Rainy Day in May

“Rain, rain, go away—

Come on back another day!”

And as a kid,

I wish it did—

Except that in our current water ban

I welcome the free deluge for our gardens more than

A sunny day that blasts those tender shoots

And shrivels our growing produce to the roots—

So rain, please stay, fill up the rain pails

And let those shoots grow into bales

Of peas and tomatoes and peppers and beets

Before the coming summer sun heats

Up all those striving, growing things—

Let’s see what the end of May brings!



15 Years Today and I’d Do It All Over Again

On this day 15 years ago, I was at my parents’ house, getting ready to marry the Crankee Yankee. The lilac bush behind the house was bursting with gorgeous purple blooms and the whole back yard smelled of them. The little plot of lily of the valley were in full flower as well, adding their sweetness to the air.

During the months before our wedding, Mom and I had scoured the Goodwill stores for champagne glasses. We bought a few dozen of them for about a nickel apiece and laughed our heads off about how you didn’t have to spend a fortune to have a great wedding.

Dad had picked up a few dozen bottles of champagne, and had his camera ready for what he called “my last wedding;” a professional photographer, he had cut weddings out of his schedule. “But I’ll make an exception for you!” he said.

Mom made our wedding cake; her famous lemon crunch cake, plus what she called a “comb over cake;” a backup cake that had used up the rest of the frosting and was thin on top.

She and I cut swathes of lilacs for me and for my maid of honor, my best friend, Jan. For the men, she made beautiful boutonnieres with sprigs of lily of the valley, tied in silver ribbons.

I dressed in my burgundy wedding dress (second marriage, no white necessary!) and put on the tunic necklace I’d made for the occasion. As I was finishing my makeup, I heard a car pull up in the driveway; the Crankee Yankee and his younger brother, David, the best man, had arrived. Soon after that, my best friend and maid of honor, Jan, drove in.

The guest began to gather, and I began to get nervous. My first marriage had ended in disaster, and even though I had known the Crankee Yankee since I was 25, I worried—should I be doing this?

I looked out of my parents’ bedroom window to see all the guests sitting in their chairs and chatting in the back yard. There was a lovely white trellis at the bottom of the slight berm where the guests were sitting. There was a huge pot of white flowers hanging from it, and the minister stood waiting.

Dad came for me and began to walk me around the front of the house. I said, “Dad, I don’t know about this!” He squeezed my arm and said, “Oh, no you don’t–this is the right guy and this is the right time. Let’s go!”

Not only did the Crankee Yankee and I get married that day, but David and Jan got to know each other. Soon after our wedding, they began dating. A few years later, they got married. I will always be happy that our wedding was the place that began another love story.

So, today being our 15th anniversary, I will say this: despite the normal ups and downs, the laughter and the tears, the gains and the losses, the highs and lows—it’s all worth it. I discovered that a first bad marriage (or a “training wheels” marriage as Mom liked to call it) doesn’t necessarily mean that the second will be a bust as well.

Marriage is what you make it. There will always be ups and downs, times where you can’t agree on things, times when you cling to each other and times when you need alone time. We rejoice in many things and put up with many things; it’s a grab-bag of this and that.

Between you and me, I think that the Crankee Yankee is a far better person than I am, but bless his heart, he doesn’t see it that way. This marriage has made me a better person than I was. I see both our faults clearly, but most of all, I see two people who adore each other. I see two imperfect people that just happen to be perfect for each other.


Little Bits Here and There

I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t do everything all the time. Oh, we may think that we can, but rarely can we do it all at once. My new credo is “little bits” I do here and there. This way I can tick them off my list and feel as though I did something to justify my existence during the day.

Those of us who are list makers understand the joy of crossing off the things on our “to do” list. Even if there is something I forgot to write down and I took care of it, I add it to my list and then cross it off, done and done!

This way, when I’m done for the day, I can say to myself that I did this, that and the other thing during the day. It’s a simple thing to do, but so satisfying. The list needn’t be a big deal, either. For example, my list for today reads:

  1. Vacuum and dust (I HATE vacuuming, so it’s first on the list. I just want to get it over with!)
  2. Organize all those random ‘I’ll do it later’ papers on my side of the desk.
  3. Pick up the few items we need at the grocery store.
  4. Go for my pond walk.
  5. Do a little planting in the empty raised beds.
  6. Go to the library and get more reading fodder.
  7. Take those three bags of sheets, towels and blankets we no longer need to the animal shelter.

Each one of these chores matter, but in and of themselves they aren’t really monumental. This is what I call my “little bit” system. A little bit here and there I can handle; but a whole lot things all at once just knocks me out. Somewhere I read that if you just take a task at 15 minutes at a time, you will slowly but surely get it all done. We don’t have to do absolutely EVERYTHING at once!

So today’s mantra is this:

Here and there and bit by bit,

I erase the tasks that I see fit.

Some may start small

But through it all

What needs to get done

Will all be done—

Little bit by little bit

I cross off each task with a loud “now, GIT!”



When Stuff is Just…..Stuff

In the process of selling my parents’ house, there is definitely a line between things to keep, things to offer to friends, things to donate and things to just toss. While I have put a master list together on what goes where, there is always that emotional wrench seeing all those bits and pieces that made up a home.

For example, Mom loved big, tall lamps; I don’t. Mom loved vases; I don’t. Mom loved doo-dads; I don’t. Then there are all the pictures and paintings; I’ve taken the ones I liked, but the rest need homes.

There are some things I’ve kept because I can’t quite let them go, but know that someday I can. I think I’ve gotten past the ‘oh, Mom/Dad loved this so I should keep it’ even if I personally don’t care for it.

Does anyone remember the show where experts went to a home and helped people pare down their stuff? They put up three tents; one for keepers, one for donations or give-aways or selling, and one for tossing. When the owners protested over something, the expert asked why they felt they needed it. The conversations went like this:

Expert: “Why do you want to keep this?”

Owner: ” It was my grandmother’s”

Expert: “Yes, but do you like it?”

Owner: “Not really.”

Expert: “Then you don’t need it.”

It sounds simple, but there is a lot of emotion involved. The Crankee Yankee and I already live in what we call our “*blivet.” We periodically go through our stuff, asking ourselves those same “expert” questions. With this in mind, we have to be careful of what we take from my parents’ house.

So there is always going to be stuff to be dealt with; the bigger question is, do we need it, want it or even like it? It’s a hard and often emotional process, but we just can’t keep it all. When it comes right down it, stuff is only stuff. We have to decide what stuff we really need to keep, and what to set free.

*Blivet: colloquial for ‘ten pounds of crap in a five pound container.”

Birds I Love: Blue Herons

There’s something about blue herons that is absolutely mesmerizing. I have loved them since I was a child. At the time, we lived in a huge apartment with a big sun porch just off the kitchen. It overlooked the lake, and the small wooden dock was often visited by a blue heron or two.

Herons look blue-gray from a distance (they are actually gray), and they are rather stately looking birds. They will patiently stand statue-like in the shallows, waiting for their breakfast to swim by. When they see what they want, they strike with a lightning-quick stab of their strong beaks.

Blue herons like both saltwater and fresh water, and they can be found on coastlines, marshes, rivers and the like. They build stick nests on the top of trees. When you see them fly away, with their necks tucked back and long legs trailing behind them, you feel as though a miracle has crossed your path.

Once a few years ago, I was walking around the town pond and saw a blue heron standing patiently in the reeds and cat-o-nine tails near the water. It was nesting season for all the birds in that area; red-winged black birds, goldfinches, cardinals, and the very occasional blue bird.

The red-winged blackbirds get especially touchy during nesting season. They will chase after a bird three times their size if they feel that their nesting area is being threatened. I noticed that there was a blue heron standing in the shallows. Evidently, a red-winged blackbird in the same area felt that the heron was too close to his nest.

As I watched, the red-wing jumped on the heron’s back, and hopped up and down on it! The heron, looking mildly annoyed, turned its head to look at the red-wing. If there could have been a thought bubble above his head, it would have read: “Hey, now—no need to get upset! I’m just hunting for my breakfast; I’m not going to bother you or your wife and kids.”

How wonderful it is when we get to see nature up close and personal!




Bra College

Did you know that most women are wearing the wrong bras? When I say the ‘wrong bras,’ I don’t mean that they grabbed the leopard print one and wore it to work under a sheer white tunic or wore someone else’s bra. I mean that most women wear bras that don’t fit them well. I wore ill-fitting bras for years and never thought a thing about it until I met a professional bra-fitter.

She changed my life. She looked at what I was wearing, rolled her eyes and said, “honey, we need to get you into some bras that work for your boobs.” I thought, ‘huh? Does she think I’m wearing someone else’s bras that fit their boobs but not mine?’ But this was only the beginning of my lessons at “bra college.”

After she measured me, she gathered up about a dozen bras for me to try on. When I looked at the size, I started to protest.  She said, ‘now don’t get upset because this size is larger than the bra you wore in here. Besides, no one sees what size a bra is but you. Try them on!’

Well—I walked out of there with half a dozen brand new well-fitting bras and felt amazing. My entire body looked better with the right bra! My clothes fit better, and my so-so bust looked, well—perky.

I will tell you that the older you are, the more “*wubbies” you may have. But getting fitted for the right bra will even help disguise them. Also, you will pay a good price for a good bra, and it’s worth it. You can buy a bunch of crappy bras, look terrible in them and will need to replace them at least once a year. So why not spring for one or two really good bras that you will have for a long time?

Here’s something else I learned from the bra lady: wear your new bra no more than three days in a row (this is why you need to buy at least two bras at a time). Hand wash the bras gently in cold water with a cold water wash like Woolite. Squeeze the excess water out gently, and do NOT wring or twist! (And for Heaven’s sake to NOT put your bras in the washer and dryer!) Hang them up to air dry. Your bras will last a lot longer with good care.

Now I like an underwire bra, but your bra fitter will help you with another type if you don’t like the underwire. Trust me, there are a ton of terrific bras out there just waiting to make you look fabulous in whatever you’re wearing. And if you find a bra you love but feels a little too constrictive, your bra lady will gladly sell you a bra extender. They are inexpensive and will make you feel more comfortable.

One more thing: don’t worry about your bra lady seeing your naked breasts or waistline or wubbies. She’s seen it all; mastectomies, scars, weird-looking nipples, etc. Nothing phases bra-fitters because they are on a mission to help you find the right bra so that you will feel good and look good.

I just bought two brand new bras yesterday and feel terrific. They fit well, and I always feel “uplifted” afterwards. You are worth a good bra, and you will be astonished at how good you’ll look.

*Wubbies are what we call that armpit/side boob flub that you get even with a good-fitting bra. Unless you get plastic surgery, wubbies will always be there. Live with it.

The Ned Bullock Memorial Hot Dogs

My dad loved hot dogs. When we moved him into our home in March, I made sure that we always had some on hand. He liked his with mustard, relish and chopped onions on a whole wheat bun. Even when he didn’t feel up to eating much, a hot dog always did the trick.

After he passed away last month, I was cleaning out the refrigerator and found two leftover hot dogs. They made me smile. I mentioned them to the Crankee Yankee and he obligingly finished them off.

It’s funny the things you remember about a person. I can go back in my mind to Mom’s and Dad’s wedding, held in the parlor at my grandparents’ home. I was four at the time, and was far more interested in the wedding cake than the actual wedding.

I remember the day that Dad took me out of school to ski with him at Wildcat Mountain in Gorham, NH. It was an amazing day, and the snow was perfect. I remember skiing most of the day, and before we left, we each had a hot chocolate.

When I was growing up, it seemed as if grownups had parties every weekend. They probably didn’t, but that’s how it seemed to me at the time. One year there was a costume party that Mom and Dad attended. They went as the Arab/Israeli war; Mom wore veils, long false eyelashes and lots of jewelry. Dad wore a long black robe and a yarmulke, and both sported one black eye apiece. They won first prize; a bottle of champagne.

As the days pass by, I find my grief at losing my dad diminishing a bit at a time. There are so many memories I cherish, and in my mind, my parents are as vivid and as alive as ever. More things about them make me smile rather than cry. The nature of grief is to go back and forth between laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, loss and appreciation, and so many, many memories.

Especially the Ned Bullock Memorial hot dogs.