Having Each Other’s Back

Last night for about the 30 millionth time, I went downstairs to check if the Crankee Yankee (my husband) had locked the door and shut the light off (the brilliant blazing one that lights up everyone’s backyard). And last night, for about the 29th millionth time, I locked the door and shut off the light.

As I fumed my way upstairs I thought, ‘how can he come down here late at night and NOT lock up and turn the lights off?’ When I calmed down, I realized that worry was my main problem, not the Crankee Yankee. I realized that I am worried about me; that *I* will be the one who forgets to check the locks one night and thieves will break in and steal all the cat food…or something just as ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong; I am a card-carrying Security Nazi. But more than that, I am a fallible human who forgets things from time to time…as do we all.

When I let all those ‘worry bees’ buzz in my head I remembered something; he has ALWAYS forgotten stuff like this. I’ve known him over half my life, and know perfectly well that he is and has been a champion forgetter. Of course, this didn’t stop me from telling him the next morning, ‘you forgot to lock up and shut the lights off downstairs–AGAIN!’ in a self-righteous and hectoring tone. He said that he has a lot on his mind (and to be honest, he really does) and just–forgets sometimes. So do I.

Well, I can’t look into those melting brown eyes of his and stay mad at him. Moreover, I immediately thought of all the times I have done stupid and forgetful things and he just waves it off with a ‘hey, everyone forgets things–don’t worry about it.’ Then he offers up the sweetest words a man can say to his wife, “Don’t worry–I’ll take care of it.” And then he does.

We have agreed to just go on as normal, only this time we agreed to just have each others’ back. Which is what I should have remembered from all the years I’ve known the Crankee Yankee–he is loyal to a fault, forgiving as a saint, kind, generous and considerate (not to mention loving with his whole heart). Based on all that, occasional forgetfulness is just a bump in the road. Besides, he’s kindly averted his eyes from some real bloopers I’ve done and just as kindly NOT rubbed my nose in them.

So from now on, each time I have to check the locks and lights (heck, I’m the Security Officer of the house anyway!), and each time he has to check that I haven’t parked on the newly-tarred curb in front of our house and mashed it down or forgotten to check the oil–we can just say we have each others’ backs.

That’s kind of the backbone of a relationship anyway, when you think about it.

 

When Fear Goes, Wisdom Comes

We all experience fear in our lives; some more than others, some less. When we are young, our fears are usually of the boogeyman variety, or of being left alone to fend for ourselves. As we get older, those childhood fears morph into more realistic forms, such as being in debt, not able to find a job, worry about loved ones, and so on. Often fear masks itself in anger or acting out. We are deeply afraid, can’t seem to do anything about it, and then lash out in anger in order to have some kind of control over it. Too often, we take out our fears and anger on the ones we love the most.

It’s no coincidence that the great mystics and wise people of the world are and have been long in years. They have come to realize that holding grudges against real or imagined slights harms us, not the other person. They know that everyone loses in a war, and that peace is a fragile and elusive thing that must be nurtured and practiced minute to minute. They have seen the damage that hatred and fear causes, and know how the universal whole suffers when one person suffers. They have come to know that infinite amounts of money have no safety or power when hoarded, but can do great good when used wisely. They understand through experience that it is far easier to live in forgiveness and tolerance than in anger and frustration.

This is not to say that they have given up; it is that they see a better way to live and to share knowledge. They see that youth can in general be hasty, selfish and callous; that it takes years to build a good life, and that there is a price to pay for inattention and carelessness. They have learned through experience what it takes to live well and in harmony; they have made mistakes and learned from them. In short, they are of the ‘measure twice, cut once’ variety.

I believe it takes years to fully develop into the people we are meant to be. It takes making mistakes and living with the consequences to learn what to do and what not to do. With hope, we will retain that knowledge and keep growing in the direction we need to take. We can’t berate ourselves for not being perfect every second of every day, either. But we must keep our eyes on the who and the what we want to be.

Sometimes we are in a position where we can’t yet put our needs and desires first; perhaps we have children to raise or elderly parents to care for or other circumstances that keep us from moving ahead–for the time being. But there is great nobility and grace in doing the right thing at the right time; we temporarily shelve our own desires to help someone else first. Our own time will come, and putting others first for the time being can actually make us better suited to what we want to do when our responsibilities are lighter.

There is a lot to be said for things happening at the right time, too. I keep catching myself saying things such as, ‘oh, if I had only done this 20 years ago,’ or ‘why didn’t I think more about the future when I was younger,’ and so on. Here’s the thing: 20 years ago was probably the worst time to do this, that or the other thing. It takes time, thought and experience to get us to the place where we are ready and responsive to the next step in our lives. I have learned to say to myself, ‘THIS is exactly the right time. I couldn’t have done this any earlier than now.’

I think of Grandma Moses, whose folk art paintings are masterful snapshots of a bygone time and are cherished by so many. The woman did not even pick up a paint brush until she was in her 70s! The great success of her work speaks for itself. If that doesn’t send a positive message of doing things at the right time, I don’t know what does.

So, message to you and to me; let’s give ourselves a break and not keep “shoulding” on ourselves. If our circumstances dictate that we need to care for a loved one in our home, or take an extra job to make ends meet; anything that may keep our dreams temporarily on hold–it is only that–TEMPORARY. By the time we have the time to do what we want, it will be the perfect time. Believe it.

 

 

 

GREAT Turkey Recipe – Just in Time for Thanksgiving

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) is a pretty good cook. He loves to barbeque, and his ribs, pulled pork and brisket are fantastic. This year he found a great recipe for turkey and decided to treat us to an early Thanksgiving. He found it online; it is Martha Stewart’s Herb Roasted Turkey recipe. While the Crankee Yankee cooked our turkey in the smoker, I’m sure it would be just as delicious in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey (about 12 pounds), thawed if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus 3 sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 lemons, poked all over with a fork
  • 1 quart apple cider

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lowest position. Remove packet of giblets and neck from cavity. Discard liver. Rinse remaining giblets and neck; refrigerate until ready to make broth.
  2. Turn turkey on its back and bend wing tips forward and underneath neck cavity of bird so they stay in place (you may have to break the bones).
  3. In a small bowl, combine parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic, 4 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using your fingers, carefully loosen skin of breast and around thighs and rub herb mixture under skin of both.
  4. Season cavity with salt and pepper and loosely fill with lemons and rosemary sprigs. Using cotton kitchen twine, tie legs together so bird retains its shape and moisture during cooking.
  5. Pour cider in bottom of pan. Set roasting rack on top. Lift turkey onto rack, breast side up; rub with remaining tablespoon oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Tent turkey loosely with foil. Roast 1 hour. Uncover and continue to roast, basting frequently with pan juices, until an instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (avoiding bone) registers 170 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. (Temperature will rise about 10 degrees as turkey rests.) Tent with foil if browning too quickly; add water if pan becomes dry. Cover loosely with foil, and let stand 30 minutes before carving. Serve with roasted vegetables.

Take it from me–the turkey was fall-off-the-bone delicious.

 

 

Assumptions and Their Consequences

This morning the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I went out to breakfast to one of our usual haunts, a nice little local diner. The food is always good, and the coffee is always strong. I asked the waitress if the Breakfast Quesadilla, loaded with tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach and cheese; had meat in it. It didn’t, but it did have eggs. I said, “oh, I didn’t see that in the ingredients.”

The waitress replied tartly, “Yes, it has eggs–that’s why it’s called a *Breakfast Quesadilla.”

Which got me thinking: what if someone had an egg allergy and ordered this item especially because did not mention eggs? And how exactly does the word “breakfast” imply that eggs are involved? Are we to assume that bacon is also included? Or sausage? Or toast? What some restaurant’s “Breakfast Special” included eggs, bacon, toast, and a coffee, but didn’t mention the fact that they only use ostrich eggs? That would mean you’d be getting a plate of eggs the size of a small third world country. Assumptions about consumption can be risky.

Years ago this incident would have sent me off on a tear about being specific about things (and also carping about bad grammar and irresponsible usage), and engendering a rant that bored the pants off everyone within hearing. I’ve come to realize over time that this self-righteous behavior of mine is not only NOT appreciated, but not listened to, either. (The only place these types of opinions are welcome are with other grouchy grammarians and humorless usage nazis.)

But this was a pleasant morning, the Breakfast Quesadilla was delicious, AND the Crankee Yankee remembered to bring the Sunday paper in so that we could enjoy it together. So I let it go. However, the next time you go out for breakfast, you might want to nip around the back of the place just to be sure they don’t have an ostrich out there….

*Reminds me of the song, “Breakfast Blues,” as sung by the Austin, TX-based group, Trout Fishing in America, which goes:

“You give me hard eggs [heartaches] in the morning,
Cheese omelet [jeez, I'ma let] you go.
Yeah, you give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You just hot buttered grits [grit] your teeth and bear it girl,
I doughnut [do not] love you no more.
(Now don’t get that glazed look on your face!)
Ham bacon [I'm beggin'] you to leave me,
I never sausage [saw such] misery.
Ham bacon you to leave me, darlin’,
I never sausage misery.
Well, you treated me so ungrapefruitly [ungratefully],
You gave me a raisin [reason] to be free.
Well, what do you Eggs Benedict [expect] me to do now?
I’ve got muffin [nothin'] else to say.
Yeah, what do you Eggs Benedict me to do now?
I’ve got muffin else to say.
Yeah, you left such a waffle [awful] toast [taste] in my mouth,
You biscuit [best get] out of town today.
(You know I ain’t gonna keep those home fries [fires] burning for you.)
You give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You just hot buttered grits your teeth and bear it girl,
I ain’t gonna quiche [kiss] you any more
(Jelly roll [shall I roll] it again?)

Could We Be Facing a REAL Faherenheit 451?

If you are a Ray Bradbury fan as I am, you will no doubt have read “*Fahrenheit 451.” This is a horrifying tale of a society where books are outlawed and anyone having and/or reading books are subject to imprisonment and punishment. The premise of the story begins with society making television their number one source of entertainment, and consequently generations of people grow up with little or no interest in books. Books become brutally abridged to the point where the stories are short and sloppy synopses and gradually, even these books go unread. For ‘the good of humanity,’ books are burned and television can at last be the single god of entertainment. But of course there are a subversive few who love and treasure books. They hide them away for their own enjoyment, but live in fear that they will be found out.

These days we have technology that was undreamt of decades ago, and certainly not in 1953 when this book was published. As a baby boomer, I never even saw a computer until I was a junior in college. Although I have made my living as a technical writer for years, I am a callous and impatient computer user. I regularly aggravate technical experts with dumb questions, and have often pounded my keyboard for not doing what I want it to do. In short, I am a technical *troglodyte.

In short, I am both confused and dismayed by such things as iPhones (hey, it was hard enough for me to just buy a cell phone that is JUST a phone) and Kindles and Nook and all their ilk. As handy as a Kindle, etc. may be, I personally prefer a real book with real paper. I have shelves of them that I just can’t bear to give away as I like to revisit them from time to time, like an old friend.

But back to the horrors of a society that bans books and worse; BURNS them, I do worry that we can lose ourselves in technology. Many of my friends who love reading really enjoy the ease of use of Kindles and such, especially when they travel. They don’t have stuff their carry-on bags with paperbacks and lug that extra weight around. But me being me thinks, ‘ok, well and good, but what happens if your battery runs out?’ Maybe they come with their own back-up system–I wouldn’t know because I’m a troglodyte….

As always, I welcome comments. Please feel free to set me straight on how great Kindles are and why you think I should get one. Seriously–I fully admit my ignorance about them, so do not hesitate to school me.

******* SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read “Fahrenheit 451″ and plan to, don’t read any further.*******

 

 

As horrifying as “Fahrenheit 451″ is, both as a story and a prospect; it ends with hope. There is a secret society that has broken off from the main stream and lives, as we would call it now, “off the grid.” Those staunch book lovers who have escaped imprisonment have taken it upon themselves to become the books they loved. They have memorized the books they love, and speak them each day to rapt listeners, or simply for their own enjoyment. In this way, books become alive again as told by these brave storytellers.

*”Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian [the absolute antithesis of utopia] novel by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953. Briefly, it outlines a future society in America where books or outlawed and appointed “firemen” burn any books they find. By the way, the title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the igniting temperature of paper.

 

*Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘troglodyte’ as 1) “a member of any of various peoples [as in antiquity] who lived or were reputed to live chiefly in caves,” and 2) “a person characterized by reclusive habits or outmoded or reactionary attitudes.” That last definition is definitely ME.

Veterans’ Day – Remembering Not Just Today, But Every Day

Today we celebrate all our veterans who put their country first before themselves.  We are rapidly losing veterans from the Greatest Generation, and we are lucky to have the ones who still live and still stand for freedom. What they endured is past my understanding, and as an American citizen enjoying the rights, privileges and freedom won by blood and sacrifice, I cannot thank them enough. This goes for any veteran, past and present, who fought in any war at any time.

A long time ago when I was a Tae Kwon Do student working toward my first degree black belt, I and my instructors met with a small group of veterans in a small town in Massachusetts. We wanted to see if we could rent one of their community halls to put on a karate demonstration for the town. We hoped to sign up some students from the area as well.

Our proposal met with a resounding no from this group of still-fierce old men. One said, “I’ve seen what your karate can do, and we want none of that here.” We thanked them for their time and service, and left. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that some of these men had fought the Japanese and must have seen close up what karate can indeed do. I realized that they equated karate with the war and still saw it as a threat.

One of my dearest friends, now in her late eighties, lost her husband years ago to diabetes. She told me that, shortly after they married, her young laughing husband left her to help liberate prisoners from the German concentration camps, specifically Dachau. When he returned home, his laughter was gone and the light had left his eyes. He wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) tell her what he had witnessed, but it changed him from a light-hearted boy to a man of sorrow.

My own father has never told me specifically what he experienced in his war, only that it was indeed hell. I believe that the men and women of that fine generation were and are not able to put into words their own experiences; that reliving them involuntarily is hard enough. Plus in the case of both my father and grandfather, I believe that men of those eras believed in protecting their families from the knowledge of what war really is.

What they used to call ‘battle fatigue’ we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, or more popularly, PTSD. The results are the same; the experience changes lives in ways we civilians cannot imagine. And then there are those who also come home with serious and life-changing injuries.

I’m sure that many men and women went to war with the belief that they could handle anything, that no sacrifice was too dear for their country and families. But the real experience; the sights, sounds and smells–had to have been more than the human spirit can bear. Again, I cannot imagine it. I have the utmost respect and love for these men and women who gave so much to give us what we take for granted today.

If we look back on our history in this country, we have fought many wars; have gained much and lost much. It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I believe this as strongly as I believe anything. We cannot, MUST not forget how dearly won is our freedom; what a high price has been paid for it, and how precious and rare it is.

Please, let us all remember today of all days that fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives–all have fought for our right to be free. When we hear the National Anthem, let us always stand up and hold our right hands over our hearts as a symbol of respect. We are not only honoring our country, but also honoring all those who have and do serve our country and its people.

To all veterans and all serving in every branch of service, thank you with all my heart.

 

 

Favorite Songs From When You Were Growing Up – What Were They?

I would love to know what your favorite songs were when you were growing up. This can mean any age, as long as they are songs you love and remember. Isn’t it amazing how hearing them now can take you right back to that time? C’mon, help me out here–I would love to hear your favorites. Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

  • “Honky Tonk Woman,” Rolling Stones
  • “A Summer Song,” Chad and Jeremy
  • “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” Gene Pitney
  • “I Get Around,” Beach Boys
  • “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” Beatles
  • “A Soalin’” Peter, Paul and Mary
  • “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan
  • “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart,” Janis Joplin
  • “Bad Moon Risin’,” Creedance Clearwater Revival
  • “After the Gold Rush,” Neil Young
  • “Moon Shadow,” Donovan
  • “Scarborough Fair,” Simon and Garfunkle
  • “Where Did Our Love Go?” Supremes
  • “My Girl,” Temptations
  • “Shambala,” Three Dog Night
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
  • “Your Song,” Elton John
  • “American Pie,” Don McLean
  • “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zepplin
  • “Unchained Melody,” Righteous Brothers
  • “Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly
  • “Hotel California,” Eagles
  • “Be My Baby,” Ronettes
  • “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
  • “Lola,” Kinks
  • “Stand By Me,” Ben E. King
  • “Respect,” Aretha Franklin
  • “I’m a Believer,” the Monkees
  • “Sugar, Sugar,” Archies
  • “Georgia on My Mind,” Ray Charles
  • “Another Brick in the Wall,” Pink Floyd
  • “Fame,” David Bowie
  • “Dancing in the Street,” Martha and the Vandellas
  • “All Along the Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix
  • “Send in the Clowns,” Judy Collins
  • “Twelve Gates into the City, “Joan Baez
  • “Mr. Blue Sky,” Electric Light Orchestra
  • “Bye, Bye Love,” Everly Brothers
  • “25 or 6 To 4,” Chicago
  • “Colors of the Sun,” Jackson Browne

…and there are so many, many more. It goes without saying that anything by the Beatles or the Beach Boys are just fine by me. Even writing these titles down take me way back; from childhood to teen to young adult and beyond. Really, it’s the best time machine ever!

Let me hear about YOUR favorites!