Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 59 - Thanks Caring.com

I noticed  today how good it feels to be acknowledged for something I love doing. It's like getting an extra scoop of ice cream for free.

How's this for serendipity. Not to mention good fortune.
On the day I was celebrating my 1000th post I received an email from Luc Bergevin who works on media operations at Caring.com. He told me my blog, Random Thoughts, this one, the one you're reading right this minute has been recognized as one of the great caregiver stories on the web. I very proudly ask you to head on over to 18 Great Caregiver Stories on the Web and check out some other caregiving blogs, videos, and photographs that will inspire you. I am in very good company.

Of course I'm honored by this. Caring.com is a wonderful site chock full information about caregiving. It's the kind of place you can go in the middle of the night when the person you're caring for has just driven you to the brink of insanity, or when you don't know where else to turn in advance of, or after an emergency. For me, it was usually about 2am when dad's heart rhythm decided to do the hoochi coochi. I'd call 911. The EMT's would cart him off to the hospital. The same man who was pale and not looking so good at home, perked up once all the ER people hovered around him. That's when his need for control kicked in and he told doctors and nurses with a whole lot more training than him, how to do their job. Eventually, they'd find him a room where they could "observe" him or run some tests. He'd settle in and fall asleep. I'd drag myself home. My system still on full alert, there was no way I could sleep. After a hot shower, I'd sit at my computer and reach out for the kind of comfort Caring.com offers. Support groups, blogs, humor stories, hot topics for caregivers, information on senior care facilities, and my favorite, stories about others in the same boat.

Did you know there are about 10,000 people turning 65 every day? Boomers - the cream filling between parent care and grandchild care cookies. At a time when we once looked forward to retiring, my generation is facing what could easily be called a caregiver's crisis. The numbers are staggering. The health care system is broken. The economy not so hot. Someone has to take care of a growing elderly population. Not to mention children who return home, grandchildren, and/or spouses. It is no wonder that Caring.com has over two million visitors a month.  It is also the leading resource for senior care  reviews on the web.

My blog is only unique in that I wrote about me and my mom and dad. The blogosphere is full of other caregiving stories, which is why I feel so honored to be included. However, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, a part of me feels less than and undeserving. I can hear a voice, that sounds curiously like a grumpy old man I knew so well, "who do you think you are?" It's hard to quiet those negative voices. Being recognized by Caring.com is a powerful reminder that I am a writer. Maybe one day I'll toot my own horn, as I am here, and, while remaining sufficiently humble, still feel deserving.

For the sake of honesty, I'd like to tell you that my good friend, mentor and writing coach is the person who nominated me.  You know how they say on the TV award shows, it's an honor just to be nominated. Well, in this case, since Carol O'Dell, is the person I aspire to be on many levels, it's an honor that she considers me noticeable. She reads a lot of others' works. She knows her stuff. So if she thinks I'm good enough to join the Careing.com community, then I'm taking a bow, saying thank you and hugging myself like Sally Field hugged her Oscar and rejoicing like a fool. "They like me!"

If you're a follower, you know I haven't been writing much about caregiving since Dad died. When the loved one you've been caring for crosses over, the person who needs unlimited supplies of tender care, is you. But once you've sat on a par with God, it's oh so hard to give that position over to someone else and accept help for yourself.  I think I new that intellectually, but had no idea what it would feel like in reality. I can attest to the fact that grief, in all it's forms - anger, depression, denial, etc,  took as much out of me as late night wake up calls and arguments over silly stuff I can't even remember now. No, I hadn't been putting on my own oxygen mask. In fact, I'd barely been breathing at all.  So the first deep inhalations I took after we buried Dad were more like sucking on an exhaust pipe than taking in rich, clean take-care-of-yourself air.  Writing about grief was as natural a segway as learning how to live again - for myself not someone else. 

The thing is I'm a caregiver at heart. With Baby B to nanny and my friend who has started referring to herself as "Old Woman" I should still have some posts that fit into the Caring.com category.

Please, please, please go over to Caring.com. Get acquainted with the site. Read the stories. You may not know when you'll need them, but it's a pretty good bet you will.  Like my daddy used to say, "it's better to be prepared, than sorry."

Feeling honored and proud,
Merry ME




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 58 Part 2 - Crying

I noticed how easily I began to cry when Sweetie came home from a bunch of GAL meetings.
"There's no more hope for him," said Sweetie, of a teenager who will age out of the system while he is in jail. What that means exactly I'm not sure. Suffice it to say he'll be up a creek without a paddle or a  home, or education, or job, or medication, or food. Chances are pretty good he'll age out of the juvenile system and soon find himself in the adult penal system. Or worse. Who will cry when he's gone?

Can anyone tell me how we as a society, has let this happen? I'm not saying that the kid doesn't have to be responsible for his actions. And I'm sure many people have tried to help him. But how does a child get so broken that there is no hope at ripe old age of 18?

Just wondering. And crying for the child and the world.

Not-so Merry ME

Day 58 - My Own NatGeo Channel

You have to look close but there is a yellow snake hanging from this bird's beak

Driving home today I noticed three woman walkers. Only they weren't walking. They were staring at something in a neighbor's yard. I thought at first it might have to do with the elderly lady who lives there. As I rounded the corner, I it was an egret. Now we live close to the river, but I've never seen these birds strolling the neighborhood before.  Seeing as this is a Year of Noticing, I drove around the block to get a picture. Mr. Egret was putting on quite a show. He'd discovered a snake in the grass and going about the business of capturing and eating it. No wonder the ladies were standing there. It was like the National Geographic Channel without a TV.

These birds have long necks and long bills. He used his bill to grab the snake, kind of like grabbing a sushi roll. He had to try a few times as the snake managed to escape. Once captured for good, the bird just stood there with the snake hanging out of his mouth. He might have been biting it, but I don't know if birds have teeth. Maybe he was just squeezing it. Or you know how sometimes you want to take a handful of pills in one gulp and you kind of have to get your mind around it so you don't gag on them? Maybe he was thinking, now what do I do? Then, biff bam boom, the sucker flipped that snake right down its gullet. I wasn't close enough to get a good picture, but could see that snake - still alive - trying really hard to slither his way back up and out. The bird was having none of it. He just kept swallowing. The lump in his throat moving slowly downward. All of a sudden he stands on his toes, flaps his wings and stretches his neck like a slinky. That snake didn't have anywhere else to go but down.

The bird stood there for a second or two, as if waiting for applause. Then took off like Santa's sleigh leaving a rooftop. It really was amazing.


Well I come home and tell Johnson about it. And he says well come look at this. I follow him around to the back of the house to the milkweed bush. I'd seen the yellow and black caterpillars [see picture #1], but lo and behold, Johnson spotted a chrysalis [see picture #2]. Or maybe it's a pupa. Not sure what either is or what's the difference. John was pretty sure he'd seen a butterfly laying eggs a while back. I didn't even know that butterflies laid eggs.  We weren't sure which came first the pupa or the caterpillar. I googled it and sure enough the caterpillars had eaten their fill of milkweed, apparently a highly prized treat which is self propagating so we have little bushes all over the yard. Once he got his fill he somehow spun his own little butterfly sleeping bag.


Mother Nature is pretty amazing don't you think? Can't wait for the butterflies.
Merry ME

P.S. In that whole story about the bird, I referred to it as a the. Actually I have no way of knowing whether it was a he or a she. Just picked one and stayed with it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 56/57 Palm Tree Wisdom

I neglected to write about what I noticed yesterday because I my mind was on my 1000th post.
There were, however,  two things I noticed that kind of took my breath away.

First was the way the wind whipped through the palm trees as I waited for the valet to bring me my car. The rain had let up some, but the moist air sprinkled me with a tropical mist.  I enjoyed watching how the trees swayed. It called to mind a series of sermons presented by Rev. Richard Roos during Advent a few years ago. Traditionally one thinks of firs and evergreens at the holidays not palm trees. But here in Florida, it's not uncommon to see palms encircled in twinkling white lights and bedecked in ornaments resembling fish and flamingos.

Fr. Roos's sermons were, of course, meant to turn our hearts and minds towards the coming Christmas celebration. I think the messages are good even without a religious bent. Take them how you will. (12/23/2007)

1. In a storm the palm bends but rarely breaks. 
Life is going to be hard we must learn to bend.

2. Palm trees will repair themselves and be stronger in that spot. 
Life will hurt us. We should use that wound to become stronger.

3. Palm roots are shallow and long rather than deep. They draw together with the roots of other trees.
We are not meant to go it alone. We were created to live in community.

4. The older the palm gets, the sweeter and more succulent the fruit becomes. 
 We are called to grow in grace and wisdom and care for those who need it.
I'll be honest, I didn't think of all that as I watched the palms sway. Mostly I thought of the dance they were doing.  Perhaps that should be #5. When the winds of life blow, dance like a kite on a string.

I also noticed how talking to a baby is one of the sweetest things in the whole world. After changing Miss B's diaper we had our first real conversation. She held my eyes in hers and answered me coo for coo. She kicked her feet and waved her hands. As we talked her  mom and grandmom watched from behind us. I think each of decided at that moment that Nanny Mary could stay for awhile.

____

Tonight I noticed how easily some old negative, "not worthy" feelings surface when something really, really good happens.  More on that later.






Monday, February 25, 2013

1000 Posts

I became an official blogger on January 4, 2007.
As of today I've written 1000 posts.
In the essay I've been struggling to write for my writing group's e-book, I've taken a walk down the memory lane of the stages of my writing. (Good Lord, is anyone counting prepositional phrases?) From
"friendly" letters I learned to write in grade school, to diaries, to journals, to my blog, I think there has been a common thread.  I was never sure enough about myself to speak my thoughts out loud. But I could write them. It helped that I liked to read what others had to say.  I aspired to write like others before I developed my own style.  In a strange twist I found even at my most depressed, I liked to write things that would make other people laugh.

Before I started my blog, I'd been writing group emails to my out-of-state relatives about how my mom was doing.  It was easier to write one letter than repeat the details of hospital stays in different phone conversations. I didn't even know what a blog was until I started following Just Jenny, my daughter's school friend. Jenny's always been a good writer. I loved to read about how she rescued stranded seals or befriended stray cats who peed on her furniture as reward for being brought in out of the weather. Law school's gain was the blogosphere's loss.

I also read Weneki's travel blog with great interest. Much braver than her mother, Weneki took herself on a solo trip to Europe. I worried, of course. So I followed her adventures with both concern for her safety, and anticipation of what would come next.  These two blogs were the stepping stones to my own.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I'd write about. The title Random Thoughts was as true then as it is today. Except for some themed entries - Gratitude, Christmas Countdown, NaBloPoMo and the current one, A Year of Noticing - I come here to share view of the world. Especially when my world was so small.  Writing about the ups and downs and ins and outs of caring for my father and living with loss undoubtedly saved my sanity and might well have prevented me from commiting patricide.

My first blog entries were about a caregiver's time out I gave myself. I'd been reading true stories of people going away for a year to find themselves.  Joan Anderson went to a beach town in Massachusetts. Jon Katz ran to the mountains of New York state. Others left the city to live in the country. All of them enjoyed periods of solitude where they got to know their grown up selves. And all of them wrote books about their time away. I decided I had to go away even if it was for one weekend. I doubted there would be enough insightful soul searching for a book, but recorded my findings here on the blog. I'd barely checked into my beachside hotel room when serendipity walked right up and took my hand. We walked into a small "woo woo" store where I bought my first bonesigh by mustachioed Terri St. Cloud that weekend. Bella the angel disappeared but Terri has been a part of my life ever since. There is no better blogger/friend/mentor than Terri.  She is like the center of a labyrinth. The winding road that reached out from that first sweet encounter always brings me back to a safe place. The road is lit by the sun and the moon and glistening stars, decorated with white trees. I've made friends from all over the world walking along the spiral path, some laughing, some crying, some drumming. Some broken, some pieced back together. Terri's shining light is the connection we all share.

It took a lot of do-overs, before I finished my "Why I Write" essay. I'm still not sure I answered the question. But when I wrote these words, I found all the answer I need.

In the words of Glynda the Good Witch, Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere.” The blog erased my anonymity.  Like a Monarch migrating to central Mexico, I had found my way home. To myself. Home is crumpled papers that miss the trash can, crappy first drafts and rewrites too numerous to count. Home is starting all over again. And again. Home is believing in yourself. Home is being a writer.
Thanks to all you followers out there. I'm honored that you have joined me on this leg of my journey.
Happy Blogaversary Merry ME

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 54/55

I just noticed the time - 12:30 am.
Technically day 55.

I noticed how green the grass is getting.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 53

It's that time of the year again. Time to renew my car registration(s). I guess to soften the blow, the man who gave me a ticket with a number on it to hold my place in the queue, told me Happy Birthday.  My birthday is still a few weeks away, but what the hey, let the celebrating begin.

Knowing there'd be a wait I carried the 219 page book my writing buddy and friend, Amy, just finished. Members of Chat Noir Writers Circle have been with her almost since the start. We've read the chapters, made suggestions, corrected grammar. Even though it's in a 3-ring binder, I noticed that reading it like a "real" book is a wonderful feeling. It is well-written (duh), clean, tight, funny and poignant. I can't wait for this fine-tuning part is over and she can get on with finding an agent and getting published.

Another member of our group also finished his memoir not long ago. He's a bit shy about it, but he's going to have to get over that when he's nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. By the end of the year, there should be 3 more books finished. Stay tuned, you're going to hear a lot more about some very talented writers. I'm tickled to be a part of the group.

As I waited for my number to be called, I couldn't help but overhear part of a conversation between a man and his mother sitting next to me.  He was telling her a little bit about military funerals. Someone else passed by and I heard him say, "yeh, I'm leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow." Imagine, today he's doing something ordinary, some might say trivial in light of what's to come. In the next couple of days, he'll be in a war zone and his mother will be counting the days til his return. I wanted to ask him his name so I could pray for him while he's gone. Decided that was too nosy even for me.

After I finished my business, they were still waiting, so I stopped and thanked him for his service. By the time I got to my car I noticed I was overcome by emotion. A man I don't even know, is going to put his life on the line for me. He made it seem like no big deal just a job. I've known my share of military men, that's the way they are.  But to his mother, and me, it's a huge deal, a big sacrifice. In the car, I bent my head and said a prayer for his safety, for his mother's serenity, and for peace to somehow prevail in this crazy world, and cried.

I told Sweetie later, I think it should be mandatory for all citizens of this country to say hello/goodbye to the people who leave home to defend our freedom. Maybe one of those double line things that football players run through, high fiving everyone. Only it should be more solemn. Seriously folks, we are all called for jury duty, it seems the least we can do is stand at an airport, or ship as dedicated sender-offers. I'm not talking about interfering with family farewells. I've waved to ships pulling away from a dock, and stood on a lonely tarmac as helicopters fly out of sight. It's hard. Really hard.  It wouldn't be a good place for a bunch of strangers. But I think a street or airplane terminal lined with people saluting, waving a flag or praying a goodbye would let these soldiers, sailors and airmen know who they are fighting for. It would put a face on the masses. I wouldn't take away the pomp and circumstance given a flag draped coffin that makes its final journey home for any amount of money. Just seems like it would be nice if the person inside could see it.

No matter where I stand on the rightness or wrongness of war,  I noticed today it is my duty to respect those who go into harm's way. I don't know how your pray or to whom you pray, but how about tonight before you close your eyes, you send up a prayer of gratitude and safe keeping for someone, anyone, who wears a uniform and serves this country.

On a completely different note, I also noticed a strange phenomenon. Well, strange to me. One of those monster jam trucks was on display at the Ford dealership where we went to pick up our car. There was a really long line of people waiting to see it. Maybe there was a driver there, too, for hand shaking.  At the risk of calling some of the people in the city where I live a politically incorrect name, I realize there are some rednecks in town who might be thrilled by seeing this mammoth machine up close. I never would have guessed however how many.  Men, women, young, old, babies in strollers. Who knew? I couldn't help but remember taking Robert to the Monster Jam when he was about 4 years old. Hmmm. Maybe I better check the color of my own neck.

Merry ME

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 52 - It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House

I noticed how sweet it was to come in from five hours of feeling snookered by a nine week old baby and find my husband had not only cooked meatloaf, but waited to eat it until I got home at 10pm. I also noticed that it tasted a whole lot better than the last couple of meatloaves I made.

Then I noticed that chocolate chip cookies that have been sitting on a plate that sits over the oven vent are heated to a perfect temperature, the chocolate melted and cookies warm. Yum.

P.S. The baby in the blue polka dotted shoes in yesterday's post is my grand baby, Gracie, not the baby that pulled the "I'll close my eyes and pretend I'm asleep til she puts me down then I'll scream like she pinched me so mom will come running" routine on me tonight.

Merry ME

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 51-Part 2 The Joy of Stripes

I arrived at work a few minutes early. So I parked the car next to the dog walking yard and waited.  Out came a girl and her mom, with a big dog and a little dog. I couldn't help but notice, and appreciate the fashion statement of the young girl. She was dressed head to toe in stripes. Multi-colored stripes. The stripes on her dress wide, may 3/4 inch. Her socks a little narrower, and her socks narrower still.  I'm not sure I would ever have had the nerve to put together this stripey ensemble, but I must say it was quite delightful. I have a new appreciation for stripes.

What about you? Stripes or dots?

Wait. Don't answer until you've checked out these shoes.



I also couldn't help but notice that holding a sweet baby girl in my arms, looking over the river from a high rise apartment and seeing all the downtown lights, felt mighty good. I think my Grammy skills are a little rusty, but have been asked back. This is a good sign. Maybe I'll wear striped socks!

Merry ME

Day 51 To Pee or Not to Pee

Sorry if this is too much information.
I am noticing I have had to tinkle a lot this afternoon.
I'm pretty sure it's some kind of psycho-somatic weirdness about working for a urologist.
If I were going to work for a dentist, I'm sure I'd need a root canal.

Wish me luck.
Merry ME

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 50 - A Rose is a Rose



noticed that a garden rose, even one that has seen better days, smells better than a hot house rose.


I noticed that I get kind of real hyper when a bunch of things pile up on me at the same time. Gone are my days of multi-tasking with a smile.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 49 - Ouch!

I noticed today a pain in my back as soon as I picked up 20 lbs of kitty litter.  Guess I used my back and not my legs. Live and learn.

Merry ME

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day 47 & 48 What's YOUR Style?

I noticed today, that I apparently I didn't notice anything yesterday.  Or more to the point I didn't write about it. I find I'm getting better at noticing things everywhere I go.

I went for a job interview yesterday. As a nanny. Much as I love serving and working with the elderly, I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere with the other company. So I switched age groups. The place I went was a high rise apartment building on the river.  Not sure I've ever been in a building with 26 floors before. And that wasn't even the top.  Imagine my surprise when the potential employer opened the door and my urologist stood before me.  I think because he was focused on another part of me, he didn't recognize my face. Geez Louise, talk about good material for a writer.

As I waited for the Mrs. to finish pumping, I sat at a table in the combined living/dining room. The blinds were drawn so I couldn't partake of the incredible view they must have. I couldn't help but notice the minimalist style of design. There was a couch, a TV, a chest of sorts, and the table where we sat. One picture on the far  wall, and three small squares, wood?, on the wall behind us. That was it, except for the baby in a swing in the corner - across the room from the play mat. Not a paper out of place, a burp cloth or a baby blanket. No bottles, nursing pads, magazines, soda cans, or potato chip bags. I kind of felt like I was in a museum, but it didn't feel untouchable. Just the exact opposite of my house. There's something to be said for a lack of "stuff."

I'm not sure how the interview went. I was asked some questions I didn't know how to answer. Like what is my child rearing style. Style? I never knew I had a style.  Times have changed in the 40 years since my babies were babies.  They've changed a lot in the 17 years since Robert was a baby.  Ashley did accuse me of "spoiling" Gracie when she was here for a week. Maybe spoiling is my style. I can say I don't believe in spanking. Weneki and Johnson might have something to say about that.  But like I said, it's been a long time since I was in the position to spank someone.

When the interview was over, I rode down 26 floors in a mirrored elevator. I noticed I didn't look as confident as I did when I rode up. When the valet brought me my car, I noticed I felt out of place. Like I was the country bumpkin nanny coming to town for the first time.

___

I also noticed today that I did NOT want to get up when the alarm clock sounded. My arm reached out from the pile of blankets I curled up in, turned the thing off, and went right back to sleep. Oh my it was hard getting up 45 minutes later. I'm kind of wondering why I'm not tucked in and asleep right now.

I'm wondering if someone asked you "what's your style" how would you answer that? Doesn't have to be about child rearing.

Stay warm,
Merry ME


Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 46 - High Five


I noticed how sweet it felt to have this picture be the first thing I saw on Facebook this morning.
I love how the light streaming through the window looks like my Gracie is shining in the radiance of God's love and how it makes me think she's high fiving the Spirit we can't see but she knows is there.



I noticed how behind I am on my blog reading. How I'd like to stay in bed surrounded by pillows, blankets, and black kitties to do nothing today but rest and read.  I also noticed how quickly I felt bad about that desire cause it's past noon and I'm a lazy ass who needs to get up and moving cause the day's half gone already.

Merry ME

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 45

I noticed I felt physically ill when I heard that Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder. Where have all the heros gone?

Disappointed ME

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Days 43 & 44 Rain, Robins and Fashion Nightmares

Around 12:30 last night I noticed I was still up working on my "why I write" essay. I'm afraid to look at it this morning because I really want it to be finished, but something tells me I've still got some work to do. Apparently writing is something I do without thinking about it. Trying to define it has been a painful exercise.

___

This morning, I notice rain outside my window. Finally, finally the skies have opened up and rain has come tumbling down. Mmmmmm. I love that sound. I love that clean fresh smell.

____

Later in the day:

I walked through the men's department of one of the nice department stores in town and noticed this:


Seriously? Is this the look that men will be sporting this summer? What's next bell-bottom pants?

I believe there are certain decades whose styles are better left in the annuls of fashion disasters. The 70's would be one of them. Remember leisure suits? And double knit trousers? Don't get me wrong. I'm all for peasant blouses, ankle length skirts, bare feet and wreaths of flowers on one's head. I even like paisley prints, been known to wear them. But M-aisley (paisley for men) shirts? I'm pretty sure even Tim Gunn who doesn't hesitate to wear plaid shirts with a striped jacket would give this shirt a thumbs down.




At the other end of the mall, I noticed, with glee, the robins are back in town. I love these few weeks when my red-breasted brethren stop for a brief rest on their migratory sojourn. It's like spring break for birds. They hang out, enjoy the warm Florida climes and get drunk on luscious red berries. 


I watched them frolic for several minutes in huge puddles left after the morning's rains. Who can't feel happy when in the presence of such bird beauty? Don't you just feel like singing "when the red, red robin goes bob bob bobbing along?"

I love days like this.
Merry ME

P.S. Sweetie just told me he thinks this shirt is "cool" looking. At least he didn't say "groovy."


Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 42 - Baby Bird Songs


Today I noticed that the baby cardinals must be learning to sing. Either that or they aren't babies anymore, but teenagers and they've learned how to talk back.
TWEET. tweet. TWEET. tweet.
On and on and on.
Think of the monotonous sound a child makes when first learning to play the violin. After awhile even the most encouraging of parents wants to put her fingers in her ears!
I believe the female on his video is the grown up version of what I was hearing.  

What song have you been singing lately? Is this the song you really want to be singing?
Merry ME


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 41 - Dogwoods and Wishes



Today I noticed the dogwoods have begun to bloom.
The calendar be damned. Spring has sprung.



And I noticed that whether you are 2 or 92
making a wish and blowing out candles are what birthdays
are all about. 


Happy Birthday
to my friend
Mary


Wishing for you smiles and hugs,
Merry ME

Is Being Versatile the Same as Tiptoeing Through the Tulips



Last night I received a rather criptic email from my friend Amy. The subject was "Head Up." I gleefully opened the message sure I was going to see "THE END" typed in big bold letters. Amy is nearing the end of the editing process for her memoir manuscript. You know how on a relay team, as one person runs her lap, the next person looks like one of those little golden runners on top of the trophy the team is hoping to win, frozen in the running position head down, one arm out front, one arm reaching back to grab the baton, legs poised to zoom ahead? Well that's how I feel about Amy finishing her edits. I am one of the team who will give it a final once-over before handing it off to an agent. All that to explain why I was excited by the email.


This is what I got instead: brace yourself. you'll want to make sure you read my blog tomorrow morning.  Having no idea what that was all about I turned on the computer this morning while I still half asleep. I opened her blog and found this. I've been tagged with the Versatile Blogger Award. As  Sarah Cotchaleovitch, author of Full Time Mom blog and the one who tagged Amy said, The Versatile Blogger Award is for bloggers with ADD! In essence it was an award made with the randomness of my thoughts in mind. Except for the last 41 days when I've been trying to stay on target with things I've noticed, my blog posts run the gamut of subjects and emotions that I experience on any given day. Thanks Amy. I know your computer time is limited and you didn't have a lot of time to think about your choice! It's good to know I'm one of the first that comes to mind. 

As most other blog awards this one comes with some rules.  Rules that both Amy and Sarah broke so I won't feel too bad doing the same.  I do read a lot of blogs, each one of them more deserving of an award than mine. Except, they don't have the willy-nilly versatile quality the originators of the award intended. Pam, Terri, Dani, Illuminary, Wholly Jeane, Akasa Wolfsong, Patty and Molly all keep a pretty tight rein on their thoughts and ideas. Each uses their blog as a platform for adding beauty, light, creativity or personal wisdom to the world around them.  Marilyn, from my writing group writes an interesting self-help blog, and Carol's caregiving blog is recognized as one of the best.  Even though I run the risk of something really bad happening by breaking the chain,  I've decided to pass the Versatile Blogger baton to one other blogger. Another of my writing group pals, Laura Havice, for two reasons. Anyone who writes about the marriage breakup of tortoises, is my kind of blogger. 

The second reason, has to do with the second part of the award - to divulge seven interesting tidbits about myself that readers may not know already.  I have no doubt that Laura's seven things will be way more interesting than mine. 

1. I once convinced my daughter to drive with me from San Diego to Tucson to see a host of hot air balloons take off en masse.  It turned out the winds were uncooperative. As we lay on the hood of the car, bundled up against the early morning temperatures, we were covered in blowing sand. 

2. While I don't remember the details, I think there was an incident on the aforementioned trip. Something about stopping to tinkle along the darkened and isolated highway. I believe there was a cop involved.

3. In my earliest ballet performance I portrayed one of the three blind mice. During dress rehearsal my tail was the only one that did not come off before the farmer's wife grabbed it. Alas, during the actual performance mine was the only one that dropped center stage without the aid of a carving knife. 

4. As if that wasn't enough to scar my inner ballerina for a lifetime, it took me 10 more years to realize I am a bit of a clutz. Painful as it was to learn my body was never meant to jete or pirouette, it was probably best that I learned this at an early age.

5. For some reason I have never understood, my sixth grade teacher, Mary Carden, believed me to be the reincarnation of Ethel Barrymore. Whenever an opportunity arose she had me memorize something and perform it in front of an audience. During the Christmas party, I stood before the whole class to recite The Night Before Christmas. I got through the beginning okay. But at that part where the tempo slows a bit, I froze. I couldn't remember my own name. And then, someone threw up. Seriously tossed everyone Christmas cookie he'd just eaten. I've never been so grateful for vomit in my life. I was especially grateful the vomit was not mine and sixth graders are not especially good at sitting through a poetry recital, thus no one paid me much attention.

6. I once won a blue ribbon at the St. Mary's County Fair, for needlepoint.

7.  The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is my most watched movie. Followed closely by On Golden Pond. Not sure if there is a connection there or not. 

What's something interesting you'd like to share about yourself?
Wishing for you a day of versatility and whimsy,
Merry ME

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 40 - Sadness Hangover

The trouble with giving into sadness, like alcohol or dancing, is the post "fill in the blank" hangover.
There comes a point when you have to pick yourself up, clean yourself off, and start all over again - regardless of the headache and lethargy. I noticed today I've got the post boohoo blahs.

In an attempt to work myself out of the funk, I played with my writing group's new blog. It's in the Wordpress format which I know nothing about.  After about an hour I finally posted a quote about writing and linked that blog to this one.  Not the top of Mount Everest, but accomplishment nonetheless.

The blog is a natural outlet for the group's stories, poems, thoughts and announcements. Several of us are already writing blogs as diverse as the writers we are. You may want to give us a few days to work the kinks out, but I encourage you to put the Chat Noir Writers Circle Blog on your list of favorites. Once we get rolling, you won't be sorry.

I think I hear Sweetie in the back room working with power tools. This wouldn't worry me except I happen to know the only things in the room that require a drill or motorized screwdriver are the new blinds. Actually, they aren't new, because they've been sitting in a box behind the door for going on 2 years.  What worries me is knowing that blinds + a drill = Sweetie standing on a step ladder.  As you can imagine, this comes close to being an accident waiting to happen.  Hard as it is to stand by and watch, I should be in there closer to the action. Picture, one of those coaches who stands by while a gymnast flies through the air between the parallel bars. I've always felt sure if there is an accident and the athlete misses a bar and goes sailing to the floor, the chances of that spotter catching them are pretty slim.  If Sweetie falls from the stool, there will be nothing I can do but punch in 911 on the nearby phone. Truth be told I'd rather not watch.  It's one of those "for better or worse" things I agreed to so I better get in there before I hear a crash. Probably the only thing worse than seeing the fall is hearing it.

May the sun shine down upon you today and encircle you in its warmth,
Merry ME

P.S. If you are a visitor from the CNWC Blog, welcome. I hope you'll come back often.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 39 - Feeling Blue

Traffic on 295 at a dead stop.
No patience. Anxiety rising.

Get to the airport late.
Big hug, quick goodbye.
Sadness sits on my shoulders.
Quiet tears.
Donuts.
Under the blanket.
Blessed sleep.

Hot shower.
Turkey sandwich.
Ice cold Coke.

Wander the mall.
Search the bookstore.
Drive home.

Sit in my chair, computer on my lap.
Can still feel her warm, gentle spirit.
Time passes.

Goodbyes suck.
I miss my big sister.

I notice my coping mechanisms haven't changed much.
Merry ME

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 38 - In the Moment

"We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us
that we don't take time to enjoy where we are."
Bill Watterson




I noticed a few times today that my heart was beginning to hurt at the thought of saying goodbye. I tried not to dwell on that. To be in the moment. To listen to the laughter. To enjoy the company. To soak up the sisterhood.

There is never enough time when I'm with my sister. I'm grateful for the time we have.
Merry ME

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 37 - Writer's Block

"I've missed more than 900 shots in my career.
I've lost almost 300 games.
26 times, I've been trusted to take the 
game winning shot and missed.
I've failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed."
Michael Jordan


My writing group is working on an e-book collaboration about "Why I Write". There are fourteen of us. What I find amazing is how each of us probably have the same underlying reason(s) for writing, yet we each said it in a different way.  I struggled with my first draft before our first deadline, butnturned it in on time. I got some good feedback. That was over a month ago. I've tried several times to revise/rewrite and failed. Maybe failure is too harsh a word. Let's say I've been blocked. I write sentences, then erase them. I have an idea, then I trash it. Grrrr. 

The other day I asked myself, "why do I write?" I couldn't come up with a very good answer. It's like asking why do I walk? Or why do I part my hair on the left? I just do. It's become so much a part of me that I no longer remember when I didn't write. (No surprise there, I don't remember a lot of things.  But you know what I mean, right?) 

I noticed today a gut reaction when the group facilitator said this: "Writers shine the light on the story, rather than themselves. They hide behind the words."' Yup. That's me. 

Except for letters and group newsletters, my writing was something I rarely shared. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid to walk into the light that success might bring. I wanted to hide.  I found, however, stories have a way of popping up and demanding to be written, like that whack a mole arcade game.  I wrote but I seldom shared.  It wasn't until I did the one thing I was too afraid to do when I was 18, that I began to believe my stories were good enough to share. I took a beginner's English Comp class at the local junior college.  No one was more surprised than me when I got a paper back with an A on it. Then I began to send out family emails to keep my sisters abreast of my parent's health. It was a natural progression to blogging. And blogging led to the writing group and the group led to being published.  

There is nothing I like better than to write a story that people can relate to. I write "creative" non-fiction, because I'm not good at making things up. But I'm not bad at creating a literary mountain from a molehill event. If I can make my reader(s) laugh (or cry) then I've done my job. But it's the words I want people to look at, not me. I'm still the shy girl in the back of the room who doesn't want to call attention to herself. I'm still the little girl my daddy could raise up or put down like a yo yo with his praise or "corrective" criticism.  I've been told enough times in recent years that I AM A WRITER. I believe it. I like to write. Telling a good story is the creative spark the Divine Muse lit in me.  Yet, I still want to hide behind the words. I'm not quite ready to let the light shine on ME.

Merry ME


PS. I was so proud of my group today. My sister went with me.  The group welcomed her  like the gracious Southern women they are.  Now when I speak of them she can put names and faces together. She can understand why being a part of a talented bunch of writers is so important to me.  Together we offer our word sacrifices to the story gods and the light shines on each of us. 

Day 36 - To Drive or Not to Drive

Today I noticed that even when you know you shouldn't do something anymore, or know the end is coming, or can easily rationalize that not doing something is for the best when that something is taken away you feel a little sad.

I took my friend to the eye doctor today. When she asked him about driving, he shuddered. He told her she no longer meets the legal requirements for driving.  Sixty-six years of safe driving and just like that it's over.  Never mind, that she hasn't driven since her fall in October and her hands are swollen and sore from arthritis. In some ways she could be relieved she doesn't have to drive anymore. 

Still, while the doctor wrote up his notes, I saw my strong, sassy, woman friend, cover her eyes and bite her lip. One more bit of independence taken from her. It's been a hard week - some basic health issues, some pain, some sleeplessness. Lots of loneliness. She'll be 92 on Sunday. I think even for the youngest at heart, there must come a point when birthdays stop being a celebration and become, instead, a badge of honor. 

Merry ME





Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 35 - It's So Nice to Have My Sister in the House


At Panera's this morning, I noticed how simply delightful it is to sit across the table from my sister and chat like there we have all the time in the world and no agenda.  LInda and I live on opposite sides of the country. It's been 2 years since she's been here.  I've missed her like crazy.  

I brought along a box of memories, neither of us had ever seen. My father's old girlfriend (see http://mellington.blogspot.com/2009/06/cynthia-eugenia-franklindobsonhenry.html) has been moved to nursing care so her sons had to empty out her apartment. When she visited here in 2009 she showed me a locket that Dad had given her on her 16th birthday. She told me she wanted me to have it. Genie's step-daughter, Susan, sent me the locket along with some other memorabilia. I waited to open the box until Linda was here.  Inside there was a second locket with my father's picture in it, a Naval Academy fraternity pin studded with tiny pearls, and a picture. It was taken in 1937. There in front of us, was part of my father we'd never seen before. A young man with a full head of dark hair. A tiny young girl, wearing shorts and a big smile. They were so young, full of potential, with long lives still in front of them.  Through all those years - two husbands, two children, and a career - the Genie kept her memories of first love.  Opening the box was like opening a time capsule. It was a special moment. One I'm glad I could share with my beloved sister.


I  noticed that I apparently keep my house a little on the cold side. Poor thing comes to Florida from Washington state and has to stay wrapped in a blanket to stay warm.

I noticed how Sweetie sort of melts into the background when there's more than two Reynolds girls in the room. But he doesn't whine or sulk like he's being neglected.  He knows how important sister time is to me. I'm reminded how well he understands me. I am grateful.

The time we spend together is never long enough. The next three days are going to fly by.  A good case could be made for selling this house and heading west.  But I won't think about that this week. I'll just enjoy having my big sister around again. 

What have you noticed lately?
Merry Me


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 34 - Swinging

I heard a children's choir sing this morning at my sister's church. It's hard to put into words the energy the kids exuded. Each of them has been received into the World Hope ministry because of the dire living conditions in their native Uganda, Nepal and Philippines. The videos painted a bleak picture of how some children in the world live. The children's combined voices and smiles painted a different picture. They reminded each of us of the life-saving, transforming power of hope and and love and joy. The kind of joy you can feel when you're a little kid dancing and singing because you've got a soft bed, clean water, enough food, and plenty of love.  The kind of joy that is infectious.  There were more than a few grown-ups singing and dancing, too.

On the way out of the church I noticed another child. This one was dressed in an irvory organza dress, topped with a red velvet jacket. White tights and black patent Mary Janes completed the ensemble. When I saw her, she was lying across one of those sling swings, trailing her feet in the sand.  I admit, my first inclination was to shudder at the thought of such inappropriate playground attire. Yet as I watched it was clear the girl had been transported to the Land of Imagination. She moved very slowly, up and back, dragging her feet the whole time.  When was the last time you were on a swing, holding on to thick chains while pumping your legs to get higher and higher? Do you remember  getting to the height you wanted, then letting the swing slow down at its own pace? And as you slowed did you lean as far back as you could go and watch the clouds move across the sky. Remember that dizzy feeling? Remember the carefree syncopation with the world. The opposite of that is what the little girl in her Sunday clothes was doing. Instead of looking up, she looked down in the same "nothing in the world matters except this very minute" manner.

That's the thing about being a kid, you don't feel the need to rush everywhere, to stay busy. There is joy to be had in looking up or looking down. In swinging. In dancing. In singing. In fancy shoes or bare feet. In velvet clothes or grass skirts. Oh that all God's children knew this kind of joy.

When was the last time you noticed a child at play? Did you want to play too? I'm definitely in the mood to swing.


Merry ME

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 33 - Feeling the Love

I noticed today the small birds on the feeder are baby cardinals! How cool is that?

I noticed when I love someone I feel the love too.

I noticed that when Sweetie and I are working together, I should be quiet and let him do it his way.

I noticed I felt nostalgic when I saw a blue chenille bedspread. It reminded me of a sweeter time.

Sleep well.
Merry ME

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 32 - New Life Story

"The past is a lesson.
To let go of it and learn from it is a process."
David Krueger


Sweetie has just finished a new course in coaching. It's all about changing your old life story so you can live a new one. We all have a story, lots of them. We have life stories, relationship stories, money stories. The stories have developed over our lifetimes. They are what we believe about ourselves. When we try to change there is a greater risk of failure than success unless we change the fundamental story.

I was giving my senior friend a pep talk the other night. I used this example:
When I was growing up, I prided myself on doing well in school. I could bring home a report card full of A's and my mother invariably said my sister was the smartest of her girls, she just didn't apply herself. Mom didn't say anything about me not being smart. It's what she didn't say that I heard. I have always felt (still do on some level) that I'm not smart.

Trying to debunk my "I'm not smart" story, a psychologist once gave me an IQ test. I scored high enough to put me in the "not as stupid as I think" category.  His point was/is I am smart enough to do just about anything I want to do (with the possible exception of becoming a rocket scientist). But because of my old story, I still have trouble believing that.  So, if I Sweetie were my New Life Coach, he might start with getting me to rewrite that story. The transition between old and new story is where the work is done.

In discussing a class with me, Sweetie said something that really hit home. He spoke about the need to "internalize" a loss before one can move beyond (transition) it. The grief needs to become a internal part of you. As this happens you become proactive instead of reactive.  I'm sure you can tell that this is my own interpretation of the conversation and if you want to know more you should go to the source, not try to follow my circuitous route to understanding.

Here's why I'm telling you all this.  As I was cutting up some meat for Stroganoff with my Kendo paring knife, I began to think of my father.  He had a thing for sharp knives. He hated that I had so little regard for proper knife etiquette.  I leave them in the sink or put them in the dishwasher. If they get dull, I ask someone to sharpen them. As my new knife sliced through the meat with ease, I  had a glimmer of understanding of what Dad got so hyped up about. It made me want to take treat this lime green beauty with extra care. (See how the old story might be starting to change?)

I've been making Stroganoff for years. Pureed in the blender it was the first "real" food I fed my daughter.  I always cut thin strips of meat across the grain. I don't know why or if that is even right, but it's the way I do it. Well Dad liked his meat cut in chunks. So right out of the gate he had a "beef" with my way of doing things.  Every single time I made it, he told me the meat was too tough and it needed to be sprinkled with Adolf's tenderizer. And every single time I felt like pouring the whole tough meat and sour cream concoction on his head. Time and time again it pissed me off.

Well last night a light bulb went off  in my not smart enough brain.  I noticed that even though Dad's voice still yakked at me about how to cut the meat, it didn't make me crazy. It didn't make me mad. And it didn't make me sit down on the floor and cry for missing the old coot so much.  Aha, I told myself. This must be what Sweetie was talking about. This must be what he meant by "internalizing" the grief. By making it a part of me, not something I react against,  Dad's death doesn't have the same punch in the gut feeling it had just a few months ago. I think of him. I miss him. I get sad. But I haven't "reacted" in awhile.

All that to say, I am noticing a shift in my thinking. Perhaps I'm writing a new story. My own story with a lot less input from others.  It makes me want to answer some of the questions Sweetie asked me.
1. What is it time to let go of?
2. What will happen if I let go of it?
3. What is waiting to make an entrance in my life?
4. What if now is a turning point for me? (Wait a minute. Did Sweetie ask what if?)

What's your new story?
Merry ME