Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 23 - Delight


"Beauty goes beyond mere necessity. 
Grace, gracefulness, graciousness take us beyond mere necessity 
to a place of delight, even joy."
Br. Mark Brown, SSJE


There's a lot I can say about my Sweetie. 
He makes me laugh. 
He holds me when I cry.
He tells good stories.
He's mostly a good driver, except when I'm backseat driving and yell, "Look out!" 
He likes to read.
He likes to write.
He's organized in a way that I will never be.
He loves cats. Dogs too. But there's a soft spot in his heart for big gray English Blue cats.
He's never met a potato chip he didn't like, but he prefers Wavy ones.
He's a volunteer Guardian ad Litem.
He's patient until he's not, then he blows up. The good part about this is, it doesn't take him long to be is okay again. (Unlike me who lets things fester)
He likes back scratches.
He doesn't say anything when I sleep in late … really late. Or steal most of the covers.
He's a life coach, cheerleader, and good listener.
When I say I'm okay with not having a Christmas tree this year, then change my mind a couple times before settling on a white tree, he says, "Looks good to me."
He lets me be me.
He is the next best thing to the real Santa.

Sweetie aka Santa


Last week he donned his Santa suit and went down to the courthouse where 12 kids were being adopted into "forever" homes.  It's an annual tradition for Santa to be at a reception for these kids who have probably had more trauma in their short lives than some people have in a lifetime.


Tonight Sweetie, aka Santa, rode into the neighborhood on a fire truck. I swear I almost swooned when I saw Santa waving to a crowd of kids as the truck stopped in front of the park where the annual Christmas party is held. A policeman escorted Santa through the crowd to a big chair. A queue of over 100 families formed to speak to the man in red.  I watched in amazement as Sweetie, who doesn't talk all that much, spoke to each child as if (s)he was the most important person in the world.  He listened to their wish lists and smiled for every picture. He held a 2 month old baby and shared his seat with a rather inebriated guy who looked like he was from the Duck dynasty. All the while, you'd have thought he just left the North Pole.


You know that part in the story of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the Who's down in Whoville wake up on Christmas morning and are happy even tho' the Grinch had stolen all their presents. In a moment of realization the Grinch learns the true meaning of Christmas.

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 

I don't believe I've reached my usual height of Grinchness this year. I also haven't gotten into the true spirit.  I came close tonight as I watched with "delight" as the man I love did for others what he does for me on a daily  basis.  He took a few moments with each person, young and old, and gave ear to their hopes and dreams.  It's hard to believe in the magic and wonder of the season when there's so much going on that no one has time to listen. 

Have you listened lately to the voice of a child, perhaps the child within who cries out to be heard?
Have you listened to hymns and songs of the season, be it Ave Maria by Josh Groban or Silent Night by John Denver and the Muppets?
Have you stood under a starry sky and listened to the sounds of silence?
Have you listened to an old person tell stories of long ago Christmases ?
Have you heard the cries of the homeless asking for just a few pieces of change?
Have  you heard a baby laugh and felt, in the deepest part of you, that no matter how bad it gets, life is still good?

Tonight my heart is filled with the joyful knowledge that I'm a lucky girl to have such a Sweetie,
Merry ME

Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22 - Christmas Countdown

Five days behind.
No way to catch up.
I'd like to say it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but that would be a big fat lie.

I've tried. I've really tried.
It's just not happening.
Or it wasn't happening until this morning when I was making the bed.

I'd turned on the TV which was still set to PBS from last night. Sesame Street was on.  Elmo's Countdown to Christmas, to be exact, but I didn't know that til the end. And I didn't know until now that's been around since 2007. See what you miss when you don't have little kids around the house.
I tuned in late. The Elf in charge of the Christmas counter downer was trying to convince Oscar the Grouch to help with the countdown. I'd like to think I haven't been as grouchy about Christmas as Oscar. There's a chance, however, that given a few more undone tasks I might have to find a garbage can to hang out in.

The counter downer drops, the numbers go flying all over which means there's no way Christmas will come. The Elf is justifiably upset because he was the elf in charge. But Elmo has complete faith that a Christmas miracle will happen. He makes a wish on a star and one by one the numbers are found by all the Sesame Street characters,  and Santa arrives as the last number is counted. It was silly. It was also full of Muppet merriment that made me laugh out loud.

Sweetie came in to see what was making me laugh so hard. He sat down on the bed beside me to watch. For just a few minutes I think our adult personas went away while our inner children, Carolyn and Jackie, watched with childlike delight. In the end Santa sings a song about believing. A jazzy song with a lot of wisdom. The line that stuck with me long after the show was over, the bed made and I circle the mall looking for a parking spot is this.
Christmas day is here, it's a miracle, it's true,
But the biggest miracle is the miracle of you.
You can do most anything, I'm sure you will achieve,
You can make it happen, you've gotta just believe.

I'm taking that thought with me as I crawl into bed.
It will indeed be a Christmas miracle if I wake up in the morning and get things done.
Merry Me

PS. I'm totally off the SSJE list of advent words. It you are keeping up with them, they are Become. Beautify. Heal. Thank. Ask. Relate.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 17 Best of Times/Worst of Time

Note: This took two days and lots of edits. me

I'm not sure how I've missed only three days but I'm 4 SSJE words behind.
Expand. Focus. Experience. Become.
Each of those words would take considerably more thought than I have energy for tonight.

I couldn't have written much yesterday. I was already feeling very sad about some things when I heard about the Taliban shooting up a school in Preshawar, Pakistan. I'm just not sure there is anyway to put a joyful spin on something as horrific as that. There's nothing in those 4 words I could tap into for meaning of such barbaric craziness. Today's quote from gratitude.com made as much sense as anything I could come up with.
Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.
Rabindranath Tagore

Yet even those words, good as they sound, would have little meaning to 100 school children being gunned down. Does someone really think that one can be fearless in facing such atrocities is possible?
As I've said before I'm no Biblical scholar, but I think that upon hearing from the 3wisemen that a new king had been born, King Herod sent his henchmen throughout the land to kill all the male children. Two thousand and 14 years later, children are still bearing the brunt of mad men's paranoia.  My heart aches to think about it.

One of my favorite Christmas presents to myself is reading my collection of holiday picture books. Because today is the first day of Hanukkah, I've pulled two books off the shelf that speak to the subject at hand - One Candle ( Eve Bunting) Nine Spoons (Marci Stillerman). Both stories are true accounts written about women managing to bring light and blessings into the darkest of places, German concentration camps during WWII. 

At the end of her book, Stillerman wrote "even in the unspeakable horror of their lives, countless Jewish men and women held on to their faith in God, and after the war went on to raise Jewish families devoted to Torah observances." Maybe faith and hope are the only antidotes to evil and suffering.

-----

I puttered around the house feeling crappy until it was time to go to my writing group's Christmas party.  It turned out to be just the antidote I needed.  Good food, good friends, good conversation. All of it "focused" not on a world we cannot fix but on the joy that each of us finds in exchanging good books, sharing our favorite authors' quotes, and telling stories around a table. I'd like to think that  conversations between women like the ones shared last night have in some small way been the shelter from danger Tagore talks about. I think it is in the company of women, be it in a festive setting or death camp, where fearlessness is born.

In closing, I'm reminded of the story told by Fred Rogers that is often repeated after horrible things happen. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 
'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

Perhaps when it comes to joy and finding light in a dark world, what we need to expand is our focus. By looking for the helpers, the candle makers, the people on whom we can depend, we can experience,  for a moment or a lifetime, what The Divine One has in mind for his people - to be mirrors that reflect Divine light. Perhaps the joy I'm looking for is as bright as a star in the East lighting the way for seekers and helpers. Maybe its as simple as the flickering light of just one candle.


Perhaps then there will be peace on earth,
Merry ME

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14 - Expand



This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. 
The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, 
but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good." 
Pope Francis

I haven't put together a jigsaw puzzle in years. There was a time not so long ago that a puzzle always sat in some stage of completion on the dining room table. Sometimes mom would sit at the table for hours, looking at the pieces and only fit a couple of them together. Then someone else would walk in, usually Dad, take a quick look and neatly connect three or four pieces into each other.  Today's SSJE word is expand, which follows on the heels of risk and act. The words go together like pieces of an Advent puzzle. The month is half over and I'm just catching on! After one risks doing something in a different way, or acts on a new idea, the natural progression of things would be the expansion of one's horizons - physically, emotionally or spiritually. 

Sweetie and I had lunch today with a couple we've been getting to know at church. I'm not so good at joining new groups, or opening up to new people. I'm not anti-social, just not good at small talk and glad handing, so I was a little nervous about spending more than 5 minutes with new people. It turned out to be a perfectly wonderful time. We not only got to know one another, we shared ideas as well as pictures of our kids. Talk about expanding my circle! My longest conversations of late are with a two year old. As the time wore on, I relaxed enough to be able to enjoy the moment - the sunshine, good food, interesting people and even learning new things. 

In his homily this morning, my priest talked about how he and his wife carefully unwrap their favorite creche which has been in the family for many years. With each piece that is taken out of the packaging, the whole Bethlehem scene comes to life  light. I loved the metaphor. As each day of this Advent (preparation) time passes and we get closer and closer to the "reason for the season" each of us can unwrap our hearts to the wonder, beauty and light of the Christmas. Writing this blog has certainly shed a different light on things for me this year.

As I've said before, I get uptight as each day passes and all my self-imposed goals haven't come anywhere near fruition. My neighbor said today, looking around the living room, "Oh, you're not decorating this year." I think she may be right! With only 11 days to go, I'm wondering why bother. But here's the thing, even if I don't bring down all the boxes from the attic, and dig through the knotted strings of lights for the ones that still work, I can unwrap me. I can smile at people I don't know. I can wish the haggard grocery store clerk whose computer just quit, a Merry Christmas instead of going ballistic at having to wait. I can wear some shiny earrings. I can send a card to a recovering soldier, even share un-frosted cookies. It's my light and yours that's most important. Not just in December, but all year long.  If I were a cartoon right now, you might see a light bulb shining over my head with a caption that says "aha!"

On the way into church this morning, I spied this car. I can't say why, but it tickled the little girl in me. It made me smile. A chalkboard car. How fun is that? Sweetie just kept walking. He has no desire to paint our car matte black. But imagine. What if every day you go out and wash your car down so it is just plain, un-touched black. Then when you go out to the store, or to work, you leave your car in a conspicuous spot along with a sign that says something like, "feel free to let your inner artist loose," next to a big box of colored chalk. What might you find when you come back to the car? I dare say it wouldn't just be children who would like the idea. I bet big kids would stand around and watch for a few minutes, then grab some chalk and start coloring. How cool would that be? 

Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." (Matt. 19:14) 
That is my kind of heaven!
Merry ME

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December 13 - Act and Risk


I can't tell you where the last couple of days have gone. I wish I had more to show for them. I'm not doing so good at posting every day.

The SSJE's words for yesterday and today are act and risk. I think they could easily be two sides of the same coin. If once you decide to risk, action is the next step. Or maybe when you decide to act, it involves a risk.

The other night Sweetie and I watched a documentary on Netflix called Nicky's Family.  It gave me goosebumps, made me cry, and made me wish that I would be so brave. The gist of the story, which you may have heard already, is that Nicholas Winton, "a London stockbroker, born into a family of German Jewish immigrants rescued 669 children, most of them Jews, from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. They came to Britain in eight transports. The ninth was canceled when Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The 250 children destined for it journeyed instead into the inferno of the Holocaust."(Roger Cohen http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/opinion/roger-cohen-the-discretion-of-nicholas-winton.html?_r=0)

Winton's story went forgotten for 50 years when by chance his wife 
found a scrapbook in their attic with the names and details of every child that left Czechoslovakia. As humble and unassuming a man as you'll ever met, who is still alive at the age of 105, had never told the story to anyone. Winton's wife shared the scrapbook with an English journalist who tracked down 250 of the children. Today the children Winton saved and their extended families numbers over 5000. Remarkably they all inherited Winton's desire to help others. The documentary goes on to tell the stories of how "Nicky's Children" have paid forward his willingness to step up and do what some think cannot be done. "Survivor families have donated hair to cancer 
survivors, set up a program to save the lives of undernourished children in Cambodia and Africa that has saved 3,000 children, and to
and speak to children about their stories."

Getty Image
This week Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai were awarded Nobel Peace Prize for their work with children. Both have acted in the face of overwhelming odds. Both have faced down oppression and stood for what is right. 

I think these words from His Holiness Dalai Lama, could easily have been said about all the people in the world who are not only willing to risk by to act.


"We need special effort to bring up our basic nature of human beings – compassion. Here is example of Nicholas Winton – we should learn from his motivation and from his courage, from his act. We must carry his spirit from generation to generation. Then humanity’s future will be brighter." http://www.nicholaswinton.eu/en/pribeh-nicholase-wintona/citaty
Two of my favorite people
Sir Nicholas Winton and Malala Yousafzai

 "We rise by lifting others,"*
Merry ME

* Robert Ingersol

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 10 Encourage

Yesterday got away from me. I slept through most of it.

When I woke up I attempted to make Peppermint Bark. My sister makes it every year. Not making it has been my tradition for about 3 years in a row. I have good intentions.  I buy the white and dark chocolate chips and candy canes. I even go so far as beating the peppermint sticks into red and white striped crumbles. FYI - even if the chocolate candy doesn't get made, beating the heck out of something in a plastic bag is good for holiday stress.

Determined that this would be the year I went the distance, I began by melting the chocolate chips in an improvised double boiler. My mom used to have a double boiler. I don't know what happened to it. Funny how I still find things to miss about my mom. I stirred the chocolate until it was melted and smooth. I spread it out on a  cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, then stuck in the fridge to harden. Easy peasy.

This would have been the perfect time to multi-task by frosting the sugar cookies I made the day before.  I got side tracked doing something else as is apparently my new habit. When it was time to melt the white chocolate, I repeated the process, stirring gently as I waited for the chips to melt into a smooth paste. Only it didn't happen. It morphed into a kind of thick, dry ball. I'd been warned to watch it because there is a point at which the chocolate melts or becomes unusable. There was no discernable point. I stirred and watched but the chocolate refused to cooperate.

I called my sister who walked me through the steps of melting chocolate in the microwave. I'd purposely done it on the stove because I thought it would be easier to watch. While I started over with a new bag of chips, Johnson tried to bring the old chocolate back to life. He nuked it, stirred it, added milk to it. All he got for his effort was a blob of something he could use to patch drywall.

I had better luck with the second batch. It melted. I spread it on top of the dark chocolate and tossed on the crushed peppermint. Into the fridge it went and I put myself back to bed. The first thing I did this morning was check it. As I expected I had two separate layers of chocolate, not a pretty sheet of double-layered peppermint sprinkled bark. I was ready to toss the whole pan into the trash as well as the idea of every melting chocolate again.

http://www.cookingmamas.com/peppermint-bark.html
But hold on!   I grabbed a wooden spoon and started breaking the candy into pieces. It was a Christmas miracle! Only one edge had separated. Most of the pan turned out just like it was supposed to. I was able to fill three little boxes and take them to my writing buds. I was afraid that it would have melted again on the drive to the restaurant, so I warned my friends to handle with care. Before lunch was served my foray into chocolatiering had been tasted and received good reviews. That's what friends are for!

So what does all this have to do with encouragement? First of all, I called my sister 3 times last night. Each time a little more frantic. Each time she calmed my chocolate-challenged jitters and offered suggestions as to what to try next. I'd be in a bad way if I didn't have her to talk to.

Secondly (is that a word?) having lunch today with my writing group friends reminded me just how important these ladies are in my life. If ever there was a group who would circle the wagons or come to my rescue, it would be these ladies. We laugh and cry together. We share our hopes and dreams as well as our writing. Critiques are offered with no agenda other than helping each other become the best writers we can be. I don't think you could find a more diverse group of women, yet the bond we share is as rock hard as unmelted white chocolate. I'm a lucky girl to be so blessed.

Finally, I'm also blessed to have so many cyber friends. They've never failed to lift me up and bring me joy, especially when I need it most.

Reaching out with a grateful heart to each of you,
Merry ME

P.S. My peppermint bark did not look as pretty as that pictured above.

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8

I've been on my feet almost all day. My hands have either been wrist deep in flour and sugar or hot water. I don't know how many dozen cookies I made. I do know it's barely a drop in the bucket compared to what I used to do.

I didn't bake anything last year.  My son blames my daughter's no carb diet. No carbs = no cookies, even at Christmas. Now there's someone with willpower. I'm trying to remember the days when baking all day brought me joy instead of exhaustion. I think there's something missing when only one person is in the kitchen doing the work. Perhaps instead of listening to NPR all afternoon, I should have played 3 Dog Night's version of "Joy to the World."You know, Jeremiah was a bullfrog ….. I think a day full of baking should have some booty shaking in it. Too bad I just thought of it.

Today's SSJE word is "respond."  I feel myself responding to some un-joyful news with my typical ride in on a white horse to save the day approach. The thing is I know in this particular situation I can't do anything more than send out circles of love and believe in miracles. It's one of those things that I have to watch from the sidelines.

But here's what I can do. I can be there when someone needs to talk, or cry, or scream.  I can listen. I can offer hope. I can pray.  These things aren't quite as demonstrative as the white horse, but as I've learned from experience they mean a lot.

So, if there's someone in your life tonight who's sick, or feeling blue, or too tired to move, let alone shake a tail feather, respond by being there.  Turn off your cell phone and listen to the words that person has to say. You don't have to offer advice or try to fix the situation. Saying "I hear you" goes a long way in easing tensions. Of course, a few carbs might help too.

I think I'll pour myself a cup of hot tea and eat an unfrosted sugar cookie. Then I'll light a candle for a dear person who is very sick. Won't you join me in lighting someone else's way?
Merry ME

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 7


Note: As if to prove my point about not knowing my Bible people so well, Joy left a comment to tell me that that I had Mary and Martha mixed up. Martha was the doer, Mary the listener. Oh well, I guess I made my point! me


I can remember being asked in a church study group what woman from the Bible would you be? Not being a student of the Bible, I was hard pressed to think of any biblical women that I might resemble. Eve? Not that much of a rule breaker. The Virgin Mary? Not that Holy. Ruth? I'm a follower, for sure. At the time I probably picked Mary who, unlike her sister Martha, was all about making things nice for Jesus when he visited. Yup, that would have been me. I like being on the outside or in the kitchen. Close enough to hear what's going on, but not in the thick of things.  What I didn't know, until I started getting Ronna Detrick's weekly emails, is there are a lot of women in the Bible - some with names, some without - whose lives were barely recorded and didn't carry nearly as much weight as the men they were married to or served.

Here's the blessing I received today:

Dear One: 
Like me, you have lived a full life. Full of sadness, grief, and loss. Full of love, joy, and hope. I know. 
Like me, you know and see the truth that exists around you. Full of risk at times, but necessary always. I know. 
Like me you are hungry for ways in which you can feel connected to something larger than yourself, something that nearly undoes you in it's beauty and power. Full of the sacred, the mystery, the impossible to understand. I know.  
And like me, you are overcome by joy - if not the experience of it, the desire for it. This is my legacy and gift to you: all the joy you desire and deserve. You are not alone. You are seen, heard, understood, and honored. I am Anna and you are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

Every one of Ronna's short blessings from Biblical women has made me rethink the the stories I've heard since I was a kid in Sunday school. I've never really thought about how the DNA from these women could be part of the woman I am today.

As an aside, I read an article a few weeks ago that said scientists have somehow determined that some of the earliest cave drawings were done by women, not men. I think it had something to do with the size of the hands. It makes sense, doesn't it? Women, were the cave keepers, mothers, wives, and story tellers. Of course they would have painted their walls. What women doesn't want to doll up her surroundings?

Did you see the word "joy" right there in the middle of the blessing? I'm finding that just by thinking about the word for these writing exercises, joy is popping up a lot more than I ever expected. Yesterday's SSJE word was watch, today's show up. Watching, I think, takes more action that the previous word - notice. In order to watch, you have to be present - you have to show up. Watching, to me, infers that once something is noticed - joy, for instance - it must be tended and embraced. It is in the watching that  the ordinary becomes sacred and the impossible becomes possible.

My neighbor's husband died last week after a long illness. She came over today to look at the bears I make. Like the pieces of a shattered mirror, her broken heart was reflected in her eyes. I doubt seriously that she even has words like joy in her vocabulary these days. She's never been an outgoing person, she stood silently stalwart in her husband's shadow. I worry about her spending so much time alone in her house where memories haunt as well as heal.

I know what it feels like to spend the holidays without the person you've just lost.  I know that no matter how hard you try, there is nothing joyous or merry about the season.  I've learned, though, that what people say is true. At some point in the future you will begin to come back to life.  At first, if you keep an eye peeled for the magic of transformation, you will notice little things. You'll catch yourself smiling at something the cat does. Or you'll say your beloved's name without crying. Like a crocus when it begins to push up through a snow covered garden, first the tip of a green leaf appears, then purple petals poke their heads through the white ground cover. Given enough time the world loses it's grey shadows, and begins to sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow.

In today's writing by Ronna, Anna became a widow at an early age and spent the rest of her life in the temple worshiping and praying and watching. In her old age she realized the miracle she'd been praying for, the Messiah, had appeared. She was undoubtedly filled with more joy than she'd ever known.  Her legacy, says Detrick, is the "joy all of us desire and deserve." Even if you, like my neighbor, are not feeling it, joy is your birthright. Watch for it and you may be surprised.

May it be so.
Merry ME


Please check out Ronna's website. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 5 Noticing Joy

 My sweet, Bella is going through a separation anxiety stage. She always smiles when she sees me, and is agreeable to "go outside" with me,  but she keeps pretty close tabs on her mom is all times. By dinner time, I'm usually only good for "potty time." 

Last night Mom and Dad were at a meeting so I, aka MeMe, was in charge of dinner.  Let me just say that feeding the Russian army might be easier than feeding this child. "No, No," said the petite child who suddenly developed Herculean strength and almost tossed herself out of the high chair.  The adage of the horse and water works for 2 year olds and milk as well. She was having none of it. Poor thing was in total melt down mode when her mom came home to change for a party.  


No dummy, Bella, knew if she clung to her mommy, mommy couldn't go anywhere without her. Tension and anxiety were in the air. In an effort to distract her, we all walked to the garbage drop down the hall. When we noticed (today's SSJE word) this wreath on a neighbor's door, her mood changed. "Christmas!" she squealed. 


We all stared at the the beautiful sight. It wasn't a star, and there were no angels singing, but for those few seconds Christmas magic calmed the heart of a little girl. The word "Joy" was not lost on me. 


___


I know too well how anxiety and stress can make a person cranky and clingy. My excuse is not a  developmental stage. It's more the result of trying to do too much, especially at this time of year. With 61 Christmases  under my belt, you'd think I would have learned by now that there's no such thing a "perfect." All I can do is all I can do. I've learned that the best holiday moments are just that - moments.


Unexpected moments of wonder and surprise. I've also learned that it helps to have the eyes and wishful thinking of a child during the month of December. I'm sure a Christmas tree looks taller and prettier from the floor, instead of a step ladder trying to place the lights and ornaments just so. Hurried trips to the mall are more exciting when animated Christmas scenes capture your attention. Three feet of snow can either be a pain to shovel or a clean canvas for making snow angels. A trip to the garbage dumpster can be made special by a glittery purple wreath.

Being an adult at Christmas is hard work. Why do I always forget holiday magic resides in the pure delight of a child? My sister sent me a daily devotional from Joel Osteen today. He quoted an article that said, " the average child laughs over 200 times a day, but the average adult only laughs 4 times a day. What’s happened? We’ve allowed the pressures of life, stress and more responsibilities, little by little, to steal our joy.

To quote Oprah, one thing what I know for sure is when I'm with Bella, I laugh more. I see merriment in simple joys like squirrels playing "ring a rosie" around the trunk of a tree. 


If you haven't laughed out loud in a while, I suggest you spend some time with small children.. Trust me, you'll be glad you did. 


Merry ME


*Joel Osteen Ministries 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 4




Too tired to write.
May angels guard you as you sleep.
Merry ME

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 3


“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” 


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2 - Finding Joy

Well, so much for perfect blog attendence. I completely missed yesterday. I had thoughts throughout the day about joy, and the SSJE advent word "imagine." I just never got my act together enough to write those thoughts down to see if they made any sense.

I'd have to say pretty much the same thing for today. Except today my excuse is that I was making bears instead of writing. I cut myself some slack when I read Alana Sheeren's Monday Mantra and asked her if I could copy it. I readily admit that it was this picture that caught my eye. But as I read on, I agreed with everything Alana said.  Who hasn't had those moments when we wish for Martha Stewart to pop in and work her magic with the decorations and in the kitchen? And who hasn't melted into a puddle of tears when their kindergartner brings home a glue and glitter covered piece of art to go on the very un-Martha tree? Who hasn't looked at their tree years later, after the kids are gone with kids of their own, and wept over each tiny plaster of Paris hand print or cotton ball snowman? I believe there is a time every year, when everyone, young and old, sits in front of a Christmas tree to admire it's homemade ornaments for the umpteenth time and let sweet memories surround them with the quiet joy of the season.

Please take a few minutes to read Alana's post below. I'm sure she'd love for you to visit her blog and leave a comment.

Every year when we decorate our Christmas tree I have a moment. A moment where I think, Gosh wouldn’t it be nice to have a designer tree where everything was color coordinated and matchy matchy?
This year that moment lasted longer than normal. Partly because I let my daughter talk me into the multi-colored lights and partly because I was tired and opening that last box of mostly-handmade ornaments about did me in.
But as we hung the last of the glass and tin icicles I remembered who I am.
I am the little girl who made ornaments with her mom and hung them on the tree every year into my twenties, remembering only bits and pieces of those creative, happy moments as I grew older but holding their specialness in my heart.
I am the heart-on-my-sleeve woman who gets teary hanging the painted egg that came from Norway when I was an infant and the tin Scottie that reminds me of my childhood pups and the glass ball from our honeymoon in St. Lucia and the two hand-painted gifts from other baby loss moms the year Benjamin died.
I am the mama who delights in her daughter’s pride as she places her handiwork carefully on gently drooping branches and stretches on her daddy’s shoulders to add the yellow construction paper and glitter glue star on top.
This is our tree. This is our way.
Whether it’s your holiday decorating or the clothes you wear or your path to peace, or success, or joy, forget what everyone else says to do and find your way. YOUR way.
In this moment, what is right for me?
In this moment, what is my way?
In this moment, how do I want to feel?
In this moment, who am I?
Ask the questions and listen closely for the answers. Then turn your face in the direction you want to go and walk, even if it’s against the crowd.
Tree topper
P.S. Changing direction is always allowed if you’re following your heart.
P.P.S. Remember to be kind in the process. To yourself. To your loved ones. To those walking another way.
P.P.P.S. There’s a lot of talk of joy as we enter the holiday season. If you’re not feeling it, give yourself permission to be okay with that. Find your way through the holidays, even if it’s not pretty and shiny and bright.

What is your favorite ornament from years past?
Merry ME

PS. Today's SSJE word is "remember." Pretty cool how I worked it in, don't you think?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 30 The End!!!

I've done it. I've posted something everyday this month. I can't say it my best writing. I can say having a deadline did kind of jump start my productivity.

It would be nice to continue the daily practice. I wonder what the chances are of actually doing it.  As if blogging every day isn't enough, I've kind of/sort of joined another community that requires daily participation. What that means is I signed up to get a word from the Society of St. John the Evangelist (www.ssje.org) as an Advent meditation, but the chances of me taking a photo or adding to the global Advent calendar are pretty slim. I have, however, thought about today's word, "look" off and on all day.

If I wanted to continue with self-imposed discipline of daily blogging NaBloMoPo continues throughout the year. Each month has a theme. December's theme is joy. It sounds like a pretty easy thing to write about. The trouble is when I'm tired and stressed, shopped til I'm fed up to my eyebrows just for a parking space, baked and decorated and wrapped until I can't see straight, it's hard to see the joy, much less have the energy to fake write about it.  Joy is all around. I know it is. Seeing it and embracing it is where I get stuck.

Joy doesn't usually come knocking on my door to announce itself. It's more like an Easter egg hunt. You have to look over, under and around for it. Sometimes it's right out in the open like bathrobe clad shepherds in a child's Christmas pageant. Or the Salvation Army bell ringer that has stood in front of the same grocery store for 3 years and acts as if he remembers your name. Other times it's hidden in an old person's smile as he reaches up to place the same tarnished star that's been on the family Christmas tree for over 60 years.

"Aha," as Oprah would say. The magic of joy comes from keeping one's eyes and heart open to it. For example,  pulling 10 boxes of decorations down from the attic is, excuse my unholiday French, a pain in the ass. Yet, as each box of treasures is opened, memories of Christmases past fill the room like the smell of ginger cookies baking. You have to look inside the boxes to find the joy.  I'm guessing those wisemen from years ago got pretty darn tired of riding their camels and sleeping on the hard ground as they looked into the night sky for the Star that would lead to a Bethlehem cow barn. But don't you know their hearts burst with joy at the sight they beheld - shepherds and angels, Mary and Joseph all circling a crib that held the "peace"filled Christ child. A gloriously joyful gift to be sure.

Three months after my mother died my father and I worked together to line our front yard with sand-filled paper bags for the annual luminary lighting. Dad's hip hurt, so he directed me in the fine details of exactly where to place the bags. I was under the impression you walk to the neighbor's drive way and drop the bags where it looked like they belonged. I had no idea there was measuring and counting involved. By the time we were through I was ready to place a bag of sand squarely on Dad's head. All it took to turn my anger into bittersweet joy was seeing the street lined with twinkling lights and knowing ours were perfectly placed, like the candles that would have been on my mother's birthday cake.

 I actually have another reason to write about joy. I've been paired up with a facebook friend to check in with and share some holiday comfort and merriment. Guess what her name is.  Joy.
Do you think my muse has conspired to keep me writing. We'll have to wait and see.

For now I bid you goodnight.
Merry ME

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 29 - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Sweetie and I went to watch the annual boat parade on the St. John's River tonight. Near the top of a high rise apartment building, the family I work for literally has a bird's eye view of the river. At this time of year small children tend to take a double look when Sweetie walks by. Even without a red suit trimmed in fur, he looks pretty much like the real Santa.

Bella doesn't really get what all the fa la la ing is all about but she's beginning to understand there is something different in the air. She's picked up that there is some kind of connection between the tree with lights and ornaments, jingle bells and Santa Claus. She likes the pretty lights, but the mall Santa is down right scary. She wanted nothing to do with him.

So we were all pleasantly surprised when she walked into the living room where Sweetie (it's been over a year since she's seen him) was standing and said, without missing a beat, "Christmas!" She kept her distance and walked a wide berth in the beginning. I watched as she got closer and closer. Before long she offered Sweetie her dog. A true sign that he had passed inspection. He wasn't so scary after all.

Before we left, Bella asked Sweetie to pick her up. It was one of those heart melting moments for me. Forget the lit up boats, the chill in the air, the Christmas tree lots and the Salvation Army bell ringers, for me the Christmas season began right then. It wasn't a stable, there were no shepherds, but two of my favorite people sitting together discussing who knows what looked pretty much like love to me. That's what Christmas is all about, isn't it?

May it be so.
Merry ME

Bella and Christmas

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 28 The Day After Thanksgiving

Blame it on the tryptophan.
Blame it on the quiet that descended as the last guest left last night.
Blame it on memories of Thanksgivings past.

To everything there is a season …. holidays have their anticipatory excitement and all good things must end doldrums. 

I'm feeling rather sluggish today. Just thinking about shoppers waiting in line for Black Friday sales this morning makes me tired. The sun is setting while a small breeze causes the elephant ears in the back yard to sway. 

As I put away Mama's gold trimmed china this morning, I was aware of missing her. I'd felt it resting on my shoulder for most of yesterday, too. She's been gone for 12 years. That's 12 Thanksgivings, 12 birthdays and 12 Christmases we have had without her.  Even when she still sat in her traditional place at the head of the table, I did the cooking so it's not like I haven't had practice being the Thanksgiving Maven. I wanted her to be the Maven.

I realized last night that there has been a changing of the guard in the family dynamics. The next generation has taken over the table conversations, which did not include politics or dividing lines. My nephew even noted that he's made it to the adult end of the table while his mom, step dad, Sweetie and I were seated at what used to be the children's table. The boys men discussed giant TV screens at the football stadium and hipsters. When I admitted I don't know what a "hipster" is, cell phones were whipped out to show pictures of modern millennials who wear straight legged pants they buy at thrift stores and carry a satchel bag. I'm pretty sure there's more to being a hipster than that, but I couldn't tell you what. It seems there is a hipster movement in the Bold New City of the South where I live. Who knew?  Without a doubt there is going to be some cultural shock between the hipsters and the good ol' boys.

While the conversation was beyond my comprehension, the laughter appeared to bounce off the painted family tree in the background and echo back into the room where 3 generations have share a holiday meal since 1962.

I loved having the small group of in town family here. Still I was nostalgic for the years when many more of us were together, where conversations went on in every room of the house and one had to visit each one to keep up with all the goings on. When I saw the news reports of the icky weather, flight delays and cancellations, I wondered to myself why people put themselves through that hassle. As I peeled the potatoes in silence, my questions were answered. I think it should be a rule that holiday kitchens bustle with activities shared by many. The more the merrier should be a holiday motto.

While I'm on my things-that-have-changed-when-I-wasn't-looking rant, what's up with the Macy's parade? What happened to the camera eye view of floats and balloons coming down the avenue? I'm not a fan of the staged events in front of the NBC headquarters.

It all adds up, I'm a  sad to say, to feeling old. Not so old that I'm the one sitting on the couch complaining of all the noise. But old enough to hold fast to traditions that I'm not ready to change. At 62 years old, I still wish Mom was in the kitchen, Dad was drinking coffee at the breakfast table, and I was sitting in front of the magical parade waiting anxiously awaiting the first sight of Santa.

All that said, I'm grateful for the family, food, and laughter.
What was the best part of your day?
Merry ME

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 27 - Happy Thanksgiving



Counting Our Blessings: Why We Say Grace
By Anne Lamott


NOVEMBER 28, 2013 – 8:00 AM –
No matter how you say it, grace can transform an ordinary meal into a celebration—of family, love, and gratitude.


We didn’t say grace at our house when I was growing up because my parents were atheists. I knew even as a little girl that everyone at every table needed blessing and encouragement, but my family didn’t ask for it. Instead, my parents raised glasses of wine to the chef: Cheers. Dig in. But I had a terrible secret, which was that I believed in God, a divine presence who heard me when I prayed, who stayed close to me in the dark. So at 6 years old I began to infiltrate religious families like a spy—Mata Hari in plaid sneakers.


One of my best friends was a Catholic girl. Her boisterous family bowed its collective head and said, “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts. …” I was so hungry for these words; it was like a cool breeze, a polite thank-you note to God, the silky magnetic energy of gratitude. I still love that line.


I believed that if your family said grace, it meant you were a happy family, all evidence to the contrary. But I saw at certain tables that an improvised grace could cause friction or discomfort. My friend Mark reports that at his big southern childhood Thanksgivings, someone always managed to say something that made poor Granny feel half dead. “It would be along the lines of ‘And Lord, we are just glad you have seen fit to keep Mama with us for one more year.’ We would all strain to see Granny giving him the fisheye.”


I noticed some families shortened the pro forma blessing so they could get right to the meal. If there were more males than females, it was a boy chant, said as one word: “GodisgreatGodisgoodletusthankHimforourfoodAmen.” I also noticed that grace usually wasn’t said if the kids were eating in front of the TV, as if God refused to listen over the sound of it.


And we’ve all been held hostage by grace sayers who use the opportunity to work the room, like the Church Lady. But more often, people simply say thank you—we understand how far short we must fall, how selfish we can be, how self-righteous, what brats. And yet God has given us this marvelous meal.


It turns out that my two brothers and I all grew up to be middle-aged believers. I’ve been a member of the same Presbyterian church for 27 years. My older brother became a born-again Christian—but don’t ask him to give the blessing, as it can last forever. I adore him, but your food will grow cold. My younger brother is an unconfirmed but freelance Catholic.


So now someone at our holiday tables always ends up saying grace. I think we’re in it for the pause, the quiet thanks for love and for our blessings, before the shoveling begins. For a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius. We’re acknowledging that this food didn’t just magically appear: Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, baked it; wow.


We say thank you for the miracle that we have stuck together all these years, in spite of it all; that we have each other’s backs, and hilarious companionship. We say thank you for the plentiful and outrageous food: Kathy’s lox, Robby’s bûche de Noël. We pray to be mindful of the needs of others. We savor these moments out of time, when we are conscious of love’s presence, of Someone’s great abiding generosity to our dear and motley family, these holy moments of gratitude. And that is grace.


Anne Lamott’s book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, is in stores now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 26

Chex Mix - check
Pumpkin pie - check
Clam Dip - check
Fruit salad that nobody cares for except me - check

I think I've got a pretty good head start on the cooking.
19 pounds of turkey, potatoes, and beans yet to go.

I ready for bed.

Instead of counting sheep, I'm going to count my blessings,
Merry ME

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 25

I feel like I got a lot done today but when Sweetie asked me what, I could only name one thing.

My day started with the thing all women look forward to - my annual exam. To my dismay my weight had not changed much but I've lost 2 inches. Now I understand why my back hurts all the time. Where would those 2 inches have gone, except to pile up on each other like an LA traffic jam at the base of my spine.

As I assumed the position my doctor says, "so this could be your last pap." I was caught a bit off guard. I certainly wasn't in a place where I could do a happy dance. But it does seem like this is a cause for celebration, doesn't it? Apparently the people who make the rules on this kind of thing have determined if you have a history of negative paps and no HPV, then you only need the test every 5 years and none after the age of 65.  I'm not sure what kind of party to have, but cake will definitely be on the menu.

The rest of the day was spent either in the kitchen or at the computer. It appears the only thing I have to show for the time spent, is a batch of Chex Mix which is a part of any Reynolds family get together and a few loads of laundry that still need to be folded. I'll bake a pie tomorrow morning before I go to work, and maybe set the table. I'm keeping my fingers crossed the turkey thaws in time.

So there you have it folks, another rip roaring day in the life of Merry ME.

Tonight, for the first time since it happened, I listened to news reports of the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. It is ironic, isn't it, that the holiday set aside for gratitude comes on the heels of such fury. Perhaps, there's no irony at. Maybe we all need to dig down past broken hearts and spirits to find a place of thanksgiving for what we have. Maybe gratitude is where healing begins.

Merry ME

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 24 Kindness Exchange

I saw this video of comedian Michael Jr. posted on a friend's Facebook today. It really struck a chord with me.

And it goes right along with Josh Urban's Kindness Exchange. The premise of which is to do a random act of kindness. It's that easy. Then you post your good deed at something called #kindness exchange, and Josh hangs a tag on a tree in his front yard that is illuminated with red lights to be a beacon of kindness for all to see. 

Here's the cool thing about the Kindness Exchange. You don't have to know Josh. IT's cool if you do, cause he's a pretty amazing guy, but you don't have to.  You can do the same thing right in your own city or neighborhood. Think what it might be like if, for the rest of the year, when the spirit of Chrismas is often overshadowed by shopping, pushing, shoving, wrapping, baking, mailing, swearing, and crying. Not to mention all the family dysfunction that often drowns out the Christmas carols.  If all of us keep our eyes open for opportunities to be kind to others, it's got to make for a happier holiday season all around, don't you think?

In the words of Michael Jr. "Look for an opportunity to give."

I like that idea. What about you?
Merry ME

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 23 An Altar to my Life

With regards to my previous post (see below) I'd like to make sure you all know I was in no way  judging people for the way their house looks or the way they do things. I was simply making an observation. 

What's wrong with being orderly, Sweetie asked me this morning. I told him, as I'm telling you now, there's nothing wrong with being orderly. In fact there's a lot right about it. It's the way he is, not the way I am. 


____

So now that we've got that straight, I'm off on another subject.


Today on Facebook, Numinous Jane (www.numinousjane.com) posted this picture and question...







"If you could make an altar to your life what would be on it? How would the grace of you show up? "

Dictionary.com defines an altar as a mound or table where religious rites are performed or sacrifices are made to the gods. It also says an altar is the table used in the celebration of communion (of the Lord's Supper).

In the past I've thought of having an altar in my house, a place to put things to remind me of the Divine One and His/Her gifts. I like the idea of having a place to go to light a candle and say a prayer for someone or something. I like the idea, but I've never done it. I wonder why? 

I've never thought of making an altar to my life. For most of the day in the back of my mind, I've asked why I would need or deserve an altar. The idea of it sounds like I'm putting myself on the same level as God and that feels uncomfortable. After much pondering I finally came up with is this … if it is true (and I believe it is) that I am made in the image of God, that the light of God is in me, then making an altar of my life would actually be a place to honor the reflection of God in me.  I'm okay with that.  I think God would be okay with that.

As I was typing this, I read the question more carefully. It asks about an altar to my life, not me. I think there is a distinction to be made there. An altar to my life would, in essence be a place to honor the life God has given me. What better place to celebrate communion than at a place set aside for the things that give my life meaning. 

How would the grace of me show up? Hmmm, another question that takes some thinking. A synonym of grace is sanctification. One of the definitions of sanctification is to entitle to reverence or respect. So would another way of asking the question be what parts of me do I think are entitled to respect? 

On my altar I'd have candle to call in the light. I'd have a heart rock, symbolizing  love; a pen or pencil to symbolize I'm a writer; a baby cup or shoe to symbolize motherhood; a rock or shell to represent the world beyond me; a feather to remind me to soar, and a plant to keep me grounded; a bookmark to hold my place; a bell to call me home; a red bird to symbolize life long partnership; a tulip for beauty; a Coke, a sewing needle, and a stamped envelope; a cross and a prayer. If there was any room left maybe I'd stick on a tube of arthritis cream and a Prozac. 

I think tomorrow I'll start collecting these items. I know exactly where I'll set up my altar. I like this idea. How about you? What would be on your altar? How would the grace of you show up?

May you be blessed with the knowing of you,
Merry ME

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 22 If these walls could talk….

When I get off work at 8 pm I usually turn into the Oprah channel on the XM radio and listen to the Jenn Berrman show. Dr. Jenn is a psychotherapist who gives advice to people who call in with relationship problems. She's not necessarily a kinder, gentler Dr. Laura, but I don't think she's as in your face as Dr. Laura could be.

On almost every show I've heard, no matter what the problem, Dr. Jenn suggests a full year of weekly individual therapy. I happen to know the power of this kind of intensive self seeking therapy. I just wonder who's got that kind of insurance and time anymore.

The other night Dr. Jenn talked to a woman who asked whether or not she should stay with a person who wasn't as clean as she is. After asking some questions, Dr. Jenn told this story about how she and three other people did a show on A&E.  They'd go into a person's house and after a day or two,  they could tell what that person is like. I may not have all the details right, but that's the gist of it.

Dr. Jenn said that it never failed that the house was a reflection of the person, i.e. if the house was in disarray, chances were pretty good that the person was in chaos of some kind. I can see how that would be true and I'm no psychotherapist. It seems like a no brainer. For instance, the couple I work for keep a very neat and tidy home. Everything is in it's place. If it's not, it's being used and will replaced as soon as its need is complete. It is also true that they are the most regimented people I've ever met. They have a schedule and they stick to it. It was hard for my fly by the seat of my pants, don't close a door, drop things on the first flat surface I see pile making personality to get used. But I've learned order is nice. It's easy to find the key when it is always put on the same hook. Go figure.

So I started wondering what my house says about me. In general my house is clean - not spotless, but clean. Except for the aforementioned piles, I'm really not that disorganized. Well, my closet might make Dr. Jenn scratch her head, and the Tupperware drawer is not part of this discussion. Now Sweetie, who I'd call very linear, is a different story. He likes to line things up. He organizes his closet by color and style. Dress shoes wrapped in flannel sacks are kept in a separate closet than casual shoes.   Even though he has as much "stuff" as I have, I admit his looks neater in a straight line than in a jumble.

I guess those differences could also be attributed to our personalities. Sweetie is logical, analytic, straight thinking. I'm more like a whirling dervish. Not so much on the outside as on the inside. Talk to anyone who knows me and they'd say I'm calm and cool. Unless, of course, I'm having a meltdown.
I wonder if I got back into weekly therapy if I could turn things around.  The thing is, I kind of like the way I am.

What does your house say about you?
Merry ME

PS. I googled it and this is what I found about the A&E show:

During each episode of Family Forensics a family vacates their home for the weekend. Dr. Jenn goes into their home with a Detective Scott DeFoe, Forensic Expert Heather DeBevec, and Computer Specialist Nick Glassman knowing absolutely nothing about the family. The team has 48 hours to go through the family’s belongings and profile each member. In order to gain insight about the family, the forensics team goes through all of the family’s belongings including closets, drawers, boxes, diaries, garbage and home computers. Family Forensics takes a “no holds barred” approach to exploring the dynamics within today’s nuclear family.

On the third day host, Rob Nelson, brings Dr. Jenn to the family’s home to meet. During that session Dr. Jenn shares the profile that has been developed about the family based on the discoveries in the home. She then discusses the family dynamics and performs family therapy.

Day 21

This did not get posted last night. In my defense, I was at work until after midnight so I couldn't finish it. I doubt the NaBloPoMo police are going to check up on me. Just wanted my cheerleaders to know I did my best. ME

____

I like to read. I'm not a fast reader. If you ask me a few days after I finish a book who was the main character or what was the plot, I probably couldn't tell you.

I don't have much of scale for why I like a book or not. It's usually an emotional reaction. I don't look for literary flair, or big words. I like a story that grabs me at the start and takes me on a journey. I particularly like memoirs by and about women. Like Joan Anderson who spent a year by the sea, or Cheryl Strayed who walked the Pacific Coast Trail, or Elizabeth Gilbert who traveled around the world and got paid for the story of how she found herself.

That's why I picked up Gilbert's most recent novel, The Signature of All Things. Gilbert went back to her fiction roots. I'm sure there are lots of people who will say they enjoyed this book. But I gotta tell you it was a long hard read for me. Sweetie kept asking me why I didn't just put it down and read something else. Good question. Somewhere in my life I made a rule that if I start a book, I have to finish a book. I've broken that rule a few times, but not very often.

So I plodded my way through 514 pages night after night, waiting for the book to get better. In my opinion it never did. If I hadn't been reading it on my Nook, I may have thrown the story across the room when I finished the last sentence.  Huh? I thought to myself. Really? That's it?

The Signature of all Things is about a woman in the 1800's who studies plants … moss(es) to be exact. She has troubled relationships - especially with men. (There's something I could relate to). She also diddles herself alot. I only mention that because Gilbert makes a big deal out of it, for no reason that I can see advances the story.

Here's what Steve Almond of the NY Times Magazine* had to say: "The book’s heroine is Alma Whittaker, the brilliant, restless daughter of an imperious botanical explorer. Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns — the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfillment, the dubious rise of the pharmaceutical industry — are essentially modern."

I suppose if I read with eye for deeper meaning, all that would have made sense to me. I didn't get the "feminine struggle for fulfillment" part. In fact, I would have said Alma was fulfilled by her studies in a time when women took care of the house instead of wondering in the woods watching moss grow - or not grow as the case may be.  Perhaps I just don't appreciate the elegant sheen of a 19th century epic. What do I know?

I'm not saying don't read the book. I'm just saying it wasn't my cup of tea. I wish I'd realized that before the tea got cold. The subject and the style may not have appealed to me, but it is evident Gilbert did tons of research. Plus she does have a way with words. For example:

"Beatrix had always sat - and was startled by the nothingness. It was like looking at a spot on the wall where a clock had hung for years, and seeing only an empty space. She could not train herself not to look; the emptiness surprised her every time." pg. 159

…"And yet Boehme said the God had pressed Himself into the world, and had left marks there for us discover." pg. 248

"She herself did not forget her woes, but she sewed up the rents in the fabric of her life quite as well as she could, and carried on." pg. 310

There is a level of grief so deep that it stops resembling grief at all. The pain becomes so severe that the body can no longer feel it. The grief cauterizes itself, scars over, prevents inflated feelings. Such numbness is a kind of mercy." pg. 316

The air across the beach snapped and shimmied like a bed sheet shaken out …" pg. 410

Perhaps that is why I continue to read books that seem to drone on. Like panning for gold, I can usually find some shiny nugget of wisdom that makes it all worth while, or turn of phrase that makes the writer in me say, "wow!"  I have few books that do not have dog eared pages or not marked by yellow highlighter.

What are your reading habits?
Merry ME

*Eat, Pray, Love, Get Rich, Write a Novel No One Expects, Sept. 18, 2013