Thanks Haiku

Thanks gifts the giver

As well as the receiver—

Gifts of love to both.

Why I Love Hawaii

Last year at this time, I was enjoying two weeks in Oahu. Every other day I had a tour, and on the days I didn’t have one, I spent my time walking around Waikiki and taking in all the beauty all around me. I now know why Hawaii is affectionately called “Paradise;” the weather is warm and even the little occasional rain showers are warm. Just the trees and flowers and birds alone are worth the trip.

It is said that some of us (or all of us; who knows?) have lived several lives. Who knows if that’s true, but I always wondered why I had such a “pull” to Hawaii. Years ago I had a very vivid dream that stays with me still: in it I was a young *Polynesian boy. In the dream I couldn’t see myself, but I could see a little girl with long black hair and a “haka” (ring of flowers) on her head, smiling up at me.

I mentioned this dream to a dear friend of mine who is a dream reader and psychic. She told me that I was indeed a Polynesian boy way back in time when Hawaii discovered. My job as that young boy was to keep my little sister safe as her destiny was to become a queen to rule the island.

For years I read all I could find about Hawaii. I checked out the places in Hawaii that I wanted to see and promised myself that I would someday go there.

Last year the Crankee Yankee made me the deal of a lifetime. He had wanted to renovate our ancient kitchen for years, but he knew that I would go crazy being in all that mess. So he said he would send me to Hawaii if he could renovate the kitchen while I was gone. I could NOT pass up a deal like that, so we made it happen.

I hadn’t flown since 2001, and a dear friend of mine told me about what to do and what not to do as so much had changed. I had forgotten how much fun it was to fly, and, as an added bonus, I was able to watch free movies all through the flight!

We stopped at San Francisco for an hour and I had the time to walk around and look out of the windows to see the city. When we all boarded the plane to take us to Honolulu I felt as excited as a child on her birthday; I was finally going to Hawaii!

Hawaii was all I could ask for and more.

*From Hawaii Guide:

“Many historians believe that the Polynesians who settled Hawaii came from the Marquesas Islands, which had forbidding terrain and poor conditions for farming. To aid their venture’s success, they brought many types of supplies. In addition to food for the journey, they brought at least a half dozen plant species to cultivate, like bananas, taro, and breadfruit. They also brought pigs, small dogs, and chickens to raise. Of course, no journey would be complete without handy items like medicinal plants, basic tools, vessels made of gourds, and ropes.”

“Polynesians first landed on the big island of Hawaii, at Ka Lae on the southern coast. The name Hawaii derives from the word Havaiki, the Polynesian name for a homeland they believed they all originally came from and would return to after death. To survive while they waited for their first plantings to grow and mature, they hunted birds, fished, and gathered native foods.”

“Over the years, they spread out over all the major Hawaiian islands. With no written documents and few artifacts to study, little is known about their customs and ways of life. However, we do know that they were the sole inhabitants for several hundred years, until the Tahitians landed around 1000 A.D.”

Why We Need To Know Our History

When I was in grade school, my favorite classes were English and American History. I liked English because I loved to read and write poems and stories, but history was fascinating. I loved reading and hearing about our history as a country, and how we came to be Americans. Everything about it was interesting, and it was amazing to me to know how we left England to have our own country and rule of law.

I admired George Washington deeply; our first president. I read breathlessly of the war that made us Americans. I often wondered how my life would have been if I was born in England and not America.

Back then in the ’50s, all school children started their school day with the pledge of allegience (all of us standing with right hands on our hearts), and then the Lord’s prayer. No one complained about these things adversely going against their own religious beliefs; it was just how we all started our day. Also, every school room had a large picture  on the wall of our first president, George Washington, as well. That’s just how it was back then, and no one ever complained about it.

It saddens me to know that most schools do not have American history. From the New York Post:

“Don’t know much about history . . .,” goes the famous song. It’s an apt motto for the Common Core’s elementary school curriculum.

And it’s becoming a serious problem.

A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history. When colleges such as Stanford decline to require Western Civilization classes or high schools propose changing their curriculum so that history is taught only from 1877 onward (this happened in North Carolina), it’s merely a blip in our news cycle.

A 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright found that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.

The reasons are varied. VanSledright found that teachers didn’t focus on history because students aren’t tested on it at the state level. Why teach something you can’t test?

A teacher I spoke with in Brooklyn confirmed this. She said, “All the pressure in lower grades is in math and English Language Arts because of the state tests and the weight that they carry.”

She teaches fourth grade and says that age is the first time students are taught about explorers, American settlers, the American Revolution and so on. But why so late?

VanSledright also found that teachers just didn’t know enough history to teach it. He wrote there was some “holiday curriculum as history instruction,” but that was it.

Arthur, a father in Brooklyn whose kids are in first and second grade at what’s considered an excellent public school, says that’s the only kind of history lesson he’s seen. And even that’s been thin. His second-grade daughter knows George Washington was the first president but not why Abraham Lincoln is famous.

As the parent of a first-grader, I’ve also seen even the “holiday curriculum” in short supply. First grade might seem young, but it’s my daughter’s third year in the New York City public school system after pre-K and kindergarten. She goes to one of the finest public schools in the city, yet knows about George Washington exclusively from the soundtrack of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” She wouldn’t be able to tell you who discovered America.

So far, she has encountered no mention of any historical figure except for Martin Luther King Jr. This isn’t a knock on King, obviously. He’s a hero in our house. But he can’t be the sum total of historical figures our kids learn about in even early elementary school.

For one thing, how do we tell King’s story without telling the story of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution or of Abraham Lincoln? King’s protests were effective because they were grounded in the idea that America was supposed to be something specific, that the Constitution said so — and that we weren’t living up to those ideals.

The Brooklyn teacher I spoke with says instructors balk when it comes to history: They don’t want to offend anyone. “The more vocal and involved the parents are, the more likely the teacher will feel uncomfortable to teach certain things or say something that might create a problem.” Which leaves . . . Martin Luther King.

She cited issues around Thanksgiving, like teaching the story of pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together as one that teachers might sideline for fear of parents complaining. Instead of addressing sticky subjects, we skip them altogether.

As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable. It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.

Jay Leno used to do a segment on his show called “JayWalking,” where he’d come up to people on the street and ask them what should’ve been easy historical questions. That their responses were funny and cringeworthy enough to get them on the show tells you how well it went.

Leno never asked the year the Magna Carta was published or when North Dakota became a state. He would ask what country we fought in the Revolutionary War, to name the current vice president or how many stars are on the American flag. And yet adults had no idea.

We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.”

 

 

 

Granddaughter Games

Last Sunday the Crankee Yankee and I drove up to see the grandgirls, their parents and the dogs and cats, and of course, their farm. Ava, the oldest, is seriously into dance and is starting to do some acting as well. Since I did quite a lot of acting in high school, one summer with the Barnstormers in Tamworth, NH, and some Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Texas, I could relate. I told her all my stories of goof-ups and funny things that happened during some of the shows I was in.

I told her about how I was the “makeup lady” while in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as well as the funny side of acting, especially the evening when we were putting on “Patience.” For starters, the person who was supposed to unlock the front door of the theater didn’t show up, making us all late to start the show. Finally the guy responsible came and opened up.

About ten minutes later, we all managed to get dressed and put our makeup on. I told Ava how fast I had to put makeup on all the “extras” (the lead roles took care of themselves). Honestly, I still don’t know how we all got it together, but we did, and the show went on.

I also told Ava about quick costume changes. There were many times when I and a few others stood off stage holding clothing for the actors who had only a minute to change. She laughed her head off when I told her how modest some of the men were about dropping their pants in order to get quickly into a new costume.

Later on she and I and Juliette went down to the basement to play. We invented what I called the “Granddaughter Quiddich” tag game (and if you are a Harry Potter fan, you’ll know that Quiddich is a sport done with flying brooms). Whoever held the broom (and usually it was me) had to run around and “tag” one or both of the other girls. It got so funny that we all collapsed on the mat and laughed our heads off.

I often wonder what kind of example I’m giving the girls, but then again, I’m not their parents. I am the goofy grandmother, which seems to suit them just fine. Quite frankly, I am touched that they want to be with me. What they don’t realize is that they are making me a better person. I hope I’m doing the same for them.

Road Trips and Men and Women

I wrote this years ago, and guess what: it’s STILL true today!

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The Crankee Yankee and I enjoy our road trips, and go on them at least a few times a month. Unless we are visiting my step-daughter and her family “up Maine,” we tend to take our time, go on back roads and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company.

 

However, even with that relaxed scenario and not much of an agenda, there is still that whole “man/woman perspective.” No matter how casual our jaunt is, there are still some unspoken assumptions and expectations. Mine are usually these:

  • That we will take the time to stop at a fun little restaurant or diner for lunch or an early dinner (NOT fast food)
  • That we may stop to check out an interesting shop.
  • That we will take bathroom breaks.
  • That when I say, “oooooh! Let’s stop here!” that we will stop there.
  • That we are some place we don’t always go, so let’s take our time.
  • *That I don’t necessarily have to hear ‘well, we’ve come through here before, don’t you remember?’

That said, the Crankee Yankee (and, I’m betting, most men) feels this way:

  • We are driving to <wherever> to do something, buy something, see something, and that’s IT
  • We may or may not stop for lunch; if we do, McDonald’s is cheap and perfectly fine
  • We are not here to wander around shops all day
  • That if we are going to stop to pee, make it in a place where we have to stop anyway
  • We need to get back before dark

For the Crankee Yankee, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. For me, it’s ALL about the destination. I do enjoy being a passenger and letting someone else worry about the details. So I don’t expect to have to answer an impromptu quiz about routes, back roads and railroad tracks. Sheesh.

Needless to say, there are some lively disputes about this…

*That’s my personal favorite. Here’s the bald truth: when I am a passenger, I pay no attention to route numbers, road signs, weather vanes, etc. I’m there for the ride and possibly a short nap. If I’m not driving, I’m not paying attention to how we go anywhere. So don’t ask me.

Laughter Is Cheap Medicine

I wrote this years ago and I still laugh about it.

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My standard line is that I have a serious medical condition –– a low humor threshold. Honestly, it doesn’t take all that much to make me laugh. I grew up watching the ThreeStooges, Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, the Marx brothers and Warner Brothers cartoons. All I need to reduce me to near incontinence is seeing some gal dressed to the nines getting a pie in the face, or some guy slipping on a banana peel.

 

The Crankee Yankee and I usually start our day with the following (and extremely old) joke: “Dear, this coffee tastes like dirt.” “Well, it ought to––it was ground this morning!” And we are off for the day. It’s stupid, but effective. The following jokes are what I call the Seafood Medley:

  1. “A man walks into a seafood restaurant and asks the waiter: “Do you serve crabs?”Says the waiter, “Sure, sir. We serve everyone.”
  2. “A man walks into a seafood restaurant and asks the waiter: “Do you serve shrimp?” The waiter replies, “Sure, Shorty–sit down.”
  3. “A man walks into a seafood restaurant and asks the waiter: “Do you have crab legs?” The waiter replies, “Why, yes, I do. But I wear long pants so no one notices.”

(And right now I am laughing so hard the tears are streaming down my face.)

Let’s face it, life can be tough sometimes, so if you can get at least one good laugh a day, go for it. It does wonders for your outlook, for your health, for the effect you have on others, and just in general-–laughter is a great thing.

Once you get the hang of it, you can see the humor in practically anything. You know the old song that starts with “Look on the sunny side of life?” Well, my personal motto is “look on the funny side of life.”

While there’s a whole lot of funny and sad out in the world, and I find that the funny usually outweighs the sad every time.

 

I’m Becoming My Mother

It isn’t unusual that daughters evenually take on their mothers’ characteristics; after all, mothers are our role models. We look to our mothers to figure out to carve out our place in the world as well as manners, habits, and so on. Everything about our moms eventually shows up in our own lives, habits, opinions; we develop who we are based on who our mother is.

For example, my mother was witty, funny, sarcastic, savvy and smart. She could do everything from cleaning a house top to bottom, making fabulous meals, handling money wisely, raising a child and reading everything she could get her hands on. Her mother died of pancreatic cancer when mom was only a young girl. Two of her three older brothers had their own lives and families, and her brother, Raymond (my last remaining uncle, whom I always called “Unkie”) took her in.

Long story short, she survived a lack-luster marriage, got a divorce (nearly unheard of in those days) and raised me to be a good person. When my dad (not the bio dad) came into the picture, Mom and I both adored him, and finally Mom had the life she wanted.

Dad and I had an unspoken agreement: when Mom was in one of her moods we both made it our business to make her happy. She never could stand a mess in the house, and I learned quickly that making my own bed and putting my clothes away helped to keep mom happy.

As all girls do, I followed in my mother’s footsteps. To this day, when I find an empty Kleenex box, I throw it out and replace it with a new one, all the while muttering “would it just kill you to throw it away and replace it yourself?!” While I get that the Crankee Yankee and I were raised about the same way, there was always that mindset from the ’50s that women picked up the mess that men made.

To this day, after eighteen years of marriage, the Crankee Yankee is the best husband ever, BUT he still leaves empty Kleenex boxes (and more!) around. I really believe that he doesn’t do it on purpose; I think he honestly means to toss it, but he gets easily distracted and forgets about it. Then I come steam-rolling  around and mutter and throw the damn thing away and replace it.

So yes; I truly am becoming my mom. Where she is now, I’m positive that she is laughing her head off about all the things I say and do that come directly from her. And while I grump about ‘people who don’t put things away,’ it kind of tickles me that I am more like her than I thought.