The Bucket List vs. the F*ckit List

I loved the movie “The Bucket List,” and it got me thinking about those things I said that I always wanted to do. For example, in my 20s some of my Bucket List contained such entries as:

  • Ride an elephant
  • Take a balloon ride
  • Go to the Gobi desert and search for dinosaur bones
  • Work with Jacques Cousteau on the Calipso
  • Write *TGAN
  • Climb Mt. Washington

In my 30s, I added:

  • Meet some of my favorite writers
  • Meet some of my favorite actors
  • Live on the beach
  • Design my own clothing line
  • Become a black belt
  • Get married
  • Have a baby

I did actually achieve some of these items in my bucket list:

  • I become a 4th degree black belt
  • I wrote a 9-chapter children’s book that hasn’t yet been published, and along with my mom, wrote a rhyming children’s book that DID get published (“Shopping at the Ani-Mall,” published by Windswept House, Mt. Desert, ME, 1991)
  • I climbed Mt. Washington four times
  • I got married (twice), and, although I did not have a child of my own, I became step-mom to two amazing and incredibly wonderful young women (one for each marriage). I also received a gift I didn’t even realize I wanted until the day my grand-daughter was born. Think of every word in the English language that means wonderful, fabulous, great, unique and marvelous–and you get a pale image of how much that kid means to me.

What I didn’t realize when I was younger is that we change daily; no, make that minute-to-minute. Our lives tick on, and we either take steps to achieve our dreams or we don’t. Often we change our minds mid-stream, and go in another direction. There are times we think we want to do or be something because it sounds great, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t want to do it or be it. And sometimes, we realize that what we’ve been chasing isn’t really what we wanted.

Having a bucket list is a great thing. Working on the items on the bucket list is a great thing, too. But the best thing is re-writing the bucket list. Our priorities change, consequently our direction changes, too. Therefore I invented the F*ckit List. At my age, I no longer wish to ride an elephant, I’ve seen too many hot air balloon accidents (so a big NO on that one); I wouldn’t go to the Gobi desert on a bet because it’s way too hot, I’ve outlived Jacques Cousteau, and the very idea of the bottom of the ocean terrifies me. (Also, the idea of seeing stuff that shouldn’t be in the ocean but is [i.e., the Titanic, wrecked planes, old washing machines, etc.] makes me want to vomit, void every bodily orifice and scream–which, I believe, if all these events happen at the same time, will kill you.)

These days my bucket list includes more practical things, such as:

  • Appreciate family and friends
  • Do good work
  • Be kind
  • Show love
  • Laugh a lot
  • Forgive a lot
  • Write as much as possible
  • Be generous
  • Be involved in worthy things
  • Be absolved of all past mistakes (it’s how we learn)
  • Be present
  • Keep an attitude of gratitude
  • Do good things
  • Listen well
  • Let go of grudges
  • Let the past be the past
  • Sing
  • Dance
  • Make people laugh
  • Have no regrets

The step-up-from-practical-but do-able items on my Bucket List are now:

  • Visit Hawaii
  • See the Painted Desert
  • Go to the opera
  • Buy a new sofa and two comfy chairs
  • Pet a baby owl
  • Gather sea shells from many beaches
  • Camp out somewhere where I can see the sky full of stars
  • Have a facial and massage every month

My F*cket List is full of out-dated, impractical and no-longer-interesting stuff that is fun to look at (like photos from high school), but has no hope of happening. Oh, and past regrets and bad relationships go in there as well. That’s really the purpose of the F*cket List; stuff you can look over and say, “what was I thinking??”

*The Great American Novel

Manscaping – Really??

I saw one of those ads on TV for a certain hair-removal product that both women and men can use. I suppose if you need hair removed from different places, it’s cheaper (and probably less painful) to do it yourself rather than pay someone to torture you with hot wax. Maybe I’m out of touch, but when did men (those who aren’t in competitive swimming, that is) start ‘manscaping?’

The ad I’m talking about shows a nice-looking young man happily saying that using the product made him look as though he had just had a “fresh wax.” Seriously?!? Where exactly is that hair he needed removed? I understand that some men like to trim or shave the “south forty,” (I really don’t want to know why) but this guy seemed to be talking about shaving his chest and arms.

Personally, I wouldn’t give you ten cents for a man without a hairy chest and arms, but that’s just me. I have known some men who sport an actual rug on their chests AND back, so maybe if the man is that furry, he might want to set up a monthly sheering. But to do it just for the look? I don’t get it. Then again, I’m not young and both my eyesight and the Crankee Yankee’s (my husband of nearly 12 years) is bad enough so that both of us still look pretty good to each other. So far, he hasn’t shown any interest in manscaping, for which I am grateful.

Besides, just think of the hairy mess in the sink and the tub. If a man’s going to do this, then the following should be painted in large letters wherever the “sheering” takes place:





In Spite Of All…

I know I should be pissed at you

For not doing those things I asked of you,

I asked you once, twice and thrice–

I really am running out of ‘nice!’

You say you’ll do this thing or other,

Then you forget and do something other

Than what you said you’d do right now–

Can’t you keep just that one vow?

I have to say you do mean well

But often forget–oh, what the hell

I know that despite all of this,

I still feel dizzy from your kiss

And simply because you are you,

I just can’t help my loving you.

The Battle of the Bed Clothes

Everyone is different when it comes to the art of bed-making. The only other person I know who is as fussy as I am about making a bed is my mother. (Come to think of it, it’s probably because of Mom that I am this fussy!) In our house, we have an established pattern regarding the bed clothes.

It begins with the sheets. I hate, loathe and despise wrinkles in the bottom sheet–my butt finds them every time. So I, the self-proclaimed Sheet Nazi, seek out each wrinkle and smooth them out of existence. Next comes the top sheet. The Crankee Yankee (my husband) wants the top sheet drawn right up to the top and I like them about a foot down from the top, so I compromise when I make the bed–they are a foot down from the top (he’s used to it now).

The cotton blanket comes next, and needs to come up to the top of the sheets. This and the top sheet are tucked in at the bottom of the bed using “hospital corners.” Since the Crankee Yankee doesn’t like his feet to be “smooshed,” he usually pulls out the end of the sheets and blanket on his side. This makes his feet feel free as mountain eagles, but causes me minor melt-downs each time I make the bed. I have to re-adjust everything, including re-tucking in the bottom of the sheet and blanket–again. Bless his heart, he never mentions it–just yanks the covers out each night and the whole thing begins all over again in the morning.

In the cold weather, the sheets and blanket are topped with a feather comforter, which is light yet toasty. In the warm weather, the comforter retires to the attic and a light cream-colored seersucker coverlet goes over all. Pillows are never an issue–he likes his foam one, I like my squishable feather one.

So, at this point we are fine with the bed clothes. However, add three cats into the mix and there is mayhem between the sheets, so to speak. Pepper, our Christmas rescue cat, loves the *cornbags I make as bed warmers and plops himself right on top of them. The Crankee Yankee’s feet are always cold, so unless it’s sweltering outside, I put a heated cornbag at the bottom of the bed. When he goes to bed, Pepper likes to hog the cornbag and sleep between the Crankee Yankee’s ankles.

Pookie, the other male cat, is a burrower. He claws his way up the side of the bed, and roots between the blanket and sheets to snuggle up and snooze during the day. Nala, the female, likes to hop up on the bed when we are both asleep to stare out the window behind the wrought-iron headboard. This wouldn’t be so bad except that she gets excited about what she sees, and whaps us alternately in the head with her tail. Sigh.

When I travel up north for my classes, I stay overnight at my folks’ house. I know that when I come home, I will find that the bed has become an unmade nest with three cats in various states of repose in it.  The Crankee Yankee’s theory is that, at least once a month, the bed should be left unmade so that it “airs out.” This whole “airing out” deal is a man-made construct that allows men to think that they are doing a good thing by leaving the bed unmade. It isn’t, and I have to make it all over again–that is, when the cats are through with it.

The subject of bed clothes is a personal thing, and I’m sure that everyone has their own way of playing dress-up with their bed. Some love a wild riot of decorative pillows on the bed, and some swear by dust ruffles, which can take on a life of their own. (Dust ruffle owners, you know what I’m talking about.) Some enjoy a stark no-nonsense look; white sheets, white blanket, white coverlet (too hospital-y for me), and others like a fun mix of colors and patterns. Still others love to keep a line of treasured dolls and/or stuffed animals propped up against the pillows. As it is, I already have to shift at least two cats (plus the Crankee Yankee, who always goes to bed before I do) just to get into bed. That’s quite enough decoration for me, thank you very much.

It is a long-held belief that only certain people make a big fuss over how the bed is made. Personally, I think that “bed clothes fussiness” is more universal than we think. I once knew a dog who, before retiring for the night, would turn exactly 13 times in the same direction before settling in on his blanket. That’s one dog’s idea of the perfectly made bed. Think about it–what’s yours?

 *Cornbags are a great way to warm up the bed in cold weather, and are easy-peasy to make. Buy a few pounds of deer corn (ask for the “unpopable” corn), and buy some nice cozy flannel. Cut the flannel to the size you want (ours are usually 10″ x 12″ to allow for seams), and machine-stitch the bag on three sides.

Stitch the fourth side a bit less than half-way; you need to allow enough room to pour in the corn kernels. Turn the bag inside-out so that the “good” side is on the outside. Put the corn kernels inside to about half-way–don’t stuff it full. If you like, add a few tablespoons of dried lavender or sage for fragrance.

Turn the remaining raw edges over and handstitch the opening. Put the cornbag in the microwave for 2.5 to no more than 3 minutes. (If you hear a few kernels pop, don’t worry–this often happens.) Put the bag under the covers between the sheets and it will be lovely for your cold feet!

It’s MESSY Being Me!!

How often have we heard “just be yourself?” In the *classes I’ve been taking for three years, one of the main truths in each  class is to be the best you you can be. We also hear “if people don’t like you for yourself, they’re not worth being around.” Um, yeah, but what if you want to be around them? This, too, refers back to the ‘being the best you.’ If we carry around that internal sign that says in big bold letters “I’M NOT WORTHY. I’M NOT PERFECT. I’M NOT SPECIAL,” I say to that statement what we say in class when someone make a self-deprecatory remark: “Delete! Delete! Delete!” Repeat as often as necessary. What we all are is WORTHY, PERFECT, AND SPECIAL. Once we get that concept firmly in our heads, we can better decide with whom we want to spend our time.

My first thought upon hearing that I should be the best ME I can be was ‘but I’m so messy!” My house isn’t well-organized. My gardens are a-riot with weeds. My makeup basket probably holds more toxic crap than a nuclear waste facility. My thoughts aren’t organized; they go springing off in all directions like a herd of spastic rabbits with ADHD. Speaking of that, I have huge dust-bunnies under our bed and have to enlist the Crankee Yankee (my husband) to lie down on his side to sweep them all out–if I remember to ask. My yearly resolution to organize all my craft crap has become a yearly non-event, and I probably have replaced more stuff than I needed to, only because I can’t find the stuff I was looking for originally.

This messy state goes straight to my brain, too. I think of all those things I should be doing when I have spare time..but do I do them. Nooooooo. Mostly if there is a “found” minute or two, I will do one of these things: read, walk, nap, or make a snack. If I were a guru, my name would be ‘She of the Great Colander Mind’, as so much slips through all those tiny holes in my brain.

My emotions are similarly messy. When someone makes me angry, my knee-jerk alligator brain fires off the impulse to A) throw something (preferably at the person who got me mad in the first place), B) yell and swear, or C) say or do to them what they did to me. How very evolved of me! After I cool down, I think of all the “right” responses, such as wondering out loud what emotional state my pisser-off (I being the pissed-on) was in to be so rude. Putting myself in the other person’s shoes make me feel like (and probably look like) one negative person and one positive person in the same body.

When I interact with someone, I always feel afterwards that I have made a giant ass out of myself and that they probably think I’m certifiable. I’m way past being an awkward teen, but I still stammer and blush when I attempt to ‘speak my truth.’ Honestly, it’s like being a toddler all over again; stumbling, falling hard on our butts, crying in frustration and often wetting ourselves (yup, you heard me–start life with diapers and end with ’em, too).

Being authentic doesn’t come easily. It involves being in touch with your true self and knowing the real, unvarnished, un-prettied-up version of yourself. It means that we have to really hear ourselves; what do we really want? What do we really want to say? Some of us may be thinking, ‘oh, I’m nothing special,’ thinking that modesty is better than self-aggrandizing. What we need to learn and appreciate about ourselves is who we are and what we bring to the planetary table.

Here’s a great example: during this month’s class we went around the table to answer the question posed to us: “What is your super power?” One woman had a really hard time with this one; she couldn’t think of anything she felt was ‘super’ enough about her. Our teacher told her, “you are the first person people see when they walk into the office [in which she works]. No matter who walks in and whatever mood they are in, they see your smile. If they are feeling badly, that smiles warms and welcomes them. If they are already feeling good, that smile just reinforces that good feeling. Your super power is that smile that you give to every single person you see. You may never know the full impact of it on others, but you are lighting up the world, one person at a time.”

WOW!!! Isn’t it worth exploring who the real honest-to-goodness person who lives and breathes in your skin each and every day really is? The outward appearance that we all see is ONLY the outside. If we could see ourselves and all others as the uniquely beautiful, creative, and incredible beings that we REALLY are, we would fall over backwards in complete and total amazement.

So, that being said, yes–being yourself is damned messy. I am living proof of the messiness of living my truth–I am not perfect but I won’t stop trying to be who I am every breath of every day.


*Classes are developed and taught by the wonderful Noreen McDonald at

Fat Shaming Only Shames the Shamer

I have recently started following some amazing blogs by some amazing women who realistically and enthusiastically embrace their size, whatever it may be. These women put themselves right out there for the world to see–they wear fabulous clothes and shoes, in their photos they are always smiling, and their air of confidence shines right out at you. They are not size zero, they are whatever their size is. They have all experienced “fat shaming” at various times in their lives, and they understand the harm and hurt it causes.

To ridicule a person who is not an “average” size seems to be an all-too-popular sport these days. It is as if by being overweight that they:

  • Should be shut up some place so that no one is offended by their size.
  • Are somehow less human than others.
  • Deserve to be publicly ridiculed.
  • Deserve all the crude and loud insults shouted at them.
  • Should be grateful for someone assessing the contents of their grocery cart and lecturing them about their choices.
  • Should hide themselves away because they are too ugly to be out in public.
  • Deserve being called “sloppy,” “lazy,” “stupid,” “disgusting,” and so on.
  • Do not deserve love or kindness.
  • Should be lectured about their weight, morning, noon and night.
  • Should be reminded 24/7 that they are overweight.
  • Should just ‘lose weight, already–what’s your problem?’

I won’t bore you with the reasons why people are overweight; suffice to say that things are not always what they seem. Making assumptions about why a person is overweight is every bit as small-minded as racism, bigotry, hatred of gays, etc. If you do not know for sure why someone is overweight; in fact, if you do not even know that person, it is a very good idea to keep those opinions to yourself. Additionally, how do any of us know what has happened in this or that person’s life that may have affected how they view themselves? For example, if you knew that the overweight woman you see on the street was raped repeatedly as a child, would you comment about her weight? How is it ok to make judgements about people when you don’t know anything about them?

When I was young (and oh, how arrogant are we when young and think we know everything?), I judged other people on what they looked like, how they talked, how they dressed, how they acted, and much more. I was a self-righteous prig. I realize now how wrong I was, and also how wise and eternal the “golden rule” is, was and ever shall be: don’t do something to someone that you don’t want done to you.

These days, I would far rather spend my time admiring other people–fat, thin, short, tall, buck teeth, no teeth, long hair, short hair, black, white, pink or purple, gay, straight–each of us is incredibly valuable, unique and precious. We all have gifts that may not be immediately apparent; sometimes you have to do a little mining to get to it (the same for ourselves, no?).  I would rather compliment the overweight woman at the next table on her outfit, or her smile, than sit in judgement over her. How hard is it to find something to like or admire in someone? Must we always make assumptions based on someone’s size? Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of criticizing, we could just take that person as they are and enjoy them for who they are?

Perhaps people who routinely perform fat shaming (or any other kind of shaming) do it because they too have been treated badly. We do tend to lash out when we are hurt or angry, or to ‘get them before they get us.’ We can’t know the pain or sorrow in another person’s heart, but we can try to stop our personal terrorism of others. I am deeply ashamed of my prior thoughts and words to others, and wish I could take them back. I can’t, but what I can do now is look at people around me with compassion. It’s what I would want, too.

I believe that when we are cruel to someone about something they can or can’t help (and who are we to judge anyway?), we are adding to the misery and sorrow of the world. It’s said that a butterfly’s wingbeats in one continent can manifest as a tornado in another continent; that’s how powerful actions are. If this is true, then isn’t it also true that a kind word or a smile can start a chain of positive energy and joy throughout the world? Isn’t it worth trying? I think so. I also must say here that when I say “you” I am always including my own imperfect self.

We are better than this. Let’s all stop hurting each other and be supporters, not shamers.



Let’s Be Kind to Ourselves

Please do me a favor right now: get up and look at yourself in the mirror. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Let me guess–‘oh, I look so old and ugly!’ or ‘I used to be pretty!’ or ‘I hate the way I look!’ If you are saying these things, then stop saying these awful things about yourself–NOW.

When we are young, it is easy to be pretty. We are all adorable when we’re young; our skin is fresh and rosy, our teeth are white, our hair is shiny and silky, our limbs are straight and strong, and all our innards tick right along, happy and healthy as can be. Youth is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the only thing. If you keep looking into your older face, frantically trying to see that young face you once had, then you are looking at the hole and not the doughnut.

We grow older, our faces and bodies change, our minds become sharper and we form our own opinions, likes and dislikes. We begin to step out of what the “crowd” thinks, and we start seriously becoming the people we were born to be. Youth is precious because it doesn’t last long. What does last is who we are. And as far as looks go, we can learn to use skin care products and makeup to enhance who we are–or not. It’s a personal choice. Speaking only for me, I appreciate that my own skin and makeup routine makes me look healthy and attractive, but not, Heaven help us–trendy. Trendy is lovely for the young, but sad for the mature.

Let me give an unasked-for opinion right here regarding plastic surgery. If you have a nose the size and shape of a sweet potato and it’s ruining your life, then by all means get it fixed. Some thing with a huge hairy mole on your chin–get it taken care of. But plastic surgery used to simply stave off looking older; well, that’s up to each person. My own feeling is that, should I get a facelift, then my sagging neck will look even worse. If I get my neck tightened up, well–then my boobs will need to be jacked up or they’ll just look like poor relations. And so it goes….it’s just too much surgery, and in the end, time will get us all.

However, we don’t need to be victims of time, nor do we need to spend a fortune on products. Just having a regular skin care routine; gentle cleanser (oh, and if you wear mascara, all you really need is good old Dollar Store cold cream to take it off), a simple toner like witch hazel, and then a moisturizing day lotion and a night cream. (Use a good lotion for legs, knees, elbows and hands, too. It will make you feel great.) And please–DO use sunblock! Even if it’s cloudy out, those rays still come down and can harm skin. If you drive long distances as I do, put some on your ears as well. In fact, any exposed skin should be covered with it.

Makeup is very personal, too. As we grow older, less is definitely more. Shiny makeup, especially eye shadow, is downright evil in that it draws attention to wrinkles and lines. If you don’t know what to use or how to apply it, do yourself a favor and go to the mall and ask one of the lovely ladies at the makeup counters to help you. PLEASE NOTE: If you use their services, it is polite to buy at least one product when they are finished with you. (Also, despite what they may tell you, it is perfectly fine for you to wear Revlon foundation, Este Lauder concealer, Sephora blusher, Rimmel eye liner, Maybelline mascara and NYC lipstick. Different makeups do not “fight” with each other. Or not so much that anyone would notice.)

All that said, here are some of the real beauty products you should use each and every day, and they cost little or nothing:

  • Smile genuinely. Not only will it make you feel better, but the person receiving it will be touched by it.
  • Appreciate. This means to appreciate yourself, your family, your friends and those around you.
  • Be joyous. Joy can be found in another person’s smile, a note from a friend, a remembered joke, a beautiful sunrise, etc.
  • Love yourself. Yup, that’s right–love YOU. In fact, go right back to that mirror and say to yourself, “I love you!”
  • Breathe deeply. Take the time to pull in a breath right down to your toes, then whoosh it out again. And repeat.
  • Laugh. Watch cartoons, tell or hear a joke, or watch a funny movie. If you laugh so hard that you cry, good!
  • Give happily. Do something for someone else; pay their toll on the highway, smile at someone, let someone pull out in front of you, let your husband/friend have that last slice of pizza. Give without expectation of being given to. It is surprising how happy it can make you feel.
  • Don’t engage in strife. Is there anything more draining that the sound of angry voices? Don’t be pulled in. Let it go.
  • Look for peace. As crazy as life can get, look for peace and you will find it. But you have to look.

One of the best books I ever read was “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Basically, these are the four agreements you should make with yourself:

“Be impeccable with your word.”

“Don’t take anything personally.”

“Don’t make assumptions.”

“Always do your best.”

Once I embraced these agreements (and I hasten to say right here that I am not perfect about them), my life changed in a very positive way. They made me think to say what I really meant. They made me think that everything might not be my fault. They made me think that my assumptions weren’t always correct. They made me think that I should be doing my best. In short, they made me think.

These days where so much is going so wrong for so many, kindness is at a premium. It costs nothing to be kind, and the first person to be kind to is YOU. You are worth it!




The New Hampsha Hillbillies

(Queue up “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song)

I decided this morning that the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I should post a badly-made and misspelled sign on our house lettered “The New Hampsha Hillbillies.” We have lived here in our circa 1953 house since 2007, and the Crankee Yankee has been making repairs and improvements ever since. We have had staging on our house every day since 2007; sometimes in the front of the house where the front porch he designed and partially put up is still in progress, sometimes in the back of the house, where the back porch is still in progress, and sometimes on the bay window side of the house, where shingling is in progress.  Once the back and front porches are done, he wants to re-roof them both with metal roofing. That’s the outside.

On the inside, the new (as of 2007) ceiling in the living room is still unpainted, as is the bedroom pocket door. The now-gutted upstairs is in the process of being re-insulated and refurbished with recycled flooring. The new deck and stairs on the side of the house is still underway; all the basics are there, just unfinished. The Crankee Yankee scares me every year by saying that the entire kitchen needs to be re-done: ceiling replaced, walls stripped to the studs, old and crappy cabinets ripped out, and best of all, the horrible poison-green-with-dirty-ivory-squares linoleum has to come up and be replaced. Oh, and the kitchen door, which at this time you can’t use if the oven door is open (the oven is literally 2.5″ from the door handle)–needs to be moved over about two feet.

Just the mere words “kitchen renovation” make me weak and nauseous, and triggers my fight-or-flight reflex; as in I want to be instantly transported away when all this happens. His final (so far) project will be to tear down the ancient and sagging garage–re-build it AND add an efficiency apartment on top of it. I will say right here, right now, that I would rather eat a bug than have to worry about a tenant over the garage.

I haven’t even addressed the furnishings: we seem to be some vortex for other people’s crappy furniture outcasts. So, courtesy of one of the Crankee Yankee’s model railroad fellows, we have a black pleather office chair–one of those huge plushy ones. Both armrests have the pleather worn off so that the ugly gray stuffing shows; on one arm, you can see right down to the fake wood. Thanks to this same person, we also have a matching black pleather recliner–just as plushy, and oozing stuffing, too. The cats have scratched it to bits, recognizing it for the piece of crap it is. Also in our living room is the orange sofa/sleeper Mom and Dad gave us when they bought a nice new futon. It came “pre-scratched” from their cat to our three to enjoy. I cover it with a red fleece blanket (to cover up all the entrails leaking out of it), but it still looks terrible.

On the plus side, our circa 1953 home now has a roomy and sunny back and front porch, a sturdy and good-looking deck with wide and graceful stairs and two bannisters. In front of our house, the Crankee Yankee has put in a great deal of work making four raised-bed gardens, beautifully bordered in wood, with crushed stone walk-ways in between so that it’s easy to plant, weed and harvest. Last year we tried growing potatoes, and behold and lo–we harvested 31 of them! We also planted romaine, which we picked and enjoyed all summer. Last fall we planted garlic, and fingers crossed that it will come up this year. The plans for this year’s gardens are beets, brussels sprouts, lettuce, herbs and possibly peas. Oh, and also flowers.

Because of the Crankee Yankee’s overall handiness, we were the recipients of many pounds of free crushed stone from the town sewer workers. They worked all last year on our local roads, re-paving the streets and fixing some badly aged plumbing below the streets. Part of the work involved replacing the neighborhood’s water and sewer pipes, which meant everyone except the Crankee Yankee had to make sure that their pipes had access to the main roads. He dug his own trench and laid the pipe for our house, 1) because he knows what he’s doing, and 2) because as he says, “I have nothing else to do, and all the time in the world to do it in.” The road crew appreciated one less house to work with, and rewarded him with the crushed stone, which we are still using today.

All three of our cats have benefited as well. He put up a series of rather nice-looking shelves in the living room, and the cats love to perch and snooze on them. He is in the process of installing another cellar casement window, and while working on it, he took the time to make a little shelf so that the cats now have a ground-level view.

The funny thing about the Crankee Yankee’s mode of operation is that it’s just like mine: when bored of something, we both put a “bookmark” in what we’re doing and move on to something else. This way, everything eventually gets done, just not right away. I so admire people like my mom and my brother-in-law in the way they approach tasks. They clear the area in which they plan to work, they lay out all their tools and supplies, and get to it. They let nothing distract them from the task at hand, and they complete it in a timely fashion. Once done, they clean everything up, put things back where they were; done and done.

Sadly, that is not our style. While it is sometimes frustrating to have things constantly “in progress,” there is a weird hopeful feeling about it. We know that we will eventually get around to everything, and despite how things look, the Crankee Yankee has a master plan, and I believe in him. All during the past seven years, several people have kept track of his progress, and most are encouraging. The few who aren’t and complain about how the house looks are met with one of the Crankee Yankee’s standard stony stares and an invitation to complain all they want.

I think we’ll add a sign right next to the New Hampsha Hillbillies one that reads, “If you don’t like the time it’s taking to complete the work on this house, please feel free to donate.” And right next to that, we’ll nail up a coffee can with a slot in the lid.



“I’d Like to Order a Number 3 Without the Attitude, Please”

Does it seem to you as if every business you walk into seems to expect you to have memorized their schedule/menu/policies/rewards program and so on? When did all this hurry-hurry/rush-rush happen? It’s not like the businesses are going to cut their hours if their customers aren’t on the phone or physically in the building.

Example: this morning I went to our local Drugs R Us store to refill a *med for our cat, Pepper. While there, I picked up the paper, some beauty sundries, a birthday card and a bag of cashews. When my name was called to pick up the med, I was asked if I had a rewards card. I did, and said that I would just add the med along with my other stuff and pay for it all at the counter in front. I felt I was being courteous of the pharmacist’s time by doing so.

He snapped, “If you have a rewards card, TYPE IN YOUR PHONE NUMBER SO THAT I CAN ADD ALL THIS UP.”

I said, “O-K, I just thought it would save you time if I paid for everything up front–”

He snapped (louder this time): “No, you can’t do that. You HAVE to pay for medications HERE–NO EXCEPTIONS.”

I said, “Why sure–I’ll be glad to. I didn’t know about this pharmacy’s policy about that and certainly will remember this for the next time.”

He sniffed dismissively as if to say ‘well, you damn well better’ and crammed everything into what I felt was too small a bag for everything. But since he was so obviously out of sorts I paid up and fumblingly stuffed the paper into the bag along with the other stuff and left.

Now, really–how was I supposed to know that? The place I go to pick up and meds of my own allows you to pay for everything, including the meds, at the counter at the front of the store. I even looked for a sign near the pharmacy saying, “PLEASE PAY FOR YOUR MEDICATIONS HERE–NOT AT THE FRONT COUNTER.” But, no.

This is similar to restaurants of the not-a-drive-up-fast-food-establishment-as-such. If there is a short line, I read the menu as fast as I can, and still when I get up to the front, they want me to blurt out my order rapid-fire. I often say, “Gosh, I’m sorry, but I haven’t memorized your menu yet.” Then on the way out, I grab a take-out menu so that I can study it at home so that I can parrot out what I want next time in a nano-second.

In the fast-food drive-ups, there is one that happens to have excellent (and cheap) coffee. I usually drive up for one on my way to work; it’s easy enough to order: “Small black coffee.” When it gets shoved into my hand at the window, the person always says the same thing to me: “Haggaday.” Translation: “Have a good day.”

The worst example of hurry-hurry/rush-rush happens when trying to reach a human on the phone at a doctor’s office. The well-modulated voice of the recording outlines what number to press for this, that or the other thing. However, I usually just want to speak with an actual human, generally because none of the options direct me to what I want–a human on the other end of the phone.

One time I tried pressing “0” hoping to get a person. I got an extremely harried-sounding woman who told me to use the voice menu and hung up before I could say a word. Again, none of the choices worked for me–all I wanted was to find out why my medication had not been refilled (the pharmacy had shrugged its collective shoulders and told me to ask the doctor). So, I pressed “0” again. The same woman answered, and I said, “Can I just find out if–” and that’s as far as I got before she said, “I TOLD YOU TO USE THE VOICE MENU!” and hung up.

To all of the no doubt under-paid and under-valued folk who man the phones, take fast food orders, stand on aching feet behind the counter at restaurants and who handle our medications–you have my respect and sympathy. It has to be aggravating to have to explain the same things over and over again. But please take a moment to consider this: we customers do not know your practices and polices by heart. Chances are that we only call or show up once in a while, and we certainly don’t want to cause you trouble. While we understand that you deal with people like us every day, we would kindly appreciate a little less attitude.

*Written on label of this particular med: “For Pepper Cat. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking this medication.”

“It’s Only a Cat/Dog/Hamster/Bunny/Bird!”

It is sad that there are people who feel that the life of a beloved pet (or, for that matter, any living creature) is somehow not as important as a human life. Anyone who has loved and lost a pet knows that the loss is painful, and that it takes time to recover. There is no time limit on grief or remembrance, and each person will know when it’s time to move forward. This does not mean that we forget our dear ones; we just move on from grief.

To say to someone that ‘It was just a <fill in the type of pet>! Move on, already–just go get another one,’ is hurtful and cruel. Who can measure another person’s pain or sorrow? It is like a tear in a piece of beautiful cloth–we can mend it well enough so that the mended place barely shows, but it is still there.

Those of us who have nursed our pets in their last days; cleaning up after them, administering medications to ease their pain, holding them close and talking to them–we miss all those little routines when they are gone. Sometimes it is those very routines we grieve, and we catch ourselves jumping up and saying, ‘oh, no–did I forget Rex’s pill today?’ Then we sit back down and remember that Rex has gone where he doesn’t need his tired and sick body any longer.

Love is love, and grief is grief. In my own experience, the kindest thing anyone can say is, ‘I’m sorry about <pet name>, and I know you miss him/her. He/she had a good life with you.’ When someone suffers a loss, be it pet, person, job, house, etc., it is painful. Support and comfort helps, not platitudes or some dismissive phrase meant to “help.” Only we know the right time to let another pet into our hearts; it may be a week, a month, a year–it is deeply personal.

In a funny way, I always feel that our pets who have gone on have a sweet way of sending us a new companion uniquely suited to us. When we lost our 20-year old cat, Blackie, we had already adopted Baby, originally a neighbor’s cat who came to prefer us. After Blackie was gone, a friend called me and said that she had to find a home for Nala, a torti-tiger cat who was nervous and couldn’t get along with the dog and spent a miserable life in the basement. We immediately took her, and she and Baby became quite close. When Baby’s health began to fail, Nala seemed to know, and stayed close to him. When he died, she became the queen of the house.

Months later, there came a day when I read about a local shelter’s “Desperate Housecats” who had been sheltered for several months and needed homes. One little black cat seemed look straight at me from the paper. I took my sister-in-law with me and we went in, asking to see these cats. Happily, it turned out that most of them had already been adopted, two more were in the process of adoption and the last one, Pagan, still needed a home. I fell in love with him, and adopted him on the spot. My sister-in-law held him in his box on the way home, and the poor thing peed on her in his fright (we both forgave him). Now he is happily part of the family, and he has been renamed “Pookie.”

So, there we all were, one happy family of me, the Crankee Yankee (my husband), and Nala and Pookie, who developed a peaceful coexistence despite a few dust-ups now and then. Then last December, the Crankee Yankee rescued our Pepper (see his entry, “The Christmas Cat”), and now we are three.

So right now, life with our three cats is good. We know all too well that the day will come when we will have to consider their health and happiness, and their quality of life when they are old and ailing. This is part of the responsibility of having a pet, caring for them and loving them. It is our job to make sure that they pass on with love, tenderness, kindness and compassion. And we will grieve for them and all others we have lost all over again.

At that fragile time, it serves no purpose to be told ‘it was only a <insert pet species here>; move on and get another one!’ To people who don’t have or want pets, I would say this: “If you can’t understand my grief at losing my animal friend, then please don’t be cruel at this time.” Even the ubiquitous “I’m sorry for your loss,” is far better than suggesting replacing the pet with another one.

All our relationships are special and unique. It is a tribute to both people and animals that we remember them with love and affection. No one can measure your love or your loss, and no one should ever trivialize your loss by suggesting you simply replace your beloved pet with another “just like it.” You might as well say, ‘oh, sorry about your miscarriage. But you can make another one just like it, right?’ Or, as Thumper from the movie, Bambi, would say, “If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”