|Posted by Merri Hiatt on December 22, 2013 at 5:00 PM||comments (2)|
Christmas is coming, whether we are ready or not.
I have experienced 48 Christmas' since my birth. This will be the first one without my father.
Before that tear starts to well in your eye, let me say that it's okay that he won't be here this year in physical form.
Dad was ready to be done with this life. i am certain of it. There is comfort, and yes, even joy in knowing that he is whole and complete now.
No more illness. No more pain. No more existing just to be existing.
I believe every day is a gift, but some days, well... life is hard. Some days, weeks, months, and indeed years, wear down thin places in your heart.
I have thin places in my heart, too.
Sometimes the veil descends and we see the Season of Love and Light as a shimmer of mist in the distance.
Close, but just beyond our reach.
That is okay, too.
Not every Christmas is a Norman Rockwell painting, nor should it be. Each has a flavor and feel like no other.
Some shimmer like that One Star on that One Night. Others are dimmer, a hushed whisper on a cool night. Still others are filled with laughter, or a scrooge or two.
It is all a gift.
I think of Christmas as a vision of presents under the tree. Different sizes, colors. Some with ribbons and bows. Others wrapped in midnight, laced in fog.
We mark another year of our journey as the clock continues to tick relentlessly.
It's coming, whether we are ready or not. Christmas is coming.
Be well, my friends.
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on January 7, 2013 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
Happy New Year!
Mine is starting with a move and I'm feeling overwhelmed. Actually, that's an understatement. Boxes being packed, details to take care of, money to scrape up to pay for things I hadn't even thought about before deciding to move. Does it ever end? Say yes, please!
The biggest annoyance? Limited internet access. I am having serious withdrawals. I had no idea how much time I spent on the internet doing research for books, writing on message boards and, let's be honest, looking at Pinterest photos. What did we ever do without unlimited access to the world via all our electronics?
Sorry I've been so sporadic lately. When I get settled, you can be sure writing will be at the top of my list. I'm almost finished with a first draft of Runway Romance, Book one of the Love in the Air Trilogy. I'm beyond excited for this release!! Then, it will be a trip back to write Sequel two of the Embracing Love Trilogy, When Love's Gone Country. I've been having some wonderful dreams about story lines, so be sure and stay tuned!
Wishing you all a year of new adventures, good health and lovely surprises.
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on June 26, 2012 at 9:55 PM||comments (2)|
Last December, I quit my day job to pursue writing full-time. I was scared to death and also very excited. I have been incredibly fortunate to have spent the last six months spending hours and hours a day writing. What a joy!
I knew in May that I needed to supplement my income, so began looking for a day job again. I was delighted and suprised to find that a church I used to work for back in the 90s was looking for an Office Manager. I applied for the job and within a week I was back to work.
It has been great fun reconnecting with the members of the congregation. Though many procedures have changed, the basic job is the same. I feel blessed to be "home" again.
My writing has slowed considerably. I can no longer spend hours and hours a day blissfully writing long into the night. Now I need to go to sleep so I can get up early and head for work. My body was confused for a few days there. Ha! It really loves the whole "night owl" way of life.
After a few weeks, I assume I'll develop a rhythm again. The same thing happened when I first quit my job and had so many hours available to me. I had the reverse issue then, not knowing what to do with myself all day when I didn't have a job to go to.
Transitions are often full of challenges. I'm reminded that the only constant is change. We can run from it or embrace it. The choice is ours.
May July bring you and yours an abundance of blessings and maybe even a transition or two.
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on October 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM||comments (2)|
cancer's hot breath by Merri Hiatt
i can feel the hot sting of death
from the dragon’s fiery throat
against my neck
blazing a trail
down my spine
the spittle sizzles
on my flesh
as the cells
inside my body
with an infestation
you see me
as a whole, complete person
your eyes deceive you
i am the walking wounded
inside a swirling, frenetic spiral
intent on consuming her
on the back of my neck
stand on end
for the teeth
of the beast
to pierce my fleshy tissue
how long can I run
how long can I endure
has become far too real
and yet something stirs
and will not let me succumb
it bids me onward
gives my feet wings
lets my spirit sing with hope
that the sticky breath
will be abated
and I shall be
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on October 9, 2011 at 7:10 PM||comments (0)|
My local McDonald's is undergoing a remodel; adding two ordering areas and getting a facelift. It's been fun watching it change over the last several weeks.
What hasn't been fun is pulling up and finding the drive-through closed. I need my morning hit of Diet Coke and I'm telling you, the best Diet Coke is from McDonald's, hands down.
Lucky for me, there is another McDonald's a few miles up the road, so I was still able to get my hit of Diet Coke before heading to work.
A few days ago, my local McDonald's was closed, so off to the other McDonald's I went. As I was waiting in the drive-through, a woman approached my car. I rolled down my window and she said, "Your back tire is flat." I had no idea! Usually you can feel and hear when a tire is flat.
Since I was already at the speaker and there were two cars behind me, I went ahead and purchased my Diet Coke and then pulled into a parking spot. I checked my tire and sure enough, it was almost flat.
A quick call to AAA (thank you, dad, for encouraging me to always make sure I kept that yearly bill paid), had a tow truck rolling up within forty-five minutes.
After a conversation with the tow truck driver, we decided to simply put air in the tire and I'd drive directly to my local tire shop, which was only about a five minute drive away.
Once at the tire shop (Les Schwab, you rock!), I found out that not only was my back tire flat, my front tire was really low on air. When all was said and done, I had a screw in one tire and a nail in the other.
I could have gotten the nail and screw in my tire anywhere, but I thought back to where I had been driving lately where there was any kind of construction going on. Cue the lightbulb flashing over my head -- McDonald's.
My Diet Coke addiction was what had me heading to McDonald's every day, even during the construction.
Curse you, Diet Coke!
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on October 3, 2011 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
I realize it just turned October, but November will be here before you know it and along with November comes (drum roll, please...), National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo.
I encourage you to visit the NaNoWriMo website and sign up. Linky goodness: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano
Let your imagine soar, not caring about editing as you write. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. We're talking 1,667 words per day if you're an "averaging" kind of person.
Are you up for the challenge? I double dog dare you.
Besides, what's the worst that can happen? You start a novel and don't finish it. Been there, done that (many times).
You know you want to try. ** nudge, nudge **
Join me and thousands of other writers as we make writing a priority.
NaNoWriMo, live it yourself this November.
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on September 29, 2011 at 1:00 AM||comments (2)|
Mama Lives in My Hair
A short story by Merri Hiatt
Celia held the brick red Sharpie marker in her hand and carefully made an X on the calendar.
“How many days now, daddy?” she asked.
Celia clapped her hands together as her dad turned the calendar page so she could see the square with the big red circle around it. She would need to go to bed sixty-eight more times and then she would see her mother’s face again.
“We gonna celebate, right daddy?”
Mark Johnson swallowed the lump in his throat and said, “Yep, we’re going to celebrate. We’ll have a cake and balloons. What else should we have, Cee?”
“Music and dancing,” Celia replied, quickly making her way out of the wooden chair and spinning her body around in circles. “Lots of dancing!” she shouted.
Mark wished Jennifer could see their daughter now. Eleven months had passed since she’d been able to get leave and come home. There were days he needed a photograph to remind him of her smile.
“Dance with me, daddy,” Celia said, taking her father’s hand in hers and pulling him into the middle of the room.
Mark twirled his beautiful four-year-old daughter in circle after circle until his arm felt like it might fall right off. It reminded him of dancing with Jen on their wedding day. Oh, how she loved to dance. She wore him out.
He also remembered the day she told him she was being stationed in the Middle East. His heart dropped down into his shoes. It sounded chauvinistic, but he always assumed the family would be following him to wherever he was stationed, not the other way around. Where Jen was assigned, they couldn’t follow.
It was one thing if you were a clerk or a computer technologist, but Jennifer was a nurse. She was needed in the thick of the action. They talked about it, of course. They both knew when they enlisted in the Army they might have to give their lives for their country. They came to terms with the fact early on. It was only after Cee was born that the full impact of their promise lodged deeply in their soul.
They knew they were ensuring Celia would have a future and a freedom she could count on. It didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. She was too young to understand why her mother kept leaving. They read books, went to counseling, tried to explain, but it didn’t stop Cee from saying, “I want mommy.” There were some things you just couldn’t explain to a child in a way that still made them feel safe and loved.
They weren’t the only family dealing with these issues. The base was full of temporarily single parent families waiting for a mom or dad to return home. As if there wasn’t enough stress on the family having to move every few years. If they didn’t have Cee, it wouldn’t be so bad. Mark just hated to see that look in her eyes when she missed her momma.
“Me and mom can go to the park and feed the swirls like you and me do, daddy. We go gwocery chopping and to the moooovies. I can’t wait till momma gets home!”
“Me, either, sweetie,” Mark said as he lifted Cee up high and then swung her around in a wide circle as she giggled with delight. He then carried her toward her bedroom. “Right now, though, it’s time for bed.”
“I don’t wanna go to bed.” Celia began to squirm.
“We need to turn the page and see what’s going to happen next in our story book. Do you remember what we were reading?” Mark asked, trying to divert her attention.
“The Belbateen Babbit.”
“That’s right, The Velveteen Rabbit.”
“I wish mommy was here to read me the Belbateen Babbit.”
“She will be soon, honey, very soon.”
Once a few pages had been read and Celia’s eyes began to get so heavy she could no longer keep them open, Mark kissed her forehead, pulled her blankets up higher around her neck and left the room, making sure to leave the door ajar.
It was a heavy sigh that escaped his lips as he ventured into the kitchen and grabbed a beer. He wasn’t sure how many more times he could reassure his daughter that her mother would be home soon. He needed some reassuring himself. He’d been getting unofficial reports from a friend and he knew Jennifer was in harm’s way most of the time. She never said anything about it in her letters; that just reinforced the fact that things weren’t going well. Otherwise, she would have shared at least some information with him. Jen’s motto was the standard, “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all.”
Another month passed and Celia’s excitement showed itself in her behavior. She was easily agitated and more distracted. It was a pattern Mark experienced before when Jen came home, and again when she left. Their bedtime rituals took longer and longer and Mark found himself almost wishing Jen would stay away completely rather than have their lives disrupted on a routine basis.
It was a cloudy day in October when Mark heard a knock on the front door. He finally got Celia to take a nap and he didn’t want anything to disturb her, so he hurried to the door to see who was calling.
Seeing two Army personnel at your front door wasn’t such an unusual sight, but seeing them when you hadn’t heard from your wife in three weeks was enough to send you reaching for oxygen. The look on their faces told Mark all he needed to know.
“Are you Lt. Mark Johnson?” the man on the left asked.
Mark couldn’t find his voice. He nodded yes.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, sir, but…”
Mark didn’t hear the rest of the man’s words. The world faded to a dull blue-grey, then tilted sideways. He found himself leaning to try and right his view. The bush next to the cement stairs seemed to glow a fiery orange. He didn’t realize he was gasping for air until he felt his legs give way and one of the men caught him before he fell.
“Are you all right, sir?” the man on the left asked. “Should we call for a medic?” he asked the other officer.
“Lt. Johnson! Lt. Johnson!” the man on the right yelled, trying to break through the hazy veil descending on Mark’s soul.
Mark began to sway from side to side, slowly at first, and then at a frenetic pace. A guttural moan boiled up from inside him and the sobs unleashed themselves at will.
By the time the medics arrived, Mark was on his feet and pacing.
“How did she die?” he asked, knowing full well there would be no answer that would satisfy. Then he became still, body rigid. “Cee. Oh, God, what am I going to tell Cee?”
“Sir, the medics are here.”
Mark dismissed the medics with a wave of his hand. “Thanks for coming. I don’t need medical care.” His words sounded hollow to his own ears.
“We have a letter from Lt. Johnson, your wife.”
Mark looked at the envelope in the man’s hand. It was all that was left of Jennifer; words on a piece of paper. He took the envelope from the man. It calmed him somewhat to know that he was touching something Jen had touched.
“We’re going to leave now, sir. Are you going to be okay?”
Mark nodded, but inwardly all he could think was hell, no, I’m not all right. Nothing will ever be all right again.
As the men left, he sat down on the front steps and opened the envelope. He wasn’t sure this was the best time to read Jen’s letter, but he was afraid if he didn’t read it now, he’d never be able to.
If you’re reading this letter, you know I am dead. Well, I’m not dead, my physical body is dead. You and I both know our spirit is what matters and my spirit is alive and well, whole and complete. I hope you can hold on to that fact.
I know it’s been hard having me gone, and then just as hard when I come back and we have to get to know each other all over again. I need to tell you a secret, though. I actually like renewing our love time and again. I’ve seen so many families who are together all the time get bored with one another. You and I have never gotten bored with each other. Maybe part of the reason is because we don’t spend as much time together and we cherish the time we do spend together.
Of course, the one thing I do regret is not having as much time to spend with Cee. I know you are an amazing father, Mark. I see it in the way Cee looks at you and in the way you are with her. I remember when she was just a newborn and you were so afraid to hold her in your arms. I think you thought you’d break her right in half. Ha! You didn’t. You were so careful and gentle with her and I knew you two would be okay if anything were to happen to me. I knew you would protect her and love her and you wouldn’t let her forget me.
Promise me, Mark. Promise me you’ll tell her every day how much I love her and how I think about her all the time. Spoil her with extra hugs and kisses and let her eat ice cream before bed.
When she’s older, when she can understand, tell her that there is a price for freedom and that her mother loved her so much and wanted her future to be secure so she risked everything so her life could be better. So she could choose what she believed and have the right to speak out against the things she didn’t believe in.
I want Celia to know that she has ultimate control of her body and can choose to believe in a god or in nature or in nothing at all and that sometimes you have to fight to maintain the rights you have or they just might get taken away. Tell her she has a voice and it matters that she uses it and not feel afraid or embarrassed or ashamed of expressing her feelings.
Mark, there is so much I want to say to her and now I’ve run out of time. I always thought I had more time. I wasn’t there when she took her first steps or when she lost her first tooth. I missed so many firsts. I’m so glad you had that damn video recorder by your side 24/7. I know I used to tease you about it, but it saved my life more often than you know.
It’s hard being away from both of you. Harder than I ever imagined it would be. When you send a tape or a scribbled crayon drawing Cee made for me, it made me feel closer to both of you, like you were just around the next block instead of worlds away.
I love you, Mark. I don’t even know how to begin to tell you what you mean to me. I don’t think my life really began until I met you. Before that I was just going through the motions, pretending I knew how to love. It was you who taught me what love really is. Your compassion and loyalty, willingness to do all the dirty jobs I hated (even with a smile on your face!), and your kindness. Your kindness softened my hardened heart like nothing else ever could. I had become so guarded by the time I met you I had all but given up on ever finding true love.
I know this letter is all over the place. I wanted to write all my thoughts in one cohesive, straight line, but you know me. When have I ever been able to jot a note that didn’t end up needing to be turned over and more written on the back and then turned sideways and written along the side edge? Brevity is not my strong suit.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m okay. Because of you, I’m okay. You can let me go, because my spirit really hasn’t left. I’m right there beside you, just like I’ve always been. I want you and Cee to move on and hold on to one another and the love you share. It will get you through the next few months. You’ll see. Love has a way of showing you what you are capable of.
I love you. I can’t seem to say it enough. I love you. I love you. I love you.
Jennifer’s letter both calmed Mark’s spirit and made him long for her even more. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. There were things that needed to be done, details to sort through. He felt hollow inside. Maybe that was better than feeling the pain, and ache.
He looked out across the yard. The world had righted itself. It was as if nothing had changed. Life hadn’t been altered in any way. Yet everything was different now.
He needed to find a way to tell Celia. He had no idea how he would find the strength to tell his little girl that her mother was never coming home again. If there was a hell, Mark was sure he was living in it right now.
She’d be awake soon, he had to think of something. What was he going to say? He had nothing. Jen had been wrong about him being a good father. Now was the time to test his mettle and he couldn’t even think of two words to say to his daughter.
A car pulling up in the driveway caught Mark’s attention. It was Patty, Jen’s older sister. It hadn’t occurred to him that her family would be beside themselves with the news.
Patty didn’t say anything as she approached Mark, but when she fell into his arms, he could feel her body heave as the tears spilled onto his shirt.
“I’m sorry,” she kept saying over and over.
Finally, she took a deep breath and pulled away. “Have you told Cee yet?”
Mark shook his head no.
“I can stay. I came over to help do, well, whatever needs doing.”
“Thanks, Patty,” Mark said, as they went inside the house. “Cee’s taking a nap now, but she’ll be awake any time.”
“I’ll put on some coffee,” Patty offered and headed for the kitchen.
Mark sat on the sofa and ran his hands through his hair, then placed his elbows on his knees as he hunched over, shoulders slumped.
As if on cue, Celia came walking down the hallway with her favorite blanket and doll in tow.
Mark’s back stiffened.
Patty came into the living room and Celia’s face lit up.
“Auntie Patty!” she yelled and ran over to her with her hands held up high.
Patty picked her niece up and gave her a hug. “Hi sweetie.” The pain of her sister’s death struck her anew and she bit her lip to keep the tears at bay. It wouldn’t help anyone if she collapsed in a heap right there in the middle of the living room.
When they were all seated on the sofa, Cee wiggled out of Patty’s arms and into her dad’s lap.
“Cee, remember how we’ve been counting down the days until mommy comes home?” Mark asked.
“Uh huh,” she said, playing with the buttons on Mark’s shirt.
“Well,” he hesitated, “mommy can’t come home like we’d planned.”
“I want to see mommy,” Celia insisted.
“Yes, I know, honey. I want to see mommy, too, but mommy isn’t coming home again.”
Celia thought for a moment, then asked, “Evah?”
Mark felt the noose on his heart tighten.
Patty saw Mark struggling and said, “Remember when cousin Jared’s hamster got sick?”
Celia nodded her head.
“He didn’t ever get better, and then finally he died.”
“Is mommy dead?”
Mark couldn’t bear to say the words. Tears escaped his eyes. He wanted to be brave for Cee. Jen was counting on him to be strong, to be a good dad.
“Why you cwying, daddy?”.
“Your daddy is sad, honey,” Patty said, putting one arm around Mark and one around Celia.
Of course she didn’t understand, Mark thought. She was much too young to be able to comprehend death.
“Daddy, it’s okay. Mommy’s here.”
“No, Cee, she’s not,” Mark said, his voice barely a whisper.
“You’re wrong, daddy, it says so in the book,” Celia said adamantly and then wriggled herself free and ran to her room to get the book to show them.
Mark and Patty exchanged confused looks.
“See!” Celia said, as she came back into the living room and shoved the book into Mark’s hands. “Read it, daddy. It says so in here. When you b’come real, you can’t b’come unreal. Just ‘cuz you can’t see mommy, doesn’t mean she ain’t here.”
Mark looked at his daughter. She seemed to understand death better than he did, or was it that Jen’s absence made her misunderstand and she thought Jen was just gone on assignment again?
Every day, Cee continued the routine of making an X on the calendar to mark the days until Jennifer was scheduled to come home. Mark tried to explain time and again that Jen was dead and she wouldn’t be coming back. Celia insisted that her mommy was real and she couldn’t b’come unreal.
Celia was upset when Mark didn’t make plans for Jennifer’s homecoming.
“But daddy, you said we could have music and dancing when mommy came home,” Cee reminded him.
“Celia,” Mark said firmly, “mommy is dead. We’re not going to see her again.”
Celia ran from the room and threw herself on her bed, yelling into her pillow, “She is coming home! She is coming home!”
The day finally arrived. The day on the calendar with the bright red circle around it. Celia waited all day for her mother to show up. Mark’s heart broke a little more every time Cee ran to the window to see if the noise she heard was a car bringing her mother back to her.
“Daddy, I don’t understand,’ Celia looked up at her father with tears in her eyes. “The book said if you’re real you can’t b’come unreal.”
Mark picked his daughter up and held her in his arms. “The book was right, honey. Once you’re real, you can’t become unreal. Remember when we were at the beach and the breeze was blowing in your hair?”
Celia nodded her head.
“That breeze is kind of like your spirit. You can’t really see it or touch it, but it’s there. It’s real, but it’s hard to define or describe.”
“Momma’s like the breeze?”
“Momma’s sort of like when you come home from the beach and you smell the salty sea air in your hair and you remember how it felt when the water tickled your skin. The warmth of the sun made you feel safe and your toes felt tingly from the sand and ocean.”
“Daddy, can momma see us?”
“I think so.”
“Can we wave to her?”
“Absolutely,” Mark replied. “And we can talk to her and smile at her.”
“And can we dance with her?”
“Yes, Cee, we can dance with her. Why don’t you pick out some music.”
“Momma loves this song,” she declared as she picked a CD from the basket and handed it to Mark. “Numba free.” He put it into the CD player and pressed the third track. They began to dance. Celia twirled around and around, never tiring of spinning in circles.
“Doesn’t momma dance good, daddy?”
“Yes, she does, Cee. Don’t tell momma, but I think you dance even better than she does.”
Celia giggled and spun around until Mark finally toppled to the floor to stop the game.
“Daddy, get up!” Cee said, pulling on his arm.
“I’m tired, Cee. I need to rest for a minute.”
“Okay,” Celia replied and sat down next to him.
“I think it’s okay that mommy’s livin’ in my hair and in my toes. Know why?”
“B'cause then she can never leave me.”
Mark wrapped his arms around Celia and kissed her hair. He could smell the sea and feel Jennifer’s presence all around them.
|Posted by Merri Hiatt on September 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM||comments (2)|
Okay, so it wasn't twenty years ago today. It was only one year ago today that my mom fell in the middle of the night and slashed her arm on the sharp edge of a dresser. Luckily, she had a Life Alert button, pressed it, and help was on the way in minutes. The blood scared her, as it would have scared me, and she wasn’t able to get up off the floor.
We didn’t know then that she wouldn’t be returning to her home again. She now lives in a long-term care facility where she plays Bingo, gets her hair “done” every week, and receives physical therapy.
She has good days and not-so-good days. Some days she is able to walk, other days she is much too shaky. Some days she remembers everything and can follow a train of thought all the way to the station door, other days, not so much.
Mom has yet to learn the lesson I learned years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer: you can’t do all the things you used to be able to do the same way you used to do them. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.
Mom fights it and continues to do things the way she used to do them. Now, those things are unsafe. Lifting her arms up over her head to place a small box on the top shelf of her closet causes her to lose her balance and fall. Bending to pick-up an item on the floor makes her woozy and unsteady. Some days even standing without holding on to something is out of the question.
We’ve had the conversation about doing things in a new way, many times. Many times.
I went through the same thing for several months. I would fight through the pain and the lack of breath, gulping air as I stubbornly stuck to my plan to clean the entire apartment in one fell swoop.
I gave in.
It was much too difficult. I found little ways to make it easier. Yes, you can Swiffer your kitchen floor while sitting in a chair. Yes, you can climb stairs by taking one step up, then counting to ten so you can rest a bit, then taking another step up. Yes, you can vacuum your living room floor one 6’ x 6’ area at a time. It takes more time, but seriously, what is the rush? Where are we in such a hurry to get to?
I live my life at a slower pace now.
Maybe someday mom will join me.