Life Is Too Short To Read a Bad Book

I am a reader and come from a family of readers. My favorite pastime is, was, and ever shall be reading; it’s the first thing I want to do in the morning, and the last thing I want to do at night. At this time in my life I have read enough books to fill a fleet of dump trucks, and will keep on reading as long as my eyes hold out. I know what I like, and when I like an author’s book, I will read everything that the author has written.

So what do you like to read? Are you a mystery reader, do you love SciFi, can’t get enough romance novels, do time travel books light you up, or do you like biographies? There are so many genres to choose from, and after a while you begin to zero in on your favorites. Do you ever find yourself so immersed in a book that you literally cannot hear what is going on around around you? These are what I call “yeah, yeah” books, as in when someone is trying to talk to you while reading, you just wave them away with a “yeah, yeah?” (The meaning of the “yeah, yeah” is “Don’t bother me; I’m in the middle of a really good book–go away now.”)

When I come to the end of a book that has held me in thrall for days, I mourn it like a lost friend. I miss not “being” in that book, and it’s hard for me to start another one. There are some books that have changed my life forever, some that have become so dear to me that I will read them again and again, and some that have made me laugh or cry out loud. On the other hand, there are some books that, once started, I lose patience with–to be fair, I will give an “iffy” book 75 pages of my attention. If after that I don’t love it, I stop reading. It doesn’t go on my booklist (I keep track of all the books I’ve read).

When I love an author, I forgive them anything. Stephen King is a favorite, and I’ve read everything the man ever wrote, and wait anxiously for his next book to come out. I even forgive him for grossing me out in many books. (This is why I warn people about his books, telling them “do NOT eat while reading!”) The following are authors I will read without question:

  • Anne Rivers Siddons
  • Elizabeth Berg
  • Chris Bohajalian
  • Adrianna Trigiano
  • Pat Conroy
  • Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • Mary Kay Andrews
  • Diane Chamberlain
  • Gillian Flynn
  • Dean Koontz
  • Isobelle Allende
  • Lucinda Riley
  • Whitley Streiber
  • Helene Wecker
  • Dan Brown
  • Ann Hood
  • Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Lee Smith
  • JoAnn Mapson
  • Elin Hilderbrand
  • Luanne Rice
  • Louise Erdrich
  • Peter Straub
  • Sandra Dallas
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Anne Tyler
  • Kate Jacobs
  • Sophie Kinsella
  • Joshilyn Jackson
  • Jodie Piccoult
  • Anna Maxted
  • Ellen Gilchrist
  • Connie May Fowler
  • Cathy Pelletier
  • Jill McCorkle
  • Rebecca Wells
  • Kristen Hannah
  • Michael Lee West
  • John Irving
  • Fannie Flagg
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Olivia Goldsmith
  • Gaelen Quinn
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Anne Quindlen
  • Wally Lamb
  • Stieg Larsson
  • Anne Lamott
  • Mary McGarry Morris
  • Fred Mustard Stewart
  • Alice Sebold
  • Alan Brennert
  • Philipa Gregory
  • Diane Hammond
  • Donald Harington
  • Rita Mae Brown
  • Stephanie Meyer

…and there are many, many more. Some books I have loved so much I re-read them (this, according to my mother, is a crime against the world of writing. “There are so many books to read–don’t waste your time re-reading one you’ve already read!”) when I need to. If I am having a stressful day, I automatically reach for Anne Rivers Siddons, Pat Conroy or J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter is a never-ending comfort and delight).

By the way, I have never read a book on a Kindle or Spindle or Pindle or any tech gadget. Not that I’m against them per se, it’s just that I prefer holding and reading a real paper-and-print book. Over the years I have had to cull out a great many books I liked but didn’t love, so the ones I have now are precious to me. Unfortunately some of the books I now own started out as library books; lesson to us all: do not eat or drink anything while reading a library book. At least a half-dozen times I have had to confess my crime to a librarian, pay the full price for the book and had to slink home with the stained copy under my arm. These books will have a note written in the front confessing my crime, such as: “I just had to have another cup of coffee/a bowl of tomato soup/a chicken taco/a glass of red wine/etc. while reading this library book. Now it’s mine.”

Yes, life IS too short to waste time on a bad book, but there is time enough to re-read the books you really, deeply, truly love. Reading them will put you back in that wonderfully serene place that is timeless, stressless and full of promise and hope. A good book is a pathway to a meadow filled with sunshine, fragrant flowers, gorgeous sunsets and heavenly moonrises, while a bad book is a slippery slope to a nasty pond full of leeches, evil bullfrogs, slimy mud and sharp clam shells. Choose wisely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Boogers and Other Marital Debris

I love my husband, the Crankee Yankee, dearly. He is my best friend, my companion, my rock, my love, my North Star and my hero. We have been happily married for over 12 years and I would be utterly lost without him. However, no marriage is perfect because we humans are not perfect. Case in point: my parents have been married for nearly 60 years. In all that time, my mom has never been able to convince, cajole or threaten my dad into putting his dirty socks in the hamper. A few years ago, he went from tossing the socks on the closet floor to dumping them beside the hamper–but not actually in the hamper.

The Crankee Yankee and I have no garbage disposal. We throw all our produce peelings, etc. into our compost pile in the back yard, which turns into wonderful loam to put on our gardens. The system works beautifully. BUT the Crankee Yankee still leaves what I call “food boogers” in the sink; strawberry hulls, radish leaves, chewed gristle (urghh), onion skins, olive pits and so forth. (Note: the plastic bag that holds the food boogers is literally 6″ away from the sink.) I have had the “There is no Food Booger Fairy who cleans out the sink” conversation with him, and he is contrite and apologetic. And yet–the food boogers keep on coming.

I swear I love that man more than my jewelry, but he is a hot mess. Some of his other more baroque habits include:

  • Leaving several neatly-folded paper towels everywhere. When asked why, he will ALWAYS say: “I’m going to use them!” (Oh really, like–WHEN?)
  • Neatly stacking magazines, torn-out articles from newspapers, coupons, and other paper-y stuff on every surface.
  • Wearing what has to be the oldest, most worn out, nasty, sweaty and smelly baseball cap on the planet while working on the house and gardens. Seriously, not even flies will land on that thing.
  • Wearing t-shirts until they are literally two sleeves and a neckband holding a bunch of holes together.
  • Underwear the same.
  • Letting his toenails get so long that he’s ripped sheets. And also “poinking” my legs with them in bed.
  • Leaving sticky notes all around the perimeter of our computer. Honestly, it makes the computer screen look like a frilled lizard.
  • Sneezing, blowing his nose and coughing loud enough to break the sound barrier.
  • The Crankee Yankee is a mumbler. I am constantly asking, “What? What?” He will pick a time to tell me something important when I’m in the shower or downstairs folding laundry or outside. I know he’s talking, but I can’t make out more than a few words. He says what he wants to, assuming I can hear him loud and clear (this after 12 years of telling him I can’t hear him)–and just walks away. He therefore does not hear me shout “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY??”
  • If I’m watching a TV show he doesn’t care about, he rattles the newspaper like castanets. When I turn up the sound, he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, ‘oh, sorry–am I too loud?’

Yes, these things are annoying and constant. These are the things that drive me nuts. These are the things that make me roll my eyes. But these are the things I will long for if the Crankee Yankee leaves this earth before I do. Then I will wish with all my heart to hear that mumble, pick fruit peelings out of the sink and will dearly miss the sight of all those sticky notes flapping around the computer screen.

So, lesson to myself and all others who live with Crankee Yankees of their own: aggravation, frustration and irritation don’t last. The love and affection we feel for our imperfect partners (who love and appreciate us imperfect partners!) is a wonder and a miracle. In the beginning, the middle and the end, this is what really matters.

I would say more here, but I have to go scoop the soggy cereal out of the sink…

 

 

 

What Makes YOU Laugh?

Did you ever notice that when you whack your “funny bone” it isn’t all that funny? It’s the same with a sense of humor. What I may find hilarious you may dismiss as puerile, obvious or just stupid. What’s funny to some isn’t at all funny to others. I think it was Lou Costello (of the famous comedy team, Abbot and Costello) who said, “Comedy and tragedy are relative. If you fall down a manhole and break your arm, that’s comedy. If the same thing happens to ME, that’s tragedy.”

I grew up on a humor diet of the Little Rascals, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and my favorites, the Three Stooges. It was the humor of the times, and most of these talented folks started their professional lives on stage in vaudeville. They could sing, dance, play a few musical instruments and tell jokes non-stop. Physical comedy of that time included a lot of physical abuse. (Just Google up a few Three Stooges shorts and you’ll see what I mean.) It was humor of the ultimate non-PC type, and it was hilarious.

If you want to see me dissolve into a puddle of helpless laughter (which usually includes tears of joy from both ends), just show me poor old Margaret Dumont getting a pie in the face from Harpo Marx, or Laurel and Hardy unsuccessfully trying to move an expensive piano, or the Three Stooges “fixing” the plumbing. Certainly I get more cerebral humor; New Yorker cartoons, etc., but I am a product of the 50s and grew up in a time of low comedy we may never see again (thanks, PC movement!).

Ok, so what makes you laugh like a hyena or fall off the sofa in hysterics? I hope that you have a long list of things that tickle your funny bone. Life is way too short not to laugh a lot. Here are some humor highlights from my “personal best” list:

  • Any episode of the Dick van Dyke Show
  • Anyone slipping on a banana peel
  • Anyone catching a pie in the face
  • The Clowns’ Prayer: “A little song/A little dance/A little seltzer down your pants!”
  • Selected bits from Firesign Theatre, especially “Shoes For Industry”
  • Zippy the Pinhead from Zap Comics
  • “The Soup Nazi” episode from “Seinfeld”
  • Anything Nathan Lane says (the man could read the phone book out loud and be funny)
  • Farts
  • Monty Python, notably the “Dead Parrot” sketch
  • Soupy Sales
  • Tim Conway and Harvey Corman on the Carol Burnett Show (especially the classic dental sketch)
  • “Blazing Saddles”
  • Saturday Night Live with the original cast
  • Laugh In; especially Arte Johnson and Alan Sues
  • MASH
  • Suzanne Sugarbaker (played by Delta Burke)in “Designing Women”
  • the Super Bowl commercial a few years ago with cowboys herding cats
  • “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
  • Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”

…and there is much more. Since I am older now (but not all that much wiser), I find more things to laugh about. Believe me, I am all too well aware of all the horrible, tragic, heartbreaking things going on today. It’s not that I ignore them–I just have to decide what if anything I can do about them.

When I can help alleviate pain or suffering, I do. When I can help lift someone up, I do. When I can be a positive force, I am. But when there is nothing I can do, I cannot waste my life and feelings on fear, anger or grief. I choose to look at the funny side because it is healing and positive. I choose laughter because it heals and it lifts the spirits. Not only that, but you never know who might be listening to your laughter and may be lifted up by it.

Live well, love hard and laugh a LOT.

Growing Older Fearlessly and Fabulously

Do you dread your birthday? Do you count the years by counting the wrinkles on your face or the age spots on your hands? Do you feel as if you don’t look anything like your high school yearbook picture? Do you feel depressed because there are more years behind you than ahead of you?

There is an easy solution to growing old, and here it is: find a way to feel great about each second, each minute, each hour, each day–EVERY day. Now that said, of course all the common sense things apply: be good to your body, mind and soul.

  • For the body: do some moderate exercise each week, and choose your own method. Eat as healthfully as possible, and drink lots of water (especially during the hot days).
  • For the mind: keep it active and sharp. Learn a new language, take up a new hobby, start a blog, keep a journal, read, write, take photos, travel, observe wildlife, and try to learn something new every day.
  • For the soul: appreciate all that is around you. Look, really look and let what you see sink into your whole being. Watch the sunrises and sunsets, drink in everything around you, take the time to listen with all your heart to those around you, breathe deeply and fully, and keep an attitude of gratitude.
  • For body, mind and soul together: meditate. It’s easier than you would think, too. Sit or lie down, uncross your arms and legs, and close your eyes. Your mind will want to wander, so you may decide to focus on something; a flower, a gem, a land or seascape, or whatever works for you. You can also concentrate on relaxing your body, starting with your feet. You can say in your mind, “feet, relax,” and so on until you have relaxed your whole body. When your mind wanders, gently pull it back to center, much like tugging the string of a kite that is wandering too far away. You can meditate for five minutes, a half-hour, or whatever suits you. This will refresh your body, mind and soul.

I recently attained my Reiki second level, and learned to repeat this each morning to start my day:

“Just for today, I will not be angry.

Just for today, I will not worry.

Just for today, I will be grateful.

Just for today, I will do my work honestly.

Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.”

Doing this makes fresh in my heart and mind what really matters. Trust me–I have a long memory of things in the past that have hurt me and challenged my peace of mind. But I learned the hard way not to let them haunt me. As the very popular song from “Frozen” says, “Let it go/Let it go!” Instead I’ve chosen to replace bad thoughts and memories with good ones. Here are a few of my own:

  • My mom and day – in their 80s they are still vital, happy, healthy, strong, and have great attitudes and spirits
  • My husband (the Crankee Yankee) – quite simply, the love of my life and my best friend
  • My relatives, especially my favorite uncle – a loving, sweet, funny and kind presence in my life and my heart
  • My fantastic friends, old and new, who bring light and laughter and love to my life each day
  • My relatives who have gone on before me and left a sound path for me to walk on
  • My two amazing step-daughters who have brought me such joy and happiness
  • My incredible granddaughter, 3-year old Ava, who is the light of my life, and the keeper of my heart
  • My wonderful sons-in-law who are truly my family by means of love and respect
  • My three cats, who bring me joy and happiness each day

Now, lest you think that I am some kind of perfectly calm, all-forgiving *Buddha-esque person, well–forget that. The things I’ve mentioned thus far are what I TRY to be and do each day. And most days I fall right on my face. Age has brought me some perspective, true, but I still react childishly to a lot of things. I have re-discovered the great joy of throwing things when I get angry over something incredibly dumb. (At least I have the presence of mind not to pick up anything I value or that would make an awful mess.) The last item to suffer my wrath was the roll of plastic wrap that stubbornly would NOT come off the roll in one piece or, when I finally wrested a swath of it off the roll, would NOT stick to a damn thing. That got summarily kicked all around the kitchen, all the way downstairs to the basement, and all around the basement until it landed in a full litterbox. (Don’t tell the Crankee Yankee, but I threw it out and bought a new one.)

So, back to those dreaded birthdays, age spots and wrinkles. Think of them this way: they are medals of honor of a life lived well. They are a testament that we are not the young and callow youngsters we used to be; that we have grown and changed, gone through life challenges and survived them, that we have had families and achieved much in life–that we have become who we are meant to be. I choose each day to look in the mirror and say, “Hiya, Gorgeous!” You’d be amazed at the cumulative positive effect of just doing this one simple thing. I don’t kid myself that I look 20 anymore, I now have quite a bit of “salt” in my hair, and my smile lines are deeply embedded in my face. The last time I went to the dentist, he informed me that I had no cavities. I was very happy about this, and he said drily, ‘well, you have more crowns and bridges, that’s why.’ Pooh to him. I’m still happy.

So since we can’t turn back the clock, let’s choose to look forward and embrace who we are, including what we look like right NOW. Live long, live well, and live FABULOUSLY!

*One of my favorite jokes is this one: Buddha goes to a hot dog stand and the owner says, “Hiya, Buddha–what’ll you have?” Buddha smiles at him and replies, “Make me one with everything.” (Get it?)

The 4th of July

The 4th of July is a uniquely American tradition. In every village, town or city, flags will wave, we will wear red, white and blue, enjoy parades, fairs and fireworks–all to celebrate our independence, our freedoms and our way of life. Frail old men will proudly don their old but well-preserved military uniforms on that day, and either walk or ride in wheelchairs or cars in an honored place on the parade routes. Those of us who are old enough remember that in elementary school we bowed our heads to say the Lord’s Prayer, then stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with right hands over hearts. If we as girl and boy scouts were in the town parade, we knew never to allow the American flag to touch the ground. These traditions were things we didn’t question; they were part of our lives.

We may have come a long way in technology, education, research, medicine (I still remember when doctors made house calls), but these uniquely American traditions are part of our history. With so many wars and battles behind us, it is easy to become complacent, secure in the knowledge that we are Americans, and our way of life is extraordinarily good. Horrors such as September 11, 2001, the war in Iraq and so much more are reminders that we cannot stop being vigilant, and that our freedoms were and are still paid for in blood.

So on the 4th of July let’s spend a moment or two during our barbeques, parades and fireworks to remember why it is we celebrate. The rest of the world may look on us with a combination of derision, disapproval and/or even hatred, but we continue to roll on. True, we have our faults. We are still a relatively young nation; we do not have the history, grandeur or background of so many other older countries. But what we have is incredibly good, dear and precious. Our country was founded on principles and standards that we must not forget. We stand on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands who suffered and sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. If we cannot agree with what our forefathers set down as laws to run this nation, let us at least be respectful of them.

On the 4th of July, please let’s take a moment to put our right hands over our hearts, remember and be in gratitude.