Let’s All Stop “Shoulding” on Each Other

If anyone reading this remembers The Twilight Zone as I do, you may recall the episode called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” The premise was that, in the far distant future, at age 18 you could undergo what was called “the transformation” so that you could look like everyone else. There were two female models to choose from; you could either be the tall, willowy brunette, or the short, perky blonde. In this episode, one young girl does not wish to go through with it. She argues that she is fine just the way she is, and doesn’t want to change. Her doctor, mother and best friend try to convince her that it’s a good thing to look like everyone else, but the young girl isn’t buying it.

Of course, she is eventually coerced into the transformation. To her mother’s and best friend’s delight, the newly-tranformed girl comes bouncing out as another short perky blonde. She declares to her friend, “The best thing about it is that I look just like you!”

Although I’m happy that we don’t do this type of thing today, we nonetheless have issues with body image. Body image is a personal thing that has somehow become everyone’s business. If we don’t look like the gorgeous angels in fabulous underwear from <insert your favorite lingerie store name here>, we automatically feel bad about ourselves. And for what? We humans come in all sizes, shapes, and various states of health. We are who we are. We can be short or tall, thin or heavy, busty, hippy, have knock-knees, a big belly, a flat butt, long nose, buck teeth, peppered with freckles and so on. We come into this life in all our glorious colors and shapes, abilities and disabilities, gifts and talents, and we are all here for a reason.

Before I go further, let me get this statement out of the way: it is a good thing to be kind to our bodies, to treat them well, exercise them as we can, feed them food that nourishes and helps us be the best we can be, keep a positive attitude and to give ourselves and others a break for not looking “perfect.”

To those who diet religiously I say this: if what you’re doing works for you, then I am delighted for you. I sincerely wish you the best in all you do to stay fit and healthy. That said, PLEASE do not assume that your way is the only way. Unless any of us ask you specifically about your personal plan, please SHUT UP.

To those LBPs (Little Bitty People) who are in love with their tininess, God bless you. You are absolutely adorable and are just as cute as you can be. However, your cuteness wears thin when you highjack each and every conversation to make it all about your “itty-bittiness.” We really don’t need to hear that you wear a size 3 ring (“cuz my fingers are sooooo little!”), that you can fit into a kindergarten chair (because “I’m no bigger than a minute!”), or that your boyfriend/girlfriend can pick you up with one hand. And there is this, too–you’re kind of embarrassing yourself when your favorite topic is YOU. Don’t you think that maybe you could find some other topics to talk about that don’t involve, well–you? Just saying…

Fat-shaming and skinny-shaming are shameful. Why on earth would we deliberately go out of our way to chastise someone we don’t know? What possible business is it of ours? I recently read a blog written by a man who used to weigh over 400 lbs. Through dint of healthful eating, moderate exercise and a willing spirit, he lost almost half his body weight. His post about his transformation talked about the people who bullied him, embarrassed him, shamed him, slapped and punched him, made fun of him and mercilessly tortured him “for his own good” and to “make” him lose weight. His reply to that was simple and to the point: NONE of it helped him lose weight. What made him lose weight was his own desire to do so. No amount of shaming or bullying or harrassing or laughing at him motivated him to lose weight (well, surprise!). His own desire to be fit and healthy worked for him. He owes those people who did all those hateful things to him NOTHING and they share no success in his success. Why do people ever think they can motivate people by such negativity?

Why can’t we simply rejoice in all the wonderful diversity of humans on the earth? All cultures have their own standards of beauty, but does that mean that those who don’t meet those standards are less beautiful? We fall in love with each other for many reasons. Of course we are attracted to looks, but remember–the kind of person I find beautiful may not be your kind of beautiful. And so what? We get attracted to not just looks, but personalities, sense of humor, ideals, philosophies, points of view, mental/political/spiritual/emotional stands, and so much more. With all that fabulous diversity, why then would we want to stick to one standard of beauty? You may admire someone who constantly asserts his or her opinions on everything because they are versatile and interesting; I may find them a crashing bore. I may love being with someone who has a great sense of humor make me laugh; you may think that they are a big old attention hog.

The point is, let’s just look at each other for who we are, not who we feel we should be. I am just as guilty of this type of judgement as anyone else. Looking back over my life and recalling some of the truly ignorant and insensitive things I’ve said to people in the past, I could die of shame and regret. I wish with all my heart I could see each person I offended and beg their forgiveness. This is one of the main reasons for this blog–perhaps if I share some of the truly epic mistakes I’ve made in my life, then maybe just one person will learn not to do what I’ve done. It’s a waste of our precious time to try to talk someone into being someone other than who they are. We need to stop telling each other, “you should do this or that or the other thing.”

In fact, how about we all just stop “shoulding” on ourselves?




Why I Got a Tattoo

Back when I was living in Texas and was freshly divorced from my first husband, I became friendly with a wonderful woman of many talents. At the time she owned and was an artist in a tattoo studio, and her work was amazing. She herself had one of her legs inked from thigh to ankle with one of the most beautiful flora and fauna tattoos I’ve ever seen. It was as colorful as a rain forest, full of gorgeous flowers and lovely trees trailing long skeins of vines, with little fairies peeking out here and there.

I began to see tattoos in a new light; as another way of self-expression. I was working in a large tech firm back then, and many people there sported quite visible tattoos, so I began asking people about them. I had never considered a tattoo for myself, and was interested to know how people came to the decision to get one. I learned about a young woman who had lost both breasts to cancer, and decided that her newly-flat chest was a canvas to be filled with something beautiful. Her choice was an exquisite vine with tiny leaves and even tinier blossoms that curled from both armpits and all across her chest. She said that it made her feel pretty to wear this art where once disease had claimed her body. It was, pure and simple, an expression of triumph and hope.

A man who worked in the graphics department has dozens of tattoos, the most amazing of which was a Bengal tiger. The tiger’s head was positioned right over his heart, and the body of it curled over his shoulder to his back, where the tiger’s tail was. He admitted that that much work took several sessions, and he said that the closer to the bone a tattoo is, the more painful it is. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I know now that I was doing research so that I too would eventually get my own tattoo.

Now I will admit that I judge others. I’m not proud of it, and I do try to keep an open mind. However, when I began to get to know people wearing a lot of ink, I realized that my initial impression was not always the right one. When a person has a tattoo in a visible spot, you often can’t help making a judgement about that person. I know it isn’t right, but there you are–human nature at perhaps not its finest. I found I had to admire those who committed their bodies to large and/or visible ink, and began to understand how little I knew about about people in general.

It took me nearly a year to commit to getting my own tattoo. I went to my friend the tattoo artist and discussed tattoos in general. She told me why she chose hers, and what her ink meant to her. I was still stinging from my recent divorce and had been through the various stages of the emotions you go through:

  • The “you bastard, how could you do this me?” stage
  • The “how could you cheat on me and then lie about it?” stage
  • The “I hope you get run over by a Mack truck” stage
  • The “you are a despicable human being” stage

…all the way to the final “I really don’t care what happens to you–I’m moving on with my life now–buh-bye” stage. (And BTW–you know it’s really over when you just don’t care any more.) One of the many things my first husband griped about (and oh, there were soooo many!) was people who had tattoos. He was vehemently against them and thought that anyone who had them was just not the “right” sort of person.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. My final *KMA-to-my-divorce-moment came when I walked into my friend’s studio and told her what I wanted, and could she do it right then before I lost my nerve? Luckily she could. I now have a perfectly darling little rose-red heart about the size of a dime tattooed in a place where only a select few may see it. Oh, and in case you are wondering what it feels like–it feels a lot like a persistent mosquito; sort of an itchy/stingy (but not terribly painful) feeling.

That was over 15 years ago, and I have never regretted it. In fact, from time to time I think about getting another one. I am too chicken to have one in an obvious place, but there is still a lot of real estate left for another one…I’ll keep you posted.

To all those brave and amazing people who proudly wear their ink with style and grace, I salute you–you are all fabulous!

*Kiss My A**



The Turned-Around Little Skunk

As you may know from reading my posts, the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I have fed “our” skunks for years. They live under the shed in the back yard, and they regularly eat the cat kibble we put out for them (and the neighborhood cats and raccoons) under our porch. Each summer, we see the new young ones toddle over to eat, and they are adorable.

This evening we had a little one get hopelessly lost under the porch where the Crankee Yankee is doing a lot of excavating (i.e., that means he in the process of replacing the garage foundation, so there is a miniature Grand Canyon down there). The baby had run down the steep side and kept turning the wrong way and getting more lost and more frightened as he tried to get out. The Crankee Yankee, bless him, snuck downstairs and slipped a plank down near the little one, risking a skunk shower. But the little skunk just panicked and kept going the wrong way. We tossed some kitty kibble down to him, and he crunched it up, still going everywhere but the right way out. All he needed to do was to reverse direction and he would be home free. We watched over him for a while, and hoped he could get out on his own.

When he heard us, he instinctively backed  up and lifted his tiny tail in defense; as little as he was, he was ready to fight the only way he knew how. So we left him to follow the kibble trail and find his way out. After about 20 minutes, I checked in on him to see how he was doing. Not only had he gotten out, but his mama was with him, and he stuck to her side like a burr. Together they searched for more kibble, and all was well in the skunk family.

This incident made me think: aren’t we sometimes a bit like this little turned-around skunk? We get lost on our way, get turned around and try like mad to get back on track. Sometimes we stubbornly keep going the wrong way, thinking that sooner or later, we’ll get where we need to go. Even when someone puts down a trail of kibble in front of us, leading us the right way, we think, ‘oh no, it can’t be that easy; I’ll just keep going the wrong way.’ So we struggle on, sure that we can do it all on our own. Sometimes we get out on our own, and sometimes we get stuck.

But sometimes if we’re lucky, “Mama” comes to get us and lead us home.




Least Appreciated Body Part?

I don’t know about you, but all my life I thought that my feet were ugly. I was born with flat feet, which meant that I wore orthopedic shoes as a child. While the other kids ran and played in Keds or sandals, I clomped around in sturdy (and unfortunately, expensive) saddle shoes. If that wasn’t bad enough, my feet grew before any of my other body parts, and I was called “Big Foot” for years.

These days I feel differently about my feet. The years of painting my toenails are long past as many of them have turned into what can only be described as tiny little horns. The baby toenails are the worst (if this has already happened to yours, then you don’t need to hear more–you already know). These days cutting my toenails has become an adventure; many of them are so weirdly shaped and angled now that it takes quite a lot of finagling to get them all done. Oh, and I still get toe-knuckle hair, or as I like to call it, ‘gorilla toes.’ To add to all that loveliness, I have a huge bunion on one foot, and veins trace little blue trails on the tops of my feet.

However, all that said, my good old non-pretty feet have kept this body upright for years and haven’t failed me yet. They have walked miles in many states and many places. They suffered in my clumpy Earth shoes and clogs in the ’60s, my uber-high heels in the ’70s and ’80s (painful, but boy–did my legs look great!), then finally got a break in the ’90s when I mostly wore sneakers and high-tech slip-ons. These days my shoes and boots boast heels no higher than .5″, and they HAVE to be comfortable. My feet are grateful. They are also very happy that I invested in some really good orthotics.

When you think about it, feet are pretty important. They take us everywhere, either walking or running, driving a vehicle, pedaling a bike, and so on. They keep us balanced, and they keep us rooted firmly to the earth. We have had our foot in a door, put a foot in our mouth, danced until our feet gave out, and have been footloose and fancy free. I used to indulge in a pedicure now and then, but can’t anymore. Why? Because once anyone touches my feet these days, I become helpless with laughter–and I mean seriously helpless “happy piddles” laughter. It starts a laugh-roll that just won’t quit. So I feel I can no longer inflict my type of foot-crazy on everyone in the salon, so I just don’t go. I’m pretty sure that they don’t miss me, either.

Oh, I remember well when looks were EVERYTHING to me; from the current makeup craze, hair-dos, the latest fashions, the cute (but usually uncomfortable) shoes and the flirty feet (you know, pedicure, nail polish, toe ring and anklets). It seemed so dang important at the time. If my feet are not objects of beauty, at least they are functional, strong and capable. Oh, yes, and here is something that I can still do, foot-wise–I can pick up nearly anything with my feet. Yes, really. It makes my husband (the Crankee Yankee) laugh his head off (and freaks him out just a little).

I now find my feet rather beautiful. They are the reminders of all the paths I’ve taken, all the mountains I’ve climbed, all of the places I’ve walked, all the years I spent punishing them in Tae Kwon Do, all the slippery rocks I’ve teetered on by the shores of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, all the dances I’ve danced, and much more.

I guess you could say that I am finally comfortable in my own feet.


How to Turn the Tables on Those Pesky Phone Scams

I don’t know how often this happens to you, but the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I often get phone calls warning us that our computer has “reported problems” to them. The earnest-sounding person on the other end assures us that he/she is from <insert computer company name here> and has our best interests at heart and that they really want to help us–for a price.

Well, first of all, I’m no technical genius, but no computer I have ever used has had the capacity to go rogue on me and start tattling to its maker about unauthorized access. Furthermore, when these phone calls started I immediately called the company who made my computer and told them what was happening. They assured me that they do not initiate telephone contact with their customers. They also warned me to never give out our IP address (well, DUH). If there is a scam, virus or other issue, they notify by email or snail mail.

What these phone scams attempt to do is to scare you into giving the caller your IP address (do not EVER do this over the phone–ever!!) so that they can gain access to your computer in order to “help.” If you give them your IP address, you are really going to have problems–EXPENSIVE ones.

When you get one of these phone calls for the first time, it’s scary and if you’re like me, you go right from skeptical to scared in seconds flat. You imagine horrors like having your identity stolen, your bank accounts emptied, and so on. Instead of hitting the panic button, do this: if you have a trustworthy computer guy with whom you regularly work, call him ASAP. We have Steve, who has known and worked with us and three computers for over 10 years. In our case, Steve came over, looked through the computer, ran a few diagnostics and told us that nothing was wrong. He also told us that these types of scams are very popular, and that the perpetrators count on fear to get access to supposedly faulty computers. So having a ‘Steve’ of your own will not only ensure that your computer is running well and has all the protections in place, but will give you peace of mind. Well worth the price of the visit!

So, now that we know about these scams, the Crankee Yankee can’t resist having a little fun with the callers. His latest “reverse scam” goes like this:

Scammer: “Hello, sir? I am calling from <insert computer company name here> to let you know that your computer has notified us that it is having serious problems. You are in great danger of losing all your important information and data.”

The Crankee Yankee: “Is that right? Well, which computer of mine is telling you this?”

Scammer: “What–which computer? What do you mean?”

The Crankee Yankee: “I have a bank of 52 computers. WHICH of them is ‘telling’ you this?”

Scammer: “Wait–wait–you say you have 52 computers??”

The Crankee Yankee: (impatiently) “Yes, I have 52 computers. Now are you going to tell me which one of them is having a problem or not?”

Scammer: “Um, are you a business?”

The Crankee Yankee: “Yes–I am a business.”

Scammer: “What kind of business are you?”

The Crankee Yankee: “A cyber security business.”

Scammer immediately hangs up.

Years ago, before we were married, I suspected that the Crankee Yankee had a talent for stuff like this. One evening we were enjoying dinner and chatting when the phone rang. It was a telemarketer from a telephone company offering “great new low rates” on our long distance service. The Crankee Yankee listened politely, and at the end of the spiel the telemarketer asked if he could sign us up for this wonderful deal. The Crankee Yankee declined, saying that we were quite happy with our present long-distance service. The telemarketer asked what our provider’s services were, and the Crankee Yankee answered, “Two Dixie cups and a string.” They NEVER called back.

Look, I realize that people have to make a living and that the ones who cold-call don’t have it easy. Telemarketers must know that, when they go into that business, the majority of us aren’t going to appreciate their calls (which oddly enough always seem to be right at dinnertime). It’s part of the job.

The scammers are another story. I have no respect or sympathy for those who knowingly and willingly attempt to steal from people using fear as their motivation. This isn’t honest work–it’s criminal. Frankly, I think it serves them right to get a Crankee Yankee on the phone to wind them up now and then. Or maybe it will just make them scarier and more persistent. Be that as it may, it sure did knock the socks off the last guy who tried to scam us!

Besides, remember the old karmic law: what we put out to others comes back to us THREEFOLD!




Practial Worrying

I think I was born worrying. All my life I have worried, and for what? I’d say about 98% of what I worried about never happened. Oh, it could, I suppose, but I’m old enough now that I’m just plain tired of worrying. Still, old habits die hard. Where once I worried about *having my voice crack while auditioning for the school musical, or suddenly getting my period in gym class, or throwing up in the cafeteria or burping loudly in class, I now worry about other stuff I never worried about before.

The worries these days are:

  • Leaving a door or window open so that one or all of the cats get out. (Actually, this probably won’t happen because I am a door and window Nazi–I check them day and night.)
  • Running out of toilet paper. Or soap. Or water. Or V-8 juice.
  • Leaving anything plugged in while we are out of the house. I’m convinced that anything with a plug will ultimately blow up.
  • Stepping on a big spider in the dark.
  • Being unintentionally rude to someone.
  • People will finally recognize what a fruit cake I am.
  • I’ll let another pot of quinoa boil over and make another mess I’ll have to scrape up.
  • That I will someday disappoint my granddaughter.
  • That the one piece of fried chicken I allow myself now and then will trigger a heart attack.
  • I won’t do enough with my life.

All this crazy worrying aside, trust me: most of the stuff we worry about really doesn’t happen. Think of it this way–if I worry about another pot of quinoa boiling over, then next time I’ll watch it instead of sneaking back into the office to write (and consequently forget the time). All we can do is to address our worries and fears as rationally as we can, and prepare as best we can. I have no idea if a twister will suddenly show up one day to tear up our house, or if the polar ice caps melt tomorrow and every bit of dry land will sink like Atlantis, or I’ll meet the Dali Lama and fart while shaking his hand. I mean, really–there’s no real preparation for any of those events, are there?

So how about this: let’s put all our worries, from the insane to the implausible, put them in a big virtual ziplock bag and toss the bag to the angels to play kickball (or kickbag, I guess) with. If we know a hurricane is coming, then prepare accordingly. If we know we are running out of toilet paper, go buy more. If we know that our roof is leaking, then have someone come over and fix it before the whole damn thing comes down. Let’s be “practical worriers” and do what we can for the situation at hand. The other worries? Go back to that big virtual zipbag–go ahead, then angels are waiting!

*Actually, two of these things really did happen to me in high school. You’re going to have to guess which two, because I’m not telling.

Fathers Who Truly Father

I’ve said it before; biology doesn’t make a father; fathering makes a father. Although technically my dad is my step-dad, he adopted me when he and my mom married in 1955. He was and is everything you could ask for in a father. He was there for every important (and even the not-so-important) events in my life. He has been my model of what a father is–a man who nurtures, loves, encourages and sets good examples for his child. If he told me once, he told me a thousand times to “be aware.” That is, be aware of what and who is around. Had I grown up in these high-tech times, I am sure he would have been one of those dads who said “Get your face out of that <cell phone, iPad, name-your-mobile-device here> and pay attention to the world around you!”

He would have also been dead set against the new cars that parallel-park for you, emit beeps and buzzers to warn you of people or objects behind the car, or another vehicle swerving too close to you, or one that brakes for you if you are so inattentive that you are not watching where you are going. He taught me how to drive responsively, to constantly be aware of everything around me and to keep distractions at a minimum. He always said that driving demands our absolute attention, and he was and is right. He felt that you had no business driving a car if you couldn’t change a tire, parallel-park, check the oil and maintain your vehicle responsibly.

My dad will be 90 this year, and he continues to be a model of good health, as well as keeping active and truly maintaining a sound mind in a sound body. He still skies every winter, and has a small following of friends young enough to be his grandchildren who enjoy skiing with him and learning from him. He keeps his mind active by reading and studying, meditating and keeping a willing spirit. His whole being is open to all things positive, healthy, joyous and good. He is an example of life well-lived and thoroughly enjoyed.

When we all were young; me as a child, and my then-young parents, we found our way together. We became a family of near equals; family business was openly discussed and often debated. I knew even as a child, that we were not rich by any means, and that money was to be carefully spent. I understood well the phrase “we can’t afford it,” and adjusted my wants accordingly. If there was something I felt I just had to have, then chores beyond the usual ones were offered to me as a way to buy what I wanted. I learned early on what it was like to work to earn money, and the great pleasure of buying something with my own hard-earned money. This also taught me to take good care of what I owned. It was a gift I will never forget.

Even if I wasn’t always too keen on doing regular house-hold chores (my least favorite being vacuuming the house every Wednesday), I knew from my parents that we each had responsibilities that benefited everyone. I understood that doing these things was what families do–everyone helps out.

One of the many things Dad made sure of was that I would grow up independent. He taught me many “boy” skills; how to handle a gun and shoot straight, how to change a tire, use a knife responsibly, build a good campfire and put it out safely, ride a bike, and so many other things. He didn’t want me to be the kind of girl/woman who had to have a man do everything for her. It couldn’t have been easy on him (or his patience) to deal with a whiny child who frankly did not want to learn these things; but I did understand the reason why. Because of his early and excellent training, I wish the same for my 3-year old granddaughter. She is fortunate to have a mom and dad who are actively involved in her life and are teaching her the same kind of life skills my dad taught me.

I know that my dad put his whole heart and soul into loving me and, along with my mother, raised me to be a responsible and good person. This is a gift beyond measure. When you positively affect a child’s life in the way he has affected mine, the legacy goes on and on. I now find myself saying things to my granddaughter that my dad said to me. I believe with all my heart that the change good men who are good fathers impress upon their children is priceless. It is also one that keeps on giving from generation to generation.

Dad, I love you, respect you, admire you and continue to learn from you. I wish the happiest of Fathers’ Days to you, my true father.