Friday, November 30, 2012

Chica Peep Guest Blog

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


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

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

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

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

Wishing for you courage to be vulberable,
Merry ME


Thursday, November 22, 2012

And the winner is ....

(drum roll please)

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

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

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

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

Today's the Day ...



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

____

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

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

I had to know more.

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Every Little Bit Helps

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

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

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

_____


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


So how about it? Are you in?

Praying for victims,
Merry ME

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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



Merry ME

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




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It Takes A Village

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  Anne Frank


I just want to say thank you to all my friends who have been spreading the word about my quilt giveaway.  And to those who have already donated and commented on the post below.  When I decided to give the quilt away to people who donate to a charity that will help victims of Hurricane Sandy, I did not expect to feel much more than the satisfaction of doing "something." What I'm discovering is that the ripples from that small "something" are spreading much farther than I ever dared to dream. And filling my heart way more than I expected.  

There's not much I like better than curling up under a quilt stitched with love by an ancestor. When I was a kid and too sick to go to school my mom would open out the sofa bed in the den, cover me with Grandmothers red and white Lone Star quilt and fix me Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.  There's just something so comforting about a quilt, that a blanket or polar fleece doesn't provide. Especially the ones that have been around for awhile. The ones that are a little ragged on the edges. The ones that are so frayed that the batting is coming loose. The ones that have been well-used and well-loved. 

As with most things in this age of simplification, today's quilts are not always hand-pieced or quilted. Though I'm sure there are still some stalwart quilters who do things the old fashioned way. At one time I boycotted quilts made in Asian factories. It just didn't seem right that an American tradition should be bastardized in that way.   Like most things, quilts have degrees of beauty, functionality, and lasting quality. But no matter how or where it's made, a quilt can still provide comfort as well as beauty. 

For a long while I left my sewing machine on the shelf, in the closet. I forgot about the mountains of fabric, that sat there waiting for me.  Then one day in an unusual fit of cleaning, I decided I'd get rid of it all. If I wasn't going to use it, I might as well find someone who would.  But as luck and providence would have it my daughter, a lover of quilts that goes beyond the norm, reminded me that there is no such thing as having too many quilts. Since she was getting married I knew the time was right to immerse myself back into piles of cloth.  I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to cut and sew and cut some more and sew some more and make a big mess.  I'd forgotten the thrill of seeing a quilt come together. It's like working on a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It takes shape gradually. Then one day, when the last piece fits into place, you've got this picture that you thought you'd recognize but it surpasses your expectations. I think every quilter - novice or prize winner - knows what I'm talking about.  

In the big scheme of things my quilt offering and your donations may not be much more than a drop in the proverbial bucket. But the fact that they are given with love and compassion for those who find themselves with nothing, makes the bucket overflow.

I can't say it enough. And I'll be saying it again and again. Thank you. 
May all whose lives look their broken pieces of china right now know, in the depths of their soul, the comfort and peace of being stitched back together by the hands of love, like my Grandmother's Lone Star quilt. 

Merry ME

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mouse Capers

It's a quiet Friday evening. I'm messing on the computer. Sweetie is in the back reading. He casually walks through the room to tell me a story about how Girl Cat has been in the bathroom staring into a corner. Sitting as still as only a cat on the prowl can.

Me: (Thinking to myself) I wonder if she's sick.
Sweetie: She's cornered a mouse. I saw it run under the door.
Me: Good God. Where is it now?
Sweetie: I don't know.
Me: (Jumping up and heading to the bedroom for a first hand look) You don't know? How the hell can you not know?

Two big people and 2 small cats begin the search. The medium-sized dog with the blood of hounds running through her veins; the dog who walks around the block with her nose to the ground as if looking for kidnapped child; the dog, who can sleep through anything until the car keys tinkle, slumbered.

Sweetie: (Turning his chair upside down) Not here.
Me:  (Opening the closet door. )Not here, either.

I prayed that the creature who had, in my mind, become the size of a monster in a Japanese B movie, had not found the pile clothes I'm donating to the Goodwill. For a cold and scared mouse it could his Shangri La.

Me: What are you going to do about it?
Sweetie: What can I do? I'm going to bed?
Me: (Turning over the chair again, noticing how much dust has accumulated in the springs. Who knew?) Going to bed? How can you go to bed when there's a mouse loose in the house? I raise my voice a little to make me sound more concerned than Dr. Seuss.
Sweetie: Watch me. The mouse will stay on the floor.
Me: (Thinking that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. What? There's a sign on the bed that says "no mice on the bed?) I'm going to a motel.

Sweetie lies down,  picks up his book, land looks for all the world like he could care less about a mouse in the house. I suggest to the cats that they hop on Pop.


Me: (Noticing Girl Cat is in the pounce position, staring into the corner) Hmmm.
Smelling victory I get down on my knees and peer under the table and see lots more dust - no mouse.

Sweetie: (Watching the cat watch the corner.)  Watch this.
Faster than David Copperfield making the Grand Canyon disappear he moves the table I just looked under. No mouse.
Me: Crap.
Sweetie: Get boy cat.
Me: I'm going to get Maizey, Johnson's mouse sniffer outer.

After fruitless search and feeling like a dumb woman on a Lifetime Movie where the killer  hides in the most obvious place, like under the bed or behind the bathroom door, I decide to give up and go to bed. I've got two cats, a dog and my Sweetie to protect me. Right? I enter the bathroom with trepidation. I look behind me in the mirror as I brush my teeth expecting to see Mousezilla ready to strike. I prepare to tinkle. Still sitting I stretch my leg as far as it will go and move the basket of towels out from the corner with my big toe. There it is.  A creepy 12 inch long rodent tail attached to a giant gray mouse trying to look like a white towel. Okay, it was only about 3 inches and the towel did have a needs-some-bleach-gray tinge to it, but you know how that goes. Size is in the eye of the beholder.  I kick the basket back in place before the mouse discovers he's been discovered.

Me: (Running in circles like the cat) I found it.
Sweetie: Where?
Me: Behind the basket of towels. Now what?
Sweetie: (Heading for the garage) We find something to kill it with?

Sweetie: (Returning with a large plastic container) We'll put this over him.
Me: Then what?
Sweetie: We find something to kill it with?

Me: (Looking at the cute little mouse shivering from fear) He looks just like Stuart Little.
Me: (Following Sweetie into the garage where he's deciding on which garden spray - ants, roaches, or aphids - to use as his weapon.) Look how cute he is. You can't kill him.
Sweetie: (Getting a little perturbed with my change of heart) Well what do you want me to do?
Me: I don't know. You're the man. You know what to do.

While I wring my hands and consider giving Stuart a cheese snack and maybe a sip of tea, Sweetie lies back down on the bed. He waits to see whether I'm going to sign Stuart's death warrant or pardon his cute little ass.  I notice his chest (Sweetie's, not Stuart's) is a little puffed out. Trapping is a man thing. Sweetie looks for all the world like a cave man who just tricked a saber-tooth tiger into walking on the grass that covered the hole it fell into.

Me: (Pulling off my pajamas and getting re-dressed) I'm going to Wal-Mart. They're sure to have some humane way of house mouse eradication.
Sweetie: (Looking at me like I've lost my mind) I'll go.
Me: No. I said I'd go. I'm going.
Me: (Feeling pissed off because if though I said I'd go we both know there's something wrong with the man lying on the bed and the woman getting dressed to go out at midnight to get poison to kill a tiny little mouse, who, if given a reprieve will run and tell all his mouse friends about his near death experience.)  I'm already dressed. You stay here and make sure the mouse doesn't get away.  What do we need, a 45? a Glock?

I rattle the keys and the dog awakens. Having slept through the whole search process she's ready to roll.  She hops in the back seat ready for adventure. I get to the first stop sign half a block away. The dog is sound asleep.

First stop: Walgreens. Aisle 12. Dog bones. Cat food. Fly traps. Fire Ant spray. Down on the bottom shelf where I have to get on my knees to see is a veritable cornucopia of rodent extermination products. I buy one of each.  Every box mentions something about bait -cheese or peanut butter. I see no gentle sleep-inducing bait with which to lace said cheese. Like Solomon I've decided putting the mouse into a peaceful dream state before he passes over into mouse heaven is the most humane form of execution.

Not sure I have what I need, I head to Wal-Mart for re-enforcements. As an aside, Wal-Mart is a world unto itself after midnight, but there are only two cashiers on duty. I find the De-Con section. There are all kinds of the traps. Old fashioned mouse traps like Tom might have used to catch Jerry. Bait filled mouse igloos. Plastic pincher traps that lure the mouse in then snap shut on the unsuspecting varmint. I buy the round traps with an itsy bitsy hole where the mouse crawls in for a midnight snack. It's like the mouse version of the Hotel California. He crawls in but can't crawl out.

Once home, I bait the trap with aged New York cheddar cheese. I carry it to the bathroom where the mouse continues to shiver. I can't bring myself to offer a stay of execution because I do not want to relive this night. I call upon the spirits of all the butcher knife wielding women who have gone before me. I slip the trap under the edge of the box and offer a prayer for the dead. One o'clock p.m. It's time to crawl into my own bed.

Scritch. Scritch.
Scritch. Scritch. Scritch.
I didn't expect to I hear the mouse trying to squeeze into the hole like me trying to squeeze into a pair of control top panty hose.  Maybe I'm hearing the ghosts of past mice rattling the trap to haunt me.  It's working. I am haunted. Offering poison to a mouse is one thing. Listening to his death throes is another.

Scritch. Scritch. I'm lulled into I fall fitful sleep. Sweetie rolls over. The cat remains on guard.

I awake before dawn to go vote. My brain instantly forgets about elephants and donkeys and goes right to what I hope is a dead mouse behind the bathroom door. I'm not sure I'm up to this - the election or the mouse. I use the front bathroom.

Sweetie: (Before an eye-opening cup of coffee) I think he's dead. He hasn't moved.
Me: (Afraid to look) Of course he hasn't moved. He's trying to trick us. He won't move until we take the box off him. Then he'll run for the chair and hide out in the dusty springs.
Sweetie: No, I think he's dead.
Me: (Peeking around the corner) Yeh, he looks pretty dead. Only he's supposed to be inside that trap, not dead on my bathroom floor.

Later when I'm not looking Sweetie gets rid of the body. All traces of my house mouse are gone.
Me: Where did you put it?
Sweetie: In the bushes.
Me: Good God! What if one of the dog finds it.
Sweetie: I put it out there as a warning to all the other mice who might want to get inside where it's warm.
Me: (Hands on hips. Voice an octave too high. Not sounding grateful at all) Don't leave it in the bushes.
Sweetie: (Tired of the whole mouse caper) Alright. Alright.

Like the gentle man I know he is, Sweetie grabs a shovel and gives Stuart a proper burial.
Sweetie: Dear God, I hope you like mice. There may be a lot more coming your way.
Me: Amen

Sweetie: I'm going back to bed.
Me: Me too.

The End