The Upcoming Solar Eclipse

Per NASA: “a solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow onto Earth.” It’s kind of do-si-do dance with each other, and we get to see it happen now and then.

As long as you observe safe viewing procedures, you’re ok to watch it. But watching with your bare naked eyes means that the eclipse may be the last thing you ever see. So take the necessary precautions. For me, the tried and true (and cheapest and easiest) is looking at the eclipse in a bucket of water. The water acts as a reflector; easy-peasy.

So what exactly is the impact on us humans during a solar eclipse? Here are the five “things” I found that might happen to us during this event, per Elite Daily:

  1. You might become tired or fatigued.
  2. Pregnancy might be affected.
  3. Eyes may be damaged by looking directly at the eclipse.
  4. Digestion may be distrupted.
  5. Emotions may be all over the place.

Animals’ and humans’ circadian rhythms may also be affected. Also, those who are particularly sensitive to lunar or solar changes may notice changes in sleep patterns, dreams, thoughts, etc.

I’m sure that these celestial events have been happening for millions of years, but it’s pretty exciting to see them just the same. Of course, there will always be those doom and gloom folks who insist that natural events such as these are ominous portents of disaster to come.

Maybe so, but as for me, I am just going to enjoy this particular celestial event with my trusty bucket of water.

 

 

 

 

“The Night Singer”

The following short story is one I wrote years ago for a writing class. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

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Susie trembled in her sleep. The Bad Dream was coming and she couldn’t stop it. Since her parents had died in the car accident the Bad Dream came often.

Aunty Ruth, her father’s older sister, was her only relative and had grudgingly taken Susie in. The woman had lived a peaceful life with her two cats and was not happy about the sudden necessity of raising a 9-year old girl.

Susie wasn’t happy, either, especially when Aunt Ruth told her it was either live with her or go to an orphanage. Secretly, she felt that an orphanage might be preferable to being with Aunty Ruth and her endless nitpicky ways, but didn’t say so. Life had changed so quickly since the accident, and along with her constant sorrow, now there were many chores to do each day before she could go outside to play. Aunty liked the dishes washed, dried and put away after every meal, and the furniture had to be dusted daily. Susie also had to make her bed each morning and sweep the kitchen floor every other day.

“If you’re going to live here with me, you’ve got to pull your weight and help out,” said Aunty, her bristly gray-brown eyebrows pulled down to her small and rather beady eyes. “I’m not getting any younger.”

Two months to the day that her parents had been buried, Susie wanted to run away so badly her chest hurt. She had been washing a big platter the night before, and it had slipped out of her soapy hands and smashed to pieces on the floor. Aunty had sighed heavily and shooed her away when she tried to pick up the pieces.

“Don’t bother. It’s my fault—I should have known better than to let a child touch a valuable piece of china like that. Your great-grandfather, Josiah Wadlen, brought that from England for your great-grandmother. All these years it’s been in the family and never a chip—until now.”

“I-I’m sorry, Aunty—I didn’t mean to—“ Susie stuttered.

“Never mind. Just go up to bed.” Aunty turned and, without a good night to Susie, swept up the pieces of the platter.

“I hate her, I hate her!” Susie whispered to her favorite doll, Mrs. Lolly. “I want to go home! I want Mummy and Daddy!”

She sobbed her hurt and loneliness into Mrs. Lolly’s flowered dress. Gradually her tears tapered off, and she fell asleep with her thumb in her mouth, something she hadn’t done in years.

Downstairs, Aunty Ruth sat in her rocking chair in the living room and addressed her two cats.

“Heaven knows, I wish Bob and Lucy never had that accident. I’m as sorry as I can be for poor Susie, but what do I know about raising a child? What in the world am I going to do?”

The cats’ eyes glowed in the semi-darkness, and she went on.

“Look at me. I won’t see 50 again, and I never did want a husband and kids—and now I’ve got a 9-year old girl who missing her folks and I don’t know what to do to help her.”

The gray cat stretched and yawned, displaying sharp teeth. It curled up around the sleeping tiger cat and rumbled contentedly. Aunty Ruth rocked in her chair and watched them sleep.

Susie was having the Bad Dream again. She was in the middle of snarl of stairs, twisting and zig-zagging wildly in all directions. She was supposed to climb them all; for what reason, she never knew. In the dream she was always filled with fear and urgency, and as she climbed, the stairs grew splintery and dangerous.

Moaning softly, she twisted and turned in the sheets trying to escape. Then suddenly, the stairs were gone and she woke up. Her body was covered in a light sweat, and there were tears on her cheeks. Her chest hitched in jerky breaths, and her heart was pounding.

“I got away!” she said to herself. Her Minnie Mouse clock on the nightstand read 3:07 am. The house was quiet, and the light from the streetlamp poured over the end of her bed.

She was still trying to decide if she was really awake when a small kitten walked into the light and sat down near her knees.

“Where’d you come from, Pusscat?”

Susie was delighted. Neither of Aunty Ruth’s cats liked her and always hissed at her. Maybe Aunty had gotten her the kitten she’d begged for. She sat up and looked closely at it, then realized it wasn’t a kitten at all.

Its ears, although catlike, were set lower on the head than a cat’s, and curled up slightly on the ends. The eyes were the color of the deepest purply-blue crayon she owned, and the pupils were not slitted like a cat’s, but round. Its fur glowed in the half-light and looked iridescent, like the inside of a seashell. It sat with its plumy tail wrapped around its feet and regarded her. Delicately it extended a paw to her.

“You’re pretty!” breathed Susie, and touched the proffered paw. As soon as she did, she heard a soft, bell-like voice in her mind.

“W-what? Are you talking to me?” Her eyes opened wide. “You’re not a cat at all, are you? But where did you come from, what—“

The softly chiming voice told her not to be afraid. It knew all about her, it said, and all that had happened to her. Gently, it patted her cheek with its soft paw, put its head near Susie’s, and sang a Healing Song. Susie lay back against the pillow, smiling. This time her thumb wasn’t in her mouth when she fell asleep; she was too big a girl for that.

In the morning, Susie surprised Aunty Ruth by skipping down the stairs, singing “Old MacDonald.”

“Morning, Aunty!” Susie wrapped both arms around Aunty’s narrow waist and hugged her. “I’m awful sorry about breaking that platter last night. I promise I’ll be real careful from now on.”

Aunty Ruth awkwardly patted Susie’s back and said, “That’s all right, child. Now let’s see about breakfast.”

As she walked into the kitchen, she thought with some humility, “I ought to remember what my own momma used to say to me—things don’t matter, but people do.” She smiled at the thought of Susie’s unexpected hug.

That night, the kitten-like creature came to Susie again. It praised her for what she said to Aunty Ruth.

“Funny, she doesn’t seem to be so picky or mean today,” Susie mused. “Maybe we’re starting to get used to each other.”

The creature agreed, and said that trust and love can change people if they let it. Susie must be the one to reach out, it said, because Aunty Ruth wasn’t used to thinking about anyone but herself for so long. The indigo eyes glimmered with gentle humor. She had made a wonderful start, it said, and it walked up beside Susie’s head. It softly stroked her forehead and sang a Learning Song.

Weeks and months passed, and gradually Aunty and Susie became more comfortable with each other. Together they worked out a schedule for chores that seemed fair to them both. Susie got better at washing dishes, and Aunty Ruth became better at holding her tongue. They even discovered that they both liked playing Scrabble, and made time to play every evening.

Susie began to trust and then love her aunt, and the sorrow over her parents began to lessen. She never forgot them, but her sharp grief gradually softened. Astonishingly, Aunty Ruth became quite adept at reading stories with her, and even began a tradition of having a special tea party on Sundays. She took a new interest in making special treats for Susie, and it became harder for her to remember life without her. Even her cats began to warm to Susie; one day she came home to find both cats sound asleep on her bed.

The little creature visited Susie less and less. Sensing her new strength and happiness, it smiled to itself. One night it appeared for the last time when the girl was deep in dreams; good ones this time. It pressed its silky head to Susie’s, and sang a Growing Song.

Far away from Susie and Aunty Ruth, a small boy cried in his sleep, the tears soaking his pillow. The angry voices of his parents had kept him awake and afraid for hours, and his chest hurt from holding his breath. He was afraid that this time his father would leave and never come back. In his dream, he was all alone, and he sobbed in fear.

A soft paw reached out of the darkness and gently patted his tears away.

 

 

History is History

There has been a disturbing trend for some people in America who are offended by some of our artifacts, statues, flags and other memorabilia. Instead of viewing these things as part of our country’s history, they feel that reminders of the past should be removed or destroyed.

I remember when this trend began to manifest itself. I was in grade school, and books such as “*Black Like Me,” by John Howard Griffin, “Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee were discreetly removed. If not removed, then several “offensive” pages were razored out of the books. Even then, I was shocked; first of all, books were (and still are) sacred to me.

At the time, all I could think about was ‘what if they start burning books?’ Little did I know then what was to come.

Every country in the world has its own history, and historical artifacts. These are priceless reminders of what once was; not necessarily what now is. History teaches us lessons learned in the past and helps us understand who we were and how we came to be the way we are now.

History is born from truth, and once history is made, it becomes part of our culture. Take slavery, for example. Today we are horrified by the idea of people having slaves, and the fact that the slaves had no rights or choice. But it is part of our history. This does not mean that we glorify it or practice it today; it is simply a part of history that was true at the time.

When some people decide that tearing down statues or flags or destroying artifacts from our history is the thing to do, we ALL lose. We must remember that the things that upset us now were the norm back then. It doesn’t mean that we condone slavery now. History teaches us what we may need to know so that history doesn’t repeat itself, as in the case of slavery.

What we need to remember is that statues and flags from the past are historical reminders so that we don’t forget how bad things can be if we are not watchful. These relics from the past do not reflect our values today. 

As someone a whole lot smarter than me once said, “If we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.”

*From Wikipedia, “Black Like Me, first published in 1961, is a nonfiction book by white journalist John Howard Griffin recounting his journey in the Deep South of the United States, at a time when African-Americans lived under apartheid-like conditions.”

The Cat Whisperer and the Skunk Whisperer

Although the Crankee Yankee and I have been feeding and sheltering stray cats for years, we also feed the resident skunks—generations of them. They live under the shed in the back yard, and they feed right along with the cats. Every spring, we see the skunk moms shepherd their little ones around, and pretty soon they too join the dinner time throng.

Now we both love cats and skunks, but the Crankee Yankee seenms to have become the cat whisperer. Some of our most shy cats will eventually let the Crankee Yankee pat them; he has a way with them. This is how we came to adopt or Plumpy-Nut and Tinker; they were strays we fed for a long time. Winter was coming, and we had no way of knowing if they belonged to anyone.

So the Crankee Yankee was able to get them into carriers, and we took them to our wonderful vet to be checked out. They got their shots, flea treatments, microchips, and Plumpy had to be neutered. They came home with us and are part of our happy family of five cats.

For me, it’s the skunks. I have always liked them, and think that they are adorable. They really don’t want to fight with you or spray you, but if you startle them, they will spray. When a skunk is getting ready to spray, they will first stare right at you and start thumping their front paws on the ground. This is their prelude to turning tail to spray. The first time I saw this was when I was filling up the “skunk bowl” with food.

A tiny skunk was watching me, and started thumping his little paws on the ground. I looked him in the eye and said, “Now look, Sunny Jim—I’m the one who feeds you. Mind your manners.”

And whether he understood or not, he stopped thumping, stretched out his front legs and lowered his little head. It looked almost as if he were bowing to me; it was hilarious. Even so, I am very careful not to startle a skunk of any age. As soon as the bowl was filled, I slowly walked near him and put it down on the ground. It only took him a minute to start eating.

Our latest little guy waits for the food and water to appear. I usually put this out around 4:30pm, but often a skunk or two will be waiting. This year the littlest one, whom we call “Arlo,” waits patiently for his grub before all the skunk crew arrives.

Now skunks as a rule do not see very well, but ironically their sense of smell is excellent. So is their hearing, so I’m not surprised when they appear to listen. As with humans, it isn’t always about the words, but the tone. I keep my voice low and soft, I don’t make any quick moves, and I keep a good distance between me and the skunks.

So far, it’s been a good deal for all of us. Who knew? All we and the cats and skunks know is that we are family. (Queue up “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge here.)

The Power of Journaling

I have kept journals for years. It’s not just recording what happens each day, but it becomes a sort of ritual that captures who you are at the moment, and what you are going through. It’s a way of connecting with yourself, checking in on yourself and seeing where you are emotionally, physically, mentally.

I learned a long time ago not to write journals as if someone else would read them; it wasn’t as if I were Ann Frank and the whole world would someday know my life story. I learned over the years to just write it out, warts and all. Everything’s journal-worthy; there are no rules or directions; no need to sanitize—just write.

After I divorced my first husband, my journals were filled with anger, hurt, and all the bad things I wished on the man who had hurt me (he was a cheater; my one deal-breaker in marriage). In my journal, I called him every name in the book. I let out all my anger and hurt and outrage in many journals. Years later, I burned them all. Now he and our marriage are a very short memory, and there is no more anger or hurt. All that went up in smoke.

There is great power in writing out your feelings. Once they are on paper, they somehow lose their strength and their ability to hurt you. Writing has become such a daily habit that I feel off-balance if I don’t write each day.

I write down everything that’s on my mind, even the petty stuff. It’s amazing how you can be all grown up, yet something from your childhood still has the power to needle you. This is what journaling does; it acts as a conduit for the release of emotions that, if left inside, will steadily eat away at you.

Writing, for me anyway, is a way of bringing clarity to anything that’s happening in my life. I lost my mother to metastatic breast cancer in December of 2015, and my dad on April 22 of this year. It’s been a lot to process. But writing helps. It’s a way of connecting with them, remembering them, and understanding that death is just a transition.

Since I am a huge Harry Potter fan, I see my journals serving the same purpose as Professor Dumbledore’s pensieve. The pensieve was a stone bowl into which it was possible to empty thoughts out of one’s mind. As Dumbledore explained to Harry Potter, “I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”

We have all had those moments when our minds are too full and won’t let us rest. For me, keeping a journal is my own personal pensieve. Once I have ‘written out’ all that’s on my mind, I can be clearer in my thinking and feel more at peace.

That said, writing down your thoughts and feelings may not give you complete peace of mind, but it’s a good step in the right direction. There is just something cleansing about seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper that will help clear your mind. You no longer have to keep those hurtful and upsetting thoughts in your mind; they are already written down and you can revisit them at your leisure.

Give it a try and see how you feel. Journaling is a lot like chicken soup when you have a cold; it couldn’t hurt.

Choosing Laughter

This has been a hard couple of months. I have found that, in the midst of grief, despair, anger, depression, fear and worry, that laughter can quite literally save your life. It’s doing it for me right now:

When I have a bad day, I choose laughter.

When everything turns to poo, I choose laughter.

When grief overwhelms me, I choose laughter.

When I feel I’ve lost my way, I choose laughter.

When I am on the precipice, I choose laughter.

When I feel I’ve lost myself, I choose laughter.

When the world around me is too much, I choose laughter.

When there is too much going on, I choose laughter.

When I despair, I choose laughter.

And did you know this (from the Mayo Clinic website):

“A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.”

Laughter can come to us from the most unexpected places, too. Example: the Crankee Yankee and I were driving up to our local Chinese restaurant last night, and on the way we passed a business called “Mapletree.”

Well, my mind often goes off on its own little journeys. I thought that the sign said “Maple FREE,” and I said, ‘since when did a business have to be maple free? Are people now allergic to maple?!’

As soon as the Crankee Yankee could get his breath back from laughing, he told me that I had misread the sign, but had made a great joke.

More laughter!

 

 

Trying Not to be Judge-y

Ever see someone and wonder what they are like, up close and personal? I do, because I am a natural nosy person. Not long ago I was in a store (you know—the one where you can buy clothing and jewelry, food, wine, auto parts, toothpaste, etc. and pick up your medications) and noticed a young woman who was very ‘out there’ in her fashion choices and makeup. She was probably in her mid-20s, and was very pretty.

She had chin-length blonde hair, tipped in violet (a style I would LOVE to try if my own hair wasn’t so short), and was tall and slim. She had quite a few tattoos and piercings, including a sparkly nose ring and a belly button ring. Her outfit was short shorts, woven platform sandals, a cropped top and lots of jewelry.

I happened to run into her close to the check-out lines. She was talking on her SmartPhone, so, nosy as I am, I took a look at her purchases. There were some pretty high-end things in there, including an organic chicken, a boiled lobster, avocados, fresh pomegranate juice, endive (an expensive and delicious kind of lettuce), brie cheese and a large jar of macadamia nuts.

As she talked on her phone, she pulled out her card to have it ready for the check-out line. I was close enough to see that it was an EBT card.

Well, I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction went something like this: “Well! That’s a lot of pretty fancy stuff for a gal using an EBT card! I wonder how much all those tattoos and piercings cost?”

What a crass and judge-y thing to think. Of all the times I yammer on about taking the high road and looking for the good in other people—and this is what came first into my mind? Have I learned NOTHING about judging people based on what I see?

Honestly, I felt lower than whale poop. What is it about us humans that we want to believe the worst about our fellow man? Who am I to judge anyone? Is my life and the way I do things so perfect?

That lovely girl might have worked her way out of an abusive relationship and was claiming her life back. She might be in the process of getting herself together and enjoying a few luxuries after years of want. She might be all alone in the world and was making her own way on her own.

Or she could have just been another human being doing what she wanted to do; it is her life, not mine. Am I such an example of the perfect person? Hardly.

The moral of this true story is this: we are none of us perfect. We can’t know someone based on what we see. We don’t like to be judged on superficial things, and we don’t appreciate it when people who don’t know us make unfair judgements on how we live our lives.

I hope that I can remember this the next time I jump to conclusions. Lesson learned—I hope.