Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To Exercise or Not to Exercise ….

It's been so long since I've been a regular blogger I feel pretty sure the people who were faithful followers have gone on to other, more faithful, bloggers.

As I struggled to write my last post, I discovered what my writing coach and anyone else who knows about writing, says is true. Writing is like a muscle that has to be used and stretched. I've been working off the other saying my coach told me - you're still a writer if if you're not typing.  Yet, the exercise thing clicked in because I've been following up my twice weekly physical therapy sessions, with morning and evening stretches. My back pain is diminishing somewhat,  my flexibility improving, and my "core" getting stronger. I'm still a far cry from physically fit, but I am proud of how I'm sticking to the regimen. Pain will do that.

Pain isn't necessarily involved in writing, but it can be difficult sitting at the keyword, willing my fingers to type out words that don't come. I decided those "how to write" books must be onto something when they say to write something everyday. It doesn't matter so much what you write. It's the repetitive action that produces results.  I thought that on Monday. Ignored the wisdom on Tuesday.

Facebook was full of tributes and condolences to Maya Angelou today. The more I read, the more I felt ashamed that I don't have any strong feelings about her. That must be because I've not read any of her books, and only a few of her poems. I have, however, heard her speak on/with Oprah. I've heard her read her poetry. I've been seduced like everyone else by her mellifluous voice, her poetry, like musical notes on a composer's score, melody and tempo combined into a song. As a woman, I am grateful for the way Angelou stood up for herself, took care of herself, and paved the way for other women to follow.

I remember standing in Barnes and Noble a few years ago. I picked up a small book of Maya Angelo poetry. It opened to the page with this prayer. Even if it were the only thing she ever wrote, she'd be a bright star shining in the night sky, no longer a caged singing a universal song.

Tonight, as I stretch my legs and practice tightening my core, I will recite this prayer over and over. It's a good one, I think, to sleep on.On

A Prayer

Father Mother God, thank you for your
Presence during hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for Your presence during the
Bright and sunny days, for then we can
Share that which we have with those who
Have less.

And thank You for Your presence during the
Holy days, for then we are able to
Celebrate You and our families and our

For those who have no voice, we ask You
To speak.

For those who feel unworthy we ask You
To pour Your love out in waterfalls of 

For those who live in pain, we ask You to
Bathe them in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask You to keep
Them company.

For those who are depressed we ask you to
Shower upon them the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless 
Substance we ask You to give to all the
World that which we need most – Peace.


May it be so.
Merry ME

Maya Angelo
Celebrations – Rituals of Peace and Prayer
Random House, Ny,Ny 2006, Random House, Inc.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Empty Spaces

Yesterday, Sweetie decided it would be a good idea to clean out some of the junk that's accumulated in our kitchen cabinets. I said OK if I could retain veto power. AND if he promised he would not go out and buy more stuff to fill in the spaces. You know what happens when there is a nice clean space  calling out "fill me, fill me."

At the back of the cupboard where dad always kept his booze there were several unused drinking vessels - little oriental brandy cups, green plastic cups Mom used when she was taking her daily medications, a jelly jar that Dad used for his nightly cocktail, some oriental brandy cups, one wine glass, and a thermal glass that held first Mom's then Dad's ice tea every day at lunch.  There were also several large plastic cups from Subway, travel coffee mugs without their tops, tops without their mugs.

I've parted with a lot of my parents' things. I've tossed some into the garbage with glee and held onto others with a tight grip. I know what it feels like to say goodbye. But I didn't know I'd be so sad getting rid of cups that are never used. Never used yet still residing in their respective places for as long as I can remember. Crying over empty spaces on a shelf? Really?

Maybe I was feeling sad because of Memorial Day. It's just too hard to see and hear stories about wounded or killed soldiers. It's too hard to realize that the soldiers coming home from the middle east have a lifetime to live with their painful memories. I watched an interview with a 90 year old veteran of D-Day. As he told of running up on Omaha Beach, over bodies of lying in the bloodcovered sand, he cried. 70 years later, the memory still vivid,  his heart still hurt. The PBS Memorial Day special is a nice tribute to service men and women; a stark contrast to the news stories about how Vets are being treated - or not- in VA hospitals. It's not just those serving. What happens to the moms and dads, wives and children, sisters and brothers who look at the empty spaces, like my kitchen cabinets, * where there was once a whole person they loved and the lives they imagined do?

Sweetie took me to the cemetery this morning to visit my parents' grave. My heart felt heavy, but I'd already cried. I stood by the marble headstone. Today the empty space in my heart didn't hurt so bad.  When I raised my head I took in the site of row after row, markers placed with military precision, decorated with flags, flowers and a few balloons.

"It's a special place," I said to Sweetie.
"Yes," he said, "Silent."
Almost like church. Holy silence.

As Sweetie walked back to the car, I walked along the winding sidewalk. Led as if by a hand I couldn't see, to a woman who was sitting in the wet grass facing a headstone. I tried to count the number of times I'd done the same thing. Just sit there, my hand on the cold marble, in the face of rational truth, hoping that my parents weren't gone.

"Do you mind if I sit with you?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I think God led you here."
Then she told me about her husband of 40 years, Stacy, aka Junior. He's been gone for 4 years and she still can't believe it. I'm leaving you now, he told her, rolled over and died. She replays that night over and over.  I tried to imagine what that empty space in her bed must feel like.

In the silence of the moment, with other visitors paying their respects, I listened while Geraldine told me  the love story that lasted for some many years. She told me she loved Stacy from the first moment she saw him. "He was so fine." She told me of how Stacy had some "meanness" in him after going to Vietnam, but she loved him enough to stay with him. She told me how she'd brought him back to life a few months before he died. She told me how they'd spent the day together, how she'd made him tea, how he must have known he was was dying. There we sat, two strangers who will probably never see each other again, with silent tears, joined by the common denominator of death.

We hugged each other like sisters.  Then I walked away feeling that peace that passes understanding fill the empty space in my heart.

Life goes on.  Some spaces will always remain empty. I'm pretty sure Sweetie already has plans for the cupboards.
Merry ME

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Be A Mom Is To ….

  • Hold your newborn infant in your arms, wondering "what now" and somehow knowing the answer.
  • Change beds, wash dishes, match socks, scrub Crayola masterpieces off the wall, step on Legos in the middle of the night, and mop sticky Kool-aid off the floor.
  • Hold a little one's hand when crossing the street; wave goodbye when the time is right
  • Unwrap handmade Christmas ornaments and hang them on the tree even when your children have children of their own.
  • Keep plaster of Paris hand prints and bronzed baby shoes on your dresser.
  • Find a lock of auburn hair, a tarnished silver rattle, a paper doily Valentine, track medals, a Letterman's jacket, a graduation announcement, a tattered blanket, a dried out corsage, old report cards, and an envelope full of baby teeth at the bottom of the cedar chest.
  • Wait …  for labor to begin, for the doctor to show up, for the school bus, for a fever to break, for the swelling to go down, for the rash to go away, for for riding lessons to be over, for the mile relay to begin, for college acceptance letters, to hear "I'm home mom" before you can go to sleep.
  • Sing along with Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, and Jimmy Buffet.
  • Be the first one to say Happy Birthday.
  • Say the things you swore you would never say and do the things you swore you would never do.
  • Learn to say I'm sorry.
  • Fantasize about taking long interupted naps on a tropical island where no children are allowed.
  • Hear "Mom, she's touching me," "I get the front seat,""I think I'm going to throw up," and "It's a Small World" one too many times.
  • Bake gingerbread men and birthday cakes, roast turkeys, burn pork chops, and say, "who wants pizza?"
  • Make Halloween costumes, blanket forts, and snow angels
  • Have Little Debbies, Chex mix and Clam Dip on hand when your grown children visit.
  • Drive the car pool, fold newspapers for the paper route, help with homework, and stay up late until a term paper is finished.Sit in the backseat when your son is car sick and, for no good reason you can think of, get on something called "Bullet."
  • Read good night stories, spend time in the library,  and share a love of books.
  • Attend parent teacher conferences, school carnivals, soccer games,  graduation ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.
  • See things you've never seen before …  the look on your child's face on Christmas morning, sunset at the Grand Canyon, fields of daffodils, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, the inside of Juvenile Court, a horse being born, your son feeding a day old bird with an eye-dropper.
  • See things you never want to see again … underneath your child's bed, your son's face after flying over the handlebars of his bike, the inside of Juvenile Court, your daughter's world fall apart.
  • Blow noses, dry tears, kiss boo boos, rub backs and brush hair.
  • Fix broken toys but acknowledge wrecked cars, twisted ankles, broken promises, and shattered hearts are out of your realm of expertise.
  • Stand by during vaccinations, ear infections, oral surgery, and root canals.
  • Neatly record the life events of your first child's life in photograph albums and baby books; toss memorabilia for all subsequent children in a box you intend to get to someday, but probably never will.
  • Feel joy like no other, laughing til your sides hurt and tears roll down your cheeks.
  • Feel sorrow like no other and to hear the sound of your heart break.
  • Feel on top of the world except when your child is hurt, sick, rude, or doesn't come home on time.

Being a mom is a lot like winning the lottery, you have to pay some taxes, but you've got a lifetime of plenty ahead of you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, L.S.R

Ninety-seven years ago, my daddy was born.
A little boy who would grow up to make a big mark in the lives of the people he loved.
He's been gone for 3 years.
I still look to him for approval, but I'm learning to trust my own judgement.
Funny how sometimes they are the same thing.
His favorite things can still make me laugh or cry.
When the wind blows the back door open, I say, "Hello, Dad," because I think his spirit still hangs out here on occasion.
He visits my dreams, but can't see his face.
I remember sitting by his bed during his last days.
I tried to imagine how life would be without him.
It's pretty much the same, without the hassle, except for the missing him.
Kind of like an angel food cake. There's a hole in the middle. Sometimes you fill that hole up with strawberries and whipped cream, sweet memories. Sometimes you just leave it empty. Either way, it's all good.

Happy Birthday, Dad,
Merry ME

Monday, May 5, 2014

Oh Woe is ME

Talk about crash and burn.
There I was on a writing high.
The words and ideas couldn't come fast enough.
I wrote my friend Amy that my muse had returned and I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with her.

Then my Rx for steroids ran out, and so did my words.
My back has been giving me fits.
L4 and L5 respectively.
Except they show me no respect.
They pinch, stab, grab me in a choke hold until I'm at their mercy.
Those are my words. The therapist says they are "restricted."

Restricted as in doesn't move well, or as in a teenager on restriction doing everything she can to make life miserable for the person who inflicted the punishment. Either way, the end result is the same.

It's been almost a month since I visited the orthopedic doc. His first suggestion was physical therapy. If you know me, you know anything with the word "physical" in it will probably not be my cup of tea. But hey, if it'll make the pain stop, I'm all for it. Just call me Stretch Armstrong. Morning and night found me doing all kinds of stretches, with the goal of tightening up my core.

Don't ask me how it's supposed to work. I was told I needed a tighter core, so I went to town trying to get one.

On my third visit, a Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 10, John was my therapist. He ran me through the drill - heat, stretch, stretch, stretch ….. Then had me roll over on my stomach and started pushing and pressing on my lower back. Every time he touched a sore spot I almost flew off the table.  John is the one who told me how restricted I am.  So then he does something I can't see, can only feel. Kind of like pushing his knuckles into the sore spot and applying pressure. The funny thing is, it didn't hurt. I mean, I knew he was doing something, but I wasn't in pain. After that he iced me down and sent me on my way. I could actually stand up straight, which took away my stopped over, Neanderthal appearance.

The following Monday, I actually had a period of time where I was pain free. Indeed, John could be called a miracle worker.

Then I flew to Chattanooga, drove 3 hours there and back to Nashville, and sat in hospital waiting rooms for most of the day with my sister who was having some serious conversations with doctors about a little ol' brain tumor. A benign acoustic neuroma to be exact. When I woke up the next day at 4 am to catch a 6am flight home, I could barely move. I wandered like a zombie through two airports with balancing my computer bag and luggage, trying not to lean too far in either direction. Silent tears ran down my face. I must have looked pretty bad cause when I asked to board first along with the "passengers in wheelchairs" they offered to take me down on an elevator. When I saw the stairs I had to climb to get inside the plane, I almost turned around. What good would that have done? Sweetie and Miracle Worker John were waiting for me in Jacksonville.

Both told me to rest which got no argument from me. The next morning I went to therapy and begged for more "mobo" "mojo" or whatever it was that had helped me before. For all intents and purposes I haven't moved far from the bed since then. Thank God for Ibuprofen and sleep-inducing muscle relaxants. Thank God for Sweetie who tip toes in and out of the room. Thank God for Johnson who brings me Cokes to drink. Thank god for Maizey for guarding me from the cats, and Suzi for guarding the dog cookies. Thank God for the lady who called in another Rx today. More steroids. Yuk, I know.  But a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

I know I'm a big baby. I wish I was big and strong and laugh in the face of pain. For now, I hope to feel better tomorrow so I can get back to therapy. Funny, I just heard Olivia Newton John singing in the recesses of my brain …. let's get physical, physical.

Hoping the saga doesn't last too long,
Merry ME