Saturday, March 31, 2012

OMG! The skies have opened up and rain is pouring down like angels are playing in an overfilled bathtub. It's awesome. Hasn't rained like this in ages. Except for the thunder and lightening I'd be out there dancing.
Suzi doesn't much like it. I might have to make a fort under the dining room table so she will feel safe! Okay, so I can play!

Maybe the day bring you joy,
Merry ME

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Service Project

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul -
and sings the tunes without the words -
and never stops at all"
Emily Dickinson

Le Chat Noir Writers Circle

You know how I said in a previous post how wonderful it feels to do good deeds for others.
Today my writing group tackled the children's library and art room at city's Homeless Shelter. The job turned out to be more cleaning, sorting, arranging and organizing the room than alphabetizing books. My goodness it's amazing what can happen when you get 7 determined women together with cleaning on their minds. When it was all over we were hot, sweaty and hungry, but felt stupendous inside.

There are many things about the Sulzbacher Center that make it an asset for our city. It is a good size, has medical and dental care on site, has libraries, TV's, a few computers, social/living areas and a devoted staff. But, it's still a place where people go when they have lost their home and everything that goes along with that loss. It hurts my heart to think that the number of families in shelters like this is growing. Politicians can make all kinds of promises, economists can make all kinds of predictions, but it doesn't change the fact that whole families are living in cars or cramming themselves into a room the size of a college dorm.

As we were putting some games and books in one of the living areas, a mom, dad and their little girl (around 3) came out to look through the games. Mom who loves word games was excited to see a battered box of Scrabble. My heart leaped for joy when they asked about a "memory" game. My kids and I used to play memory all the time so I purposely bought a couple packs of Sesame Street cards just for that purpose. Something as simple as a card game from the dollar store put a smile on a little girl's face. And you know that made mom and dad smile.

Hope I think is when someone has an idea to make the world a little brighter, no matter what the circumstances. Besides the commraderie and a job well done satisfaction, I carried home with me two reminders of the morning. There in the middle of a dusty spot of ground, with little grass to speak of I saw an older man raking the grass. To be honest there wasn't much to rake. It looked to me like the man just wanted his small piece of land to good, like taking the time to dust the top shelf of your bookcase, or sweep your driveway. Nobody else is ever going to see it, but you know it's clean. And, while it might be a grand assumption on my part, I got the sense that he was saying a prayer of gratitude as he raked. I was especially surprised to see three ice chests, filled with dirt and herbs - basil, rosemary, chives and tomatoes. A salad in the making! I don't know who planted the garden, or who tends it or who will delight in it's bounty, but I love the idea that a person who had maybe lost everything (s)he ever had, believed enough in the future to stick a few plants in the dirt and encourage them to grow. It's the very essence of hope, don't you think? Like spending the afternoon playing memory games with your toddler, it's just another way of saying, "Bloom Where You Are Planted. "

Wishing for you a place to always call your own,
Merry ME

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mother Nature is driving me crazy

I swear, will these blasted (as in blasted from the fires of hell) hot flashes ever go away?
I'm 60 years old for goodness sake. I take all kinds of supplements to keep my pipes and organs running smoothly. Seriously, I know my body is low on estrogen. But do I need to be reminded about 50 times a day?

Weneki told me a few weeks ago that she needed me to tell her all about the wonders of (peri)menopause so she'll be clued in as to what to expect. A little bit of drama runs in our family so she doesn't want to have a hot flash sneak up on her when she's not expecting it and take herself to the ER thinking she has a fever with no other symptoms which could possibly be the onset of a very dread disease. I hate to tell her the first lesson she needs to learn is they always seem to come when you are not expecting them. I mean if you could expect them, and prepare for them, you would know to strip down to your underwear before they attacked. I did mention drama, didn't I?

So I sent her Gail Sheehy's book, Silent Passage, and she is studying it like there might be a test. Honey, I want to tell her, life is the test! But I'm too busy taking my clothes off and putting them back on, or pulling up the covers when I go to bed, only to kick them off when the steam rises. Or standing under a cold shower, which I have to say is the exact opposite of the kind of showers I really like to take. Grrrrrrrrrr.

Okay, I think I've cooled off. Thanks for listening.
Merry ME

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Back Rub

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile,
a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
Leo F. Buscaglia

My friend Po wrote a post about a man who helped a sparrow who had flown into the warehouse where he worked.

"The man gently cupped his hands around the bird, carried it to safety and released it to the sky. ”Oh! How that felt! Great!” he said."

A dear friend has been in the hospital for a couple of weeks. She was diagnosed with lung cancer. This lady has been going to our church longer than my family - give or take 50 years. She is coming up on 95 years old. She was a good friend of my parents. On Wednesday last week, I visited her in the hospital. She didn't look sick at all. She gave me her big Shirley smile. As I held her hand she told me she's not afraid to die, but she is afraid of being in pain. So many times my father said the same thing.

When I asked if there was anything she wanted or needed me to do, she commented how dry her skin is and she'd love some cream rubbed on them. There wasn't any cream around, so today when I went to visit, I took some. As our priest friend prepared to give her communion I proceeded to rub her hands, arms and then her back. I was reminded of the ministry of touch. It's not like I gave her a full-on massage or anything. But the act of rubbing her back was as much a gift for me, as it was for her. Like the man who freed the sparrow, I have to say, "Oh! How that felt! Great!"

I held back my tears until I left her room.

My priest friend told me as we left that I am a "natural." And you know what ... I am. I don't know why but I do have a deep compassion for people who are sick - especially old people who are often left in the hospital by themselves. Is that what people mean when they say they are "called"?

I remember how tired I got as my Dad neared the end of his life. It was hard to feel "called" or compassionate 24/7. My Dad didn't often like to have "greasy" stuff rubbed into his skin. I know how tired my friend's family is getting. She had an accident about a year ago and her son has been with her ever since. I know, even with hospice care, the road ahead will not be easy for them. I'm just selfish enough to hope they'll call me to spell them for an hour or two.
I won't be able to change the direction of her life, but I just might be able to make her a little more comfortable. This is a good thing.

Wishing good things for you,
Merry ME

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Day After

Is there such a thing as a joy hangover?
On the days when I've been really sad and spent time crying and hiding, I expect to feel kind of like the living dead the next day.
And I understand if you have a hootin' and hollerin' party where you danced on the table all night, they you'd probably be tired the next day. Thank goodness my dancing on the table days are behind me.

Today, I've felt a little sluggish. Not in a sad or depressed way. Not in a tired muscle way. Maybe in a butterfly who peeped out of the cocoon and decided she wasn't quite ready for world of opportunity that awaited her. Like telling your alarm to let-me-have-an-hour-more-sleep and hoping the snooze button is broken.

Maybe that's what happens when you turn 60. Your body says, okay fun is fun but let's not push it! And maybe it's because a body isn't meant to stay on a "high" forever. And no matter how you slice it, coming down can be tiring.

So, today, I rest in gratitude. I smile at the joy I still feel. And I put my feet up for a quick snooze before dinner.

Wishing you a moment of rest to take in the beauty of your world.
Merry ME

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday to ME!

You know that saying about having grandkids first because they are so much fun. Well I'm thinking I should have had a 60th birthday a few years ago. This has been a quiet day but so filled with joy and love and surprises that I couldn't ever had asked for more. All day long I've realized how blessed I am. I shouldn't need a birthday to remind me of that but it sure helped! And really every day should be filled with this kind of love. Would we lose appreciation for it then? I guess learning to live every day in gratitude takes some practice.

To everyone of you who celebrated me today I'm honored and grateful. To everyone of you who shares a part of you with me I'm honored and grateful. To those of you who teach me how to be a better person - to love more, trust more, give more - I appreciate every lesson.

To the Divine One who had the ingenious idea to make babies which sort of began the whole birthday thing, I bow down in humble adoration. On that note, I would like to welcome Miss Lucy Amber Schmidt, 3rd granddaughter of my writing coach/friend Carol O'Dell, who was born this morning. It's a pleasure to share this day with her. May she grow in strength, wisdom, joy and beauty. May she follow in the footsteps of her grandmother who can't wait to start telling her stories. Many, many blessing, Little One.

Off to indulge in one more birthday pleasure - a hot, lavender-scented shower before I crawl into my cozy, comfy bed.

Goodnight and thanks again,
Merry ME

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Here I sit on the eve of my 60th birthday, wondering why this decade feels like it lasted 100 years instead of just 10. I have a favorite picture taken when I turned 50. My mom, my daughter and me are standing in the living room looking not just happy, but birthday happy. There was some tough stuff going on with my daughter then, and my mother would only live for a few more months. But there we are smiling from deep down inside.

I made a pretty big deal out of turning 50. I threw myself a party and let Little ME be the center of attention. It was a grand time. Tomorrow will be a much quieter turn of the calendar page. I don't know why, just not feeling the whole party thing. That is not to say that I'm not digging a day of celebrating Merry Me. If you feel like singing happy birthday or raising a glass in my honor then please do. If you feel like sleeping in late or eating a piece of cake as part of my celebration, I say go for it. But what I'd really like is for you to smile at a stranger, leave an extra dollar in a tip jar, put a pretty flower on your desk, jump for joy, say a prayer for peace, dance a little, take a bubble bath, read a book, write a note to someone just to say hi, call your mother, or sister, or daughter, or someone you love more than life itself and tell them that, hold a baby, pet a cat, take a walk with a dog, see if you can still skip, have some ice cream, listen to some birds, take a photograph, stick your toes in the ocean, look for fairies, have a Coke, get a facial, polish your nails with a sparly shade of purple, color, talk to a child, and when the day is almost over go outside, look up and make a wish on the first star you see. Because, I think believe we are all connected in a way I can't begin to fathom, I also believe if you do any or all of these things for yourself or others, I will be blessed and know that I am celebrated.

It feels weird to have a birthday without having parents to share it with. My Dad used to shake his head at me as if I were a goof ball when I got all excited about a birthday - like after a certain age, say 6, one shouldn't need to draw attention to herself. But I remember 2 things that helped me keep on celebrating. One, was how excited Dad's mother, my grandmother, would get on her birthday. She lived to be 96 and I dare say she enjoyed her birthdays right up until she just couldn't enjoy anything anymore because of the pain she lived with. And the 2nd is that no matter how much my dad poopooed my childlike antics he got a kick out of them. I could tell by the way he smiled when he thought I wasn't looking. We had a lot of differences, my dad and I. But our hearts often spoke to each other in words neither of us could say.

I'm not done missing my parents. I wish they were here to see me blow out the candles on my cake. Since that isn't going to happen, I think I'll take some of my own advice and do a few things on that list above. Each time sending my eyes heavenward and giving thanks to the two who gave me life and the One that created the goofy, loving, worth celebrating girl I am.

May all your wishes come true,
Merry ME

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scratchin' my Head

The purple sign on the stack of Coke products said 6 for $10.
(The small print which I didn't read until later said a $10.00 Walgreens rewards coupon would be given at the register.)
I picked up 4 regular Coke 12-packs and 2 Caffeine-free Coke.
(I didn't realize til I got home that it was not Caffeine-free DIET coke. Damn!)
Upon checking out I put one 12-pak each on the counter. I was told the price was 3 for $10 and needed to be bought in separate transactions. Huh? I complied even though I was beginning to be very confused and feel a wee bit on the ditzy side.

After making my purchases I went back to the original sign. Okay, so I didn't read the small print, but still 6 for $10 is NOT 3 for $10 twice.
I showed the sign to the cashier who may have been an assistant manager. Oh, its the same thing he told me. Feeling undone, I said okay and left the store. But the whole way home, I was trying to do the math. I passed College Algebra but me driving and doing math at the same time could be on the same par as driving under the influence or texting while driving ... dangerous.

When I got home (and discovered the Diet Coke mistake which really ticked me off) I asked Sweetie to help me. 3 for $10 + 3 for $10 = 6 for $20, minus the coupon = 6 for $10. Okay, I said. I get it.

2 hours later, I was still calculating. Finally I got it. I NEVER received the coupon so in essence I got the 3 for $10 newspaper ad price, not the in store ad price. Grrrr.
After dinner I decided to exchange the 2 caffeine - frees for CF diet. Suzi hopped in the car with me and off we went receipt in hand.

CF diet coke is no longer stocked at this store. But as it happened the same man was at the cash register. Don't you think you owe me a $10 reward coupon? I've got my receipt.

Do you have the other 12-paks with you?
Well no. I only brought these two. But I've got my receipt ( repeating myself), can't you do it with that?
No, they have to be rung up together. Huh?

You know you got me on this one, right?
The man was clearly tired of quibbling with me over Coke. What could he do but shrug his shoulders? Well he could have given me a reward coupon, but that wasn't gonna happen.

Oh well, at least I know I'm not crazy. Frustrated but not crazy.
Merry ME

Feeling Grateful for my Blog Friends

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and
not giving it."
William Arthur Ward

Thanks to all of you, my blog friends and followers, who have have commented on my recent whiney pants posts about writing or, more to the point, not writing. Seriously, you guys pump me up. You give great advice for which I am most grateful, not to mention impressed. Even if I never have my life story published and made into a movie where Meryl Streep plays me I have the pleasure of writing right here. I gotta say that's pretty awesome.

Bless your hearts,
Merry ME

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Minor Aha!

Last fall I dug up a lily bed in the front yard that Dad planted eons ago. To tell the truth it was his pride and joy. I didn't mean to dig it up. I was just going to thin it out. As it happened the bulbs were so overgrown I had little underground bulb villages all huddled together. The only way to separate them out was to just keep digging. I gave a lot of bulbs away and transplanted that many more. The circle in the middle of the yard, however, stayed empty, because it seemed to me it would be easier to plant some grass so the yard guy could mow straight lines instead of circles. All winter I looked at the empty patch and told myself come Spring I'd tend to it properly.

My excuses for not doing so because it was winter, or cold, or rainy went for nought. We've had a very mild and quite pleasant winter. Much better weather to dig in the dirt than the 90+ degree temperatures of summer which are right around the corner.

I hopped out of bed this morning with the clear intention of digging up border grass around the circle and making it ready for grass. I grabbed a donut, Sweetie's work gloves, a shovel and some garbage bags. I tied Suze up so she could supervise and started to work. I pushed the shovel down in what I thought would be soft, supple ground. Not! If shovels could bounce, it would have. Kind of like in the cartoons - boingggggg! I think my back did the same thing.

Hmmm, this might be a little harder than I expected. And so it went. I'd dig, or try to, and dig some more. I made very little progress. You think the circle is pretty big don't you. Well, in actuality it's only about 6 feet in diameter. Seriously, could it be that difficult? My digging technique turned out to be a bit like the final stages of labor - when you're pushing so hard you think you're going to pop. I took a deep breath, slammed the shovel down into hard-packed dirt and root structure with everything I had in me. Then dropped to my butt to catch my breath before starting again.

All I can say, is thank God for Sweetie. He has a bad back and is not any more inclined toward hard labor than I am. But out he came to help. He took my shovel as if it were a child's plastic beach scoop and loosened those grass clumps right up. Biff! Bam! Boom! He did this with an audience of Suzy, my neighbor, and myself.

My hero! I said.
It's about time! said the cartoon balloon over my neighbor's head.
Here let me help! said Suzi as she positioned herself in the freshly dug up hole.

What I often forget about manual labor is how creative it makes me. Maybe the way to end my self-doubt (and dare I say lose a few pounds?) is to work in the yard for an hour a day then come in to write.

But here's the aha moment. You thought I forgot didn't you?
The next step in the job I started this morning is to put down some grass so the yard no longer has an empty whole in it. My idea would be to kind of rake it over, smooth it out, buy some sod and flop it down. Finish it off with a sprinkle of fertilizer and water and voila, it's done. Biff! Bam! Boom!

Alas, Sweetie tells me there is a process involved. He waxed poetic about leveling off the ground, spraying weed killer, laying sod ..... blah, blah, blah. And that's when it hit me, my style, my natural way of doing things be it making a quilt, baking a cake, buying a dress or writing a book is to just do it. Unlike the great planners of the world - my father, my sister, my Sweetie - I rarely spend much time in the planning stage of life. Maybe my quilt points are not always perfectly aligned, but the colors blend in a way that is pleasant to the eye. (And if Robert's airplane quilt that I made 15 years ago is any indication, they have lasting power.) Cake mixes were created for people like me, dresses can be returned if they look like crap in the privacy of my own room. Making a plan, then working the plan seems to go against my very by-the-seat-of-my-pants nature. If I had been Columbus I probably would have set out for the new world by throwing the map into the sea, then followed where the wind blew.

Except ....
I've been around planners all my life. I know they are important. And because detailed plans and schematics derail my natural creativity, I often freeze if I'm going to venture into uncharted territory. That thing I just said about Columbus really isn't true. I would have stood frozen on the dock, unable to make a decision or take a first step.

When I get busy, I can really put my back (soul) into what I'm doing, so I don't think I'm lazy. I'm smart enough to be able to make a plan (set a goal), so what holds me back? What is that fear about and where does it come from? I'm not sure.

I looked at those plants I was digging up this morning and remembered when I planted them a few years ago. They were small, innocent looking things. I gave no thought to the root-bound buggers they would become. I just dug a hole and plopped them in. Maybe that's how I should tend to my writing. Perhaps I should take my ideas, plop them down on paper and let them take on a life of their own. Getting bogged down in the minutia of outlines, query letters, choosing a publisher, answering fan mail and wondering what to wear when Oprah comes out of retirement to interview me really doesn't work in my favor. Seriously, for about a minute that's where my mind goes, right to a place of grandiosity. My job, as a writer is to get the words out of my head, and give them permission to go where they will, even if they never leave the safety of my own computer.

I hope that doesn't sound like I don't believe in studying the art of writing, or listening to critiques, or paying attention to the ever-evolving rules of grammar or getting rid of my proclivity for "ly" words. I don't mean that at all. Because all those things can only make me better at my craft. Like pruning the plants before they become something out of Little Shop of Horrors, a story needs to be nurtured after it takes root.

Later that same day:
One more aha.
My father was an engineer. He was a left-brained thinker. He was creative, but in a more detail-oriented way. I think I've always been the exact opposite of that. As a child I looked for my father's approval, but Little ME felt like she always came up lacking because I didn't do things his way. Yeh sure, maybe he contributed to that insecurity a little. Mainly it was me trying to be something I wasn't. In my little girl's way of thinking being different made me feel less than not special.

Today as I dug in the dirt and thought about things, I figured all that out. In a week I'm going to be 60 years old. Maybe it's time to embrace my right-brained, willy-nilly way of doing things. It's neither right or wrong. Better or worse. It's my way and that's okay!

Thanks for listening. I think I hear a shovel calling my name.
Merry ME

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Writing and Self-Doubt

"And by the way, everything in life is writable
about if you have the outgoing guts to do it,
and imagination to improvise.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
Sylvia Plath

I think this is the 4th year I've been meeting with my Black Cat writing buds. You'd think I would have a lot to show for it, but my list of written stories is not very long. Since I was writing in between chores with Dad, I did a lot of my storytelling here on this blog.

Wanting to spur us into action and have us stretch our writing muscles our facilitator, Carol O'Dell, has been urging us to submit our work for publication. A couple weeks ago some of us spent most of one whole day searching the Internet for places to send our work. Since them I've been trying to match up my stories with e-zine, magazine, and anthology publishers that are looking for creative non-fiction pieces. What Carol made look pretty easy, I found frustrating. One piece had too many words. Another had too few. Dagnabbit! Eventually I managed to fire off three submissions.

When I've submitted before I didn't get rejected, in fact I got nothing. But within a week I had my first rejection letter. I admit one of the reasons I'm shy about submitting is I don't handle rejection very well. Does anyone? Fortunately this one didn't sting too bad:

"Thank you for a most interesting article ... and this is more of an essay."
At least I know my article was interesting. That's worth a 45 cent stamp.

Fast forward a week. I'm back at Panera's sitting with the Chat ladies. I'd turned in a story for critique. As nervous as I get about people reading my work, I've learned to trust this group of friends with my stories. It's kind of like leaving your children with a beloved sitter. You know they will be well cared for. All of a sudden all eyes were on me. The critique turned into a pep talk, a you've-got-a-book-here kind of pep talk.

What? A book? Me? Ha!!!
But wait a minute, didn't I just say I trust these ladies? Is it possible they're on to something?
A book? Me?

I hurried home to share this bit of information with my Sweetie. He took his nose out of the book he was reading, looked me in the eye and agreed with everything that had been said. Get up in the morning, he told me, and start writing. Which, of course, is all it took to stop all creative ideas. Sort of. I may not have been putting words on paper, but in the hours between 2 and 4 a.m., my brain was awhir with ideas. Ideas and self-doubt. Two days later I felt paralyzed. Writing anything was out of the question. My writing career was fizzling before it even got started. And I could almost watch as it happened. My scaredy cat inner child said "yeh but" to every possibility.

So where did the fear come from? What old tapes were playing? Is my self-doubt just a bad habit? I'm not too sure of the answers to these questions but I know I've got to feel the fear and do it anyway. Keep writing that is.

A book? Me? Maybe so? Who knows? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

What do you do when self-doubt keeps you from reaching for your dreams?
Merry ME

Monday, March 5, 2012

Holding Grace (Pictures added)

Gracie and G-Pa

Can't a girl have some privacy?

Say Cheese!

For two hours tonight I helt Baby Grace in my arms. She snoozed some. Cooed some. And sang a lovely song.

As we rocked, I could feel all my cares slip away.
Sweetie, I said, this must be what heaven is like.

I think I'm in love.
Merry Me