of the food/beverages I've never heard of. As much as it is a good thing to look forward to things in the new year, I like the idea of making note of the really special things from the year almost gone. Weneki keeps a notebook nearby at all times, I, sadly, rely on my aforementioned memory. Perhaps 2012 will be the year I start jotting things down.

What moved you this year? What made you shiver with delight? What would you love to do in 2012?

Today I'm grateful for a table for one by the window at my local Panera Bread, not to mention the bowl of potato soup, yummy salad, twist of baguette and cold iced tea. I'm grateful for a really cool pair of running shoes that don't crunch my toes or cause my feet to hurt. And I'm grateful for a silly brown dog who looks at me like I am the Queen of Siam and acts like she is my dutiful servant (unless, of course, I ask her to go out to pee when the grass is wet.)

May you be moved by all this world has to offer.

Merry ME

Looking Back/Looking Ahead Part 2

I guess I'm not the only one using these last few days of 2011 to look back and take stock. My pen pal and blog friend Molly, commented on my last post about a site she found. Cortney Carver of bemorewithless suggests making a love list:


Instead of firm goal setting or setting resolutions, make a list of the things you’d love to do or start doing in 2012. A new year allows for a fresh start, clean slate or new approach. Actually, you can create those things for yourself anytime, but a new year is a special invitation to be bold, brave, and different.

Make a love list for 2012 including every possible thing you would like to consider in life, love, business and relationships. What would you really love to do in 2012? What would you like to see? Who will you be and who will you be with in 2012?

Before you start your list, eliminate the roadblocks and dream killers. This is not a list for accountability. You won’t be crossing things off or crying over your undone tasks at the end of the year. Instead, use your list to fuel your creative pursuits and to encourage routine breaking behavior. Let your love list remind you what is most important in your life.

I actually kind of like this approach. I'm always saying I'd like to do this, or I wish I could do that, but often get distracted by the minutia of life and sadly, due to a few less brain cells than I once had, forget the things I thought might be fun. Making a love list, like picking a word for the new year, can help set the intention in a more positive way than making resolutions you probably won't keep anyway. Seriously if the choice is between "Lose 20 pounds" and I'd love to color a picture with every crayon from a brand new box of 64" which are you more likely to do?


Another list I'd like to make before the year ends is the one my daughter calls "Things that Moved Me." Weneki has been making this list for years and added some categories shows, and movies. Every year I look forward to her Christmas card, not just to see the picture(s) she picked but to read her list. I do admit, however, that sometimes when I read it I feel like I live under a rock because most of the bands, many of the movies and some of the food/beverages I've never heard of. As much as it is a good thing to look forward to things in the new year, I like the idea of taking note of the really special things from the year almost gone. Weneki keeps a notebook nearby at all times, I, sadly, rely on my aforementioned memory. Perhaps 2012 will be the year I start taking notes.

What moved you this year? What made you shiver with delight?

Today I'm grateful for a table for one by the window at my local Panera Bread, not to mention the bowl of soup, yummy salad, twist of baguette and cold iced tea. I'm grateful for a really cool pair of running shoes that don't crunch my toes or cause my feet to hurt.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

Instead of making resolutions I would most likely ignore, at the beginning of 2011 I picked a word that would set my intention for the year. I didn't know at the time my father would cross from this world to the next in 23 days. I didn't know that my desire for "freedom" was going to be handed to me on a silver platter and I was going to stand, frozen in place wondering what to do with it.

I'm reminded of a video I saw recently about some beagles who had spent their whole lives as test animals in a laboratory. They'd never been out of a cage, seen the sunlight, peed on grass or chased a ball. I'm not sure how it occurred but a group of volunteers rescued them, undoubtedly just before the executioner's song played. The video showed how tentative the dogs were when the doors to their traveling cages were opened and they were given an opportunity to step out into "freedom." It took several minutes for one of the dogs to slowly venture out, touching grass for the very first time. Gradually, with much hesitation each dog left the safety of the only home they'd ever known. My point, is that is kind of how I felt after Dad died and the funeral hullabaloo settled down. My cage door was open, I had all the freedom I had asked for, but stepping out into it terrified me. Even when I got the nerve to leave for minutes, hours, days at a time, I always felt safest and most secure when I moved back into my own little world.

After what could be the longest year of my life I'm once more on the threshold of a new one - a clean slate, an open door - wondering what word will I choose to take with me?

My writing coach sent the group a list of questions to help us assess 2011. By looking back, she suggests, we can see what patterns developed in our relationships, writing, creativity, work, etc.. What worked and didn't work, what we'd like to take with us and expand on in the new year and what we'd like to leave behind. As if piggy-backing on that theme my Brave Girl Note for today said:

As the year draws to a close, beautiful friend, please remember that you get to decide what heads into the next year with you and what doesn't. It would be worth some of your beautiful minutes to sit down and really think about the baggage that you have been carrying around that you just don't need anymore ... and then decide that it is not invited to come with you into the next year ... and it will no longer be a part of how you view yourself, your possibilities, your commitments, the way you spend your time and what you have to give in the world.

Decide what you will focus on, what you will think about, where you will spend your time and how you think about everything and everyone around you.

So here I sit, typing away instead of answering the questions. Typing, I think, has become a kind of meditation for me. I seem to get more clarity than trying to sit with my legs trying to stretch across the expanse of my middle. In the few days left of 2011 I'm going to spend some time a) answering the 2011 assessment questions b) choose a word and c) pack some of my unnecessary burdens in the old suitcase that sits in the garage taking up space that could be better used.

What about you? What hopes and dreams and intentions will you take with you into the new year? What will you leave behind? Do you make resolutions or pick a word?

In case your interested here's the 2011 Assessment:
What worked?
What energized me?
What did I look forward to?
Who were my favorite clients? Students?
What strengths did I enrich?
Who were my favorite teachers?
What were my favorite projects?
What did other's notice? What did they say you were good at?
What intrigues people about me?
What was easy?
When did time expand?
When did I reach flow?
What did people ask for?
What feeling state did I most enjoy? Why?
What would I have regretted not doing?
What was challenging?
What activities were draining?
What felt like a flop?
What were my least favorite clients?
What did I not look forward to?
What did I dread?
Where did I procrastinate?
Where did I verbally vent?
Where did I feel tired?
What made me cry? Why?

Today I'm grateful for time to think. I used to be good at multi-tasking, now not so much, so having time to concentrate on things that are important is a gift.

Wishing for you a clean slate and a new box of chalk in lots of pretty colors.
Merry ME

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Books, Books, Books

When my kids were very little, the excitement leading up to unwrapping Christmas presents grew with each passing day. My then husband was every bit as much a child as the kids. He liked to count the number of packages with his name on them. He liked to rattle and shake and try to figure out what was in each present that I had wrapped to look like something from a Hallmark commercial. I admit it drove me crazy. In my family of origin Christmases there was a no touching rule. There was also a nothing gets opened before Christmas rule which I tried to hold on to but was out-voted 3-1. Trying to contain all the real surprises for Christmas morning, I usually allowed one present, to be picked out by me, to be opened on Christmas Eve - cute flannel pajamas that would look good in photos the next morning.

One year I made the mistake of letting the kids pick out the gift they wanted to open. I think Johnson must have just grabbed the first thing that he saw and been happy with it. Weneki carefully chose a small package. Hoping, I'm sure, that the adage about good things coming in small packages would be true. She ripped the paper off a gift from Mamaw, who, to put it kindly, no longer had any idea what made small children giggle and grin. Weneki unwrapped a book, which ordinarily wouldn't have been a super bad present. However, for a child in kindergarten, a chapter book with lots of words and no pictures didn't quite ring a bell on the excitement meter. Weneki's face fell, then she started crying about opening something else. Her father was appalled at the fact that she was so ungratefuland I was appalled that he didn't understand her disappointment. Words were exchanged and the whole evening turned into a Christmas Eve nightmare with everyone going to bed mad about something.

I thought about that Christmas when I looked at the stack of books I received as gifts this year - most of them from Weneki, a girl who has grown to love books way more than that early experience might have foretold. I'm sure as a child I would not have been as thrilled as I was this Christmas to see so many different boxes arrive from Amazon. And each one was a surprise because they were selections from my Wishlist which is full of titles I don't even remember adding to the list. And to add even more reading delight I was also gifted books by my niece, and blog sisters Dani and Po.

In the mix there is:
  • a self-help book - The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks
  • a book of poetry - Thirst by Mary Oliver
  • a self-published book of words and photos - Twelve by Pam Stead Jone
  • a novel/mystery - The Outlander by Gil Adamson
  • a memoir - Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden, and
  • a daily dose of wonder titled, the Awe-manac by Jill Badonsky

As slow as I read I've got enough to keep me entertained for months. Sweetie likes to get his books from the library. He has a running list of books he's either picking up or returning. In between those days he has a shelf full of mysteries neatly filed in order. I admit it is awe-inspiring. My books, however, are in a wobbly tower sitting precariously close to the edge of my night stand, leaving just enough room for the alarm clock and phone. One wrong move by a certain Boy Cat and they will all come tumbling down. I love that books are last thing I see before going to sleep and the first thing I see when I wake up. There's just something magical about them.

Tonight I'm grateful for books ... hardback, paperback, ebooks, Nooks, Kindles, Ipads, library books, books with pictures, scary books, books that make you laugh and books that make you think. And I'm grateful that my daughter wasn't scarred by that less than stellar holiday.

Wishing for you a comfy chair to sit in, a cup of tea and a good book to read.
Merry ME

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Sacrament of Smiling

"Don't cry because it's over
Smile because it happened."


I think it's true what people say about having dread-filled expectations. Often the worry and anxiety are worse than the speech-making, solo-singing, or 24-hour train trip sequestered in a closet-sized room with 2 kids. No, I think that last one was about as awful as I expected!

It's no secret I've been dreading the holiday season knowing there would be empty seats at the table and ghosts of Christmases past hanging around the house. I dreaded being sad when everyone around me was going merrily about their business. Mostly I feared awakening the grief monster who seems ready to hang out in my heart, uninvited. To my surprise and delight, with the exception of a few crying jags, some extra naps and low periods brought on by deja vu, I got through the season with a minimum of sadness.

In my mind I keep going back to the Christmas Eve service at church, and how it summed up the beauty, magic and hope that is my "the reason for the season." There is just something about a candlelit sanctuary and children singing with gusto and slightly off-key that leads me to imagine a Bethlehem night filled with the light of a bright shining star and angel choruses getting carried away with glor-or-or-or-or-ias. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with people you know and strangers who only come to church on festive days bring to mind the shepherds and kings who visited the stable to see what all the fuss was about. The good news spoken from the pulpit mixed with peace-filled greetings and holy food retell and foretell the message of hope that was born that night.

I was moved by all of that and wish for a photographic memory to keep it clear for days days to come. But what I want to remember most was the smile I noticed on a young mother's face. A mother who lost her only child a year or so ago. A mother who has stayed away from church because she couldn't reconcile a loving God and a dying child. A mother whose heart I thought would never mend. How could it? What could possibly happen that would turn her frown into a smile? How could her grief ever let up? And yet there it was, a simple smile that seemed to whisper to me in the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit.

"Yes, dear one, life is hard.
There will be times when you feel so broken
even super glue won't hold back together.
In order to love with your heart's full measure,
you must also, at some point, bear the deep pain of loss.
But it is so worth it.
Trust ME.
You will mend.
You will smile again. "

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they often fill the cracks with gold, believing that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. The sacrament of smiling, I think, is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spirit-filled heart veined with gold. It doesn't mean forgetting. It means remembering. It means holding on to the memories and letting go of the sadness. It means filling the empty spaces with golden rays of hope for the future. It means being awed by a sunrise that says goodbye to the night. It means feeling the pure love of a child cover you like a security blanket. It means living in order to honor the life that was lost.

As many of you know, lately I've felt lost in my loss. But on Christmas Eve, while the choir sang Silent Night, I held a candle and smiled.

Today I'm grateful for many things, mostly for the gift of a smile. I hope you'll share yours with others.

Merry ME

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011


The house is quiet except for the whirring of the dishwasher. Sweeties is trying to figure out a new toy, the dog settled in surrounded by several new bones. One cat is asleep on Grandmother's quilt and the last time I saw the other one he was behind the tree planning a kamikaze attack.

Christmas Eve service at church last night was beautiful. Sitting in the church surrounded by the holy-day sights and sounds made me heavy with missing mom and dad. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning Dad called me. I awoke with a start, opened my eyes and listened for more. That was all, just his voice calling my name.

Sweetie was the first one awake this morning, anxious to see what Santa had brought. It was fun to watch his very neat and organized way of selecting presents from under the tree, then carefully opening each one and depositing used wrappings and bows in a tidy pile. I'm more of a rip it open and see how high you can stack the paper!

After awhile, the White Beast, Maizey, joined in the fun. Maizey is Johnson's dog who has not quite perfected her indoor manners. She likes to chase the cats, jump on Suzi, run through the house at Mach speed and ignore every command she's learned from the house-calling trainer. This morning, Boy Cat held his ground and may have gotten in a swipe or two. Suzi claimed possession of Maizey's bone and in a what could be considered a Christmas miracle, Maizey not only let her have it, but rolled over in a temporary display of submission.

The rest of the day was spent quietly preparing dinner, reading and snoozing. We had a very nice dinner, even though the sweet potato casserole changed from a pretty orange to icky brown. A veritable smorgasbord of desserts topped things off. Now I feel like an exhausted but happy Christmas elf who wants to put on her flannel jammies, crawl into bed and dig into her stack of new books.

Tonight I feel grateful for Christmas - the baby in the manger, the angels and shepherds, little drummer boys, decorated trees, twinkle lights, cards, and wrappings and bows, sprinkle covered sugar cookies, silly dogs, Christmas elves, and family near and far. My heart is full. My little girl content.

I hope your day was filled with the miracle of love in all its different forms.
Merry Christmas everyone,
Merry ME

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom

Had she lived my mother would have been 90 years old today. The fact that I can say that without an ache in my heart or tears running down my face is proof that the pain of mourning does diminish over time.

Mom was born in an Army field hospital in Koblenz, Germany. Her father was in the Navy so she moved around a lot which was good training for being the wife of a naval officer. Mom knew how to pack and unpack a household in record time. She knew how to keep things to a minimum, unlike my father who was a self-proclaimed pack rat. Mom was the epitome of a 1950's housewife, though I don't think I'd call her June Cleaver.

Before her a virus damaged her brain, my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She was small but fierce. Early on in their marriage my parents must have drawn up job descriptions - Dad worked outside the home, and mom's domain started and stopped at the front door - and they rarely, if ever, veered from their appointed tasks.

My mother could cook, sew, knit, crochet and do just about anything with her hands. She didn't shy away from intricate patterns or large sizes. Once she started something she kept at it until she finished. My mom could whistle and make a bed so tight you could bounce a coin on it. She liked to go to the circus and, in her heyday, loved to dance, play tennis and was a fencing champion. Before she married my father Mom performed in community theater groups. Dad didn't care much for that so she gave it up. That's what women did back then. Going to church was important to my mother. She was a devout and fervent pray-er. My mom could have been a professional baby rocker, cat feeder or dog petter.

For most of the nine years after her death I lived with my father. It's when I learned that my mother should have been nominated for sainthood. I began to understand the times she slammed a kitchen cabinet so hard it was left swinging on a broken hinge (slight exaggeration for effect). As much as he loved her, my father could be infuriating. I always wondered to myself what planet he lived on when he would say that they never fought. But then, maybe they didn't. My father was not one you could argue with, so while he might have gotten the last word, Mom's door slamming was the period at the end of the sentence.

I often lament the fact that before my mother's brain damage I was still pretty egocentric. After, when I came home to help care for her, she couldn't have conversations. It was impossible to ask her about her life, her dreams, her disappointments. Well, I could ask all I wanted, but she couldn't answer. She hated not being able to talk. Cat she'd say when she was talking about the dog. That man (meaning George W. Bush) she'd say with coal black eyes when someone would ask her who was the president. Usually at this time of year we could get her to sing Jingle Bells. Hearing her sing that simple tune was like listening to the Hallelujah Chorus.

I feel like missing my mother has been overshadowed by mourning for my father. Perhaps I'd feel the same way if their deaths had been reversed. I hope there is some kind of reunion in the afterlife. I like to think of my parents together in heaven. That whole soulmate thing.

Today I'm grateful for the woman who gave me life. If she were here tonight, I'd tuck her into bed, make sure she had her tissues wrapped around her fingers, and kiss her goodnight. I hope wherever she is she's surrounded by angels and singing Christmas carols.

I love you Mama,
Merry ME

Dear Beloved Girl,

When we have old things in our hands that we are afraid of being without, with our fists tightly clenched around those things...and we walk around fearing what will happen if we ever open our hands and let those things go...when we worry whether or not anything else will make it's way into our lives...if we will ever have enough...if our hands will always remain empty if we open them and let the old clenched stuff go...........if we keep doing that, we will NEVER be able to grasp onto what is meant for us.

What is done is done. What is over is over. We are meant to move forward, we are meant to progress. Everything natural and beautiful and true and living was designed to constantly be renewing itself, progressing, living living living and then dying....going on to the next step of it's life cycle. When we clench old things in our hands, we prevent new things from being able to hold hands with us. New experiences, new things to learn, new relationships, new things that we don't even know exist yet.

Today is a great day to finally let go. It will be ok. In fact........it will be incredible.It might hurt for a minute, just like all endings do.......but the new beginning that is just behind the ending (the ending that is long past due) is where the miracles are. Hold on to that hope...but let the rest go.

Let it go.It is time.
You are so very very very loved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Closing in on the Holiday

I'm on a roll.

Last package mailed.
Cookies frosted. Half eaten.
Presents wrapped. Under the tree.

I've got to share this picture of what my sister Linda made me for Christmas. I opened the box thinking there would be wrapped gifts inside. This is what I found:



This is no ordinary bear. Yes it is soft and cuddly. But what makes it so absolutely wonderful is that it is made out of one of my father's shirts. And he even has a pocket with Kleenex coming out of it, just like my dad. What you can't see on the back is the number "39" that came off my Dad's wrestling robe from the Naval Academy. 39 being the year he lettered and graduated.

Sometimes someone does something so totally cool you've just got to shout it from the roof tops. It's late and dark so I'm not going to climb up on the roof. So I'm sharing my bear with my favorite people.

Thank you Linda for the bear. But mostly for your big ol' busting at the seams heart you so generously share with me.

Today I'm feeling gratitude mixed with joy and I wish the same for each of you.
Merry ME

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Baking

" ...Christmas cookies without sprinkles
are like raisins without wrinkles,
and like sleigh bells without tinkles ..."
The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher


Since my last post, I've either been feeling puny (as in running a low grade fever and feeling achy everywhere, including the insides of my eyelids) or poopy (as in sad, blue, whiney, unmerry). However, in the last few days I've felt good enough to rival a Christmas elf on sugar overload. I don't want to jinx things but I think I may just be ready for Christmas by the time it gets here.

I spent most of today making cookies - the rolled kind that still have to be decorated. I may get dough made up for some drop cookies I can make tomorrow. Yes, there is still a light dusting of flour and powdered sugar on the counter tops, and yes, the sink is still full of dirty baking utensils, but I feel like I have made great progress. The key, I realized half-way through the cookie-enhanced afternoon is that I only made one - O-N-E - batch of each dough that needed to be rolled and cut before baking, cooling and decorating. In year's past I've made at least 2, often 3, of the family favorites - gingerbread men, sugar cookies. I think I may be on to something. Doing one batch of each makes the baking marathon doable. Alas, I do not have many to give away except to my children, unbelievers who have discussed behind my back that I've "forgotten" where I put the recipes and so I won't be baking this year. I feel certain that discussion was followed by my son (the younger) reminding my daughter (the eldest) that it will be her responsibility to take care of me in the event I lose all my faculties because she had the privilege of being born first. I know they have this discussion on a recurring basis because my son has pointed out to me more than once, his good fortune to have been born last. *

As I sifted and stirred I tried to recall preparations of Christmases when I was a child. Dad bought the tree and hung the lights. We had some decorations that were pulled out every year. I remember hanging glittery glass balls on the tree., that aluminum icicles were to be hung one strand at a time. The Patty Star was, perhaps, the most memorable of all decorations.

I don't have a memory of my mom baking cookies. For that matter I don't remember decorated cookies being a big deal. Mom's forte lay in the roasting of a plump turkey or succulent roast. So I wonder when and where I developed this Traumatic Baking Syndrome (TBS). I probably baked my first batch of sugar cookies when Weneki was still a baby, then expanded my repertoire in the years that followed. In the midst of my deepest depression, baking for weeks before Christmas was part of my therapy. Gingerbread men became a Christmas tradition that my children still expect.

One of my best Christmas presents a few years ago was Kitchen Aid mixer. Every year at this time when I pull the cover off the mixer I remember my friends the Belchers. We will be forever linked, I believe, by the holiday traditions we created together for their son, my "charge" Robert. One year, when he was only a few years old Robert and I had a pajama/baking day. In his navy blue thermal jammies Robert sat on the counter surrounded by the butter, sugar and flour. I turned my back to get the eggs. When I turned around, the little boy dressed in blue, the counter and the air around him was adrift in flour. With one hand still in the bag and the other gleefully tossing flour into the air, Robert squealed, "Look Mer Mer, it's snowing!" It was one of those split second decisions a nanny/parent sometimes needs to make. Whether to blow a gasket at the mess, or grab a camera. "Yes, indeed, my little man," I responded as I clicked a photo, "it is snowing!" Did I mention we live in Florida and the child had only seen snow once or twice in his short life.

Perhaps the reason I have lost my enthusiasm for holiday baking is that there are no children to help. Martha Stewart can turn a snowflake cookie into a work of art with royal icing and silver dragrees, but she can't match the beauty of a cookie piled high with multi-colored sugar by tiny hands. And she can't turn flour into snow.

Today I'm grateful for memories of holiday's past. I'm grateful for children who put the merry in Christmas.

Wishing for you a Christmas miracle,
Merry ME

*Just so everybody knows. I put my hands right on the recipes, because a couple of years ago I had the foresight to re-type all my Christmas recipes onto un-stained, un-fingerprinted with icing festive paper and bind them all together. I followed up that bit of brilliance by putting the book in its rightful place among the other cookbooks. If I would follow this example with my keys, my wallet, my camera, my shoes and the other items I lose on a regular basis, my children would not have anything to worry about. Okay, maybe they'd still worry.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'm Back!

So I successfully made it to the end of NaBloPoMo and then dropped out of site. What's up with that? I've gotta say I'm not really sure, but I suspect it has to do with feeling so sad.

At the risk of getting started on another chapter from my grief saga, which is not the stuff holiday cheer is made of, I'll just say I think my sadness is coming from both sides - both my little girl feeling and I are feeling kind of blue in a world that has gone crazy with red and green. No big surprise there. It is to be expected. I knew it was coming but not sure there is a way to prepare for it. Like ocean waves the emotions come rolling in, sometimes small and easy to jump through; sometimes so rough that you are knocked off balance and go tumbling in the surf. I want to "feel" my emotions, or at least give them a voice and not stuff them somewhere below my liver. I tell myself it's okay to feel what I'm feeling. At the same time I don't want to give the emotions free rein so that I'm just a big ball of snotty tissues. I've wondered if I gave into the tears and really let them go, instead of just letting them quietly without drama roll down my face, would I finally, once and for all cry myself out? And once done, would I have the energy to feel festive and fa la la la la -ish? I know from past experience Christmas is going to come whether I'm happy or sad and it's always more fun if I'm on the happy side of the scale.

Last week I had an incredible and very productive EMDR session with my therapist. I can't tell you how this works. In fact I asked her if it's really just "woowoo" or something the Wizard of Oz would prescribe. Evidence is showing that this type of therapy really works (it's used a lot for PTSD) and has a long-lasting effect. I'm using it to connect with Little ME. And, woowoo or not, I go in feeling sad and come out feeling exhausted but calmer and more connected. I've found that it sometimes takes a couple of days to rest back up. I think I can compare an hour's session of EMDR to running an emotional marathon, but maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.

A couple other woowoo things have happened since then. I don't know whether to chalk it up to angels, Christmas elves, or nothing more than happenstance. If you look at it from a spiritual perspective which is the way I like to look at it, Christmas itself is nothing but woowoo. Magic really. The Divine Gift Giver handing down the a big gift in a tiny little rag-wrapped package. So I shouldn't be surprised that there is magic in the air.

I get emails from the Brave Girls' Club. On many occasions, but not always, the letter feels like it was written just for me. Like this one today:

Endings are followed by new beginnings. How true is that? And I know that which makes the sadness seem out of place. Like I told my friend Pam today, I feel like I'm in between the closed door of the past and the open window of the future and I'm surrounded by fog. One day the mist will rise, the sun will burn away the fog (sadness) and I will be able to see more clearly the window(s) that are not only open but beckoning me. Like woowoo and Christmas magic, it will happen. Until then, it is my job to connect with Reindeer Girl (see sidebar), help her to know she/we are not alone, we have each other, that I will hold her hand when she's scared, rub her back when she's anxious, hand her a Kleenex when she cries, clap for her when she sings, and when all else fails make her cookies.

Today I'm grateful for a blog to come home to. I'm grateful for gifts from the Universe.

Wishing for you holiday moments in the presence of children - yours or someone else's.
Merry ME

* a little bird told me ... your daily truth from the Brave Girls Club