Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puzzles

My father was an avid crossword puzzler. Every morning he'd sit at the breakfast table, sip on lukewarm coffee, and fill in little squares with words he'd pull from some ancient dictionary in his brain. There was a time when he complained of being lonely so I'd sit at the table with him. I'd read or write and he'd puzzle. On occasion he'd ask me for the name of a movie star or song title. Mostly I didn't have any idea.

I can't say why or when it happened, but one day I picked the newspaper puzzle to work on. Dueling crosswords, only there wasn't much of a fight! On the days we went to a doctor's appointment or someplace where there would be a long wait, I always took a book to read and a stack of word puzzles.

Dad's handwriting got pretty hard to read the last few years. But that didn't stop him. He told me he didn't like it when I worked on one of his unfinished puzzles because my "e's" weren't legible. (For those who may not have read this yet, I just changed the word "eligible" to legible which is actually the word I meant to use. Damn spellcheck! But it goes to show why I'm not so good a word games.) So I sat in my chair with my puzzle and he'd sit in his. There was seldom any conversation except for asking definitions. My dad really did know a lot of words.

For years his daughters bought him puzzle books for Christmas. The New York Times Sunday puzzles, or the LA Times, or the Washington Post. The last one he used was a Simon & Schuster's Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #3. It had over 300 puzzles in it. I had it with me while waiting at Hospice. I've taken it with me when Sweetie and I traveled. And I've gotten in a routine of sitting at night with some kind of true life detective show on the TV for background noise as I attempt to do in 4 or 5 days what Dad did in one. Last night I finished the last puzzle in the book. Well, actually I didn't finish it. There were definitions I couldn't pronounce, let alone name. I guess in a way of speaking I cut another string that attached me to my father.

Tonight I pulled out another book from his stash that I haven't given away. It has extra large puzzles with really big squares. Big doesn't necessarily equate with any easier. I think Dad liked the books he could tear the pages out as he went along best. I think I have to agree with him on that one. It's puzzling, don't you think, how a year ago I seemed to be focused on our differences. Now I remember fondly our similarities.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
Merry ME

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's in your Hands?

I read something the other day that stuck with me. I continue to go back to it. I wanted to share it here, but I'll be danged if I could remember where I read it. I spent at least an hour going through my history files, checking blogs I follow, re-reading posts then hopping on to others. Finally I gave up and decided I'd just try to put the thought in my own words. Actually, I didn't give up for good because I tried one more place - the trash bin - and voila! there it was. An article I threw away when I should have saved it.

Right after Christmas I signed up for an on-line workshop called Breaking Into Blossom facilitated Paula Josa-Jones. For a variety of reasons, none of them good, I have read the exercises but not followed through with assignments or community conversations. One of my excuses really belongs in the Too Dumb to Count category. See Jones is dance person. She writes about movement, improvisation, rhythm, "opening doors to an unpredictable aliveness in the body," and I just can't go there. It's not that I don't want to, I'm just too stiff.

And being stiff calls to mind my failed attempt at being a dancer. Okay, I was never close to being a dancer, but I did like to put on pink tights, and ballet slippers. For many years my long thin body was something dancers starve themselves to obtain. I took lessons, I plie-d, I arabesqued and I twirled with my arms in a circle over my head. The problem was my two left feet. I've always been a bit on the less than graceful side - some might call me a clutz. I remember well the day my dance instructor lined the class up at one end of a long dance floor and had each of us do circles with our arms opening and closing in tandem with out feet down the length of the room. We were supposed to pick a spot to focus on, so that with each turn our eyes would be straight and we'd not get dizzy. Getting dizzy is not good for dancers, because dizziness usually leads to wobbling and wobbling leads to un-ballet-like falls. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the hang of it. Slowly and sadly I came to the realization that movement was not part of my creative DNA. Maybe that's when I turned to words.

What I'm learning from the Blossom class, however, is that even though creativity comes in all forms, many of the rules are the same. I think movement and improvisation in writing comes when one is willing to stretch. Stretching is what my writing facilitator, Carol, encourages us to do.
Write something ... without censoring. Just get it on paper.
Exercise ... write 1000 words a day.
Be disciplined ... write at the same time every day.
Trust your voice ... everyone has a story to tell. Tell it your way.
Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.
Keep pushing yourself towards the next rung on the ladder.

I've learned when it comes to writing it's hard to sit down and write a story, a magazine article, a poem or a novel without practice. And even if the story is in your soul dying to come out, it is not always easy to open that floodgate. This is where writing prompts come in. Like playing piano scales to warm up your fingers before playing Flight of the Bumble Bee, prompts help limber up your writing muscles.

So, back to the whole point of my story. Here's a prompt from Breaking Into Blossom Lesson #9.
"Right now, close your eyes and bring your hands together. Use your left hand to slowly and carefully explore your right hand. After a few moments, let your hands switch roles , so the right is exploring your left. Let your hands come to rest in your lap.

Now write: 'My hands are holding ...' "

Since I didn't have anything else to write about, or at least I wasn't tapping into it, I tried it.
I closed my eyes. I ran one hand over the other. I could feel the bones, the puffy veins, my rings, my rough nails and dried out palms. I thought of my mother's hands. I thought of holding my Dad's hand. I thought of my fingers encircling a newborn's perfectly shaped pinky. Then I asked myself what am I holding.

My answer was a) love and b) memory. To be honest that's as far as I got. I didn't write any more than that. Yet, the stirrings of my story lie deep in those 2 words - love and memory. I think I just have to be still and let them move me in the direction they want me to go.

Won't you try this exercise? What do you find in your hands?
Merry ME

Paula Josa-Jones, Breaking into Blossom #9, 2/20/12

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Horse Time

I'm stuck.
Not sure why.
Not sure what to do about it.
Ideas for writing/speaking come into my mind early, early in the morning. By the time I'm actually awake, they have retreated into sleep oblivion.
While I flounder, other people's thoughts, cross my path. Perhaps, like tulips under the winter's snow, during this quiet time, I'm being nourished and fortified. In time I will peek out of my hidey hole and blossom.

In her blog post on Feb. 18, Paula Josa-Jones wrote of "horse time". I've never heard of it have you?
"Horse time," writes Jones, "is biologic, sometimes even geologic. It does not have to do with any kind of human time measurement. It has to do with listening and waiting.
I got very good at waiting. One day when I came to work with him, Nelson would not let me anywhere near him. So I sat against the fence for about 2 hours until he finally came close enough to get a treat. I had a lot of time that day to think about taking that personally. A lot of time to feel my impatience and what I assumed was my ineptitude.
The real thing that I have learned from Nelson is that if I listen and wait, he gives me everything. And the lovely thing is that I have also found that to be true about myself. If I listen and wait, then what I want unfolds and offers itself to me. All in good horse time."

I used to be the epitome of patience. I could sit in a doctor's office and breeze thru magazines I wouldn't otherwise get a chance to read. I could wait near the end of the line before boarding an airplane allowing others to go ahead of me. I could chat with other weary shoppers while standing in the non-moving line at the commissary. I waited for apologies that I knew would never come.

I'm not sure what happened to change things. I want my fast food, fast. I tap my foot, sigh deeply and shuffle from one butt cheek to another waiting to be called once my appointment time has passed. I rarely stop to smell the roses, because dammit, I'm on the move. But why? I'm just not sure. Why am I in such a hurry?

Since Suzi has been wearing hobbles on her front legs she has regressed to the time before her expensive training. If she ever thought of me as a leader, it was a momentary lapse of her alpha-ism. Now when we go on a walk, she mosies down the street in her own sweet time. If I dangle a treat in front of her to keep her moving, she'll spit it out. And when she decides she's gone about as far as she feels like going, she plops her butt down and doesn't move. Seriously it's enough to turn me into one of those screaming moms in Walmart when her kids won't move from the toy aisle. Now I wonder, is Suzi just walking in dog time? Should I follow her lead and slow down? Does it really make any difference how fast we get around the circle?

And to leap from dog walking to writing/creating, is there any reason to rush things? If I have a story to tell inside of me, maybe all I need to do is give it time to percolate. But what do I do with my hands in the mean time?

Wishing for you time enough,
Merry ME

http://www.horsedancing.us/blog/2012/02/19/trust/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Public Service Announcement

Two of my favorite people are ladies I've known since they were two years old. Identical twins, I watched them grow up yet rarely could tell them apart! Today they are mothers with children of their own. As we all know raising children is no easy task. But for these friends it is especially difficult. Janie has two sons with Juvenile Diabetes and Jamie has a son with a form of Autism. Like cancer, mental illness, and alcoholism Type I diabetes and Autism are family diseases. Moms, dads, and sisters soon learn that the disease runs the show. Every day is challenge that those of with "normal" kids can't even imagine.

Recently I got an email from Janie with this article: "Things I wish you knew about Type I diabetes. " I'm posting it here for others to read because I think it's really valuable information.

"Things I wish you knew about Type 1 diabetes…"

1. I wish you knew that there really is no controlling blood glucose. Blood glucose is affected by weather, emotions including but not limited to fear, excitement, and worry, illness, growing, hormones, sleep, activity or lackethereof, severe change of schedule, and absorption of insulin. I’m sure there are more but those are the biggies for us. Until I am able to miraculously control each and every one of those variables then I might be able to control my son’s blood glucose numbers. For now I have to be happy with managing those numbers to the best of my ability among the plethora of variables that seemingly conspire against me day in and day out.

2. I wish you knew that things can turn on a dime when dealing with Type 1 diabetes. We can be trucking along with blood glucose numbers in the low 100s (good range) and then Wham! Blammo! out of know where a site pops out somewhere between the last BG check at 1:00pm and the next one at 4:00pm and we can have a blood glucose reading of 495 with 1.1 blood ketones. We go from enjoying our day to emergency triage. Got to get that glucose number DOWN. NOW. Got to get rid of those ketones. NOW. We go from enjoying our day to checking blood glucose and ketones every 15 minutes. Pushing water and insulin like they are one in the same. Ketones are dangerous and deadly and come hell or high water you have to get rid of them. Turn on a dime, life or death, a day in the life…

3. I wish you knew that dealing with Type 1 diabetes is both proactive and reactive. Yes, I am proactive that all my son’s pump settings are in a good place right now, all his other ratios seem to be working and helping to keep his number in range. We eat right. We rest. We exercise. We live our lives to the fullest. Then there is the reactive. I have to decide on a moments notice what to do with a blood glucose reading of 46, or 446. I have to know exactly what to do when his POD starts whistling and giving an error message that there is NO delivery of insulin. I have to react as quickly as if my son’s life depended on it. Oh wait, it does.

4. I wish you knew that when my son is not under my care, the variables are multiplied as to what can negatively affect his blood glucose. An adult or teacher that doesn’t quite “get” his diabetes will cause my son stress and will make it harder for me to pinpoint how to keep his number in range. A cafeteria menu that keeps changing without notice makes me tell my son the wrong carb count for lunch which will either cause his glucose to go sky high or drop like a brick. A cafeteria worker who won’t tell us the alternate lunch until she looks in the freezer each morning which leaves my son scrambling moments before lunch to find out what his carb count is before he sits down to eat so he can at least finish his meal in the 20 minutes the school gives them to eat.

5. I wish you knew that I live in the moment because I absolutely have to. We have high blood glucose reading and low blood glucose readings every single day. See above. A number is just that to me, a number. I have to see it, evaluate it, and move on. We check my son’s sugar over 10 times a day. Could you imagine if I got stuck on every too high or too low blood glucose reading. I’d be stuck somewhere in August of 2007. So when you ask me, “How is your son? His number was high yesterday.” I am not looking at you in a deer in headlights because you are wrong for asking, but because I honestly do not remember or even know about which number you could be talking about. If I chose to dwell on every number of every day I’d be in big trouble. It’s nice to be asked, but in most cases I won’t have an answer other than, “He is fine.” Until there is a cure, “He is fine,” is the way it has to be or we have no where else to go.

If you know someone with either of these diseases, offer to help when/where you can. Consider donating for continued research. As with any chronic disease finding a cure is the goal to help these kids live long, healthy lives.

http://www.jdrf.org

http://www.autism-society.org/

Wishing for you a pogo stick to jump over all your life's hurdles.

Merry ME

* http://type1parents.org/type1demystified/?p=298


P.S. Cutting and pasting really screwed up the font size of this post and I can't figure out how to change it

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Day Before Valentine's Day

It's the day before Valentine's Day - that Hallmark card holiday that started before the Christmas 50% off sale was over. Poets, lovers, and secret pals the world over are putting the final touches on their tributes to the one they love. Moms and dads have combed heart-filled aisles for just the box of school-aged Valentines - nothing provocative, nothing sugary sweet, nothing that will make 4th grade boys throw up or 3rd grade girls start making wedding plans. Let's hear it for Scoobie Doo, Disney Cars, Mickey Mouse and Little Kitty cards. Unless, all those people are procrastinators like me. In that case, they are starting to sweat bullets and make excuses for the delay in their heart-felt wishes.

It's not that I don't feel the love. And it's not that I don't want to share my love with others. I think it's more about not feeling comfortable with making a big deal of love one time a year. I don't believe candy, roses, balloons, stuffed monkeys with battery operated beating hearts and corny sayings have to be relegated to one day. And I certainly don't believe if you make an-over-the-top production out of Valentine's Day, you're off the hook til the next one comes around.

That's pretty much the same sentiment my writing buddy Amy disdcusses on her blog. Since today is cleaning day (she chortled) I'm just going to send you over there to read what she has to say. Check it out and see if you agree with her like I do.

May you be the love this world needs and may the power of that love be reflected back to you.
Merry ME

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Changing Times


As with most things it is probably not a good idea to talk in generalities. That said, I'm going to do it anyway.

My family has always owned a variety of pets - dogs, cats, birds, fish. Seriously what family hasn't? When I was a child my parents divided up the job of pet care. Dad would take whatever animal that needed it to the vet for shots. Female dogs (which we favored) were spayed. I found out in Dad's last days that he had a strong aversion to castrating male dogs. In my memory we only had one, a pedigreed black poodle. He was the stereotypical miniature that you would love to hate. And he never, ever quit peeing in the house. I know, gross. He was my mother's dog, gifted to her on a birthday. Even when everyone else walked a wide berth around the stinky, flea-bitten, pee-er my mom took good care of him, and probably stretched the definition of love to its maximum potential.

If there was a dirty pet job that needed doing, my mother was the female version of Mike Rowe. She was the pet feeder, cleaner upper, litter box emptier, and midwife. You know when I think back on it, my mother was able to handle most household dirty jobs with a degree of efficiency and grace I never mastered. I used to watch as she'd scoop up the remains of day old 9-Lives moist cat food with her fingers. Truly that is the epitome of grossness - actually it's on a par with cleaning up the not-even digested 9-Lives moist cat food puke. Let's face it, fishy smelling moist cat food is not something that should be touched with a nine foot pole, let alone one's fingers.

Back to generalities. In the years since I've had pets veterinarian medicine has come a long way. Vaccines and birth control are the only the basics. Weight management, dental care, heart worm prevention, cancer treatments, orthopedic procedures, chiropractic medicine and holistic massages are now treatments offered to ordinary dogs, not just those who belong to the rich and famous.

Case in point. Last April Sweetie and I "rescued" Suzi Q from the humane society. Because we are senior citizens the adoption (rescue) fee was waived. All we had to provide was a good home, lots of treats, a comfortable bed (times as many as she chewed into Styrofoam egg-crate pieces), exercise, and lots of love - all of which we were ready and willing to do. We didn't especially appreciate her bathroom habits but have given her the benefit of every doubt. We've gone so far as to blame a cat! Recently Suzi started limping. She never acted like she was in a any pain. In fact she would be limping one minute then chasing through the house like Mighty Dog. She seemed to have the most difficulty when getting up from a resting position. I didn't do much about it at first thinking the limp would leave as mysteriously as it arrived.

When this didn't happen I took her to the vet who, after a physical exam which failed to elicit any cries of pain, handed us some pain medication and the dog equivalent of Celebrex. These are great drugs for making a middle-aged dog sleep like an old dog (or her owner) but never made the limp go away. So we went back to the vet. More drugs. Then back to the vet for X-rays which to her regular vet's eye showed nothing out of the norm. We left with a referral to an orthopedic vet. At this point I will add that while Suzi could easily be the canine version of Welcome Wagon lady, and can be easily bribed with a peanut butter treat, she freaks out when she has to walk across a slick floor into a scary room that smells of alcohol, needles and other dogs. In the same way that brightly lit, sterile delivery rooms have morphed into family birthing rooms with dim lights, spa music, and epidural medication used to trick a woman into believing she is not experiencing the worst pain she'll ever endure, the ortho vet's office looked a lot like a lawyer's waiting room. Soft chairs for the human to sit in, an even softer bed for the dog to lie on, an aquarium full of brightly colored fish to take the patient's mind of its pain/fear, and Dog Fancy magazines for the owner to read while trying to convince the patient that nothing bad was going to happen. I think I might have even said, "this is for your own good" to which Suzi, who ignored the dog bed for a tiny space under the chairs in the farthest corner of the room, refused to comment.

Saying goodbye to my beloved Q-dog as she was taken to the examining room felt a lot like asking for one more moment with my son before he was whisked into the operating room to have his adenoids removed. I had the same nervous stomach that screamed, "how can you let them do this?" As Suzi's shoulder, leg, foot were being examined, I read about Heidi Klum's break up with Seal. Finally the veterinarian version of Doogie Howzer came in and showed me a 2nd set of X-rays. Of course, I had no idea what I was looking at, but I nodded my head as he showed me a tiny little light spot up around the top of her shoulder. In a human it could be considered a rotator cuff problem. In a dog it was described as a stretched (as opposed to torn) ligament. Think football player who is not hurt enough to sit on the bench for the rest of the season, but must spend several weeks on the Injured Reserve list, wearing a leg brace and taking it easy when not doing physical therapy.

The vet says this is the kind of injury that will take time to heal. In one month my free dog has racked up enough medical bills to put me in the poor house. But how can I stand by and do nothing while Suzi resembles one of those limping patriots with a white bandage on his head leaning on a stick crutch as he marches home from war to the tune of Yankee Doodle?

What do you think? Does this dog need a treat or what?


I'm not saying I'm opposed to new and improved medical treatments, but I kind of long for the good old days when Gramps could fix anything from a tractor wheel to a Lassie's broken leg.

Merry ME

Monday, February 6, 2012

Catching Up!

I haven't been blogging for awhile. Not sure what that's all about. I was sick for awhile and recently went out of town. Mostly it just didn't seem like I had much to say. Writer's block? Perhaps. Or maybe just taking a break.

Over the weekend, I took a walk down memory lane while spending time with the family for whom I was a nanny for 4 years. I think I've said before, Robert was only a month old when I began taking care of him, last Friday he turned 16. As we said many times over the weekend, where does time go. It was a great delight to sit for hours watching old videos of the little man I remember so clearly. I can't remember much that happened yesterday, but I hadn't forgotten the Robert's chubby little cheeks, the fun he had in the bathtub, his gingham outfits and blue Keds, and the times he splashed in puddles with rubber boots that reached his thighs.


At 16 he was reticent to have his picture taken a hundred times by a crazed woman wanting to capture every moment. He didn't especially want to hang out at the party store picking out decorations. Truth be told, he probably could have cared less about balloons and crepe paper. While he slept the deep afternoon sleep of a teenager, his mom and I played party planners, told and retold past stories and caught up on all the years in between. It felt so very natural to be together, sharing our love for each other and one special man child.



When he was growing up Robert had a toy chest full of plastic weapons any hunter/gatherer would be proud of ... pirate swords, baseball bats, Bowie knives, as well as a wide variety of automatic side arms that made machine gun noises, shot suction tipped darts, popped caps that smelled of gun powder, and little green Army men to make the ensuing carnage more realistic. Even though I've never been a "gunny" (as my Dad was quick to point out) it was I, his peace loving nanny who took him to his first pg rated movie (Zorro) and sat for hours with him as he reran the coconut bomb scenes from Swiss Family Robinson. So why was I surprised to see the grown up version of my charge holding a brand new shotgun? At least his targets are only clay pigeons.


There was much to catch up on. But what I think I may have enjoyed most were the quiet, unexpected moments when I'd feel his hand on my shoulder in a tender touch that said a lot more than words. Before leaving he let me into his inner sanctum where I lay on his bed (which is still covered with the quilt I made him for his 2nd birthday - how's that for lasting power!) next to him trying to get one last picture of the two of us.


I love you I said as I tiptoed out of the room. I love you, too, came the response from somewhere under the covers. Be still my heart!

Wishing for you happy days and good memories,
Merry ME