Monday, July 29, 2013

Life Lessons

It's been two weeks since I got the news my friend Laura has cancer - lymphoma to be exact. In those weeks she's undergone several tests, had her lungs repeatedly drained of excess fluid, had her first chemo treatment, and if that isn't enough,  developed a blood clot in her shoulder.  Laura lives in VA and I'm in FL. If you have read enough of my blog to know anything about me, you know I've been pacing the floor, fearing the worst, wanting to help and holding myself back ftom making the 9 hour drive to see for myself how things are going. I sincerely care about what's happening to Laura and her family. Even though 13 years have passed since I answered when a little one called me Mo, Mar Mar, or Cherry, I still feel like part of their family.

Someone else with a little distance might say my motives are egocentric. And I admit, I do sometimes have a bit of a Jesus complex. I forget that my super powers are limited to deep caring. For real, sustained healing the people I love and want to "fix" need to call on the Divine. At the risk of sounding like it's all about "me," I've had to come face to face with my limitations. It makes me a tad anxious.

I've heard it said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Maybe my discomfort makes me a prime candidate to learn some things about myself.

Lesson #1:
A recent O Magazine article* might have been written with me in mind (hmmm, a little more ego, cause Martha Beck doesn't know me from anyone).

"Want to become a spirit-lifting, mood elevating, cheer-engineering dynamo?" is the headline that caught my eye.  "Want to be?" I retorted to myself. Dynamo is my middle name.  
The article goes on to list 7 ways to make someone else's day (without getting up, i.e. without losing yourself).  #5, "Stop worrying about everyone," hit a bit too close to home for me.

What? Me worry?

According to Beck, "love and worry are not the same thing. Think of someone you're worried about. Now replace worry with something else: creativity, perhaps or singing or sudoku. It will truly make that person's day."

I think her point is this. It's hard to be sick ... Cancer sick. The last thing the person with cancer wants to do is wonder how to keep loved ones from worrying. Let's face it, lying in a hospital bed surrounded by people (husband, son and mother are excluded from this scenario) wringing their hands, and begging to do something - can I fluff your pillows? pour you some water? make your dinner? - is stressful. What a sick person does NOT need is more stress.

On a similar note, I remember after my father died, that people didn't know what to say to me. I found myself trying to comfort them. It's hard to know what to say to someone after a loved one has passed away. It's hard to know what to say to  aperson who is facing life and death situations and feels like shit on top of it.  Perhaps something as simple as, I'm here, is better than another pasta casserole.

Lesson #2
I read an LA Times article (on FB) about supporting a friend through a crisis. Here's the first paragraph

"When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you.""It's not?" Susan wondered. "My breast cancer is not about me? It's about you?""

When I substituted Laura for Susan and Merry ME for colleague, I got a pretty clear picture of how my wanting to stand by Laura's bed (making small talk, but trying not to wring my hands) could be interpreted.  Laura's family has asked that well-meaning, caring friends not visit until she is feeling better. They've put a very capable woman (Laura's BFF) in charge of handling dissemination of information.  The way to help Laura at this time, I instruct my caregiving self, is to respect her wishes and not appear on her doorstep. While I'm sure, they'd welcome me, I'm also sure this is not the time for surprise visits. 

The authors of the article came up with the circle theory to keep from saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma.  Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma.  Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. 
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring. 
Comfort IN, dump OUT. 
Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient. Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own. Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours. *

Chain stretched across my living room, twice!
While I worried, the Universe plopped two pretty good lessons right under my nose. While Sweetie might tell you I'm not the calmest person around, I've put my hands and heart into a creative endeavor [see Beck's suggestion above].  I asked my FB friends to help me with a Kick Cancer's Butt campaign of positive affirmations, quotes, jokes, etc As of today I've collected over 250 and printed them out on fancy paper. My sister (she introduced me to Laura so it was good therapy for her as well) came over and helped me cut printed strips then string them together to make a gigantic paper chain.  
Lesson #3
To my surprise, and delight, I discovered that as I worked with the paper, got glue on my hands, and read each affirmation over and over again, that stress-filled, icky feeling in my stomach went away. Somehow when I wasn't looking out, but in, my paper-strewn dining room turned into a cathedral. Each paper I looped into another became a prayer for the Divine One to surround Laura and her family with love and healing Grace. 
My favorite loop in the chain.
Okay, we all know I want to be the one to deliver this gift to my sick friend. I want to see her face when she sees the love that went into it. I want to wrap her in positive thoughts like wrapping a Christmas tree in twinkling lights.  But I will put aside my wants. I will find a box big enough to hold a 30 foot chain. And I will let the mailman do the delivering.  I've done what I can do for now. I trust that is enough. I trust when the time comes that I can be of service to my friend, her husband, or her son they will tell me. I trust that all be well...without me.
To paraphrase one of the aforementioned affirmations:
May the lesson you learn today, be the one you needed most.
Merry ME

PS More information on the Kick Cancer's Butt Chain later
PSS. The formatting appears to be all screwed up. I'm too tired to mess with it tonight. Hope you can read it and it makes sense. 
* "Spread a Little Sunshine," Martha Beck, O Magazine, July 2013, pg. 38-41
*"How Not to Say the Wrong Thing,"  Susan Silk and. Barry Goldman ,LA Times, April 7, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Friend Amy

I can't believe it's been a week since I've posted anything. If you could see into my brain, you'd see all kinds of blog posts floating around, vying for my attention, waiting to be written.

 I watched a Martha Beck coaching video recently.  She explained the difference between what she calls her essential self (who she is at her core)  and her social self (who she needs to be in the world to accomplish anything).  Because her essential self has all kinds of issues like ADD and caffeine addiction her social self needs to make deals with her essential self to get things done.  Lately my essential self feels like it's addicted to speed. I know you wouldn't think it to look at the neaer comatose body sitting in the chair watching old black and white moves, but my mind is racing with things I'd like to write about. I don't seem to be able to corral those thoughts long enough to get them on paper - or in the computer, as the case may be. Heavy topics such as one of my best friends having cancer, the caregiver epidemic in the US, brave Malala speaking before the UN, and wondering what I'll find moved when I come home from work. Sweetie, left unattended, has a tendency to move things from one place to another organize. Add to that, the little every day things I could turn into a story with just a tad of embellishment. The acrobatic squirrel that somehow fakes out the bird feeder trigger so that he can gorge himself on sunflower seeds while hanging upside down, or how wonderful it is to play, "let's pretend" with Sweetie while floating in life preservers in the pool with a plastic shark circling us on the pools current are stories just waiting to be written.

See what I mean. That's a rather long introduction for someone who just wanted to copy and paste a nother person's blog.  I've mentioned my friend Amy before. I used to call her my writing bud, and she is still that, but she's morphed into my friend, confidant, and encourager. When I'm scared about something, which Amy might say is all the time, she becomes a veritable Push Girl. Amy has no tolerance for my Chicken Little persona.  And to prove my point, I'd like to send you over to her blog.  

Amy's is an incredible story, made even more incredible by the similarities it shares with the only other person I've ever known whose young, active life was cut short by a brain malformation. Zubin disliked words like handicapped or disabled. Amy, has more of a if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em attitude. Both had to learn how to live in a body that didn't work anymore. Both coped with being quadriplegic by telling their story for others and using their decidedly "abled" creative minds to deal with their circumstances, in the only way they could.

Amy has finished writing her memoir.  Misadventures of a Happy Heart: A Memoir of Life after Disability is in the final stages of editing. One day soon, when you walk into Barnes and Noble, there it will be on that front table across from the door with her picture on the cover.  As you will read in her post this week, Amy knows her limits, but refuses to be defined by them. There is little she won't try at least once. Her bravery and my cowardice make us strange pals. However, we both like chocolate, cats,  and writing. We both prefer to drink out of straws. A pretty good basis for friendship, don't you think?

You know those plastic bracelets people used to wear printed with WWJD? I should have one with WWAD? That way, if I'm ever faced with the doing something dangerous  new, like swimming with sharks, sky diving, or telling a hungry goat I might have some crackers in my purse, I could ask myself what would Amy do, then opt to do the opposite.

What would you do if you had no fear?
Merry ME
aka Chicken Little

P.S. When you go to her blog, be sure to leave a comment.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

God by any other name is still God

On Friday evening Sweetie and I attended a traditional Shabbat dinner with my new employers.   Strangers to the group, neither of us knew what to expect. I felt sure, however, we would be welcomed like family because that's the way I felt from the first time I met the K's.

Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins a few minutes before sundown on Friday. In Hebrew Shabbat means "resting"symbolizing how God rested after creating the world. Observing Shabbat is mandated for Jews in all parts of the world. "We have remained true to the Shabbat in every place, culture and circumstance of our 4,000-year history has visited -- from the glorious days to the blackest of night." Something that's lasted for 4000 years has got to have the backing of the Divine One, don't you think?

It's been so long since I've attended a social function, and forever since I've gone to dinner with people I don't know. Yet when L asked us to join them, I felt a stirring of excitement. My Episcopalian roots might call that the Holy Spirit.

I gave myself permission to feel the presence of God rather than note the differences in religions. In fact, the first thing I noticed was the lack of differences. The table was set with candles, bread and wine, not unlike the Christian altar prepared for Eucharist.  The sanctity of the Sabbath began as the women gathered around the table to light candles. I read that the women light the candles as a way of bringing light back into the world after Eve did her thing with the apple. Since I recently read a kinder, gentler version of the "demonized" mother of sin, I choose to disregard this reason for the women's part of the service.

I admit that when I heard the women did the prep work, while the men continued to socialize in the living room, or in this case discussed  how the Jaguars would fare this season, I had the tiniest of chips on my shoulder.  To my delight, it didn't feel at all like I expected. It wasn't like the men sat in the board room while the "little" women served up their coffee.  Instead I realized it is an honor to be the one(s) to add the light that will welcome God into the room. With heads bowed and  eyes closed, the women reverently drew the light towards them as they prayed.
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe.
Being with these women at this holy dinner, spoke to the part of me that is seeking the companionship of women of faith. Spiritual women who keep the fires of love, peace and hope burning.

Once the men joined the group, kippahs (yarmulkes) were passed out. I learned that whenever there is a big celebration in the Temple, a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, monogrammed yarmulkes are passed out, like monogrammed favors at a wedding reception. This means most Jewish families have a stock pile of extras.  My camera battery was taking its own Sabbath, so I have no picture of it, but when I looked across the table at my Sweetie, I saw a wise and stately figure, as if being Jewish was second nature to him. Of course, like a wolf in sheep's clothing (perhaps, not the best of metaphors), just because he looked like he'd been reciting Hebrew for years didn't mean he'd ever held the Torah in his hands.  I'm still getting used to Sweetie's Santa persona. Think this (without the pipe):

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
[The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.] He had a broad face and a little round belly,That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

... in a yarmulke.

With the men in the room, we were elbow to elbow. I listened carefully to the prayers, imagining them to be similar to the ones my Lord spoke at his last supper. As our host, S, read the prayers, I watched his three-year-old son D who is referred to as Rabbi in his pre-school.  D stood on a chair next to his father, doing his best to recite the prayers along with the other men. I couldn't fail to notice the smile on his face.  I dare say he radiated joy.
 “Let the little children come to me," said Jesus, "and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt. 19:14

Next, like in any Christian service, the wine (grape juice) was blessed:
Blessed  are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine. (Amen)
before we drank it. Then the homemade Challah was uncovered and blessed.

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Kind of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth. (Amen.)

After S cut the Challah, he dipped the first piece in salt, to signify (in my non-Jewish interpretation) how the blessings of life (bread) are often accompanied by trials and tears (salt). In other words, the Challah and the salt could be the Jewish version of the 1980's sitcom theme song - "you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life." After the blessing, the bread was passed around the table, declaring in a dignified way "Let's eat."

The service ended by extending Shabbat Shalom with each other, hugging, and cheek kissing. It appears the Episcopalian "passing of the peace" that began after the prayer book was modified in the 1970's is not a new thing. Jews have been sharing a kiss of peace for thousands of years.  

And like any good religious observance the Shabbat service was followed by food. Good food, and lots of it. Yes, Sweetie and I were the only Christians in the group, but I couldn't have felt more at home.

In church today, my priest spoke of hospitality.  From the Greek, hospitality in the New Testament means "love of strangers." Be it a stranger, a sinner, a black boy in a hoodie, a girl walking on Philips Highway, a homeless person down on his luck,  a drug addict, your mother and father, or yourself, loving is the heart of Jesus' message.  If I close my eyes, and draw the light of the Shabbat candles toward me, I can picture Jesus sitting at his mother's table as the sun dipped below the horizon on Friday night. Perhaps like D at our dinner,  he smiled from the inside out as he learned the prayers, sang the songs and welcomed guests to the holy feast. Perhaps, Jesus knew it would be the women at his tomb who would kindle the light of His resurrection before the men arrived. Perhaps the salt of Eve's tears shed in the garden,  or the tears Mary would cry at the foot of the cross, foretold the pain Jesus would endure, and the agony that the world would know in the name of of religion, not the Divine one from which we all come.  It is no wonder Jesus chose to spend his last meal, the sacred ritual of Shabbat, with his friends. And it's no wonder that a dinner shared with the people you love, or strangers, is the sacrament that calls forth the Holy Spirit no matter what religion one is.

As this dinner drew to a close, with laughter and hugs, and promises to see each other next week, I was reminded of a saying I first heard at a  Shabbat service at a Temple here in Jacksonville:
"Joy shared is doubled. Sadness shared is lessened."
This extended family still grieves the recent loss of two of its patriarchs. In my church our Eucharist is shared by the "communion of saints." I could feel the spirit of these men, as well as the ancients who had gone before, join us as we circled around the table. Even though a stranger I felt the joy this family feels in the presence of their loved ones and God.

I close with these words from Fr. Miguel this morning,
"When you enter [this church], may you feel welcome.
When you leave may you be blessed.
I took it to be the "Amen" at the end of my Shabbat experience.
May it be so. 
Shalom. Peace.
Merry ME

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


When I was growing up, I believed my mother was the driving force of our family. The home was her domain. She washed and cooked and ironed and made beds, and mopped floors. She got kids up for school and drove them to doctor appointments. She pincurled her hair, changed her clothes and put on lipstick before my Dad got home from work.   She disciplined with a rubber flip flop, nursed us when were sick and made sure we got to church on time.  My mom knitted sweaters, crocheted afghans, and taught me how to sew. When storms blew twigs and branches across the yard, mom was the first one out there to pick them up. When we were little girls and needed naps, we lay on mom's bed with her while she read stories. Mom liked to watch golf and tennis on TV. She cheered for her favorite football team, win or lose. She was watching (maybe listening) a boxing match when she went into labor with me.

There were two things I wanted to be when I grew up. Just like my mom. And nothing like my mom. I'm glad I walked in her footsteps. I learned, by my own mistakes, that most moms do the best they can.

I learned a lot about my mother's character after she died and I lived with my father. I learned he was the driving force behind the driving force in a patriarchal way.  Dad could be harsh, argued unfairly, always had the last word. He expected certain things of his wife and I think he got them. After my mother's illness, Dad became a kinder and gentler husband. I am glad I got to witness that.

Now that both my parents are gone, it's my dad who visits my dreams. It's my dad I argue with. It's my Dad I still try to please.  I don't miss my mom with the same kind of broken spirit. But every now and then I feel her presence.  When I come across something that reminds me of her -  a picture, an afghan, the black-handled spatula with the burned place on the handle that has worn smooth from use, the small green vase that she used for pansies or gardenias - I feel a deep longing as if we are still connected by an umbilical cord that death could not sever.

I noticed that feeling tonight when I saw this picture on FB. As she has aged, my Aunt Letty, looks more like my mom than when they were younger.  They share features of their mother.  Characteristics I may share too, tho I tend to resemble my dad's family more than my mom's.  I've never lived in close proximity with my aunt. She was a city girl who lived in New York, then Washington DC.  She wore high heels, drank martinis, went to plays, and held her own in an argument when my dad and her dad doubled up on her. She talked of skinny dipping in Lake Carmi and showed me how Ivory soap floats.  All of which, to my young way of thinking, made her exotic. Products of the same parents but different eras I believe Lett had the free spirit my mom put in a cage on her wedding day.

I get sad when I think of how spread out my family is. We talk of getting together for big family reunions where cousins meet cousins they didn't know they had.  I look at my Aunt and long for one of those nights when the adults would sit around the dining room table after the kids were excused. When the coffee cups were empty, dad would uncork the dusty bottle of brandy and serve it in small Japanese glasses used only on occasions.  Now that I'm an adult, I'd like to sit at the table with the others and listen to the stories of good times past, friends long gone, and family connections that transcend time and space.

Happy belated Birthday Aunt Lett. I wish I'd been there to raise a glass in your honor.  In my book you'll always be exotic. Much love and many blessings to you and yours,
Merry ME

Monday, July 15, 2013


Today I noticed how frail my friend, Mary, has gotten.
She fell again over the weekend.
I'm afraid all the progress she made might be for naught.

And I've noticed how I'm carrying around a kind of ache inside.
It seems like the rest of the world is talking about racial profiling and justice for all.
All I can think about is the plight of old people.
Maybe plight is too strong a word.
But I can't forget thinking the things I saw in the care facility where Mary stayed for 7 weeks.
And I think about the number of people in my age bracket who are becoming caregivers.
I found taking care of your parents is like having your first child.
One day you're only responsible for yourself. Then the next thing you know the care and feeding of another human being lies firmly on your shoulders.
There is no instruction manual. It's on the job training.
It makes you scream. It makes you want to pull your hair out.
And it makes you cry yourself to sleep at night. Dreading what will come next and praying the end won't come too soon.
It all weighs heavy on my heart.

I'm just rambling here.
Thanks for listening.
Merry ME

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Another Dad Dream

Great Lakes
The faded memories of my past - partial recognition
New places - figments of a wild imagination

"Take me home," he said.
"Where is home?" I asked, thinking heaven had to be about as "home" as anyone can get.
"Tennessee," he said.

I notice when I have dreams about my father, they are often a combination of known and unknown.
And I always wake up feeling heavy with sadness.

"What do you feel sad about?" asked Sweetie.
I can't say, it's more of a weight than an emotion.

Melancholy Merry

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Today I noticed how quickly Sweet Caroline has progressed from barely moving 
Rollover Queen

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Easter in July

I've found a new blog that has lit a fire under my spiritual self. You know that commercial where a woman hits herself in the head and says, "I could have had a V-8?" That's how I felt after reading yesterday's post about waiting.

“To create newness you have to cover the soul and let grace rise. You must come to the place where there’s nothing to do but brood, as God brooded over the deep, and pray and be still and trust that the holiness that ferments the galaxies is working in you too. Only wait. 
And somehow the transformation you knew would never come, that impossible plumping of fresh life and revelation, does come. It manifests itself in unseen slowness. So it would happen to me and so it will happen to all who set out to knead their pain and wounds, their hopes and hungers, into bread. Waiting is the yeasting of the human soul.” Sue Monk Kidd, When The Heart Waits
"Waiting is the yeasting of the human soul." OMG, I love that line. 

Seems like I've been waiting for awhile, and not even sure what I'm waiting for.  I've heard it said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Perhaps I've just been waiting for the Ronna's lessons.

I used to think I was a really patient person, that I could win a waiting contest. You'd only have to sit with me in line at the McDonald's drive-thru to know that I'm far from patient. I'm only a good waiter if there is something interesting to watch while I'm waiting, or I'm standing next to an obviously bad waiter.  The next time I find myself waiting, I'm going to remind myself to be patient, that my soul is yeasting.

Along those same lines I noticed, today, how "the holiness that ferments galaxies" also fermented, (converted) the pain of grief into a new normal.  

In the Episcopal Church today was the 7th Sunday after Pentecost. But as I was leaving church I noticed Easter in the smiles on the faces and light in the eyes of a couple who just a few years ago lost their 3 year old baby. I know that grief eventually passes and the living somehow go on living. But it was hard to accept that when you looked at this broken couple and their close relatives,  all of them stalwarts of the church, believers in a God of mercy and grace. But when you watch your baby die a slow death, I think, even believers lose faith.

This couple's yeasting did not happen in 3 days. I wasn't privy to how their fermentation took place. Yet, today, as I watched them smile I felt a little of what the women at Christ's tomb must have felt. 
Life resurrected. Hope reborn. Love renewed.

What are you waiting for?
Merry ME

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Power of Laughter

 "Laughter is America's most important export."
Walt Disney

Today I noticed that Sweet Caroline has almost mastered rolling over. It would be hard not to notice. Every time she made it to her stomach, she let loose with another new achievement - a really happy sound, somewhere between a squeal and a screech. It's not a full on laugh, but an expression of contentment that only a baby can make.

In an article by Maria Shriver she wrote:
"Go out of your way to laugh today. Try to laugh everyday and surround yourself with people who make you laugh. That has made all the difference in my life." Maybe that's why working with babies has me feeling so good lately. Babies make me laugh. []

In the same newsletter, I read an article by a woman whose mother resides in a nursing home (I've noticed that nursing homes are becoming recurring theme on this blog) and suffering from depression. Until "a very talented art teacher at the nursing home didn’t take “no” for an answer. She kept inviting my Mom to come and simply observe the class. (No pressure whatsoever.)
After a couple of weeks of just watching, Mom started doing. And doing. And doing.
Twenty paintings later, she had her first one-woman art show."

After reading this I'm hereby amending my list of must-haves ultimate nursing home (see previous post). There will need to be an art room. Tables covered in brown craft paper. A box of 64 Crayola crayons for every resident. Polymer clay. Finger paints. Easels. Scissors. Paste. Gel pens. Chalk board and colored chalk. And Sharpies. Thin Sharpies. Thick Sharpies. Black Sharpies. Every color under the sun Sharpies.  Who can be uncheered with Sharpies around?

May you be surrounded by laughter and color.
Merry ME

Independence Day

It is fitting that my friend Mary was released from what I refer to as the "care facility from hell" today, July 4. In fact she managed to her escape before her release papers were signed. Talk about freedom. Just as her son got her settled in her favorite chair, the phone started ringing. There was no way he was going to get her back in the car to sign a paper or two.

I wonder if the ink was dry on the Declaration of Independence before our forefathers and mothers realized there was way more to being independent that just wanting it so. Poor Mary, was second-guessing her leaving before the morning was over.  Home sounded pretty good when she was living in an area the size of a twin bed. The reality of home is having to walk side ways to get into the bathroom,  having trouble getting out of the chair she normally sits in, getting even a small meal or cup of coffee from one place to another while using a walker, being even more alone than when she was in purgatory, admitting things are not going to be as easy as she thought.

The only good thing I saw or heard this afternoon was a nurse and therapist would be visiting tomorrow. Finally, finally, someone will see how things are and hopefully make some suggestions that will let Mary remain in her home and still be safe.

Sweetie gave me a good talking to. He reiterated that I can only do so much for Mary. Her son is going to have to figure out how to make things work. "But," I said over and over again, sprinkled with several "what if's." It's not that I wasn't listening to him, that I don't know he's right. It's just that I hate HATE that this same fate is what faces so many elderly people every day.  The people of Mary's generation survived  the Great Depression, World Wars, natural disasters, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement, the Age of Aquarius, and Y2K. They've gone from Model T's to SUV's before their keys were taken away from them. Their Black and White TVs have been replaced by streaming devices, HiFi's turned into iPods and telephones they once had to dial are now "smart" enough to tell you where to go and how to get there. It's no surprise they want to live (and die) with dignity even as their bodies weaken and their minds begin to fail.   Throw in some pain, some anger, some loneliness, and some fear. It's no wonder old people get cranky and hard to live with or talk to. Hard fought independence is hard to let go of.

As the Universe would have it, I read a new blog today about the "positive effects animals have on the aging and people with disabilities whose lives are generally confined to their homes or facilities. I recall learning that people who have pets in their homes generally have good nutrition because they want to feed their animals well too. Their moods are lighter, and overall, they take better care of themselves so they can stick around for their companions."  Even if going home did not meet Mary's high expectations, having her cat, Gracie, sit on her lap, calmed her a little. For this I am grateful.

Laci's idea of palliative care...
A great big dog kiss.
(Dad, circa 2010)
Later on, while on our way to visit a friend in the hospital, Sweetie and I listened to an NPR broadcast about an Emergency Room doctor in Alaska who had switched to a new specialty - Palliative Care.

When I run the nursing homes, along with cats curled up on patients' beds, therapy dogs roaming the halls and what I will call "child therapy" I will make sure every person who works in my facility from the maids to the managers, focuses on "relieving and preventing suffering of the patients."

My prayer tonight is that Mary will lie down in her own bed with Gracie at her feet and rest in a way she hasn't been able to do since May 13th. Things will be different for sure. But with her strong, independent (read, stubborn) streak and the grace of the Divine Healer may she realize "there's no place like home."

May it be so with you also.
Merry ME

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hanging Out

While waiting for my deposit to be processed, I noticed this little guy.
He must have been waiting too, because he just hung out while I reached for my camera,
then said, "cheese!" as I took the picture. 

Bad Dreams & Memories

Old boyfriends.
Not enough money.
Rearranging the house.
No plants in the backyard.
Sister Jo.
High school.

All mixed up together in one creepy dream.

Today feels like one of those summer days I spent as a child at Grammy's camp, when the skies were gray, and rain drizzled through the trees, steamy mist hovering over the lake. There were only two things to do while waiting for the rain to stop. Both took place on the screened in porch with it's view of the lake. I could sit at the card table and attempt to beat Grammy at Scrabble (a fruitless endeavor even for adults - a kid had no chance and Grammy gave no breaks for age, lack of vocabulary, or crappy letter choice) or lay on the cot behind the curtain with a book, too good to put down, except when my eyes closed and the book fell to my chest. I'd doze for awhile, then wake up, check the weather, and start reading again.

Today, I'm noticing how much I miss being a child on vacation, when the grown ups were in charge of everything and all I had to do was wait for the rain to stop.

Merry ME

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


This morning I noticed that running a few minutes behind schedule on the way to to the car, Caroline's big brother, David, spied a snail as he took each step in similarly snail-like slooooow motion. It's been raining a lot and the snails are loving it. I think. Maybe not. Maybe snails are on the sidewalks because they're trying to dry off. Regardless, David watched as the snail stretched out his gooey body, then pulled his rear up into his shell with only his head and antennae poking out.
"Why did he curl up?" David asked in little boy fashion.
"I don't know," replied his mom, piling lunch boxes and tote bags into the car, along with beloved bear, fox and monkey. "Maybe he didn't like all the noise."
"Why?" asked David.
"Come on, let's get in the car."
With each why David took another step closer to the car, but kept his eyes on the snail, who was doing his best "I'm-a-brick" impersonation (like when Robert was little and played, pretend I'm a rock and try to find me.) The snail wasn't fooling anybody. Least of all a curious 3 year old stalling for time.

As I closed and locked the door, I couldn't help but side with David in his questioning. Why is the question that I can't keep out of my brain.

Last week I attended 2 funerals in four days. Still reeling from the sadness that comes with seeing good friends lose loved ones, I made the mistake of reading the local news online. It doesn't take much to send me into a tailspin, but the assault and murder of a child by a known sex offender who had only been out of prison for a month broke me wide open.

I did the only think I knew to do. I flung myself into Sweetie's arms, blubbered into his chest and asked why. Of course, I didn't expect him to answer me. There are no answers to most why questions.
Why do people die in the prime of their life?
Why do people go on living when their brains have, for all intents and purposes, shut down?
Why do people do mean things - especially to children, old people and animals?
Why does God let bad things happen?

If you know me, you are aware I tend to ask a lot of questions. I've been accused by some as being nosy. Sometimes I expect an answer. Sometimes I just lob questions to anyone who will listen, like a pop fly to an outfielder. Maybe he'll catch (answer) it and maybe he won't. Sweetie doesn't much care for my questions. He disregards most whys and what ifs. Other questions he answers "I don't know," in one of those tinny, robotic voices that makes him sound a lot like George Jetson's maid. But as my tears soaked into his shirt, he let me ask why til I ran out of breath.

Later, he wrote this on his blog

"Why doesn't GOD protect little children?"
All followed by heart wrenching sobs from Mary. It was folly to attempt answers at that point. Emotions so high, understanding so low.
Writing this I feel inadequate in being able to comfort my wife. I feel anger toward a man I don't even know for an unconscionable act beyond my understanding. I feel a crushing weight of sadness for a mother - for her family, for the pain they are now bearing. The guilt! I feel separated from a GOD so callous as to permit such evil in the world. Even knowing that we are only responsible for our own actions, that we are at choice is very little consolation.
Mary has gone to get her toes done. To see her friend Mary who resides in a nursing home. To cry and scream alone in the car, her self designed therapy. I'm writing to clarify my thoughts. We'll talk later. Attempt to reason out our feelings, to better understand our thoughts.
In part I will say to her; We are meant to live our lives in goodness to the very peak of our ability. We are not called to be co-counsel to GOD as judges to the rest of humanity. For us, for others who share a belief in GOD - a supreme being/purveyor of all that is right and holy we can only pray in gratitude for such a presence, while asking forgiveness for the sins of others too exquisite to fathom. jdc

Some of Sweetie's personality flaws were pointed out to me this weekend  (by someone obviously without flaws).  I'm still sorting through my feelings on that front. I can tell you I felt angry and resentful. I also took a hard look at myself and asked a lot of whys. I'm one of the few people Sweetie shares his whole self with. I'm lucky that way.  If ever I'm asked why I love him like I do, all I have to do is imagine his arms around me and say, "because." That's a good enough answer for me.

Do you have a favorite question?
Merry ME