Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 31 - Woodpeckers, Smiles and Ellen


What do woodpeckers, smiles and Ellen have in common? The way you feel after you've seen them.


 I missed posting on day 30. I was going to write about the woodpecker I noticed on the bird feeder 2 days ago. The feeder is set so that if a bigger bird or squirrel or other critter gets on the bar, it closes off the access to the food. Well this gymnastic woodpecker was able somehow to get around this small inconvenience. He held onto the bar lightly with his tiptoes (claws?), did a backwards turn and reached his long woodpecker beak into the seed trough. I tried to get picture but of course, he was camera shy.  Yesterday, I was able to click a quick photo. Alas, I had to shoot through the screen, zoom in to the point of blurry and was looking into the sun. You can see a red speck but not the bird's athletic prowess. It doesn't quite have the same affect as the real thing.
____

Thursday is the day I set aside a few hours to visit with my senior friend. The onset of cold weather made her arthritic hands ache so she wasn't in the best of moods. We sat at her dining room table and chatted for awhile.  I helped her fill out some medical forms and with each question she told me a little more about herself.  I noticed that as she talked, her mood lightened. We laughed as she shared stories about her father and brothers.  Quite out of the blue she asked me to stand by while she tried to get on her exercise bike. Huh? This from the woman who could only shuffle across the room an hour ago?
Let me just say that this 92 year old woman could give a non-doping, non-drugging Lance Armstrong a  run for his money.  I got winded just watching her. Eight miles later she felt better physically and emotionally.

"I guess I was just feeling sorry for myself," she said. "If I could, I'd kick myself in the butt."

Damn, I thought, nothing like being shamed into exercise by a little old lady.

I don't think my friend was the only one who felt better after my visit. I was also smiling more. I ran into the grocery store for a few things. The check out lady said she could tell I was having a good day. I wonder,  did I feel better because she smiled at me? Or did she feel better because I smiled at her? Either way I (re)noticed there is amazing power in a smile.

When I got home I watched Ellen. I love Ellen. I noticed how good I felt watching her make a gigantic change in someone's life. Then I thought about my friend, and realized it doesn't have to be a $50K gift to make someone feel better. Maybe all you really have to do is smile at a person or encourage them to get back on the bike and start pedaling.

What have you noticed lately?
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 29 - New Name

Sweetie has been a Guardian Ad Litem for 4 years. He's seen some things that would make your hair stand on end. He's seen some sad stories with happy endings. Tonight I noticed the sparkle in Sweetie's eye as he told me about the adoption of a brother and sister - 3 and 6 years old respectively. He told me how it felt to have his legs hugged by kids whose lives have been turned around. He told me about the smile on the new mother's face. It wasn't an easy road to get to today's celebration. Thank goodness there are lawyers, social workers, foster parents and GAL's who work to put the jigsaw puzzle pieces of broken lives back together.

The thought of two little kids with a new last name makes my heart smile,
Merry ME


Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 28 - Pansies

Upon making the bed this morning, I noticed there is about a 3 inch gap between the mattress and headboard. Hmmm, that wasn't there the last time I made the bed. I know this because I have a hard time fitting my hand in the (old) space to pull the wrinkles out. It became clear that a certain man with blue eyes whom I love dearly moved the mattress when put the clean sheets on the bed. He also moved the wicker chest I had in the bathroom which is no big deal except Girl Cat can no longer reach the sink.

It's little things like this that make noticing fun. I have found I'm actually paying more attention to things, which is the point of the exercise I believe.
___

I don't know about you but pansy's always perk me up. They remind me of my Grammy's camp in Vermont. I can't quite see them in my mind's eye anymore, but I associate the purple and yellow with a summer's stay at the lake.  I remember how Dad used to plant pansy's out front, under the tree that is no longer there. And I remember making a cake for Robert Belcher's Christening decorated with lightly sugared pansies. You can eat pansies, you know (see below). In Florida they are a fall/winter flower. The summer's heat is too much for their delicate countenance. I love to see a whole bed of multi-colored pansies. A pansy isn't all flashy like a rose,  or stately like an Iris, or bushy like a hydrangea. A pansy is like a good friend you want to share a cup of tea and quiet conversation with. A pansy makes you feel good, makes you smile.

Today I met a woman named Pansy in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). She couldn't have been named any more perfectly. The few minutes that I spent with her, I was taken by her smile and gentle nature. When I get old I hope I'm as nice to be around as she was. And right now, when I'm no spring chicken but not exactly old (age is relative, I know!), I hope I do for others what a handful of pansies in a small green vase sitting on the kitchen windowsill does for me.

Merry ME



[Pansies are edible, and quite tasty. A few rules apply for eating pansies: Plants purchased from stores have often been sprayed with chemicals to control pests or disease. So it's best not to eat blooms until the plant has grown for some time (a full season). The new blooms produced in a mature plant are okay to eat. Gently rinse blooms and drain. Add to salads, as a decorative plate garnish, or decorate cakes. http://www.iciclepansy.com/eatingpansies.htm]



What do a lady in the park, a sewing machine, and pansies have in common?

I have no idea, but when I was looking for pansy photos on Google this picture popped up like it belonged in the pansy category.  It made me chuckle so I thought I'd add it to the post. Also it reminded me of an appointment I had today. The woman owned 8 sewing machines. Maybe in her better days she liked to take one on a stroll through the park. Only two jobs and I'm beginning to believe there is much to be learned by hanging around old people.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 27 - Azaleas


Today I noticed how the azalea bushes in the neighborhood have begun to blossom. 
So pretty.

Merry ME

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 26 - A Clean House Full of Surprises

"You can find pictures anywhere.
It's simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them.
You  just have to care about what's around you
and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy."
Elliott Erwitt

Before going to my first OPH (Old Person Helper) assignment yesterday I asked Sweetie if the division of labor was going to change. Actual "labor" being taken with a teeny spoonful of salt.  

"Of course," my blue-eyed Type A husband responded. "I'll vacuum, dust, change the bed do the laundry and figure something out for dinner."

Good God that sounds like more than I do in a day. I told him I'd bring home a pizza. Four hours on the job after taxes would just about cover the cost of two pizzas. 

I'm sworn to confidentiality so it's going to be hard to use my OPHing experience as fodder for my blog/great American novel. That said, if every job goes like the first, it might make for a prize winning America's Funniest Video.  At the end of 2 hours, however, I'd stopped laughing and begun a slow to moderate burn. 

The delightful news is that when I got home my Sweetie had, indeed, vacuumed and made the bed. The towels were folded and Sweetie sat in his chair, feet up looking like housework is a piece of cake. Until he tried standing. I noticed he had tweaked something. So easy to do when dancing with the vacuum cleaner like it's Ginger Rogers, or Fred Astaire as the case may be.

I took noticing to a whole new level today. 
I noticed how easily words said in haste can hurt. And I noticed both sides get hurt when the words begin to fly.  A good perspective for me to have, even after 2 years of being Dad-less.

I turned into my neighborhood and noticed this: 


It's a good thing there wasn't a car behind me because I slammed on the brakes and made a quick U-turn. Seriously folks, how often to you see a lavender tree? And one that looks like the entrance to candy land is just too darn yummy to pass up.  The lady who owns the house where the tree is resting assured me that her son won't leave it there long. I don't know, maybe there is some neighborhood association regulation against lavender trees. If it were me, I think I'd paint the rest of my fence to match it - or maybe add Styrofoam balls on the top of the posts to look like lollipops.

I swear seeing that tree made my day. Little Me squealed with joy.

When I arrived home, Mr. Clean was at it again. A bottle of orange oil appeared to be half-gone. Most every flat surface in the house (except for my piles which Sweetie is smart enough not to touch) possessed a dust free sheen.   All the CD's were out of the cabinet which glistened inside and out.  The fireplace bricks were about to be cleaned in a way they hadn't experienced since my mom was still in charge of cleaning. 

I grabbed a dust cloth and began to help. It took a few turns around the room, before I began to notice a few subtle differences. My pig collection had been moved. Close to having a tizzy I looked up. There sat all my "happy"pigs, looking quite pleased to have a new view.  



And my angels had been rearranged. The plants moved to the living room.
The Amish built fireplace my father loved was no longer in front of the real fireplace that we're too afraid to use because of the critter nests that surely clog the chimney.



And the stuffed animals that had been struggling to breathe inside a Rubbermaid container stored in the upstairs closet looked remarkable happy to have a new home.

Oh my, it's like a treasure hunt around here! I kind of like it. At the same time, I'm a little worried what's going to become of my laundry basket full of flannel. I think my sewing table should have a NO TRESPASSING sign on it, don't you?

Here's wishing you an orange-scented dust-free house,
Merry ME

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 25 - Understanding

I noticed today how comforting two small words can be.
"I understand."
Thanks, Molly.

Merry ME

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 24 - A Month of Letters and Other Stuff

Today I noticed this on a friends blog:


It goes right along with my previous post. See Day 20 below. Since I unexpectedly seem to be throwing my hat into the ring, or application form as the case may be, I decided to sign up. I think the rules are pretty simple. Write something everyday and put it in the post. Anyone else out there who likes snail mail? Sunny D? Here's a good chance to put those #2 pencils to good use! If you're interested go here.

___

So today was my hiring session. Basically that means signed my name on a lot of papers. I have been electronically fingerprinted, had my picture taken, and agreed NOT to be involved with 2.5 pages of offenses like theft, murder, kidnapping, drug use/sales, gun smuggling, or child porn while at work. I learned how to wash my hands to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The good news is  the procedure hasn't changed that much since I was in nursery school. I'm pretty sure I got a gold star. There are a couple more boxes to check off if I plan on being any more than a companion, but I think I can say I am now officially employed.

So why is my stomach in a knot? Why do I feel like crying? Giving it some thought, I think it has to do with money. Maybe it has to do with puffing myself up like a peacock and needing to come back down to Robin Redbreast size.

First of all, I think my hourly rate of pay is a paltry sum. I realize that is not what the agency is charging or clients are paying. I also realize I have no credentials other than 17 years of mom and dad care. Credentials matter. And if I were on the receiving end of the care, I'd expect to pay more for more care. I get all that. Without ever stepping into a stranger's house, and learning what there is to do, I think I'm worth more than that. It's like that old argument about how much is a wife/mother worth? Add up all the different job descriptions and nobody could afford a wife.  How is it we live in a society that thinks it's okay to pay people to take care of our most prized possessions - our children and elders - diddly squat? And a lot of that care is no more than warehousing.

You know what - scratch that whole last paragraph.

I think my problem is this - I want to do this kind of work for free. It is a heart job to me. Dad and I used to go round and round about this. I lived in his house and took care of him, because I wanted to. It had nothing to do with his $$$ and if I could have afforded it, I wouldn't have taken one penny of his money. The exchange of funds took away the heart factor. It meant he could always trump my gift with his checkbook because of my financial needs.  I hated being beholding to him. I couldn't walk away and I couldn't say no to having a roof over my head. I had bills to pay then, and I have bills to pay now. Bottom line, I feel like I'm selling my soul.

But the facts are I need the money. And there's nothing wrong with being paid for the work one does. If I was an accountant or teacher or libraian I'd want and expect to get paid. Still it feels like a sin to take money for spending time with an old person, or driving them to the store. And it sure as hell feels insulting that if I'm going to be paid, I'd like it acknowledged that I'm worth something.

If you read between the lines here, I think my turmoil has more to do with touching a nerve than anything else. I should just erase this whole damn thing. But I'm going to leave it so I can come back later and re-evaluate.

Sorry for the rant. Nobody knows better than me that I need an attitude adjustment. I think I'll go wash my hands and give myself another gold star.
Merry ME



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 23


Today I noticed paw prints in cement Johnson left to dry. Seems the neighbor's cat who likes to come pee on things in our yard decided to take a short cut - going through the cement instead of around.





This is one of my all time favorite pictures of John. I think he was about four, maybe five years old. I don't remember now what he created. I don't think that is as important as the look of concentration on his face. You can't see his face in the pictures below, but he is every bit as focused on his work. It's true - you can take the mud out of the boy but can't take the boy out of the mud.  


When the tree stood sentinel over the front yard, Dad insisted there would be no sidewalk. The roots grew willy nilly under the cement block walkway. A sidewalk would be nothing but cracked pieces of concrete. As soon as the tree was gone Johnson had a vision for what the front of the house would look like. I confess, although he's explained it to me several times, I still can't see what he sees. As the sidewalk slowly becomes a reality, I like the looks of it.  Grass and plants will come next. For now, my son mixes and stirs and pours and smooths 4 x 4 foot walkways so the cats won't get their feet dirty. 




____

 I also noticed how comfortable I am with a group of women with whom I have little in common except the love of words. It's not a new awareness, but a sweet feeling of belonging. The fact that today is the 2nd anniversary of Dad's death was never far from my thinking. While the group worked on improving essay-writing skills, memories came unbidden ...
... The way the group welcomed me and gave me a place to escape caregiving for a few hours.
... The way the Chats walked with me during the last years of Dad's life, accepted my grief, laughed with me, cried with me and continuous to encourage my re-birth.
... A quiet "been there done that"understanding that women share even if the circumstances are different.
... The way Dad didn't complain as much about my leaving when he knew I was going to "writing group."
... A green blanket and wind chimes.
... Learning and relearning that good caregiving and good writing are not so different. Both demand tenacity, fortitude, open and honest.

____

I noticed, that after two years, I still want to take a nap when thoughts of Dad overwhelm me.

____

I noticed how easy it is to lean on my Sweetie when I'm unsure of my emotions.

Merry ME





Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 22 - Ladybugs and Laughter


I used to work for a man who had an Type A personality. Or maybe you'd just call him controlling. Not so much a misogynist as a cracker from a small Florida fork in the road. You know the kind that like to keep the little lady barefoot and pregnant. He was all about driving big trucks, dressing in camouflage, spending time in deer stands, learning new turkey calls, Bear Bryant, the Marine Corps and his mama's chicken 'n dumplings. He was always pretty sure of himself. Until he misplaced something. Then he called upon my woman's keen sense of retrieval, as if I were one of his hunting hounds. Sweetie will, of course, guffaw at such a statement. But remember this was a few years and a lot of brain cells ago.  So when he would lose something, he'd get all crazy, throwing papers around, opening drawers, etc. Just about the time I thought he was going to bust a gusset, he'd stop, take a deep breath and say, "It's okay. I've just got to panic first." And sure enough, as his panic subsided and he relaxed he usually put his hands right on whatever he lost. 

That's what I kept telling myself last night at 12 am, 1 am, and 2 am. I've just got to panic first. My mind raced through every possible job interview scenario. I flopped on one side then flopped to the other. When the alarm went off this morning, I can't say I was very rested, but I was ready to get up and get on with it. I'd panicked enough. 

I guess I did okay, because I've been asked back for a "hiring" session where I fill out lots of paperwork and have my hand scanned for a 2nd degree background check. I feel okay about how it went. I'm happy to say I didn't throw up. I'd still like to win tomorrow's lottery drawing so going to work would be my choice, not someone else's.  With hindsight I can see how I tend to get myself all worked up into a tizzy before settling down to business. 

Then I had lunch with my sister, a new grandma. Like new-fangled strollers, baby carriers, and rocking chairs gliders, I noticed grandmothers' brag books now come in tablet form where the pictures pop up and you just swipe your finger over the screen to move to the next one. I couldn't help but notice the joy in her eyes. Sure this is her busy season and she's burning the proverbial candle at both ends, but I could tell her life has changed somehow.  She had that glow grandmother's get that shines right from the heart.

Later, when I went to visit my senior friend, I noticed a tiny little ladybug resting on a fence post. I think what caught my eye was the color. A tangerine shade of orange instead of red. I looked around but I didn't see any others. I guess she wanted to soak up some sun before the temperatures dropped again tonight. There is something so sweet about ladybugs, don't you think?

I enjoyed the time I spent with my friend. I rubbed some new cream on her sore arthritic hands. We laughed at the cream's "amazing" ability to make her feel better.  I doubt there is any cream that can make a pain go away in just a few seconds. Perhaps it was just having someone touch her fingers, and hold her hand that felt so good. I found it pretty amazing to hear her laugh. We talked about what old people talk about - the medicine they take, insurance woes, aches and pains. Then, without warning, the subject changed. She told me about "the fight." How she ended up with a cereal bowl in her face and 3 cracked ribs.  The smile retreated as she remembered some dark days. I noticed how blessed I was to be the one to hear her story, and how grateful I am to have learned the art of quiet listening.  If you're ever in a situation like that, be still. Honor the story teller by honoring the story.  

When she was finished we sat quietly together. What attracted you to such a man, my nosey self had to ask. He had the prettiest blue eyes and wavy hair she answered. The 30 years difference in our ages disappeared. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I remember the first time I saw my Sweetie's blue eyes. It's hard not to be swept off your feet under such a gaze.

Upon leaving I noticed how full my heart felt. I guess sometimes I just have to panic a little so I can get to the feeling on the other side. 




With a butterfly kiss and a ladybug hug, sleep tight little one like a bug in a rug. 

Tonight before I go to bed, I'll say a little prayer of gratitude for new babies and old ladies, amazing cream and laughter, for sisters and grandmothers, for blue-eyed cuties and brown-eyed dogs, for knowing when to be brave and when to be quiet. For seeing things with I might have missed.
Merry ME

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 21

 I noticed two things today.

I got a call this morning from an HR person at a company called Senior Helpers. A couple of weeks ago I was riding this strange high about rejoining the caregiving community. My soul's knowing place spoke up and nudged me into giving it a voice. I talked to Sweetie about it. I talked to my senior friend about it, to my writing group and my priest friends. Everyone agreed. I'm not psychotic. Listening to my heart is different from hearing voices.

I toyed with the idea of starting my own business. I also thought it would be good to investigate some caregiving and schools.  I filled out an online application. I felt confident, secure, brave.  When I got the call for an interview I agreed to work for $8.00 an hour, even though it seems like a paltry fee. But I've got to start somewhere. Even though I may have a bunch of experience, I don't have any credentials, certificates, or references.  And with that little tiny opening crack of insecurity, I noticed how quickly all my fears and anxieties came rushing forward and last night's tears started to fall again.

What if I'm not good enough?
What if I AM good enough?
What if she doesn't like me?
What if I don't like her?
What about my commitment to other people?
Who do I think I'm kidding?
Call. Schmall. Remember how hard it was to take care of your daddy?
And on. And on. And on.

I can't let this fear run my life. I won't. But I gotta tell you, this is not a fun place. One foot in front of the other, Merry ME. That's all you've got to do today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
Where oh where does all this negativity come from? How can I go from high to low in the course of one phone call?

To combat the anxiety, I went to the church to put away baby shower gifts. It was busy work. Keep moving work.  Sorting and holding soft cotton baby clothes can calm most any fear. I stayed focused. Didn't let my mind wander.

Let me re-phrase that. I stayed focused right up until the time I threw my cell phone along with some trash in the dumpster. Damn I hate when that happens. Unaware, I started to drive off. Thank goodness before I got out of the parking lot I had a feeling I'd left the phone in the locked room. I turned around, retraced every step without any sight of my phone. Since it was missing, I couldn't call it to follow the ringing. My last guess was to look in the dumpster. Using a stick to poke under some paper, I spied the phone on the bottom of a week's worth of trash. When I say bottom, I mean the very bottom, as in sitting on the cold and rusted metal. My poking stick wasn't long or strong enough to fish it out. Where's McGiver when I need him? Or Sweetie? Attempting to hoist myself I noticed my arms are not nearly as strong as they used to be.  Suffice it to say, they did not do the trick.  It looked like retrieving my phone would require an actual swan dive. I needed some height.

This is not the first time I've had to jump into a dumpster. When I worked for my friend Pam in San Diego she often had me going into places no one else would venture. But I was younger then. Eager to please. And had a few muscles.

Thank goodness someone was working in the church office. She laughed when I told her what I'd done, handed me the broom and suggested a chair just in case.  The broom didn't work worth a damn. The chair turned out to be my saving grace. It raised me high enough to get one leg up and over the edge.  I didn't hear anything crack but I'm pretty sure I stretched parts of my body that were never meant to stretch. The actual phone retrieval proved easy. Getting out of the dumpster no so much.  Maria stood by ready to call 911 with my now-germ ladened phone, while I pulled the chair into the trash with me and reversed the procedure.

At first I thought "what happens in the dumpster, stays in the dumpster," but what's the fun of having a blog if you can't write about real life? If Jon Katz can post a picture of the urinals in a public bathroom, I suppose I can write about dumpster diving.  As disgusting as it is to climb into a dumpster (and I have to say it could have been WAAAAY worse) it reminded me of something else to put on my resume - willing to go the extra mile. But thank God there are no pictures.

I think I need a hot shower,
Merry ME


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day 20, Part 2

Tonight I noticed how easily music can trigger a flow of tears I thought I had dammed up.
I attended a concert put on by Jacksonville University Music department students. Donations collected were earmarked for Sandy Hook.  I cried through most of it. Still tear up just thinking about it.  

It didn't help that I read this blog by my friend Velya at Chica Peeps before the concert.

May songs and prayers and even a few tears wash away the fear of children everywhere.
Merry ME

Day 20 - A Love of Letters


"...But a writer's desk always tells the truth about the person who works there.
So if you really want to know about who I am ... take a look at my desk. "
Eyre Price*


I have a desk. Quite a lovely desk across from Sweetie, in the room we call the office. The problem is I've run myself out of it. It's cluttered. Claustrophobic. Intimidating. Like one must work there, not create, i.e. play. So I moved my computer into the den. My desk is now my lap. There's lots of light, the TV if I want it, the stereo if I want that. I'm next to the kitchen, to better hear the call of chocolate chip cookies. I can see out the living room window. Admittedly, without the trees this is not the view it once was, but it is a view. And I have lots of flat surfaces on which to put things.

"Then there's the joy of getting your desk clean, 
and knowing that all your letters are answered, and you can see the wood on it again." 
~Lady Bird Johnson

Yesterday I was determined to clean up some of my mess. I may have said that every day for the last month, but I was determined. Just one problem. When I got into the middle of one of the piles I discovered a whole batch of cards I've been meaning to send out. Instead of burying them again, or heaven forbid, putting them in the card box never to be seen again, I altered my plans. I actually wrote some letters - not long newsy letters, rather, the kind that say, Hi, I'm thinking of you. The kind that add sparkle to an ordinary day. Don't you love to get an unexpected something in the mail?

Next, in order to clean up the end of the couch that no one ever sits on, but calls to me from under the detritus crap, I had to move Sweetie's new pants. Again, I might have just moved them to the bedroom and forgotten about them, but decided instead to hem them and be done with it. Hell, my sewing machine has been at the ready since before Christmas. Why not put it to some good use? The problem with that is I also had to pull out the ironing board, the iron, electrical cords, pin cushion, tape measures and scissors. Then I had to move everything off the sewing table so I could sew. Can you guess where this is going?

The good news is that by the time Sweetie's new British detective series came on at 10pm, the pants were hemmed and I'd made the binding for one of the Christmas quilts that never got finished. The bad news is the couch still has some piles, albeit smaller ones. And while I can see the glass top of the table next to me, I can't in all honesty say the job has been completed.

All that to say that I didn't "notice" much yesterday except that I'm rather scattered when I clean.  I did, however, smile every time I passed by the stack of letters ready to be taken to the post.

My writing group is in the process of putting together an e-book. We are at step one. Write an essay on "why I write." I think everyone in the group hit the first deadline with a rough draft. Since then only two of the 12 have revised to the point of completion. Another of last week's goals was to pull my essay out and get to work on it.  I dare say re-writing is the bane of every writer's writing.  I did some revision, but got stuck on an idea I didn't know how to put into words.  I think my very first memories of writing for pleasure came from writing letters.  I really, really enjoy the process of writing, mailing, and receiving letters. Sadly, like most other people, I've gotten caught up in the ease of social media. I don't send letters as much as I used to.

I'm not sure when I transitioned from letter writing to story-telling. Perhaps I never have. Because really, the best letters tell a story, don't you think? My blog is sort of an extension of that.

Another reason I enjoy writing letters is all the accoutrements. Perhaps in another life I sat at a hand-crafted desk with little cubby holes and drawers. Unlike the picture to the left, it would not have been so clean. There would have been  piles of monogrammed stationery, feathered quill pens and ink in a variety of colors that stained my fingers. Today I've never met a pretty piece of paper I didn't like. I surround myself with pens of all kinds. I hate, and often swear under my breath, when there is a line at the post office but that makes getting to the counter to see all the new stamps all the sweeter. Computerized stamps may be convenient, but they do nothing to add to the beauty of a hand-addressed envelope. As an aside, no one in the world addresses an envelope better than my daughter, Weneki. Seriously folks, she's an artist.

Today, I'm (re)noticing my love of letters. I hope I can turn that into a decent "why I write" story.

"We write," said Anais Nin, "to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection."
Why do you write?

Merry ME

PS I've got to be honest. Part of the reason I write is to ignore the piles that need to be picked up.

*http://eyreprice.net/About.html


Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 18 - The Blue Sweater


"15. The Sweaters.
Every one of the cardigans he wore on the show had been hand-knit by his mother."*

I will sure be glad when(if) I stop having to deal with waves of heat that come from nowhere, with no warning or apology, and engulf me like a Saharan sirocco.  If my mother was any example, even the hottest woman will one day fend off a chill by wearing a light sweater in the middle of summer.  I keep my fingers crossed.

My father had a thing about changing the air conditioner thermometer. He demanded it be kept at an even 78. Anything above 78 and the air would come on. Aytnhing below, the heat. 78 seemed to suit him perfectly. Not too hot. Not too cold. He was  just right. He had little sympathy for his estrogen-deprived daughters until the year before he died. We were all here at the same time. Make no mistake, there is power in numbers. Dad conceded to a brisk 2 degree drop.  

In his later years Dad never went anywhere without a few tissues in his pocket and a sweater. He'd lost a lot of weight. He didn't have much fat to keep him warm. Dad had three sweaters that he rotated. Cardigan's, from LL Bean. One made of wool, the others acrylic. He hated having them cleaned because it made them stiff and scratchy. Around the house he alternated between the brown and light blue. He saved the navy one for dress-up and church. He didn't alter his wardrobe much. 

After a person dies, the ones left behind are faced with sorting through the deceased's clothes, trinkets, and memories. The things that helped make that person who they were. Take Mr. Roger's for instance. Someone had to decide what to do with all those sweaters. Maybe his went to museums somewhere. A few of my father's belongings were divvied up between grandsons and sons-in-law, most went to the Goodwill. I couldn't part with the soft brown sweater. It rests on the back of my computer chair, kind of like a dog waiting for it's master to return home.  No I don't expect that Dad will come back looking for the sweater. But I do wear it when Sweetie, aka Nanook of the North, throws open all the windows to let in a blast of Arctic air. It's warm, but not too warm, and has pockets. Mostly it's soft as old sweaters and shoes get after being worn for years. 

Sweetie and I were lured into a store today with a coupon for 10% off clearance priced items. While Sweetie looked for a bargain, I wandered through the men's department with no agenda. That's when I saw it. A navy blue cardigan sweater, with pockets. I couldn't NOT walk over to it. I touched it, tentatively at first. Then grabbed the sleeves in both hands and rubbed the soft acrylic yarn across my cheeks like one might do with a baby's blanket, fresh from the dryer.  I noticed how soft it was. I noticed how quickly the memories carried me back to a Sunday morning, sitting next to Dad in the front pew. I noticed that I could hold that sweater and the memories without coming undone. I missed my dad, but not in that I-can't-breathe-I've-got-to-get-out-of-here-this-second-before-I-pass-out way.

Next Wednesday will be the second anniversary of Dad's death. I'm aware of the feelings that is stirring up. Maybe this year of noticing is helping me look at what's right in front of me, not what I've lost. "Time doesn’t heal all wounds, said Ellen Seldman in a Woman's Day article, "it refreshes your sense of hope. It helps you to see all the possibilities that exist instead of mourning the ones that don’t." I won't kid myself, I'm still mourning. But like April tulip bulbs in the Seattle sun, I'm beginning to bloom again after grief's darkness.

Merry ME



*15 REASONS WHY MR. ROGERS WAS THE BEST NEIGHBOR EVER. http://articles.cnn.com/2008-07-28/living/mf.mrrogers.neighbor_1_mr-rogers-neighborhood-fred-rogers-koko-tv-station?_s=PM:LIVING


Ellen Seidman, Real Life. Woman’s Day Nov. 2011 pg 55

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 17 - The Pencil Sharpener

During one of my recent marathons to organize the garage so I wouldn't have to clean the house, I decided to hang a dry erase board near the stairs so John and I can leave messages for one another.  Mac 'n cheese in the fridge. Suzi out for an hour. That sort of thing. The small spot right at the end of the shelf that holds laundry supplies looked like the perfect place. Except for one thing. The pencil sharpener.

I don't know when my father put up that old fashioned thing with a hand crank that ate as many #2 yellow pencils as it ever sharpened.  I do know it looks like something Thomas Jefferson might have used to sharpen his quills while writing the Declaration of Independence. I don't know the last time the thing was emptied of all its shavings, but something could have fossilized in there. Let's just say, conservatively, it's been there since the JFK was President.

I hung the board and tied a pen to it even though the pencil sharpener makes writing on half of it difficult. I might have taken it down except I didn't want to interrupt my momentum by fussing with a screwdriver. Seriously, folks, I'm screw driver challenged. Even with a magnetized tip, I have trouble keeping the dang driver in the slot. [Don't go there.] I did, however, mention to Johnson I wanted to take it down. Who needs a pencil sharpener anymore anyway?  Who uses pencils anymore? What's wrong with a mechanical pencil? Or a pen?

Imagine my surprise when Johnson expressed great dismay about me tossing away a family heirloom. He informed me that he uses the relic on a regular basis. Huh? His attitude towards the ugly old thing startled me. It's not that big a deal, however, so I left it.  It's been there for 50 years, what's it gonna hurt to leave it up for 50 more?

Today I noticed the sharpener was missing. The unpainted hexagon left on the wood the only sign that it ever hung there. It took two glances to actually register. When my mind accepted the blank space, I felt a sucker punch of sadness.  Over a pencil sharpener? Really?

"John," I said later, "I think I miss the pencil sharpener."
"I'm going to put it back," he assured me. "And I'm going to clean it up, oil it."

We all need that, don't we. To have a place we belong, even if we get in the way sometimes. To explore new places to hang out. To be cleaned up, so we feel better and look better. To be remembered. To remind someone else of a time when things were easier. A time when the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil meant something new was about to begin. A story maybe, or a letter, or math homework, or a mark on the wall that said someone had grown another inch.

Maybe we should all turn off our computers. Put down our tablets. Close our cell phones. Grab a pencil and some lined notebook paper and write a love letter to another time.

Merry ME



Day 16 - The Wind


[ I know it looks like I'm cheating, but I really did have this post written yesterday, I just forgot to proof and post. Forgeting. The story of my life. me]

"Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted -
a paved road or a washing machine?
Ir you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation,
you will discover that your life
will suddenly be filled with gratitude,
a feeling that nurtures the soul."
Rabbi Harold Kushner

Today I noticed the wind. 
Not a brisk wind but a gentle breeze that barely ruffled the leaves. 
I first felt it when helping Johnson pour concrete as part of "the best sidewalk that ever was" project. I know nothing about sidewalk making, but he needed an extra pair of hands so I volunteered mine. We are having an uncommonly warm winter. (I'm whispering because I don't want the God for all Seasons to hear and bring on a winter storm with cold air in that will freeze the orchids and baby azalea buds. )Weather like we've had for the past three days is the reason snow birds high tail it to Florida at the first sign of Jack Frost. 

Part of working with concrete is keeping it wet - you don't want it to dry out too fast. So one of my jobs was to do a "fireman's" spray on the already poured spots while Johnson hefted 50 pound sacks of dry concrete, mixed it to the right consistency and prepared it (and his back) for dumping into the form. As I sprayed the wind picked up tiny particles of water and misted my face. Sweet!

After the helper's job was completed I came inside to rest. I sat in my chair with the computer on my lap. With the windows opened I could hear the music coming from the wind chimes my writing group gave me when Dad died.  The kind of music you might hear in a church, or bells being played on a mountain top in Nepal, or a quiet part of a symphony when the conductor points his baton at the triangle man.  I can't hear wind chimes and not think of being at Eagle's Lodge with my parents. Dad hung these big pipe chimes (they kind of clanged, rather than chimed, but it was a pretty clang) right outside the room where I slept. On nights when the window was open, and a storm was brewing or a fall wind rustling through the trees, I fell asleep to the sound. Thoughts of mom and dad seemed to float in today's breeze like the mist and music.

As if I needed another reminder of how majestic the simplest things can be, I watched two birds dip and soar on the air currents way above the trees. Black birds, with large wing spans, appeared to choreograph their own ballet, rising and falling in graceful pirouettes. Ahh, I thought, how cool it would be to let go of all cares and be carried away on the wind.

What about you? Did holiness find its way into your surroundings today?
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 15

At writing group tonight, I took note of just how comfortable I feel with these ladies who love the same things I do - words, books, and good pens. I also noted that they eat a lot healthier than I do - apple/kale/spinach smoothies, sauerkraut, and rutabagas. While all those vegetables may not be my cup of tea, I have to admit I'm pretty darn impressed with the determined dedication with which they are going about losing weight and getting fit.  I was glad I didn't order a chocolate croissant for dessert. 

In an exercise we did, I noticed that if I want to continue calling myself a writer, then I really need to get more serious about it. If I can't trust myself or believe in myself, then I need want to trust others whose opinions I value. I need  want to believe in myself. I need want to be better disciplined. Perhaps taking the shoulds and needs out of the equation will make me feel less rebellious and more willing to please. 

I go to bed tonight feeling grateful for all my blessings,
Merry ME

Days 14 ... A little late.

Just before going to bed last night, I realized I hadn't paid enough attention to my surroundings to have "noticed" much of anything except how bloody tiring it is to vacuum, mop, and do laundry all in one day.

Then I stepped outside with Suzi as she did her final sniff of the perimeter. I looked up and saw puffy, white clouds against a dark sky. And then when I squinted, I noticed one teeny tiny star peeking around the edge of a cloud. I ran in to get my camera.  The fancy camera that has a setting for taking pictures at night. I guess maybe it was too dark. If you look real close, that tiny little speck is the star, not dust on your screen.

Since it wasn't much of a picture and I was already half-way to the bedroom, I decided not to post it until today. You didn't miss much!



Star light, Star bright, first star I see tonight ....



I have no idea what this is. Perhaps a paranormal experience? 
The ghost of Luther looking for his trees?

Scaring myself,
Merry ME

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 13 What Color is Your Sky?


 More Baby Shower Pictures


It made me happy to walk in the fellowship hall and see it all over again. 



As I was coming out of the grocery store tonight, I couldn't help but notice the color of the sky.


Sky-Blue Pink


By the time I got to the car and grabbed my camera ...


It had turned to Sky-Blue Orange.
Stunning. 
Simply stunning.

What have you noticed lately?
Merry ME

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 12

The party was in full swing.
All my efforts in the kitchen had come together; looked and tasted great (I say humbly).
As the guests were stilled in creative concentration, I noticed the sweet laughter that broke into the quiet of the room.
I sat while listening to others read. One of the guests, a boy about 3 years old, crawled into my lap. I noticed how good it feels to hold a child and sway back and forth.

___

Prayer flags for mothers all over the world.
Special thanks to my artistic blog buddies who joined in the fun - Sage, Terri, Jeanne and Luminary.


Going to bed tonight with a full heart,
Merry ME

Friday, January 11, 2013

Day 11

I'm been in the kitchen for most of the morning.
Slicing. Chopping. Frying. Stirring.
I noticed that even though I could never be considered a "great" cook, or a neat one, there is a certain creative rhythm I get into while in the kitchen.  Think the cleaning the kitchen scene in the Big Chill. Whether you circle around an island (table for me), open and close the refrigerator or make little bell sounds when a spoon hits a metal pot, the kitchen is made for dancing. Maybe that's why our Native American grandmothers began dancing around their camp fires. If you've ever scene these ladies dance, it is not like the gyration-filled,  hootin' and hollerin' of their male counterparts. The women go at a slow paced kind of a shuffle.  Their dance is one of quiet continuity - a woman's dance.

I'm preparing for my church's annual Baby Shower which will take place tomorrow. In typical Merry Me fashion, in order for me to pull something like this off, I have to "do it all." I don't know how to ask for help, and if someone offers help, I don't know how to accept it.  I'm sure there is some ego involved. My control issues are rearing their ugly heads.  I've always kind of been an all or nothing girl.

The theme for this year's shower, is A Mother's Prayer. After breakfast I'm going to ask the women to make prayer flags. The shower began 7 years  ago when I let my mind wander back to that Bethlehem stable and saw the teenage mother with no "womenfolk" to help her labor, deliver and celebrate. I'm not dismissing the role of Joseph, or the animals who must have mooed and cooed in silent prayer. I'm not discounting the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  I just think at a time like that Mary might have wanted some women around to wipe her brow, clean her up and put some diapers on the baby.  With those thoughts in mind, I conceived the baby shower idea.

When Christmas came this year I had a hard time reconciling the joyous celebration of Christ's birth with the tragic events of Newtown. Mothers, from Eve on down have known both exhilaration and heartbreak, agony and ecstasy.  My goal is to have the shower attendees focus on the mothers they have known and loved and pray for mothers the world over. We are going to make flags then hang them in the sanctuary to be added to the Sunday service music and candles.

If you feel compelled to join us, please do so. Add your prayers to ours.

Merry ME

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Days 9 & 10

Is anyone counting?
Does anyone realize I missed yesterday?
I did notice something. Something big. So big I'm still processing it.
You know how if you ask the God or the Universe or whoever you send prayer requests to and really want to see the answer written across the sky in a sparkly star cursive font with a lightening bold exclamation point, but what you usually get, if you are real quiet and sit real still, is a quiet little whisper like the wind tiptoeing through a Sycamore tree?
Well yesterday I may have gotten more than I bargained for. It could be time for me to put away all my fears, step out in faith, and follow where my heart leads me.

Believe me I did notice it. When God touches you on the shoulder and says, "Um, God here. You better pay attention cause I've got something exciting in store for you."
At first I was too amped up to pay it much attention. My neighbor called me around nine o'clock in the morning and I was still half asleep (okay, I was all the way asleep, but close to waking up). Her husband who is no spring chicken and who has been in and out of the hospital for, among other things, falling, had fallen. She needed help to get him up. It's been almost 2 years since Dad died, but my adrenal glands can still pump enough go juice into my nervous system that I was out of bed and down the street within minutes. I may have been there quickly, but there no way I could lift him. No way Sweetie and I could lift him. So Sweetie pulled out all the stops and heave-hoed the man back to his feet.  No it wasn't a smart thing to do. But when adrenaline courses through your veins and floods your brain with the  idea that you have super powers, it's hard to stop and think of the consequences, i.e. either someone's back is going to be tweaked or there are going to be two people on the ground.

Thankfully it ended well. Once the man got inside and in his chair, his wife put her head on Sweetie's chest and cried. Oh how I remember those feelings. Anger mixes with fear and fatigue until you've got the makings for caregiver stress stew. About all you can do is cry it out.

I watched all that as it happened. I went back later to hear what the nurse had to say. I made a couple suggestions and offered to come back anytime.  If I had looked up in the sky as I walked home, there might have been a big smiley face.  An idea began to form. It's still a little seed that needs tending. But I noticed it. No lightening bolt needed.

___

Today I noticed I have a new blog follower. Welcome Sunny D. Thanks for your comments. I'd love to be the one to inspire you to write down your own Random Thoughts.

The next two days are going to be pretty busy - crazy busy. I hope I'll remember to keep my eyes open for ordinary magic.

Merry ME

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 8 - A Little Late

It's not that I didn't notice anything yesterday. I did. But I didn't get it posted. If you what I was busy doing instead, I don't think I could tell you.  But I wasn't so busy I couldn't be drawn to the beauty of the flowers in the front yard.

Ever since the trees came down the yard has been in a perpetual state of repair - read pretty darn ugly. Brown patches in the grass. Big craters in the driveway. Mud everywhere.  I try not to look at it. John has a vision. He's shared it with Sweetie and me several times. I'll be honest. I can't quite get the picture in my mind. But let me tell you, that man child can do some manual labor. We'd be lost and broke without him.

Need roots dug up? Call John
Need a sidewalk shaped, readied and poured (including hauling 80 lb. bags of cement)? Call John.
Need sod laid and watered? Yep, John's your man.
He's even been taking care of some of the outdoor plants that I forgotten about.
Like the orchids.


My sister sent this orchid plant to my Dad several years ago. I've cut it back and transplanted it once. That's it. I don't fertilize it, water it, trim it. Like I said, I basically forget it all year until December rolls around. About the first freeze I think to go out with a sheet and cover it up. That's when I notice the buds. And every year, about this time, the thing raises it's blooms to the sun and shouts to the world, "hey, look at me." There must be a metaphor in the orchid's constistency to bloom regardless of the circumstances.  I always thought orchids were prima donna, hot house flowers that needed to be grown in a year-round climate like Hawaii.  I'm amazed that they are as tough and resilient as they are. 
Yesterday I noticed that the buds had opened up. The beautiful centers are peeking out. When I stand there and look at them, I swear they take my breath away.


Right next to where the orchids is a cameilia bush. Well, it's actually more of a tree than a bush. And after I got done pruning it a month or so ago, it is a rather scrawny looking tree. I wanted to cut it almost all the way down to see if it would grow back like it was originally intended. The yard man didn't think this was such a good idea. Neither did John or Sweetie since it might have required a chain saw. Apparently, they don't think I can handle a chain saw. What's that all about? Well, naked branches or not, those pink and white flowers defied all my attempts at killing them. Oh my. That is sure some kind of pretty flower. A preacher friend has declared the camellia God's most beautiful creation.  I have to admit it is pretty high on the list. My mom used to float the blooms in a large cut glass bowl. Except that what's left of the tree might scream if it saw me coming near it again with shears in my hand, I may go get me a couple and put them on my night stand.



Pretty flowers are wonderful to take note of. What's blooming in your yard? Or are you looking at plant catalogues and already planning your summer garden?

Merry ME

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 7

"He is a tall, grandly built man; she tall and delicate.
Both are narrow-faced with long, imperial noses;
as they pose for pictures,
it is a turkey buzzard sharing companionably with an egret."
Richard Ede


Today I noticed birds.
Notice would be the operative word, because whizzing down the freeway I couldn't really pay much attention.

First I saw a blue heron. I'm pretty sure that's what it was. He had long legs and one of those necks that kind of rocks back and forth, and it was blue. Putting two and two together I made an educated guess. Mostly when you see these birds they are standing near some kind of water source meditating like a bird zen master. What caught my eye about this guy was he was clearly looking at the road as if sizing up his chances of getting to the other side. Couldn't help but ask, why did the blue heron cross the road?

Not far down the road I noticed two buzzards sitting on a lamp pole. They weren't the king sized vultures my niece works with at the Portland Zoo. Not small birds, but two fit on one lamp.  I'm pretty sure they were sizing up their dinner. A pile of raccoon road kill. What looked pretty darn gross to me must have been a multi-course dining extravaganza to the birds. The birds reminded me of that finger thing my dad used to do.  Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, one named Jack and one named Jill ......

This blog isn't called Random Thoughts for nothing!
Merry ME

P.S. What are the chances of finding a quote about buzzards and egrets (herons/egrets not much difference!) on the same day one sees a buzzards and an egret next to the road? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day 6

This afternoon while waiting for Sweetie to check out at Wally World, I mosied around the empty - except for huge pallets of patio furniture - garden center. Actually, there were also bags of charcoal, a few measly herb plants and three racks of bicycle helmets, sans bicycles. Not your ordinary black or glitter pink helmets. These were helmets that looked like dinosaur, monster, or shark faces. If you put one on, say the shark face, and went riding down the street, it might look like Jaws had learned how to ride a bike and was coming after you. (Doesn't Jimmy Buffet sing about Land Sharks?)

Well, you know I couldn't resist. First I tried on the cyclops eye ball. Then the shark face, then the dinosaur.  And yes, a few people chuckled as they passed me by. I was trying to scare Sweetie, but he just laughed.  Maybe you have to be under the age of 5 for these helmets to scare people.

I noticed, while trying to get my adult-sized head into the child-sized helmet, that these protective devices come with operation manuals. Huh! Granted I was raised in a time when parents scoffed at the dangers of helmet-less bike riding. I doubt seriously if bike helmets had even been invented.  When kids of my generation (and those before me) learned to ride a bike, falling was part of the lesson. Why else do you think Mercurochrome was invented?  All the kids I knew sported red-painted knees and elbows. And we were told to stop being a baby when we cried because of the stinging. I'm pretty sure the stinging was worse than the pain of falling which is why we repeatedly returned to the bike in search of that  magical moment when balance and persistence came together. There is a moment when all bike riding trainees realize there is no adult holding the back of the bike and they are pedaling on their own. For the rest of their lives, when people tell them, "it's just like riding a bike," they will remember that "I'm doing it!" feeling

It turns out the FDA took Mercurochrome of the market because it contained mercury and was "not generally recognized as safe and effective."* You tell that to all the mothers who kept a bottle near the back door rather than the bathroom medicine cabinet.  "No one's offered evidence of mass Mercurochrome poisoning" but since Mercurochrome contains mercury, the FDA in all its wisdom banned it's sale.

Kids growing up in the 1950's faced a lot of challenges. They had to play outside until it got dark. Cap guns were the weapon of choice. Swings were made of good, stout wood. Sprained ankles were wrapped in flesh-colored ACE bandages and we went to school without a funny shaped boot.  We played in the street and climbed trees. We spoke to strangers, but rarely talked back to our parents. We splashed in mud puddles and swam in lakes.  We ate cookie dough straight from the bowl. Whole milk was served at every meal.  It's a miracle any of us survived - without instruction manuals.

Ah, those were the good ol' days.
Merry ME

*http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2518/what-happened-to-mercurochrome

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 5

Today I noticed a certain sense of well-being encircling me. Of course, I immediately started to analyze it. Where did it come from? How long will it last? This is January, how can I be feeling okay in January?

Before I let myself talk me out of feeling good, I stopped the head chatter. I said a quick prayer of gratitude and let the feeling be there with no expectations, no rules, no ropes holding on to it.

Merry ME

Friday, January 4, 2013

Day 4

Today I noticed 2 dogs chasing each other. I was at a stop sign when I caught black fur whizzing around a swimming pool. Now I've seen dogs run before, no big deal, right? I think what made it noticeable was how much fun they were having. First they'd run to the right with Dog A in the lead. Then on some signal I could not detect, they'd switch directions so Dog B would be in the lead. I think if they'd been children there would have been laughing and squealing with delight - playground sounds before someone gets hurt.

I also noticed for just an second, the swirl pattern in a clump of moss on a sidewalk. I tend to walk fast. My normal stride is probably longer than most, and I don't like to dilly dally. It's hard for me to stroll. I took Mary to the doctor today and couldn't park to close to the front door. She sort of shuffles her feet, with her cane out in front of her like a blind person. So when I'm walking hand in hand with her, I have to g-o  r-e-a-l s-l-o-o-o-w.  Perhaps slowing down is a lesson I didn't learn when mom and dad were alive so I'm getting a remedial course in it. By decreasing my speed and keeping my eyes on the uneven sidewalk, I had time to notice the brilliant yellow of the dandelions, and the green swirls of the moss. It looked like a tiny moss labyrinth. Maybe it was meant for fairies who lose their way and end up next to a busy street. Probably they need to slow down as much as I do.

Somewhere between laughing dogs and wayward fairies, I bet there was some magic.

Merry ME

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 3 - A Year of Noticing

Jo over at mrsmediocrity has her own twist on a Year of Noticing. She calls it a Year of Ordinary Magic. I've been thinking about the two and see how similar they are. Can you have a year of magic without noticing the magic all around you?  I may just combine the two and have a year of noticing magic. I guess I'll have to see what evolves.

Last night ABC news did a spot on how easily gas grills can blow up. Something I've always been afraid of, but did not know the extent of. Even if the flame goes out, the propane is still flowing out of the tank, and propane is lighter than air, so it settles in the area under the grill. When (if) you get close to the gas encircled grill with any kind of lighting device, you are apt to blow up the grill and very possibly yourself. FYI: If you notice the flame has gone out, DO NOT try to light it again without turning off the gas, opening the cover and waiting at least five minutes or until you can't smell the gas anymore.

While this is a pretty good public service announcement, the reason I bring it up is that today I noticed how the air in the car between Sweetie and me, felt combustible - not in a good way. If the car had been a grill, then the words inching their way to my lips would be the lighted match. A simple word spoken in anger had the potential to turn my usual good humor from pleasant to explosive.  I chewed on the words for a bit before swallowing them. In the quiet of the car I noticed how easily situations can change. Whoever said to "choose your battles" knew what s/he was talking about. Seriously is there that much difference between endocrinologist and endoscopy? It's an easy mistake to make, right? And so what if I'd said at least 3 times that the appointment was at 2:30, not 2:00? In the big scheme of things between Sweetie and Me, I noticed how golden silence can be. Now there's some magic for you.

I also noticed a tree full of robins as we parked the car. I ask you who can stay irked when there are robins around?

Merry ME

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Year of Noticing

I've mentioned Alana Sheeren before. I'd followed her blog for a long time before I contacted her about doing some grief work together. It was one of those this blogger, knows that blogger, and that blogger knows me circles.  The first time I talked to Alana she said something that seemed to validate every bit of grieving I'd ever done. Yes, I thought to myself, she understands. It was a powerful moment for me and even if I got nothing else out of her tele-retreat (which is far from the truth) I finally understood how grief could make my bones hurt.

Alana and I and others in that circle are all FaceBook friends.  I'm a rather slow learner, but after reading her posts for a few days in a row I realized Alana found something every day to celebrate. Imagine a year of celebrating - good things, bad things, happy things, and sad things. By turning routine events into celebrations it seemed to me that Alana was able to find meaning in things that might otherwise have gone unappreciated.

As 2012 ended so did Alana's year of celebration. I, for one, couldn't wait to see what her daily practice for 2013 would be. She picked "noticing."  She's going to spend the year noticing things. Now that opens up a whole world of possibilities, doesn't it?  She started by noticing the feel of the feather she used and the sound it made in the sand as she wrote 2013 on a California beach. 

It got me thinking how we stay so busy, running from here to there that we often fail to notice the sights and smells and feels and colors, and tastes, and wonders that surround us every moment of every day. Take McDonald's French Fries for instance. They are my favorite. I like them hot and salty. I get upset if I get an order of fries that have obviously been sitting under the heat lamp too long. They are warmish, but mostly soggy.  Yuck. When I get them just the way I like, I say a little prayer of gratitude to the French Fry cooker, and drive off. What if I took a moment, just a moment, to notice, i.e. savor, the taste of salt on my lips and tongue? Or appreciate the golden color. Or marvel at how a potato from Idaho ended up in my Florida FF box? [Note to self: Park the car before doing all this noticing.]

I have decided to jump on Alana's Year of Noticing bandwagon. It's a big step, because honestly, it's hard for me to stick to something for a week, much less a year. Not to mention I'm already a day behind.  I'd like to do it here on the blog, but I may just for the quick and easy of FB. 


For Day 1 of noticing, here's what I commented on Alana's post:

 "I noticed this morning that when my dog sleeps, the skin under her chin bunches up like one of those wrinkle dogs. Oh God. I just had a thought. What if my chins do the same thing?"

And just because I am prone to being an over achiever (and it's a way of getting back on track) I noticed that the tag on the Acai Berry tea urn at Paneras is the exact shade of purple I would pick for my color this year, only I have no idea what it's called.  It wasn't plum, or eggplant, or almondine. But it did have a lusciousness about it that made me want to wrap wrap myself in purple. 

What have you noticed today?
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's a New Year

Most of the blogs I've read in the past couple of days pretty much have the same theme - out with the old and in with the new. Some people have made resolutions. Some picked a word to carry with them throughout the coming year. Some even picked a color, which I tried to do, but when I closed my eyes I couldn't quite see a color that spoke to me.  It's the same with the word thing. I think I've gotten close, but can't zero in on an exact word or words.

When my father was alive, the end of the year meant getting his financial papers together so my sister could do his taxes. He would spend days at his desk with bank statements, credit card receipts and 1099's spread out on the three tables that constituted his work space. Then after everything was in order, he'd set about making new folders. He started a new check book register, emptied out his tin box of old checks to make room for new. He was very methodical. It drove me a bit bonkers, because I could never quite see the order in the middle of the chaos. But he could and that's all that mattered.

In case you're wondering. No. That is not my style. Neither is the way Sweetie has taken his new appointment book and color coded birthdays, anniversaries and appointments. I'm doing good to remember a certain date, please don't ask me to remember what lavender highlighting means, or blue, or yellow. Sweetie's desk looks nothing like my father's. There are probably twice as many cubbies - a space for everything and everything in it's space.  But I dare say, that even though Sweetie has a filing system that could rival the Library of Congress, it's not always that easy for him to find what he's looking for.

My style, if you can call it that, is to take a perfectly clean flat surface and put a piece of paper on it. Then another, then another. Like making vegetable soup, I often add whatever is around - an address book, a calendar, an appointment card, junk mail and bills to be paid. Right now, the table next to me is about 3 inches deep in detritus - important, I'm sure, but clutter just the same.  It's no wonder I can't find anything. And a miracle that Sweetie hasn't come by with a trash can and simply swept it all away.

My point is, though I've traveled a long and winding road to get there, last night I decided to start a new new year's tradition. At 9pm I opened the refrigerator door and said, I'm not carrying this mess into the new year. I rolled up my sleeves and started clearing out food products that should have been thrown away a long time ago. I didn't even open the carton of cottage cheese with an October sell by date. When I was looking for a place to put some pint-sized Swiss Colony sausages and cheeses we got for Christmas, all I had to do was throw away last year's supply. It gross to think I've had things in the fridge for a whole year, but really, I'm sure there are way more preservatives in those tiny packages than there is actual animal product. I dare say, had the world actually ended in December, people who came after us might have appreciated a sausage or cheese snack.

I made some pretty good slam dunks from across the kitchen. Frost bitten chocolate ice cream, smashed hot dog buns, shriveled baby carrots, a fuzzy cucumber. The air seemed to sing as each food group made its way to the garbage can.  And here's what I discovered. Well, it's not actually a discovery, I'm sure I learned this sometime in my past. There is a great feeling of accomplishment as one clears out the old and makes way for the new.

Like new financial statements, appointment books, blank journal pages and years containing 365 days of fresh starts, there's something to be said for a clean slate.  Like the light that radiated off the sparkling glass shelves when I opened the fridge this morning, 2013 twinkles with possibility.

And who knows, maybe I'll carry that clean and toss routine into the other rooms of the house.  Not likely, but that's what makes possibility so exciting.

Wishing you a clean blackboard, and a new box of colored chalk.
Merry ME