Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2012 Lists


"For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
and next year’s words await another voice." 
 T.S. Eliot


It's that time of year again, when I make a list of things that really moved me. It's Wendy's idea actually, but a good one. I'm not above stealing a good idea. I'm ready to close the door on 2012 and anxious to see what awaits me in 2013. I'm not much into make resolutions I won't keep. This time last year I chose "focus" as my word for the year. As the year draws to a close my life has definitely come into a sharper focus. What that means exactly is still up for interpretation. I haven't picked next year's word. I'm getting close, though. I keep coming back to "committed." I have to spend some more time with that and see where it leads me.  

The trouble with making lists from memory is that one is sure to leave something out. As I read down this list, however, I can say it is a good representation of a good year. I left out the "things that made me cry like a baby" on purpose. I just didn't want to go there.  

What about you? What made you say "ahh" this year? 

Things that made me say “Yikes!” 
  • My neighbor’s 100 year old oak laying across our driveway
  • Getting lost in Seattle
  • Seeing a picture of Johnson swinging from a really tall crane


Things that made me say "Ahhhh...."
  • Hearing Meditation from Thais played on the violin by Joshua Bell
  • Baby Grace being welcomed into the church wearing the family’s antique Christening gown.
  • Rocking Gracie to sleep while listening to Linda Rondstat lullabies
  • Robert’s 16th birthday
  • Happy Birthday video made by family and friends
  • Hearing people laugh at my story
  • Watching Suzi do physical therapy
  • Georges and Maha’s wedding
  • Saying goodbye on the top of Buck Bald
  • Going off the beaten path in Tennesee
  • Suzi riding in the back seat
  • Meeting Maurice Hall and feeling Divine intervention
  • Sunflower fields
  • Seeing Amy surf
  • Swimming with Gracie
  • Maizey digging holes and jumping in the pool
  • Making quilts again ... fabric, fabric, fabric
  • Wholly Jeanne’s conversion of Nancy’s drawings onto cloth
  • Skipping bride and groom
  • Crows made by Sorrow
  • Button hearts
  • Hugging Jay and Zori again
  • Linda’s lavender and roses
  • Shutterfly photo books
  • “It’s Our Mission. Period” flannel squares by the dozen
  • Pumpkin Banana Bread
  • Empty bowls
  • Tim’s recollection of the Chat Noir writers’ retreat
  • Photo of cousins on the stairs
  • Making gravy with Abby
  • Sweetie finding something after I’d torn the whole house apart looking for it
  • The first smell of Christmas trees
  • John’s Christmas lights in the front yard
  • Finishing two1000+ page books
  • Phone dates with my big sister
  • Being a Chica Peep guest blogger
  • Carrabba's Pork Chop Marsala
  • Wreaths at Jax National Cemetery
  • Seeing Sweetie in a plaid shirt
  • Blog friends
  • Chat Noir friends
Things that made me say “Thank You, God.”
  • Doctors fixing 8-day old Lucy’s heart
  • Seeing Ashley as a mom
  • Wendy’s friends
  • Having Hurricane Sandy blow through after we cut down the rotten oaks - not before
  • Reid Addison Powell 
  • MG's recovery from cancer
  • Kellie's pregnancy
  • The feeling of doing my heart’s work
  • Sweetie’s patience
  • Meeting Kurt and seeing Wendy’s smile
  • My big sister filling in for me at Wendy’s wedding
  • Laughing or crying with my Sweetie

Merry ME

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jacksonville Ronald McDonald House, Part 2


“Be serious. 
Life hurts. 
Reflect what hurts. 
I don’t mean that you can’t also be funny, 
or have fun, but at the end of the day, 
stories are about what you love.”
John Irving


Need to make yourself feel good by helping others?


                 Begin by gathering some of your favorite people.
People who use pieces of every day life to tell a story.
People who love to write, to cook, to give back.




Ask them to help prepare a well-rounded, healthy dinner for 55 people with an Italian theme.


Cut up 15 heads of romaine, toss in some red onion, mandarin orange slices, bleu cheese and dried cranberries. 


Wear gloves to prevent the spread of germs. 


Make 6 dozen cupcakes, topped with multi-colored sprinkles.


Ask Panera Bread to donate some delicious smelling bread.



Heat the casseroles, cook the beans, warm the bread, 
prepare the salads, and arrange it all around a big island? 


Make some signs. 

Put out a teeny, tiny fire in one of the ovens. 
Share some laughs, and maybe a few tears. 
Take some pictures. 
Then thank God for miracles large and small.


Going to bed tonight with a happy heart.
Merry ME

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jacksonville Ronald McDonald House

There is much to do - stuff that got put off.
The laundry needs to be folded.
Dishes done.
Dog toys put away.
Cards still need to be sent.
But I'm still soaking up the quietude and gratitude.
The cat sitting on my lap purring. I don't want to move.


My writing group is gearing up for our annual service project. We're making dinner for 50+ residents of Ronald McDonald House on Saturday. In Jacksonville, the RMcD House is just a short walk away from the Children's Hospital. Parents, siblings and even children getting outpatient treatment don't have far to go to get to a place that resembles home. No medical personnel, no machines beeping, no stale hospital air or vending machine food. Whoever designed this house, took pains to make it exceedingly comfortable.



I've never been inside the place so I made a dry run this morning. Oh my. It's roomy, well lit, and decorated for Christmas. It's about as relaxing as you can get when you are away from home with a sick child. I expected a motel atmosphere with an industrial kitchen. When I walked it, I immediately felt at home. It's functional, but warm and cozy too. Besides rooms that sleep four, there are computer rooms for adults and children, toy rooms, exercise rooms, laundry facilities, outside play area, and a special quiet, chapel like room.

It must be terribly scary to have a sick child. It's good to know there are places like RMcD House to help calm some of the emotions. I'm sure there is one in your city. Why not check it out, volunteer or make a donation. I think you'll be glad you did. On a personal note, I'm feeling a lot better about all those cheeseburgers and french fries I've eaten over the years. There could probably be a wing named after me.

Feeling like a small part of something big,
Merry ME


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2013

I'm sitting in the quiet mid-day of Christmas. I'm afraid to break the stillness by trying to think of the words to describe what I'm feeling. I'll turn off my computer, and turn on some Christmas music. I will embrace the peaceful quietude.

May you find a moment in your day to do the same.

Merry ME

Later:
The house is still quiet. Little bubbles of effervescence in my Coke sound like twinkling lights if they had a sound. I've read a few FB posts. Tears are welling up. Not sure from where. Why does a heart full love and tranquility weep? Because people I barely know who leave sweet messages for others to see. Or pictures of family members who are too far away to share the day with.  A prayer for dark places reminds me there are too many in this world. Yet without the dark, how can we appreciate the light? A green pine arrangement bursting forth from a pair of old ice skates reminds me of a time long ago when Christmas morning was made magical by my parents who aren't here.

I shall wipe the tears away and tend to the roast. We'll have yeast rolls instead of popovers. Doesn't feel right to have a family fave without the people who love them the most.

May tears of radiant joy remind you of all your blessings,
M

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What If? Part 2

Jon Katz wrote on his blog last week: "I knew it was not my place to add to all of the anguished words about it. There was nothing for me to say, always a strange place for a writer. Some things are beyond words, even though we are awash in them. Sometimes, silence is a powerful statement." 

I should probably follow his lead. I doubt I have anything new to say and words aren't really going to make a difference now. BUT (Sweetie hates it when I say add a but!), words and thoughts are swirling around my head like powdered sugar in the kitchen where I've been baking cookies.

When a tragedy hits us at home, in our neighborhoods, states and country, Americans are outraged. As well they should be. But why surprised? It's as if Americans believe we can somehow be spared the horror that happens every day somewhere else. Just a few days before the CT shootings, we paused in silence to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor. And what about 9/11? As awful as those events were, what made them even worse was the loss of our collective innocence. I've heard it said the Connecticut shootings were more horrific because innocent children were involved, but I've had a tough time accepting that notion. In my mind it was horrible because it was horrible.  Awful, scary, and senseless - period. Of all those lives lost none was more valuable than another; violence is no respecter of age, gender, race, color or religion.

 I guess that's what's been on my mind. Violence, with a capital "V." Pundits say l
imit the amount of exposure to violent movies, videos, or computer games. The impact of violence for children is cumulative. Why stop with video games? Why not add TV news and reality shows, talk radio, road rage, and moms and dads smacking each other around?

 I can't grieve for children I didn't know. But I do grieve a world that has become so innured to violence. After the media moves on to the next awful/ sensational story, what happened in CT will fade into that part of American's brains where we hide the things we want to forget. Until the next time. And the hard truth is innocent lives are lost every single day in this crazy, f!#*!ked up world. Somewhere on Google you can find statistics to back me up, but I'll just throw out some numbers. According to the World Health Organization (www.who.int) violence is the leading cause of death in people between 15-44. Children, women, senior citizens are abused every day. Worldwide, it's estimated that 1 in 4 women are raped. Add to that the women and children who fall prey to sex traffickers, slavery, exploitaion and pornography. And let's not forget armed conflicts around the world where suicide bombers, IED's and land mines kill and maim at random. What horrifies me is that children around the world, not just those in Sandy Hook, go to sleep at night knowing what gunfire sounds like. It has become as much a part of them as rustling Autumn leaves, bird songs, and water trickling over rocks.

Politicians, lobbyists, talking heads, mental health professionsals, and bloggers like me are all looking for answers.
  Personally I think if we can send a man to the moon, we can figure out how to wrap kids up in bullet-proof bubble suits, like those old fashioned snow suits we used to wear. Some of the answers may be found in Washington DC. They may be found in think tanks, churches, synogogues or mosques. They may be found on Google. I believe, for what it's worth, the first place to search is inside our own hearts. Instead of pointing fingers, what if we reach out and touch someone else's life for the good. Kindness begets kindness. Love begets love. It sounds pretty simplistic. I know love can't stop bullets, but change has to start somewhere. Love is as good a place as any.

 Here it is almost Christmas. I'm reminded that the baby born to light the darkness had to flee to Egypt to escape mass genocide. Things haven't changed so much in 2000 years. We're all running from something. Maybe the answer is to stop and look around. Maybe if you Love the one you're next to, the light from that holy star will begin to shine again. One of the songs I play at Christmastime but forget throughout the year is John Lennon's Imagine.

"Imagine
.... nothing to kill or die for
... all the people living life in peace"

Don't you think "Imagine" is just another way of saying "what if?" Here's what I've been imagining lately:


What if a kind word or a smile, could make a difference in someone's life. Then maybe that someone would swallow the ugly words about to foul the air or his a fist will be unclenched.

What if all it takes for a harried mother to stop before she smacks her kid is to have someone step in and say, "here, let me help."

What if violent video games were replaced with an unarmed game of hide and seek or chess?

What if cell phone aps were replaced with dinner time conversations that begin with "How was your day?"

What if please and thank you took the place of four-letter words?

What if bosses handed out compliments instead of pink slips.

What if stop signs had smiley faces? And yield signs said, "after you."

What if "what's best for everyone" took the place of partisan politics?

What if school days and work days started with what we call passing the peace in my church and ended with, "Have a nice night?"

What if those with more than enough shared with those without?

What if along with a tip everyone left a note that stated the thing they liked best about the service they received? I loved the way you kept my glass filled. Or you're the best bagger I've ever had.

What if instead of looking the other way, we all carried a granola bar or a pair of socks with us and handed them to the homeless person with a cardboard sign that says "Please Help?

What if every day at noon, we paused for a five minutes to take some deep breaths and be still?

What if every old person was assigned a younger person to share their life story with?

What if every young person had an old person to color with?

What if having mental illness was like wearing glasses - some do, some don't, no big deal?

What if being a member of a gang meant you had to clean up your side of the street?

What if instead of menstruation, going to school, having babies, and female wisdom were revered as the miracles they are?

What if boys and girls respected and shared each others' abilities.

What if every baby born was considered royalty?

What if instead of going into space scientists devised a way to clean up the space(s) we have right here on Earth?

And since we can't pray in schools anymore, what if this poem was recited instead.
You, you may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one 

Want to join me?

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest,
Merry ME

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What if?

I started a post the other day I never finished. Like my feelings after the Newtown tragedy, my thoughts were a jumbled mess. I wanted to write something profound that would go down in the annals of profundity, but really there was/is nothing new to say. After circling the block I said this:
"What if a kind word or a smile, could make a difference in someone's life?" 
Sweetie hates it when I ask what if. It's a habit I can't break. And really, if you ask me, it's not all that bad a question. For instance, if I asked "what if something bad was going to happen? And then you told me how to avoid that bad thing, then "what if" could be a useful tool. Right? Well before I get too side-tracked on the goods and bads of "what ifs" I better get on with today's thoughts.

"What if," I ask myself, "every day could be as good as today?"

 Seriously people, I had one of the best days ever - or one of the best days I can remember. It's like Christmas magic was in the air, everywhere I went. I think I know now what "Merry" Christmas means. And it all came from following my heart.

There's an older lady from my church who lives alone. Her son is not far away but when something happens and she can't reach him, she calls me. She's fallen 3 times in the last few months. Thankfully nothing's broken, just real sore and bruised. The last time she fell she banged up her foot real good and had to wear one of those boot things. I've taken her to the doctor, picked up a few items from the store and that sort of thing. Today, she got the boot off and, as much as a 91 year old lady can with a walker, she was raring to go. Our first stop was the nail salon to have her fingernails trimmed. Then off to Steinmart to buy her son's Christmas presents. I didn't even know there were stores where clerks helped you pick things out any more. But my friend asked and she had two ladies at her service. While they were helping her I helped another lady who couldn't reach the shirt she wanted. Lo and behold, it was the exact size she wanted. "It's a Christmas Miracle" I said and got the biggest smile and a blessing in return. 

Next we headed to Piccadilly Cafeteria for lunch. You know how when Dorothy landed in Munchkin Land she felt sort of out of place? Well that's how i felt in Piccadilly. The mean age had to have been 75. I know I've got white hair and I'm pretty forgetful but still, I felt like a teeny bopper in there with all those walkers and canes.  Mary and I had some great conversation. She is a story teller with lots of stories to tell. With a soft Southern drawl she spoke of small Georgia towns where she grew up, a dog named Dusty, a chicken named Bunny and a cat named Tom who followed a man to work every day. She talked of climbing trees and playing basketball, of life after her divorce, of Mama Mae, of almost losing her mind and the grace of God. They were the kind of stories she needs to write down. She's got a start (35000 words) but I think there's way more in her head. 

As we were leaving I noticed another older (duh) lady from church. When I told Mary she pushed her walker all the way across the dining room. When it wouldn't fit between two tables she parked it and walked up to her friend she hasn't seen in awhile - maybe years. Those two women hugged each other like long lost lovers. The other lady's companions and I just watched. I wasn't the only one tearing up. Then the two ladies made introductions and shared a few laughs. "May I have another one of those hugs before I leave?" Mary asked. And again, the friends embraced in a way that said much more than  hello or goodbye. It was a Kodak moment without a Kodak. 


On to the dentist to have Mary's dentures aligned. I waited by the front door. In walks a woman with an ankle-length skirt covered in cardinals sitting on mistletoe branches. These were not small birds. They were almost life-sized and bright Christmas red. How could I not say "wow" to that? That was about all I had to say. For 20 minutes this lady with 3 bottom teeth and a heavy Greek accent regaled me with stories of her life. Talk about needing a tape recorder. In her goodly number of years this woman has been a master tailor for Saks 5th Ave, attended 51/2 years of medical school before seeing a cadaver which made her sick, attended law school which she didn't like, and ended up in the Air Force. I couldn't help but laugh when she told me she made a skirt out of her table cloth. Nobody could make this stuff up. 


By the time I got Miss Mary home, shewas pretty worn out. Before getting settled in a chair where she could rest she showed me her Shirley Temple dolls - two dolls that I gotta say looked just like Shirley Temple, one dressed as Heidi and one dressed as the Little Princess. There was just something sweet at the end of a good day to think about about a 91 year old woman who sleeps with a doll next to her bed. 


There was a lot about the day that made it special. The laughing, the hugging, the feeling of well-being that comes from a five dollar nail trim. But I think it was the affirmation of my soul's calling, the following my heart that made the biggest impact. Being in the writer's group has taught me how to listen to other peoples' life stories. It is a gift one can give to themselves as well as the person telling the story. Finally there was the coming home to my Sweetie. "Oh Jack," I said with tears in my eyes. "I had the most incredible day." 

 "Tell me about it," he said. Then sat down in his chair ready to listen. Damn that Sweetie is a good listener. 

Back in August I had an experience that felt sad right down to my bones. Today, I could feel joy settling in. Another Christmas miracle?

What if people everywhere started noticing the miracles around them? 
What if angels heard on high are nothing more than an old woman's laugh? And the gifts wise men offer are as prescious as a smile, an ear and a thank you?

Wishing for you a simple, joy-filled miracle,
Merry ME

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Light

"We find ways to let light in, as many ways as possible. 
We love those near and far, openly and without reserve. We live every day." 
www.carryitforward.com

I was asleep when it happened. When life, as they knew it, changed for people in Newton, CT, for the state, the country. Dare I say, the world?  For what happens to one, happens to all. I wish I'd stayed asleep and never heard the news. Like others I'm horrified. Brokenhearted. Too far away to make a difference. Too connected not to try.


First I cried. 

Then I prayed.
Then I cried some more and hugged my Sweetie and my son.
Then, I do what I do, to stop the pain. I shopped. With no intent other than to block feelings I went to my favorite art supply store and wandered the aisles looking at things I don't need or want. In the midst of people I felt isolated in my own world. In an odd way, the bright colored paper, pens of all description, toys, cards, and ribbons, lit up the darkness. I held my fear at bay. (Tell that to the people at the mall in Oregon.)

The social media sites, TV and radio stations are abuzz. At first I listened, trying to make sense out of the unfathomable, then turned on a Christmas CD.  I needed a reminder of the season of light. Of bright stars in the East, of Hanukkah candles.  


 As I type this, a book lies on the table next to me.  I read it every year at this time. I'm not Jewish, but I don't think I have to be to understand how people look to the light at their darkest hour.  Nine Spoons is based on an "actual incident that occurred in a Nazi camp just before the end of WWII. One of the Holocaust survivors kept the little menorah with her. She came to America in the late 1940's and told this story in an interview." As the first winter snow began to fall, one of the inmates decided to make a menorah for the children out of spoons. Spoons were a very rare commodity and highly valued. In the dreary darkness of the camp, spoons began to appear. A woman who had been an artist before being in the camp twisted their handles into a stem, the round parts bent to hold the flames. Fat was saved from the kitchen and lit by a match from a factory worker.  The light that shone from the spoon must have burned as brightly as the Temple flame in the days of the Maccabees. The women in that camp experienced their own Hanukkah miracle.  For a moment there was light in the darkness. 




 Tonight I'm concentrating on the light instead of the darkness:
Shimmering lights on a Christmas tree
Sunlight dancing on ocean waves
Candle light at midnight mass
Birthday candles on chocolate covered cake
A bride covered in satin and lace
A baby's first tooth
Lilies of the Valley and Queen Anne's Lace
The starry sky over the Grand Canyon
The diamond ring on the finger of one who said, "yes, I'll marry you."
Snow-covered landscapes
A little girl's white furry handwarmer
Polar bears on an ice floe
Flaming baked Alaska
Mounds of whipped cream
A cold glass of milk
A summer's night bonfire on the beach
A string of pearls
A little boy's baseball pants with Scooby-doo undies showing through
Zubin's whole cloth quilt
White sheets on a clothes line flowing in the breeze
An antique Christening dress
The Patty star
The first look at teeth after the braces come off
Tears of joy
Kleenex wrapped around my mother's fingers
An old woman's laugh
Streets lined with luminaries
The Olympic flame
My clean shower door
Glass slippers
Champagne bubbles
Fresh cement waiting for a handprint
Refrigerator art covered in glitter
Mashed potatoes
Mexican wedding cookies
4th of July fireworks
Santa's beard
A big white dog 
White tiger cubs
A full moon
White sand beaches
Homemade vanilla ice cream
A clean page waiting for a story to be told
A hand that reaches down to lift another up
A hug when no words can be found
A friend you can trust
My Sweetie who can always find my keys 
A daughter whose smile brightens any room she's in
A son who fixes things
A sister who calls at the exact moment you're thinking of her
A "VACANCY" sign at a Bethlehem stable and a baby asleep in the hay

You may be the only light another sees. Shine on. 

Merry ME

* Nine Spoons, A Chanukah Story, by Marci Stillerman, Hachai Publishing, 1998

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm Late! I'm Late!

Will someone please tell me how it got to be Dec. 5th already? Does global warming make the earth spin faster?

I had good intentions to get Christmas chores done in a timely fashion so I could enjoy the season and NOT surpass the Grinch on grinchiness. The tree is up and has lights. That's it. The dining room is piled high with boxes of decorations and ornaments. I grow weary just thinking about it. Johnson has been less than subtle about his desire for Christmas cookies. When am I going to fit that in?

Speaking of Johnson he has turned into a decorating fool. Last year he said, "don't ask me to hang Christmas lights, because I hate it."  In the past two days, he has not only made outdoor wreaths and decorations, he's hung them, and lit them up. He's planted poinsettias, and put lights all over the bushes. Every time I go out, I discover something new. All this from the guy who hates Christmas lights.

I'm remembering the little boy and how he loved the lights. I guess at Christmas the little kid in all of us comes out to play. We want things to be magical again. I think I could stand all day in a Christmas tree lot just smelling the fresh pine smell that is as much a part of the holiday as gingerbread and cinnamon.

I think I'm ready for John Denver and the Muppets. How about you?

Wishing you a slower pace and time to soak up the splendor of Christmas.
Merry ME


Friday, November 30, 2012

Chica Peep Guest Blog

"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves 
to be deeply seen and known, 
and when we honor the spiritual connection 
that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection."
Brene Brown


ChicaPeeps.com  is a place where women share their stories of the special bond girlfriends create. Where women can gain strength and support from each other. A couple days ago Chica Peeps founder, Veyla Jancz-Urban asked  me to be their guest blogger. I have to say I felt pretty darn special.  It didn't take long, however, for the negative voices in my head to begin their chatter.  "Who do you think you are?" came through loud and clear.

But then I thought about the Brene Brown interview I'd heard on NPR last Sunday. I decided to feel my vulnerability and write anyway. Who do I think I am? I'm a woman with a story to tell. And you know what, that's enough. 

It helped that my subject is one that I've become passionate about. I want to do all I can to help spread the word about It's Our Mission. Period and the menstrual kits they make for girls in Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi and Haiti. 

I'd love for you to go on over and check out the Chica Peep site. Read the stories about the special relationships women have and while you're there read my post. (Toot! Toot!).  And while you're at it, visit It's Our Mission, too. 

Wishing for you courage to be vulberable,
Merry ME


Thursday, November 22, 2012

And the winner is ....

(drum roll please)

Sweetie's granddaughter pulled Nightbyrd's name out of the proverbial hat. Actually it was my mom's cast aluminum dutch oven. I used it the other day to make soup in and have kept it out. It's odd, but it has made me feel my mother's spirit close to me. Go figure.

Thanks to all of you who donated, spread the word around your blogs and FB pages. I'm grateful to be reminded of all the big hearted people in the world.

I've put most of my fabric back in the closet. During my latest sewing blitz I've learned that it is fun to pull it all out again. I think my next quilt will be one for Malala. It will also be a donation quilt. Keep posted for more information after the first of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May your dreams be full of plenty.
Merry ME

Today's the Day ...



... I'll be drawing a winner's name for the quilt giveaway. You've still got time. I won't be picking until after the last piece of pie has been consumed and all of us are lying on the couch swearing that we'll never eat again.  So if you want to get your name in, see the post below - Every Little Bit Helps. Make a donation to a charity that will help in Hurricane Sandy relief. It doesn't have to be the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Though they are great charities that do good work. Give to the place that speaks to you -  a food pantry, the ASPCA, libraries. Then let me know by putting your name and charity in the comment section. I'll post the winner before I fall into bed with a tryptophan hangover. 

____

Today is also the day for giving heartfelt thanks for all our blessings. Lately I've been reminded that blessings can often be found in the middle of chaos, turmoil, and even pain. Hard to believe, isn't it?

A couple years ago I was browsing a small gift store at the beach. I'm always drawn to crosses so I walked right up to a display of wooden crosses, roughly covered in broken pieces of glass, and china and silverware. I can't say that they were works of art that you might see in a gallery, though I believe they'd fit right in. They looked better than elementary school art, but not a lot. The pieces of detritus did not appear to have any order. But I found myself glued to the spot by the door blocking traffic of incoming customers. The crosses spoke to me in the voice of the sacred. It wasn't the voice I imagine and fear, the clap of thunder and finger pointing of a scary God upset with one of my failings. No, this was that perfect, still quieting of the heart that says, "Be at peace. All is well."

I had to know more.

"Known as Katrina Crosses, they are handmade from china, pottery and glass picked up from a Long Beach, Mississippi neighborhood. The debris is from more than 50 homes swept away by storm surge and winds of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005."

No wonder the crosses spoke to me. The broken pieces of peoples' lives still had a voice. Dishes that maybe once sat on a family's Thanksgiving dinner table, or an heirloom platter that held a cake that celebrated someone's first (or 100th) birthday, or toasted someone's wedding, or a vase that held the flower arrangement from someone's funeral. They were all pieces that had history. Like the homes and people who lost everything in the storm, they were being recycled and renewed to a new purpose. In time - and yes, with a lot of work and tears - people of the Jersey shore and Long Island will be renewed. Perhaps some enterprising soul will comb the shoreline collecting the shattered and scattered pieces tossed in Sandy's wake and recycle them into art.

That's what gratitude does. It renews us. It recycles the challenges we face and turns them into blessings.

My prayer today is that gratitude will fill your heart and you will know peace.
Merry ME

Monday, November 19, 2012

Every Little Bit Helps

UPDATE:  I'll be picking a winner on Thanksgiving Day. So make a donation and leave your name in the comment section below. 
ME

UPDATE: 
I see a tiny problem but it should be easy to fix. Commenting anonymously doesn't get your name in the drawing. And there's no way to tell Anonymous A from Anonymous B. Are you different or the same? I need to be able to get back in touch with you somehow. We can exchange email addy's later. But please at least leave your name. If you still comment as Anonymous, just say your name in the comment.  You can use first name and last initial. Or last name alone. Or an Alias. Just so I can get your name in the hat.

And really, thank you. Thank you again and again.
Merry ME

_____


I always breathe a sigh of relief when a storm veers away from Jacksonville.  At the same time it's hard not to feel guilty that it went somewhere else.  I was in no way prepared for Hurricane Sandy. Like a lot of others, I felt like the meteorologists were crying "wolf" concerning Sandy.  They've been known to exaggerate. They've been known to be wrong. In the case of Sandy, they were right on.

While people who have lost everything stand in mile long lines for a few gallons of gas, I sit in Florida where the sun shines and it's a balmy 70 something degrees. I look at the pictures and still can't fathom what the destruction looks like. Or how it must feel to stand by a pile of mud-soaked rubble that once was your home. Like thousands of others I say a prayer then write a check to the Red Cross. It is not much but it's something.

A few posts back I wrote about Malala. The girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for going to school. I was going to auction off a quilt to raise money for an organization whose mission is to help women and girls in forbidden school zones.  Then Sandy blew into town and everything changed. Literally.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm auctioning off this quilt:

 

It measures about 83 x 83" inches.  I pieced the top and it was machine quilted by Joyce Snyder. No Asian children were forced to work for pennies.  It is American made of made of 100% cotton with cotton batting. It is machine washable and cat approved.

Since I'm not the least bit computer savvy and have an ongoing feud with PayPal I'm going to use the honor system.  All you have to do is make a donation to the charity of your choice for Hurricane Relief. The Red Cross. Salvation Army. Episcopal Relief and Development. Someplace where you donations, like butterfly wings, will send ripples of help to people in Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, New Jersey, New York or any other storm-ravaged place. I think if you make an online donation you'll get a confirmation number. Just leave a comment here on my blog and reference that number. While I'd like to know how much money is raised, just for curiosity's sake, you don't need to share what you give with me. Just that you gave from your heart. On Thanksgiving Day, I'll put all the commenter names in a hat and draw one out. That person will get the quilt.

I think "the more the merrier" applies here, don't you? You can share this blog with your friends and family and on Facebook. I hope that doesn't mean I'm opening my computer up to the cyber world's version of Swine Flu.  Live and learn I say.


So how about it? Are you in?

Praying for victims,
Merry ME

P.S. I'm working with the Afghan Women's Writing Project on another quilt auction. I haven't forgotten Malala.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist,
one-third rich and two-thirds hungry."
Jimmy Carter


A couple years after I moved back to Jacksonville, I heard an advertisement for an Empty Bowl Luncheon held to raise money and awareness for the Second Harvest Food Bank here in NE Florida. The idea is simple. School kids make bowls in art class and donate them. People who attend the luncheon get to pick out a bowl. The meal - a bowl of soup, some bread and some fruit -is meant to remind attendees about the growing number of people for whom a bowl of soup is a blessing. The Empty Bowls Luncheon is always held right before Thanksgiving. Another reminder that  the time for gratefulness should not just one day a year. For those who are hungry, every day they have food is reason for gratitude.

Until today I've never been to the luncheon.  I was reminded by my blog friend and bowl maker Illuminary a few weeks ago that it was that time of year again. Her kiln has been full of bowls for awhile.  I guess it stuck in my mind so I was ready when I saw a billboard announcing the date for our luncheon. This year I hadn't missed it. I bought tickets for Sweetie and ME. Not sure what to expect except bowls and soup, we headed downtown in order to be there when the doors opened.  Good thing.


One whole convention center banquet hall was full of tables. And there were way more bowls than the Pottery Barn could ever hope to display.  At first I was like a kid in Toys R Us on Black Friday. I wanted one of each.  When my eyes lit on a bowl of my fancy I picked it up, then moved on down the table. At one point I had four bowls in my hands. My plan was to carry them around until I'd seen all the bowls then pick the one I liked best. Halfway down the first table I heard someone say we got one bowl free and could buy others for $10 each. My goodness. I was in bowl heaven.  Unlike my grab and carry technique I noticed Sweetie slowly and systematically (always turning to the right) perusing every table. He picked up one or two for a closer look. Then gently laid them back on the table and continued his search.  Like Goldilocks, he would know it when the bowl that was "just right" appeared.

The neat line around the bowl laden tables quickly turned into a crowd.  Little kids, old men, moms, teachers. Good thing there were more than enough bowls to go around. Plus a table full of "celebrity" bowls - one painted by a circus elephant  - and a silent auction of bowls made by local artists.
My choice. Who can resist a smiley face?
Sweetie picked out a whole set.

Once Sweetie and I had made our picks we sat down at a table for a bowl of chicken noodle soup. What it lacked in size, it made up for in surprisingly good taste. Then, of course, came the program which proved to be a bit of an eyeopener.  For isnstance:

  • Right here in my hometown, 1 out of every 6 people and 1 out of every four children are food "insecure." Which means they don't know where their next meal is coming from. 
  • Every day 34,000+ people in Jacksonville wonder when, where and how they will find food. 
  • By 2015 the Second Harvest Food Bank expects to have given away 40 MILLION pounds of food.  
  • We were reminded that the day care worker who watches our kids, the person who bags our groceries, the grandparents on a fixed income who are often raising their grandchildren, single moms, maybe even our neighbor or church member could be one of the people being served by the food bank. 
  • There is a new face of homelessness - children. School aged children who are expected to learn how to read and write on an empty stomach.  Maybe we don't need more or better schools. Maybe we just need to make sure kids get a good breakfast, lunch and dinner.


The event was, to say the least, a reason to stop and give thanks for our bountiful blessings. Every time I look at my bowl(s) I hope to remember to lift up a prayer for those without.  I encourage you to find out if there is an Empty Bowls Luncheon in your neck of the woods. If there is attend it. If there isn't I'm sure there is a food pantry willing to take your donations. I assure you when you "reach beyond yourself to make life better for others," some of the magic of giving will stay with you.



Merry ME

P.S. It's not to late to donate to a charity of your choice for Super Storm Sandy relieve and get your name in a drawing for the quilt pictured below.  I'm going to select the winner on Thanksgiving day.