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Archive for January, 2010

M*A*S*H

When I was in high school, my father asked me if I would go to a movie with him. Dad was our hero, and anytime he asked one of his daughters to go somewhere with him, we jumped at the chance.

In this particular case, a new movie called M*A*S*H had just been released, and, as the oldest of three sisters, he asked me to see it with him. The original movie focused on a Mobile Army Surgical Unit in the Korean War, but the movie was far more adult (most likely rated ‘R’) than the TV series.

Now that I’m no longer working, I’ve been tuning into the TV re-runs every chance I get, often jumping up during commercials to get dinner ready.

But back to Alan Alda.

I went to the library one day looking for a book I could easily read. (I continue to have difficulty reading — and remembering — books these days.)

So you could imagine how thrilled I was when I opened Alda’s book and noticed the chapters were relatively short and the content extremely engaging. I stayed up several nights reading his essays. I learned a lot about his award-winning professional acting career on stage and television. He also talked about his love of science and his devotion to family and friends.

What struck me most about the book, however, was the inspiration of his words and deeds, from serious to thoughtful amusement.

Here’s an example from page 200: As it says on a plaque a friend gave me, “What if the hokey-pokey is really what it’s all about?”

He went on to say that instead of driving yourself crazy, he’d be in favor of doing something simple:

  • Find someone to laugh with.
  • Find something to laugh at (yourself is always good).
  • Keep moving.

He then talked about the real sense of meaning, which he described as simply experiencing life; living in the present moment; and, just noticing he was alive.

Although he’s best known for TV series, Alda was an accomplished stage actor who won numerous awards, including six Emmys, six Golden Globes and a nomination for an Academy Award. He also won more than 20 awards for the TV series. In addition, he’s been a socially conscious writer, director and performer.

We should all remember, however, that Alan Alda is not Hawkeye Pierce. He is a real family man, and my bet is that he measures his greatest accomplishments – and greatest roles in life – as a loving husband, father and grandfather.

He is a special – and inspirational – person who truly has lived life to the fullest.

Now you must excuse me. It’s time to tune into another M*A*S*H reruns.

Note to Readers: This book has so many inspiring messages, prepare to see several blogs over time featuring Alan Alda’s insights.

 

Credits: Alan Alda, “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself”

Copyright permission: Random House, New York, NY

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My Wonderful Husband

Obviously there are thousands of wonderful husbands, but it’s been way overdue for me to brag about mine.

Gregory Brian Mercer is one of the kindest, patient, creative and thoughtful person I’ve ever met. And I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world to have him. (Those of you who know him well will agree. )                                                                                                                                                 

I met him in an old movie-style combination of a helpless female needing the aid of a Southern gentleman.

Here’s the story:  I graduated from high school on Long Island in 1977.  I wanted to be a journalist, and UNC-Chapel Hill had one of the best J-schools around, so right after graduation I headed South.

Needless to say, it was a bit of a culture shock to go from the cold North, where everyone had thick New York accents — as well as the requisite ice skates, sleds, warm coats and mittens. I assumed the biggest difference would be the weather – and I did enjoy the comfortably warm seasons most of the year.

 But the biggest surprise was how kind and friendly the people were. As I walked across campus, students I didn’t even know actually looked me in the eyes and said ‘Hi” – or, more likely, “Hey.” (If I walked down a northern city street and saw someone coming towards me, my automatic reaction (and theirs’) would have been to turn my head slightly the other way.)

I’ve focused on the cultural differences, but Southern Style – and, more importantly, “Southern Speak” was the key to meeting the love of my life.   Greg and I had dorm rooms on the same floor. He was a junior; I was a freshman. We saw each other in the TV lounge and occasionally around the dorm, but didn’t know each other well.

But all that changed when I sprained my ankle.

I was on the ground floor of the dorm standing by the mailboxes, holding my crutches. I was delighted to get mail, but when I opened the box I was a bit upset. It wasn’t a letter, but a notice that I had a package at the Post Office downtown. I couldn’t help myself from saying out loud: “Oh no!”

Greg happened to be walking by and asked what was wrong. I told him about my ankle and the fact it would be difficult to get to Franklin Street.

No matter, he said, he would carry me.

“Carry me?” I said. “You mean you’re going to “CARRY ME?” I thought to myself that Southerners really ARE gallant.

I was surprised, however, when he led me out through the back door, which would take much longer to walk all the way around the dorm to get downtown. But I followed him, and he put me and my crutches in his car.

After an insightful lesson on Northern vs. Southern speak, I realized ‘carry’ meant to “drive.” And I later learned that ‘Barbeque’ didn’t mean grilling hamburgers, among other many Southernisms. (If you’re wondering, yes, I’ve been saying ya’ll for years now.)

Despite our cultural differences, we fell in love and married in 1982. We’ve reared two wonderful children – Sarah, 24, and Cortland, 21.

My parents died young, so our family spent a lot of time in ‘Pop City’ – a special place in Eastern North Carolina where Greg’s family lived for generations, surrounded by giant pine trees and lush farmland. I adopted his parents as my own – and they loved me as much as they did their own offspring.

As to Greg’s thoughtfulness, creativity and generosity, I don’t know where to begin, but here are some examples:

  • For Christmas and birthday presents, he rarely gives tons of boxed gifts, although the gifts he picks out are always perfect. More often than not, he finds a special vacation get-a-way as a present, and looks for a way to enjoy the time together as a couple or the whole family.
  • He came up with the idea of celebrating our 27th anniversary, inviting friends over to play a trivia game about events in 1982, the year we married. For instance, the Falklands War took place that year, and the person who answered correctly got a bag of green Army men.
  • Along with close friends, we hosted a wonderful wine party this fall. Not everyone knew each other, so Greg prepared name tags. The stickers had formal names, but, in addition, Greg added ‘wine nicknames’ for each person. For instance, my nametag was “Chardonnay: Sleek and Nutty with an emphasis on Nutty” (Ha Ha), and a friend’s was “Australian Shriaz: Quietly Sophisticated.”

Needless to say, I count myself the luckiest woman in the world to have Greg. I’ve loved him since college and will the rest of my life. He’s been as kind and patient as possible since my diagnosis (although I know I frustrate him at times.) In fact, he has been asked to join the local Alzheimer’s Association and is giving it serious consideration.

Needless to say, along with my children and sisters, Greg is the greatest reason I am truly able to “Live Life to the Fullest.” And that, along with my family’s love — and close friendships — is really all I need.

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