Monday, July 30, 2012

The more things change ...

... the more they stay the same.

Since I've been concentrating on giving my inner writer a voice, my inner quilter has had to take a back seat in my creative life. That artist persona put her foot down last week and has been sewing and cutting and piecing around the clock.  I'd forgotten how fun it is to see something take shape right in front of your eyes.

A lot has happened since my last quilting frenzy.

  • I used to sew on the dining room table, where my mother taught me how to sew when I was 13 years old.
  • My mom used to walk up behind me and watch, quiet as a mouse. When I'd crawl around on the floor positioning squares, she'd stand in the doorway and nod her head yes or no.  
  • Dad would also make his opinion known. 
  • My habit when I finished piecing the top, and again when the quilt was finished, washed and ready to go to the person it was made for, was to spread it out on top of Mom and Dad's king sized bed and take a picture. Like my parent's the table and the bed are no longer here.
But some things are still the same. 
  • Sewing is messy business. Or maybe I'm just a messy seamstress. It's hard to imagine the floor of a quilt workroom that isn't covered in thread snippets and fabric scraps.  Good thing Sweetie has the garage looking like a bomb exploded in it. If not he might be complaining about the mess.  He likes to think one is supposed to be able to see the top of a table.  How crazy is that?
  • I believe it is a law of nature that cats and quilts go together.  Put a nice cozy cat bed and a nice cozy human quilt in the same room, the cat will pick the quilt every time for an afternoon nap. I believe every quilt I've ever made has been christened with cat hair. 


Today I'm grateful for fun creative times and black kitty cats.

Wishing for you times when you inner people can come out to play,
Merry ME

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What do you get .....

"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."
Pablo Picasso



... when you take pieces of perfectly good fabric ....



... cut them up into little pieces ...



.... then sew them back together in a completely different pattern?



The beginnings of a quilt, and the joyful feeling of creating. 


Today I'm grateful for forward movement. Delayed, yes. But movement, nonetheless. I'm grateful for chocolate milkshakes that hit the spot and a swimming pool on a hot day.

Wishing for you cool things that make you smile,
Merry ME

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Comic Relief

I've been feeling a little down lately. A week after being home from our impromptu vacation, I'm ready to go back to the mountains. I watched the red-headed, black-hearted joker sit through court proceedings yesterday and felt both sad and sick. I look at my Sweetie whose living with a discordant gut (to put it delicately) and wish I could wish away his distress. I saw a man holding a cardboard sign by the side of the road and caught myself feeling disarmingly cynical rather compassionate.

It's time, I think,  for some comic relief. The kind that pets can provide.  Those furry creatures who somehow bring us joy even when they are knocking a bowl off the shelf they aren't even supposed to be on. Boy Cat did that last night, his way of getting my attention. This time it was not an empty food dish, but a jar full of lavender.  The cat was gone before the jar even hit the floor, but the smell of lavender still lingers next to my chair. There are some things one should never sweep under the rug - lavender is one of them.

Here are some pictures that make me smile even when the world says "everything is crazy so you better crawl under the covers and stay there."

 Yesterday, Suzi laid in the middle of the floor, on her back, feet up, ears splayed out, teeth shining like she just came home from the dentist. When I grabbed the camera she knew to wait til I was ready, then, as if on cue, gave me her best, "Cheese" smile.


My blog friend, Wholly Jeanne , posted a picture of her grandcat, Adonis, the other day. It's one of the first things I see when I turn my computer on in the morning. So far it has not failed to make me smile. Sadly the day after this picture was posted, Adonis took ill. It may have been a physical ailment, but something tells me he may have been having an identity crisis.


And then there's Maizey. She can still be a bit of a terror, but has calmed down considerably since Johnson brought her into our home.  Because of the summer heat, Maizey has been left behind when John goes to work.  It's "Grammy's" job to check on her throughout the day, and throw a few balls.  A couple weeks ago she discovered she could swim. On her first jump into the deep end she had to be helped to the side. Now she knows to "go bye-bye" which means swim to the stairs, with one or two balls in her mouth. Every since John was little he's had this thing for animals. It still warms my heart when I see the boy and his dog.

Today I'm grateful for the reminder that all is not dark, that some of the greatest gifts the Divine has given humans are furry, four-legged creatures. May we all be lucky enough to share their company.

Merry ME

Monday, July 23, 2012

RIP Sally Ride

Nasa Photo, 1983



When I was growing up I pretty much figured my lot as a woman was cast. I'd get married and have babies. I didn't question it. There was nothing else I wanted to do. In 1970, at the age of 18, I put that plan into action. I got married. Had my first baby a year later. A girl. While I have never been what you might call a feminist, I certainly appreciate the work that other women did to open doors I didn't choose to walk through.

My daughter, Weneki, was 12 years old when Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space. I tried to instill in her she could be or do anything she set her mind to. Her gender wasn't an issue. I can't tell you if Weneki had specific role models. She was, however, full of ambition and drive from a very early age. She pushed to be her best in everything she did - from school, to sports, to her job, to caregiving, to relationships, to making CD's and doing the happy dance. She still does.

President Obama called Sally Ride, "a powerful role model" who "inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars." I say she was one tough cookie. 

My Weneki's achievements haven't taken her into space, but they have inspired and encouraged her mom and others.  She's a tough cookie full of chocolate chips.

One Tough Mudder
Today I'm grateful for the women who came before me, who taught me things and took chances I wouldn't dream of, who took me by the hand and said "you can," every time I said "I can't." And I'm grateful for the women who came after me - daughters, nieces and granddaughters - who continue to show me the sky is the limit.
Merry ME

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Two Cents

After 9/11 I found I couldn't look at the repeated news broadcasts. I still close my eyes when the reruns of the towers falling in on themselves are shown. I was reminded of the same thing when I turned on the TV this morning and every station had the same cellphone video of the movie theater shootings playing over and over and over. Then when I turned on the computer there was the guy's face plastered on the Yahoo news page. While today's shooter doesn't look quite as sinister as Mohammad Atta, there is still evil behind those eyes, that the smirky smile cannot hide.

I have a hard time with evil. Well, duh. Who doesn't?

What I mean is I have such a strong conviction that each and every person created has been kissed by the Divine.  It may be an article of my faith, but I can't buy into the fact that we are born sinners. I think we are born in the image of God and given half a chance can live into the love that is our Divine birthright.

Where does evil come from? Nurture or Nature? Can it be in our DNA? Child abuse? Neglect? Too much? Too little?Acid rain? Flouride in our drinking water? Tectonic plate movement? UFOs? Too much coffee? Not enough carbohydrates?  What is that makes someone do the things that can only be described as evil? And how can those, who believe love is the answer to just about any question, combat such wickedness when we can't even fathom the degree of its horror?

My Sweetie reclines in the chair next to me. Suzi is asleep on thehttp://thebarefootheart.com/ floor. From where I sit, I can look out a window and see a slight breeze blowing the orange and yellow flowers of the butterfly bush. I can see red birds and blue jays sharing the feeder. The sun, that comes up every day to remind us that life, no matter how horrific, will go on, is shining its light on freshly mown grass. But I don't want to step foot outside.  My home feels like the only safe place in the world right now.  Until I remember the roof needs to be replaced.

How do the mothers and fathers and children of those killed in every part of the world today continue to believe in the sun and the moon and the stars? How many times will the mother who sees her son's picture on the news ask herself why? How will people live through horror?  Is forgiveness really possible? Too many rhetorical questions, and not even one answer.

I wish for you, pray for you, that wherever you are you will know peace. That the mighty armour of the God of your understanding will protect you.

Today I am grateful for my faith that tells me, even if I don't understand it, that in the midst of unthinkable darkness Light will shine,
Merry ME

P.S. There will be many bloggers as well as TV news commentators who will adding their 2 cents to this discussion. Many will be better written than mine.  Here is one from that says what I wish I knew how:http://thebarefootheart.com/

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just in Case

I did something today I shouldn't have done. And now instead of keeping it a secret, I'll go ahead and blog about it. Sort of a "2 wrongs don't make a right thing."

I had a doctor's appointment that took all of 10 minutes. The rather large and ugly cyst that was going to be removed by a plastic surgeon disappeared. Not much for the doctor to do but tell me to keep my dirty, oily hands of it. Oily? Gross.

Basically, I was up, dressed, and out with time on my hands. So I headed for the book store. Since I have a stack of books by my bed, there is no reason under the sun to buy any more. Besides that my Sweetie seems to have a thing going on with Marion the Librarian because he is either checking out or returning something four or five times a week.  I made a split second decision to turn in the direction of  the fabric store instead, which is just as unnecessary and maybe more detrimental to my pocketbook. At least when I buy a new book, I read it. Fabric I buy and stick on the shelf for "some day."

There are times I have surprisingly strong "go without" will power. There are times when I have none.  Let's face it, I should not be allowed to go into a fabric store. And if I am allowed I should sound some kind of alarm if I don't have my coupons with me. At home, I look through the sale flyers and toss the coupons in the trash. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Even if I'm never going to use them, I should have a special box in my car where I keep them, just in case. Like a spare tire for a flat, or candy bars in case I'm stranded somewhere for days and need some kind of sustenance to keep me alive until help arrives.

I did have a legitimate reason to go in, one thing in mind to check out, which I did and decided against. I was just about home free when the skies opened up. Thunder and lightening seemed to be telling me to stay inside where it was dry. My mistake. I should have taken my chances running between lightening bolts. I walked up and down the aisles of cotton fabrics and quilt books. For me, going to a fabric store is like a chronic gambler going to Las Vegas. I get all tingly inside. I've even been known to touch the fabric as if it were the Crown jewels or a baby's toes. See how dangerous it was for me to go in there.

My confession is that yes, I did buy some fabric. It has birds on it. And then, I needed some fabric to go with it. A little turquoise, a little orange, a little green. And then, after I was all finished, ready to head for the checkout aisle, I passed the Christmas fabric.  I had ignored it on principle first time around. It's too early to even be thinking about Christmas.  I told myself I'd just look. Well, you know what happened. But that yard wasn't for me. It is my annual gift to my sister, the Stocking Angel.  Don't tell her husband, because I'm pretty sure he thinks she's got enough Christmas fabric to make stockings for all Santa's elves.

The good news is I must have walked about 1/2 mile. Three times around the cottons, once around the whole store looking for the bathroom, then one more time around trying to find something that didn't exist. Exercise is good, right?

Today I'm grateful I'm not an alcoholic, cause then I'd really be in trouble. And I'm grateful for my blog friend, Akasa who always make me smile. And I'm grateful I didn't have to have my cleavage operated on.

Wishing for you controllable desires,
Merry ME

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lessons Learned

I believe my blog posts about our trip are longer than the trip itself. Can't believe it's been a week since we began our assent into the Smoky Mountains. I'm sure the beauty of the mountains speaks to everyone who travels through the peaks and valleys. I can't explain it, but more than the beauty awaits me. When I'm there, it is as if I've come home, on a cellular level. My daddy's people settled in  the mountains for at least two generations. Look in the phone book and you're bound to find more than a few Webbs, though I don't know how closely related we all are. I may not ever live there but it is a place welcomes me home whenever I visit.

Sweetie, ME and Suzi at Bald River Falls


Here are a 30 things I learned on this trip:

  1. Talk to Sweetie before he makes reservations.
  2. There is a Dollar General or Family Dollar store in almost every small community along Hwy 411. In the bigger towns you'll find a Subway.
  3. If you are a Baptist, you don't have to look far for a church. 
  4. In the middle of downtown Atlanta, with one of the busiest Interstate Hwy systems around, there are wonderful little neighborhoods that make you feel like you're in the country, where deer and and antelope roam. Okay, no antelope but there are deer. Deer in Atlanta? How can that be?
  5. The money we spent to fix the Lincoln's "ball joints" was money well spent - the car is a great traveling car - especially when Sweetie is driving. (Note to self: Consider having your ball joints fixed.)
  6. If you don't update the maps in your GPS the lady who lives in there gets all confused when you ask her to find streets or towns with Indian names.
  7. You never know where you'll meet someone you are pretty sure is an angel put in your life for a reason, even if you don't know the reason.
  8. We can put Super octane gas in the car and it won't blow up. (It was that or nothing and we were well past empty.)
  9. When asked for help on a crossword puzzle, Sweetie will always respond with "how many letters" like he has several answers right on the tip of his tongue and all he has to do is pick the one with the right number of letters. 
  10. When asked for help on a crossword puzzle, Sweetie will often respond, after finding out how many letters are needed, "I don't know."
  11. The Smoky Mountains are in the neighborhood of 250 million years old.
  12. There is no "e" in Smoky, although I've spelled it both ways for days.
  13. My sister, Jean, is a veritable font of mountain trivia. She could easily be a tour guide.
  14. Motorcycle clubs flourish in the Smoky Mountains.
  15. Suzi can sleep just about anywhere, but she's quite particular where she pees and poos. I, on the other hand, can pee just about anywhere. (Sorry if that's TMI)
  16. Sending postcards to friends and family should be required of all travelers. Receiving postcards is just about as fun.
  17. Living in gratitude really does make you feel better.
  18. Sweetie likes speed, while I'm more of a slow poke.
  19. There aren't many radio stations you can tune into while driving in the mountains.
  20. There are Amish communities in Tennessee.
  21. Buck Bald is the 40140th highest peak in the United State. It's bald because all the trees were cut down during a crazy period of felling trees for the lumber industry. 
  22. When I was a kid and our family was on vacation and we checked into a motel, going to the pool was the best part of the day. Now that I'm mature and sitting on the bed next to my Sweetie both of us with our noses in our laptops, I wonder what's wrong with the picture?
  23. Saying goodbye is never easy. It just isn't. 
  24. Sunflowers make me smile. Queen Anne's Lace makes me sigh.
  25. When you haven't eaten potato chips for a month and then you have some. You can't stop eating them until the bag is empty.
  26. I should have bought those two hand-lathed Sassafras bowls. I can't stop thinking about them.
  27. Talking to strangers is okay if you kind of know them already from your blog.
  28. There is an odd kind of beauty in rusted out farm equipment and falling down barns.
  29. Arriving home is the best part of any trip.
  30. If you listen really close to - bumble bees, water falls, rustling leaves, an old woman's laugh, a horse's snort, abandoned homes, creek waters cascading over rocks, puffy white clouds, sudden rain showers, an old man's memories, your true love's prayers, your sister's wisdom, your heart when it says I am blessed - you will hear the voice of God.

Today I'm grateful for lessons learned.

Wishing for you a life filled new roads to travel and old places to return to,
Merry ME

Friday, July 13, 2012


I don't think there's anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. 
For me that's because of the reason behind its name. 
Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. 
During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. 
A satellite dish for sunshine. 
Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. 
And that's such an admirable thing. 
And such a lesson in life."
~ Calendar Girls 2003 Movie





After saying goodbye to my sister, Sweetie, Suzi and I hopped back in the car and headed south. We drove the on the same road, but it looked different somehow. I wonder what it is that makes going towards home so different from going from home? With one there is excitement to get where you're going. A sense of adventure and desire, perhaps, to see new things (or connect with old friends and places). With the other there is time spent pondering the things you saw and did mixed with the growing readiness to be home. To sleep in your own bed, shower in your own bathroom, read accumulated mail and settle back into your regular routine. It's weird how the same routine that felt like drudgery before the trip makes me feel homey and settled in.  That circle of going someplace and coming home again, is a little like the sunflower field that prompted this vacationin the first place.  I was coasting downhill into a depressive state. I could feel it slowly beginning to take over. Like clouds covering the sun, life had taken on a gray haze. I had a hole in my heart where Gracie had resided for a week. Johnson informed me the house was in need of some major repairs. I faced the daunting task of finding employment and didn't know where to start.  Staying in bed for long stretches felt like my best option.

Room for Two.
And then, kind of like magic, maybe more a chance bubbling up of forgotten dreams, I remembered The Sunflower Festival, in Rutledge Georgia, usually takes place in July. I googled it, asked Sweetie if he wanted to go, he said "sure" and off we went. Like the sunflowers themselves, our trip seemed to follow the light. 

It made much more sense to go to Tennessee first because I knew I was going to cut sunflowers. I love the way that being in the mountains helped to revive my sagging spirit and brush the haze away from my eyes.  It was an even better antidote for my depression than Prozac. No wonder my sister feels so good wandering in the hills and streams. 


Along the back Georgia roads we'd passed corn fields, tobacco fields, some fields thickly covered with a plant I suspected was cotton. We passed signs advertising fresh grown peaches, watermelon and tomatoes. And then (after getting a little bit lost because apparently the GPS lady never heard of Keencheefoonee Rd.) I looked to my right and as far as I could see stood sunflowers waving their pretty flower faces in a Georgian, come on down welcome. It wasn't our final destination but at least we knew we weren't driving off the edge of the world. 


Sunflowers as far as the eye can see.
We didn't have much farther to go to find the farm we were seeking. A black dog welcomed us when we pulled into the driveway. Suzi woke up from her highway induced coma to sniff the air and bark. A small wooden house that may have been on that property for 100 years, sat in front of red clay fields filled to the brim with sunflowers. The unusual heat and recent rains, not to mention the 4th of July "festival" crowds, had taken their toll on some of the rows. But you don't realize that when  you are standing in the middle of it all. As if called by the sun itself, I ran to field and let the flowers embrace me. Big ones, little ones, short ones, tall ones the perfect hosts for me and bumbling bees. There was a constant buzz, but gentle, not scary to me like most bee activity. 


Anywhere in the south in the middle of July is going to be warm. Let me say that on this afternoon it didn't take long to work up a sweat. Sweetie took a couple of pictures, then headed back to the air conditioned car with his trusty sidekick, She Who Sleeps. I walked up and down the rows like a kid in Toys R Us before Christmas, not knowing where to start, which flower to cut. For $15.00 you get a white plastic jug to fill  up with as many flowers as you can fit in.  If I were to go back I'd know to look for the flowers that had not yet bloomed all the way. I got one like that and it's been fun to watch it open up a little more each day. The bees fly away as soon as the flower is cut and surprisingly to me, there were no other critters that hitched a ride to Jacksonville. 


One happy lady.


All in all I'd say we spent about an hour at the farm. Definitely a long way to go for a bokay of flowers. Yet, like the tulip fields outside of Seattle, and Poinsettia fields in So. California, it's amazing to see row upon row of Mother Nature's handiwork beckoning you into her world. 


Just like that the trip was over. Well, not exactly over, we still had about 300 miles to drive. We opted out of staying another night in a motel. The allure of home kept us moving. At
I love this man!
 times we were the only ones on the highway in either direction. It's pretty darn dark out there. I asked Sweetie a couple "what if?" questions, which he hates but played along with me as he'd done from the first mention of the trip.


ME:What if a critter ran out in front of us right now? 
S: Keep driving.
ME: But how do you drive with a dead deer on the hood of your car staring at you with blank eyes and his bloody tongue hanging out.
S: If you hit him hard enough he'll fly over the car.
ME: Just so you know. If that ever happens I'm going to slam on the breaks from instinct. Oh, and I might close my eyes too.
Sweetie made a mental note not to let me drive down woodsy roads after dark.


ME: What if, after we hit the critter and I slammed on the breaks and we ended up in the ditch and there's no cell  phone coverage because we are so far from civilization?
S: We'd sit here until someone came by.
ME: What if nobody came by for days? (This is not such a ridiculous question as I just read that a 70 year old woman got stuck in a water filled ditch near Sanford, FL and sat there for 3 days before a forest worker happened to see her car. I think my Girl Scout stay where you are training would have been put to the test after the first day. Then I thought about the alligators and figured that lady made a wise decision.)
S: We've got apples and water and 1/2 bag of potato chips. We'd survive.
I love a man who is quick with the answers that will calm my nerves.


One would think that from the looks of this picture,
 Suzi did most of the driving.
When in fact she was in this position for most of the trip.
We pulled into our driveway about midnight. A long 12 hour day, filled with new friendships, fond farewells, new adventures and gratitude for safe travels.  Sweetie pointed out that if we had a motorhome to make these trips in, everywhere we stopped would be home.  That's true. It's also true that if we had a motorhome, he, the only one who could drive the thing, might get sick and I'd have to drive and what if I ran into a ditch and there were bears in the woods that could hear me screaming, "I told you so" and came to investigate. What then?


Today I'm filled with gratitude for the reminder that home really is sweet. For sunny flowers that make me smile. For stories to share and friends to share them with.


Wishing for you a lighted path to travel with no critters in the road,
 Merry ME

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pastor Maurice Hall

It's hard to believe that just a week ago I was whining about being a boogerhead. What a difference 7 days and 500 miles can make! Not saying my boogerhead persona doesn't lie dormant waiting for an opportunity to whine. I'm just saying that the change of pace and scenery, not to mention a cleansing downpour, new connections and reconnections were just what the doctor ordered. Note to self: When you're feeling boogery, don't just sit there - get moving. me


The last part of our stay in Tennessee was very similar to the first part - eating and visiting. We hooked up with Pastor Maurice Hall for breakfast.  Jack found him dressed and sitting in the motel lobby at 5:30 am when Suzi went out for a morning toilette.  I get antsy just thinking about waiting for 4 hours to pass, but I think Pastor Hall probably lost himself in prayer and meditation and memory.

That Maurice is a man of God was evident from the start, but we soon learned he is much more than that. Sweetie and I only tapped the surface of his interesting, adventuresome, love-filled life. We piled the small man with the big heart into the Lincoln and drove a few hundred yards down the street to Shelby's. The place in town where everyone goes for breakfast. Not a big place, and not so different from the Huddle House, except that it was new, clean and more "down home." Think Alice's Restaurant plopped down on Hwy 411 in the middle of Etowah, TN, where Flo would be right at home if she was about 30 years younger.

 Right up front Maurice apologized for his grizzled, unshaven face.  His "Norelco" lay in pieces in his suitcase. It reminded me of how my Dad looked on days when even picking up his Norelco was a chore. My sister and her friend Gwen joined us as we sat around the table listening to Pastor Hall tell bits and pieces of his life story. He was easily distracted, would jump from one memory to another, always connecting them somehow. "I'm 92 years old," he told Jack when he asked a question, "cut me some slack!"Maurice spoke of the time he was the new pastor in town at the age of 19 and how he was immediately taken with the cashier at the train depot's sandwich shop who would become his wife and travel companion for 72 years. "I think it's time you too his picture out of your locket and put mine in," Maurice told Marie after a few months. She did and they were together from that point on.  He told us about his travels to Germany (while in the Army), France (where they adopted an orphan because they couldn't say no), VietNam (where in the middle of the war people knocked on their door and to ask about Jesus) to the big city of Chicago, to Sierra Madre, CA (where his beloved Marie passed away and his Mexican housekeeper, Marie, filled him with delicacies like mashed potato tacos).  He spoke highly of his sons and gave us a picture of his whole family gathered around - he and Marie sitting in the front, encircled by children, in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It wasn't an old fashioned tintype but it could have been.  He gave Jack a copy of the book he'd written about "their" life. He signed everything Maurice and Marie. The wound of her passing, still painful in every mention of her name.

Maurice has been blessed in many ways. He continues, I'm sure, to bless others. He carries the thumbprint of God on his forehead, a small red heart. A constant reminder of the One who created the man, the woman, their union and their life of service.  Jack mentioned the mark to Maurice and commented on it being sign of his blessing. Maurice smiled a knowing smile, nodded his head, but spoke only with the light from his eyes.

Maurice may have traveled the world, but his roots were entrenched in the hardscrabble land south of the Mason-Dixon line. Born in Tennessee Colony, Texas, at the age of 9, he helped his father and brothers sharecrop a farm in Louisiana. Arriving in Nashville, TN with just five dollars and 83 cents in his pocket, Maurice went on to earn an AA degree in New Testament from Lipscomb University in 1939.  Maurice possesses a subtle, southern humor,  a down-home, come-sit-awhile friendliness. I can picture him on a weathered hand-planked porch whittling, maybe chewing on a piece of grass. One of those who could keep their hands busy but never miss a beat of what you were saying. He may have had loads of money in the bank, but he didn't look like a rich man. Just an average guy, I'd guess, who could relate to princes or paupers.  His message, like the One he served, was love. Retired now from official "preaching" at 92 he continues to teach the Wednesday night Bible Study at his church in Sierra Madre.

Why (Sweetie hates it when I ask why - says it's a pointless question) out of all the people who could have been sitting in that motel lobby that day, was it Maurice Hall? It felt as if he were just waiting for us. Remember the TV shows Highway to Heaven or Touched by an Angel, where ordinary folk came into contact with a heavenly messenger and their lives were changed. Or if not changed, re-ordered to have more meaning. Ever since we said goodbye to Maurice, with promises to write and visit him in CA,  I have been looking over my shoulder for Michael Landon or Della Reece.  I have no doubt that we were touched.  But I'm not sure what comes next. The TV shows always had a scripted ending, the touchees were not left with questions that only the touchers knew the answers to.

Today, in hindsight, I'm grateful the girl whose motto has always been "Beware of strangers" stopped, opened herself up, and let someone she'd never seen before into her life. I'm grateful for people like Maurice and Marie who practiced what they preached and changed lives while doing it. I'm grateful for a chance to see my Sweetie with new eyes.

Wishing for you angels in your midst,

Merry ME

P.S. If you look real close at the left side of Maurice's head you'll see a faint red mark. That's the heart.

P.S.S. I just picked up the book Maurice gave us, Where He Leads Me, I will Follow - The Story of Maurice and Marie Hall,* in it he wrote:
"To my new friends, Jack and Mary, Thank you for befriending a lonely, just 4 months loss of my lovely Marie - almost 90. Thank you and God bless you. Sincerely, Maurice & Marie Hall."
Perhaps that's the best answer to my "why" as I'll ever get.

* Written by Lula  Rampey, Wordbyrd Publishing Company, Garden Grove, CA.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee Part 2b

Note: I'm home now, sitting in my own chair, the dog at my feet, a cat at my shoulder. The air conditioner hums, a motorcylce varooms in the distance. I can see a slight breeze moving the plants around. I already miss the mountain views, but settling into the delightfulness of home. me

After coming down the mountain from Tellico Plains, we stopped at Hardee's to get some quick food because my sister had to go to work.  If I haven't said it before now, it is fair to say we began to veer off  our diet regimen of the last month somewhere around the Georgia border. "I'm on vacation," Sweetie said when he came out of Subway with a combo that included potato chips. I looked at my nutritious, but lackluster apple slices and made a mental note to go for the chips next time. What are vacations for if not to toss away the everydayness of our lives at least for a time.

Whitt's General Store
The big black cloud that had been hovering over the mountain suddenly sat right over us. It opened up and dropped buckets of water in a giant whoosh.  We had to run across the steaming parking lot a whole 6 feet but got drenched as if we'd been standing in a car wash. I think had we not been on vacation we would have cussed and fumed, wondered why we hadn't thought to bring an umbrella. Instead we laughed. Wonder what it is about letting rain wash over you that makes one laugh?
On that note, we dropped Jean off at her car, and made another dash through the rain to get inside the motel. After drying off, the first task was to take a nap!

When You and I Were Young Maggie
written by George Johnson
When we woke up a little while later, the sun was back out, the sky blue again and the clouds puffy and white. So we loaded up the dog and went exploring again.  Jean had given us directions  - turn right at the corner, turn left at 123, right at ABC, and follow the road back to XYZ. At least that's what it sounded like. My mind kind of shuts down when I'm being given instructions I'm supposed to follow. (Hmm. I may have just had an AHA moment) Sweetie, who had returned to his youthful self - the one where he tried to see how fast he could go around the twists and turns - took to the mountain like Daniel Boone. Since we had time and no real destination, we followed the main road, but also took forks and paths just to see what we'd find.

Hiwassee Union Baptist Church
I think if our civilization is ever wiped out and anthropologists from another planet try to piece together the nature of our societies, they will stand in an overgrown Tennessee fields, swat away flies and chiggers, and scratch their heads as they ponder the rusted fossils of John Deere tractors, old pick up trucks, barns caving in on themselves, dried up hay bales and rocking chairs in the unlikeliest of places. But just like some GA slaves who uncovered the bones of a giant sloth back in the 1800's their questions might eventually be answered. I still can't figure why barns and houses and tractors are just left to disintegrate, while people live in a double-wide trailer not too far away. Do they just look at the mountain and not their back yard?


We followed signs to Maggie's Mill and found instead a family cemetery surrounded by woods and a country store. A sign posted on a tree near the rutted road warned of bear traps to cut down the population (the bears or the people driving by?) and that we were on a dead end road. Mountain humor? Cemetery. Dead End? Hahahaha! The two scrawny yappy dogs who showed up when we stopped to take a picture were warning enough. Like the Hotel California or the movie Deliverance, "this could be heaven, or it could be hell." We did eventually find Maggie's Mill or what was left of it.  A grist stone memorial told us it was the place where George Johnson wrote and dedicated a poem to Maggie Harris, when she was dying of tuberculosis at the age of 23. There was a slight discrepancy of dates, I read 1820 on the marker, but Google had the music and song published around 1860?

Hiwasee Union Baptist Church
Next stop a widening of the Hiawassee River where people rent inner tubes and rafts. We'd opened our windows to feel the cooler air and listen to the water rippling over rocks. Birds were singing their evening songs, and I was sure I could hear a pair of Loons calling like the ones in On Golden Pond. I probably wouldn't know a Loon if I saw it and I never did so maybe I was just getting my bird calls mixed up. The two story church that stood on the banks of the river was a wonderment. It sat on stacks of mortared stones. It may have once been very steady. And hell it was still standing after decades. But it sure did look rickety to me. I'm not sure I would have ever ventured to the top floor where the Masons held their meetings even if I'd been allowed in.

The sun retreated behind the clouds as we worked our way back to Highway 411 and home. All of us, Sweetie, the dog and I were better for having made this trip. I can't explain why. Maybe it was a way to shed some of the ennui we'd accumulated over the 18 months. Maybe we developed a new way of looking at our age-induced maladies - achy backs, sore feet, tender hips. Just because we're a little rickety, doesn't mean we're out to pasture. And even if we were, we could stand there rusting into perpetuity and people would still drive by, stop to take our picture and marvel mountain's preservative qualities.




Evening mist rising on the Hiwassee River

It was late when we got back to Etowah. We couldn't face another burger joint so we ate at the only restaurant in town still open.  Michael's Cafe, I think it was called. A giant pig welcomed us at the door. Not a guy in a pig suit, thank goodness. When I asked the waitress what was good, she said, "oh I don't know, I only eat the pasta!" Sweetie and I took a wild on vacation chance, opting  for blackend fish and brisket smoked to just this side of jerky. My oh my, was it good. And before leaving the waitress said she'd tried the pulled pork on her break and would highly recommend it the next time we were there. Live and learn, I say.




The day provided many opportunities for gratitude. I tried to embrace them all.


Wishing for you a vacation mind-set in your every day life,

Merry ME



The Road Less Traveled?
Sunflower Farm
Rutledge, GA


More to come but wanted to share a sunflower picture with you. This looks like a postcard, don't you think? 
If I had a life list I could now check off standing in the middle of a sunflower field. That is not to say, however, if I had an opportunity to see French Sunflowers that I would turn it down. Nor would I keep driving if I passed a farm that looked as inviting as the one we visited today. 

Today I'm grateful for new friends, safe travels, time with my sister, a brown dog, juicy oranges, a place to call home and my Sweetie. He deserves a Saying Yes Medal. 

Wishing for you blue skies, puffy white clouds and yellow flowers that make you smile,
Merry ME


Monday, July 9, 2012

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee Part 2a

Oh my, what a day this has been. So full of chance meetings, winding roads, memories, moments where the ordinary met the holy, laughter, tears, beauty, fast moving storms, and rekindled sparks of love.  Sweetie and I took pictures all day long, but none quite matched the pictures I have in my head. I fear that they will be gone by tomorrow morning. Funny how my memory can't hold a new thought for more than a few minutes, but as I rounded a curve in the mountain road, I remembered I was almost home. Well, not home exactly, but close to Mom and Dad's cabin in the woods, fondly called Eagle's Lodge.

The day started on a strangely spiritual note when Suzi and I were heading through the lobby and she walked right up to an older gent sitting at a table near the door. Suzi is like that - Miss Social. She thinks everyone wants to say hi, and oh by the way give her a pat on the head. Which is exactly what this man did. We exchanged pleasantries and before I knew it, I had pulled up a chair to listen to his story. He's a 92 year old preacher who is visiting Etowah for a couple of days. This is where he met his wife when he was a new preacher in town. He was 19 and she was 17. They were married for over 70 years until she passed away four months ago today. He sat at the table and told me how he loved her, carried a picture of them in a breast pocket. We both dabbed away tears from our eyes.  When Sweetie stepped out of the elevator he saw me sitting there and thought I must have run into an old friend. Funny, after about 15 minutes it felt like we were old friends. Sweetie joined us in conversation and by the time we met my sister in the parking lot, we'd exchanged names and addresses.

He was nothing at all like my dad in looks, or background. Yet in my knowing place I felt sure he'd been put in my path for a reason. I asked him to say a prayer for us. Certainly not a usual request that I'd make of someone I'd just met. But preachers like to pray I think. It was a beautiful prayer that blessed all three of us.

Buck Bald, TN
Once in the car my sister directed us up, over, and around the mountain roads to Coker Creek. Jack drove like Mario Andretti. We drove twice around Tall Pine Circle. A few new houses have been built,  but mostly things looked the same.  Our main destination was Buck Bald to scatter my parent's ashes on what looks like the top of the world.  Jean threw open her arms in praise, I prayed a silent prayer, Sweetie stood in awe and Suzi raced around like a dog was meant to do. She also found something stinky to roll in, but we never figured out what.  After looking in all directions, Jean and I reached into the plastic bag that held what was left of our parents.  I can't put into words how it feels to see your mama and daddy and the lives they led, their stories, their
Two Indian Maids on top of the World
Eagles Lodge
joys and sorrows, their love reduced to a pile of ashes in a ziplocked baggie.  Each of held some ashes in our hands as Sweetie spit on his finger and held it up to determine the direction of the wind. In our own time with our own thoughts we released the ashes to the invisible wind. And yes, they blew back into our faces like some kind of Chevy Chase escapade.  Jean ended up standing on a picnic table. I stood behind her and could see the ashes she tossed being taken up and into the mountain air that Daddy first inhaled when he was born, and Mom grew to love like her own home.  Before we left the mountain top, Sweetie said a prayer. I wish I could repeat his words. Like the ashes, they were there and then they were gone. But I don't think Billy Graham could have done any better.

 I hadn't known what to expect but I believe it was the perfect end to lives well lived.  They earned their place in the National Cemetery. Dad's military career spanned 30 years. Mom spent 60 of her 80 years as part of a military family. It is a beautiful, dignified and sacred place. But it doesn't get much better than going back to the earth where your soul once resided.  We did a good thing today. And now, maybe I can finally let go and move forward.

Bald River Falls
We continued the day driving to places I wanted to see again and share with Sweetie. Jean, aka She Who Loves the Streams,  made an excellent Indian guide. She's spent the last 9 months wandering through the woods and finding her place among the trees and rivers.  On a whim we stopped so I could visit a woman who had been the Coker Creek Postmaster for 50 years. She and my dad got to be good friends when they had their cabin in the woods. She told me that just a couple of days ago she saw my name in her address book and was going to call to see what had happened to me. She didn't call, but how weird is it that I knocked on her door and say hello? I can't say exactly what it is, but I am drawn to old people. I could sit and listen to them tell stories all day long.  People who have lived to be over 90 years old have a lot of wisdom to share.  And many just want someone to
She Who Loves the Streams
listen to them.  I'm proud to say I'm a good listener.

It's almost midnight, and this post is becoming a book.  I'll write about the 2nd half of the day tomorrow.

Today I'm grateful for my baby sister, Queen Anne's Lace and Black Eyed Susans, waterfalls, the feel of God's hand on my shoulder, mules that smile, the sound a river makes as it travels over rocks, the smell of mountain air, BBQ brisket smoked for 23 hours, rain that drenches you in seconds and makes you laugh at the intensity of it, stinky dogs, and the man I call Sweetie.

Wishing for you a song and a prayer,
 Merry ME

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee Part 2

I slept really hard after taking Suze out for her 5am pee. When my sister called at 9, I jumped up like a little kid on the first day of vacation.  We're going exploring today. Well, not so much exploring new things as retracing steps I used to take with my mom and dad. More about that later. Just know I'm excited to see the places - it's been about 12 years - again. And my heart is beating kind of fast. Scared in a way. Like before making a speech. You see, I'm going to say yet another goodbye.  Like letting go a handful of balloons at a time, I'm releasing my father, mother and my grief in baby steps.

Still, right now, this minute, I'm chomping at the bit to hit Highway 68 and go driving through the mountains to see places my heart recalls fondly.

May peace and love and sweet memories surround you,
Merry ME

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee

Day two of our impromptu vacation got off to a bad start. The promised continental breakfast offered by our less than stellar motel consisted of luke warm coffee, no cream, three pre-packaged pastries, cereals with room temperature milk, and apple juice. My Sweetie, who is a patient and mild-tempered man unless he is forced to start his day with out coffee sweetened with a hint of French vanilla creamer, growled as he came back to the room where I stood in my underwear trying to dry my hair.  As I fiddled with the hairdryer that made a strange whistling sound and blew not quite hot hair,  Sweetie headed to the gas station/food mart across the parking lot from said Inn for some potable caffeine.

The way to make that man of mine overcome the meanies is to give him food. Luckily a Huddle House restaurant sat in near proximity. We left Suze in the room and followed the scent of bacon and eggs and extra strong coffee wafting through the air and across the parking lot.  When my parents made the trip from FL to TN it was their habit to stop for lunch and breakfast at the Waffle House, which is basically the twin sister of the Huddle House. Inside they are pretty much the same. It's the kind of place you can get a hot breakfast faster than you can waiting in line at McDonald's. Not great cuisine, but fresh cooked and filling. Telling ourselves we deserved it for making it through the night, we ordered the works ... bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast.  And that was only the start of the eating we did during the day. I'm pretty sure any pounds I lost in the last month found their way home today.

Going through Atlanta seemed like the perfect occasion to drop in on my blog friend Molly. The fact that we only know each other through the Internet made it a little strange, but also part of the adventure.  If you've ever gone to Molly's blog, you've seen pictures of her Golden Retrievers, Gus and Cotton, and parts of her flower covered yard. One would never guess that you could drive a few blocks off a six-lane Interstate and find such a charming neighborhood, nestled in among trees and hills. Bloggers, I've found, make wonderful friends, even when you've never met. I love having a face now, to put with the words and pictures Molly posts.  I haven't told Sweetie this, and it's highly possible that Suzi would jump out of the car and write her own version of the Incredible Journey as she tried to find her way home, but I'd love to plug the addresses of all my blog friends into our out of date GPS, with a most annoying female voice who is usually about 2 streets behind in her directions, and just keep driving until I'd met them all. Well, actually Sweetie would drive and I'd sleep, but you know what I mean.

Thanks Molly for your warm and spontaneous hospitality. I hope G&C forgave the intrusion into their space. Not to mention the strange teeth marks on their antler chews.

From Atlanta we drove through GA into TN.  Once into the foothills of the Smokey's the scenery changed some. But not the blighted towns along the two-lane road. I find it rather depressing to see so many boarded up places, falling down old barns, rusted out tractor graveyards. I think Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama should do a swing through some of these towns to get a real idea of what the state of the economy they talk so much about.

We are staying in Red Roof Inn. Not a 4 star hotel by any means. But compared to last night we feel like we're staying in the Taj Mahal.  There won't be any trouble sleeping tonight.  I hooked up with my sister and got one of her big ol' bear hugs. Had dinner with my nephew.  Suzi finally relaxed enough to do her business.  A pretty good day all around.

And then, the magic happened. The icing on the cake. The cherry on top of the sundae.  On the way back in from Suzi's last walk, I saw the tiniest little light. Just a quick twinkle. Then again a few feet away. OMG! A lightening bug. It seemed strange that there was just one. I thought maybe I was seeing things. But no, it was the real thing. It reminded me of  Tinkerbell. I don't think I've seen a lightening bug since I was a little kid.  Yes, indeed. It was the perfect end to a delightful day.

So much to be grateful for.  Most of which is the antidote I've needed for my pissant mood of late.

Wishing for you magic in the air,
Merry ME


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Georgia On My Mind

The spur of the moment kids, who like to jump in the car and head out for adventure are at it again.  Or should I say the girl who has wanted to see the sunflower festival in Georgia for five years is finally on the move.  While I was still agonizing the hows, whens, wheres, etc, Sweetie was on the Internet making reservations.

First stop, Red Carpet Inn, in East Dublin, GA:
If I tell you we are just across the "bridge" from Dublin you might guess that we are not in the part of town where the tourists hang out. Actually, when we drove through downtown looking for a place to eat dinner, I realized this isn't exactly the kind of town tourists flock to.  I can't swear by it, but I think Dublin's claim to fame is that Sherman did not burn it down on his way to the sea. If it  looked a lot like this back in the 1860's Sherman may have decided it wasn't worth his time. It's kind of sad, really.  A sign of the poor economic times maybe. Windows boarded over. Mom & Pop stores closed. That kind of thing.


Another interesting fact about Dublin is they have street signs that tell you when you are going the wrong direction.    It is the genteel, Southern way of New York City cab drivers honking and giving you the finger. 


Here are a  interesting facts about the Red Carpet Inn.
1. The carpet is green.
2. The doors are green.
3. The furniture looks like it was old when Sherman passed through.
4. It took me a few minutes to figure out there was something not quite right about the bathroom. I guess if you have to choose, it's better that the commode doesn't fall over.

See anything wrong with this picture?

This is the first time we've taken Suzi with us on an outing that lasted over an hour. She is my kind of travel partner. Her head hit the seat as soon as the engine started and she didn't wake up unless we called a potty break.

Wake me when we get there.

She was kind of anxious when we got to the motel. She didn't want to eat, or leave my side. But after awhile she made herself at home on the green carpet.


This is some kind of fun!


And last but certainly not least, here is a picture of my Sweetie at Peter's Italian Restaurant. We were looking for a place that served steak. Peter's is all we could find. When we got back to the Red Carpet Inn, we were a little taken aback by the police car sitting in the parking lot near our room. It turns out they were having a steak fry right by our front door.  I don't mean to give Dublin or the Red Carpet Inn a bad name, but it does feel a little like we drove into the Georgia equivalent of the Twilight Zone.  But hey, when was the last time you paid $58.00 for a room and ten of that was for the dog? I guess it's true, you get what you pay for. Sure hope the price doesn't include critters in the bed.


Here's what I know about myself but often forget to remember. I like to go places. Its the thinking about going that ties me up.

Today I'm grateful for safe driving, good company and giving up control.

Wishing for you new sights to tickle your fancy,
Merry ME

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Somebody Need to Tell Me to Snap Out of It

At the risk of sounding like a big whiny baby, I am going to go on a short rant.  I awoke this morning to find it was burning hot outside, my stomach could not face one more serving of whole wheat anything and my email account had been hacked.  I long for the good old days. Problem is I'm not even sure what days those would be.

The ones where I was so thin, my sister called me toothpick?
The ones where I looked fit and trim because I worked out in the gym everyday ... and oh by the way I was a little anorexic (like being a little pregnant.)

Or maybe I want to return to the days when the snow covered the car, and the winds howled.

How about going to back to the day when we used land line phones to talk to people across the country and pretty monogrammed stationery to write letters that a postman dropped through a slot in the door.

Better yet, what if I traveled back to the days my creativity couldn't be squashed and my sunny disposition remained in tact.

I feel like a big boogerhead and I can't tell you why.  32 mailer-demons kind of set the tone for the day.

One thing for sure I'm going to have to snap myself out of this funk or go to my room until I can act nice again.

Maybe a key is to return to a place of gratitude. I think even boogerheads can dig deep enough to find something(s) to be grateful for.  So here goes:

1. I'm grateful to ATT & Apple for their tech support in fixing my security issues.
2. I'm grateful I've lost 5 pounds, which isn't a lot, but is a start.
3. I'm grateful to have a computer to write on even when I feel like throwing it against the wall.
4. I'm grateful for the silly brown dog at my feet who appears to love me even when I'm grumpy.
5. I'm grateful for a Sweetie who knows who appears to love me even when I sound like a grizzly bear.
6. I'm grateful the baby got to visit even though the house is so quiet now, I'd give my right arm to hear her say hi.
7. I'm grateful for blog friends who know how to make me smile even though we've never met.
8. I'm grateful for books to read, floors to vacuum, and cold, juicy oranges.
9. I'm grateful my daughter didn't kill herself while slogging through a muddy, ice-filled, electric booby-trapped obstacle course - that she can officially call herself the Tough Mudder I always knew her to be.
10. I'm grateful for family who share my branch of the family tree.
11. I'm grateful for toilets that flush, drains that drain and a son who knows how to de-flood a garage.
12. I'm grateful for money in the bank.
13. I'm grateful for the butterfly bush outside my window.
14. I'm grateful for peanut butter and crackers which may not be very dietetic but keeps my stomach from growling.
15. And I'm grateful I'm already feeling a little more chipper.

Wishing for you computers that don't crash, a healthy snack and a grateful heart,
Merry ME

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Feeling Blue

The first couple of days that Grace was here I had to push my sluggish body into keeping a baby's schedule and crawling around on the floor. I heard my knees pop a couple of times. My hip made a few cries for mercy as I tried to multi-task while holding a squiggly baby.  By the third day I think I got my groove back. My arms remembered how to enfold a baby as if the memory was embedded in the unused muscles.  Rocking soothed me as well as the baby. Tiptoeing past the sleeping baby's room reminded me of quietude's sweetness.  Old pleasures returned as Gracie experienced new things. Watching a little girl learn to pull herself up and wobble on unsteady feet. Listening as she discovered her song by beating on a Tupperware tom tom with a wooden spoon. Repeating words like kit-tee, ma-ma, G-Pa and Hallelujah Jesus! to help build her vocabulary.  Okay, so she didn't quite catch on to Jesus words, but she did laugh whenever we shook our hands in the air. That's a good start I think.  As I reconnected with the glories of caring for a baby, I think my heart came alive again. I felt useful, no longer at wit's end about what my life's purpose might be.

I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. It sounds goofy and spooky, I know, but I swear he stood behind me one night as I washed the dishes. Ashley mentioned his name and a door moved as if he walked in to say hello.  I look around at "his" house and think if he weren't already dead, he'd probably die at the changes I've made and things I've left undone. The garage alone would send him into cardiac arrest.  I know none of the things I worry about are major things, more like little nuisances that build up to a big headache - or in my case a heartache.  Last week after Johnson pointed out that the roof needs to be replaced, the siding has holes in it, the driveway is cracked, the window seals are dried out and outside light fixtures are fire hazards I felt myself growing angrier by the minute. Angry and not the least bit grateful for a house with any kind of roof,  and air conditioning that works in record breaking heat. Being angry at a dead person is not the most productive use of one's time or energy.  Being angry like that always leads me to the blues.  I couldn't be blue while Gracie was here, but I sure slid into a funk after she left.

I guess I'm still in transition. And I am beginning to realize it's not good for me to have too much time on my hands.  I may tire easily when "working" but it's a good tired, not an emotional one.  So I pulled out an old resume yesterday to see what it will take to make it presentable to future employers.  I'm pretty sure I'll need a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand over it to bring it up to speed.  The caregiving field is probably my best bet, yet for some reason I shy away from it. Fear is involved. Fear I haven't figured out yet.  Fear I held at bay while Grace rested in my arms because my abilities spoke for themselves.

Dad kept a journal of everything he did in his house from 1962. I read it yesterday to figure out the age of the roof, etc. Why does it come as a surprise to me that this house still belongs to him? It's his history, not mine, although mine is entwined in many ways.  Do  I expect too much of myself when I try to turn his 60 year achievement into mine in only 18 months? Is it reasonable I can turn 16 years of stay-at-home caregiving into a job that will fit into a technological savvy world where a degree or knowledge of I-things and Excel are pre-requisites?

Maybe what I need to do is talk to the scared Little Me. Maybe we need to sit in Grandmother's chair and rock for a little while. Then maybe I will encourage myself to stand up on wobbly feet until I get my balance, and let go of the couch to take a tentative step into the open space in front of me.

Wishing for you trust in your abilities,
Merry ME

Monday, July 2, 2012

Four Generations

Great Grammy, GPa, Gracie, Ashley
Ellington

Missing Grace

I went to bed yesterday after the Gracie left. It was just too sad to look at all the baby stuff. Plus the house was too quiet to do anything other than snooze.  Sweetie worried about my emotions. Gotta love a guy who gives you a a man-sized hug to take the place of the baby-sized ones.  Gracie's mom and GMom hinted more than once that I might have spoiled her. In my book,  cottage cheese spoils, not babies. When she cried, I picked her up. What felt good to her, felt good to me. It was a win-win situation.  The first couple of days trying to get used to each other were a little tiring, but once I got in Gracie's groove, things worked out pretty good. Well, most things. She never did "love" her bath like  we were told.  She only went to sleep when she was ready, no matter what the schedule said. And I learned pretty fast that changing her diaper was to be done in the standing position.

On the road again ...
I think I adjusted pretty well. I noticed that my heart is like my favorite, sort of tight, jeans. The more you fill them out, the more they stretch, the more comfortable they become. Eventually, though, I have to take them off, throw them in the washer and shrink them back down to size. As we strapped Gracie in her seat and said goodbye, I could feel my heart deflating a little.  I caught myself tiptoeing past the bedroom where the baby slept even though she wasn't in there. I inhaled a big whiff of Johnson's Lotion just to remind myself of the baby smell.



Taking care of a baby hasn't changed all that much since I was a new mom. You feed them, change them, make sure they don't choke, etc. But there sure seems to be a lot more rules than I remember. No eggs, peanut butter, milk before first birthday. Car seat placed in the back only. Sleep on their back. Use sunblock. Let them cry.

Then
Now
None of those things were too hard for me to learn. But I'm still having difficulty grasping the idea that Stride Rite doesn't make old-fashioned white high-top baby shoes anymore (you know the kind you bronze) and there isn't a new mom around that even knows who Polly Flinders is. What's up with that? The tried and true of our mothers' era - cloth diapers held together with oversized pins, Ivory soap, pastel dresses fastened with tiny buttons that need to be ironed, glass bottles that have to be sterilized, softly sung lullabies, Dr. Spock, Capt. Kangaroo and Zweibeck toast to teeth on - have been pushed aside for the sake of convenience - Pampers, butt-wipes, velcro fasteners, organic cotton onesies, rice puffs, bottles with throw-away liners that look like giant condoms, lullabye playlists on an Ipod, and bouncy chairs that mimic a mother's hip action. Sometimes progress makes me long for the good old days.

Then

Now

It's good to know that somethings like ...
Dancing on the table 


admiring yourself in the mirror and ...

banana popsicles
















haven't changed. 

Gracie's mom will turn 18 in a few days. I'm reminded of that song,
"Where are you going, my little one, little one
Little dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone?
Turn around and you're tiny,
Turn around and you're grown,
Turn around and you're a young wife with babes of your own."
It's hard to believe eighteen years have passed since I rocked Ashley to sleep. I so hope the next 18 won't go so fast.

Wishing for you memory-making days,
Merry ME